On the educational side

In this family, education was taken seriously, within limits of practicality and with a strong dose of suspicion.

I had always assumed that Grandpa had finished high school. His father, however, had received only rudimentary schooling at the outset and after the Civil War. In North Carolina, the Quaker schools were the last to shut down, and reopened early in the years after with much assistance from Friends in the North.

Still, the 1870 Census reports 13-year-old Joshua was working the farm while his 10-year-old brother attended school. Grandpa’s mother and his wife both taught school for a while; a college degree was not required in those days, especially in the one-room schools.

TJ notes, though, “I don’t think my dad went beyond eighth grade. The boys had to work the farmland. I have my mother’s eighth-grade graduation picture, but not a high school picture. She did prepare for a teacher’s certificate and I assume she did teach, but not for long.”

Now I’m wondering just what drew Grandma to teaching.

I don’t recall evidence of her being a serious reader or having interest in mathematics or history, either. Her high school graduation snapshots show a thin, shy girl with bad posture; she’s stoop-shouldered, perhaps trying to hide her figure. She wears a stylish white dress of lawn with organza panels, accompanied by white hosiery and shoes. Her hair is tied back in a bun. “Her hair style never did anything for her face,” my elder daughter observes. The two photos were presumably taken at her parents’ farm. In one, she stands on a neatly mowed lawn within a picket fence (from the shadows, it’s noon and she’s looking west); the fields beyond are also tidy, and many trees are evident. The other photo includes rose vines against the house.

Photos of my father show him studiously engaged, often reading a book. Curiously, there are no shots of his high school graduation or the Steele lion statue. (He later owned a brass minature of the lion, one that would nicely occupy a fireplace mantle.)

His sister Myrl must have entered Otterbein College in 1945, graduating in ’49 and immediately marrying, with her husband leaving for California right after that.

TJ followed to Otterbein, an United Brethren institution named for one of its two founding bishops. She graduated in the same commencement ceremony where our pastor, Merle B. Klepinger, received an honorary doctorate.

Donna, the middle girl, wound up taking another path. She married and delivered the first grandchild, my cousin Judy.

TJ suggests some of the sybling dynamics when she observes, “Marion, Myrl, and Donna were all born two years apart. I came along eight years after Donna. Myrl spent more time with me than Donna, maybe because she was 10 and I was like a real live doll. She would bathe me, brush my long hair, etc., and I don’t remember Donna having much to do with me.” Years later, “Donna was enrolled at Bowling Green State University, all packed and ready to go when she decided she didn’t want to go. She remained home and got a job as a secretary.” To make a long story short, there was a nice wedding at the church and the new groom went off with the U.S. Marines.



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