For the longest time my student assistants, coworkers and I have been trying to unlock the “XLA” clue on the banner. No national organization fit. No local organization fit.
All came together this past week.
According to the stamp on one of the photograph’s window mounts, Green was the photographer and the studio was located in Gregory, SD. Using They Captured the Moment: Dakotas Photographers 1853-1920 by Robert Kolbe and Brain Bade [Chilson Collection F651 .K54 2006], I discerned that Green was in business from 1911-1918.
“Why was this photograph in our collection?” “Why would USD students travel to Gregory, South Dakota to have their portraits taken?” Things were not making sense.
Then I zeroed in on the banner initials “DHS.” “What cities were close to Gregory?” “Dallas High School?”
Our Chilson Collection carries a book called Dallas, South Dakota: The End of the Line published by the Dallas Historical Society [Chilson Collection F659 .D15x D35].
From that moment on, things could not have been simpler. With book in hand, I turned a page and found a reproduction of the only high school annual in the entire publication. The annual was from 1915 and after the first few pages of advertisements, there was Walter Frankenfeld listed as the instructor for “Commercial and Athletics.” There were also portraits of several of the students in the photographs that I could use to match up.
Herman Walter Frankenfeld served as registrar at the University of South Dakota from 1926-1964. I turned back a few pages and read:
March, 1914, M. I. Ellis was hired as superintendent of schools at a salary of $1,200.00 per year. Walter Frankenfeld was hired as commercial teacher and coach at $75.00 per month. “Frankie” was rehired the following year, then went to war, and returned after the war and taught two more years in Dallas, where he met and married his wife, the former Ruth Patrick, who taught in Dallas High School. After leaving Dallas he went to the University of South Dakota where he served as registrar until his retirement.
Deeper into the reproduced yearbook, there was the photograph shown below with everyone identified. A few pages more and the other photograph presented itself also with students identified.
I learned the X. L. A. Society was founded in 1911 by Superintendent Barr:
…with Miss Henderson as sponsor. Florence Watwood was the first president and during the year much rivalry was evident between the two societies in the way of tearing down the pennants of one another and painting the interiors of the school building with their respective colors……
During the present year the members of the society have progressed rapidly along literary lines. Superintendent Ellis arranged a competition between the two societies [X. L. A. and Geilik] for better programs given during the winter months. After much hard work on the part of both societies the X. L. A. ‘s were victorious by a small margin.
The membership has increased from twenty to the present number of thirty.
We know from alumni records that Katherine Ellis (Kositsky), Earl Halverson, and Edward Prchal attended and graduated from the University of South Dakota. We also know that Frankenfeld held a long tenure here. So we have a glimpse of pre-University of South Dakota days for these folks – two photographs taken in Gregory, South Dakota.
All these years the answers were as close as the Chilson Collection. The one and only yearbook reproduced in the Dallas Historical Society publication held all the answers.
Update: Travelling from Dallas, South Dakota to Vermillion in 2014 takes roughly a little over 2 1/2 hours if taking US-18 by car. According to an account written by Faye Cashatt Lewis in “The University I Knew” published in 1973:
The train trip from Dallas to Vermillion was an all-day affair, and either going or coming it meant being at the depot at four o’clock in the morning. It involved travel in three different states. First, down into Nebraska to change trains at Norfolk, then into Iowa to change again at Sioux City, then back into South Dakota for about 50 miles, to Vermillion.