A Pentecost-Garrison School Graduation Program from 1930

The firemen keep saying if I don't clean up the clutter that blocks every room and hallway of the Lauderdale Mansion, they will issue me a citation. Good. I'll hang it on the wall with my other diplomas, awards, spelling-bee tropies, and what-nots.

Because every time I start to make a clean sweep of things, so to speak, I find items of historical interest. Not necessarily important, but interesting. Well, they are to me, anyway.

Case in point: this single-page 1930 graduation program for the old Pentecost-Garrison School. This little private school, tucked away in its early days in former homes on Idlewild before it moved to bigger and nicer campuses and eventually evolved into today's Presbyterian Day School, attracted students from some of our city's top families. I've written about the place before. (Go here and scroll down past the "Safety Town" story to see what I mean.)

The entertainment offered on this long-ago day in 1930 was downright cute — especially the "kiddie band processional" followed by first-grade performances of songs called (or maybe they are describing) "Dandelions," "Blowing Bubbles," and "Tulips."

But what really stands out are the upper-school student orations on "Choosing a Career." In the 1930s, the school obviously felt students had only four main options: medicine, chemistry, law, and — this seems ahead of its time, doesn't it — electrical engineering. But look who spoke on a career in electrical engineeering: Walter Armstrong.

Armstrong would grow up to become one of our city's leading citizens: a prominent attorney and head of his own firm which (as far as I know) is still in practice today, president of the school board, a book collector with one of the finest private libraries in the city. A gentleman and a scholar in every sense of the word. Plus, he had his quirky side, which is always a plus with me: he was the longtime president of "The Giant Rats of Sumatra," the local chapter of the Sherlock Holmes Society (each chapter is named for a colorful chapter title from one of the Conan Doyle books, you see).

Good thing — for him and for us — he didn't follow his own advice and become an electrical engineer.

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Famed Memphis trivia expert Vance Lauderdale answers reader questions weekly here on his blog!

About This Blog

Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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