Back to School at the University of Kansas
University of Kansas
I had registered for graduate school at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, in August of 1946, before we made our trip to Yellowstone National Park. Since I was a World War II veteran, I was eligible for low-cost housing, free books and a stipend of $90 per month as long as I stayed in school. I could attend school for the same number of months I had spent in the service. That meant I had nearly four years of education coming, thanks to the GI Bill of Rights.
When we got home from our trip, we had only two weeks to get packed and make our move. Of course, lots of our belongings that we didn't think we would need at school were already stored at the farm. All Darlene and I had to do was load our essentials and be on our way. We decided to take Darlene's upright piano and leave the grand on the farm. The house in Sunflower, where we were moving, had the basic furniture. That was good because, so far, we hadn't bought any furniture except a baby bed for Glenda.
By the time we got those other essentials gathered together, and added the piano, we could see we would need a good trailer or a truck to haul all our stuff. A trailer didn't seem like a very good idea, considering our car's condition. We very lucky to be able to borrow a truck from Glenn Mallory.
Glenn Mallory owned a Poultry and Feed Store in Hutchinson. The folks
had bought baby chicks, and chicken and turkey feed from him for many years.
However, he was more than just a business associate to us. He and his family
and my folks were very good friends. He gladly loaned me his truck for
my move. That truck was a beast to drive! The 350 mile round trip to Sunflower
and back to Hutchinson was very tiring. That truck itself was so heavy
that I couldn't tell any difference between the trip going, with it loaded,
and the return trip, with it empty. I felt Darlene was the lucky one. She
drove our Ford, also packed to the limit. Of course, her most valuable
"cargo" was our baby Glenda.
Sunflower, The Cement Block Village
During World War II, while we veterans were overseas, folks here in the states were busy producing all kinds of things necessary for fighting the war. At the same time, housing had to be built close to the factories for the defense workers. Sunflower Village was a perfect example of such housing. It was built for workers in a nearby munitions plant. After the war, it was inhabited mostly by guys like me returning to school. The on-campus housing at the University of Kansas (KU) was quickly filled, and since Sunflower was only fourteen miles from Lawrence, it was also getting filled with students.
Sunflower was a cement block village. All the houses looked alike. All necessary plumbing and heating pipes were buried in the poured cement floors. Incidentally, we had a heck of a time hanging pictures. The rule was, "No nails in the walls." There was a wood trimming along the top, and everything one wanted on his walls had to be hung from it. Darlene and I had no problem meeting new friends at Sunflower. Carmen and Ronnie Albright were the first couple to greet us. Ronnie was a law student at KU. They had a little girl and she enjoying playing with Glenda. We exchanged baby sitting, and played games together in the evenings when Ronnie and I had time from our studies.
The Albrights introduced us to the Community Church. It was run cooperatively by the Methodists and Presbyterians. Interestingly enough, Carmen was a Nazarene and Ronnie was a Presbyterian. We figured if they could go to the Community Church with their kind of religious mix, it was good enough for us.
Quickly we joined the choir and soon got busy teaching Sunday School classes. When they found Darlene and I both were pianists, we really did get involved. The first thing I knew I was the Sunday School superintendent. That office got me into a host of other responsibilities, such as being the spokesman for the administrative counsel when they decided they wanted a new preacher. Actually, I wasn't supposed to be the spokesman, but during the meeting I soon found that no one would break the news to the preacher that we wanted a change. After discussion and much beating-around-the-bush, I finally said, "Actually, what we are trying to say is that we want a new minister."
Our minister was really a great person, but just not an effective preacher and leader. He was so nice about it all. He didn't seem a bit disturbed about my announcement. He just said, "That's fine. If you want another minister, I'll do everything possible to help you find one."
Everyone was relieved and we soon had a different minister.
Shortly after we moved to Sunflower, I had a big surprise. I discovered an old friend, Velma Smothers, living in a nearly apartment. She and I had been students together in Hanston High School, and we hadn't seen each other for over twelve years. We had lots of fun sharing memories of all the "wild" escapades of our high school days.
She was now married to Bob Wright, an accounting student at KU. They had a five-year-old son. They also were waiting to get an apartment closer to the university and moved to the campus housing about the same time we did. Our families had many good times together during our two years at KU.
Velma's father, Rev. Howard Smothers, was our Methodist Church pastor in Hanston. Both her parents were originally conservative Free Methodists. One of my most vivid memories of Rev. Smothers was his explanation of why he left the Free Methodist Church.
"Every time I confess that I grew up as a Free Methodist, people always want to know why I switched churches. Well, when I discovered that there were so many sinners in the Methodist Church, I decided it needed me worse than the Free Methodists did."
Of course, he repeated that message more than once. However, he always got a chuckle from his congregation each time he told the story.
After the school term at KU started, it didn't take long to get acquainted
with some of the other students and find ways to car pool back and forth
to the campus at Lawrence. One of our car poolers was a smoker, and he
thought nothing of smoking during the drive. This was especially bad as
the weather soon was cold enough that we had to have the car windows closed.
It wasn't long until the rest of us laid down the law that there would
be no smoking in the cars. He didn't like the idea at first, but gave in
when he found he was in the minority. I imagine he learned the habit when
he was in the service. The cigarette companies showed their patriotism
during the war by furnishing smokes to the GI's. Many got hooked that way.
Starting school again wasn't so bad. Since I had been out of school for six years, my advisor had wisely suggested that I take some easier classes at first. I enrolled in children's literature, drama, writing, and beginning physiology. Generally, I enjoyed all of my classes the first semester. Memorizing a poem for the drama class was a little hard. I was never very good at memory work. During my high school and college years, I was in a number of plays. I well remember how I would forget my lines and ad lib. I'm sure my classmates remember, too, as I certainly got them confused at times.
The writing class was interesting. I have kept some of the essaysI wrote. I guess, in some way, that shows my love of putting my thoughts down on paper. Of course, today my thoughts go into the computer, and I still enjoy writing and writing as any reader who has gotten this far in my autobiography will know.
Beginning second semester I had to take some tougher classes, such as curriculum, organization of public school music, history of music, music theory, and a psychology class on the learning process. Needless to say, I didn't particularly enjoy such subjects.
Dr. E. Thayer Gaston, was the head of Music Education Department when I arrived at the University of Kansas. Naturally, he was my teacher for a number of classes. Although he was a short, rather thin man, he had a way of commanding the students' attention. Sooner or later, no matter what particular subject he was teaching, Dr. Gaston would get to one of his two favorites, music therapy or psychology. He was well educated in the psychology of both education and religion. As a matter of fact, to us students he seemed to be an expert in about everything. He'd quote from and elaborate on both ancient and contemporary authors' writings. I later learned that he was credited as the inventor of "music therapy".
I could care less about music therapy and educational psychology. He almost made us believe that music therapy was the cure for anything that might be troubling anyone. Of course, I had to pretend I was interested and that I was paying strict attention to all he said. That wasn't too hard for me after following all kinds of orders in the military for nearly four years.
Dr. Gaston's other cherished subject was religion. I never did learn his church affiliation, but he led us to believe he was a Christian. In any event, he certainly knew his Bible, and he delighted in making his students question their beliefs. He was especially hard on those with very fundamentalist backgrounds. I remember how he brought one of the young ladies to tears because he challenged her beliefs. Despite his rather harsh teaching method, Dr. Gaston deserves credit for making all of us do some deep thinking, and learning to look at things in new ways. After all, isn't teaching students to think one of the main objectives of education?
I guess the class I disliked most was music history. Although my professor was a concert pianist, he really didn't know how to teach. One shouldn't be too harsh on him, I suppose. I remember how I was forced to teach English at Zook, and I really didn't know how to teach that subject. He may have been a good piano teacher. For sure he was a brilliant performer. I heard him perform the entire volume of Beethoven sonatas at one sitting. That was something! I have to admit that trying to concentrate on such a long concert nearly put me to sleep.
Dr. Gaston told me that my history professor had been a concert pianist in Europe before migrating to the United States. After he came to New York City, he had been unable to make a living as a pianist. Someone, who knew him in Europe, discovered him wandering the streets, out of funds and with no place to live. Through some connection with Dr. Gaston, he was brought to the University of Kansas, both to teach piano and to give concerts. As had happened to me at Zook when an English teacher was needed, at KU a music history teacher was needed. Needless to say, the ability to perform piano music did not necessarily translate into the ability to teach music history.
The professor spoke English with a heavy foreign accent. Although I sat in the front row and tried hard to concentrate, I didn't always understand everything he was saying. Furthermore, his scribbled blackboard notes were hard to read. I'm sure I'm telling all of this to help justify my poor grades in his class.
Unfortunately, I made an "F" on one of the most important tests. I shall never forget the day he handed the test papers back to us. He looked me right in the eye, and said in his broken English aloud for the whole class to hear, "Why, Mr. McMerrey, I am surprised at you. You're the only one who failed this quiz."
Believe me, I was mortified! I tried to slip into the smallest crack in the floor.
Luckily, almost immediately, the bell rang ending the class. I took my paper and got out as fast as possible. I felt ashamed and humiliated, and, I really hated to admit my "F" to Darlene. I knew that she had been an "A" student in school.
I should have known that she wouldn't be upset. She just gave me a hug and that was the end of the affair.
I enjoyed the applied music subjects where I had instruction on all the instruments of the orchestra, and a class in arranging. My big project was writing an arrangement for orchestra of my "Freedom Forever" song.
There was also a class in conducting. It was my favorite and probably the most useful during my teaching career at Jetmore.
During the two years I also took some private lessons in organ, piano and voice. These were fun, but were also time-consuming.
At the beginning of the second semester, the plans for my master's thesis began to emerge. When I started, I had no idea I would need nearly three semesters to finish it. Dr. James Nickerson was my advisor and mentor. He lived, with his wife, in an old farm house on the outskirts of Lawrence. They would invite the graduate students, and, sometimes their families, to their home for a sociable time. Before we finished our theses, we students considered him our friend, as well as our teacher.
Jim, as I very soon learned to call him, first conducted a seminar on how to develop a thesis.
"Glenn, your degree will be in music education, but your primary interest is educational film. Why not combine the two? You could learn what and how much is being done, how its being done, what improvements are needed, etc. It appears your thesis will take the form of a survey. It should be an interesting project."
When I presented my first chapter in draft form, I knew I was going to have problems. "Glenn," he said, "the first chapter sets the stage for the entire study. It must be right, absolutely right!"
Jim looked at the paper for a few minutes, tossed it to me and shook his head.
"I'm sorry, but this won't do. Read it again, see what you can do to improve it, and I'll give it another look next week."
I studied that chapter over and over, every word and phrase, and made some changes. Then I went back the next week as instructed and presented it again. I knew it was nearly perfect this time.
After looking at my paper for a few minutes, he again handed it back to me with a look of disapproval.
"Glenn, your writing is not professional. I know you can do better!"
This time I had an idea to make my paper "professional." I would find each significant word in the thesaurus, and choose a bigger and more "professional" sounding word to put in its place. After hours of laboring over the paper word by word, I again took it for Jim's approval.
This time he explained, "Great, Glenn! That's just what I wanted."
So I finally got chapter one approved, and I was on my way!
Many times I thought about that routine I went through to get my OK from Jim. Was the third time the magical charm or did he just give up and give his OK out of frustration?
It took hours, days and weeks to finish my thesis, and I had many conferences with Jim along the way. The title we finally settled on was "An Investigation of the Several Factors Contributing to the Effective Use of 16mm Sound Films in Music Education." Actually, Jim decided on that title. It sounded like an awkward title to me. I guess he thought it had a professional ring to it. I would have preferred a shorter title, not such a long, rambling one, but he was the teacher and the one to please with my thesis.
I spent many hours gathering the data for my thesis. Fortunately I had a telephone and a car. Both helped me to do the job. My finished thesis was loaded with all kinds of technical data. It also had color plates and graphs to explain special mathematical formulas dealing with acoustics, proper placement of speakers, light control, seating arrangement of viewers, etc. I visited a number of schools to learn what and how they were using film in their classes. I did research on the proper use of projectors and speaker systems, and on room acoustics. I gathered all kinds of data on the effectiveness of various types of films on pupils' learning processes.
When the draft of my thesis was finally approved, a secretary who was experienced in typing theses had to be found to do the final copy. Jim recommended the secretary of the Dean of the School of Education, and I was pleased that she agreed to do it. Although I was an expert typist, I didn't have the first idea about the proper format for master's degree theses. Anyway, thanks to the GI Bill of Rights, the government paid for the entire job.
Apparently, the editor of the "Kansas Music Review" magazine, a publication of the Kansas Music Educators Association, felt my thesis was of some value. A synopsis was published in the December, 1948, issue. If it helped a few teachers use films more effectively, perhaps my many hours of labor were of more worth than just getting an "A" on the thesis and my master's degree.
To give a better idea of the scope of my thesis, I have attached the "Table of Contents" and the "Summary and Conclusion".
I must admit that I really enjoyed doing the research for and the writing
of my thesis, despite some periods of frustration along the way. Frankly,
writing it was about the only audio-visual experience I had during my two
years at KU. I had been permitted to check out films from the library,
so I could become more acquainted with music titles that had been produced.
I kept a detailed card file on the films I previewed. I guess that file
was the forerunner of my work later in developing an Automated Catalog
at the University of Southern California
Moving to Sunnyside on the KU Campus
In March of my second semester we were able to move to the KU campus. The university had acquired World War II barracks to be used to house married former servicemen attending school on the GI Bill of Rights. Most of our friends from Sunflower also moved to the complex, known as Sunnyside, as soon as there were openings. The barracks reminded me of my early days in the service during boot training and radio school, which were not the best times of my life. However, these converted barracks were very comfortable, and, best of all, I could now walk to my classes. This saved both time and money.
Each barracks was divided into four apartments, two below and two above. Our two-bedroom apartment was on the bottom floor. Unfortunately, a former serviceman above us had a hearing problem. I always wondered if it was caused by his war experiences. He was an opera buff. He must have had hundreds of opera recordings. These he played loudly, night and day. Of course, they were 78rpm records, full of scratches and background noises. Since I practiced my piano and vocal lessons below him, I guess turnabout was fair play.
The apartments had a stove and refrigerator. Thanks to the Sears time
payment program, we were able to buy a new bed, a table and other items
for our apartment.
Little Cash, Simple Needs
In the light of today's living costs, getting by on that $90 a month seems impossible. I believe our rent was only $25. We didn't need many clothes. Darlene made dresses for her and Glenda from feed sacks, which were really very nice cloth. My folks helped with eggs and vegetables from their garden. Also during the summer while I was working on the farm, Darlene and I had helped prepare corn, strawberries, and chickens for the freezer or locker, as it was called. For a long time few people had their own freezers, but they rented locker space in large buildings in Hutchinson and South Hutchinson. We also bought peaches during the ripe season and froze them. I made a little money typing papers for people who couldn't type a stroke. Occasionally, when we were feeling pinched for funds, a check would come from the farm for our share in some enterprise. I well remember how glad we were one time to get a check for $25 from the sale of a calf from one of the cows I had bought after I got home from overseas.
Most of us going to school on the GI Bill were in similar circumstances, but I don't remember our worrying much about money. Our needs were simple. We enjoyed many good times together that cost nothing.
Our favorite entertainment was spending the evening with friends playing games. We enjoyed Monopoly, Flinch, and, especially, Gusher. Since no one to whom I mention Gusher seems to have ever played the game, I'll explain a little about it.
Gusher is a board game. However, it is not on a flat board, but rather
a half-inch high cardboard box with irregular shaped wood blocks sealed
inside. Each time before starting a new game, the box is shaken back and
forth and the blocks fall in various places. On the board is a map of properties.
Small holes are punched in the map, one or more on each property. Using
paper money, players buy properties and then proceed to "drill" for oil
using a miniature rig with a center pin which is stuck in these holes.
If the pin sinks, it hasn't hit a block and, therefore, the player has
a dry hole. If the pin goes up because it hits one of the blocks, the player
has stuck oil, in other words a "Gusher." He gets to buy a well from the
banker. For the rest of the game, each time it's the banker's turn to play,
each player owning wells is paid a stated amount of money for each well.
The first player to collect one million for his oil wells wins the game.
Since the blocks inside the box are in different places each game, one
never knows which hole will be "dry" and which will be a "gusher." One
can just as easily go broke buying property as get rich striking oil
My First Real Motion Picture Production
During the summer between our two years at KU, we went back to our little house in South Hutchinson. I'll explain more about that house later, but here I want to tell about making my first real motion picture.
My first motion picture camera was waiting for me when I got home from the South Pacific in 1945. Benny Bargen and I had maintained a close relationship all through my years in the service. I wrote him one day that it would be great to have a camera to record some of my experiences. He promptly contacted another friend, Harold H. Smith, for help. Incidentally, Harold was the world's fastest typist at one time. I don't remember how many words a minute he typed, perhaps 120 or more. In spurts, I could hit 100 words per minute, but my work wasn't error free. He and Bennie had been friends for years due to their common interest in teaching speed typing.
Harold lived in New York City and somehow he knew where to get a camera, which was a scarce item during the war. He sent one to Bennie for me. Luckily, before Bennie mailed it, I was on my way home. If he had tried to send it overseas, I probably wouldn't have gotten it. Anyway, it was waiting for me when I got home.
We used that camera to film some scenes of our wedding, and of our Denver honeymoon. We made extensive use of it through the years to film Glenda and Jeanie, other family members, and our friends. I had dreamed of making movies for years, and I shot many feet of home movies the five years I had that camera. Just before we left for California in 1950, I sold it to Velma Wright. After all, I was headed for the Cinema Department of the University of Southern California and knew that they would have plenty cameras for me to use.
Of course, home movies were one thing, but making a real movie production was another. Camp Wentz was a boy's camp near Ponca City, Oklahoma, owned by our Methodist Church Conference. Rev. Sam Staley, our minister at the South Hutchinson Methodist Church, was the director of the camp. He got the bright idea of making a movie of the camp activities to use to interest other boys in attending.
"Glenn, how would you like to go to Camp Wentz Boys' Camp and make a film about it?" Rev. Staley asked me the summer after my first year at KU.
"Get me the film and I'll do it!" was my immediate reply. I was thrilled at the idea of actually making a real motion picture.
Making that film was fun. I shot many feet of sixteen millimeter film. I had no script. Everything was "on the spot" shooting.
Of course, it was all silent film. I had some titles made at the Calvin company. Now the moment of truth came. I had to splice all that footage together to make some sense. I got all the scenes in order without too much trouble, but I had a terrible time splicing them together. Those danged splices were continually coming apart.
Finally, I had a finished product to show to Rev. Staley. Miracle of miracles, he said he liked it. I was really thrilled! We showed it around prior to the next summer's camp. I hope it encouraged some to want to come to camp.
Of course, I never knew how effective it was in recruiting campers,
but it had been a great experience to me. Finally, I was an honest-to-
goodness film producer.
Home Life with My Family
My two years at KU were pleasant times, except for a few stresses related to school work. My days were filled with study time, fun with friends, church activities, and, most important, time with my little family.
Glenda was only four months old when I enrolled at KU. What enjoyment we had in watching her develop into a darling two-year-old. She loved her story books and her musical records. Of course, we thought she was very bright for her age when she learned to sing the songs on her records, and memorized her story books so that she could "read" them by herself.
Glenda's most prized toy was her little tricycle which she called her
"keko." She spent many hours riding it up and down the sidewalks around
our Sunnyside apartment.
Glenda on her "Kee-ko"
I have one painful memory about Glenda. Once when she didn't do what I told her to do, I gave her a good spanking. I don't even remember what I wanted her to do or not do. What I do remember is that suddenly I realized I was hurting her, and that I was just an angry adult out-of-control. The punishment was too much for whatever wrong she had done. I stopped the spanking and gave her a big hug to let her know I loved her. I also vowed to try to be more patient from then on.
Darlene and I had always planned to have our second child when Glenda was about two years old. We were again blessed with being able to carry out our family plans.
Darlene's pregnancy was normal except for her bout with hay fever. At first she thought she had a bad cold, but the doctor said it was an allergy. Sure enough, it was some plants, such as milo or ragweed, causing her trouble. As soon as the first frost came, she was OK. The doctor explained that the onset of allergy problems sometimes came with pregnancy. The bad part was that the problem didn't leave. Each year from then on until we moved to California, she suffered through the late summer and fall months, just waiting for the first good frost. When we planned for our second child, we didn't think about how hectic my life would be about the time he or she was due to come into this world. The due date was late March and I was very much involved with writing my thesis, preparing end-of-the term papers, studying for finals, and, most stressful of all, trying to study in preparation for my master's degree orals. I was also sending out resumes to schools to get a teaching job for next year.
Everything happened at once, it seemed. I got a reply from Jetmore High School wanting me to come for an interview. I explained that my baby was due any day, and I'd come as soon as possible.
When Darlene decided it was time to go to the hospital, we called our good friend Carmen to come and take care of Glenda, and away we went.
When Glenda was born, the doctor had allowed me to stay in the room at Darlene's side. However, this doctor had other ideas.
"Mr. McMurry, it is hospital policy that none except hospital attendants can be in the room while a baby is being delivered. Even if that weren't the rule, in your case it would take too much time to prepare you. This baby is coming very soon."
"Doctor, may I just watch from the door?" I asked.
The doctor hesitated a moment, and finally he smiled and relented.
"Well, so long as you just stay in the doorway, I guess it'll be all right."
Actually, I felt I won that time as they left the door open and I had a great view of the entire delivery.
"That baby will be here in a few minutes," I heard the doctor say.
All at once there was a flurry of action among the nurses, and I saw the doctor holding my new blue baby by the heels.
Looking directly toward me, the doctor announced, "Mr. McMurry, you have a wonderful, healthy girl!"
As the doctor handed my baby to one of the nurses who put her on a table, I heard Darlene ask just what I also was thinking, "Shouldn't someone watch out for my baby? She might roll off."
"Forget your baby for a few minutes," the doctor said. "She's fine. Right now, we have to take care of you."
I then remembered that he had told us he would do some repair work on tears that Darlene was still carrying from Glenda's difficult birth.
It was now after midnight, and the doctor strongly suggested I go home and get some rest. He said Darlene needed to sleep, and assured me our baby would be well cared for. I went home, elated!
It was so late, I decided to wait until morning to let our parents know the good news. Since we had already picked a boy's name and a girl's name, when I phoned the next morning I was able to announce, proudly, "Jean Frances has arrived, weight, 8 lbs 6 oz, length 20 inches."
As soon as Glenda and I had our breakfast, I took her to stay with Carmen and rushed back to the hospital. I was eager to see how Darlene was feeling and to get a good look at our new baby girl. Looking through the windows into the crib room, I saw about a dozen babies. Of course, when I looked into the crib marked "McMurry," I was sure she was the sweetest and prettiest baby there. It seems one always talks baby talk to a baby, so I said, "Hi, Jeanie Francie. I'm your daddy."
Jean was so different from our Glenda. What little hair she had was blond. Glenda had been born with a full head of dark brown hair. Glenda also had a blemish on her face from the forceps. Although it went away in a couple days, we were so happy that this time the forceps weren't necessary. Our baby Jeanie looked just like a little China doll lying asleep in her crib.
Baby Jean Frances
How thankful I felt. Now we had two healthy daughters! Little did I
realize then, however, just how much happiness they would bring to us through
I knew that before graduation I would have to take a Master's Degree Oral Examination. I had a big problem in knowing just how to prepare for that exam. There were so many subjects about which they could quiz me, such as music history, multitudes of composers and their works, theory, various instruments, and educational philosophy. I tried to think which books to review, but there were so many possibilities, I was in a quandary.
One of my advisors gave this advice, "Just think about all the subjects and classes you've taken during the past two years. As you go over them quickly in your mind, try to recall some of the most important subject matter in each. Then the night before your examination, go to bed early, say a prayer, relax, and get a good night's sleep."
I took that guy's advice and it worked! The day of my orals I walked into the office and confidently said, "I'm ready."
When the six faculty members on my committee arrived, they greeted me and then Jim said, "Glenn, give us a few minutes together and we'll call you in."
They went into the room for a very short time before calling me. I, of course, wasn't in any hurry so would have been glad for anything to delay the ordeal.
When someone opened the office door, I saw one empty chair which was obviously for me.
I sat down and looked from one person to the other, attempting to appear relaxed and confident. To me each one looked more somber than the other, and I was sure I was trouble before the questioning even began.
The next three hours were terrible. I just knew I was flunking.
There was no opportunity to discuss anything, and the professors would not give me a clue as to whether I had answered a question right or wrong.
Finally Jim said, "Glenn, we are finished. Please step out of the room for a few minutes, and we'll be back with you shortly."
Those few minutes felt like three hours. I just knew I had failed my orals.
When the door opened, Jim stepped out first. He reached his hand towards me and said with a broad smile, "Glenn, you did a good job. We have given you an "A" on your orals."
After each of the committee had congratulated me, I left for home to tell Darlene the good news.
Regardless of the good results, I made up my mind I didn't ever want to go through such an ordeal again. In other words, I would be satisfied with my a master's degree, and not ever go for a doctorate.
That resolve stayed with me when I finally got to the University of
Southern California. I just took the courses in which I was interested
and forgot about any more degrees.
Walk Down the Hill
Walking down that hill and receiving my sheepskin marked the ending of my University of Kansas experience. It was exciting to be a part of that procession of hundreds of graduates. Our robes and mortarboard tassels indicated the degree which had been earned. First were the faculty and honored guests, then Bachelor and Master's Degree candidates, and last the ones getting Doctor's Degrees.
After we stood in line what seemed a long time, the band started to play and the procession began to move down the hill to the podium.
I have no idea how many degrees were conferred that evening. The College of Liberty Arts and Sciences must have graduated more than 150 alone. Then there were those from Law, Medicine, Education, etc. In any event, the line was long and getting us organized was tiresome. I spent most of my time thinking about moving back to our little crooked house in South Hutchinson, and then in September going to my new teaching job at Jetmore in western Kansas.
Finally they got to my part of the line and, at last, my name was called. I now had my degree for which I had been working the last two years, and another chapter of my life was over.
I felt a great deal of pride that day. I was also thankful to the government for giving me the opportunity to return to school, and for the support my wife had given me those two years.
Glenn in cap and gown
When I submitted my credits to Bethel College, I learned that I qualified for a Bachelor of Arts Degree. That meant I now had three degrees, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music Education, and Master's of Music Education. Goodness, how could I ever live up to those honors?
I had accepted a teaching job at Jetmore, just eleven miles west of my old home town of Hanston. I knew going to Jetmore would be almost like going back home. Through my high school days Jetmore and Hanston were in the same sports league, and I had often been to Jetmore for various games.
However, before school started we had a busy summer ahead of us. There
was lots of work to be done on the farm, and many improvements to be made
on our little house in South Hutchinson. I must backtrack now and tell
the story of "Our Crooked Little House."
Buying a House
After spending quite a bit of my "war" savings on the farm the first year I was at home, I still had a couple thousand dollars. We were eager to buy a house so we'd have a place to come home to in the summer after our first year at KU. South Hutchinson seemed the ideal place. Homes there weren't as expensive as in Hutchinson, and we'd be closer to the farm. Also, that was where we knew people and they knew us. In fact, Darlene had lived there since fourth grade and had taught school there for three years. During our first year of marriage, while I worked on the farm, she had quite a number of piano pupils. Also our church was there, and we felt close ties to it.
Maybe, after we finally got to California, learned film making, and returned to Kansas, we could even have a combination film and music studio. Those were some of our vague dreams.
We drove all over South Hutchinson looking for available property. "Look, Darlene! Here's our house, right here. There's also enough land to plant a vegetable garden."
Not only that, the lot was large enough that several other houses could be built along the street. That would be just great! Imagine a string of homes I had built stretching along Poplar, which was a principal north/south street of the city of South Hutchinson. What dreams I began to have!
When we looked inside the house, we could see that it needed lots of work, but the price was right, and we just knew we could fix what needed fixing.
"Let's buy it!" I said, and Darlene agreed.
We bought it before going to KU. It was so dirty and in such bad shape,
we just rented it, as is, for $10 a month, with the understanding that
the following June, we would want to move in.
The Crooked Little House
When school was out after my first year at KU, we rented our apartment to a summer student and his wife, and headed back home. There was farm work for me to help with, of course, but in my spare time, Darlene and I worked on our crooked little house.
I was anxious to get started so we could move in, but after careful inspection, I saw more problems than I had expected. For instance, I don't think a single door really fit right. Someone had tried to correct the bedroom door by sawing the top off to fit the opening. It appeared they had sawed it several times until one side was several inches shorter than the other. The problem was the foundation of the house. The floors were uneven and creaked desperately. The windows wouldn't open or shut without a hammer. I had to get under the house and jack up the low places. Then I would wedge in some shingles or whatever lumber I could find between the floors and the cement block pedestals which had been placed at strategic points under the house. Obviously, someone else had tried to fix the same problem at some earlier date. Finally, after much sweat and toil, I had fairly level floors all over the house, I thought.
"Look, Darlene, we can remove that wall between the front room and bedroom and have a great place for my grand piano!"
So this became the first house that through the years we altered to have room for our grand piano. Our houses in Maryland and in Culver City many years later got the same treatment.
In this little crooked house, however, we had the most trouble. When we removed the wall, we had quite a time making the two floors even with each other. The problem was solved with much sanding and giving the entire floor a new finish.
Although a natural gas pipeline ran across the town of South Hutchinson, natural gas wasn't generally used. Of course, if I had enough money I could have had the gas lines extended to my house. However, money being rather scarce, we settled for electricity for cooking and coal for heating.
Since the insulation was so rotten on the electrical wiring in the whole house, I had to replace practically all of it.
That wasn't all! The north wall had two layers of lathe and plaster
with wallpaper in between. That was a surprise! For sure, such an arrangement
would help keep out the cold Kansas winds. Speaking of wallpaper, we found
multiple layers on nearly every wall in the house. Another thing, the front
porch had to be removed because we were afraid the roof would fall on someone
or someone would fall through the floor.
Junk, Junk and More Junk
I thought I'd use the Ford tractor and plow to prepare the ground for planting my garden. I figured it would take a couple hours at most to do the job. However, I was in for a surprise!
"Darlene," I called, "look at this!"
I was certainly not prepared for what I found lying under the surface of my "farm!" There were many pieces of iron and pipe, and various other kinds of junk. I couldn't believe my eyes. The Ford tractor was tried, but there so much junk I had to give up the job of making a nice garden. I felt I was in kind of a architectural dig as I unearthed items.
South Hutchinson was a larger city at one time. It was the famous "Salt City" for a number of years. The developers build all kinds of buildings to take care of their flourishing businesses.
The salt enterprise, after several years, crashed as developers went into bankruptcy. The salt developers left town for better things to do. Only Morton's Salt Company remained, and South Hutchinson became a small town, while Hutchinson, across the river grew and flourished.
I'm not sure just how much relationship there was between all my junk and the once thriving "Salt City" of South Hutchinson. I did learn that there had once been an oil station on our property. That could have accounted for some of my junk.
We finally moved into our crooked little house on July 22, 1947, celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary. Most of the work we'd done on our house was rather temporary, but it was now quite livable. At least we would be able to raise the rent to $20 for our second year at KU.
After graduation, we again moved back home and went to work on our house. We painted, wall-papered, refinished floors, and I even dug a septic tank, and built a bathroom on what had been the back porch. That summer with much help from my folks, our little house was quite a nice place to live.
Of course, in September, it was time for us to go to Jetmore to my teaching job. Again we rented our house. Now it was worth $40 a month, and we had no trouble finding renters.
It was moving time again and we found a small house in Jetmore to rent.
Another chapter of our life was about to begin.
The Big Storm
I must back-track some now before closing this section of my story to tell about the big tornado we went through that summer. It was a busy summer for sure. Between working on our house and helping on the farm, I had few leisure moments. Of course, harvest time was the busiest part of the summer. It was near the close of harvest when the devastating tornado hit.
My job during harvest was hauling the wheat to the Elmer elevator where we marketed it. One very hot day I noticed that the sky gave all the usual indications of impending rain. I had hauled several loads of wheat that afternoon and was getting ready to head home again when I noticed very threatening clouds in the sky.
"Glenn, you'd better get home quick because I think it is going rain hard," Crupper, our elevator operator, warned.
"By the looks of that cloud it's a roller, a whopper. That gray wind cloud preceding it means heavy rain and even hail. I know the wind is very quiet right now, but that tells me something big is coming."
Crupper was right. Before I'd gone a mile, the wind began to blow. It was then that I noticed the cloud was moving closer and closer towards me. It was a dust cloud created by a vacuum preceding the strong black one to come later. I couldn't see the heavy black cloud. It had disappeared from my sight. The entire scene was eerie. I hadn't got to Cruppers oil station as yet, meaning I was at least a half-mile from home. I knew I was in trouble so I pushed the truck gas throttle to its limit. It got so dark I could hardly see the road in front of me. Then the wind started to blow in earnest and fine rain started.
By the time I got to our house the wind was blowing very hard. I was scared, real scared. I stopped the truck quickly and ran to the house.
Mom met me at the door and beckoned me,
"Glenn, get down to the basement quick!"
Dad and Junior had already arrived from the field and we all went to the basement.
"I saw the machine roof raise several feet up. I'm afraid it's a goner!" Junior said.
Then that storm hit in earnest! It was terrible! We stood on the west wall of the basement knowing that if the house blew away we would be protected from the debris caused by the house wreckage. Believe it or not, the block rocks used to build the basement shock like an earthquake was hitting us. We decided the house must be off its foundation by then. The wind roared, rain poured, lightened cracked and thunder rumbled continually. It was a scary experience for all of us!
My thoughts went rampant! What is happening to Darlene and the kids in South Hutchinson? The only thing I could do was say a prayer for their safety.
A few minutes later the storm subsided slightly, so I thought I'd slip up the stairs and see what had happened. I was looking for the worst. No building could possibly stand through a storm of this intensity. I figured the house was wrecked. As I opened the door into the house, I saw a bright lightening flash which was followed quickly by a deafening thunder roar. Such lightening followed by a quick thunder response meant something close by was hit. I quickly turned around and went back downstairs.
Again there was a lull in the storm and I felt safe enough to mount the stairs again, carefully! It was still dark and I was reluctant to go up again. Maybe the steps had been damaged by the storm or were even completely gone!
I made it to the top and was thankful to find the cellar door was still intact. That was a good omen.
When I opened the door, I was stunned. The entire room was flooded with a misty spray of white light. The two north window curtains normally hanging down were hanging horizontally from the top of the window. I rushed back down the cellar and informed the folks that all the windows in the dining room had been blown out. It is a sad sight.
"Well," Mom said, "at least the house is still standing and we are all safe! Thank heavens." After the wind and rain calmed down, we gingerly left the cellar to survey the aftermath.
The windows in the dining room were intact, and the curtains were undamaged. I'll never be able to justify what I saw when I had looked upstairs and seen those curtains standing straight out. Our old house had remained on its foundation. Actually it had weathered the storm splendidly. My Grandpa McMurry evidently knew how to build on a solid foundation. The chimney did spring a leak near the front room ceiling. From then on with every rain a damp spot appeared, and we were never able to discover what to do about it. The large tree outside the kitchen door had been split by the lightning. We were lucky that it didn't make a hole in our kitchen porch.
All dozen beautiful cedar trees in our front yard were either snapped off or laying flat on the ground.
Where was the barn? Well, it was completely blown away. We found most of it in the field southeast of the silos. Dad and Junior gathered split wood and other debris for days. Junior used the better pieces for his new house.
The turkeys? Some were killed, many were wandering around in a daze. Fortunately, turkeys have good wings and some flew away from the flying pieces of the barn. It took several days to gather what was left of the flock together.
The machine shed roof had been moved just as Junior had described it.
All of our farm structures had suffered some kind of damage.
Soon after the storm, I had to leave for Jetmore to take my teaching job. I'm not sure whether I was lucky or just unlucky. All I know is I didn't have to help clean the farm mess. Before leaving, I walked all over surveying the wreckage. Frankly, it was not just a mess, it was a disaster. Dad, Mom and Junior spent weeks picking up parts of that old barn and piling up the downed trees.
To this day, I still feel sorry that Mom and Dad weren't able to rebuild the barn. They simply hadn't had the energy or the money to take care of the old barn through the years. The foundation wood had rotted badly on the north side close to the ground. It was not surprising that the whole structure went down, and was virtually not repairable.
Over the years, I've seen a number of similar storms that devastated homes and out buildings. Crazy things happen when a tornado rips through a community. Wheat straws are driven into telephone poles, scraps of iron are scattered all over, and houses are rearranged. Dad once told of a tornado that sucked a house up to the sky and deposited a buggy in its cellar. Then, when the house settled down, it was set nearly in it's original position.
When the storm subsided, I went to town immediately to see about my wife and little girls. Fortunately, they had been spared the blunt of the storm. Darlene said she knew it was blowing hard and pouring down rain, but she had no idea of the damage being done.
"I spent most of my time mopping water that came in under the front door," she explained to me. We didn't know there were any cracks under the door. It reminded me how water got through Mom's dining room windows and door.
We learned the next morning that a man had been killed a few blocks from our house when his little shack of a home collapsed. The Smith family next door had major problems. Since their roof had been raised right up on one corner, they had extensive water damage.
Luckily our little house was low and there were lots of trees around
it. Many branches were broken on the trees and the old outhouse was knocked
askew, but we didn't discover any damage to the house itself. I felt very
lucky when I found my family all safe.
As I look back now, that decision to go to KU was a good one. It led me to an enjoyable two years at Jetmore High School and, finally, to the University of Southern California. Moreover, I know that the cultural experiences, and opportunities to discuss religion, politics and life in general with friends and colleagues on and off campus were of much importance in broadening my outlook on the world around me.
Again I must give tribute to the GI Bill of Rights for allowing me to attend graduate school at KU.