Commencement procession, possibly in Willits, CA

Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Photo measuring 7 x 5 inches. Traces of glue and paper on the back from having been mounted to something.

What I know about it:

No identification or date on the photo, but see comments.


Sorting through the box of photos I bought this past weekend, I’m finding recurring names and places. Among other things, it seems a certain Edna Hansen graduated from Stanford in 1909 (the graduation program is included), and became a Latin teacher in Willits, CA. I’m not sure how long that chapter of her life lasted, but there are a number of class photos, photos of what I assume are friends in Willits, and a photo or two of what was then the Wililts high school. Some of these were in a bundle of photos and papers that was tied up with string, seeming to contain documents of special weight from that time, including a newspaper clipping from 1912 about a 16-year-old Willits boy who died in a gun accident, samples of that boy’s schoolwork, and a letter to Miss Hansen from the boy’s mother, acknowledging her condolences. This photo was in that bundle. I’m taking a guess when I call this a commencement procession, and am happy for suggestions if people think it’s something else. Are the women wearing the mortarboards teachers or students? Why are they carrying spears? Is this a women-only affair, or are the men simply out of frame? (It seems the high school was co-ed.) If Miss Hansen is involved in this event as a teacher, then I’m guessing it would date to after 1909. And while I can’t find pictures to confirm that this is Main Street in Willits, the sign on the building in the upper right reads “Little Lake Stable”. Little Lake is an earlier name for the town of Willits, and the whole region is the Little Lake Valley, so if it isn’t Willits, it’s probably close.

4 comments on “Commencement procession, possibly in Willits, CA”

  1. Great photo! The absence of automobiles would put this pretty close to 1909, I would think. I don’t know when the first cars would have come to a place like Willits. So sad about the 16-year-old boy. His death must have affected Edna deeply.

    • There is also a condolence note from students to the teacher, though I don’t know if it’s related to the death of the boy or some other tragedy. And the samples of the boy’s schoolwork are in the area of math, though she was a Latin teacher. I’m not sure I’ll ever piece together the whole story (or stories), but I’m enjoying the tantalizing clues.

  2. Fascinating photo!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: