Are you smarter than a student in 1924?

My wife and I owned a home at 60 Park Circle in Atlanta for a grand total of 14 months in the late 90’s. It was an eighty-year-old, single story affair that was actually on the National Register for Historic Places, though we never exactly figured out why.


The house had a partial basement and an extremely creepy, dank, dirt-floored crawlspace. I slithered into this space almost as soon as we took ownership. Towards the back was an old trunk. When I pried the trunk open it was sorta like when Belloq opened the Ark in Raiders with the hiss and the smoke seeping out. Except my face did not melt off.

The top of the trunk was composed of several strata of yellowed newspaper clippings, mostly about the 1924 presidential election. “Keep Cool with Coolidge!”

But the majority of the trunk was full of books, the text books of one W. A. (William) Strange, student at Emory University, resident of 306 Winship Hall.

I didn’t do anything with the books at the time. When we moved to Chicago I just loaded the trunk into the moving van. Well, two moves and nine years later I’ve delved back in.

There are 19 books in all, hardcover, musty, but in remarkably good shape. A snapshot of Mr. Strange’s courseload via the titles shows Spanish, Accounting, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Latin, and American History. The scribbled marginalia in the books is almost completely homework-related. Alas, there’s no musing on flappers, Prohibition, Rhapsody in Blue, the founding of IBM, the Beer Hall Putsch, the Geneva Protocol, or the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

But the history book did contain a sheet of looseleaf paper, a quiz which earned Mr. Strange a C. (He only got three wrong answers, but such was the grading.) It is an interesting little document, not at all what you’d except to find in an American History class nowadays. Of course it’s only a sliver of a presumably much wider syllabus, but the questions seem decidedly regional. The phrasing of many of the questions makes it abundantly clear that there’s no such thing as a completely neutral view of history.


So, what happened to you Mr. Strange? And how did your books end up in that crawlspace?