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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Summer Vacation - 1922

During the summer of 1922 I returned to Ft. Wayne and got a job in the factory. Most of the summer, I worked in the induction motor department which was on the third floor of one of the new buildings. It was a simple job and most of my fellow employees were women or girls of high school age. I remember one of them because she had just come from Germany and spoke very little English.

My former roommate, Leonard Erickson, was out of the army and back at G.E. and had found himself a girlfriend, a country girl who lived in a small town just north of Ft. Wayne, the last stop on one of the city streetcar lines. I didn't see him much during the summer but the Nobles had taken in another roomer, Kenneth Eiler, an electrical engineering graduate of Perdue University. Mrs. Noble's mother had died and Kenneth had her room. I chummed around with Kenneth a lot more than I ever had with Leonard. I introduced him to Erick and George and we spent many of our evenings and Saturday afternoons playing tennis on their court. Kenneth had a girl also; she was still in high school in Indianapolis so he didn't see her very often. I met her when her parents brought her to Ft. Wayne to visit Kenneth.

Leonard's girl had a younger sister my age, or a year younger, who did her best to rope me in but she didn't appeal to me at all. I don't know why. Kenneth thought she was lively and full of fun. One Saturday, Leonard and I and the Nobles rode out on the streetcar to attend some sort of country fair. The Nobles decided to go back to town about 9 in the evening and I was going to go with them but the younger sister begged me to stay. When I found that she wanted me to sit in the back seat of their car and make love to her I rather rudely told her I had to get back to town and rushed off to try to catch the Nobles before the car left. I didn't make it and had to take the next one an hour later. She gave up on me after that. A year later she was more successful. She caught another young engineer who had come to room at the Nobles. They seemed to be made for each other.

Raymond and Leeta were married in October of 1921 and had to set up housekeeping in a second floor apartment on South Calhoun Street. I often dropped in to see them; it was on my way when I walked to town, as I usually did. Most of Raymond's work was still in the art department at the time. He worked with airbrushes making drawings of Bowser pumps and oil line fittings which the company manufactured and probably made layouts for advertisements.

Once when I was at their apartment, Raymond showed me advertizing folders that an acquaintance was sending thru the mails. The young fellow, who was about Raymond's age, had hatched a scheme to make money by selling an art course with the promise that he would buy all of the work that students would produce. He was to provide canvas, paint and special brushes and his corps of artists (consisting of Raymond - but he didn't say that) would give them instructions and guide them in the work. Raymond had painted some pictures for the folders but hadn't signed his name to them. He could see that the whole thing was a fraud. Raymond told me a year or two later that the man was sent to prison. They checked on Raymond but decided that he was not involved in the scheme. He had only been hired to paint the pictures in the folders. Fortunately Raymond's name was not mentioned anywhere. The young man had only recently been married and to look at him you would not have guessed that he was a crook. He seemed to me to be quite open and frank.

I got off to a bad start for my senior year at the university; I missed my train out of Ft. Wayne by about two minutes. I stood with my valise on the platform and watched it round a bend in the tracks. I had misjudged the time it would take me to walk from the Noble's to the station. I had to get the next day's train and miss all of my first day's classes. I was the only roomer at Mrs. Betke's that year and I had the whole upstairs to myself but she only charged me $2.50 a week as she had before.

The money I had earned during the summer would not be enough to see me thru the whole year but my dad had promised to advance me enough so I could graduate and I got a job waiting tables in of the big dining halls near the campus in return for my meals. A friend of mine who worked there had put me in touch with the manager-owner, a Mr. Chubb. The place was known as Chubb's and the food was said to be very good. We had often heard of it but it was out of our reach financially. It was Mrs. Chubb, really, who managed the place. If one of the student waiters was sick, or couldn't be in his place (all the waiters were men), he notified Mrs. Chubb and she found a substitute. That is how I got the job in the first place, substituting, then I was assigned a regular shift.

We worked in three shifts for the noon and evening meals, a different group of boys serving a table of about 15 or 16, nearly all of them men students, tho there were a few girls - but not at my table. As soon as my last morning class was over I had to rush over and put my white apron on and start taking the orders of the patrons as they came in. As a general rule they had a choice of three different things that the kitchen had prepared. There was no printed menu and we had no order slips to write down who got what; we were supposed to be bright enough to keep it straight in our heads. It wasn't easy tho, at least not for me, to keep track of three different desserts going to fifteen different students, besides remembering who wanted his beef rare (one fellow always asked for bloody beef), who wanted it medium and who wanted it well done. To prevent mistakes I took to summing up after I had taken all of the orders, so many of this and so many of that, and the men at my table would correct me if I had it wrong. After everyone at my table was though eating I had to take the dirty dishes to the kitchen. Like all of the other waiters I tried to save time by carrying everything in one load. Our metal serving trays were oval in shape and about four feet in diameter across the wide part. When I had all of the dishes for fifteen people on it, it took my last ounce of strength to lift it. You had to get under it and slide it off the serving table onto your hand, then carry [it] to the kitchen on your shoulder. Every few days there would be a loud crash when somebody's load of dishes would become unbalanced and slide off his tray onto the floor. Luckily I never had it happen to me. When my table was cleared I was free to go to the kitchen and get my own meal. As a consequence of my job at Chubb's I had better nourishment during my senior year than I had had my first two years. Besides that, it saved me from calling on my dad for cash so often. The disadvantage was that it took about three hours of my time every day that I could have used for study.

When I went to see my advisor to enroll for the first semester of my senior year, I found that I had a chance to enroll in any class of my choice in the university; it didn't have to be in the field of engineering. The advisor, an instructor in mechanical engineering under whom I had taken two classes the year before, tried to persuade me to enroll in a class in philosophy taught by an internationally known professor in the Lit school. The idea tempted me but, after debating it with myself, I decided to take a class in German, provided I could get at least one semester's credit for the two years of German I had had in high school. It had been six years since I graduated from high school and the German I had learned there was pretty hazy but I felt I had retained enough that I would be able to skip over the beginning work. My argument was, unless I went back and refreshed my German now I would probably forget it entirely. I would enjoy studying philosophy but it was a subject I could take up on my own in my reading. So I entered a German class in the Lit school where most of the students were six years younger than I was. It did enable me to hang on to my German and even today I can read it without difficulty.

I had one class in 1922 under Dean Cooley, head of the engineering department at Michigan during the time I was there, a class in strength of materials. He was already near retirement. He evidently lived well as he was quite fat, had a florid complexion and curly white hair. He would come to class dressed in what looked to me like expensive tailored suits and outline the lesson on the blackboard. We were supposed to copy it down in our notebooks but I soon discovered that it was all in our textbooks so I didn't bother. He was nationally famous in the engineering profession but he wasn't a good teacher. He was too busy with other things, being called away to conferences in Washington or delivering lectures at other universities. Sometimes another teacher would take his place and sometimes the class would just wait the required 15 minutes for him to appear and then leave.

Because of my slender build I had never been what you would call robust but I had never been troubled with sickness either. However, at the beginning of my last term I caught the flu and had to go to bed for several days. After I got over it I couldn't seem to get my strength back so I finally decided to go over to the university clinic and consult one of the doctors. The service was free to students. I was told that my nasal passages were very narrow and it should help me to avoid colds if some of the bone could be chipped out. I took their advice and made arrangements to be operated on the following Saturday morning.

They sat me in a high chair and I was given a local anesthetic plus an injection to calm my nerves, then the doctor hammered away at the inside of my nose with a chisel and mallet while a very pretty nurse held my head. The doctor told me at the beginning that, if I felt dizzy, I should put my head down. A few minutes later, however, when the room began to whirl around, I tried to fight it off and sit up straight. The next thing I knew I heard somebody asking, "Do you feel better now?" and I realized I had passed out and I was bent over with my head on my lap. It was the first time in my life I had ever lost consciousness.

When the job was done, I was wheeled into a room with about twenty beds in it, most of them occupied by guys who had just had their tonsils out. There was just one other fellow who had had the same operation I had had. He had been given a sedative and was asleep trying to breathe thru all the cotton that had been stuffed up his nose. All of the others were still affected by the local anesthetic which seemed to make them as playful as kittens. They were kidding each other, cracking jokes and giving the two nurses who were assigned to take care of us a hard time. I felt pretty good too and joined in the fun. As the day wore on, however, one after the other would turn sort of glassy-eyed and green and he would sink back on his pillow and become as silent as a clam. For him, nothing was funny anymore. By late afternoon, the room was as quiet as a cemetery; I was the only one left who's anesthetic had not worn off. I read Immensee, a story we were reading in German class, until gradually I became conscious of the fact that I was in for it too. For the next six or seven hours, I had the worst headache I have ever had in my life and I just curled up in the bed and suffered.

The boys who had had their tonsils out, tho they were not feeling exactly chipper, were well enough to get out of bed and dress the next morning so they were discharged and went home leaving only my pal and me to entertain the nurses. My headache was pretty well gone but my face between my eyes was badly swollen and I still had my nose full of cotton. I was glad I hadn't told anyone where I was going (I hadn't even told Mrs. Betke); I didn't want anyone to see me. I looked like I had been in a brawl or a bad accident. I had to remain three more days before I was in shape to go home. The swelling didn't disappear for another two weeks.

I hadn't made arrangements with any of my teachers to be absent for a week and when I came back to class I gave no explanation about where I had been and I didn't ask to make up any of the missed work. I was still obsessed with being independent as I had been in high school. It was a month or more before I felt like studying again and got down to work. My last semester in college, as a result, was my worst. I didn't get a single A; nothing but Bs and one C, the only C I got in college. I deserved the C; I was at sea most of the time. It was a class in power plant operation and financing and was full of financial terms like equity and amortization which were entirely new to me and didn't mean very much. They still don't. High finance is one subject I have never been able to get interested in.

Josephine Hoyt, the girl Arthur Neeley had introduced me to in the spring of the year before when I was a junior, was still in Ann Arbor but I had forgotten about her. Then one day in the spring, I chanced to meet her on the sidewalk in front of the men's Union building, about the same place where we had been introduced. After a brief conversation about Arthur - he had taken a job for a chemical company in Niagara Falls and was living in Buffalo - she asked me why I hadn't called her. I changed the subject and invited her to the Saturday night dance at the Union which was advertized on a poster in front of the building, and for dinner beforehand.

Josephine was an attractive girl, about six months older than I, tall and slim with light hair and blue eyes. She was much more sophisticated than I was, was graceful and a good dancer and knowledgeable about the latest books and plays about which I knew practically nothing at all, and she could talk about them without making me feel like a country bumpkin. I had never heard of artichokes before she noticed them on the menu and asked me to order them. Then, of course she had to show me how to eat them. In 1923 they were an exotic vegetable, except perhaps in California where they grew. Josephine's parents lived in Berkeley and she had attended the university there before coming to Michigan to get her master's degree in Political Science. She had no objection to Negroes but was very prejudiced against Orientals and was afraid one of the Japanese or Chinese at the dance would want her to dance with him.

I dated Josephine fairly often after that. I took her canoeing several times on the Huron River and once or twice fixed a lunch and we had a picnic in the woods along the river bank, just the two of us. Toward the end of May the members of Tau Beta Pi voted to take their girlfriends for a weekend outing at a group of several connected lakes about fifteen or twenty miles north of Ann Arbor and, of course, I invited Josephine. Professor A. D. Moore and his wife were the chaperons. One of the few fellows who had a car invited Josephine and me to ride with him and his girl - or perhaps it was his wife. We drove up on Saturday morning and came back on Sunday evening. I don't remember that any of us did any swimming, the water was probably still too cold, but we explored all of the lakes in the canoes that were available and the men played baseball. Women's fashions of the period decreed that girl's skirts should reach their ankles so softball was not yet a sport for girls. It was a very pleasant weekend but, needless to say, I didn't do any studying.

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I Enter the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Last modified on 19 July 2009 @ 10:26