Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1991
Town’s North End Students
Assigned to College Classrooms
By Edwin Grossnickle
Submitted by Orpha J. Weimer
In recent weeks a Manchester College staff member said to me that memories of the 1920s and 1930s may be lost is some of us who experienced those times do not step forward to contribute what we knew. With the plea that other people follow in this endeavor to remember I will step forward.
I have some advantage since I was born in North Manchester (in 1913) and did not move away until 1943. After graduating from Manchester College, I first taught three years at Chester High School. During summer school at the State University of Iowa in 1938, I was surprised when a telegram from President Otho Winger offered me a teaching position at a salary of $1,800. The s$800 increase and the chance to teach at the college seemed an opportunity never to be surpassed for a whole lifetime!
But let’s go back to earlier years. Some may not know that in 1919, when I entered the first grade, the children living in the north end of town were assigned their first six school years to rooms at the college. My first and second grades were in rooms on the main floor of Baumgardner Hall, on the east side of the building, later the library. This arrangement made it convenient to have practice teachers, frequently three in each grade or subject throughout the 12 years of school.
Grade school memories? Yes! While Agnes Kessler was reading a long Thanksgiving story to my third grade class, I was totally concentrating on the story and, without thinking, opened my pocket knife and began carving my initials into the desktop. Suddenly there was total silence as Miss Kessler came to my desk.
“Edwin, what are you doing? Step out in the hall at once!” She wrote a note to Superintendent Humke, located at the old central high school on Fourth Street, and directed me to deliver it to him. I was overcome, almost to insensibility, with fear.
At the superintendent’s office I was pale and clearly trembling. He invited me in and, instead of paddling me as I had expected, I found what surely must be the love of God Himself in that great man’s kindly behavior. With a careful admonition, he patted my shoulder and dismissed me.
At home a comparison was made of my misdemeanor with that told in a story circulating in town concerning college students who in the middle of the night at Halloween forced a cow up the stairways of the administration building to the top floor. Surely, I was told, their crime was so much greater than mine. My childish mind wondered whether they might be hanged.
I recall in those earliest days of my grade schooling the news that change was about to take place on campus. All of the grass and large oak trees west of Baumgardner Hall were to be removed and an administration building erected. In a tower on top chimes were to be installed. Now, that was the talk of the town!
The momentous day of the first playing of the chimes arrived. How wonderful it was to ride my bike from home on East Fifth Street and to stop in front of Mrs. Emma Fair’s house across from the chime tower. No chimes in the cathedrals of Europe in later years ever impressed me so much! The next best time they sounded was on a Sunday morning, March 3, 1935, immediately following my marriage to Fern Dilling in Rev. H.L. Hartsough’s parsonage.
My father, during the Prohibition days, admonished his seven children to stay out of the “dens of sin,” poolrooms. There was one approved place to go—Noah Baker’s shoe repair shop, 200 feet south of College Avenue on the west side of Bond Street. Noah, though unlettered, effervesced a kindly humoring for the ears of loafing kids. To watch him was as much fun as double masticating a 10 cent chocolate marshmallow Sunday at Sala’s Drugstore downtown.
Dr. John Dotterer required an absorption in higher mathematics which required self-possession and most challenging elevation of one’s mind. One day, while lecturing, the professor continued talking as he went to the back of the room to adjust a window shade. As he stretched upward his trousers at the knee caught a radiator escape valve. There was a large rip in two directions. Instead of smiling at the mishap, he leaned over, placed his hand over the torn flap, and proceeded to walk with a limp up and down in the front of the chalkboard. Our stomachs churned with spasms of laughter.
Down the hallway a professor of languages unwittingly simplified the preparation of his students. During most periods he sat at his desk, beard pointed down and back as if he were gazing at his feet. Because of this he was known as the “Sleeping Priest.” Only occasionally did he lift his eyes, so the procedure for some students was to pass translations up and down the rows as each student was called upon. The performance of the class, therefore, was at a commendably high level!
The same professor and his wife agreed to some housecleaning at home one day. An observer walking by wondered how an obvious disagreement was going to be resolved. They were carrying a long stepladder through the front doorway when the person at the front of the ladder began shoving the ladder back out of the house while the person at the back forced the ladder forward. The swinging went back and forth until the back person shoved much harder, and the ladder tore loose. Crash! It slammed into a china closet. At that point the observer on the sidewalk hurried away, almost at a run, as he heard, “You are to blame for this!”
During my junior and senior years I was the college postmaster for mail to students living in the dormitories. The post office was located in the basement of the administration building, adjacent and east of the bookstore as it was then located. My mistake was to take my wife-to-be into the darkened post office in the evenings for the splurge of sharing a five-cent Snickers bar. In due time I received a visit from my boss, L.D. Ikenberry. He said, “Now, young man, I learned that you have taken a girl into the post office in the evenings—and with the lights turned off. That must stop immediately. Is it clear that such will not happen again?”
In May 1935 the seniors went on “Ditch” Day to Lake Maxinkuckee near Culver. It was a surprise to me that some students knew that the day was my birthday. I was kidnapped, taken by strong arms to the scene of my torture, and forced to lean over. A four-foot piece of house siding was the instrument of my punishment from 125 students lined up for their fun.
Now, 50 years later, I find it satisfying to recall the fellowship among the students and faculty family which fulfilled me far more than I had hoped from college. With exhilaration from newborn idealism I wanted to emulate students and faculty who inspired me. I saw life anew in Sadie Wampler’s Shakespeare class and stretched the experience for two more terms. I felt my brain beginning to operate when I was introduced to inductive reasoning. By observation and absorption I grasped the great importance of religion when I associated those who lived their religion. I am grateful now, more than ever, for the distinct contribution which Manchester College makes to its students.
[Note: We were good friends with the Grossnickles when he taught at Manchester College. When I found he had written about his family beginnings in Cass and Carroll Counties where I grew up, I wrote to buy a copy and suggested he write memories of interest to the Newsletter. With my copy of his book was this article. OJW]