AS I REMEMBER IT
Vivian Lavern Wilson Starr
"Grandma, you have an interesting story to tell about everything!"
So, This is my "interesting story" I have to tell about me, - Vivian
Dear Starr Children and Grandchildren,
Donna has asked me to write memories of my childhood. In the event that others may be interested, too, copies will be made, and will be available.
I think of my roots as going back to the Alps of Switzerland where my Grandfather and Grandmother Grossen were married and started their family. They were sturdy farm people who came to believe that the best place to rear a family would be in America. With great determination they packed their few belongings and gathered up their three little girls, - my mother-to-be, Margaretta, and her two younger sisters, Susie and Mary, and traveling “steerage” because of their small amount of money, finally arrived in New York, and continued to Alliance, Ohio, where they were met by Swiss friends who had consented to act as their sponsors.
My mother was five years old at this time, and clutched in her arms a beautiful little doll given to her in Switzerland by an aunt. This doll, with its lovely china head, leather hands, and saw-dust body, is one of my most treasured possessions.
My grandparents settled near Alliance where they helped their friend with his farm, and where Grandpa was at times a master cheese maker. Eventually they were able to buy their own farm near New Waterford, Ohio. Here they raised their large family of seven children. This farm was largely paid for by the very clean, delicious butter which my Grandmother made and sold to the store in New ford for a special price.
My mother wrote in an early diary that at the age of ten years she left home to live with and work for an elderly lady, and that after that time she was never at home for a very long time, because she preferred to be independent and earn her own way! She stopped going to school at the end of her seventh grade, but she never stopped learning. She always had her little black dictionary nearby, and could out-spell her college-graduate children who often asked her for help.
My father's family was a mixture of Scotch, Irish and English. His parents lived on a farm near Alliance on South Union and were vegetable farmers. Later, my grandfather became a business man in Alliance, operating a thriving building supply business, paving streets, building sewers, and similar activities. He owned considerable property and was considered very prosperous. His home was improved until it seemed quite luxurious, and Grandma often had a black lady working for her. Grandpa was a tall, heavy man who seemed huge to a little child. My father, who worked for him and was much more average, and was called the “Little Boss”, while Grandpa was the "Big Boss". When the Big Depression came along, my grandfather was very nearly wiped out, like many other prosperous business men. My beloved dainty little Grandma Wilson and Grandpa Wilson, alone and almost poor, but constantly cared for by my father, died in his own home. The home was sold and the money used to pay the last of Grandpa’s creditors. Happily, the new owners have kept the Wilson home in beautiful condition.
My parents were married in the farm home of Mother’s parents. It had been decorated with ferns and flowers from the woods, and a dozen red roses which my father brought. They went to housekeeping in a small home in Mount Union which my father had made ready by having the stoves set up and the blinds hung at the windows, my mother recorded in her diary. It was the 26th day of November, 1898.
My brother, Lorin was born the next year in September. He would be eight years older than I, and he would become very dear and special to me because he wrote me letters when he was a soldier, and paid attention to me when he came home on leave. How excited we all were when the armistice was signed on Nov. 11 1918 because Lorin would soon come home from the terrible war in Europe. Instead of great joy, we were to know only heart-breaking grief, for he had been killed in the Battle of the Argonne weeks before. It was my first experience with death.
Olin was born the next year in November, 1900. He and I have always been good friends. I think we all walked a little taller with pride because he became a doctor. As a heart specialist, he cared gently for our mother through her last three years and he gave strength and guidance and comfort to Leighton and me through the sad years that Leighton was losing his sight (Olin’s and Jo’s only child, John, was blind, so he understood.)
It gives a child a delightful feeling of being very Special to know she has been longed for and waited for! For five years my parents wanted a daughter, and when I finally arrived on March 3, 1907, there was great rejoicing, I was told. I was the first Grossen granddaughter, and the little picture of my sweet Grandma Grossen holding me when I was about ten months old, became a real inspiration to me many years later when I was struggling to achieve my Masters Degree from Kent University. I was fifty years old, teaching during the winter, studying in the summer while entertaining guests and running the household. I would mutter to myself, “It is too much. I can't do it! I would look at that little picture of Grandma Grossen and remember what she did for her family. We needed the extra money a Masters would bring to help Gordon finish college and go to Graduate School. Besides, I shouldn’t be the only one in our family without a Masters should I?... “ If she could, so can I." And I did.
The place of my birth was a nice frame house on the south side of State Street, east of Union. Babies were born at home in those days, and “old Doctor Hoover" was the doctor who assisted. He also took care of us through our childhood diseases, the most frightening of which was my whooping cough when I was ten months old. With nothing to prevent it and no medicine to cure it, it was a disease all parents dreaded, for a tiny throat could close and strangle the baby. There were times when it seemed I could never breath again, but my father would rush me out into the cold winter night where the shock of frigid air would make me gasp for air, and my breathing would begin again. It was a dreadful time for the young parents.
My parents were so proud of the spacious brick home which they planned and on East State just outside of Alliance. The white barn housed our horse, Nellie, and a cow which supplied our milk. A flock of chickens, with their sweet fresh straw, their daily supply of fresh eggs to be gathered from their neat egg boxes, and the setting hens and fluffy baby chicks each spring were a constant source of food and interesting activities. The young orchard of many kinds of fruit trees; the large garden my mother always tended; the pasture for Nellie, the cow and her yearly calf, and later a flock of sheep and a pony; the woods at the far end of our farm with a creek for swimming, - all these things, and many more made a wonderful place for children to play and work. We all helped with the gardening, the canning, the care of the large lawn, and the beautiful flowers which were my mother’s special joy. We had a good home and a happy childhood.
Our parents were gentle and quiet in their rearing of us. They never raised their voices. A sad look from my mother when I had displeased her was punishment enough. I remember the last time that she spanked me. I was quite young, -still taking naps. I had learned to lace and tie my high shoes. On this memorable day Mother had told me not to come to the barn after my nap until I had laced and tied my shoes,-she would be out there milking our cow. Perversely, I walked to the barn with shoe strings dangling, and I was spanked. It was a lesson long remembered, as you can see.
We lived in the country, just beyond the city limits; and I had no playmate, so my parents decided to provide one for me. Again they waited a long time, and I was nearing my fifth birthday when the new baby was to arrive. My mother, very advanced for her times, told me all about the coming playmate, and I was so excited, because NOW would have someone with whom I could PLAY HORSE! But, alas and alack! When I saw my new sister for the first time, she was only a tiny baby! And no one could play horse with THAT! It was my first great disappointment! But, as Arwilda and I grew older, we had many good times together.
We never had very much money, but we never felt poor. One of the times when we felt positively rich was each fall, early, before cold weather, when the coal man came with a great load of coal. He shoveled it into a long chute that reached into the basement coal room, and when he had finished, we had a beautiful mountain of coal that would keep us warm through the long winter. We were truly rich. We were also rich when I finally had a bran new pair of shoe strings for my high shoes, and I could throw away that old pair that was full of knots. How quick and easy it was for a child to lace up those shoes each morning when there were no knots.
Although our house had electricity, any storm was likely to quickly disrupt our service, so we always had a lamp cupboard at the landing on our stairway. The lamps were always shined and filled with oil, because the electricity might be off for several hours or days.
My Dad was a very modern person, too, and he bought an electric washing machine for my mother. He liked to boast that it was the first one sold in Alliance, and he was slightly disgruntled when he learned that it was really the second. This fine electric washer had an inner basket made of wooden slats with spaces between them for the water to flow in and out. This cylinder revolved electrically through hot soapy water, thereby cleaning the clothes inside. The clean clothes went through a wringer into a tub of fresh rinse water, where we whished them around, put them through the wringer again into another tub of rinse water. Rinsed again by hand, put through the wringer again, piece by piece, and finally in the clothes basket to be hung on the line for drying. In the winter our basement was warm from the furnace, making a fine place to dry clothes. We were really rich. In the summer, the warm sun and drying wind made clothes smell fresh and clean.
Our good horse, Nellie, furnished our transportation until I was about twelve years old, at which time Dad bought our first car. Nellie pulled our surrey which carried our whole family nicely to Grandma Wilson's on Sundays or my Dad's other relatives. Sunday mornings we always went to Sunday School and church,- all of us, that is, but my Dad. Dad said the Masons were his church, and, to my Mother's sorrow, he never went with us. But he never opposed our going. We never said we did not want to go. It was just understood that on Sundays we went to church. We always went to the Mount Union Avenue Methodist Church, where Mother was the Sunday School superintendent for twenty-five years. As we grew older, we children took part in the Epworth League for young people. And still later on, for one year after I graduated from college, I taught school deep in the Kentucky mountains at the Henderson Settlement School,- a mission school of the Methodist church. Mother's Ladies Aid group of women enthusiastically sent me many things for my school,- it was exciting for them to have a little Home Missionary from their very own church.
Sundays were carefully observed at our house. It was unthinkable that anyone would sew or wash clothes or clean on the Lord's Day. We kept the day as was intended,- a day of rest, of going to church, and of visiting our friends and relatives. In the summer, Mother would put together the makings for home made ice cream, and while we were at church Dad would get the ice and freeze the ice cream in our home freezer. What a delight to eat a heaping dish of that ice cream, made with milk from our cow, and eggs from our chickens, and tasting so cold and sweet!
But the memories my Mother had of Sundays in her home made our Sunday observances seem very lax. In her childhood, on Sunday no one dared to clean and shine his shoes for church! That should have been taken care of on Saturday! If some child had forgotten, he had to wear his shoes to church the way they were!
My Mother remembered her father calling his children to watch the beauties of a storm and the wonders of lightning. Instead of being frightened, they learned to marvel. Mother was sensitive to beauties of all nature, and taught it to us all. I remember her sending me on my bicycle to ride to the top of our eastern hill in the early morning to watch the sun rise. We watched the birds build their nests, the butterflies, the caterpillars, the buds of roses unfolding,- everything was beautiful in its own way!
We had a large rhubarb patch from which we all had our first taste of business. I would call the groceries in our vicinity and ask for orders when I would come home from school. Then I would pull the rhubarb, tie four or five stalks together into a " bunch" , and then tie twelve bunches together into "a dozen". It was often cold, wet work. Early the next morning all this rhubarb was loaded into our pony wagon, the pony hitched up, and away I would go to deliver .my produce. The money was mine to bank for college. There was never any question about what the money would be used for, or whether I would go to college. It was always," When you go to college,..." I never heard," if you go to college,..." We were very fortunate to have a college within walking distance of home, for we could live at home, and somehow find money for our tuition. I think the rhubarb patch helped all of us get at least a start. I know I had quite a tidy little sum saved for the time I needed it.
We all went to Mount Union except Lorin, who had no inclination toward books, much to my parents' disappointment, for they thought that a good education was the greatest thing a person could have. Lorin dropped out of high school to work on uncle Will’s farm, as I remember it. I know he was brought home from there after he was terribly injured in a manure spreader accident. There were no tetanus shots, no antibiotics at that time. I know we almost lost him. Mother worked and prayed as never before to nurse him through that dreadful time. But finally, he fully recovered. Later, in 1917, he was caught up in the fever of the war and thought he had to go forth and fight to make the world safe for democracy, as did thousands of other brave, dedicated young men. And he was killed in the war. I was eleven years old then and I could not accept the fact of his death. For a long time afterward, as I would stand in the kitchen drying the dishes, I would look out the west window, up the road, watching for Lorin. I felt sure that he would come home, walking down that road someday.
Mother had such a high regard for education that she did not want us to miss a day of school. I know that I went to many mornings when I had a sore throat, but first, I would receive a treatment of powdered sulphur that was blown into my throat by way of a little paper funnel. It was terrible. Money was scarce, so we went to a doctor only when the illness or injury was serious and beyond the help of home remedies.
Often we walked through deep snow to get to school. There were no school buses for us, nor for the country children who lived far out beyond us. We would plod through the deep drifts, and hope that someone had driven up the road making tracks for us to follow. Mother had made us leggings which buttoned up the side, and which kept our legs warm and dry. (We wore long black stockings, of course, over long underwear. There were no such thing as blue jeans or pants for little girls.) Coming home from school we could wade through the great drifts along the road, and after we had arrived home, and warmed up at our radiators, we could go out sled riding or tobogganing. Across the road from our home was a marvelous place to sled ride. It was steep and winding and dangerous. Arms had been broken on that hill, so it was always thrilling and exciting to plunge downward, throwing ourselves onto our sleds after a fast run. Maybe, if we steered just right, we might go as far as the creek. It was great fun!
To toboggan, we had to have weather that was just right: we needed plenty of snow plus a light rain on top which has frozen. Then we pulled our toboggan to the top of the long gentle slope on our neighbor's field next door, loaded every one on, and the lasts person pushed until we started on a swift ride to the bottom. How exhilarating! Again and again we would climb, pulling the heavy toboggan. Again and again we flew to the bottom! Then finally home, cold and wet, to the welcome warmth of the radiators where we spread our wet clothes to dry.
Every summer we had our Chautauqua that brought culture into our lives. The big tent was raised on some empty lots on Arch Street. Our money was saved for season tickets for us all. We walked, or drove our horse and buggy, and carried a little lunch if we for more than one program. Here we saw for the first time, on a stage, plays, musicals, lectures, shows of magic, puppets, operettas, - the many exciting things in the world of entertainment. For one week each summer we sat enthralled through these wonderful programs which fed our spirits throughout the year.
The circuses!! Every summer when the circus came to town and first paraded along Main Street, we were always there, peeking around and between people, trying to see every elephant and tiger and clown and beautiful lady on a fine horse! The bands were glorious, and the whole spectacle was to be dreamed of and remembered from one year to the next. Many times we went to the afternoon performance under the big tent, and dreamed of some day being down there and performing, too. We loved the circus so much that we made a little one of our own in our barn. One year when our mow was full of fresh, sweet hay, our Mother, and perhaps our Father, too, managed to fasten strong clothes-line like rope to the top of the barn, with broom-stick bars, making wonderful trapezes, upon which we played by the hour, until one day, in another year, when the mow was empty of hay except for some bales of hay on the floor, I fell from my trapeze and landed on a bale of hay, knocking my breath out of me. I got to my feet, unable to take a breath. I went outside in the cold air, hoping that would help, but nothing happened, - I could not breathe. It was frightening,-very frightening. I tried to relax and not panic and just wait for nature. After what seemed a long time, but was probably only a few awful seconds bits of air started entering my lungs, and then larger bits, and finally breathing became normal again. That must have been the end of my circus ambitions.
Grace Johnson was my only playmate when I was quite young. She lived up on State Street, part way to my State Street school. Grace's mother and my mother were friends, and they decided that, for our best interests, we should play together for only one hour at a time. That hour went by so quickly, but we never quarreled, and we have remained friendly to this day. She had beautiful side-walks for roller skating, and I had things in the country that she must remember with pleasure. After several years we both began taking piano lessons from Miss Yaggi, and we played duets together. When Grace, began taking violin lessons, I accompanied her on the piano. I eventually studied violin, As we progressed, the two of us could .be counted on to provide entertainment for the Ladies Aid Meetings, the Missionary Society meetings, and similar institutions. I continued piano lessons for six years, and have continued playing for my personal pleasure all these years.
The story of my piano acquisition is a touching one. My Dad and Mother decided it was time for me to have a piano, but they did not have enough money at that time, so they went to their bank and asked to borrow $300.00 in order to buy one. The bank had never had such a request, and, to properly consider it, a special meeting was called of the bank board. After considerable discussion, one member of the Board observed that if a man wanted to borrow $ 300.00 so that his little girl could have a piano, that man must be a very good risk, and so the loan was granted, and I received my new Knabe piano. (It should be here recorded that the loan was repaid on schedule!) I loved to practice, and my parents enjoyed hearing me play. And that piano has been in each house that we have owned or rented, and continues to give me pleasure!
I am sure that the fifty cents for each piano lesson was not always easy to have on hand. My father' s work was always regular in the summer, but many winters went by when he was out of work for months. My mother always made our clothes, and she always had a fruit room well stocked with canned fruit, canned vegetables, often canned meat, baskets of fragrant apples, bushels of potatoes, carrots and celery stored in mounds of earth, and heads of cabbage that stayed fresh for some time. The fruit room was the one room in the basement with an earth floor, so it stayed cool for preserving food. With our cow, and our chickens furnishing us eggs and Sunday chicken dinners, we ate very well with a small outlay of money.
Some time along the way I started taking violin lessons. We bought a good used violin, and I took lessons from Professor Oppenheim at the Mount Union Conservatory of Music. As a result, I invited to play in Professor Alliance Symphony Orchestra. However, after rehearsing with the a few times, I concluded that my teacher had over-estimated my skills, and I stopped. Other things became more important, and after high school, I seldom played the violin.
There was one very black experience I had with my piano playing, The Camp Fire Girls of Alliance were having a big program in the Memorial Hall gymnasium at Mount Union College. My group had carefully prepared a pretty dance routine, with me playing the piano. I had thoroughly memorized my music, and so did not take it with me. But, when I walked alone out on that great empty floor, and sat down at that piano alone, with that sea of faces watching just me, and I put my hands on the piano, the keys looked totally strange. I could not find the right place to begin. The girls came out on the floor ready to dance. I had to start playing something. I did not know what I played. How the girls danced, I do not know. Finally they stopped, and as we walked back to our seats, someone whispered to me, "Oh, Vivian, how could you?" I did not answer, but just kept on walking right out of the building and right on home through the dark night, alone, feeling more miserable than I had ever felt before. The incident was never mentioned to me again by anyone, but I still feel vividly my humiliation when ever I think of that black night.
When I was ten years old, my baby brother, Elvin, was born, and he was a delight, - and still is! Although he towers over me now, I still like to call him my baby brother. He added fun and sparkle to our home. He was good-natured and healthy and a beautiful addition to our family. Years later, after Mother had died and Dad and I were having a good visit, reminiscing about this and that, he recalled the day he had come home from work and was sitting in the living room, reading the paper, still in his work clothes, and Mother came to him, put her arms around his neck, and said, "Dan, I want to have another baby!" Elvin was that baby. He was to be a great comfort to our parents, for he was there with them in their final illnesses.
When I was a freshman in high school we went to Florida for the winter. Olin was going to Union and remained there. Our Dodge was outfitted for camping, and we started in October, camping out all the way, and taking six weeks to make the trip. We did stay a week or so in several places. I was allowed to drive part of the way if I drove only twenty-five miles an hour. Dad was recovering from a serious mastoid operation and needed a warm climate. It was a fine winter for him, fishing and resting, but a difficult one for Mother as she tried to keep house with very few conveniences. I did not make friends easily and was homesick for my own school and friends back home. But Dad and I did have fun fishing together. On the way back home in the spring we camped again along a creek in a pasture where we had stopped in the fall. It was believed that Dad had lost his watch along that creek, so he searched in the sand, and, to the amazement of all, he really found his watch and it really ran again after the watch repair man had cleaned it!
Most farm families had oilcloth on their tables for mealtimes, but we always had a white tablecloth. This went back to our parents' courting days. I believe. Dad's family was not very happy about having Mother for a daughter-in-law because she was a "foreigner". and so she felt driven to prove that she was as fine an American as the Wilsons were. Having a white tablecloth was a symbol which we all subconsciously aspired to emulate. Mother's English was excellent, and her speech was exemplary. Never did we hear an off-color joke nor were crude words tolerated. She preferred "children" to "kids","diaper" to "didy", and "stomach" to "belly". She never could bring herself to say "bull", but said instead "father cow". Many years later, at my school's retirement party for me, a teacher friend said to me, "Vivian, you are such a lady!" I thanked her for her kind words, and said that my Mother would be glad to hear her say that because she had surely tried!
My Father was careful of his speech, too. His grammar may not have been the greatest, but we never heard him swear. although as a bricklayer and stonemason surely worked among rough-speaking men. My father had the most beautiful handwriting, and he used to draw fancy birds for us. Whenever I doodle I make the one bird of Dad's which he taught me to draw. He had taken a course in penmanship at Mount Union College in order to better help his father in his building supply business in the days before typewriters were common. Dad also taught me how to start a fire by making a small tepee of little dry sticks, and then gradually adding larger ones,- a valuable bit of knowledge at times. He showed me the correct way to repair a plug on the sweeper cord,- a bit of skill that really amazed and delighted the mother of my best friend when I was about fourteen. Her sweeper would not work, and I repaired it! She couldn't believe it!
My Dad taught me many other things that I was not really aware of, such as how to take care of my many rabbits, take care of my pony, and my sheep. I know he was a quiet guide, and always supportive of whatever I wanted to do, except for one unforgettable experience. I was in college and had decided on a pre-medics course and thought I must have a knowledge of German in order to succeed. My Dad, unexpectedly refused to allow me to study German. The Germans had killed his son, he said, and no daughter of His would learn to speak their language. I was deeply hurt, and he was adamant, saying that if I persisted in studying German, he would no longer pay for my college education! Since I could think of no other way to finance my college work, I gave in and studied French instead. But, from that time on, I carried a grudge against my father for many years. I never told him how I felt,- I just avoided talking with him. He surely felt my coldness and was saddened, but in my self-centeredness of those years, I never thought of him and his feelings.
Years later, after we were married and had little children, and after my Mother died, my Father and I became very close and were very good friends, and I deeply regretted our lost years when we should have been having a warm father-daughter relationship.
After Mother's death, Dad was acutely lonely, and came often to visit at our house. He also found companionship with a second cousin, Mary Pauline Borton, who was in her forties (Dad was in his early sixties), and who loved to talk. She was well educated and very well read, and she helped relieve his loneliness. To my complete surprise, he called one evening, excited as a teenager, to say that he and "Pauline" were married! We had always known her as "Mary", but this was his romantic name for her. Although we children privately resented another woman in Mother's home, we made her welcome, and Dad appreciated that. It was a good marriage for both of them which lasted about three years until Dad died quietly and easily in his sleep; thinking he had a touch of flu, but it was a heart attack. Whereupon I had one of the most traumatic of all my experiences.
Dad died in April, 1943, and, since Olin was a Major in the Army, stationed in Denver, he could not perform his duties as executor, and I became executrix of Dad's estate. That would have been quite simple, since Dad's estate was small, and the laws of Ohio are very explicit that the widow receives most of the estate. However, a shyster lawyer neighbor of Mary's, and Mary's deteriorating mental condition caused the situation to become a nightmare. I was to learn that Mary had been acting strangely for some time and that Dad had been so concerned that he had consulted his doctor. The day of the funeral, she had said some outrageous things, and that night she came in bed with me after first placing her father's Knights of Columbus sword in bed, lengthwise, between us! She started to talk, and talked non-stop all night! I knew then that something was very wrong. I consulted the doctor who thought it might be a temporary derangement which could be cured by several months in a mental hospital, to which someone would have to commit her. I talked with her relatives, but they refused to become involved. So, I had to go to court for the proper papers, find a mental hospital that would accept her, and take her there. She was rational enough to understand that something was wrong, that she needed help, and this hospital was recommended by her doctor. But, when I heard those doors close behind her, and heard the locks fall into place, I felt terrible. I can't describe the sadness that engulfed me.
Mary did recover, and did leave after three months, but she always hated me for what I had done to her. After her doctor told me that it was possible for her to become homicidal, I was afraid of her for a long time, thinking she might come to our home and harm me. I never saw her again, but Elvin, who bought Dad's home, often saw her, gave her fruit, and kept in touch. She had her own home, and later married.
As for the shyster lawyer: he determined that according to the laws of Ohio, I could not be Mary's guardian because I did not live in her county,- Stark, but lived in Geauga county. He applied for and was granted guardianship of Mary, and so handled all of her money, and, of course, received his share which was strictly determined by law. My guess is that he was disappointed. Under the difficult circumstances, it was probably the best thing for me.
Now to return to earlier years. I went to Alliance High School in 1924, and had a great time, especially with my debating teams. Doug King, who would become a doctor, Kenneth McFall who would become a college president, Leo Battin who would become an important person in the Cleveland Schools, and I were the debaters. Two girls joined us to make a "gang". As debaters we traveled around to different schools for debates, and other schools came to our school. As a gang we had picnics and little parties together, and it was just fun. We never dated each other, but the class officers were mostly from this group, and, as seniors, I guess we thought we just about ran the school. I fell in love with Doug King, whose tousled unkept curls, and clothes that looked like a disaster had struck1, belied his lovely mother and doctor father. I was crushed when I learned that he was regularly dating a rich girl from the next town. I was a late bloomer when it came to dating,- in fact, I had only one date in high school, and that was when Doug King took me to the Junior-Senior Prom. It was a total disappointment.
Without realizing it, Olin had helped to pave the way for me to have a very happy beginning at Mount Union College in 1924. Sororities and fraternities were a very important part of the social life at Mount. Olin was a Sig Alph, and he was also a doctor, which gave me definite status with the Tri Delts, so they "rushed" me by inviting me to their parties. My Aunt Esther was a member of the Alpha Xis, so they rushed me, as it would be embarrassing to lose me to their rivals, the Tri Delts. The other two sororities rushed me, also, probably just because the first two did. All this was exciting and flattering. Happily, I decided to become an Alpha Xi, and I still enjoy many of the good friendships I made there.
Another happy decision I made was to take a science degree, for this was to lay a foundation for a life-time of interest in science which has given me such pleasure. I did take a pre-medics course, and I did plan to become a doctor, but falling in love with Leighton changed those plans fortunately, and we married and have lived happily ever afterward.
Soon after I started to Mount I began to have dates, so, being a late bloomer was all right after all. I went out with this one and that one until the spring, when Lloyd Swan, a senior, invited me, a freshman, to his Senior Prom! This was quite special, I thought, and we dated for over a year, much to the concern of my parents. Lloyd had a job teaching, a nice car, and became insistant that I make a definite commitment. I finally realized this would be a great mistake, so that was ended, and my parents started sleeping better at night! After that I went out with a number of different Phi Taus, all good friends, and we just all had a good time together at dances, little parties, movies, and even coasting parties, ending up at our house for something to eat.
One night Leighton was the Phi Tau I went with, and when he brought me home, he asked me if I would marry him! Totally surprised by this unexpected proposal, I said no, that he was just one of the boys, - no, that I never would marry him. But after he had gone, and I stood there thinking, the conviction swept over me that this was the man whom I would marry! But I was not in love with him! But Leighton was persistent, and we had many dates, - he even turned down a fine principal's job that required that he remain in town during the weekends. He preferred to attend to his courting! So, he continued teaching in Carrollton and coming often to see me. I did fall in love! And we announced our engagement at a Phi Tau Winter Dance, during my senior year. My parents were delighted! Leighton's parents were equally pleased.
At Mount Union I was on the debate team,- the only woman, and, again, had a great time traveling from school to school, debating this and that important issue of the day. I also belonged to a Gospel Team that went around to different churches that needed someone to take the services for awhile. When I was a junior I surprised myself and everyone else when I won the State Women's Oratorical Contest at Ohio Wesleyan College. I bought my first watch with my prize money. When I graduated from Mount I gave the Science Oration at Senior Class Day. My subject was Leprosy, and someone remarked that Vivian Wilson could make the dullest subject sound interesting. But I had found it quite fascinating.
A month after my graduation, Leighton drove me in his Model T Ford to Pineville, Kentucky, where we boarded a coal train for a two-hour ride up into the mountains. We then walked for another two hours through the mountains to a Methodist Mission School called Henderson Settlement School. It was a large, white, spacious school and church building with rooms for teachers and boarding students. This would be my home until May 15th when I would return home, to be married on the first day of June. Hidden in these mountains, moonshine stills flourished and feuds were common, and little children needed help.
I loved my winter at the Settlement. I loved our total isolation, I loved the beauty of the mountains, the unique adventures that came our way, and the mountain people. Leighton's and Mother's frequent letters kept me from being lonesome. By going there for the year, I satisfied my feeling of obligation to perform a specific Christian service.
My beautiful white wedding dress was completed (I had made it) by mid-May when I returned home to a joyful reunion. We were married on the first day of June by our Methodist minister, Dr. Hilbury, as we stood in front of a bank of flowers which my father had asked a florist to arrange in front of our corner fireplace. Our talented neighbor, Evelyn Stahler, from the Mount Union Conservatory, played the Wedding March as we came down our long steps. My Wilson Grandparents and Leighton's family and my family were our guests. Two of my sorority sisters helped Mother serve a wedding dinner which she had prepared. It was a lovely wedding.
Leighton had hidden his Model T Ford in Grandpa Wilson's barn, but his fraternity brothers had ferreted out the secret and had painted all over the car, "JUST MARRIED", and they also stole the key! Finally, we evaded our tormentors and, were on our way to an unknown, unplanned honeymoon destination, with the first stop at a hotel in Youngstown. We had a luxurious bridal suite, which was fun, but which jolted Leighton financially in the morning when he paid for it, because he had borrowed money in order to 'get married! (Although he had taught for two years, he had had college debts to pay, and his father had needed help with payments on his farm.) But, we compensated with simpler accommodations thereafter, and ended up spending the summer at Rice Lake in Canada honeymooning one month, and Leighton working on the farm the next two months.
It was a beautiful beginning to a long and happy marriage, forty-seven years of which we have enjoyed at the time I am writing this paper.
This has been fun to write! It has stirred up memories of many things which I had forgotten. There are many other little
bits and pieces which I now wish I had included, but this is enough. I hope you may have found pleasure in reading it, and will write a similar tale of your own life.
Written with love,