This weekend, Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring is having a 75th anniversary celebration. In honor of my alma mater, here’s a little school spirit from the late 1950s.Blair HS buttons

This little “South Seas” type figure – itself unrelated to Blair, I think, unless it was a souvenir from a themed dance or homecoming parade – is festooned with fifteen buttons, all either pro-Blair or anti-rival. The donor, who grew up near the intersection of Colesville Road and University Boulevard, attended Blair – the old Blair, now Silver Spring International Middle School – and graduated in the class of 1960. The rivals represented here are Bethesda-Chevy Chase (“the Barons,” visible on one of the front buttons), Wheaton, Richard Montgomery, Walter Johnson, Suitland, Bladensburg and Northwestern High Schools. County locals may be thinking, hey, those last three aren’t in Montgomery County! (Today we have a Northwest, but Northwestern, Bladensburg and Suitland are in Prince George’s County.) At the time local high schools were few enough that to make up a full division, teams often played schools from neighboring counties, not just their own.

The little “mascot” was something of a bonus donation. The donor was helping to clean out her childhood home, and offered the Historical Society some pieces from the family’s old farm in Wheaton, dating from around 1900. When I went to pick them up she offered me some 1920s tennis rackets, also from her family, as an afterthought. It was only as I was leaving that I spotted this little guy and mentioned that I too had gone to Blair; after a little discussion it became clear to her that I thought he would be a perfect addition to our 20th century collections. She seemed dubious, but was happy to make my day and send him off to posterity at the Society, along with the older artifacts.

I get this a lot. Being a relatively young curator has some disadvantages (although occasionally it does provide me with the element of surprise). Reactions to my interest in recent artifacts are usually positive, but sometimes are more along the lines of incredulity and/or indignation (“Just because YOU weren’t born yet doesn’t make it historical!”), and I can understand this point; hearing early U2 on the “oldies” station gives me the same feeling. Sometimes disbelief is mixed with speculation; I swear the donor is trying to think of other things they can foist onto my collections, as if, like in old cartoons, my head has turned into a giant “sucker” lollipop. (Contrary to semi-popular belief, we don’t accept just anything.) Sometimes people are pleasantly surprised to learn that the Historical Society is not just about colonial homes and 19th century farms. My goal is to make it less of a surprise!

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