Mom: College and Career

Last year on this date, I combed through pictures my mother had saved to present some of her life in the 40s, up through the time she graduated from high school in 48. This April 12, I’m continuing where I left off.

Mom pledged Delta Zeta her first year at the University of Kentucky, though she never activated. This photo is unlabeled, but Mom (third from the left in the back row) looks awfully young here–I’m guessing these are the DZs of 48-49.



She did attend quite a few sorority/fraternity formal affairs her first two years at UK:


These are fascinating artifacts: dance cards. It appears that these functions typically had six featured dances; in many, Mom was fully booked for the evening and in four of them, ‘Bob’ got two, usually the first and last. He seems to have been a member of Phi Kappa Tau.



Mom’s best friends at UK majored, as she did, in elementary education. The two I know by sight are Betty Jane Webb and Alice Gentry; one or both must have been in Zeta Tau Alpha.  Here are the three of them at a social function of some sort (Alice is in the middle).



I dig everything about this picture: the furniture, the drapes, the clothes. The woman on the right appears in several photos Mom kept–I wish I knew who she was.



Another one with Alice; this time, I think she’s with her future husband. This might be Bob hanging with Mom. It’s the only picture I have with her hair done this way.



There’s not a lot in the record to show what happened to her over the last two years at UK, but she made it through!



Mom (left end of second row) spent her first five years after UK teaching third grade in Louisville; Alice (middle of the front row) was at the same school, and they roomed together for a while. This is undated, but it’s from some point in the mid-50s.



Alice got married and began a family, so in 57 Mom decided to move to Fairborn, OH, where her younger sister Nancy was teaching at South Elementary School. That’s Aunt Nancy immediately to the left of Mom. She continued as a third-grade teacher.



Not surprisingly, there are vacation photos from this period, generally from Florida. Here she is with Betty Jane; the flip folder with this picture says it’s from 53.



This is from a trip to Ft. Lauderdale with my grandparents–I really have a hard time imagining Mom embracing this moment.



She took a trip to FL with Betty Jane and her parents in 58. I guess it’s the Webbs’ dog?



In 55 my grandparents bought “the old stone house” on US 42 in Union, KY. This photo isn’t really part of my narrative, but I think it’s pretty cool anyway. I wonder if one of the 8mm reels I inherited contains what Mom is filming here.



Betty Jane grew up with Mom in Erlanger and took a teaching job in Lexington after graduating. We visited her semi-regularly over the years. Betty Jane never married and lived with her mother and her cats in a house on the south side of Lexington; she died of lung cancer my first year at Transy at age 52.

Mom had maintained contact with Alice (now Williams) through the years, mostly Christmas cards. After Mom died in March 15, I called her to give her the news; she had wondered if something had happened after not hearing from Mom in December. About a year later, I arranged to visit Ms. Williams–I don’t recall ever meeting her before. I took many pictures with me, including some of those shown above, in hopes that she could help me identify folks. Unfortunately, she’d suffered macular degeneration and wasn’t able to do much (though she tried). Nonetheless, we had a delightful afternoon together, and I enjoyed hearing about my mother’s (and her good friend’s) past life.

Mom stayed at South Elementary for five years. In the summer of 61, she was introduced to my father, who was living in Ludlow, KY, just over the river from Cincinnati. They soon began a serious courtship that resulted in marriage in early July of 62. Mom taught one last year at a school near Ludlow; by its end someone was just beginning to be on his way.

Fairborn, OH, is right next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Uncle George (Aunt Nancy’s husband) worked as a civilian engineer there; my cousin Mark followed in his father’s footsteps. The one thing I can remember Mom telling me about her time at South was the year, perhaps her last there, she had the son of eventual astronaut Ed White as a student. White was one of the three astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 fire in January 67.

Mom kept four composite photos of her South students. The ones from 58-59 and 60-61 are of the headshot variety I had when I was in elementary school, but those of 57-58 and 59-60 were taken in the classroom. Here is the latter of those.


It’s a magnificently detailed and clear photo, taken sometime in February of 60. Students’ art work hanging above the blackboard, posters about dental health next to the calendar, and those expressions on some of the kids’ faces! It absolutely makes me want to know their stories. Those still living are in their late 60s now.


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