They read like the 1930s relics they are. They are tiny little booklets, tasseled and corded so women could tie them to their wrists, with numbered lines so dance partners could sign up for the dances they wanted when they asked permission to sign a girl’s dance card. 

Photo of a dance card from a June 26, 1899 dan...

Photo of a dance card from a June 26, 1899 dance hosted by the Sphinx Senior Society at Dartmouth College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are from my Mother’s college scrapbook. None had the numbered lines filled in. All were reserved for and signed by her date of the evening.

  • Fifth Annual University of Michigan Union Formal
  • Friday, November Second, Nineteen Hundred Thirty Four
  • (signed) Burton L. Coffey
  • with Maize and Blue tassels

My mother was a college Freshman in 1935-36, so she must have started dating college boys in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, her Senior year of high school.

  • Sigma of Theta Xi
  • Pledge Formal
  • League Ballroom
  • November Twenty Seventh
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty Five
  • (signed Lesswing Drews)
  • with Silver tassels
  • First Annual Engineering Ball
  • Michigan Union
  • December Sixth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Five
  • (signed Joe Geisinger)
  • with Maize and Blue tassels
  • Michigan Union Formal
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Five
  • (signed Edward Wetten)
  • with Maize and blue tassels

The scrapbook includes photos of my Mom, a slim, pretty brunette with smiling eyes, wearing corsages on her ball gowns. She glued in swatches of fabric from the dresses among the dance cards.

She told me once her Mom had to teach her a hard lesson about taking care of her clothes. Her Mom warned her she would no longer pick up her pretty ball gowns from the floor. If she found them on the floor, she would put them in the dirty laundry basket, which is exactly where my Mom found them the next time she was getting ready for a party.

  • University of Michigan
  • Class of 1938
  • Sophomore Prom
  • Michigan Union Ballroom
  • March Sixth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty Six
  • (signed Tom Keppelman)
  • with Red tassels
  • Second Annual Assembly Ball
  • Michigan League Ballroom
  • March Thirteenth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Six
  • (signed Thanks for the [Su?]gay ride – Tom)
  • with Maize tassels
  • The Reserve Officers Training Corps of
  • The University of Michigan
  • Presents
  • The 1936
  • Military Ball
  • Friday, May First
  • Ten ‘Till Two
  • Michigan Union
  • (signed The Major (Protem)
  • H. Thomas Keppelman
  • With gold and rust tassels
  • Architect’s Ball
  • Barbour Gym
  • Friday, May 8, 1936
  • (signed To a swell girl and a swell time! Tom)
  • With brown tassels
  • Annual Spring Formal
  • Alpha Gamma of Theta Chi
  • Friday, May 29, 1936
  • (signed A lovely date – but a still lovelier girl. Yours, Tom

Mom told me once she had been engaged before Dad. But, at some point, her fiancée stopped contacting her or returning her calls. After a few weeks of this, she ran into one of his friends. “What’s up?” she asked him. “Oh, he just does that sometimes, goes into a mood where he doesn’t talk to anyone.” “Well, I’m not anyone. I’m his fiancée. He doesn’t just stop talking to me.” Today, I would guess he was bi-polar. She never mentioned who he was, but I wonder now if it was Tom. She broke up with him shortly afterwards.

  •  Fourth Annual Interfraternity Ball
  • Michigan Union and Michigan League
  • January Fifteenth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Seven
  • (signed Tom)
  • with Black and Silver tassels
  • University of Michigan
  • Class of 1938
  • J-Hop
  • February Twelfth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Seven
  • (signed WPH)
  • with Blue and White tassels
  • Third Annual Assembly Ball
  • Michigan League Ballroom
  • March Fifth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Seven
  • (signed Better Late than Never – Tom)
  • with Maize and Blue tassels
  • Alpha Gamma of Theta Chi
  • Annual Spring Formal
  • Friday, May Twenty-Eighth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Seven
  • With Pink tassel
  • Sigma of Theta Xi
  • Pledge Formal
  • Michigan League Ballroom
  • Wednesday November Twenty-Fourth
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty Seven
  • (signed John A. McAnulty)
  • with Maize and Blue tassels

What is missing are the letters. When I first discovered this scrapbook, I was in high school. It was filled with letters to my Grandmother. I’m not sure why. I thought my Mom lived at home through college. But, articles about the organization she formed, the Ann Arbor Independents, in November 1937, for women who could not afford to join a sorority, as she, daughter of a widow, could not, suggest she must have moved onto campus into Michigan League housing, at least by her Junior year.

“This is the one. This is the guy I’m going to marry.”

“Remember this name. I’ve found the guy.”

And, others of the like, no two about the same guy. My mother must have decided to edit history, because the letters are gone. All the while, she was running the Ann Arbor Independents, hosting buffet suppers for all the women in League housing, a faculty tea and a banquet, and benefit carnivals for Chinese Relief funds.

There are photos of the 1602 Shadford Road house where my Mom grew up in Ann Arbor. Yet, when I asked a friend to take a photo of the house in the 1970a and framed it with these old photos, my Mom seemed not to remember the house.  When I took her back there years later, after her stroke, when I was visiting the printer in the city for my sixth book, Mom only perked up when we drove from the house to the campus, a route she used to walk and when we visited the U. of M. Union Ballroom, a vast room I could imagine filled with dancing college couples.

  • Fifth Annual Assembly Ball
  • Michigan League ballroom
  • March Third
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Nine
  • (signed A very, very swell time with
  • a very, very swell girl -Ted)
  • with black tassels and pink cover
  • The Ninth Annual Slide Rule Dance
  • Michigan Union
  • April First
  • Nineteen Hundred Thirty Eight
  • (signed To Betty – A swell sport – Bob)
  • with Maize tassels
  • Annual Spring Formal
  • Newman Club
  • Michigan Union
  • April Twenty-First
  • Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-Nine
  • (signed Remember a lovely evening – Ray)
  • with Green tassels
  • Zeta of Alpha Kappa Lambda
  • Presents its
  • Spring Formal Dinner Dance
  • May 20, 1938
  • (signed Ray – remember the night, the ring and me)
  • Accordian fold, no tassels, cover imprinted: Ray Frederick – Betty Notley

By the end of her Senior year, my Mom was narrowing the field of suitors to my Dad, Ray.  She graduated from the University of Michigan on June 17, 1939, with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. The Commencement program is in the scrapbook. She still hadn’t settled on a single guy her Senior year, though she’d met my father when she was a Sophomore and he was a Freshman. He took dance classes to meet girls. She taught dance classes to meet guys.

Dad still had a year to go before he finished college after Mom graduated and beyond that, refused to get married until he’d worked at least a year. She went to business school for a year, then got a job with the Selective Service Board.

  • Zeta of Alpha Kappa Lambda
  • Presents
  • Christmas Formal Dinner Dance
  • Saturday, December Ninth
  • Nineteen Thirty-Nine
  • (signed And did I have a swell time – Wow!)
  • with rawhide tassel and wooden cover with copper plate of ship

They were married on July 27, 1941, in the shadow of the coming World War II. When my Dad died in February, 1991, they were planning their 50th wedding anniversary. I have her wedding ring.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”

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