Tuesday, April 5, 2011

College Sophomore 1946

The Arches connected the 2 College Buildings

A Sophomore, I am living in residence at Mount Mary College. I have a room on the 4th floor which I share with a roommate. All my housing needs are provided within the college plant, which in the forties consisted of 2 main buildings. The Mount Mary Arches is a walkway separating the resident hall called Caroline Hall from the adjacent college hall, Notre Dame Hall, where all my classes are held, including the chapel on the 2nd floor.  I am free to wander through the college and within the rooms as long as no class is in session. This is my home away from home. Always fun for me to take the elevator to the 4th floor and observe what the art students are up to . The library, too, was a quiet place to study. When not studying I would frequently search the stacks for Children's Literature, so readily available, sit down and enjoy. To move between buildings  on bad weather days, blizzard,  blowing snow, wind, hale, sweeping rain,  I would hunch up, gathering my clothing around me, open the outside door, and bravely make a run across from one building to the other building, yank open the heavy door opposite and welcome the warmth therein.  Or I could choose a warm tunnel beneath the Arches and cross underground. The tunnel was gray cement with large, covered pipes running end to end along the ceiling.

September 18, 1946 is the evening I wrote a letter in my dorm room to Bruce Stewart who had enlisted in the Army Air Force. I felt prohibited from writing a letter to Bruce previously, [Emily Post]. Today much of this faded away from long, long, long ago Victorian days. Both sex and table proprieties. I ask myself if my grandchildren are even aware of life lived by ordinary folks in the years preceding World War II [grandpa and me and families preceding us]. We were told ʻif ever we were to make something of ourselves we must behave properlyʼ [meaning Emily Post manners]. A far cry from the public burps, curses, farts and bodily freedoms and girth and addictions which are common today. Somehow, unbeknownst, we, as a people, in spite of ʻthou doth protest too loudlyʼ are well along in recognizing our animal connection. Good? Bad? Is what it is. Perhaps some balance, some refinement to find some middle ground is wisdom here. Are we more than animals? Now I feel I am free to write because men in service need our letters, especially from girlfriends. Isn't that so? Permission granted. Should this seem incredible to you I checked it out a few days ago with a friend of mine and she said this was definitely so. Her mother would have been very stressed had any one of her 3 daughters been  so feisty. 
Bruce' ID#  changed when he went to Shaw AFB South Carolina. This letter is transcribed from the actual letter I hold in my hand.

I sent my letter off to the 
Hebron address and Mrs. Stewart forwarded it for me. Crossed out Mr. and wrote:
Pvt Bruce Stewart R.A.16032521
Flight 895 SB-23
3543rd BU AAFMTC
San Antonio Texas

Dear Bruce,
I am getting settled at school now. My trunk hasn’t come yet so I still have all that lugging up on the elevator [fourth floor] to do. We have darling rooms. You should see them. Ours is blue. My roommate didn’t come until late yesterday so we don’t have drapes up yet or spreads on the beds. We could stay up last night until 10 o’clock so we stayed up and played bridge and listened to the radio all evening. Just think we can’t leave our rooms after 8:00 on weekday evenings and all lights have to be out at 10:30.On test nights I guess the girls put the lamps in closets and study in there. We have a good time anyway. Seniors are prefects so it makes for fun to sneak along the dark hallway at night and not get caught.
Registration was kind of awful but it’s all over with now. I had a few changes to make with my schedule. I had Chemistry and Food Study today. Wednesday is my full day, but we had Mass at 8:30, breakfast and then required assembly so I didn’t have morning classes. I have Organic Chemistry this year and the book looks pretty much of a mess. Food Study looks like fun. We have to wear white uniforms in foods lab, stockings and all...... Besides these I have Economics, Logic, English Survey, Great Books, Religion and Phys. Ed. So you see I’m going to be busy-- 2 assignments already. My roomy has a peculiarity of calling everyone ‘an old farmer’ at certain times. I could kick her every time she says it to someone. I’ll have to break her of the habit. Some people.
I bet your mom misses you. It seems so funny to see her always in the blue chevy and to know you are not driving it anymore. Ah! that’s life! It goes by our place more since you’re gone.......I met your mother in Brunswick’s one time in Genoa City one time. She said she hadn’t heard from you yet and then asked me if I had. I bet I turned red though I tried not to.
Well soldier how’s the life. I’ll bet you’re having fun. I think it’s just grand for a fellow. [I mean being with other fellows and the experiences connected with it.] Only one thing I’m advisin’ and that is there are girls just as nice up in the midwest states as the cowgirls. Anyway haven’t you heard styles are more feminine this year and your cowgirl still wears pants, Texan, or does she? The girl must now--’wear satin and laces and smell of cologne’. And if any of the girls from Me-hi-co drift across the border don’t let them get into your blood either.
I didn’t mean anything I said in that dizzy old letter about working against you. I’m all with you. Get all you can out of it. Anything you do is experience and that is education. I could begin now to quote from Huxley, Arnold, or Newman’s words and make this a speech. I won’t however cause it takes too long to go over to the library and find the book. [I was supposed to have been listening in English Class last year].
Pweese Brucey can I have a snapshot to pin on my pin-up board or dresser? Do they have pennants in cities there like they do up here. Tell me and then maybe you could get one of them for me, too- small-sized ones I mean. A college girl has to have junk but I don’t mean the snapshot; that’s one of the valuables.
Almost time for dinner and I haven’t touched my assignments. One thing wrong with these places is that a gal has to eat at 6:00 or not at all, right??
 With love,
P.S. Sending this via Hebron. Don’t scream!
Dorm evening fashion

This is a first letter. I would spend many evenings sitting around in my robe, listening to radio, studying, writing letters home and to my serviceman friend.
Plain Bates bedspreads were practical decor

Chenille was in for robes but some chose chenille bedspreads. Bates spreads were collegiate choice as best for lounging around on our beds. Our twin spreads were light blue Bates with a white sailboat motif. The furnishings, bed, dresser, desk, were metal. I wrote to Bruce frequently now, every 2 or 3 days, except winter-spring of 1949 when I was steady dating Bob Durocher from Iron Mountain MI who was enrolled in the College of Business Administration at Marquette, University. Reading these letters today it is as if I am looking into a diary or journal. I have them because Bruce saved my letters, as did his mother after he returned home in 1950. Daughter, Joan, a diary keeper, respectfully valued them through our many family moves, keeping them safely in their original shoebox. I have the collection from 1946 through summer of 1950. These are a resource for dates and what occurred in that period of time. Pray you enjoy. One can easily spot my immaturity yet additionally how much I was expected to conform as a female in society and did-- a profile. 
Hat, scarf, nylons, little heels. Seems I forgot to wear my gloves.

And perhaps further that profile of a young, Catholic female prior to Vatican II with the right to vote yet not so much equality otherwise. I was to  keep to my pedestal, as Jesus Mother Mary, my model, and hers but a flat profile I must emulate, not the substantial woman she truly was.  I am at this Catholic Women's college which in the forties retains some of the finishing school qualities  providing this girl with the kind of formation required to become  the best kind of woman  this religious culture needs her to be. I sopped it up. Called enculturation. My mother tried her best. My hunch what helped create a more real young woman profile for our school were the  'day-hops', many  working to pay their own fees as well as living at home. They rode bus rather than taxi transportation. Later years my youngest cousin, Karen, spent days at Mount Mary. She will share her version if you ask.

1 comment:

  1. How come I never heard you ever say, "Pweese, Brucey!" as you did then ?????? LOL


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