Tag Archives: university of missouri

She Wore His Pin

At the end of the Spring semester in 1930, Jim finished his final exams and moved out of the fraternity house and into the Senate Apartment Hotel at the corner of Armour Boulevard and Troost Avenue in Kansas City.  He was beginning a summer job working with the Missouri State Highway Department.

May was a busy month for Mary.  A trip to St. Louis for the Fairmount Derby.  The end of the school year class picnic.  A flurry of bridal showers and bridge parties. Before Jim left town, she also made one last trip to Columbia with her friend Helen.  While she was there, she enrolled in classes for the Fall term and reacquainted herself with her sorority sisters at the Tri Delta house on Richmond Avenue.

When she returned home to Jefferson City, her relationship status changed.  She wore his pin.

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

May 28, 1930 10 PM

Wednesday

Dear Jim:
I hope you are getting along all right with your work.  It is really warm here this afternoon.  If you stay out in this long you will get a good suntan.

The breakfast was so nice this morning.  I hate to have to come down to toast and bacon in the morning.  We had strawberries first.  Fried chicken.  Gravy.  Baked Apple.  French fried potatoes.  Jelly and hot biscuits and coffee.

I weighed today and guess how much?  I am 98 pounds.  I’m so proud of myself.  I have gained 3 1/2 pounds in a month.

Helen and I went to the baseball game this afternoon.  It was very exciting and when we left Henry was ahead, that is his side was.

Mother went on a picnic so she came in all tired out today.  In fact we are all lazy.  It must be that we are getting old.

I wore my white dress and blue coat today.  It had your pin on it and several girls saw it and thought it was quite nice.  However they thought I had had it a long time.  Just wait until some Tri Delta sister gets a look at it.  Anyway they can’t collect until next fall.

I talked to Mrs. Lindsey today.  She said she wanted to see you so much.  She is very fond of your folks.

Jim-I surely wish you good luck and I’ll write more tomorrow.

Henry was sick last night.  So guess you did the right thing by going on the first train.  Helen was dead and I wasn’t feeling extra.  So guess it was best but I hated to see you leave.

Love, 

Mary

When a young man gives a young woman his fraternity pin, it is a sign of his affection and a symbol announcing that later they will become engaged.

Jim was a Lambda Chi Alpha.  This was his pin.  The pin she wore.

I happened to marry a Lambda Chi.  He was a member of the same chapter at the University of Missouri.  (He and Jim both served as treasurer of the chapter.) My husband never owned a pin.  So, I never wore his pin.  But before Jim died, he wanted to be sure that my husband had his pin.

Pinning may seem like an old fashioned tradition in the world of social media.  But it is still a romantic notion signifying a change in relationship status.  The biggest difference is that when Jim pinned Mary, he fastened a lasting connection that extends beyond the limits of a timeline.

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Say What?

 

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

 

April 21, 1930 8:30 PM

 

Monday

 

Dear Jim:
Well-I haven’t very much to say.  I am really not as angry as I might seem, however I felt better after you came by last night.  I was surprised though that you did.

 

I worked hard today and am tired tonight.  I tried to get my art ready and did but it’s a big job.

 

I had a letter from Helen she said Lillian Rogles told her that Henry said he want to be Helen’s next flame.  Now I am sure he didn’t say that, just what he said I can’t say.  Helen said she was sure Lillian got her wires crossed.  Anyway Helen wants to come up this coming weekend, but on account of some parties and all, I am writing to her to come later. She really wants to come the 9th but I think that’s when we can go to Clinton.  I believe from now until school is out I’ll be busy.

 

Jim-the flowers are still pretty.  They were so sweet Sunday morning.  I will forgive you for most anything when you are so thoughtful as to send flowers to me on Easter.  I think you’re real sweet.  

 

Write soon–and when will you be over Saturday afternoon or when?
Love,

 

Mary

 

 

 

Postmark Columbia, MO

 

April 24, 1930 5 PM

 

Thursday

 

Dear Mary-

 

I just finished reading your letter.  I am sure Helen would understand if she wants to come that weekend.  As for going down home is concerned, we can make the trip anytime, or leave it out if you are too busy.  I’ll tell mother not to plan any party for you for about a week and a half yet.  By then we should know for sure.  Then if something happens that you can’t leave she can call it off alright.  Don’t worry yourself about that.

 

I wrote an eight hundred word paper last night.  I wrote it, corrected it and copied it over by midnight.  I didn’t get started until eight thirty.  I hope the thing is satisfactory.  I have to read it at the banquet tomorrow night before all of the Tau Beta Pis and all of the faculty of the Engineering School.  I’ll be glad when that is over.  I have an examination in Heat Machinery at one o’clock and an exam for Tau Beta Pi at four o’clock.  I don’t know how I’ll come out in either one of them, but I don’t really care.

 

Tomorrow classes are dismissed for the funeral of the former President of the University, whatever his name is.  That means I don’t have any classes at all tomorrow.  I think I will put the whole day in on my Graphic Statics.  Maybe I can get caught up on some of it.  I have a Heat report to write tonight and an electrical report to write up before Monday, so  you see, I really have plenty to keep me busy for some time.  I’ll be over there Saturday about 5:45 P.M.  

 

Really Mary I am just about out of something to say, so I guess I’ll have to quit for this time.  You’ll forgive me once more want you?  Please~~~~~~~~~~

 

Love,

 

Jim

 

Henry called me from downtown last night.  He had a date and two couples over here.  He didn’t come out here though.

 

 

Two people without much to say, but their letters say a lot.  Parties and plans and projects and papers.  And tittle-tattle about Henry’s romantic life.  Just exactly what his romantic life is…who can say?

 

 

 

The correspondence leaves out a lot information.  I guess we’re better off not knowing the particulars of what had Mary annoyed with Jim.  Kiss and make up.  The flowers were a nice touch.

 

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How Grand!

 

Addressed to:

Miss Mary Potter

312 Washington Street

Jefferson City, MO

Postmark Columbia, MO

April 10, 1930  10:30 PM

Dear Mary-

Gee honey, I’m sorry you have to be sick now, just terribly sorry.  I had hoped that you could get by until you had time for an operation before you had any more trouble.  I hope it doesn’t last long this time.  Tell your mother to be sure and write me just how you are.  I don’t know why, but when I got your letter this morning I just felt that you were really sick.  That is why I called.  If you want me to come over Saturday or Sunday, I can stay with Henry and not cause your mother any trouble at all.  I can come tomorrow any time if you would like me to, so just have your mother call me or write or any way you want it.  I’ll do just want you want me to, honey.

Don’t worry any about that dance.  Your mother said today that you wanted me to go on without you.  Well, if I am in Columbia, I’ll do that, if it is what you want me to do.

This weather is really too hot for comfort today.  I have been suffering from the heat since noon.  Your room shouldn’t be so hot though so I guess the heat won’t be bothering you any.

I think I made it fairly well on the examination I took yesterday afternoon.  I hope I did, anyway.  I had a letter from home today, and mother is expecting you Easter.  She said that she might try to arrange a small bridge party for you Saturday afternoon.  She isn’t sure about it yet.

Oh yes, did you get to have your club last night or did you call it off?

Say, I think I’ll have a way to ride to Jeff City and be back tomorrow evening, just for the evening, so if you want me to come, have your mother call me between 4:15 and 5:45 tomorrow afternoon at 4593.  I’ll be here all that time.  Don’t think that I am attempting to hint for an invitation, because that isn’t the case at all.  

This town is really all upset.  The school election comes off tomorrow and everything is in full swing.  There are going to be mass meetings and serenades and everything else tonight, and of course tomorrow will be a large day.  This time we don’t have any posters stuck on the walk and the red campus is free of signs.  Thank heaven for that.  I must sign off.  I surely hope you are better by tomorrow.

Love,

Jim

Finally!  A letter to Mary from Jim!  How grand!

Sounds like a big weekend at the university in Columbia.  Mass meetings.  Serenades.  Elections.  A dance.  But, it seems Mary is not well enough to make the trip to Columbia this weekend and the dance.  This news is not so grand.  She must be so disappointed.

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

April 14, 1930 7 PM

Dear Jim:

Well I’m feeling lots better today.  I have slept and also had a meal at Noon.  So I am getting alright.  I have had a long rest this afternoon and think surely by tomorrow I can teach.

I haven’t any thing to write about as I have been right here at home and the doings are nothing interesting.

This weather is ideal.  I wish I could sit out and bake in the sun.

Mother and I are going to take a drive and we will come back by Dr. Clark’s office.

Jim be sure and write your folks and tell them if it suits we will come in a few weeks.  I hate it because I can’t go.  Really I do.

If you hear about the dance write me.  I hope it was a big success.  

Well I’ll try and write more next time.

You were sure mightily appreciated this weekend–and were grand to me.  I hope I can get through being sick soon.

Love,

Mary

How grand!

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Lucky Girl

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

March 3, 1930   10 PM

Monday Night

Dear Jim:
I hope you didn’t freeze going back last night.  It seemed so cold for you to ride in an open car so far.  I surely hope you didn’t catch cold.  Dad and Mother thought it was so bad, they just knew you would be sick from it.

I went out to see Frances Millspaugh, the girl that writes to George.  She was so thrilled over you knowing him.  She said when George comes we can get together.  Frances is a lovely girl and from all accounts George hasn’t always been as good as he might be, however he says he is acting better now for a few years he was in a “don’t care state,” and I guess was really wild.  Frances has known him for five or six years.  She has been sick with an attack of appendicitis and is still in bed.  She will have to be operated on but is waiting until George makes his visit.

It has been so cold today.  My room wasn’t warm all day.  Just about 64 this afternoon and about 50 this morning.  

I sure hope you got along alright with your quiz today.  I will be to blame if you didn’t.

Jim, I had such a good time in Columbia Friday night and I enjoyed having you here so much-really I’m getting spoiled with so much attention.

Love,

Mary

Mary had many friends.  One her good girlfriends while she lived in Jefferson City was Frances Millspaugh.  They both taught at Broadway Elementary School.  Frances was the daughter of Missouri Congressman Frank Millspaugh.  Mary writes Jim and Frances writes George, who apparently was a wild and crazy guy.

Who is George? Why is she waiting on him to have her appendix taken out?  Where is he coming from?  How does Jim know George?

Jim knows George Furtney from engineering school.  George graduated and went to work as an engineer for Wired Wireless Radio Corporation in Cleveland.  He is getting his act together.  George is going to ask Frances to marry him.  How do I know?  Time and more letters will tell.

Today is Friday the 13th.  I’m not one for superstition.  I’m not around ladders enough to walk under one.  We crossed paths with our black cat, Minnie, for 13 years.  Double trouble?  Actually no real trouble.  She caught a mouse once and brought it to the back porch.  Unlucky for the mouse…and for me who had to dispose of the deceased rodent.  Lucky for her, though.  I’ve broken plenty of mirrors so I can’t even begin to count how many years of bad luck.  Mental math isn’t my thing.  Plus, I figure if I don’t know it doesn’t really matter.

There is one superstition I can’t help wondering about today.  In 1903 University of Missouri engineering students decided Saint Patrick should be their patron saint.  The shamrock became a symbol and emblem for the school.  A stone with the three leaf clover is embedded in the sidewalk in front of the classroom building.  Tradition says that if you walk across the shamrock stone, you’ll marry an engineer.  Did Mary walk across the shamrock stone?

Mary is being spoiled with so much attention from  Jim.  Lucky girl.  But it sounds like Jim is going to need good luck on his quiz.

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Reading Between the Lines

 

Postmark Jefferson City, MO

February 11, 1930 10 PM

Tuesday

Dear Jim:
I will have to do like you did yesterday, make my letter short.  Mother and I want to go to the show and I will mail this one as we pass the post office.

You should be proud of your grade in Heat Machinery.  I knew you would get along alright.

Jim, I can’t seem to find a date for Henry, but maybe Friday the girl I wanted will decide to play cards with us.  She thinks her friend from out of town will be here.  She won’t be sure until Friday.

One of my little boys who has a bad shoulder is coming to Columbia tomorrow to the Crippled Children’s Hospital.  He is very poor and the state is going to pay for his operations and treatments.

I was surely surprised when you called last night. It seemed good to talk to you.

Jim, if you think you have too much work to do this weekend and should stay in Columbia we can go to Clinton later on.  I don’t mind waiting at all.

This weather is sure grand.  I love to be out all day.  I have to eat lunch at school this week.  I have charge of the lunch room.

Well excuse this short note.  I’ll do better next time.

Sorry you had to go clear downtown to mail my letter.  If you don’t have time, mail it in a box.  I’ll get two letters the next day.
Love,

Mary

Deciphering some of these letters is an exercise in reading between the lines.  This letter is an example of how the subject matter is open to interpretation.

First, there is the subject of the post office.  Based on the opening and closing sentences of Mary’s letter, mailing correspondence from the actual post office seems preferable to dropping notes in mailboxes  (which, by the way, were green in 1930).  Otherwise, why would Jim walk clear downtown to mail Mary her letter?  Their attention to collection times adds to the urgency of their correspondence.  Neither one wants to miss a day, a moment of what is happening in the other’s life when they are not together.

Then there is the good grade in Heat Machinery.  What do I know about heat machinery?  I have a gas stove, a convection oven and a microwave in my kitchen.  There’s the clothes dryer in the laundry room and my hair dryer in the bathroom.  Do hot rollers count?   That’s about the extent of the heat machinery that I operate.  (Notice I didn’t even mention an iron.)  Jim was an engineering major at the University of Missouri.  I had to do a Google search to figure out what in the world the class he got a good grade in might be about.  Heat machinery has to do with steam engines.  What’s a steam engine, you say?  Like most things they’ve been generally replaced with the more modern…unless you happen to be in an old building that still uses a boiler to force heat in the winter.   I’ll spare you the details of turbines and internal combustion because when it comes to reading between the lines, there is only one necessary engine to know and study:  Google.

What to do about Henry?  He is this elusive fellow who always seem to be lurking about the edges of their life.  Is this the friend who introduced Jim to Mary, Mary to Jim?  Clearly, he needs a date.

The little boy who needs surgery for a bad shoulder could be suffering the effects of polio.  He is surely suffering the effects of the Great Depression.  I read this and I am worried for him.  Reading between the lines affects me.

She mentions the phone call and their conversation.  Reading between the lines, they must have discussed visiting Jim’s parents who live in Clinton.  Reading more closely between the lines, could they have been discussing Mary’s first time to meet the parents?  It sounds like the meeting will be postponed until a later time.

Lunch room duty.  Mystery meat.  Quivery green Jell-O.  Spilled milk.   Enough said.

Ready to read some more between the lines…

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New Year, New Love

The single correspondence from 1929 is the letter Mary wrote from the train.  I have searched the letterbox.  Nothing.  Not even a reply from Jim to that letter.  I wonder what happened to that bundle, or were those letters even saved to begin with?  What might they have written?  Mary began to teach school that Fall.  Jim returned to classes at the university, where they probably enjoyed going to a few football games together.  The stock market crash in October plunged the country into the Great Depression.  It was a time of great change and uncertainty.  The relationship between Mary and Jim was changing, too, and one thing is sure.  The letters resume in early January 1930, and it is clear that they are now sweethearts.

The envelope is postmarked January 9, 1930, 11:30 P.M.

Thursday

Dear Mary:
Say-I didn’t mean for you to work all night making candy.  You shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble you did honey.  But, it certainly is good.  I love good homemade candy, and this is really good.  It surely is sweet of you to go to all that trouble for me.  Henry said to tell you that the candy is certainly good.  It just came a few minutes ago, about a half hour after your letter.

It snowed here all last night.  There is about eight or ten inches of snow on the ground now.  Henry and I got up this morning and dressed nice and warm, then went for a nice long walk about fifteen blocks.  It was snowing hard and blowing all of the time.  I felt lots better after I got in.

I think I am going to have to work tomorrow.  I’ll be rather glad to have something to do again for a change.  I wish you didn’t have to get out in it so much though honey.  This will nearly cover you up, won’t it?  Do you have to walk when the snow is as deep as it is now?  I hope not.  I think it would be lots of fun if we could get together and go for a big bobsled ride.  I always did like that.

Really Mary, you are about the sweetest thing I can think of.  I think I would like to have you for good.  No fooling.  I am sure of it.  I wish that I were through with school now.  I am sure things would be different.  They will be when I do get through.  That won’t be very long now, will it?

I’ll write Leon right away.  I’m sorry I couldn’t have thought of that before.  I know just how it is to be away from home with not a soul near that you know.  I was that way for a month last summer out in Lawrence, Kansas.  I never got so lonesome in my life.

There is a hockey game here tonight.  Henry wants to go so I might go to it.  I don’t know yet.  More than likely I’ll stay right here.  He is trying to get a date, and if he does-I won’t have to go.  I hate to get out in this cold unless I am dressed for it.  I can’t go there dressed like I was this morning.

I would like to go a few places with your dad.  I like to travel if I can go on a train.  I don’t care so much for going very long distances on buses or in a car.

I must stop.  Be a good girl.  I hope you don’t fall and hurt yourself.  Thanks again for the lovely candy.

Love,

Jim

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THE Letter, Part Two

No envelope.  No postmark or date, just the heading gives the clue that it was written on a Wednesday night.  August 7 and 14 were Wednesdays in 1929. Mary pens the letter from the train on railroad stationary.  As the Scenic Limited rolls along the tracks through the Rockies toward Missouri, Mary writes that she is on her way home.  Indeed.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad

En Route Through the Rockies

Wednesday Night

Dear Jim:
I am on my way home from California.  We left Long Beach Sunday and went to San Francisco by boat.  I started a letter to you last night and wrote for a long time, but the train was so “rocking” I couldn’t even read it well, and it was so crazy I thought I will try and do better tonight.

You will be surprised to hear from me, but really Jim I have wanted to write you sooner but didn’t have the nerve.  You will be glad I am sure though to hear that I have decided not to ever marry Willis.  He is still sick and when if ever he does get well, I couldn’t think of ever marrying him.  I guess it is all for the best and I’m trying to feel that life isn’t all bad just because I have had hard luck.  I haven’t been able to be myself for a long time and I hope you understand.  I haven’t aimed to treat you wrong Jim.  Perhaps I have been cold and distant but I couldn’t be otherwise.  I have worried and worried over things but now after being away from things this summer and getting my mind off things about Willis I have decided to teach this Fall again and go to the university a year from this Fall.  Perhaps we can graduate together. Willis is at present in the state institution’s care.  He is working there and also being treated.  I haven’t written to him for when I left for the West, I told him goodbye.  He said he didn’t want the ring back but I’ll put it in the bank I think until he is able to take it back.  I really hardly know what is the best thing to do.

I am writing you this because even though I am sure you are not worried as to what I might do, you have always been so true and have understood me so well.  I just wanted to tell you that.  I have never known a boy that had higher ideals than you and in my mind you are surely placed the highest.

I am not writing you this to begin courting or fall in love.  I have had all I want of that for years to come but at least we can be good friends.  I really feel that you got angry at me the last time you were in Jefferson City.  I tried to call you that Sunday to have dinner but couldn’t find you.  I really decided you had gone until I saw you later that week.  I then decided you were off me for life but I am going to send this letter and try and square myself.  If I made you angry I am sorry Jim.  I didn’t want to do that at all.  I just couldn’t get myself together until now.  (This train is awful.)  

Jim, Mother thinks I’m asleep and so does Helen.  We each have a berth so I can stay up a long time.  It was so hot yesterday coming through the desert and this morning the salt beds.  However, it is cool tonight.  I am in my berth with my beach coat on to keep warm.  If you could see me-my face all covered with cold cream and my hair pinned back, I’m a real old mail.

When you come back to school come over and see me or write me some time.

I’ll be coming over to Columbia real often to football games.  Dad always gets season tickets. 

I hope you are not angry with this letter but please forget how I acted in the past year.  I couldn’t be myself.

It is late and I must stop.  Write me when you can and be sure and come over some time this fall.

I have had a grand trip but will be glad to get home and see Dad.  He just returned from England. 

Good night and Good Bye for this time.

Sincerely,

Mary

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