Tag Archives: Margie Helm

“The Approbation of His Tutoress”

Asa Young's good report

Asa Young’s good report

“This is to show that Asa Young is head in the first class and merits the approbation of his tutoress.”  Dated December 14, 1850, this handwritten and decorated slip of paper would have been, like all good news, proudly delivered to the young schoolboy’s parents in Barren County, Kentucky.

Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections show generations of Kentucky students receiving an “A,” “B” or “C” for their three Rs, but their report cards also judged them on habits and values deemed crucial to their development as adults.

Bowling Green student William J. Potter‘s third-grade report cards for 1908-09 recorded his days present, absent and tardy, and gave numerical grades for his classroom work, but included a “Verbal Merit Report” evaluating less tangible attributes like “Progress,” “Effort” and “Deportment”–which, parents were advised, was “a better index to what your child is doing in school than the scholarship report.”

Charles Ranney‘s second-grade report card for 1930-31 at Hartford Graded School was full of “As” for scholarship, but also required his teacher to evaluate “Interest” (from “Lacks Interest” to “Very Interested”) and “Conduct” (from “Rude,” to “Annoys Others” to “Inclined to Mischief” to “Very Good”).

Myrtle Chaney‘s seventh-grade report card from Logan County in 1922 was even more exacting in its standards.  A bad attitude toward school work might get a check mark beside “Indolent,” “Wastes Time,” “Copies; Gets Too Much Help,” or “Gives Up Too Easily.”  Less than good behavior could peg one as “Restless; Inattentive,” “Whispers Too Much,” or “Discourteous at Times.”

Margie Helm‘s 1908 report card from Auburn Seminary was set up like a ledger, with her subjects listed down the middle between the “Right Side” (a choice of “Fair,” “Good” or “Excellent”) and the “Wrong Side” (a choice of “Poor,” “Very Poor” and “Failure”).  As was common, the back of the report card preached about the value of a parent’s contribution in securing regular attendance and study.

Right Side or Wrong Side?

Right Side or Wrong Side?

Occasionally, however, the year-end evaluation reminded everyone of their fallibility.  Sarah Richardson‘s 1958 report card from College High cast her in an approving light, but the document somewhat undermined its credibility with the heading “COLLEGE HIGH RPEORT CARD.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For others relating to schools, students and report cards, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Louisville is in an awful condition”

Eighty years ago this month, four times the normal amount of rainfall fell in the Ohio River Valley.  Louisville, Kentucky endured 19 inches of rain, 15 of them in just 12 days.  On January 27, the swollen Ohio River crested at 57.1 feet above flood stage, marking the peak of what has been called the worst natural disaster in the city’s history:  the Great Flood of 1937.  Before the water receded, 70% of Louisville was submerged, 230,000 citizens were displaced, and as many as 200 were dead.

Flooded Louisville, January 1937

Flooded Louisville, January 1937

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections holds numerous letters, diaries and recollections telling of the Great Flood and its impact on the region.  To name just a few of the eyewitnesses:  Alice Stout at the Cortlandt Hotel, who wrote her mother of the growing emergency as city services–water, gas and electricity–began to shut down; Edna Grauman, who wrote in anguish to WKU librarian Margie Helm of the herculean efforts to salvage the collections at the Louisville Public Library; Margie Helm’s sister-in-law Kitty Helm, who wrote of the flow of refugees to schools and churches, and of helping doctors administer typhoid shots amid fears of a public health crisis; volunteers like Mary Leiper Moore, who came from Bowling Green to help with relief efforts and evacuate refugees; and Arthur Lissauer, who earned a commendation for his work ferrying victims to safety.

Alice Stout's view from the Cortlandt Hotel, Louisville

Alice Stout’s view from the Cortlandt Hotel, Louisville

At the time of the flood, Christian county native Robert Tinnon Joiner was at Louisville’s Hazelwood Sanatorium being treated for tuberculosis.  In a letter to his wife Pearl written over several days in January, he gave a dramatic account of the deluge as experienced from his hospital bed:

Sunday morning, January 24:  “Louisville is in an awful condition.”  Joiner was glued to the radio as WHAS began broadcasting continuous flood reports and directing rescuers to people trapped and in danger of drowning.  As the flood overwhelmed the city’s infrastructure, the supply of electricity, gas and drinkable water was in jeopardy.

Sunday evening:  Still raining, with more to come.  The river was rising one foot per hour.  The sanatorium, located on high ground, was safe for the time being, Joiner reported, but the lights had gone out and there was talk of rationing food.

Monday afternoon, January 25:  The river was at 55 feet and rising.  Joiner had no heat or light and, though surrounded by this historic flood, little water to drink or bathe in.

Tuesday morning, January 26:  Joiner heard cars running all night, some delivering refugees to the sanatorium, and planes flying overhead delivering supplies.  The lights were still out.

Wednesday morning, January 27:  At 57 feet, the river was now 10.5 feet higher than it had ever been.  Joiner could see flooded homes in the valley below. Rumors abounded of deaths, shortages of coffins, and no dry place to bury the dead.

Friday morning, January 29:  The water was beginning to recede, but the sanatorium still had no lights, little water, and only enough food for two meals a day.  Joiner, who hadn’t bathed in nine days, lamented the fact that two dozen patients were using the same toilet but flushes were limited to three or four a day.

“The only cheerful thing about the whole dreadful thing,” wrote Kitty Helm of the Great Flood, “is the discovery of an amazing amount of kindness and generosity” in the rescue efforts and the aid extended by Kentuckians as far away as Bowling Green.  Even the U.S. Mail rose to the occasion:  Kitty’s letter, mailed on January 26, had been delivered on January 29 despite lack of sufficient postage.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more collections giving first-hand accounts of the Great Flood of 1937, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Dog Days

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

With National Dog Day (Aug. 26) recently past, here are a few items in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections that feature appearances by man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Bertha Lindsay (1897-1990), an eldress of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shaker colony and a friend of WKU Shaker scholar Julia Neal, had a silhouette made with her golden retriever, Penny.  Bertha played Frisbee with Penny until she (Bertha, that is) was well into her 80s.

Jiggs

Jiggs

While on vacation in 1945, WKU librarian Margie Helm received a long report (no doubt at her insistence) from her dogsitter in Bowling Green.  “Now Jiggs is fine,” she assured Margie.  Despite a bout with fleas, and once scampering to the door when he thought he heard Margie’s car horn, the little fox terrier was content with his temporary family, sharing their meals of corn bread, muffins, baloney and chicken, and displaying some jealousy when the household’s children got a greater share of attention.

In letters from Alaska, gold prospector Abram H. Bowman of Louisville took a more utilitarian view of his dogs.  “Anyone coming into this country should bring lots of dogs as you can always sell them for a good price,” he wrote his uncle in 1898.  “You have no idea what a tremendous load these little dogs can pull,” he added.  “But they are like lots of people.  When you want to hitch them up you better not have the harness in your hand or you will never catch them.”

And for WKU art professor Ivan Wilson, dogs were both helpmates and beloved members of the family.  Enduring a long hospitalization in 1927, he dreamed of roaming over the countryside with his colleague, English professor John Clagett, and their favorite hunting dog, “Boy.”  Wilson’s papers also include a eulogy for his Irish setter “Rufus the Red,” better known as “Poody.”  Warning: readers should have a hankie ready when they peruse this tender tribute.

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and "Boy"

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and “Boy”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more on dogs and other pets, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Dearly Beloved. . .”

Bride Mildred Tucker, 1925

Bride Mildred Tucker, 1925

Summer is wedding season, and the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections provide evidence of the pomp and circumstance, excitement and humor with which Kentuckians have tied the knot through history.

To begin with, our collection of more than 7,000 Warren County, Kentucky marriage bonds begins in 1797 and is a gold mine for those researching family history.  In addition, many collections of family papers, such as the Margie Helm Collection, contain wedding invitations and announcements.  Other collections document the unusual; for example, a double wedding that took place inside Mammoth Cave in 1879, inaugurating a custom that lasted until 1941.  Photographs, such as Mildred Tucker‘s before her 1925 wedding, are indispensable to the occasion.  In particular, many a local bride proudly posed in a creation made by the celebrated Bowling Green dressmaker Mrs. A. H. (Carrie) Taylor.

And, of course, there are the diaries and letters of both participants and observers recalling the triumphs and tribulations of the big day.  “This is Birdie’s wedding day,” wrote Russellville’s Fannie Morton Bryan on February 27, 1889.  “Lena and Joe Gill and Mot Williams and myself stood up with them.  That is as near married as I ever expect to be.”  (She was right).  Amid a whirlwind of preparations for her February 16, 1926 wedding, Bowling Green’s Mildred Potter and her mother addressed the “burning question” of attire for the men in the party.  “Agonizing” over cutaways or tuxedos, they settled on “gray trousers and cutaways, with spats,” but a stressed-out Mildred “shed a few tears” when a telegram arrived from her fiance in New York that betrayed his misunderstanding of her diktat.

Marriage of Margie Helm's parents, 1888

Marriage of Margie Helm’s parents, 1888

Some enjoy scrutinizing a wedding and judging it against their own ideal.  Writing to his cousin in 1861, Charles Edmunds of Princeton described the curious ceremony of his family’s domestic servant.  “Mother’s house girl Vic was married,” he reported.  “An old negro preacher officiated, and he made the man promise to do a thing I never heard of before. . . he turned to the man and said, ‘Richard Calvert, do you promise to take this woman to be your lawful wife and be unto her a kind, loving and obedient husband’; if I had been his place I would not have agreed to that because I think that if ever I get married, my wife will have to obey me, and not I obey her, but he assented, and the ceremony was performed, and they were made man and wife upon those terms.”

Search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat for more of our collections that feature weddings.

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Don’t Say “No” to the Dames

Margie Helm's Colonial Dames membership card

Margie Helm’s Colonial Dames membership card

Founded in 1891, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America seeks to preserve and promote an understanding of America’s formative years through education and historic preservation.  Membership requires proof of descent from an ancestor who served the country during the Colonial period, but candidates must also be “invited and proposed” by an existing member.

Lydia Mae Helm, a cousin of WKU head librarian Margie Helm, resolved to join the Colonial Dames in 1942.  A Washington attorney who already knew many Dames socially, Mae was nevertheless a little intimidated at the prospect.  Her first test was appearing at a formal tea for 60 women, of whom 20 were being vetted as candidates.

Afterward, Mae informed her cousin Margie that the tea was a “complete success,” given in a “gorgeous apartment” and attended by women of charm, wealth, civic conscience and patriotism.  She was especially dazzled by those who had married titled foreigners, and conversed with one who promised to help her with her genealogy.  Planning her research trip to the Library of Congress, Mae declared “I have started and I am going to finish it.”

Margie Helm herself became a member of the Kentucky chapter of the Colonial Dames in 1951.  Two years later, she was recruited by its Historic Activities Committee in a project to identify 18th- and early 19th-century houses in the western part of the state.  Highly tasked as WKU’s head librarian and busy with church and other community work, Margie resisted the assignment, but received a stern letter from the committee.

“You can’t do this to me,” wrote Frances Fairleigh, “and further more one does not say ‘No’ to any work of the Dames.”  “So accept gracefully,” she advised.  Further, Margie was not to delegate the task to any outsider, for “this is Dames’ work.”  “For the present,” Frances concluded, “you are chairman of the western district.”  Margie appears to have surrendered, noting on the envelope her meek reply: “accepted temporarily.”

Mae and Margie Helm’s adventures with the Colonial Dames are part of the Margie Helm Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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More Than Meets the Eye

Louise Carson Drake and Ann McNallyHere is Louise (Carson) Drake, looking fabulous during a tour of Venice’s Grand Canal in 1951 with her friend Ann McNally in the background.

Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1894, Louise was descended from Revolutionary War patriots (she and WKU’s own Margie Helm shared a great-great grandfather, Thomas Carson).  After graduation from Georgia’s Brenau College in 1917, Louise entered law school at the University of Kentucky.  Three years later, she aced the bar exam, scoring the highest of anyone who took the test and earning an invitation to practice before the state court of appeals.

Instead, Louise chose to marry eye, nose and throat specialist Dr. William Preston Drake and immerse herself in the social and cultural affairs of her home town.  Active in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Colonial Dames of Kentucky, and Bowling Green’s XX Literary Club, Louise also served as the second woman member of WKU’s Board of Regents.

A tireless student and author of local history and genealogy, Louise searched archives far and wide to compile materials on her Carson, Porter and Helm ancestors, amassed a roster of Kentucky Revolutionary War soldiers for the DAR’s Kentucky Society, and worked with her cousin Margie Helm to preserve an ancestral cemetery.  She also traveled worldwide, looking fabulous.  After her death in 1979, her friend Jane Morningstar praised her “appreciation of life” and her “superior intellect with the faculty of total recall.”  Louise, she wrote, “had personal beauty and was always dressed in perfect taste and style. . . .  She was a gracious Southern lady with pride, dignity and courage.”

Louise (Carson) Drake’s papers, consisting largely of her genealogical and historical research, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections about genealogy, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Holiday Spirit in Japan

One of many interesting features of the papers of WKU librarian Margie Helm, available in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, is documentation of Margie’s unique friendship with Hana (Kato) Kaku, her Japanese-born classmate at the Pratt Institute Library School.

Kaku family Christmas card to Margie Helm

Kaku family Christmas card to Margie Helm

Fluent in English and in Western ways, Hana returned to Japan to help in the rebuilding of its libraries following the devastating earthquake of 1923, but soon left the profession to care for her ailing husband, retired diplomat Michio Kaku.  Then World War II brought economic destruction, driving the couple from their comfortable life in Tokyo to subsistence farming in a small village at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  Hana made extra money as a translator and craftsperson, but was never able to fulfill her desire to return to library work.

For years after the war, Margie Helm sent Hana and her family gifts of clothing, medicine, toiletries and food (Hana’s stepdaughter June was delighted by a gift of marshmallows, for she didn’t know that “such a delicious thing existed,” and ecstatic when she received her first new dress in seven years).  Their many letters of thanks included descriptions of the difficult conditions for ordinary citizens in postwar Japan: inflation, food and housing

Kaku family Christmas card to Margie Helm

Kaku family Christmas card to Margie Helm

shortages, and a “moral mess” that was tempting some to embrace communism.  After Hana’s sudden death in 1951, her husband Michio told Margie that her support had been Hana’s “oasis” in a life filled with deprivation and sacrifice.

The upheaval in their country and the postwar communist threat also made the Kakus receptive to Christianity–Michio would formally convert in 1953–and the beautiful Japanese Christmas cards they sent Margie spoke to their evolving faith.  Over the years, Margie received Christmas cards from other Japanese friends, tributes to her continuing interest in her former classmate’s country.

Click here to access a finding aid for the Margie Helm Collection.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Christmas cards to Margie Helm from Japanese friends

Christmas cards to Margie Helm from Japanese friends

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Advice from Miss Margie

Margie Helm, her ancestors, and "Jiggs"

Margie Helm, her ancestors, and “Jiggs”

After processing the papers of Margie May Helm (1894-1991) in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, we have learned  a great deal about the woman who played important roles in building both the campus library system and the Bowling Green Public Library.

A native of Auburn, Kentucky, Margie Helm moved to Bowling Green as a teenager and was valedictorian of the first graduating class (1912) of Bowling Green High School.  She received her library training at New York’s Pratt Institute and later earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago.  She joined WKU in 1920 and retired from her post as Director of Library Services in 1965.  Today, the Margie Helm Library, the Margie Helm Award, the Margie Helm Library Fund, and the Rodes-Helm Lecture Series remind us of the contributions of Miss Margie and her family to quality education at WKU.

“Aunt Margie,” remembered her niece Jane (Helm) Baker, “had three great loves in life: Family, the church, and Western.”  Indeed, her papers document not just her closeness to her parents, her three brothers and their families, but her spirituality (she was the first woman elder of the Bowling Green Presbyterian Church) and her heritage.  Research and correspondence traces Margie’s descent from no fewer than 8 Revolutionary War patriots, a lineage that made her a high draft pick for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of America.

The keepsakes in her papers also show us a more personal side of Miss Margie: the wisp of blonde hair clipped from her 22-month-old head; poems and party favors; and photos of her adored fox terriers “Peter,” “Jiggs” and “Topsy.”  We also find her “notes to self” in which she contemplates the ingredients of a life well lived.  “While I was out walking with Jiggs tonight,” she scribbled on a piece of paper in 1941, “I decided that these were the essentials for happiness: 1. A clear conscience; 2.  A desire to do something for other people; 3.  A lively interest in something and at least some opportunity to develop it.”

After her death in 1991, her niece found this advice from Miss Margie, written on a small slip of paper:

My Philosophy

 1.  The golden rule.

2.  Make things simple and harmonious.

3.  Don’t be sensitive.  People are not thinking about you.

Click here to access a collection finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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