Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I wouldn’t be able to find a room in the college dormitory immediately. I did put in a reservation for Sophomore year. Mother and I replied to a notice in the college office. A young family would like to share their home with a student in exchange for a girl’s assistance with the children and  homemaking. I met this family, Maurice [Mo] and Mavis Holtan and their toddlers Lynn and Johnny and an infant, Danny. Mo was 10 years older than his spouse. He ran a foundry in Slaughter, WI outside Milwaukee. They lived in a little home in the suburban area adjacent to Mount Mary. We accepted one another at first sight. They had a small, white framed 2 story bungalow with a picture window in the living room and a lamp set on a table in the middle of that window. After the war this is what people in suburbia uniformly did. Jokes were made about those lamps in windows. The homes had recently been built in this neighborhood. I don’t remember that there was a garage. There was a side door off the kitchen and a 2-track cement driveway so probably was one.
Exactly like the Holtan home w/o cul de sac-- Little Boxes

My bedroom was the downstairs den, never needing to close the door. Mo and Mavis bedroom was above the den. Often when Mo would return home late I would hear these loud thumping noises above me. I would wonder why he was so restless. As time passed I began to clue in to there being another activity in that bedroom. Too many movies, I suppose. I would live as one of the family, like their grown daughter, with all the family privileges. I helped with the meals just as I would at home. Cleanup we worked together. Mavis was a good cook, Norwegian tastes. She took sole care of Danny as a nursling. Only once I babysat him when they visited friends for an evening and he so missed his mother. Cried a long time. I would walk a distance to school. I don’t think I went home weekends. The family was so very nice to me as I to them. I often shared stories of my relationships with my own family, mother and dad, Elayne, Billy, Jimmy.

Friday nights I had looked forward to attending a movie. During early Spring it would be getting  dark when I left and very dark on return. I remember it being 3 blocks to Center Street where the bus ran. I’d get skittish and run most of the way to the house. 
Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney

One special movie Leave Her To Heaven Cornell Wilde reminded me of Bruce. I recall, especially, the scene in this movie when Gene Tierney throws herself down the long stairway. Some other films were Best Years of Our Lives, Duel in the Sun, The Yearling, The Razor’s Edge, Till the Clouds Roll By, Road to Utopia, Blue Skies. There were possibly 10 Fridays I needed to fill in. 

Latter in Spring the Holton family suggested I invite Jimmy, now 10 years old,  for a visit and we would attend the Shriner’s Circus, tickets and all on the house. Mo was a Shriner. This was his response, I think, from my forever bragging about my kin. 

Jim took the Greyhound from Lake Geneva into Milwaukee. He stayed overnight, perhaps 2 nights. I do not recall. For sure we would have had a great chicken dinner always including Mavis’ great rectangular yummy baking powder biscuits and plenty of gravy. This visit has always been memorable for Jim and for me. And those biscuits. Never in all my attempts was I able to reproduce them.

Younger brother, Jimmy, in 1946

       Yes, some of my happiest memories are of the excitement of a trip up to see you all - to have big sisters & brother who are in college in a big city.  And who could ever forget the occasion of you having me come up for the Shrine Circus at the Milwaukee Auditorium with the Holton family and you - I was in 5th grade and gave a complete report to the 4th & 5th grades on what I saw, not however including the wiping up of delicious chicken gravy from my Sunday dinner plate at the Holtons - nothing quite that personal". 

North Woods Vacation with the Holtan Family

The family yearly vacationed in the Wisconsin North Woods. As the school year ended in ’46 they invited me along. I realize now what a good deal it was for the little family-- built in baby sitter and all that. Nevertheless this was a treat and a new experience for me. ‘Up North’ as Wisconsin folks say is far north where the landscape is all pines and many small lakes abounding with cottages owned and rentals for summer vacations. This is a delightful memory. One evening we attended a movie, just Mo and me. My hunch is they wanted to reward me with an activity without little children. I do not recall the film only that I encountered a first experience. On our drive back to the cottage Mo asked me how I enjoyed the film. I expressed a lot of joy-- oh, it was so beautiful. Mo shared that yes it was emotional, a tear jerker perhaps, but beyond that it was shallow, had no depth, saccharine, was not in any way great. I had my first adult critique of a movie and would go on in the future to pay more attention to a story’s substance. Would include Soap Opera's, of course. Thank you, Mo. After this movie I thought I began to intuit some uneasiness with Mavis. I sensed she would tell her hubby he was paying me too much attention. At the close of the vacation they drove me to my home in Hebron, met my mother, dad and family. Another time I saw them afterwards was a night I stayed over after a Marquette Mixer when my date dropped me off at their home. We'd had early curfews in the dorm. I'd be invited to dinner at times. 
When the Sophomore year commenced I would become a resident student.


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  2. I never knew any of this, Mom! Thanks for sharing. it's clear that the Holtan family greatly appreciated you as a person and as a live-in nanny/maid.

  3. I just happened on your blog while searching for the name Mount Mary students gave to the residents. I was a Day Hop in the 1960s, and was born in Milwaukee. I certainly remember trolley buses. Thanks for the memories. BTW, do you remember if there was a nickname given to the students who lived in the dorm?


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