Monday, March 2, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - Howard Matthews' Story #13 - More from Wyoming Seminary

1928 Franklin

In the 13th installment of my grandfather's story he recounts more of his time at Wyoming Seminary, and his preparations for Wesleyan University.

Towards the end of my senior year at Wyoming Dr. Sprague asked me if I possessed evening clothes and if not, would I care to come to his home that evening to try on a tuxedo and full-dress outfit that had belonged to a wealthy resident of Wilkes-Barre, now deceased. The idea of wearing a dead man's clothing did not exactly enthuse me, but upon Dr. Sprague's insisting that a man shouldn't go to college without proper clothing, I agreed to appear and in due course I stripped to my underwear in the Sprague parlor and tried them on.  They did fit fairly well and only slight alteration would be needed, so I became the proud owner of the two outfits and I wore them at Wesleyan Glee Club concerts and dances my first two years of college.  Eventually they wore out and I never again possessed more than a tuxedo for formal wear.

My roommates in the Belfry suite were Ben Cowan, who was a member of the Varsity football squad and Business Manager of the yearbook; and Ted Hughes with whom I roomed at Wesleyan also. Ted was the school electrician at Seminary and one of his duties was to pull the switch at 10 pm, the official lights out time in the dormitory rooms. Out of sympathy for us older fellows who couldn’t go to sleep that early the wiring for the Belfry suite became mixed up with the hall lights circuit, adding an extra hour of light to our work days.

The three of us were a little older than most of the students but this did not deprive us of either the normal horseplay that went on or the assessed penalties that were meted out. Water fights were a favorite late evening sport. One evening as we were throwing water bombs at the boys who roomed in the back wing of our dorm, one of our bombs hit a faculty member who was just arriving for the 10 pm bed-check. We were summoned to the President’s office the next day. The President asked which one of us hurled the bomb that hit the Professor and when there was no answer he said he would have to throw all three of us out of school. We then explained that since all three were throwing we didn’t know which one hit him. Thereupon Doc gave us 10 demerits apiece and told us to walk them off by doing “guard duty” on the back campus. This kept us too busy to get off campus during the hours between end of classes and dinner time.

Eight men from the class of 1924 chose to go to Wesleyan: Bennett, Bittenbender, Bronson, Hughes, Matthews, Olmstead, Price and Stone.

I prepared financially for Wesleyan by selling Fuller Brushes. In ten weeks I was able to clear $750. Fortunately, my brother Charles and his good wife Nellie provided me free room and board that summer and each following summer of my college career. At that time Wesleyan’s tuition fee was $400 and I was given a half scholarship, but with the added costs of  a room in Clark Hall, books, clothing, travel, etc. my $750 was soon over-committed. Fortunately I was pledged to a wonderful fraternity, Phi Nu Theta (Eclectic), the oldest of the 12 then at Wesleyan, and earned my meals by waiting on table in its dining club, 3 meals a day, 7 days per week. I continued that job in my sophomore year and then was elected Steward of the Eating Club for the next two years. This involved billing and collecting the weekly board fee from our members, paying the staff and the bills of the food suppliers.  Thus my food was earned the entire four years. The rest of my cash needs were my by summer jobs and loans.

One of my Fuller Brush customers in Carbondale was Mrs. W.A. Manville, a well-to-do widow. When I delivered her order she asked whether I could drive a car as she had just lost her chauffeur. So for the remaining few weeks of the summer of 1924 I did part-time driving for her. In the spring of the next year (my first at Wesleyan) she wrote and asked if I would drive her full-time the following summer. I demurred, saying that my summer earnings had to be at least $750. She replied that she would pay me that much, so I accepted and drove for her each summer for 4 years. This helped me not only financially but also educationally and socially.  She was a wonderful person, a Virginian, well-educated and widely travelled, and she was an excellent conversationalist. Her car was a Franklin; she purchased a new one every year and in them I drove her and her friends over a good part of northeastern USA and Canada. She did not believe in a partly filled car. Consequently, on those trips she sat in the front seat next to me and the back seat would be occupied by her sister, Mrs. Robert Jadwin, wife of the president of the First National Back, by Harriet Pascoe, a wealthy maiden lady, and by Jane Butler another maiden lady, a real Yankee. All were interesting people and their conversations, which I could not avoid hearing, were, to me, an education in the niceties of life enjoyed by high-minded, wealthy, Christian people. I was not treated as a chauffeur. On these long trips I arranged for the hotel reservations, looked after their luggage, stayed at the same hotels and had my meals with them. Between longer trips I took care of Mrs. Manville's yard, drove her on shopping tips to Scranton and New York City, drover her and her friends to their country club for lunch, and kept the Franklin shined.

Miss Harriet Pascoe knew of my limited resources and she volunteered to help with loans whenever I needed help. By the time I was graduated in 1928 I owed her several hundred dollars and, in addition, I owed the Methodist Church Student Loan Fund $600. When I repaid her, Miss Pascoe remarked that she had given similar loans to several young people but that I was the only one who had repaid the loans. Years later I learned that in her will was a statement, "If Howard Matthews owes anything on the loans I have made him, it is forgiven."

A couple of years later, before we were married, when Dagmar came to Carbondale to meet my family, she met these two delightful ladies also. And in the 50's after we came to live in Middletown, May Manville and her niece Mary Jadwin visited us at 33 Lawn Avenue. Mrs. Manville stayed overnight and the next day we took her back to Mary's home in Woodbridge.

Next time, he's off to Wesleyan.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - A New Life

In the last installment of my grandfather's autobiography, he had decided that he wanted to continue his education after leaving public school to work and assist his family financially.  He had interviewed for a spot at a prestigious prep school, Wyoming Seminary, but was told that there were no jobs available to help him pay his tuition, room and board.

I returned home and a week later was visited at home by Dean Fleck, bearing this message from Dr. Sprague: "Come on down with your $90 and we will see you through". Of the fortuitous happenings in my life, this was #2. #1 was Malachi Glennon telling me to get out of the mines.

So, having left Pittston High School at the end of my Sophomore year, 5 years later, at the age of 21, I was admitted to Wyoming Seminary as a member of the Junior class. I had difficulty only with 3rd year Latin. I was just too rusty to pick it up, so after a two week trial Dean Fleck suggested that I switch to first year Greek. I did so and thereafter had no trouble with any of my courses. My age was no embarrassment as there were others of my age at Wyoming--wonderful fellows, many virtually plucked out of the coal mines, given jobs firing the steam boilers, working in the laundry, cleaning classrooms. Several like Andy Salata and Joe Donchess became first class football players at Wyoming and later in college. In those days Wyoming seldom lost a football game. I was given a job waiting on table, 3 meals a day, in the school dining room. Pocket money and money for books I earned at odd jobs such as tending Mrs. Butler's furnace in Forty-Fort, a 2-mile hike before breakfast, and vacuuming her house carpets on Saturday morning.

In the Spring of my Junior year as I was leaving daily chapel, Dr. Sprague, from his position behind the pulpit, pointed at me and said, "Thompson, I mean Matthews, did I tell you that you can have the bellringer job next year; well you have it". In my two years at Wyoming, Doc Sprague never got my name right; it was always "Thompson, I mean Matthews."  [The bellringer job] was great news. It covered tuition, room and board' "room" was a two-room suite on the top floor of the men's dorm, right under the belfry tower. The bell rope came down into a closet located in the living room. The job was to ring the bell to announce everything from 6:30 get out of bed to 10:00 pm time to get to bed, and lights out, also the beginning and end of each class, daily chapel, meals and study hall. In addition, I was to climb to the top of the Chapel Tower each Saturday to wind and oil the clock mechanism housed there. But it also meant eating at table in the dining hall and free time to devote to extra-curricular activities such as dramatics, a vocal quartette and the editing of the school yearbook "The Wyoming".

All students were required to take a once-a-week course in public speaking. Preparation consisted of reading a short article in a magazine and then using it as a topic for a speech.  No notes were permitted. Once you were called upon, you were on your feet and on your own. Some of the speeches on the outlawry of war (remember--World War I had just ended) interested me that I joined a group of fellow students who spoke on that subject in churches up and down the Valley.

Boarders who made their honor roll were permitted to study in their dormitory rooms; those who did not were required to study until 9:30 pm in a faculty supervised room in Nesbitt Hall. In my Senior year my extra-curricular activities, especially Editorship of the yearbook, resulted in my landing in Study Hall. This soon proved to be wasteful as I was imprisoned for two hours there and could have accomplished the same amount of study in one hour in my dorm room. When I complained to Dean Fleck about this and pointed out that I needed that extra hour for other things that could not be accomplished in Study Hall, he agreed and released me on the condition that I get back on the Honor Roll by the next exam period, I did.

Math under Adams, English under Miss Fisk and Trebilcox, History under Wolfe, Dramatics under Miss Scurman and Worth Howard were all enjoyable and contributed much to opening up a new world for me. Then came the question of college. Three members of the faculty were graduates of Wesleyan [in Connectucut]. Two plugged for Wesleyan. Another, a Dartmouth graduate plugged for his alma mater. But Professor Pedro Gillot, my teacher in second year Greek, just assumed that I would go to Wesleyan. He had me on my feet every day parsing, declining, conjugating and admonishing me: "Matthews, I don't want you do disgrace me when you continue Greek at Wesleyan under my old teacher, Professor Heidel". (I did take 4 more years of Greek at Wesleyan and Heidel never asked me to parse anything; all he required was a good translation. At the end of my Senior year he offered me an Assistantship which would have led to an MA degree and I have often wondered how different my life might have been had I accepted, but I was already deep in debt and would have been more so had I accepted, so I declined with thanks).

In the next installment my grandfather shares more about life at Wyoming and preparations for Wesleyan which included, of course, earning money for his tuition and other expenses.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Mrs. Arthur Matthews

Matthews Obsequies

The funeral of Mrs. Arthur Matthews will be held tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock, from the home of her daughter, Mrs. Floyd Hunter, of 301 Philadelphia avenue, West Pittston. Services will be held at the home and will be in charge of Rev. A.D. Decker. Interment will be made in the Pittston cemetery.

This week in my Amanuensis Monday posts of my grandfather's auto biography we came to the death of his mother, Ada Merritt Hobbs Matthews.  During the week I have posted her headstone (Tombstone Tuesday) and photos of her (Friday's Faces from the Past) and now we come to her obituary from The Scranton Republican which I found on has been an amazing source of information for me about my grandfather's family and even some of his cousins because they have the local paper from Pittston, PA and others from the area.  Aside from the usual obituaries and marriage announcements, I discovered that my great-uncle Fred Matthews lost a home and business to a fire in 1910 when he was married with two children, that my grandfather's family were victims of a burglary in 1908 when my grandfather was only 7, I found advertisements for my great-grandfather's shoe factory, the "Want Ads" they placed when they were looking for house help and even my grandfather's letter to Santa in 1909 when he was 8 years old! 

Even with a common last name like Matthews, I was able to find all this in part by limiting searches to just their local papers.  Additionally, I soon realized that most articles referenced their street name as in "Arthur Matthews of Nafus street.".  Having this unusual name in my searches was also a help, and once I started using it I found a host of things I wouldn't have found otherwise.

By the way, I am not being paid or compensated in any way for this post, I am just a grateful fan.

Obituary from The Scranton Republican, 3 Sep 1919, Wed, Page 4;, accessed 12 Feb 2015.

Sentimental Sunday - George Washinton Smith b. February 22, 1898

I interrupt this week's posts about Ada Hobbs Matthews to bring you some photos of my maternal grandfather, George Washington Smith.  He was born on George Washington's birthday in 1898 to George Robert Smith, an American who had married and settled in Canada.

Yesterday at the end of our weekly grocery shopping, my mother surprised me with a bag of photos and family documents, mostly from the Smith family.  There were some real gems in there which I look forward to sharing with you in the weeks to come.

George W Smith Aged 2 years and a half - Aug 1900
George W Smith - WWI

Janet I and George W Smith ca 1941
Janet I  and George W Smith Oct 22, 1966
Christmas 1969 - Feeding my grandfather mince pie.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday's Faces From the Past - Ada Merritt Hobbs Matthews

First, a shout out to the cousin who found me through my blog earlier this week.  I got your email but it had no return address and I could not reply.  Please email me again or check your facebook, I sent a message there, too.

This week's installment of my grandfather's autobiography included the death of his mother when she was 64 and he was 18.  He was the youngest of her six children, born 22 years after her first child, Lillian.

The three photos above were the only I had ever seen of her until recently (the woman on the right is her sister Elizabeth Hobbs Snell).  My grandfather had written that he had a photograph of her as a child in London but I did not remember ever seeing it and had no idea if it still existed.  Then in December, with my birthday card, my stepmother sent me some photos she found while cleaning out a desk.  Among them were these:


Well, you'll just have to imagine my excitement, but I can tell you I was practically shouting out loud.  I couldn't believe I was finally holding not only the photo I had been hoping still existed somewhere but another of her as a young woman.

I am so amazed and grateful to have all these images of my great-grandmother.  While I am fortunate to have at least one image of each of my great-grandparents I don't have anything like this range in ages for most of them, this is such a gift.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Ada Merritt Hobbs Matthews

Yesterday's installment of my grandfather's autobiography included the death of his mother, Ada Merritt Hobbs Matthews.

She died in Carbondale, Pennsylvania in 1919 and was buried with her husband Arthur William Matthews at the Pittston Cemetery.

AGE 64

As I related shortly after my visit, I was able to find their plot with the help of Ron Faraday, President of the Greater Pittston Historical Society.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Amanuensis Monday - An Ouside Job, Losing Mother and Higher Education?

Pittston Methodist Church, Pittston, PA - 2013
This is the 11th installment of the autobiography of my paternal grandfather, Howard B Matthews.  This part starts from the time he decided a job with the mine company but outside the mine itself would be safer.  At 18, already without a father, he loses his mother as well and has to start living with siblings.  Then he decides that there may be a better life for him if he can find a way to get back to school, but not just any school.

Because World War I was in process, it was easy to find jobs.  So I became shipper at the Exeter mine of the L.V. Coal Co. located just south of West Pittston. As the 3-ton cars of coal came up from the mine, they were hoisted to the top of a 5-story building called a Breaker.  There the contents were dumped into revolving crushers which reduced the larger mined pieces to the various smaller sizes which were needed in the commercial markets. Then the coal went through large tanks of water which removed, by a flotation process, the chucks of rock or slate. Finally, the now almost pure coal was run across a series of punched hole plates which sorted the coal into various sizes, - egg, chestnut, pea, buckwheat, etc. Each size was then loaded into 40 or 60 ton railroad hopper cars, for shipment via railroad to customers.

As Shipper, I sat in a glass enclosed office at a desk in front of which, within my reach, was the arm of a balance scale (similar to the small one on bathroom scales, with a sliding weight to move the balance). Outside, 6 feet below, was the scale platform crossed by railroad tracks which ran from above the Breaker to the RR classification yard beyond the scale. The loaded railroad cars moved by gravity and it was my job to read the name and number of the car (like C&O 13400) and its empty weight (printed on the car) and then weigh it as it passed slowly over the platform scale. Sometimes I missed, if the car happened to be going too fast, and this enraged the railroad conductor because he then had to have that car snaked out of those already in the yard and rerun over the scale.

During pauses in the line of cars coming from the Breaker, I phoned the sales office of the LV Coal Co in Wilkes-Barre and told them what I had already, -- so many cars of Pea, so many Chestnut, etc. soon they would phone back to give me instructions as to whom and where each car was to be shipped. Then to guarantee correct information I had to spell back to them the names and destinations, numerically. For example, Joe Jones, Port Jervis, NY would be J the 10th (letter of the alphabet), O the 15th, E the 5th and so forth.  With practice this became easy and I could spout it back to them fast. Following this I would record the complete information in the log book, with a carbon to Wilkes-Barre, and prepare a Way-Bill for each car and hand them to the RR Conductor.

I don't remember exactly how long I held that job but when the position of Supply Clerk became vacated by an older man who left for war, I was offered the promotion and accepted it. Thus I became the youngest Supply Clerk in the whole Lehigh Valley Coal Co. This involved ordering, receiving and disbursing all kinds of materials needed by the miners and other workers and it included dynamite, blasting powder, and percussion caps.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law Will Ahlers and my brother Charles left the Lehigh Valley Coal Co to accept similar positions with the Racket Brook Coal Co in Carbondale at the northern end of the anthracite region. Soon thereafter my mother passed away and I was left alone at age 18 and wen to live with brother Fred and later my sister Lillian's family, both in West Pittston. Then I too was offered and accepted a position at Racket Brook and moved to Carbondale to live with the Ahlers. Following the annual coal miners' strike (John L. Lewis called a strike every Labor Day) during which I was told I could either go on leave without pay or become a night watchman with pay, I accepted the latter, was handed a 45 revolver and was told to do night guard duty, 7 pm to 7 am. But I soon tired of this, resigned and took a position as a cost accountant with The Cross Engineering Co in Carbondale.

During this time, I continued to be active in the Methodist Church, especially among the young people in the Epworth League and had frequent contact with the pastor's family, especially his son, Charles Olmstead, who was then a Sophomore at Wyoming Seminary, a preparatory school in Kingston, Pa. founded in 1844. This opened my eyes to the desirability and possibility of more formal education although my  total assets at that time were $90 invested in Southern Pacific stock and a cut-down Ford with no windshield or mudguards.  Nevertheless, I went down to Wyoming in the summer of 1922 and was interviewed by President Levi Sprague. When I disclosed my assets Dr. Sprague said that the $90 would not be sufficient for the tuition, room and board bills and that all jobs available to students had already been spoken for for the coming year.

What happens next?  Come back next week to find out more.

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