Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Christian College strove to be ‘serious in purpose’

Although President Eugene Briggs was new to this area, he never allowed his faculty to forget that "small, select and serious" motto or the fact that Christian College was the first women’s college chartered by a state legislature west of the Mississippi River. When I began to teach swimming there, Christian had almost 300 young women enrolled, including dormitory students and "Tee Gees," or town girls. Some girls lived at home; some carpooled from neighboring towns.

In 1935, all the resident students lived in two dormitories: St. Clair Hall, the older one, was nearer to the swimming pool and had indoor access for residents who came through the gymnasium. Missouri Hall’s north entrance was just a hop, step and a jump - outdoors - from the pool entrance. The kitchen, dining room, library and offices were in St. Clair Hall. Classrooms, laboratories and the gymnasium were in Dorsey Hall, facing south.

There were rules: The students had to wear hose. No ankle socks - none in the classroom, in the dining area, downtown or just for receiving guests from off campus. A church of the student’s choice was required, and she had to wear a hat, hose and gloves. When leaving campus, no ankle socks were allowed! None on front campus. Blue jeans were not allowed on front or back campus in ’35; blue denim shirts came to back campus later - oversize, of course, and worn not stuffed in.

An all-college assembly was required every Tuesday; it was student-planned and -produced, by seniors mostly. Student government ran smoothly with a minimum of help from the office of the dean. I recall being asked to supervise students and dates at a wiener roast and to bring my boyfriend, Chub, along for company. Once was enough! I served on a student affairs committee several times, hearing some of the most serious infractions of rules. Being at Christian College for 33 years gave me a long look at many kinds of rules and their changes!

Several single female teachers lived in the dormitories and ate in the dining room. In addition to teaching, they were advisers, housemothers, personal friends and occasionally tutors.

In the fall, new students arrived by train and got acquainted after transferring from main railroad lines to the slow Wabash and Katy "spurs" puffing slowly toward Columbia.

The Katy brought lots of stylishly dressed students from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Texas. They wore the best of everything.

The Wabash brought St. Louis and Kansas City students; they were soon "wizened up" by second-year students, who were thrilled to help the just-out-of-high-school "Cathies" find their rooms, the tearoom, their advisers, downtown Columbia and MU. They also helped new girls learn the rules and routines. Christian College had outstanding success with self-government. In 1935, the main complaint was "those hard mattresses." I was surprised at how soon new mattresses were installed on all those beds.

I recommend "A History of Columbia and Boone County," a treasure that deserves space in every home library. It is fully documented and footnoted and easy to read - with photographs, sketches and drawings of Boone County’s successful attempt to educate girls and women.


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