May 1929

Ruth 5/3/29

I’d be happy if this day were over.  There is so much to do and I feel rotten right now.  There is a reason and it isn’t grapenuts either.  I’m taking the fourth grade for a picnic this afternoon and that in its self will be a day’s work.  The next two weeks are going to be a grand rush.  I’ll feel like a prisoner let loose when it is over.  I won’t know what to do with myself.

Ruth 5/4/29

Joy of joys it will only be about two weeks and a half until I shall be with you again on the old college campus.  I am so excited about it I can scarcely wait.  Mr. Beeman said he warned me now that the dormitory rules said strictly 10:30.  I couldn’t tell him, of course, but you can tell him to go to seed.  I’ll stay out as long as I choose and I’ll keep you with me if I want to.  I’d like to see him try to keep me from it.  I don’t know why but I have a feeling like I would like to antagonize him just to see what would happen.  I guess I have never learned to leave fire alone.  I’m always getting near the flames.  I suppose after all it is a good thing you are so steady in that respect.

I may have music pupils again this summer.  I’d like to just for the fun of it, but I’m not sure how much of the time I’m going to be home.  I thought I would just rest this summer, but there are so many interesting things coming up to do I don’t believe I’m going to rest after all.  I would like to take a music class and I have a chance to do some 4H club work again that would be fun.  I would have a cooking club teaching girls how to cook – I know so much about it, you know. It might inspire me with new interest in the culinary arts.  What do you think?

Ruth 5/6/29

What an honor you have won and you have my most sincere congratulations!  Words do not express it quite as another means I know.  Needless to say, I am very proud of you.  You seem to be able to do better things when I am not around.  Perhaps I bother you too much.  I wish I could have been in Omaha this weekend.

Ruth 5/8/29

So we can soon be congratulating Lawrence and Rose.  I expect they are all enthused.  Strange I can’t feature myself in like circumstances.  I have thought and dreamed of it for several years and now that that dream could be realized I don’t seem to want it to be all true.  I want some privileges of both married and unmarried life.  As I told you last fall, I just don’t see myself always cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning house – washing, ironing, sewing.  Do you?  You join the Aid’s Society and the Woman’s Club and talk about how to raise the family properly.  You can’t be married and be a kid.  John, will you tell me frankly what you think is the matter with me?  Is it because I am too selfish?  I’d rather think about going to school. (Rachels note: Mom was very active in the State College Womans club until the day she died)

Ruth 5/9/29

I’m trying to teach fractions in the fourth grade, but with some of the pupils don’t seem to be having very good success.  I don’t see how some quite brilliant parents can have such dumb offspring.  Imagine a child in the fourth grade not being able to add 2 + 4 correctly. Then imagine trying to teach him fractions.

I am going to a party tomorrow night.  The high school seniors are giving their play tomorrow evening and after the play we are all invited out to the Wilson’s for a slumber party.  I know without you telling me that it is a dumb thing for me to do since there won’t be much slumbering, but school is nearly over and we might as well make the most of our time.  Nearly everyone is going into the city Saturday.  Won’t we be in fine shape for next week?  Fortunately only one more week of school.

Ruth 5/12/29

I’ve decided to do music lessons myself, give piano lessons, and do the cooking club.  I intend to do considerable house cleaning for mother after I return from Central.  Do you know for certain what you are doing this summer?

I will attend commencement in Waterbury this Friday.  Chester is valedictorian of his class.  Something to be proud of after all he has missed.   His average isn’t high but it is the highest in the class.  He still has work to make up.

Ruth 5/14/29

The news of Dorothy’s death (in childbirth) has hurt me terribly.  It doesn’t seem true to me.  It is the cause of her death that haunts me and I can’t get away from it.  Wasn’t the price of her life too great in this case?  Being a man, you can’t imagine or understand how it frightens me.    Dorothy was always so peppy and happy.  I can’t imagine her gone and to think it should happen so near Mother’s day.  I should think her husband would feel guilty.  I wish I could forget it.

Ruth 5/17/29

You don’t want any letter from me now because it won’t be nice.  This is just to let you know I am still percolating but have nearly gone under in the midst of this mess.  It is nearly over.  Virgil came in last night to help me and we worked until twelve o’clock trying to get report cards ready for this morning.  I’m not half through averaging grades.  Never before have I realized what it meant to teachers to get out grades.  I have until ten thirty to work this morning.  Virgil is coming in to help me again.

Ruth 5/19/29 from home

Home again, but not quite conscious.  The letdown is terrible.  I sleep and sleep and still feel like I am in a walking stupor.  Perhaps if I sleep long enough I’ll recover.  It certainly is a relief to know that school is over.  Now if I could only forget it, but things keep running through my head – things I have done and things I  should have done, mostly things I should have done.  Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if we could stop our minds like we stop a clock and start it again when we wanted to think?

Chester seems to have carried home the trophies Friday evening.  His diploma of graduation, diploma of honor and two scholarships – one for church college and the other from normal college in the state.  Quite an honor for the family, don’t you know.  He doesn’t plan to go to school next year and I doubt if he ever does.  I hope he stays on the farm and puts all his energy there.  Ralph would be wise if he would spend his time next year on the farm instead of school.  Education is all right, of course, but I have come to this conclusion that education is not what you learn from books but it is development of character.  Ralph has his education now.  I am very proud of the backing we children have in the folks.  Grandmother Benton was a lady of genuine character and culture if ever there was one and I don’t think she had a great deal of education.  Aunt Lola is visiting here now from Iowa.  She has that refined something about her that is fascinating to me.  It makes her delightful to know.  I desire those characteristics for myself but only time can round them out and make them real.

Ruth 5/21/29

Mary Way and I went to a club meeting near Dakota City today.  I had a good time and haven’t laughed so much in many a day.  We talked about club work and explained how to organize my club.  More work than I anticipated.

Won’t be long now – I’ll get to Central on Friday.


John 5/4/29  From Omaha  11:30 p.m.

A letter must suffice to break the news that Central won first place in the extempo contest here today.  I tried to send you a telegram but discovered that the offices at both Allen and Waterbury would not be open until Monday.  The subject that it fell my lot to speak on was “how debating helps the prospective preacher”.  As a reward I’m now looking at a lovely large silver loving cup.  I’m going to leave it at the college. (Rachel’s note: we heard a lot about this honor.  Dad got a real kick out of reminding us that he “was the extemporanious speaking champion of the state of Nebraska, you know!”)

extempo 2

Click to enlarge

John 5/5/29

We did have a splendid trip and visit in the city.  En route to and from Omaha I stopped at home for a few minutes.  What a joy to be home! The folks were happy about my victorya as one might naturally expect.

Edith has excellent prospects of securing a school just eight miles from home.  With both of us that near home next year we should have some good times.  The folks appreciate our nearness perhaps more than any others.

What do you know?  Mother told me that Lawrence and Rose are expecting a little one.  Won’t it be fun to be “Uncle John and Aunt Ruth”?  Such are the rewards of adulthood, I suppose.

I’m working seriously on our Fullerton Boy’s Camp.  My!  I never knew there was so much involved in promoting such an affair.  I’m going to push it with heart and soul through until our end is achieved.

John 5/7/29

I think you would enjoy any of your summer options.  I think you would greatly enjoy giving music lessions again.  Now don’t you think I could wisely urge you to give time to the cooking club?  I hope my wife will be a good cook or become one at least.   You know my weakness at the table.

More honor! Goodness I hardly can keep my equilibrium.  The chamber of commerce has invited Leland and me to dinner tomorrow as their special guests because of our recent achievements.  I’m almost getting tired of being congratulated.  I want you to just kiss me – that will be the best of all.  Mr. Watson announced that Estellene had won first honors in scholastic achievements and I second.  Estelline’s grad averaged was 94-2/5 and mine was 92-19/100.  It looks like I will be exempt from my examinations.

John 5/10/29

No, I don’t see you playing the role you suggest nor am I going to be dumb enough to venture a suggestion of what I think is wrong with you.  In fact, I’m not sure there is anything wrong with you. You are just going through a perplexing period I suppose.  How do you suppose we would feel now had our once thought of plan to be married this spring materialized?  Anyway, I’m glad we’re not going to be.  I think as you do that we’re not ready for it.  As far as I’m concerned the matter rests with you.  It would be too awful to have to pine away the hours and days begging you to marry me.  We’ll be married whenever you want to.

John 5/12/29

A new experience awaits me tomorrow when I shall teach at the high school. One of the teachers is ill so I’ve been asked to function for her.  Imagine me wielding the “big stick”!  My track girls didn’t go to their meet because of the heavy rain so I’ll have to coach them a week more.  I don’t mind, in fact I believe I would rather coach girls than boys.  Not for sentimental reasons, understand, but because they are always so eager to learn and so obedient.  I’ve had a lot of fun with them.  Some of their bare knees and legs don’t bother me in the least.

This news will probably shock you.  The funeral of Dorothy Richards Koon is to be held Monday.  Mr. Richards stopped by the store and said that she died Saturday.  She has always had a weak heart.  She gave birth to a child about four hours before she died.   The doctors state that the child birth was normal and not the immediate cause of her death but rather blood clotted her weak heart.  Imagine the grief and sorrow of her husband.  He can be happy though that she has left him a baby to love.

More sad news.  Last night an aunt of Leone Drinkall and a former student at NCA poured kerosene in her stove and caused a terrible explosion.  She was blown out of the house and harmed so severely that she died last night.  Her four children and husband were also burned but they will live.  President Carrell will conduct the funeral tomorrow.

John 5/14/29

One busy man have I been during the past two days and the next few do not promise much change.  I was at the high school on Monday morning where I taught two classes in world history and kept one study hall period.  I had a good time and had no difficulties and concluded that I think I shall enjoy teaching.

Barney and I while reading the Allen News today noticed that Miss Benton and her pupils went on a picnic last Friday.  Don’t you  feel proud to have your name in the paper?

John 5/16/29

I hated to write the letter in which I told you of Dorothy’s death because I knew how it would affect you.  Yes, no doubt Dorothy’s husband thinks that too dear a price was paid.  It frightens me too to think about it. Because of the feelings this incident causes in me I feel more that it is not just for a man to insist that his wife have children.  You know that children will come to us only when you keenly desire them.  Then I think I should worry myself sick until it was over.

John 5/17/29

Another announcement that will interest you.  I’m so happy about it.  Governor Weaver will deliver our commencement address.  Isn’t that good?  On next Friday the college is having special senior recognition day.  Won’t we have a lot to do?

John 5/19/29

It is a very weary boy that pens this letter.  I didn’t get through work last night until after one o’clock and then coming home I ran out of gas.  The clock registered two fifteen when I crawled to unconsciousness.  Today I went to Alda.  Lots of traveling and visiting with dear friends about our camp and college.

Ruth joined John at NCC for his graduation so no letters about the events, but here are the notes from John’s diary: 

From Dad’s diary:

5/23/29 – YMCA today; seniors spoke on what the association has meant to them during their course.  This association has meant more to many of us than any other in school.  To me it has meant life, knowledge, contacts, and education.  To it I am deeply indebted.  Mr. & Mrs. Carrell entertained senior class at Grand Island at Akropolis restaurant.  Our hearts beat loudly as we partake of a fellowship that shall never be again.

5/24/29 – special senior recognition day.  Wore caps & gowns to chapel.  Ruth arrived in mid afternoon.  Of course all else ceases.  She presented me with a beautiful wrist watch for graduation.  She and I attended the Y.M. & Y.W. banquet.  We had a time of great rejoicing.

5/25/29 – worked at Skagg’s .  Had dinner at Dr. Hull’s which is always a pleasure.  Ruth had lunch with me this evening  Worked until 12:30.

5/26/29 – memorial service at the Methodist Church.  Ruth and I enjoyed the afternoon together.  Attended Friends Church in the evening.

5/27/29 – studied drama with Ruth. Guy Solt presented student campaign in chapel.  Attended athletic benefit program in the evening.  Ruth and I had lunch together.

5/28/29 – these last days of school are conducive to lethargy.  It is hard to push to the end.  Pres. Carrell spoke at our last chapel.  It was difficult to realize that this was the last of six years of daily chapels.

5/29/29 – Ruth and I enjoy our fellowship greatly.  We learned that Ralph has the measles.

5/30/29 – 5/31/29   These days filled with fellowship with Ruth and college friends

6/1/29 – rain prevented college picnic; Ruth and I attended a movie in the evening

6/2/29 – drove with Mr. Watson to St. Paul where Mr. Watson spoke at the Presbyterian church.  After returning to Central Ruth, Kenneth, Lois, Guy Puckett and I enjoyed dinner at the Marsh home.  Charles O. Whitely gave our baccalaureate address.

6/3/29 – attended the wedding of George and Zola.  It was an honor to be the cardinal at the June festival.  Many friends have returned for commencement activities.  Gov. Weaver gave address.  The folks were present.  I received my A.B. degree.  Ruth and I assisted in the marriage of Ivan & Fillis.  They left at once for Grand Island.

6/4/29 – attended college alumni breakfast.  Ruth and I attended old student’s banquet together.  It is lovely to have her with me.  Our love is great.  I realize more and more how much she means to me.  All is well when she is well.  I could have made no better choice of a life mate.  We greatly enjoy our evenings together.

6/5/29 – Ruthie, sweetheart, left for home.  How I regret having her go!  Work begins on our boy camp at Fullerton.

John in his graduation robe

John in his graduation robe

Program for the graduation banquet at which the govenor spoke

Program for the graduation banquet at which the govenor spoke

John’s diploma from Nebraska Central College


There wasn’t a photo of John as cardinal of the graduation festival, but this is of Merl when he had the honor. There are lots of photos of dancers and May poles and folks dressed in costumns at this event each year. Must have been a big deal!


One thought on “May 1929

  1. What fun to read of your Dad’s graduation!! Calling your Mom Ruthie gave me a real laugh. And, Aunt Merl – can you believe!

    It was so interesting to read. Didn’t realize my father had the measles! Something I have not had!

    Thanks for taking the time. I love the letters.


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