Seymour Defeats Green Bay in Speech Contest - 1899
From the Seymour Press May 11, 1899
When reading this article about the speaking contest between the Green Bay and Seymour High School, notice the public following and enthusiasm displayed that is similar to an athletic contest today. One hundred and seventy-five spectators from Seymour traveled to Green Bay by train to witness the event.
The reporter is blunt in analyzing the speakers and makes it a point to emphasize the poor behavior demonstrated by the Green Bay crowd. Today, most likely, arrests would be made, along with disparaging remarks about the rowdy behavior and lack of respect demonstrated by the youth.
The Contest is Ours
The declamatory contest between Green Bay and Seymour May 5th at Green Bay was an effort worthy of higher institutions than that of high schools, and plainly indicates that our public schools are making rapid progress. As far as the schools were concerned, the Seymourites had a better conception of, and had worked themselves more into the spirit of their selections, and their winning easily over Green Bay as a school.
The large high school assembly room was too small to accommodate the people which gave rise to much disturbance and annoyance as more than a hundred stood in the entrances and many leaned against the walls inside the room. Fully six hundred were present, 175 attending from Seymour who made the trip by special train...
John Richter from Green Bay opened the contest with that beautiful selection “Secession” by Daniel Webster. Although he spoke very plainly and distinctly he failed to conceive the earnestness and deep emotions with which Webster was imbued when he delivered the oration; and hence failed to make that impression which he otherwise might have made.
The next speaker was Lucius LeMieux (of Seymour) whose subject was “Last Days of Herculaneum.” He made a fine impression upon the audience and vividly portrayed the father’s grief and despair on that fearful night.
A “Rose for life” by Miss Emma Vermeyen would have been improved had the speaker’s gestures been consistently carried through, but often the gestures confused the thought conveyed. Unless gestures aid to give expression, they are better omitted.
Miss Minnie Beck rendered “How the La Rne Stakes Were Lost” very effectively and won the admiration of many by her great talent as a speaker.
Walter Murphy in rendering “The Unknown Speaker” had no hard task to convince the judges that he was unknown to them as a speaker.
Miss Nettie Schweger was the next with the rendition “Madness” and as by this time it was evident that Seymour would gain the contest, several Green Bay enthusiasts tried to disconcert her by keeping up a general disturbance while she spoke, but she held her own real well, and did remarkably fine considering the racket she had to put up with.
Miss Jessie Northrap rendered “John Burns of Gettysburg” quite well.
Next came William Beck giving “Remorse de Moor.” By this time, some could hardly control themselves no longer, and laughed and hisses. Had he not been frustrated somewhat by the reception, he undoubtedly would have ranked first, as it was he received second place.
Eben Minahan of Green Bay rendered “Emmet’s Vindication.” He had a clear distinct enunciation, an agreeable voice. He failed in conceiving the awful solemnity of a great soul standing before the scaffold...
Miss Maud Steward entertained the audience with “Christmas Night at the Quarters.” Her voice was clear and attractive, her conception of the piece excellent, and was highly appreciated.
Miss Emma Rock then gave her selection ”Patsy.” She deserves without a question of doubt to be called the star of the Green Bays.
Miss Mabel Williams closed the contest by rendering “Schoolmaster Beaton.” Her conception of the characters was all that could be desired.
When the contest closed it was generally admitted that Seymour had easily won. Green Bay had spent too much time in practicing war-whoops and selecting tin-can music to do good work, and it was a sore disappointment to the audience that Seymour had won as a school and Emma Rock had received two votes and Wm. Beck one for the best individual work.
Much credit is due to Professors Schmidt and Peterson for their untiring efforts in training the Seymour speakers.
The order in the room while the Green Bay contestants spoke was good, but while the Seymour contestants were on stage the Green Bay audience by laughing, waving of handkerchiefs and passing remarks on their appearances, tried to embarrass them. Of course, this can be readily pardoned on the ground that Green Bay people never having seen before a genuine backwoods man, were completely carried away by their curiosity as to what his abilities and limitations were...
After the contest the Seymour delegation took street cars for the depot, and had hardly got seated, when a crowd of sore-headed defeated hoodlums threw mud and sticks at them, besides passing insulting remarks.
Green Bay people ought not to have taken their defeat so hard, for their speakers were entered in the wrong class, and we would advise them to tackle something easy next time.