Since Framingham State Normal School opened its doors in 1839 Framingham has been a destination for thousands of students who want to become teachers. One such student, from the class of 1944, revisited the Framingham campus this past week to share her own experiences from her time enrolled here.
Ethel Cavanaugh, now Ethel McMahon, is an alum from the days when Framingham State was a Teacher’s College. She was enrolled in the Vocational Household Arts program here, which prepared students for teaching positions in Vocational schools. Though she was a commuter, she was one of the many students who lived, for a small portion of her school days, in the no longer standing Vocational House. This house was once located at the end of State Street, by the train tracks, where Maple parking lot can now be found. Living there for a certain number of weeks and taking on different assigned tasks to keep the house in order was a requirement for these Vocational students.
When Ethel recently came to Framingham to share her memories about school, she brought with her a photo album with a collection of photographs taken during her years at Framingham. Ethel is a graduate of the class of 1944 and attended Framingham State during the years of World War II. This fact is evident from her class yearbook, which features full-page advertisements for War Bonds and a message from the class of 1945 that reads, “We came in with the war, we hope the war goes out with us.” Ethel’s stories about this significant era in history reflected the times. She recalled a memory of a train full of American soldiers, all standing in open boxcars, passing by the vocational house, and waving at the students as they went. She also remembered a time when many of her teachers were drafted into the war and had to leave their positions at the College. These men were honored in the 1944 yearbook, which was also dedicated to Lieutenant Edward Gilday, a beloved music teacher at Framingham State who served in the war. Ethel’s recounting of her time here provides a new picture of how much the world has changed since the 1940s, and it also reveals the great strides this small school has taken through the years.
Alumni interviews such as this one are part of the Video Histories project, a collaborative effort between the Communications Department and the University’s Library Director and Archivist. For this project, various alumni are returning to Framingham in order to share their key memories from when they were enrolled here, whether these are good or bad, regarding studies or social events, or about friends or faculty. On camera, they each share a record of what they remember best from their time here. These digital accounts will be available through the digital repository in the future, as more video interviews are conducted.
When Ethel returned to the Special Collections room in the Henry Whittemore Library, she looked through an old, leather-bound photo album which had been taken out of the archives so that a history student could use it in her research. To everyone’s surprise, some of the same images that Ethel had in her own album were in this one as well, each with a handwritten note about who was featured in each of the pictures and what was occurring at the time it was taken.
Now in her nineties, Ethel’s most memorable days as a Framingham State student are far in the past. However, her experiences here remain a lasting part of Framingham State history decades later. With the pictures of Ethel and her classmates in the archives, and now her enlightening interview, students will continue to learn from her experiences for years to come.
2016 English Intern