Monday, January 7, 2013

Update: Graduation Day

Over a year ago, I published a post titled (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Graduation Day, which featured a graduation day photograph of my grandfather, William J. O'Hara, and my musings about which graduation day it had been. Family opinion was divided as to whether he looked like he could be 13 (grade school graduation, from St. Savior's School), 18 (high school graduation, from Regis High School), 22 (college graduation, from Fordham University), or 26 (grad school graduation, from NYU). Obviously, that's a really big range, and the middle range, Regis or Fordham, seemed to be the most likely candidates.

Take a look at the fellow in the cap and gown and let me know how old you think he is. (Answer below.)

William J. O'Hara (L) and Henry Gorra

A few weeks ago, as I was preparing to publish a small booklet about my grandfather through Lulu, I found myself at my parents' house, browsing his old yearbooks. I hadn't meant to take them out - the thought of using his school pictures as illustrations hadn't occurred to me - but I went into the bookcase looking for something else, and walked away with yearbooks in hand instead.

I went through the Regis yearbook first, and this picture wasn't even in the back of my mind - until I saw what appeared to be a graduation day photograph, rows of boys seated upon a stage, all wearing jackets and ties, but not in caps and gowns. If I was right about that being graduation, then Regis would be ruled out, because the students didn't graduate in caps and gowns. The caption, which I don't recall exactly at the moment, was just explicit enough to make it clear that this was the graduating class (Class of 1948), but not quite specific enough to state whether or not they were actually graduating that day.

Next, I started going through the Fordham yearbook, now with this graduation picture very much on my mind. I got pretty far into the book without coming across anything that looked like a graduation picture, but then I saw something better. There was a shot of some other people standing outside of a building that looked like it very well might be the building behind my grandfather in our mystery picture, and it was identified as Reidy Hall. I went right to Google, and searched on the name of the building, which led me to Fordham University Library's digital collection, where a few further searches, and a few new images, left me with no doubt that Pop had been on the Fordham University campus when he was photographed, in his cap and gown, with his childhood friend Henry Gorra.

Blessing of Reidy Hall. Father at entrance, blessing plaque
October 10, 1947
With permission of Fordham University Archives and Special Collections

It's clear that this building has the same siding, same doors, same plaque.

Reidy Hall, according to the Fordham University website, was "a war barracks structure . . . named Reidy Hall in memory of Daniel Reidy, Class of 1935, who died in the assault on the Anzio beachhead in southern Italy."* I had tried to decipher what I could see of the plaque in the original picture of my grandfather, but it didn't tell me much. In this new picture, from Fordham, you can see that the entire plaque reads

Had I been able to read the entire plaque in the original photograph, of course, it would have shortened my search significantly.

So how old was he? If Pop was graduating from Fordham, then the photograph dates to June 1952, making him 21.5 years old. I'm eating a bit a crow, since I was on the side of "he looks too young to be graduating from college!" when we initially tried to figure out how to date the photograph last year.

*Howe, Bob, ed. "The College of Business Administration: 90 Years of History." Inside Fordham Online. N.p., 04 Oct 2010. Web. 4 Jan 2013. .


Ralph Poore said...

Isn't it interesting being a genealogy detective? You always learn clever ways to dig out the info you want.

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

Yup, finding a clue or solving the case is always the best part!