Transcribed by Michael A. O’Neill in Mar/Apr 2014
Transcribers note: This is a transcription of Mabel’s book, not an upload of the original of the document she created. It was transcribed using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, which will result in capitalization errors; misspellings of proper names; odd usage of prepositions or common words; and incorrect homophones. For true fidelity, you can request the book via Interlibrary Loan from the Greenville College or Azusa Pacific University libraries.
I had been teaching for two years, but my heart was set on college. It was really a big event to go traveling alone so far away as Greenville, Illinois. By that time, I was twenty years old. This is the age of air travel, but when I was twenty, I had never seen the ocean or a mountain, only the planes of the Mississippi Valley. I went by train to St. Louis, and from there to Greenville delay. At the beginning of the school year, bus for the college met all the trains of the station.
Greenville College was the only liberal arts, four-your college sponsored by our church. I had heard of it for a long time, and I had known several students who went there. I had wanted to go so much that he never question the quality of education the school offered. However, it was a good school and I was glad to be there.
Things at Greenville College were at a low ebb when I registered as a freshman. The year before, there had been an insurrection of students, who had tried to unseat Pres. Burritt and wanted to replace him with the young professor from Harvard, Dr. Richard Blews. They had made a big stir, attacking the president and the school. They petitioned the Board of Directors. They did not succeed, but they caused so much dissatisfaction and dissension that many of the students did not return the following year. So, it was at that time, I went to Greenville a low point in the school history. There were only about 100 students in the liberal arts college, but the Prep School, the Business School, and the Music School, kept alive.
Greenville College is on a lovely old campus. Originally it had been the home of Almyra College, a girls’ school before the Civil War. The lovely old trees towered high in the air. It really looks like a campus. The main building was a picturesque brick building of four stories. On the main floor were the main offices, the parlor, the library, and a few classrooms. The third floor was devoted to the girls’ dormitory and the fourth floor to the boys’ dormitory. A new building, with a chapel and more classrooms was connected to the old building by a bridge at the level of the girls’ dorm. In the basement floor of the old building or the dining room and kitchen, also if you classrooms.
It seemed fun to live, go to school, eat our meals, and make friends all in the same building. There were some advantages and having the school small. Things weren’t crowded, and we had friendly relationships with students and teachers. It seemed like a family. Each student was assigned to a table in the dining room, with a faculty member at each table. Every meal began with a prayer of thanks, and after breakfast we had devotions. Often visiting ministers, bishops, or evangelists were asked to pray; sometimes the prayer seemed a little long. Everyone went to chapel after breakfast for inspirational devotions. Classes didn’t begin until after chapel.
During the school year there were always missionary meetings and every term there was a revival meeting that often dominated school life to quite a degree. Many students made commitments at those times which often change the directions of their lives. At home, I had certainly been used to going to church a great deal and my parents had restricted my social life largely to church activities. At Greenville most of the students were from Christian families so that I felt quite comfortable in the atmosphere.
Sometimes I felt a little irked at the dormitory rules. I had been away from home for two years running my own living and was more mature than most freshmen. However, I entered into the fun of dormitory life and made some friendships that were to last a lifetime. I belong to a little club of eight girls the dormitory. We called it K. C. Whenever we saw each other we called “Kay–See”. It was really a rival to a little club of girls outside the dorm. No sororities were allowed to Greenville; to some faculty members thought our club should be investigated. What did K. C. Mean anyway? Well, it didn’t mean anything. Cards, dances, theater were not allowed to Greenville; so much of the entertainment had to be of the original variety. Some of the parties were really fantastic. Hikes, picnics, and breakfasts in the woods were frequent.
As long as I was in school, money was a problem, and I worried about my bills. In two years of teaching (at never more than fifty dollars a month) I had saved enough to pay for board and room intuition, but had very little for extras. That first year, I had a job on Saturday mornings helping a woman clean her house. She was Swedish and there were no carpets in most of the rooms of her large two-story house. I had to wash the hardwood floors with rags and then wipe them dry, working on my hands and knees. I worked five hours fifteen cents an hour. At seventy-five cents was what I had for stamps, a bag of apples, or whatever. I also worked in the kitchen for half an hour before every meal. That wasn’t very hard: just putting the desert on dishes to be ready when it was time for to be served. The waiters were men students.
Mother didn’t really like to sew, but sometimes she made things and sent them to me. Once she sent me a very pretty blue outfit. The blouse was silk and the skirt and costs were will of the same color. We wore high shoes then and my blue dress came just at the top of my shoes. An elderly woman who worked in the kitchen remarked critically about my short dress saying, “it was a disgrace”!
When I was at home for the summer after the end of the first year, I went to Des Moines for a short visit with our friends, the Tenny family. Mae had been teaching a country school and Minta had been an art student at Drake University. I began telling them that Greenville was a wonderful school. Mr. Tenny became interested in the fall he sent May, Minta and their brother Glenn to school at Greenville. Later Mr. Tenny was appointed to the Board of Directors of the college. It seemed good to have them there. We went by train from Iowa to St. Louis, and from there to Greenville. On that trip from St. Louis, the train was traveling pretty fast, and seemed to sway a lot. Mr. Tenny said, “I do believe that we are going 60 miles an hour!” That was really speedy in those day that second year the college began to perk up. More students came. The Tenny’s were there and several students from California joined our sophomore class. There were lots of activities. I studied hard. One student, Alta Freeland, from California registered for her freshman year, and became one of my best lifelong friends.
Alas at the end of that year I had no money to go back, and again I turned to the job of teaching school. My family had moved to a Tumwater, Iowa. I was fortunate to get a place in the eighth grade at Agency, a few miles east of a Tumwater. The train service there was a little better and I was able to go home for weekends. The children came mostly from good homes, and I really enjoyed teaching there. Several of us teachers live in a very nice home in the woman cooked our meals. I worked hard that year, always with the idea that I would be able to go back to Greenville the next fall. During the years I was teaching and going to school, I was at home very little. Ernest and Weston were growing up. Weston was always a smiling out-going happy boy. Ernie was quiet, timid, and very conscientious. The church at Ottumwa was on the south side in a workingman’s area. The parsonage was not near the church, and was in rundown condition. My mother was pretty unhappy at the thought of moving the family into that place. The neighbors next door had a large family, noisy, and not very clean. Mother said she was going to pray that they would move out. A friend told her it would take a miracle, for that family had lived there for fifteen years. Maybe it was a miracle, for they moved out in two weeks! They were a good many young people at the church. I wasn’t much interested in them for my thoughts were all in Greenville. Father was pastor of the church, no longer district elder. One young woman at the church, I had met briefly at one of the camp meetings at Birmingham, was Florida Baker, who became my friend for the rest of her life. It was she whom I visited in Iowa in 1948 and who took me to visit old homes and friends in Knoxville and Fairfield as well as Ottumwa.
It was summer of 1914 I just finished the school year in Agency and came home to Ottumwa. Suddenly father and mother announced that the family would be moving to California. This came as a shock to me. I hadn’t heard about California! What’s going on? The boys were excited. Where was California? When would we go? Father and mother were excited, too. We were all going and soon. Rev. Neal and father both had been given appointments to churches in Southern California. It would take four days on the train. Mother would pack lunches that would last, at least, part of the way. The Neals had two boys and our boys were delighted.
I said, “what about me?” Nobody seemed to give me a thought. Mother said, “Well, you can go along to”. I was stunned. I didn’t want to go to California. I wanted to go to Greenville.
Father said, “Well Mabel, the church we will have is not far from the University of Southern California. You can go there.” As I look back, I think that I should’ve gone to California that. I couldn’t see it then. Father said, “Mabel, maybe you could go to Greenville and graduate next year. Mother thinks you shouldn’t be away from us for two years.” I said that was impossible! He said, “Well, you could go to summer school somewhere.”
So it was arranged, I went to Iowa Wesleyan at Mount Pleasant, Iowa for summer school. I needed science credits. I had called long-distance (long-distance wasn’t much used then). I was told that they had a course in biology. So I went. I said goodbye to the family and took a room at the dormitory at Iowa Wesleyan. I was a week late. Imagine my consternation when I found the only biology course was in entomology, with a prerequisite of biology 1. The class was small and the professor was a friendly man.
I was going to have to make a collection of insects, classify them, and melted. Several of the students were young preachers who supplied some of the country churches around while getting their education. The class have been going on for a week and the students all use those scientific names with ease. I thought I would never learn them. I set up nights memorizing those impossible terms. They had all had biology I.
Some of those young preachers helped me and gave me specimens for my collection. I had two or three dates of one of them. I remember he took me for a buggy ride in the country. It was a fortunate young fellow who could afford to keep a horse. It was indeed his pride and joy. Owning a good-looking horse and buggy certainly helped make a young man popular with young ladies. Mary Crother, one of the girls in the class, lived in the dormitory. We became good friends.
Father’s old friend Mattie Thomas who had entered his father and mother, had married and was living at Mount Pleasant. Her only son, Tom, about sixteen was in high school. Her husband, Mr. Dyal, with the town photographer. When I went to Mount Pleasant, father wrote her a note telling her that I was there, and so the Dyal family befriended me when I really needed friends. When the summer school ended, it was still three weeks before the opening of school Greenville. What should I do or where should I go during that time? Money was always a problem.
The professor agreed to tutor me during that time, and in the three weeks I earned for more credits in entomology. The dormitory was closed at the end of summer school, but the Dyal’s kindly opened their home to me. I guess things do “work together for good to those who love the Lord.” I know I prayed a lot. That summer was a kind of crisis in my life, but I had fun too. I studied hard, but we also went around the countryside catching butterflies, and once in a while Mary and I and some friends would go for dinner to one of the town restaurants. Before that I can scarcely remember going to a restaurant. I remember I was amazed at the size of the steaks. I could hardly eat so much.
About that time I remember seeing big headlines on the streets about the war in Europe. Europe was far away and I really didn’t know what it was all about. It was three years after that our country got into World War I. In September, I went back to Greenville with ten credits and science.
In the meantime, my family had gone to California, and I felt very far away from them. Their letters contain glowing accounts of happy experiences in California. Father’s church was not far from the University of Southern California in the south part of Los Angeles.
I was happy to be back to Greenville. I have been on for a year, but friends gave me a warm welcome back and wanted to know if I would be a senior. I thought not. When I talked to Dean Moyer about my credits, he said it would be impossible for me to graduate that year; he just couldn’t get enough credits on the schedule. Art Secord and Elvis Cochrane told me not to register until they promised me I could graduate for a week I hung around and worried. I wasn’t too happy. It seems that the obstacles to my education were insurmountable.
Then I talked to Pres. Burritt. He was a dignified man, almost unapproachable, but he was kind and talked to the Dean. Finally they worked out a schedule. The history would take examinations. From the oratory teachers, and already earned extra credits by private lessons and I would continue that. Altogether was a heavy load, and it was probably unwise to attempt it. But I never did find life very easy, at least in those years. I was registered as a senior and I did graduate with my class, but I didn’t take any honors. All the work I did in speech and literature one me a B.O degree. I heard many jokes about that degree, it seemed to mean something other than bachelor of oratory. With that heavy load of study, I could not do any kind of work for money during my senior year. I borrowed money for my uncle at 6% and came out of school several hundred dollars in debt. Teachers’ salaries, even in California, were not yet very high, and it took me several years to pay off the debt.
One of my best friends a Greenville was the art teacher, Marguerite Keister (later Mrs. Earl Haydock). During all the time I was a Greenville, she was the faculty sponsor of our class. When we graduated, she left Greenville and came to California. She and I were very close friends until her death about 1969 or 1970. Her art studio is in the main floor of the old building, which is now called Hogue Hall it was furnished like a private sitting room with an area for art students. It was one of my favorite places, and I often went there to study. My first year there, I took working china painting which was popular at that time. Most of the pieces I did, I gave away for presence so that I only have a very few pieces now. Marguerite married “Happy” Haydock, who was a very popular figure around the campus at USC. He won the Prohibition oratorical contest at Topeka, Kansas in 1914, the more of that later. I felt pretty lonely at the time of graduation, for there was no one to come to see me graduate, but Marguerite sent me a big bouquet of flowers that warmed my heart. In California, Marguerite taught classes in oil painting for many years. Earl Haydock was a Methodist minister and serve several churches in Southern California.
There was general agitation for prohibition of alcoholic drinks in those days. The Christian churches, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and college Prohi Clubs all worked endlessly to bring about an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would make it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks. As you know they succeeded in 1918, but a few years later FD Roosevelt got it rescinded. Even during the years of prohibition, the law was never adequately enforced. One of the popular clubs at most Christian colleges was the Prohi club. Local, state, and national contests under their sponsorship gives students a chance to practice their oratory on this emotional and controversial subject. They were never debates, but speeches designed to win the contest. For years, Greenville participate in those contests. Before my time, a man from Greenville had won the national Prohi contest. His name was Elam.
The National Prohibition Contest and convention in 1914 was held in Topeka, Kansas at Washburn College. That year, the Prohi Club at Greenville was entitled to three delegates. The club plan to pay their expenses. The convention was held at Christmas vacation, and students were housed in the homes of students and professors at Topeka. Greenville’s or later had been eliminated earlier.
Since I was so far for my family, there was no chance to see the Christmas. Some of my friends thought it would be nice to get me elected as one of the delegates to the Prohi convention. I can’t remember that I was ever very interested are active in Prohi, but in November, some of the girls got me to go to the meeting. Coleman Griffith and Art Secord nominated me and second the nomination, and before I knew what was happening, I was elected to be one of the delegates. Leslie Marston, who later became Bishop Marston, and Marlon Smith, who later was president of Roberts College at North Chili, New York, were the other delegates. Some of the men didn’t want me for delegate, but the girls said they had been paying dues for years and they had never sent a girl, and it was about time they did. Shades of Women’s Lib!
Since my mother’s brother, Ed Slough, and his family lived at Salinas, Kansas, I went a week ahead and visited the cousins. I hadn’t seen them since I played with Cannie and Delphina as little girls. Uncle Ed had five girls and two boys. Delphina had married and live near. The other four girls were at home. One brother had died in childhood and the other brother was away from home. It was a nice visit, but I found out the Kansas was cold in December.
At Topeka I met Leslie and Marlon and Apple Doddridge, who was Leslie’s girlfriend at the time. We had a good time. The contest was won by Earl Haydock of the University of Southern California when it was time to go back to Greenville they were heavy snows. Trains were late, and we missed our connection at St. Louis. We took the next train for Greenville, but didn’t arrive until 2 AM. In those days, meaning the train to welcome students or to bid them farewell was one of the chief entertainments at Greenville College. In the early evening, a big crowd was at the station to meet us, but we weren’t there. When we did get there, it was dark. Not a soul was around, not even the old bus to take us to the college. The boys carry the suitcases and we walked over the frozen snow to the college. The boys left me at the third-floor landing, and I went down the hall to a cold room. I was chilled to the bone but glad to be back.
The Greenville students of my generation have often told the story of a fantastic prank the disrupted school and threatened to become a scandal. That too, was connected with the Prohi club. Ms. Rogers, the oratory teacher, had coached for the Prohi contest every one of the three years she been there. Before her time, Elam had won the national contest, but no one had had that on or since. This year (the spring of 1915), she had a good speaker, and just maybe we had a winner. He had rather striking good looks, but was not very popular with the students. When he went to the state contest, Miss Rogers couldn’t go with him; so we went off alone.
When the contest was over, we waited to hear the results, but for twenty-four hours, there wasn’t a word. Then the next afternoon a telegram was delivered to Ms. Rogers. It read: “Won first place. Arrive home 10:30 AM tomorrow,” signed Claire Sager. Ms. Rogers was delighted. The students in the School of Oratory were excited. Greenville had won the state contest. The word spread around the campus. While some didn’t personally like Sager too much, it was a state contest the brought credit to Greenville College. Students began to organize a parade and the welcome of the railroad station. Someone pressured the president to declare a half-day holiday to welcome Sager home. Greenville didn’t have any intercollegiate athletics in those days, so this was an exciting contest with other schools.
The residents of Greenville were surprised to see a parade of sorts with homemade banners and some impromptu marching music. College students always have a lot of fun, and the crowd at the station was happy and noisy. The train was half an hour late, but finally it came puffing in the students looked eagerly as passengers left the train, but they didn’t see Sager. The train pulled out, but no Sager. Maybe he would come on the 2 PM train. The crowd filtered back to the campus. There was a question on everybody’s mind. What happened? Where was Sager?
Then somebody discovered that the telegram delivered to Miss Rogers was typed on a form in the office for sending telegrams. It wasn’t a real telegram. Who could have done such a dastardly thing? Somebody called, and found out that Sager had one at all. In fact, he taken fifth place. Two days later he slipped into town unnoticed.
But who had perpetrated the hoax. Who could it be? We all suspected the practical jokers in the student body. The rumor spread. Finally suspicion pointed to two prominent students, the editor and the business manager of the Vista, the school yearbook, Arthur Secord and Harold line. At last, the rumors in the suspicion died down, and everyone began to think it was a good joke. It was funny, but Miss Rogers was truly embarrassed and the president who given a day’s vacation for a hoax didn’t think it was funny at all. But for years it has been a good story to tell of dirty tricks in college. For small school, Greenville College had a great deal of dignity and a high-grade scholarship. The campus was beautiful. As a graduate of the oratory department, I gave an evening recital in May. I gave Tennyson’s Enoch Arden with musical accompaniment to parts of a long poem.
Since our class had been small the beginning, it was still smaller graduation. It was a beautiful commencement in early June. The soft air and blue skies, stately trees and green grass made a perfect setting.
At last commencement was over, I had my degree it was time to join my family in California. I was so absorbed in preparing for my recital (I began memorizing Enoch Arden in November) and in having a dress made for commencement, and another one for class day, that I have had little time to think about California and what I would do when I got there.
Myrtle Peter who was a member of our class lived in Arizona, but for years her family spent the summers in Southern California. (That was before the days of air conditioning in Arizona was unbearable in the summer). So Myrtle and I left Greenville the morning after commencement and started for California. At twenty-three, I had never seen a mountain or the ocean, and Myrtle was elated at the prospect of showing me the West. It took four days to go to California and we planned to spend two days at the World’s Fair in San Francisco. In Colorado, we had several hours between trains, but a storm came up and when we went to the station there was great confusion and no one could tell us where our coach was, but finally we found it. On Sunday afternoon we had a long tiresome trip across the desert. There were only three or four people in our car. One was a Presbyterian minister who talk to us, and when he found out that we had just graduated from a Christian College he asked us if we would like to go as missionaries under that Presbyterian board. We thought not. Later when it was so hard to get a job, I have thought the idea might not have been too bad.
Pike’s Peak was the mountain I saw first, as we were approaching Denver one morning. Seeing San Francisco and the Golden Gate in my first glimpse of the ocean was thrilling, too; however, the Golden Gate Bridge had not yet been built. We were on and thrilled at the wonders of the 1915 World’s Fair. In Los Angeles, father, mother, and the two boys met me at the station.