How My Grandmother Got to College

My grandmother Frances Eloy Flora Sigler is 95, almost 96. Visiting her, I learned how she ended up at college, which was very unusual for the time. When she graduated from high school at 17, most girls went straight to work and worked until they married.

1937 Spring Dale & Gloie Flora
Dale & Gloie Flora, Spring 1937

My grandmother graduated from Frankton High School in 1935. At that time, my great-grandmother, Gloie, didn’t think her daughter needed to go to college. She thought Frances ought to get a job, like the other girls. My great-grandfather, Dale, had other ideas. He noticed that Frances used to play “school” all of the time. In fact, my grandmother’s sister, Marilyn, said that in first grade when Frances came home from school, she announced that she was going to college.

Dale came into Frances’ room one morning and said get your clothes and get in the car, we’re going to school. They drove North to Ball State Teacher’s College and he promptly signed her up for school. Gloie, on the other hand, was not happy that her daughter was going to college.

Frances had never been away from home for any length of time except to stay the night at her aunt’s house. My grandmother said she never owned a bicycle or learned how to ride one. So she ended up walking everywhere. Going away to college was quite an adventure.

1939 Frances Flora College Address
1935-39 Frances Flora’s College Residence

My grandmother lived three blocks from campus with a roommate, in a house run by Mrs. DeWitt. She said the three blocks didn’t seem that long when walking to classes each day, but in some of the winters those three blocks in the bitter cold seemed like forever!

While she was in college, Frances said she worked for the head of the business department and made $10 a week. The $10 went a long way at the time. I wonder what that $10 a week is in today’s dollars? I had to go look it up and it is $174. She also played sports while she was in college, including baseball. Frances said she used to come home during the summers. She graduated from college in 1939. Frances knew her dad was proud of her when he introduced her to people as, Frances Flora, my daughter, the school teacher.

1939 Ball State Grad Invite
Ball State Graduation Invitation 1939
Frances Flora - College Graduate
Frances Flora – College Graduate
1939 Ball State Grad Invite inside
Frances Flora’s Graduation Announcement 1939

How unusual was it for my grandmother to go to college?

Her father, Dale Flora (1888-1963) never graduated from college. He never even went to high school. In fact, he never even finished school in the one room schoolhouse. He went directly from sixth grade to go work on a farm. Later he went on to become involved in politics, being elected as a Republican congressman in the Indiana Legislature, (during the 1950s). He was President of the Bank in Elwood when he died in 1963. He was a well-respected man and wouldn’t take anything from anybody — no bribes or gifts. People offered him money, liquor, and other things. One man said, when Dale refused to take his gifts, “well, how else am I supposed to get you to vote for me?” Dale wouldn’t vote for something unless he felt it was right. People knew that if he said something, he meant it! Dale said, when he was in the legislature that he is serving “two” terms, his first and his last. He couldn’t stand the politics! Dale Flora was a real man of the people, but he never went to college.

Gloie Mae Etchison (1890-1987) graduated from Elwood High School in the class of 1909, which had around 30 graduates with only 3 boys, one of whom was Wendall Wilkie, who ran for president in 1940 and was one of the partners of the law firm that became Willkie, Farr & Gallagher). Gloie and her cousin, Vivian Foust, rode to school every day in a horse and buggy. Her sister, Eloy, never went to school as she was a sickly child. My grandmother actually used the word “poorly.” Gloie didn’t continue with her schooling or work outside the home. She never learned how to drive and had to have someone drive her whenever she wanted to go somewhere. She did however, raise chickens throughout her life in order to have “pin money.”

1940 Wendall Wilkie Day, Elwood, Indiana
1940 Wendall Wilkie Day, Elwood, Indiana
1940 Wendall Willkie day
1940 Wendall Willkie Day, Elwood, Indiana
1929 Gloie's Chickens
1929 Gloie’s Chickens

Once she graduated from college, my grandma taught high school for 22 years (3 years before she had children and then 19 years more afterwards). She taught at Frankton High School, the same school she graduated from. She ended up teaching her sister, brother-in-law, cousin, and her own children. She said another woman wanted to teach at that school and said Frances was “in” with the principal. My grandmother labeled that woman as a complainer, which is saying a lot because I have never heard her criticize or say a bad word about anyone.

 

Frances taught math, shorthand, typing, accounting, bookkeeping, and physical eduation. She said she liked teaching shorthand but the students weren’t that into shorthand. She used shorthand for her own note taking for a very long time! She treated the students with respect. They also learned that if she said something she would abide by her word. Students respected my grandmother, as she is a no-nonsense person! She retired in 1976, which I remember as a 9-year-old. I remember the plaque she got with the bicentennial font on it, a giant 76 in the middle of it.

All of her children ended up going to college. Jeanne, the oldest ended up going to Fort Wayne Business School until she had her first child. The other four children all graduated from Purdue, including my father. What a legacy Dale Flora started by taking his daughter to college.

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