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Long ago: Newlyweds in Ann Arbor October 2, 2012

Posted by Jenny in education, history, Life experience.
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Grandma and Grandpa liked to take pictures of each other in the same spot, creating what I think of as a matching pair. The snow-covered boulder in the background serves as an anchor in time and space.

This is taken from a memoir entitled “When I Was a Girl” by my grandmother, Sybil Crowninshield Kennedy Bennett. The series starts here and alternates every other post.

[The last post described my grandparents’ wedding on December 20, 1913. Shortly thereafter they departed for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my grandfather had taken a position as an instructor in architecture at a salary of $1100 per year.]

We had the second floor of a house where University High School now stands, where students had roomed before. This meant two suites of living room and bedroom and an extra bedroom, all furnished in student furniture. A small room we used for cooking but we washed dishes, etc., in the bathroom, on a shelf we put over the tub. It all worked very well. When we rearranged the furniture we had a sitting room, dining room, bedroom, study, bath and little kitchen, not elegant but comfortable. We stayed there a year and a half. The rent was $21.00 per month. I bought our food and saved money for new clothes and a hat, a double brimmed cloche, blue with orange ribbon and blue forget-me-nots between the brims, and some household things on $25.00 per month. We next bought the house at 528 Elm Street, paying $4000 for it. My mother loaned us most of the money on a note, no mortgage.

The house still stands, now valued at $375,000

[The Zillow real estate site gives the current valuation and the date of construction, 1895.]

I wasn’t satisfied to do only housekeeping so at the beginning of the second semester I registered in the Graduate School. I didn’t discover Sociology until my senior year at Syracuse and fell in love with it. It was just what I had always wanted to know. The Dean of the Graduate School, Dean Guthe, an old German, very big and bearded, asked me, “Can you cook?”, when I applied for entrance and he learned I was married, he said it was all very irregular for a student to be married and hadn’t been done but he would let me try it. If I didn’t do better than average, I couldn’t stay.

Professor Charles H. Cooley was my major professor and one of the greatest men I have ever known. He had a profound influence on my ideas and thinking about all the basic and important social concepts. What he said seemed very true and right to me. Most of it still does.

Charles Horton Cooley. Photo taken 1902.

[Cooley was a prominent sociologist who became president of the American Sociological Association. He is best known for the concept of the “looking glass self,” in which a person’s sense of self grows out of society’s perception of that person. Cooley wrote, “A self-idea…seems to have three principal elements: the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification.”]

I was in his classes and seminars for three semesters. I also had several courses in Economics, and English under Professor Louis Strauss, one of Michigan’s great teachers. [Strauss became chairman of the English Department and was known for his devotion to teaching as opposed to publishing, resigning the chairmanship late in his career so as to have more time for his students. A memorial statement on the occasion of his death in 1939 said, “As a teacher he was known for his warm, liberal and humane outlook. He held a civilized point of view towards everything…. He knew with Browning, his favorite poet, and made his friends know, ‘How good is man’s life, the mere living! how fit to employ / All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!'”]

I had more than enough graduate credits and received my Master of Arts degree in June, 1915. For the next two years, I was an assistant to Professor Cooley, reading theses, correcting papers and interviewing the women students. They spoke in such low voices he couldn’t hear them and I saved him embarrassment. He was quite deaf. He was a very shy person and not fluent in speech. He lectured with great hesitation and repetition, twisting his arms and legs around a big chair he stood behind. To me his words were full of meaning and I didn’t care about how they were said.

Wells received his Master of Science in Architecture in June 1916, studying with Fiske Kimball, later head of Philadelphia Art Museum and Academy of Fine Arts. He learned much about research and its methods. His thesis on Stephen Hallet and the National Capitol was published, the first important thing he wrote.

We loved Ann Arbor and being in a University. We attended the concerts in Hill Auditorium, opened in 1913, and many lectures and classes. It was possible then to visit a class any time, only asking the professor’s permission. We now feel we were very fortunate.

(To be continued)

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