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Two Franklin High School Letter Girls

The female high school athletes are closing out basketball season and looking toward the track and softball teams gearing up for spring. As we see our children of today in their slick name brand uniforms and state of the art engineered shoes we may consider the cost of progress, at least the cost in our wallets. In days past uniforms were sensible, a sign of the times. Female athletes were to reflect the modesty of their sex while getting their exercise in sporting events. In the years from 1917-1921 the girls at Franklin High School were proud to display their school spirit, posing here in front of the building in their athletic uniforms.

These two are wearing the sensible long black stockings which were the style of the time and also required. The stockings may have been warm, but look at the outfit! The regulation outfit was a square neck belted blouse attached to a pair of bloomers designed to camouflage the shapely figure of the young athlete. Running down the court would have been a something less than a swoosh, but these women were every bit as dedicated to their sport as our women of today.

Girls played basketball, indoor baseball and volleyball. After the game the girls would undoubtedly redo their ever popular hair buns, back combed as much as mother would allow, and look for the popular boy who drove a flivver and could deliver them home by way of the lake route. The flivver was a cheap automobile, with side curtains that fluttered in the breeze on warm spring days. Youngsters not able to ride with friends in the flivver would possibly travel by way of the jitney. These private cars functioned as busses, offering riders a lift for five cents. These entrepreneurs posed strong competition for the slower, mundane streetcars which provided mass transit for the rest of the crowd. Charlotte Widrig, shown here on the right with her friend and fellow athlete Virginia Ulurich, was not allowed to ride the jitney, go horseback riding or canoeing. Evidently her mother classed these as dangerous and therefore forbidden activities.

Other events recalled by Charlotte include an influenza epidemic which caused the school to be closed for 28 days, nearly one-sixth of the school year. After school reopened "flu masks" were required on public transportation. She remembers an incident when a burly shipyard worker was ejected from his seat and from the streetcar for not wearing his mask. The other unscheduled holiday was an afternoon to remember. Aviation was the new technology of the day, and a formation of 16 airplanes was performing a flight demonstration over Seattle. Teachers, eager to let their classes see history in the making allowed students to be dismissed to the roof of the school, in order to get a perfect view. The ability to congregate on the roof impressed the students as much as the demonstration did. The thunderous roar of the planes overhead seemed a novelty then. Only dreamers in the crowd would venture to think that they themselves could ride in or pilot such a contraption. This event foreshadowed the neighborhood's welcome for the jet pilots of the Blue Angels in years to come. Youth of today recall the thunder of the jets much in the same way Charlotte described the demonstration of her day.

History really is similar to today if we can pause long enough to attempt to find connections and listen to the stories of the past. If you are interested in local history or have a story to share contact Rainier Valley Historical Society.  

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 3/24/1999

By Mary Ann Balch


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