Monday, April 24, 2006

Prom dresses and gym suits -- trashed or treasured?

It was a great dress. You looked marvelous at the Midwinter Dance. But do you still have it? Did you ever seriously consider donating it to the Wisconsin Historical Society? Or did your daughter wear it for Halloween?

And guys, what about your gym suit? Do you still have it? Is it stashed away in the bottom of your sock drawer? Did you really think someone would find it interesting decades after you wore it?

How people dressed tells us something about their lives. Museums don't just collect dresses from former First Ladies and jerseys from famous football players. Some museum collections also contain clothes worn by people whose names aren't found in history textbooks. Museum curators want future generations to be able to see what the rest of us wore, whether it was at a formal dance or in a mandatory phys ed class. Seriously.

The Wisconsin Historical Society's website has a feature called "Museum Object of the Week." Sometimes it highlights rare objects such as a 1957 Milwaukee Braves World Series Bat, or one of the 1,009 pink flamingos that briefly covered Bascom Hill on September 4, 1979, or the oldest known surviving license plate in Wisconsin. But with surprising frequency, the "Museum Object of the Week" is a piece of clothing. One week it was a 1960s prom dress. Another week it was a 1930s UW man's gym suit.

The prom dress belonged to Marti Hall, who wore it to the 1966 spring prom at Madison West High School. The UW gym suit belonged to George Williams from Vernon County, who attended the UW from 1933-34, a period during which the university "required freshmen and sophomores to take three hours per week of physical training for a year, though they could substitute military science or band instruction."

Why did Marti and George save these clothes? Who donated them to the Wisconsin Historical Society? Why did the donors and the curators believe these items were of historical significance? The text for these "Museum Object of the Week" selections doesn't provide satisfactory answers to all these questions. They should.

Which brings me to some other historical artifacts that don't always provide satisfactory answers to the kinds of questions we're likely to ask. The artifacts are Tychoberahns. Some of the questions are: Who are these people? When was this event? Are the women wearing floor-length dresses (formals) or cocktail dresses?

Every Tychoberahn -- from the first in 1900 to the last in 1969 -- has pages of photos without captions. Perhaps the editors assumed their contemporaries all knew the identities of the people, so there was no need to waste space on captions. But even if we knew them way back when, do we remember their names today?

Here comes the next photo quiz...

The photos below are from the 1965 Tychoberahn. Start counting with the photo on the top left. Then go down to the next row, continue couting across. Then down to the next row. You get the idea, don't you? There are 16 photos on the page. Number seven (7) features Nils Olsen and Kathy Merlin. Shirley Hierlmeier is in photo number fifteen (15). Using this numbering system, let's try to identify all these couples. I don't know all the answers, but I can provide two hints: They're not all members of the Class of 1965; and one of the beautiful blondes is from East High School. Let the commenting begin!

Double click on the above image to enlarge it in your browser window


D Strand said...

Without looking anything up:
#2 - The Beattles
#6 - Tom Schmelling
#8 - Bob Cerniglia
#9 - Larry Lewis
10 - Bernice Shue
12 - Marta Holmgren & John Allhiser
14 - Debbie Hall & Tom Sorenson (What is Tom Sorenson doing with such a gorgious women?)
15 - Shirley Hierlmeir & Myles Standish

I'd have to do some research to get the others and that takes a lot of time!
16 - Rich DiSalvo & Bev Burmeister

Marlene said...

I believe the girl with Russ Loniello is JoAnn Currie. She did attend East. I believe that is the beautiful blonde you are talking about.

D Strand said...

Is that Sue Crumpton from Wisconsin High, my sociology and economics neighbor with Larry Lewis in #9?

Janet Stevens said...

I cut-and-pasted Doug's list and then added to it.

#1- Randy Reiman
#2 - The Beattles
#4- Greg Kimberly
#6 - Tom Schmelling
#8 - Bob Cerniglia
#9 - Larry Lewis
#10 - Bernice Shue and one of the Loniellos (Nick?)
#12 - Marta Holmgren & John Allhiser
#13-Russ Loniello and JoAnn Curry
#14 - Debbie Hall & Tom Sorenson #15 - Shirley Hierlmeier & Joe/Myles Standish
#16 - Rich DiSalvo & Bev Burmeister

Marlene said...

#11...Kathy Burrows? I have no idea who the gentleman is

Anonymous said...

#8 Betty Olson with Bob Cerniglia

#10 Nick Loniello