"AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN UNIMPORTANT PERSON"

BY MINNETTE SLAYBACK CARPER

 

Part III

 

The Art Department at Mary Institute was headed by a very wise and

understanding teacher - Miss Mills. Her assistant , Miss Butler, was also helpful,

but she was hard of hearing and did not talk much. We were taught to draw

from objects, and later from plaster casts. The training was good. The last thing

I did was a charcoal drawing of the Venus di Milo. Miss Mills took a great interest

in me and encouraged me. One of the classes quizzed her one day as to who

was the most talented girl in drawing, in the school. Miss Mills told them my

name, and of course they told me. But we did not pose a living model there,

and plaster casts were the bane of my existence. I hated them. We drew from

flowers occasionally at school, but I picked flowers and made careful studies of

them at home. On my walks I gathered wild flowers when I could and later

used the drawings I made from them for making designs for decoration. I de-

picted the stems and flowers and buds and seed-pods and habits of growth. I

was sometimes glad I had been so meticulous. In the sophomore year we

studied botany, and that laid another foundation for my devotion to flowers

and growing things.

When the remodeling of the old house was completed, there were two

houses of ten rooms each. The family lived in 2829, and on 2827 was a for

rent sign. One day a young man and his mother came to inspect 2827. Susie

conducted them through the vacant house. They fell in love at sight and

eventually were married.

The young man was Arthur Wellington Adams. You will find his name

in the records of the United States Patent Office. His father was a physician,

but he died while Arthur was a young child. I bow my head with deep respect

to his mother. She was afflicted with Arthritis, yet she managed to make

mechanical drawings in the architectural department at Washington, that

supported herself and her son and gave him an education till he could take

the burden from her shoulders. He became a page in Congress for a time. He

attended medical school, studied engineering and finally began inventing

electrical devices, the one most generally known being the nickel in the slot

used for telephonic connection. He invented the transmission of electrical

power through the axle of a trolley car, but before he could publicly claim

that the world of inventors had grabbed it to such an extent that it was a hope-

less effort to bring a law-suit. It was picked up and used by people like Edison

and Westinghouse until when Arthur finally formed a company to sue for

infringement of patent it was so universally utilized that the amount sued for

was thirteen million dollars, and overwhelmingly against him. However he was

the first person in this country to make that device. His mother had been able

to give him an education as a doctor, but he also became an electric engineer

and inventor. He expected to maintain himself as a doctor, and on the front of

the house put up a sign "Wellington Adams, M.D." He was hoping to organize

an electric train system between St. Louis and Chicago. He tried very hard to

promote a company and to interest influential people of St. Louis in the enter-

prise. E.C. Simmons was one of the men who became attracted by the project.

Arthur was a very unusual looking person. He had dark skin, but almost

blonde hair and moustache, which he wore long. He had large, handsome gray

eyes, and he used them effectively. He was tall and slender, and both men and

women fell under his charm. Arthur was a very learned person, took life seriously,

and in spite of all his mother had accomplished he was apt to be contemptuous

of women. When he had established himself at 2827 Olive Street, he erected a

work-shop in the back yard, built an engine and a dynamo and began to make

electrical experiments. His ultimate object was the railroad between St. Louis

and Chicago, and he had a small model of the car he would use. He was trying

to promote a company for this project, and it seemed difficult to enlist faith for

electricity for a railroad.

Harrison Steedman was studying to be a constructive engineer at Manual

Training School, which was a part of the Washington University Schools, He met

Arthur and became a worshipper. Men were completely bewitched by Wellington

Adams. They would sit around him in a close group, absorbed and fascinated by

his conversation. He was unfolding something new and strange, and he could

substantiate his fairy tales by concrete facts. The winding of Arthur's armature

was a breath-taking achievement. Harrison was often in the shop watching the

work progress, but he almost always let me know he was in the neighborhood.

We saw a great deal of each other and when I was sixteen he proposed to me.

He went down on one knee in the most approved fashion. For all he was so thin

and tall he was a graceful lad, and could do it without being absurd, still it

embarrassed me dreadfully for him to propose to me at all when we were both

so young. There was no prospect of our marrying for several years, and I did not

care to be engaged all that time. I simply said:

"Don't be a goose, Harrison!" and we continued as before. I was fifteen

when I began to keep a diary, but I did not put this proposal down in writing.

I was too much afraid someone might look in it and see my secret. My diary

was a bald statement of facts, and an aid to my memory. I am uncertain what

to quote from my little book of the good times I had. They seem so foolish now,

such a waste of time, but I took it very seriously then. Dances, the theatre, cards

and driving filled my leisure. We went sleighing in cold weather, and I loved

to hitch my sled on a wagon and stay as long as I could, catching another one

to return. On one occasion we had gone far down Pine Street and were facing

a walk home when a fire engine being transferred to another station came

ambling along.

"Want a ride?" called the fireman?

"Yes!" we yelled, so he let us hitch on and then made the two horses

gallop as if going to a fire. There was a roller skating rink. At one time it was

twenty-three degrees below zero, which is the coldest I remember in St. Louis.

It was too cold to go to the skating-rink and too cold to go to the dancing

school at Professor Xaupi's. The "Philopena forfeits" was a popular custom,

and I was always giving or receiving small gifts from this game. One was a

bouquet of roses, one was some tiny charms for my charm string. When I

was sixteen I had tulu chewing-gum for the first time.

I was sixteen on the seventh of March and Susie was married to Arthur

Adams on the fifth. Susie's being in love, and being happy had transformed

her with a perceptible radiance. During that period before her marriage she

was beautiful, and I used to look at her glowing face with astonishment. They

had a quiet home wedding, with no attendants, but a nice supper served by

Beers. Susie had a white silk wedding gown, festooned with the historical

point d' Alencon flounces my mother herself had worn, including the cobwebby

exquisite veil which always gave me a thrill to touch. Susie moved her belongings

next door and for a while life was rosy. (And I wondered why my grandmother

had murmured:

"Poor Susie!" )

At that time young people of good family were obliged to have a chaper-

one for everything they did, so we found Susie and Arthur quite convenient. But

Arthur had the mistaken idea that he was taking upon himself the rearing of the

family. He was as straight-laced as my father about the way young ladies should

behave and talk, and we resented his assumption that he had the authority to

correct us, and there was trouble. I had always played with the boys as a child,

and I knew a great many people. I became very popular when I began to go

about with young people but while I was gay, being a good dancer and a

great talker, I was always decent and never did anything that would dishonor

my father's memory. I remembered his teachings and I had a lot of respect for

my mother, I had an immense amount of pride and knew how to conduct

myself. But Arthur seemed to think because we had a good time that we were

not behaving ourselves, and it caused a great deal of friction in the family.

Our very nice dancing club continued to function and the various

mothers entertained us and we constantly added new methods of amusement.

Finally one bright lady conceived the idea of winding up the season with a play

at the Pickwick Theater. The play was a "Ladies play" for female characters only.

It was called "Rebecca's Triumph." I took the part of a young colored gal and

because I was in complete disguise I turned loose as it were, and got funny. In

modern parlance, I stole the show. My costume was striking. I wore the loveliest

bandana on my head, a plaid of soft bright colors, mostly yellow and green and

red, a dress of black ground with apples and leaves of red, of course a white

apron and a white kerchief about my neck. All the girls in the dancing class

were in the play. Sadie Sells, a beautiful creature, took the principle part, but

she could not sing a note and a song in the play was very important, so when she

was supposed to sing I carried the tune for her behind the scenes. I got the most

applause, and the best newspaper notices. Daisy Brookmire was next. The show

was for the benefit of the Blind Girl's Home, and we cleared two hundred dollars.

We had a fashionable audience, a full house and everything went off smoothly.

The ushers were well-known, carefully picked young men, in full dress, and

everyone said it was in "swell" style. And I have that word in quotations in my

diary, just like that. The cast was given a supper after the performance, and

altogether it was a fine way to end the dancing club. Soon after that school

was over for the season, and we amused ourselves in other ways.

We had one way of entertainment in St. Louis which was very enjoyable.

The Mississippi River had special excursion boats which were delightful places

of a hot summer night. The various churches or societies would give an excur-

sion and devote the proceeds to some charity or benefit, and our crowd of

young people banded together on these occasions and danced and sang as the

boat floated down the famous river.

Uhrig's cave was a German beer garden where they gave light operas.

There I saw "Nell Gwynne", "Chimes of Normandy" and similar productions, in

the open air of the summer nights unless it rained, when we went indoors to

a hall. We sometimes went driving behind the Steedman team of horses, four

or five of us in the surrey, driving in the moonlight. My cousin Walter Waddell

came from Lexington to visit us, and we created a more festive atmosphere for

a while to entertain him. On the seventh of July Katherine and I went with

Walter to Lexington to spend several weeks visiting relatives; for a time Harrison

and I said goodbye.

We encountered an entirely different atmosphere. The town of Lexing-

ton was a real country town. My relatives there were very devout Baptists,

and dancing was wicked. So we two city girls found the parties awfully dull.

We would go to a house full of lively young people and have to stir up some

sort of entertainment. On moonlight nights they would walk around outside

and indulge in conversation. Inside it generally resolved itself into "Post-Office"

and similar kissing games. And I always hated that. It was before the theory

of germs had been publicly expressed, but the theory must have lain latent in

my soul, because I could not endure for a stranger to kiss me! So I generally

maneuvered to have some singing and music. I had songs on my tongue and

music in my finger tips and I found other girls and boys who could add to the

program. I had a number of cousins in the town, and there were two boys

from Yonkers, New York, who were clever and charming and knew songs from

college and boat-clubs. And here I had one enjoyment unknown before -

horse-back riding. The young lad that I liked best had a couple of horses and

took me riding!

And the Talbot from Yonkers had a lovely tenor voice, and a guitar. Of

course I learned to play accompaniments on the guitar, and my list of romantic

songs found a suitable setting. Talbot also had a canoe, and I had never before

been in a canoe. Talbot had a prize pin which he had won in a regatta, which

he immediately bestowed upon me. We had tin-types taken with the paddles.

We went on the turgid Missouri River, which lay in mud flats stretching off to the

west below the bluff on which brooded Lexington, and by the Grace of God we

returned to port.

Talbot became very devoted to me, and we had fine times together. He

would go with me and sit while I made a sketch, or we would go at evening to

watch a sunset from the bluff, or to look for birds, or to take long, brisk walks.

We sang together till we were sung out. We were very congenial, but there was

"that little something" that kept me from loving him. I was fastidious, and he had

a body odor. Had I married him I should have been a well-to-do lady, but should

have been continually turning my nose away.

While in Lexington Kate and I were at the home of my mother's sister,

Juliet, a lovely, sweet woman, whose daughter, Susie Tevis was three months

younger than I was, and we were very fond of each other. Susie was a true

blonde, with blue eyes and honey gold hair, a country complexion to match,

all set off by a good figure and a lot of style and dignity. She was a bit bashful

and retiring but she had a keen sense of humor and a ready laugh. Kate and

Susie and I immediately began to have as many cavaliers attending us as we

had in St. Louis. Both the boys and the girls came to call on us and invited us

out. Many of the boys were employed, one or two were on farms but they

would manage to pass by at odd hours on a horse on in a buggy, and there

would be a huddle at the gate and conversation. Talbot and his brother Jerome

were on frank vacation and were likely to appear at morning, noon or night.

They each had a guitar and on a moonlight night we sat in the yard and sang

till Uncle Dan got nervous, and would growl about it next morning.

Uncle Dan Tevis was Aunt Juliet's husband, and he took life very seriously.

He conducted a drug-store, - one without a soda-fountain, and of course knew

who was sick. He was also the presiding genius at the village funerals. He always

looked on the dark side, and the world was certainly going to the dogs, and he

was generally pessimistic. He never allowed us to sleep late in the morning; we

were always compelled to get up at seven o'clock, and he woke us up. But we

took naps after lunch and read Aunt Juliet's back number Young Ladies' Journal,

and Saturday Evening Post.

We went driving in a group in the evening, some on horseback, some in

buggies, first parading through the town to let everybody see us, then we made

a wide circuit including "Lovers' Lane," and so back home.

At the same time Kate and I were at Aunt Juliet's house, my mother was

staying at Aunt Kate Williams' home, further out in the country. Aunt Kate's

house was a perfect museum of her work. She painted in all mediums, she did

fancy embroideries and the finest of sewing. She made intricate quilts and

each year she took many premiums at country fairs and it was not only for fine

needlework and painting, but also for jams and jellies and apple-butter and

real butter and bread and cake. She was a very handsome person, but she and

I did not harmonize like Aunt Juliet and I did. I guess we were too much alike.

She could do anything; make a dress or a chicken - coop, play the piano and

sing. We certainly had the same hormones.

Talbot wanted me to go hunting with him. My mother would not let me

go with him alone, so Gracie went along with us as a "gooseberry", and we went

down by the river hunting for san-pipers. I had never seen them before, and I was

not a good hunter anyway. I didn't enjoy killing things. Talbot was an amateur

taxidermist. In those days there were no inhibitions against killing song-birds

and at various times I wore on my hat a blue Jay, a cardinal bird and the wings

of a brown thrasher, which he had cured.

A group of us went to Cole's circus, twice. In the afternoon it rained and

we stood up holding umbrellas. But it was a good circus, with three rings.

But the summer waned and we went back to St. Louis. Harrison looked

well in a gray suit and hat. He had become a dude. With Beatrice and Teddy M.

we went to a trades' procession, a parade of floats for advertising purposes. I

went to see "The Queen's Lace Handkerchief" with J.D. J.D. became quite a pro-

blem in my young life. I never ceased to ruminate over the spell he cast upon me.

At first he was simply a boy I met at church. But he gradually insinuated himself

into the circle of my intimate friends and stubbornly stood there. Most of the

boys we knew were at school and dependent generally upon well-to-do fathers.

But J.D. was beginning to earn his own living. He had a job that did not keep

him tied down securely enough. He was a collector for a furniture house. He

was short in stature, not even good-looking, although a blonde, and I always

liked a blonde man. Perhaps his eternal sense of humor appealed to me, for

he was always ready to laugh and start a little fun. He had an intriguing way of

looking into my eyes like a faithful dog, as if he adored me, and finally found

him coming to the house more than I liked. Several of the other boys disliked

him, but he stubbornly held his ground and pursued me, appearing at all hours

and wearing down my resistance by eternal devotion. Harrison and Bertie part-

icularly seemed bored by J.D.'s presence, but as Bertie was also one of my problems

he did not matter. Harrison and I gradually drifted apart, and whether J.D. had

anything to do with it I can't say. For a time Harrison was devoted to Beatrice,

but that association dissolved and eventually he married a young lady from the

east. He contracted tuberculosis, and I was thankful to have escaped the long

agony of nursing that lingering death.

But J.D. dogged my footsteps and kept his absurd giggle and his devoted

glance at my service. His friend, Louis, who came to see Kate at the same time

was equally vacuous. They did not have the sparkle and vim and intelligence

of most of our boys, and for awhile their presence was a blight. Finally J.D. took

to associating with the two young actresses across the street, and I could hear his

convulsive giggle later in the night after he left our house. Then he got into trouble

with his accounts, embezzling a little money from the concern he worked for -

not enough to get him in jail; his father probably paid it; but my friendship was

not strong enough to stand by him, and so, from my diary departed J.D.

Bertie was my other problem. He was quite intelligent and belonged to

a fine family. He liked to come to call on me because we appreciated each other's

conversational abilities. He read a great deal. He knew all the society gossip

floating about, and went with the nicest people in town. He had a snooty,

supercillious air about him, and when he came into a room where several young

men were calling he gave the impression that he wanted them all to leave at once.

I did not appreciate this attitude, for I never loved Bertie, and he seemed to

create the impression that I did and that we ought to be left alone. Another of

his disagreeable traits was the way he treated my sister Katherine. It may have

been a clever method of keeping her out of the room when he called, so he could

see me alone, but whatever his motive, it gained him nothing with me. He was

always so rude and chilly to Kate that she would not remain in the room, and of

course that was what he wanted. Bertie was not good looking and whatever

affection I might have had for him was cancelled by this conduct toward my

sister. He called upon me for years, occasionally took me for a drive in his smart

little dog-cart now and then took me to a concert or the Exposition or some

entertainment that did not cost too much. He tried to make love to me but I

would not have it that way. I never kissed him, I never let him hold my hand, I

did not trust him. I may have been queer. I was a mid-Victorian, and so narrow-

minded I leaned over backward. I was popular, but that did not make me fast,

for I never was.

The Annual Exposition opened for the first time and became a magnet

for our leisure hours. A part of my art education began, both in music and

pictorial art. The pictures in the art gallery were imported from foreign countries,

and I reveled in them. Georgie Towner and I found something to worship and

study. We were in the art gallery every moment we could be there. The music

was furnished by a military band on the stage of the music hall. The concert hall

was famous for its acoustics and jazz had not been born. We became acquainted

with music in general, we learned the classics, and the encores were mostly popular

songs, some of which still serve as encores. The exhibits in the corridors of the huge

building were like others of the sort, concerned with advertising or instruction in

the pursuit of trade, each one in charge of an exhibitor. We often got free samples

of food. We got free drinks of tea, both hot and iced. We used to try experiments

as to which made you the hottest - to drink the iced beverage first and end with

the hot, or to drink hot tea, circle around a bit and then come back for cold. But

for years afterwards we drank nothing but He No Tea. Perhaps the dispensing

paid.

After we knew the exhibits by heart we lounged around the building and

looked for acquaintances. School began on the fifteenth of September, and I

returned with groans. My diary simply says:

"School! School! Oh!"

After that I was only allowed to have boys at the house during the week-

end. I knew a great many boys. I was a good dancer and when I went to parties

I had a fine time. In turn these boys I met at dances came to call on me and by

the time I was seventeen I was almost too popular. No wonder my brother-in-

law was on the alert to see that I behaved myself! The funny part of it was that

I never did anything I would have to regret. I sang song after song at the piano.

I was a tireless and sympathetic dancer, I was a vivacious conversationalist, back

at once with joke or repartee, and always good natured. We never told dirty

jokes. Even the girls I went with did not tell obscene jokes. My sister Katherine

was always with me when there was a group of boys at the house, but she

would sit up and listen to me and give an occasional giggle and have nothing

to say. She used to make me so mad! Later she became the most incessant

talker of the two, but in those days she was not much help, and I acquired the

habit of beginning to gabble as soon as a male person came in sight. There

was no promiscuous kissing in that day. When people say there was just as much

going on but it was hidden, that is not true. We simply did not conduct ourselves

in a questionable manner if we were really decent girls. The movies and the auto-

mobile have changed the customs. Now it is accepted. In those days it was con-

sidered wrong and we behaved accordingly.

We went to church and tried to be moral. I shall never forget the shock I

had when someone told me recently that religion and morals had nothing to do

with each other; that one could be religious and immoral. I spent all my young

life trying to build a character both moral and religious.

At that time it was the fashionable custom to sit on the front steps in the

evening. One usually had a rug that would cover the stone steps, and cushions

to make it comfortable. As school had begun we did not sit up late, so one

evening in October of 1884 Mama announced that we must go in to the house

for the night. I sang out:

"The last one to the corner is a monkey", and away we all dashed for one

last moment of fun. But I had a queer feeling in my foot and sank to the ground.

The returning racers overtook me as I went limping back to the house, but Susie

thought I was only pretending and made some skeptical remark. However I had

sprained my ankle and it meant months of pain and annoyance before it was

normal again. I did not know how serious it was, and Sister's remark about my

pretending made me resolved not to be a sissy about it. I began by hobbling

the two and a half blocks to school, and then Arthur took it in hand and put a

plaster covering on it and told me to keep it there for two weeks. It was a light

cast made by dipping a very thin bandage material in Plaster of Paris powder and

moistening it after it was molded about the foot and ankle. Unfortunately I

was such a foolish creature I would not let it stay. Without consulting Arthur

I removed it in nine days to go to a dance or the rink, and of course it began

to give me trouble again and I went to Sister Susie for comfort. She massaged

it and put liniment on it, but I had probably torn a ligament, and while a

modern osteopath would have shortly relieved me, there was nothing to do

but to go into a heavier cast at that period. This time Arthur fixed one that I

could not take off so easily. I walked on crutches.

For a time I had a teacher come to the house and remained at home from

school. Most of the boys who came to our house went to Smith Academy or the

Manual Training School, both on Locust Street, and they always walked down to

school on that street. In the morning I sat at a back window and when they

reached a gap in the houses they waved at me and took off their hats. Every-

body was sweet and sympathetic to me, and I even went to parties and sat on

the side and still had a good time. But it was nine months before my ankle was

fully recovered. The winter dragged away, and at times I was very despondent.

People warned me that I might be lame for life. I kept on the heavy plaster cast

and walking on crutches quite exhausted me. But there were always a lot of

young people present. We played Lotto, chess, cards, (euchre) talked or sang

and had a jolly time. Of course the guests came to pay party calls and that made

more company.

When my popularity began to be noticeable, other girls began running

after me. One of them, Dorothy X was a very charming creature with a not so

charming brother. He had been one of my callers for quite a while, and one

evening he appeared with his sister. Finally it came out that they wanted to

give a party at their house and wanted me to do the inviting. They were very

clever and I let them use me. The plan was for me to play the piano for the

eight others to dance. As I could not dance because of my lame ankle I amiably

consented and we got the party together. I remember how shocked I was when

I found out how poverty-stricken were their belongings. They were really quite

poor. Dorothy did not know many nice boys, although in this tricky way she soon

managed to be invited out a lot. We had the little party at her house, then the

carefully invited young men would call, - we always paid party calls then, and

afterwards Dorothy would have a few more names on her dance card. On this

scheme she gradually got into the best society, although I remember one entire

winter when she wore one black lace frock to all the entertainment’s she attended.

At that first party she gave us for refreshments grapes and bananas. Eventually

she carried on as you would expect; first she married a nice chap, not very well-

to-do, but through him she met his wealthy employer. And of course she got

a divorce and married the wealthy boss.

To the right of us lived John W. Harrison and his family, friendly neighbors

and congenial friends. Mrs. Harrison, the sister of Mrs. Steedman, was an inter-

esting character, positive and emphatic in her manner, but underlying it all a

warmth of nature and a sense of humor unsuspected. She had been very kind

to me and I was not in awe of her as many people were. She was fond of music

and culture, and she and I spoke the same language. Mrs. Harrison died and I

was very sad. All my childhood I had lived in a deep, secret horror of death. I

had only seen one dead person beside my father, a man I did not know; children

on the way home from school had gone into a church and looked at the corpse.

I can still see those waxy features. I did not go to Mrs. Harrison's funeral. It

grieved me that she should have to leave her four daughters in such sadness.

They had a very handsome house of white stone, and several servants,

and Mr. Harrison seemed quite distracted. He drove two horses and a buggy to

business each morning, and in the winter, when the snow came, he used a sleigh,

with the team. He came over and asked Mama if she would like to go for a sleigh-

ride, and, of course, she went. He took her out several times, and then one day

she told Susie he had asked her to marry him. Susie asked her what she said,

and Mama replied, indignantly:

"I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself, with his wife only dead

two months."

So that was that, Mama was probably afraid the neighbors would think

she had been flirting with John while Laura was alive. But John had a large and

handsome house to be cared for and a family of girls to be looked after, the

oldest one too delicate to carry on the household. He needed a wife, so he

looked around and found another lady and married her.

Another death depressed me greatly. Until now we had a very little of

it in the family connection. Our relatives were healthy and handsome people,

the girls all beauties. I have described Susie Tevis, whom I loved very dearly, and

it was a dreadful pain to me when she died of typhoid fever. As her mother was

a sympathetic and sweet-natured person, she suffered very much, for she and

Susie had been devoted to each other, but there was still a younger daughter

and a son, Anna Maude and Irvin. I continued to spend vacations with Aunt

Juliet, and one summer I painted a water-color portrait of Susie, from a photo-

graph and my memory of her coloring. It was very satisfactory to her mother,

and I was so glad I could do it.

In connection with the music department of Mary Institute the school

gave a concert each spring. In 1885 the activity took the form of a cantata called:

"The Flower Queen." The society reporter gurgled over the "tier upon tier of

white-robed, lovely girlhood and ravishing melody." The music was "exquisite-

ly rendered by four hundred fresh young voices." Said "The duets were especially

sweetly sung", and I sang in both of them. I was the Lily in the operetta, and in

so being was lifted out of the chorus.

The flowers of that time were worth mentioning. Once I was given some

white roses, once some red carnations, once some Bon Silene roses. Once my

diary mentioned white carnations and heliotrope. At one time a red dress and

red carnations, at another time a robin-egg blue cashmere with Jacqueminot

roses. I received a bouquet of Cornelia Cook and Marechal Neil roses.

We did not go away from St. Louis that summer, but my Cousin Birdie

came to visit us, from Chicago. My diary says "Her eyes are as blue as the deep

summer skies. She is tall and well developed with a lovely figure, has charming

manners and talks well." And that was a great help when it came to entertaining

a guest. Of course we had a lot of company and were invited places. We went

to the Mikado, which was a new production. Just because it was not the con-

ventional thing some people did not appreciate it. But I thought it "original,

odd and novel throughout, and quite a pleasing play." As we went about a

great deal in a group, we stopped frequently and had our tin-types taken.

Birdie was quite popular and had a delightful visit, but she went home at the

end of August.

The Exposition again opened to amuse us in September, and this time I

had a new excitement, for my first exhibited picture was in the amateur depart-

ment of the art gallery. It was a portrait of my mother's poll - parrot. My diary

says: "It is better than some of the rest, and, at least it is not a copy, but is from

life. "There were some fine pictures that year, and I spent most of my time in the

art gallery. Pat Gilmore's band was the musical attraction, and as usual Georgie

and I sat in rapt attention and learned about music. Gilmore was a graceful and

fascinating leader and we adored him.

My diary: "I expect now to settle down to a dull, prosy winter existence."

But on the thirty-first of October I went to the new skating rink, yielded to temp-

tation and skated and hurt my ankle again. Moreover I walked home in a pouring

rain and ruined my best dress, and caught cold.

It was a fine group of boys who were my friends that winter. Almost all of

them were attending school or college. I was not allowed to go out on school

nights. My friend, Nancy Turner, obtained theater passes because her father

allowed the plays to post advertising matter in his numerous downtown build-

ings, and of course we went to matinees.

My Diary: (December second 1885.) This afternoon went to my first

"grown - up" affair, of course a reception is a stupid affair, but this was nice.

Quite a great many pretty young girls present. Fell in with an old society girl and

several debutantes. Oh envied creatures! They seemed to regard me as being

one of themselves, but I felt so young."

Almost all the outstanding things of my life happened on the thirteenth

of the month. One of the events that stand out sharply in my memory was the

awful row my brother-in-law raised over a little serenade given us by some boys

one snowy December evening. Katherine and I had a room in the third story of

the house, we were preparing for bed, our light was still lit, and we suddenly

became aware of a great singing in the street. We turned out our light and

looked out the window, and were able to recognize "our gang" who had been

rehearsing for a play they were about to give and came by to pay their respects.

I turned the light up and down two or three times to let them know I recognized

them. They sang several songs, one of them this: "When a pretty girl gets a kiss

and runs and tells her mother, May she live and die an old maid and never get

another."

Katherine and I were delighted with the song and thought it very amusing.

But Arthur almost had a spasm over it, and the fact that we had raised and

lowered the light seemed to be the height of iniquity. I was always a very

innocent person anyway, and it must have been some wicked signal of which

I was ignorant. At any rate, life was not worth living for the next few days be-

cause the boys had serenaded us that snowy night. We found out that he

considered we were on the road to perdition. He talked dreadfully to us, and

what was merely an innocent bit of fun embittered me so that I am sure it

must have affected my conduct toward those nice boys. Shortly afterwards

they gave the entertainment for which they had been rehearsing, and we sisters

were there, escorted by two of the, and we enjoyed it hugely. Joe Lewis, John

Kennard, Wallace Simmons and Percy Peterson took part, and they were very

clever comedians.

Came the Christmas season with its many parties, and we had one our-

selves. One was at Hugh McKittrick's and one at the home of Richard Kerens. On

the last day of the year the Merchant's Exchange always celebrated an annual

merrymaking, and Mr. Richard Kerens took a group of us to see it, Kitty and

Minnie Kerens, Daisy Brookmeyer and me. Several boys joined the party there.

The Yale Glee Club sang, and we watched them swanking it around amongst

us poor Westerners. "Though some of them, "says the diary," cannot boast any-

thing better." For a number of St. Louis boys always went to Yale.

During that holiday time "The Black Hussar" came to town, and I was

escorted to see it three times. Mark Smith was the leading man, the production

was superb, and it gave me a delighted thrill. One night I had Bonsilene roses

and pink hyacinths to wear. Another night I was given Marechal Neil roses. I

saw Fanny Davenport and Robert Mantell in "Fedora," which was a great emo-

tional treat, saw Effie Ellsler in "Woman Against Woman," and found that a very

fine company.

It almost always turned viciously cold in St. Louis after the New Year,

and there was a lot of snow at this time, and we had a long season of sleighing

(drawn by horses) and coasting (on sleds.) I found it very confusing when I first

came over east to find the young people speaking of a coast on a bob-sled as

"sleighing." In spite of the intense cold we would form parties to slide down a

long hill which was several blocks of Garrison Avenue, and the menace of

swift automobiles had not yet worried us, and we placed a guard at the cross

streets to warn us of vehicles.

On a Saturday afternoon at the end of February I attended an innocuous

but epoch making card-party. There were sixteen girls and no boys. Most of the

guests were from our class at school, and we played the game of "Hearts" which

I had never seen before. I was quite carried away with enthusiasm about it and

when I went back to school on Monday, I talked a lot about it to Lisle Colby

(who afterwards married Augustus Thomas.) Lisle sat next to me in class, and

she had not been to the party. Lisle was curious about the game, and I was

dying to teach her so that we could play at recess. I took a pack of cards to

school; but instead of teaching her the game at recess or after hours, we foolishly

arranged to instruct her during a study period. Four daring girls met in the toilet

room and proceeded to play Hearts.

The room was divided into compartments, open at the top, and it was

easy to hear everything that took place. We must have felt secure. We did not

whisper, but talked aloud, and forgot that teachers also came into that room.

One at a time we were called before him and questioned. There was nothing to

do but to tell the whole tale, and I imagine they decided we were not doing

anything very wicked, because I cannot recall that we were punished in any way

except by our own fright and excitement. I was the most guilty because I had

brought the pack of cards to school. It seemed to me I wept buckets of tears, but

Mrs. Pennell was a gentle, darling old man, and he eventually let us off with a

warning not to do such things.

I was eighteen on the seventh of March. In Missouri that meant that I was

of age. My two thousand dollars was to be under my own control, but that did

not mean a thing, for Mr. Haeussler still managed our finances, and I received

the equivalent of twelve dollars a month. I received also the two carat diamond

ring which had been my father's and which my mother gave to me. He had this

ring on when he was killed and I treasured it very fondly. It was an odd piece of

jewelry. At that time men of means wore diamond shirt - studs. This ring was

transformable, the stone setting unscrewing from the ring onto a foundation for

a stud. When he died he was wearing it as a stud, and it was full of dried blood

when we received it. I had the setting soldered permanently into the ring form.

I already had the smaller diamond he had given me when I was eleven years old.

During this spring I continued to attempt to combine the society girl

with going to school. I saw some good plays, Catherine Lewis in "The Country

Girl," Henry Lewis supporting. Kirafly brother's spectacular opera "The Rat

Catcher." I was delighted with it, especially the ballet; Hubert Wilke in the

title role.

More and more in my diary I find the name of "Mr. Love." (For I called

him that to his face, and wrote it so in my diary. Not until after the great War

did people become so familiar as to drop all titles. I went with him to a Fiske

Lecture; and to church at Easter. For he was a serious young man and very

much in earnest, although possessing a nice sense of humor. He brought

me Marechal Neil roses and lilies of the valley. He called upon me frequently

and took me places. He was not a native of St. Louis and did not belong to

my college boy gang.

 

Minnette's Journal

Scott's Time Portal to Old St. Louis

Copyright 2001, Carol Jane Belding, All right reserved.  HTML and graphics edited by Scott Williams. Transcription by Deanna Adams Holm