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School days and friends, 1930s

Submitted by Fran McEvoy from Des Moines, Iowa, USA
  • Home Ec. Ed. '36

Memories from the mid-30s

That September day in 1932 I was sad when my parents left me at the age of 16, but as I turned and entered the dormitory portals I knew great opportunities lay ahead during the next four years.

In Clara Barton Hall, teams of the residents did all of the housekeeping. According to a weekly schedule, certain girls would clean parlors and the housemother's apartment. Others prepared and served breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Average cost per meal was 25 cents.) Some cleared tables and washed dishes after each meal. Every morning a team laundered the dish towels and table linen. They worked for five weeks then had one week off. By working and playing together, about 100 girls became a close-knit group.

In addition to saving money, this system provided excellent learning experiences for me. I could practice my lessons in experimental cookery. I learned how to organize my priorities and to follow directions.

Mrs. Conroy, housemother at Clara Barton, told daily news of the world outside our cloistered life when she sat at a different table every meal. She did not tolerate tardiness.

Other pleasant memories linger. It was fun to ice skate on Lake LaVerne in the moonlight. Often someone's boyfriend and his friends would serenade her outside her window. Mine surprised me with a solo on his harmonica.

I learned to dance by practicing with girl friends in the "rec" room on third floor.

A box from home meant there was food to share. During the severe winter of 1936, I lived a short distance from a home management house to my classes.

Quotes I remember came from Pearl Hogrefe, (English) "Never waste words;" from Belle Lowe, (Experimental Cookery) "I don't give advice unless I'm asked for it;" from Bruce Barton, "One constant in life is change;" and from Lenore Sullivan, (Institutional Management) "To be successful, you must serve good coffee."

I wonder what became of Herbert Bates, the musician with his harmonica, and Martha (Hough) Bernhart, my partner in the home management house.