Getting to go home to the farm from time to time made college tolerable for me. True I had some fine times at Bethel, but deep in me I had a never-ending yearning for farm life. Two different farms had been important in my life. I spent most of my growing up years south of Hutchinson in Reno County. What dreamy remembrance I had of those times. Although the years on our Hodgeman County farm at Hanston had been difficult in many ways, I still felt drawn to the freedom of country and small town life I had experienced during my high school years. I'm sure many who have ever lived in similar circumstances know exactly what I mean.
I had a wonderful family. From the first day to the last day of college, I missed them. I wrote long letters often and my Mom and Dad always answered with all the farm news. My brother even wrote to me periodically, and he never enjoyed writing letters.
Strings? You bet! I had plenty of them. In my case, however, maybe they
were more like rubber bands. They succeeded in pulling me back to helping
my Dad on the farm rather than looking for any other work.
Which Direction, Now?
After all, I wasn't really sure just which of my interests I wanted to pursue. Of course, in the back of my mind was the desire to go to California and study motion picture production, but that was a far away dream which I didn't see anyway of following at the time. I remember that I once told my Junior High School principal that I wanted to be a carpenter, but I hadn't thought of that for years. There didn't seem much opportunity for full-time farming, and I wasn't really sure I wanted that the rest of my life. Of course, everyone thought I would be a music teacher since music education had been my college major.
When I left Bethel, I knew I couldn't get a teaching certificate until I had finished those five credits towards my degree. I was still unhappy that my counselors hadn't warned me sooner about the credit problem, and I was ready to take a vacation from Bethel for awhile.
My folks welcomed me home, and I started to work with Dad. Of course, summer is a busy time on the farm. I just settled in, not worrying too much about my future. In fact, I stayed home all that first year after graduation.
Proof that I still had a desire to be a farmer is the fact that I
took a correspondence course on Farm Management
during the first year I taught at Zook.
During that year while I was living back on the farm I kept working on my aunts to reconcile our family differences. I wanted my folks to be able to move back to the family farm in Reno County. I have already told how these problems led to our move to Western Kansas. I have also explained about the troubles between my aunts and their mother.
I must backtrack a little now to explain how the reconciliation took place that allowed us to move back "home."
During the three years before I left Hanston for Bethel College, there had been little or no communication amongst the three households. It wasn't until I got to Bethel that I began to think about the ridiculous situation in which the McMurry family had gotten itself. I decided to try first to build a better relationship between my aunts and my Grandmother McMurry.
I worked on Grandma first by writing her and when possible I would drop in on her. She was always so happy to have me visit her. I knew she was lonely. When I suggested that she and the girls get together and move back into the old house, she said she would like that. So far, so good! Next, I had to get my aunts to agree.
My relationship with my aunts started with letters also. I told them all about my work at college. They always responded and that was a good sign. I would throw in a remark once in a while about what a hard time the folks were having in the West.
My aunts would send me little gifts, occasionally, and in one letter I mentioned that I needed "easy-to-take-care-of" shirts. "Can you come here sometime and we will take your shirt measurements?" Aunt Myrtle wrote in one of her letters to me. That was my entree for breaking the ice on the pond so I could get to them and ease tensions.
I was reminded of the Bible passage: "But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, pressing on towards the goal...." (Philippians 3: 13b-14a)
Whether I was aware of this passage at the time, I don't remember. For some reason I was continually holding on to the philosophy it contained: "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward..." I made up my mind that nothing would stop me from my goal of getting my family back together again.
Getting my grandmother and aunts back into the same old house on Ninth Street turned out to be really simple, as I think back on it. One day I just asked Aunt Myrtle and Aunt Florence,
"Why don't you and grandmother get together and move back into the old house?"
I was surprised at their response. They admitted they would like to do it. I told them that grandma had said that she was willing, and that it was now time to take steps to have it happen. So, finally, they did move back together.
My next problem was to persuade my aunts to let my folks move back to the homestead. In my letters from college, I continued to include a few words about the problems my folks were having. Then finally, as judiciously as I could, I told them that it was a shame their brother couldn't move back. He needed to be there, and they needed him to be closer so he could help them. I suggested that we would just rent from them if that was the way they wanted it to be. They agreed that I could ask the folks if they wanted to move back on those terms.
In the meantime Mr. Osborne was pressing the folks to move, and since
they hadn't been able to make all the payments, the offer from my aunts
came at an opportune time. At last, in the fall of 1939, my Dad and my
aunts drew up an agreement for Dad to rent their farm land. Although my
brother was now married and had been working at other jobs, he still helped
on the farm when he could. When the folks were ready to leave Western Kansas,
he decided to move with them. So during the summer of 1940 we started to
prepare for our move back to our old home.
The Trailer Accident
Preparing for the move meant helping Dad and Junior cultivate the land and plant the wheat on both farms. That was a big job. We had to move the equipment back and forth from farm to farm over one hundred miles each way. The little Ferguson tractor tires were nearly worn out when that job was done.
During the move from Hodgeman to Reno county, I helped the folks by pulling a four-wheeled trailer back and forth. It was an old Model-T Ford that had been stripped down to its frame. Junior installed a special hitch so it could be pulled behind our car.
I must say more about that old Ford. One day Ted and I had seen it sitting
behind a neighbor's house. We asked him how much he wanted for it. He said
it wasn't worth much---maybe $10. We were very excited and were sure we
could get $10 from Dad for such a bargain. Ted and I got it to run enough
to have some fun with it, but never did succeed in getting $10 to pay for
it. Too, we had little money for gas, so our fun was limited. Then it came
time to go to college, and we left the car in Hanston. Frankly, I don't
know just what kind of arrangement Dad made with the owner, but he kept
the car and it ended up being a four-wheel trailer that helped us move
back and forth between the farms.
"Glenn, we've loaded the trailer with fence posts, and it hitched to the car. When you're ready to leave, take it with you and afterward go on to Hutch."
I can't exactly remember what show I had to give that night, probably the one at Abbyville. I was still operating my moving picture circuit from town to town. I think I'd hit every small town in central and western Kansas trying to schedule new shows. It was getting to be a drag by that time.
Gene, my cousin, went along with me. After the showing that night, we drove on to the Reno farm where we unloaded the fence posts. The next morning we headed back to the Hodgeman farm.
I liked to take off-the-highway roads from time to time. In other words, I liked to find cut-offs that would save a few miles. I decided that morning would be a great time to do just that.
Everything went along fine for awhile. We buzzed right along at about fifty miles an hour. On this particular stretch of road I knew I had the right-of-way, and I could see a mile or so ahead.
About a quarter of a mile ahead on my right, I noticed a cloud of dust which told me a car was coming down the side road. I knew there was a stop sign and figured the driver would stop. I didn't even slow down.
Wham! The next thing I knew, that car hit my trailer broadside. My car gave a lunge and as I looked to the left I saw that trailer go flip-plop, hit the ditch, roll over end to end and come to a stop in a farmer's field.
That guy must have been driving sixty miles an hour because he hit my trailer so hard that his car spun completely around and headed in the other direction before he could stop it.
After surveying the damage, I realized that I was very lucky. Junior had installed a wooden draw bar on the back of the car and bolted the trailer hitch to it. For added safety we had connected the front axle of the trailer to the back car bumper with a long heavy log chain. Of course, that chain didn't break. Instead it went along with the trailer. Somehow, the force of the collision bent the ends of the bumper enough to let the chain slide off. One of the loudest noises came when the ends of that bumper snapped back into place. Except for the bent bumper, my car was unscathed.
It was hard to believe that we all got out of that wreck without someone being killed, or at least, injured. Of course, there were three stunned and shaken guys, especially the driver of the other car.
The sheriff arrived and gave the other guy a ticket for running a stop sign.
Junior came back the next day to haul home what was left of the trailer.
At first he thought he might be able to fix it, but, no way! It was a total
My Hand Accident
I must insert here a vivid memory of another scary time I experienced during that year I spent on the farm. After only one year at Bethel, Ted had left to attend the Kansas City Dental College. During some vacation, I can't recall just which one, he found a way to come to Hanston. Not only did he want to see our family, he was also still interested in his high school girl friend. I don't remember how he got to Hanston, but when he needed a way back, I offered to take him. Since I had been driving all over the state with my road shows, getting him back to Kansas City for his Monday morning classes didn't seem like much of a chore. In fact, I thought it would be fun and would give us a chance to do some more visiting.
After a stop in Burrton for a short visit with Grandma Deal and Aunt Nelle, we proceeded on our way. Things went well that Sunday afternoon until we were getting close to Kansas City.
As we made our last stop for gas, the latch caught slightly when I tried to open the car door. Without much thought, I gave it a hefty shove with the palm of my hand. I guess I pushed harder than necessary because the handle broke off in my hand. The jagged part of the handle tore an inch-long gash in my left hand just below the joint of the little finger. I felt the blood start to run and I knew I was in big trouble. I grabbed the wound with my other hand to stop the bleeding.
"Gosh, Ted, I'm hurt. What are we going to do now? I can't keep driving with this hand bleeding like mad. It's beginning to throb."
"We've got to find a doctor somewhere." Ted said. "Let's get this gas and find a hospital."
Finding a hospital was no easy task. Finally we found an emergency facility. When the doctor learned that I didn't have the money to pay the bill, he did the quickest job he could to get me out the door. That meant no anesthetic. All I could do was scream as he started to sew the wound.
"Just hold my hand to keep me from moving it, and then let me kick and scream," I begged.
That's exactly what I did, kick and scream. That doctor put in five stitches. I can still feel the needle as he pushed it into my flesh.
Then my troubles really began. Pain! Ted drove the rest of the way to Kansas City. When we got to his room, he looked for some medicine to stop the pain, but he didn't have anything. The only thing I could do was head for home, 325 miles away.
I held my left hand high, but that didn't stop the throbbing. About 90 miles from home, I felt I had to stop to rest for awhile. I found a spot off the road along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks, shut off the engine, locked the doors, and immediately dropped into a deep troubled sleep.
What exactly happened while I was asleep, I'll never know, but suddenly
I was wide awake. Since the railroad was nearby, I guessed that a passing
train had awakened me. What a shock to find that my car engine was racing,
the lights were on, one foot was shoving on the brake, the other was on
the clutch, and both my hands were clasped tightly on the steering wheel!
I was also still in excruciating pain. Without hesitation, I backed the
car onto the road and started driving again. Believe me, I was now very
wide awake and scared. I got back home about 4 o'clock in the morning.
What a terrible experience! The lesson I learned was to be prepared with
money to pay for such emergencies or don't get out on the road.
I wonder how many trips we made back and forth between those two farms. Besides our household goods, the turkeys, chickens, cows, and all the farming equipment had to be moved. In fact, some of the farming equipment had to be moved more than once. That summer we harvested wheat on both farms.
When the harvest was finished on the Hodgeman farm, we knew that was
the end of our Western Kansas experience. However, as I have said before,
I'm grateful for that experience. Without the Mennonite connection there,
Willis Rich would not have found me. I wonder what my life would have been
like without Bethel College.
MY FIRST TEACHING JOB
"Glenn, you are a talented young man and hanging around this farm is no place for you," Mom said one day. "Don't you think you should try applying for a teaching job before all the vacancies are filled?"
This was early summer of 1940, one year after I had left Bethel. My family was now settled on the old farm homestead. Junior, his wife, and his little girl were also living with the folks at first. I'm sure we all realized that there was hardly enough income from renting my aunts' land for all of us. After all, I had a college education. I should be able to find some other work and leave the farming to my brother and father. Later, of course, Junior found another farm to rent, and he and Dad farmed both of them.
I realized that music, typing and audio-visuals made a fairly good combination of abilities that I could flout in front of any principal on the look for new teachers. However, to be perfectly frank, I wasn't very eager to look for a teaching job. I had been enjoying my year back on the farm, but I had to admit Mom made good sense, and earning some money on my own did sound inviting. There certainly hadn't been much hard cash in my life during the year, or during my Bethel years.
My motion picture circuit wasn't bringing in much. In fact, I was really wasting valuable time chasing all over the state trying to promote new business. At first, I enjoyed the circuit, but as time went on I had to admit that my expenses were more than eating up my income. Indeed, the enterprise was fast becoming a losing situation.
Still I hadn't lost my love of the farm. I had liked being in Western Kansas with its wide open spaces, rolling hills, and meandering creeks lined with large elm and cottonwood trees reaching high into the sky. Everything was so exciting there! Even the disagreeable heat in the summers and the ugly winters held a certain fascination for me.
I liked to ride old Bess or crank up the old Model-T Ford and head out to the hills by myself. Now, of course, I was back in Reno County in the home of my childhood days. Let's face it, I really wasn't all that enthusiastic about leaving home. However, I knew it was time for me to get a job and make a living for myself.
My first thought was to try for a job with Bethel. I had learned many different things working with Bennie Bargen and Willis Rich. I knew they thought I was a great kid so I reasoned that they would be happy to hire me. I inquired about the possibilities, but was told that Bethel College had no full-time jobs for me.
Bethel graduates were supposed to become teachers, preachers and other professionals. The only choice that seemed logical for me was to try for a music teaching job. Of course, there was that matter of four hours of credit I needed. I have already explained how my friend Bennie Bargen came to my rescue during the summer. After he tutored me and I passed that accounting exam, I had the needed credentials. I was now ready to look for a job. I contacted the Bethel College Placement Bureau to comb over what music teacher positions were still available.
I received several job applications, but they didn't interest me. They were either too far away or too big. Anyway, I didn't have much confidence in my ability to direct orchestra and band music. The only instrument I knew how to play was the piano. Sure, I had short classes on how to teach all the instruments of the orchestra and band, but I never really played an instrument in a group; neither, did I have directing experience save for vocal groups. I had plenty of vocal music experience. I felt well qualified for any vocal work because of my more than three years as Dr. Hohmann's assistant director of the Bethel College A Cappella Choir. I loved that!
The most boring classes I took at Bethel were those on teaching methods. I was more interested in dreaming about inventing things for Bargen, promoting audio-visual education for Rich and helping Dr. Hohmann. Those guys really motivated me.
One day I received a call from the principal of the small rural consolidated school at Zook. Mr. Humbargar, the principal, had read my application and said, "You're just the person I want."
Interesting! Here was a person who actually wanted me to join his staff.
I liked the sound of his voice, so I drove to Zook to look over the town
Zook, The Town and School
Zook wasn't much of a town. In fact, it was practically a ghost town with only a little brick school, a grain elevator, two or three homes and an oil station. Nevertheless, what I saw looked intriguing to me.
The school building itself was a rectangular two-story affair with a gymnasium on the far side. Inside the gym, in the middle of the long side, was a nice little stage. At first I couldn't understand why the stage was there instead of on one end. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that the basketball goals at each end took precedent over the demand for a stage. Since I knew for sure no one would change the situation to fit my specifications, I decided to just accept things as they were and not complain.
Mr. Humbargar explained several things to me about the system. As a consolidated school, all grades had to be accommodated. The grades one through eight were on the lower floor and I would have to move from room to room for the music classes. The high school kids who chose would take band or mixed choir, and these would meet in the room to which I was assigned.
I learned that the students were bussed morning and night to and from
their homes. That sounded good to me, because I figured that since they
all had to leave on the bus, I'd be free the rest of the day. So much for
my idea of how teachers spend their time. Then I had no concept of such
activities as grading papers, lesson preparations, and faculty meetings.
"Some of our teachers live in the teacherage," the principal explained, and pointed from his office to one of two white frame houses across the road.
"I live in the house on the right. The other one is the teacherage."
I soon learned what a teacherage was, and I liked the idea. It was a cooperative boarding house for the teachers. They hired their own cook who planned and prepared all the meals. She also lived at the teacherage and served as housekeeper as well. Actually, she was house mother to us all. What a neat arrangement. I could have all my housing and food needs taken care of during the week at the teacherage. If I wished, I could easily go home on week-ends. That way I felt I wasn't really leaving the farm.
The more Mr. Humbargar talked, the more interested I got in the job. It seemed the he needed just what I had to offer: music, typing and audio-visuals!
The school hadn't had a band for several years and they were looking for someone to reorganize one. In addition, I would be allowed to give private music lessons and charge for them. That was an added incentive for taking the job. I was expected to give two operettas a year, one with grade school students and one with high school students. I was also to serve as sponsor for the freshman class.
After listening to Mr. Humbargar for awhile, I knew I was going to take the job. I would have the best of all worlds, and on the spot I was hired for the fabulous salary of $65.00 per month.
I went home that day, and with enthusiasm, I announced to my folks, "What do you know, I got a job!"
Mom and Dad were pleased as I told them all about my first teaching job. Since I was sure I was going to like everything about it, they were happy for me.
Here are two pictures of me with my new-found friends at Zook.
(I'm on the right in each picture)
From left to right: Lester Adams, athletic coach; Claude Daum, science and math teacher;
Margaret Kagarice, home economics and English teacher; Mr. Hunt, grade school principal;
and in front in the middle, Solomon Humbargar, school system superintendent.
My friends at the teacherage:
Lester Adams, Loretta (the 3rd grade teacher), our cook, and Margaret Kagarice
When time came for school to begin, Mr. Humbargar presented me with a surprise. He wanted me to teach freshman English and literature, in addition to the duties we had previously discussed.
Oh, no! Just because I could type like a race car, play the piano and teach music classes, was certainly no proof that I could teach English.
"Mr. McMurry, we are short of teachers and the regular English teacher is loaded. I would like for you to teach that class."
"But I'm not an English teacher. I'm a music teacher," I gasped. "No, I just can't do it."
"Well, I was looking over your college records and I see you have had enough credits to teach English," he informed me. "So, you have the job."
This time, I knew I had blown it! I hadn't read the real small print in the contract or something. I just knew I couldn't teach English to a bunch of high school kids. Even the dumbest of them is probably smarter than I when it comes to English grammar, I thought.
I really felt that I was a natural teacher, but not for just any old subject. I knew my limitations, and teaching English grammar and literature to high school freshmen was definitely among them.
Since it seemed I had no choice in the matter, I decided the only thing I could do was bluff it out for that first semester; then, if I was lucky, I might get through the next semester reading stories from their literature text book.
The first week was full of meetings. We were told that lesson plans must be filed weekly. To me that was really a drag. I never did feel I did a very good job. Such plans were especially hard for music classes. They had to be done, however, as Humbargar had to do his job reporting to the school board and county superintendent.
When I discovered that the school's piano was a bummer, I brought my new grand piano with me. I didn't have the money to have it moved so Dad, my brother Junior, my cousin Ted and I did it. I bedded it with nice new straw in Junior's pick-up, and headed over to Zook. I had plenty of help from the kids to move the piano into the gym. The grand piano was a plus. I used it for all the school programs and I was permitted to teach piano and other instruments after school hours and on Saturdays.
Since Zook had no 16mm sound projector for an audio-visual education program, I brought mine. It was nice for the school that I just happened to have one. I was still running my road-show so I often had a free feature picture to offer. In addition, I ordered lots of free educational subjects for the kids.
That projector had another good use, also. It made a great spotlight for stage productions.
I brought my trusty Tact-O-Graph that Bargen and I had developed while I was at Bethel to help teach touch-typing. It was quite a job to wire a typewriter up to make the machine work, but I got the job done. Being an expert typist myself was a great asset in handling the typing class.
Of course, my piano, motion picture projector and Tact-O-Graph didn't
cost the school a dime. I felt good about using all three of my teaching
aids, with whatever natural talent I had, to begin my teaching career.
Generally, most things went along pretty well. I really enjoyed the music and typing classes, but teaching that Freshman English was an embarrassment.
I had warned the principal from the start that I didn't know that much about English grammar. I was a great "subject-predicate" guy, but I hadn't gotten acquainted with other terms, such as prepositions, participles and sub-ordinate clauses. I had to grade those kids at the end of the semester, and I was so dumb about evaluating the work of the students that I lumped the dumb ones right along with the smart ones. Then, I was even more dumb for keeping a very nice smart girl in the class from her straight "A" record. I gave her a B+.
"Are you sure you want to keep that student from getting an "A" in English?" the principal asked. "I'll support you in your decision, but remember, she has always been a straight "A" student."
Like a dumb cluck, I didn't give in. I insisted that I didn't see any outstanding scholastic ability in her, and therefore, the "B+" stood.
Many years later, I felt sad that I was such a nerd. Why didn't I just
admit I was wrong and change that "B+" to an "A-"? Then she wouldn't have
had to live with that broken record of straight A's for which I was responsible.
The Mixed Choir
I had a Mixed Choir in Zook and I enjoyed working with the high school kids. I called it an A Cappella Choir because we sang without an instrument most of the time. All the things I learned from the Bethel College experience, I tried to teach to my singers. Since I had sung in the college choir for four years, and had been the student director for three, working with the students in the choir was an easy and most enjoyable experience.
"Remember, now," I would say, "you must listen to the voices around
you. If you can't hear the person on each side, you are singing too loud.
Also, don't forget to watch two things, my right index finger and my face."
The Marching Band
The school hadn't had a band for several years, and it was my job to start one. Now this was not as easy as organizing and directing a mixed chorus. However, I had no problem teaching the various instruments, and soon I had a pep band to play for the basketball and football games.
Just in case some member of the basketball team or football team should ever read this, I'm including these pictures of the teams.
A simple pep band was one thing, but my challenge came when I learned that I was expected to form a marching band.
Think about it! I'd never even been in a marching band. After all, who needed a piano in a marching band? The only band experience I'd had in Bethel College was a class with Professor David Suderman. I was taught the fundamentals of playing all the instruments, and given some hand-on experience. However, all we were taught about marching bands was strictly "book-learning."
Professor David Suderman directed the orchestra and the band, but, frankly, I don't remember w0hether Bethel even had a marching band. If I even saw one perform during my four years at Bethel, the experience didn't sink into my brain. Even my practice teaching in the Newton City Schools didn't offer much help.
Now my ego said, "Of course, I can teach those kids to march," and at the same time my alter ego was saying, "Are you sure you know how to organize and drill a marching band?"
However, my determination to prove I could do it was strong and I plunged right into the job. I organized that marching band from practically nothing. I was "The Music Man" personified, but getting those kids to march in time, let alone in various formations was no piece of cake. I walked and marched them for hours, trying to teach them to stay in step and keep straight lines. Most of them learned to march pretty well, but I had a couple who couldn't even step in time in a crocked line. Neither did they know their right feet from their left ones. Now that causes problems in a marching band.
I would get carried away at times lecturing to them. One day I had the band standing at attention in the gym and was giving them a piece of my mind because of the mess they had done at the football game. The only thing I could think to do was yell at them. Then, I looked up and saw the school principal standing in the balcony, observing the entire situation. Later that day he called me to his office.
"Mr. McMurry," he said quietly, "I know the band performed badly, but don't you think you were a little hard on them this morning? Lecturing them while they were forced to stand at attention was really going a little too far, don't you think?"
That little talk in Professor Humbarger's office made an impression on me. As a result, I didn't lecture the band members again. I spent more time just quietly teaching them to play their instruments while marching in formation.
Since the school had no uniforms, I designed new ones for them. The pants were to be bright red with a white stripe up and down each leg. The shirts were to be of white satin-like material and have long full sleeves. They were to be cut very full with tight wrist bands and a blue satin sash around the waist. A white military hat would complete the uniform.
A Band Member in her New Uniform
Professor Humbargar approved my designs and gave me funds to have a sample uniform made.
Since my Aunt Florence made her living by sewing, my next step was to go to Hutchinson and present the project to her.
"Aunt Florence," I said enthusiastically. "I've been given permission to have a simple uniform made for my band. Would you agree to make it? If it's satisfactory, you will have the job of making about fifty of them."
"Sure, I'll make it," she said, "and what's more, I'll get Aunt Myrtle to help me get it done quickly."
When it was finished and I showed it to Professor Humbargar, his comment was, "Whew, red, white and blue! Right in tune with the times."
At the time, much of Europe was at war, but, of course, we didn't know then that in a few months the United States would be joining in the conflict.
The school board gave its approval for the funds and I went right to the telephone to let Aunt Florence know that she would soon be very busy sewing uniforms. What's more, they needed to be finished in time for the Kansas State Fair. My plan was to have our band join the others from schools all over the state in the band competitions.
I had no idea how fast my two aunts would have to work to finish those uniforms in time for the fair. Of course, they had to order bolts of red, white and blue material, and purchase many spools of red, white and blue thread. Every pair of pants had to have a zipper, and every collar and wrist band had to have buttons. I was almost ashamed that I had put my aunts under such pressure, but they never complained.
To make things more complicated, measuring all the band members was no picnic. They were all sizes, tall, short, fat and lean. How Aunt Florence and Aunt Myrtle managed to make all those uniforms fit so well, I still don't know, and I never will.
It had taken my whole first year at Zook to prepare the band for their performance at the Hutchinson State Fair. Most of them didn't have instruments to play so I had to help them select one. I did have one good trumpet player, but he didn't know when to keep quiet so at times he nearly drove me nuts. Frankly, he was so far ahead of the others that he was bored half the time during practice. It was rough trying to keep him in control while at the same time trying to teach the beginners how to make their first sounds. I taught the students the simplest music so they could play while keeping their minds on their marching.
I gave lessons to the kids before and after school, on Saturdays and even during the summer. Fortunately, I was able to receive pay for those private lessons. With a salary of only sixty-five dollars per month, the extra dollars were welcome.
In September, 1941, my second year of teaching at Zook began. With much hard work and the preparation we had made during the summer, we were ready for the State Fair in Hutchinson the third week of school.
We were a flashy group in our red, white and blue uniforms. True, our music was very simple. Our drummers, however, did a good job of keeping a steady beat, we marched down the pike and out onto the parade grounds in good style. The announcer called us the youngest band to participate. The students really had a ball strutting in their new, neat uniforms, and I was proud of them. I was proud of myself, too, especially when I thought back to the first weeks of my teaching career just a year before, and remembered how little I knew about marching bands.
Today as I think back on the band experience, I must have been pretty dumb to decide I had to take my band to the Kansas State Fair. I guess crazy folks like me do such crazy things all the time. Re-living all the work and preparations makes my stomach hurt even today, and it all happened over fifty years ago. Both the students and I went through some stressful times, but in the end all had a great time. The kids did well and their parents and I were proud of them.
This is my band marching down the Main Street in Hutchinson on the way to the Stage Fair Grounds.
Incidentally, being at the fair gave me a chance to see my girl, too.
There are always evening programs in front of the grand stand, and Darlene
and I got to enjoy one together. Since she lived in Hutchinson and I was
at Zook teaching, we didn't have too much opportunity to see each other.
My job description had said I was to produce two operettas a year, one with grade school and one with high school students. During the first year I was at Zook we gave "Pinocchio," and "The Mikado." Luckily for me, these proved to be good selections. I worked very hard teaching the songs, planning the costumes and stage settings, and directing rehearsals and the final performance. The students were cooperative and enthusiastic, and even the parents got involved.
The second year, I chose the operetta "Pickles" for the junior and senior
high students. Again everything went well. My projector again proved valuable
as a spotlight. The students worked hard and gave a good performance on
December 17, 1941. My parents, aunts and my girl all came from Hutchinson
for the show. However, some of the joy of the night was lost because of
what had happened ten days earlier, Pearl Harbor Day. I knew that this
would be my last operetta to direct at Zook school or any other school
until I finished my duties for Uncle Sam.
Fun at the Teacherage
While at Zook, we teachers who lived in the teacherage became very good friends. Since we ate together, we had lots of time to get really well acquainted with each other. I have many pleasant memories of good times with my fellow teachers. During Thanksgiving vacation, November, 1941, five of us decided to go to visit Carlsbad Caverns. What a great time we had! Margaret even made each of us a memory booklet about the trip, detailing all our activities.
Click here if you wish to read her story and see pictures of our trip.
Several of us had made a spur-of-the-moment one-day trip earlier that fall. It was really unplanned and we certainly didn't know when we started we'd be driving so far or so long!
"Let's take a ride," I had suggested one Sunday at lunch time. It had been a busy week, as usual, and I felt I needed a change of scenery. It was a beautiful sunny Kansas day, and there was really nothing to do at Zook, with only a school, church, grain elevator and filling station. Margaret was the only other teacher who hadn't gone home for the week-end and immediately, she and our cook took me up on my idea.
I didn't know where I wanted to go. I just knew I had plenty of gas in my Ford sedan, and was itching to get away. After all Monday morning would see all of those kids arriving by bus, and I would be very busy for the rest of the week. In fact, I was even busy after school and on Saturdays giving music lessons.
In a few minutes, Margaret, who was the home economics teacher, our housekeeper/cook and I were in the car.
"Shall we go north or south?" I asked.
"Let's go south," Margaret suggested.
That's the way we started that trip. We just headed south and southwest. Why, no one knew.
"How far are we going, Glenn?"
"I don't know. As long as we get back in time for school tomorrow morning, it doesn't matter, does it?" I joked.
By this time my old Ford had reached Route 54 and was headed towards Dalhart, Texas. It was a joke to think of turning back.
At Dalhart, we headed northwest to Raton, New Mexico. Unfortunately, by this time the sun was going down and we were headed into it, making the driving difficult. However, I really didn't mind. We were having fun and we could see no reason to go back the way we came.
"Why not go north into Colorado and back home from there?" Someone suggested. "Just think, we can tell everyone we were in five states in one day."
Sounded good, just so long as we could get back before school started Monday morning.
We suddenly realized that folks wouldn't believe our story unless we furnished some kind of proof. We picked up some post cards in New Mexico and while I was getting gas, Margaret found a place to mail them.
Margaret consulted her map and we headed north. Through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas we had flat roads, but now we were getting into more rolling country. For sure, we didn't want to get further into the mountains. Frankly, my sitter was beginning to get tired, but I wouldn't admit it. A few miles into Colorado, we headed east toward La Junta. Here we were in the middle of the night and quite a few miles from Zook.
Around one or two at night we hit the Kansas border and all cheered, "We're home."
Of course, we still had some miles to go, but now we felt we'd make it in time for school.
On we went through Garden City, Jetmore, and Larned. Finally, about six in the morning, we arrived at the Zook teacherage. We had a couple hours to try to sleep. I'm not sure how Margaret and I got through the next day without falling asleep in the classroom, but we did.
As I think back, I can't remember anything about what and when we ate on that over 600-mile trip which lasted about seventeen hours. But I do remember how we bragged to the other teachers about how far we had gone on our five-state trip. Of course, they thought we made up the whole thing.
"Ah," one of the other teachers said, "you couldn't have made that trip in that time. You've got to be kidding!"
We were right! It wasn't until those postcards showed up several days later that the others believed our story.
The three of us talked about that trek for months afterward. Although
we were very tired the next day, all three of us insisted we'd do it again
when the opportunity came. It had been great fun!
TEACHING CAREER INTERRUPTED
Near the end of the first semester of my second year at Zook something came along to stop me from being a "hot shot" teacher. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. I well remember that day and the next when President Roosevelt announced, "We are at war with Japan."
I have to admit that I should have been more concerned about what was going on in the world. There was war in Europe where that snit, Hitler, that paper-hanger with the little black mustache who yelled and waved his hands around, was changing the course of history. There was war in Asia where the Japanese were already invading China. Things were really in a mess, but I was very busy teaching school and didn't have time to worry much about the rest of the world.
Even while I was still at Bethel College where the Mennonites were very concerned about the violence in the world, I hadn't paid much attention to world events. I had given little thought to the warnings of those "extreme pacifists" on campus.
After "Pearl Harbor" everything changed in my life. In a very short time a letter came ordering me to report to my draft board in Larned, Kansas.
Earlier in 1940 the Selective Service Act had been reactivated and all males between the ages of 21 and 35 had been required to register with their nearest draft board. Consequently, my name was on the Larned draft board's roster.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to get the summons, but,in a way,I was. I was a music teacher, and if I do say myself, I was a good one. Surely the draft board wouldn't make me quit my job. Surely I'd get to finish the school year.
I'm was very busy giving music lessons, and directing the band and chorus. I had no time for war. Surely music teachers were needed on the home front. In those first few weeks after Pearl Harbor, I hadn't worried much about being drafted. However, here it was, an order to report for my physical examination.
When I reported to the draft board, I was sent to a local doctor for my physical.
"OK, strip down," the examining doctor said. I was embarrassed, but did as I was told. Frankly, that check-up was a joke. All that doctor wanted to discover was whether or not I had any holes in my head, whether I had flat feet, and by looking at me straight on, whether I was really a male with a penis. I passed that exam with flying colors and was pronounced "A1," ready for military service.
I now had to make a quick decision. If I did nothing, I'd be sent to the army as a regular foot soldier. No! I didn't want to do that. I couldn't imagine carrying a gun, let alone killing someone with it.
At Bethel college I had been associating for four years with my pacifist Mennonite friends. My best friend, teacher and mentor, was Benny Bargen, an ardent pacifist. I knew he would be disappointed
that I hadn't registered as a conscientious objector.
However, not all the young men in the Mennonite faith were persuaded to follow fully the pacifist line. Some went when drafted, and many volunteered for medical work. That was a hard service, but they felt called to it. They were assigned either to hospitals or the ambulance services, and often were in combat zones.
Had I been a member of the Mennonite church, I probably could have avoided the service quite easily by declaring that I was a pacifist.
Although my Methodist Church supported any of its members with strict pacifist views, it didn't advocate such a stand for everyone. In other words, one must decide for himself.
I had not been fully persuaded that the strict pacifist philosophy was always the best way to go. There were times when I felt action, and even violent action, might be needed. Such a time was surely now when my country had been so brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor. I felt I had to answer my country's call.
I decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps and ask for non- combatant service. When I got back home, I went into Hutchinson to find the recruitment office. It wasn't hard to find with its signs proclaiming "Uncle Sam Wants You, Now!"
Somehow, in all the confusion at the busy recruitment office, I filled out the papers and said I wanted to be a pilot. Of course, non-combatant service and being a pilot were certainly not compatible. I guess I figured that I wouldn't have to shoot a gun if I were piloting the plane. As a matter of fact, as I look back, I'm not sure just what all went through my mind. I was not alone. There were many young men who were just as confused and uncertain about their future as I was in that recruitment office that day.
Ted, my cousin, said I was crazy for signing as a private in the Army Air Corps. Being a Navy man, he wanted me to sign-up in the Navy. He said, with my education, I could become an officer with no problem. However, I had made my decision and, considering the alternatives, I was happy with it.
Since I had said I wanted to be a pilot, the first step was to have my eye examination.
After checking my eyes, the doctor said, "Since you must wear glasses, I can't recommend you for pilot training. I'm sure you will find a better way to serve. After you finish basic training, you will be given several options from which to choose."
So much for my ideas of being a pilot! I knew I'd just have to wait to see what direction my Army Air Corps career would take me.
Knowing I'd be called very soon to go to basic training, I resigned my job at Zook. I sold my projector and screen to the school, moved my piano back to the farm, and packed my belongings.
After the students and teachers had given me a wonderful send- off,
I headed for home. I hoped to have a little vacation before becoming a
part of Uncle Sam's armed forces and being shipped off to some unknown