It’s 1926. You got accepted to attend Middlebury College in the class of 1930. You will go on to complete a degree in Math and Physics. You worked occasionally at the Middlebury Inn. You made it on the golf team as a substitute. You lived in Starr Hall on campus. You got a job offer to work at AT&T just prior to the Great Depression.
This is the story of a Middlebury alumnus born in 1909. His entire story can be found on the blog Born In 1909. Excerpts from the Middlebury years are below:
The Easter vacation before graduation, it was suggested that I go to college. My Uncle Herbert had been a Phi Beta Kappa at Middlebury College, graduating with the class of 1910. So I applied, was accepted, and ready to move on. During the fall of 1926 I arrived with my father in our 1922 Ford (our first car) at Middlebury College in Vermont and started my four years of higher learning. I went through all the usual tasks of entering; registration, paying the tuition, buying the books for my selected courses, and finding my assigned dorm room. The college had three dorms as well as several fraternity houses to accommodate students. … My dorm room was at Starr, the cheapest one at $70 per year. The rooms at the nicer Hepburn Hall ranged from $90 to $150 a year.
I choose Math as my major with minors in English and Economics. Later I added Physics as a second major. Having an absolute minimum language requirement, namely two years of Latin, I was required to take a double course in French to make up for it. My first semester ended with me failing English and getting a D (called a “condition” back then) in French. I teamed up with a football player who was also failing French with me and together we paid our professor to tutor us at the French Chateau where only French was spoken. We both barely passed for the year but I still failed English and had to repeat one semester. Tutoring was at $20 a session.
My other subjects were no problem. I liked Physics so much that it became a second major. One of the two As I received was in what was considered the most difficult course in college, Analytical Mechanics. The other was in practice teaching.
After the first year, the second was much better. Bringing my grades up to a B average enabled me to have unlimited cuts (excused absences from class – except weekends) for my last 2 years. I took full advantage of this. I would get far enough ahead in my studies to miss some sessions here and there. During my senior year my roommate was the freshman class president and we were both taking chemistry. I was able to get all the course information that I needed from him and in a much shorter time than it would have taken attending classes. I still had to attend most lab sessions.
My father sent me what money he could, but I had to earn any extras and sometimes pay for my board on my own. All the freshmen ate together in the common dining hall, but you were on your own for anything beyond that. Sometimes I could afford about $5 a week to pay for meals at a nearby boarding house where you could easily purchase home-cooked meals if you wanted a change of pace from the cafeteria.
During my third year at Middlebury I had milk delivered on my windowsill. I put my name on a school roster for work and was able to earn money by doing tasks such as mopping the glass library floors after closing time. … I was able to get my meals and 50 cents a day for 4 hours of work at the Middlebury Inn coffee shop, which helped for a time. My last year, besides being able to borrow from the college fund, I taught Physics for a semester at Middlebury High School. The regular teacher had an operation and was told to take a semester off and I took his place. This became my student teaching course assignment as well. So, in addition to getting paid for this, I received a grade of A.
A little time remained for gym and sports. I made the golf team as a substitute. I did not join a fraternity although I did receive an invitation. Instead I attended many fraternity sponsored social functions as a neutral representative. I rode to Montreal with a couple of fellows for a night out. I spent an Easter vacation with a fellow classmate who invited me to visit his family’s large farm.
Christmas vacation before graduation an AT&T interviewer offered me a job managing an office. This would require a training course after I graduated. So I seemed set for a life at AT&T, considered one of the best outfits to work for.
My father picked me up in the morning after going to the final graduation dance ceremony.
Reporting for my expected AT&T position in New York City as instructed, I was told that AT&T was not only not hiring anyone, but was letting employees go. Sorry, no job. Having lost my first real job before starting it was quite a blow. This was in 1930 when most firms were starting to cut back on expenses. Very few, if any, positions were available. Applying for a teaching job, I was told that I lacked a History of Education course that was a requisite for teaching required by New York State.
(Photo courtesy Middlebury College Digital Collections, 1933)