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Michigan Flea Market Find is Part of Avon Lake History

“My name is David Doss and I am writing to you regarding a donation. As a hobby I travel around to antique shows and flea markets to purchase old photos and mail them back to their place of origin. Enclosed is an old image that I hope you can use for your collections.”

The typed letter arrived at Avon Lake Public Library on October 19, 2017, with a 10 ¾” x 14” sepia-toned photo featuring the 17 graduates of the Avon Lake High School class of 1932 (see accompanying photo). The phrase “Forward Ever – Backward Never”, which may have been the class motto, is displayed below the students’ pictures.

Doss explained in a subsequent e-mail that he found the photo, which was in its original frame and severely water damaged, at an outdoor flea market in Flat Rock, Michigan, which is 129 miles west and north of Avon Lake. Doss removed the photo from the frame and had the photo laminated to prevent further deterioration.

Written in pencil on the back of the photo is, “Britton to frame.” Britton may have been Erwin Britton, one of the 1932 graduates, whose picture appears second from left in the top row of the class photo. He is listed in the April 28, 1932, issue of Avon Lake Spectrum, the Avon Lake High School newspaper, as the class valedictorian and president.

“Erwin Britton is the second student to give the valedictory at graduation. Helen Deasy, first valedictorian, was a member of last year’s graduating class. Previous to this, the custom of having a valedictorian was not used,” according to the front-page article that described that year’s commencement activities. (This issue of Spectrum, along with other issues from 1928 to the present, is available online as part of the Avon Lake Documents Collection of The Cleveland Memory Project and can be viewed here.)

Erwin Apelbert Britton was born February 19, 1915, in Huron, Erie County, OH, to John Chester and Lydia Britton. A graduate of Oberlin College and the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, Britton served as minister of the Congregational Church of Wayne, MI, for 24 years and of the First Congregational Church of Detroit, MI, for nine years, according to his obituary. He died October 30, 2001, in Florida at age 86.

Other graduates pictured are, top row from left: Dorothy Barnes, Erwin Britton, Helen Moodt, Jack Brown; second row from left: Walter Mitchell, Delia Berger, Mildred Burkhardt, John Sundstrom; third row: John Bushman, Fern Lang, Peggy Smith, Hazel Walker, Albert Putre; fourth row: Dolores Schneider, Mable Taylor, Victor Huber, Hildred Horwedel.

The photograph will be added to the Library’s local history collection, any part of which can be viewed during regular library hours. If you have (or find) any items that you would like to donate to the collection, please visit the Library or call the information desk at 440.933.8127.

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