Edna May Johnston

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Personal Narrative if Edna May Johnston
From: Edna May Johnston (ej)
Medium: Audio Tape
Date: 29 Apr 1999
Place: Home of Edna May Johnston, 1104 West 10th Street, Marion, Indiana 46953
Collected by: Gayan Povendran (gp)

gp: I am Gayan Poovendran. This is Thursday, April 29th, 1999. This is being recorded at1104 West 10th Street, Marion, Indiana. I am speaking with Edna May Johnston.

0:00 ej: I am Edna May Johnston of 1104 W. 10th Street Marion, Indiana.

gp: I hereby…

ej: I hereby give my permission…

gp: For this interview to be published…

ej:: For this interview to be published…

gp: To be published, for the Marion High School, or Marion Public Library Community History Project.

ej: For the Marion Public Library

gp: Community History Project

ej: Community History Project

gp: Thank you very much.

Oral History of Edna May Johnston

School Experiences

Marion's Schools

0:35 ej: My family moved from north of Chicago to Marion, Indiana, back in 1933, and I started 7th grade at Martin Boots Junior High School, which is located at between 3rd at 4th Street at the top of the hill, which is now Martin Boots Apartments, and I went there through the 9th grade and then I graduated from Martin Boots and on to Marion High School, which was on the corner of Nelson and Hill Street and, uh, John Kendall was the principal of the high school and that was what Kendall Elemmentary School was named after. Orville T. Allen was the civics leader and that is where Allen School is on Bradford street and then, umm,(inaudible) Foster Jones was an orchestra leader and that is who Jones Junior High was named after. And, um, well - ?


1:42 gp: Why don’t you talk about, how about the clubs and that kind of thing. I know earlier you were talking about may-y, m-y club . . .

ej: Hi-Y

gp: . . . Hi-Y Club and that kind of thing.

ej: We had a lot of clubs similar to what you have now in Marion High School. We had the Cactus Yearbook, of which I was a typist. And the uh . . . The Survey Newspaper, the weekly newspaper, which is still in existence, about once a month. And, um, . . .

gp: So The Survey was every week?

ej: The Survey was every week. It had all the activities for the high school, plus the, um, gossip column (gp laughs), you know. And we had the Latin Club, the Spanish Club . . . do you want me to just go name all of them?

gp: (inaudible)

ej: History Club, the Camera Club, science and art clubs, Boys and Girls Glee Clubs.

gp: There was no formal choir . . . just a Glee Club? No class for choir?

ej: No, we didn’t have . . . Richey Walton hadn’t started yet (both laugh) and, um, which he is really to be commended for what he has done. And we had a very good marching band. At every, before every sports activity, all the high school students met in the, um, what do you call it?

gp: Football field?

ej: No, we met in the, uh, oh, yeah. Heh, heh, heh,turn me off.

Pep Sessions

3:29 ej: Before all of our sports activity, everybody went to the auditorium in which we had a pep session, and we sang the high school song, which the children of today no longer know. (Laughs) And it really got the team’s adrenaline going, so it helped a lot I think in our sporting program because we did have a good one and, uh, but we had not had a state championship since 1926 and, of course, now we have history of state champions, which is Marion’s to be proud of. So, we also had an orchestra, beside the band, and they put on a lot of plays, which I never attended. And, every year, the Easter Pageant, uh, Easter Parade was held. We had an Easter queen and her attendants, and then each class, underclass had their special girl. What now?

4:50 gp: Uh, when we were talking earlier, you were talking about . . . Why don’t you say more about, I don’t know, the pep rallies. You were talking about how they had male cheerleaders and that sort of thing?

ej: We had male cheerleaders that were, that was before the girls' time and, uh, they went and got a lot of activity out of it. Of course, the school now is so big now, you can't do that unless you meet in the gymnasium. And (inaudible)


5:27 I graduated in June of 1939, in the first class over 200, and, um, on Wednesday morning we met at Jim Dandy restaurant and 34 people attended the breakfast, which I thought was pretty good, for after 60 years, that many of us showed up.

gp: When you graduated, did you have the ceremony outside, or was it inside?

ej: No, it was in the auditorium.

gp: In the auditorium.

ej: (inaudible) Yeah, I think so.

gp: It was in the auditorium?

ej: No, the graduation exercises were in the Marion Coliseum.

gp: Oh, so they were in the coliseum.

ej: Yeah, uh huh.


Integration - or Lack, Thereof

6:15 gp: Well, as we’re going through this yearbook, when we were in the sports, I noticed that the basketball player and the tennis players. What, I noticed that there weren’t very many black people. And now and I know this sounds kinda like (inaudible. There was one person on the basketball team, and I know that this sounds kinda . . .

ej: We had one person on the, our basketball team, Leonard Hawkins, who was also became, he was the most popular player, um, the most popular person in our class when we graduated.

gp: Was that a rarity, as far as other schools? I mean, was it predominantly white players?

ej: No, it was a sad fact that that was the way of life back then.

gp: It was a predominantly white athletes.

ej: Uh-huh.

gp: Do you know of them being discouraged to participate? I know you were talking about your daughter.

ej: Even 25 years later, my daughter’s classmates were told they needn’t go out. Maybe I shouldn’t say this.

gp: If you want, I can always back over it.

ej: I mean, because they were told that they would not make the team. Do you think I should say that?

gp: Whatever you feel. If you feel like you don’t want that on there, I can always back it up and . . .

ej: Well, it’s a sad fact, but it is a true fact, and that’s . . . so whatever you want to do.

gp: It’s completely your choice.

ej: As you can see.

gp: Yeah, as we are going through this . . .

ej: There’s our cheerleaders.

8:05 gp: Wow, extremely conservative clothing, too, wearing their full sweaters.

ej: They had to wear, um, yeah, now we had . . . now what did you have, senior chords, Joshua? They had senior chords, and everyone had to write their names on them. That was one of the traditions that we had. And it was very rare that any boy was over six-foot when I was in high school. We had a six-foot basketball player, and he was tall.


gp: What was the average height of the basketball players? 5’7? 5’8?

ej: I would imagine, about 5’10 would be . . .

gp: Wow, that’s a big difference. And you said that they weren’t allowed to shoot the ball in the air. They had to have both feet on the floor when they shot?

9:00 ej: They had to have both feet on the floor when they shot, and every time there was a basket made, you would have to take it to the center court and high jumped again. And, uh, the scores were between 20 and 25 points. I remember the sectional score. We, I think, Kokomo, we got beat by Kokomo by one point, and it was about 21-20 or something.

gp: Marion and Kokomo were always . . .

ej: You couldn’t double dribble like you do now, dribble when you get the ball, and then dribble after you get the ball. None of that was allowed, but it was good basketball. It just wasn’t today’s basketball.


10:04 gp: Let’s just turn a couple pages. Oh, I remember. You were talking about how you were the only girl on the softball team?

ej: Oh, I played on the North Marion softball team, just a made up team. I was the only girl - until I was 16 and then the boys were starting to play Marion sports and they didn’t have Marion sports for girls hardly back then. And then I went to an all girls' team over in Gas City and played until I got married.

gp: Females playing sports back then was very rare then, wasn’t it?

Volleyball, Kickpin, and Ping-Pong

ej: Oh, very, yeah. We had . . . this is the volleyball team I played on. We had a kickpin team, which people don’t even hear of now.

gp: What was kickpin? Was it like kickball?

ej: That was when we would go down to that Coliseum and he’d pitch it to us and we would kick the ball and run around the bases.

gp: So that was a school sponsored sport?

ej: Yeah, at that time, but it didn’t last very long. And then we had a Ping-Pong tournament a couple a years that I played in.

11:26 gp: They didn’t have . . . I know soccer is a real, I mean, it had plenty of foundation in Europe for quite a many a year. It didn’t come here until recently.

ej: No, in fact, my grandson in Texas was playing before he was in grade school. Long before Marion, Bennett High School got the first soccer team here in Marion, and then Marion eventually got into soccer, which is really a great sport, I think.

gp: They have baseball. What other sports did they have, not necessarily school sponsored, just a lot of people. Did they play rugby?

ej: No, I never knew them to play rugby here.

gp: Or cricket?

ej: No, nuh, huh.

gp: So it was mainly, the sports were mainly like basketball, tennis, golf, football. That was about it, wasn’t it, then?

ej: Later on, my oldest son went on to Golden Gloves boxing.

gp: Boxing wasn’t a school-sponsored sport was it?


ej: Oh, no. Marion was never active in it like that. Now, we did have a good tennis team, I think Bill Tilden was one of the stars who came to visit Marion a few times. Of course, we had some good tennis players.

gp: You hear about Bill Tilden, what he did, even now, and I mean that must have been really big. What other activities did you do outside of school? You said that you were a typist for the Cactus Yearbook, like what other things did you do outside of school? You said that you were a typist for the Cactus Yearbook, like what other things did you do outside of school? I mean, were there movies and that kind of thing? Did you go to movies? Was that a big thing?


Movies and Radios

13:32 ej: Very rarely. I mean, they had movies, but I can remember the first Technicolor - Becky Sharp, I think, or something. That was, in fact, I remember colored camera's picture didn’t come in ‘til about 1948. So you can see everything really is relatively new.

gp: A lot of things that we take for granted for today - like computers.

ej: We had no telephone when we were growing up and no radio.

gp: No radio?

ej: Well, we had one radio that everyone would sit around and listen to, but . . .

gp: Right.

ej: Of course, TVs were non-existent.

gp: Um, radio, you, I think, listened to shows and stuff. Did you listen to like “The Shadow” and that sort of thing?

ej: I never did, but there were a lot of people who did.

14:43 gp: Yeah, because I had a friend whose grandmother did that also. (inaudible) The Survey was a weekly thing, right?

ej: Right, uh-huh.

gp: You had a Spanish Club and a Latin Club?

ej: Uh-huh.


gp: So, that was interesting. Oh, why don’t you talk about the dances. I know you didn’t go to any, but did people make a big deal about them then like they do now? Like the prom?

ej: Oh, the ones that went did, yes, but it was, uhh, it was mostly people that were, had money could afford to.

gp: Right.

ej: I went to my first prom last week, thanks to my grandson Josh. We really looked forward to the Easter Parade, and the Easter Pageant then became popular.

Roller Skating at the Idyl Wyld

15:50 gp: What do think of Marion then? Um, I know you were saying something about how the Idyl Wyld was really big.

ej: Well, the main activity was the Idyl Wyld, and, uh, the (inaudible) all were very good skaters. And I guess they still have relatives that are. (inaudible) Then we had the drive-in theater.

The Highway Theater

gp: So you do have a drive-in?

ej: We did have it. Yeah, that was in the early 1940s because I had a nephew who went to it.

gp: Is that the one that was here until recently when they tore it down?

ej: The Highway Theater at 26 and the bypass, that the Marcuccillis own. And they had firecrackers - fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Softball at Matter Park

16:52 gp: I know, the biggest park, Matter Park, I was reading somewhere, that Matter Park was the place to be. Was that true (inaudible)?

ej: (inaudible) Softball games

gp: Softball games.

ej: And we had the Patrick Henry softball team, which, uh, later, that would be that was back in the '40s. And, uh . . .

gp: Why don’t you talk about the softball team again.

ej: Back in the '30s and early '40s, Marion was very active in intramural basketball and softball teams, and we had a very active Patrick Henry softball team. Plus later, after Patrick Henry, we had one team that went to the national tournament in Portland, Oregon, I believe, and which we won. And Marion won.

gp: So you were the National Champions . . .

ej: Yeah, right, uh-huh. And, uh, Paul Hoke Wilson was the pitcher at the time. First game he ever played in, he wanted to play barefoot in. He came up from Kentucky and he wanted to play barefoot but they wouldn’t let him. And even the companies were very competitive. Anaconda, Foster Forbes, radio, I mean, uh, RCA and all of them were very competitive in intramural sports.

gp: Was that high school students, or was that . . .

ej: That wasn’t high school, though; that was company sports. But, really, the biggest activity was the Idyl Wyld that I can remember. Of course, I wasn’t very, I was not active.


19:15 gp: How . . .you go downtown now. What was downtown like in 1930 . . . 30ish when you were in high school?

ej: Of course, back then, we had no, a lot of people had no radio. TV was not heard of. And, a lot of people went down and parked around the square just to watch. There were just so many people down there on a Friday or Saturday night.

We had the Indiana Theater, the Paramount Theater, and the (inaudible), and the (inaudible) were the two cheaper ones. I think they were about 10 or 15 cents to get in to one of them. And they were right across the street from each other, on, um, 4th or 5th Street. I can remember when we all went downtown to watch the (inaudible) when it burned down.

But there were a lot of people that did that for recreation, but there have never really been enough activity for students in the city of Marion since I lived here in 19(33?)43 I don’t think. And I think they need more places to go to that don’t cost 5 or 10 dollars every time they step in the door for them to, um, spend their time, to keep them out of trouble and things. But, um . . .

21:00 gp: Were there live, you were talking about theaters, were there live theaters? Was there a Marion Civic Theater? I mean, were there community theaters?

ej: I think they - of course, I was never associated with it - but they did have it. They had the program. I know my husband played in Lor one time, and, uh, he was, but I was never in any activity like that.

gp: Did you watch the shows at all? You never went to watch them either?

ej: No.

Vintage Marion

Style in the Forties

21:50 gp: What was the dress code like? Going through these sports pictures, I see the tennis players are wearing what looks to be full khakis and from the picture full khakis, long sleeve shirt. Some of them are wearing short sleeve shirts, loafers, it looks like it. What was the dress like?

ej: No girls ever wore anything other than skirts or dresses. Slacks were unheard of. Jeans weren’t in the making yet, and, uh, so, they had, I don’t think they had Senior Chords when I was in school. I’m getting my kid’s time and my time mixed up. As you can see here, they had gym suits on there, but we all had skirts and blouses or sweaters.

gp: It looks like, by today’s standards, rather conservative, but it looks rather revealing. I was always under the impression that you were wearing full length skirts, and there was never (inaudible). . .

ej: No, no full-length skirts, we never wore, just below the knee.

gp: Oh, you had to have it below the knee.

ej: Yeah, yeah, what we wore anyway.

gp: Women never wore slacks. There were no T-shirts, were there?

ej: T-shirts?

gp: What I am wearing now, basically 2 pieces of cloth sewn together.

ej: I don’t think that we had . . .

gp: Everything was buttoned up.

ej: Yeah, sweaters and short sleeves. Yeah, sweaters and short sleeves.

gp: What about in the summer, was it the same thing? Did they wear shorts?

ej: I was never allowed to, but a lot of them did.

gp: Men and women or just men?

ej: Yeah, men and women. My mother never allowed me to have them on. There you can see all the, some of them show their knee, but not many. Not like they were all angelic, but that was just the trend of the day.

gp: It seems like the haircut looks standard.

ej: Yeah, you didn’t hear of long hair back then on boys, and it was just, the dress code is so different than what it is today. They are so liberal now, to the extreme in some cases.

Misbehavior and Discipline

25:35 gp: What were the main, I know this wasn’t you, but what were the main disciplinary problems? Was it mainly talking back to the teacher and that kind of stuff, or was it . . .

ej: Skipping class.

gp: Was that mainly seniors, or was that everybody?

ej: Some boys set fire up in the attic of the school, and they got in a little bit of trouble. Of course, we didn’t have, you guys know of everything that happens in Marion now where we didn’t know except by hearsay when something happened. It has back in the old, old days. There has been a lot happened in the last 60 years.

26:27 gp: How did they deal with that, I mean, what did they do when someone was caught skipping class or in that instance setting fire to the attic?

ej: I really don’t . . . if would’ve had to go to the principal’s office when I was in school, I think I would have died on the spot. So, I don’t know what they had to do when they got in trouble. I think we had 9 periods, and they would have 10th period maybe. They would have to spend extra time in school.

gp: So it was still rather mild. It wasn’t like corporal punishment with a belt or clapping erasers after school or anything?

ej: Suspension or anything like that?

gp: So it was rather modern in disciplinary action. You weren’t active in school. You didn’t play an instrument or anything?


27:41 ej: Oh, another thing we did was bowling. And the first bowling alley I ever played in was above (inaudible) Jewelers. They had a bowling alley up there, Miller’s bowling, and then they had one on 8th Street. I think it was 10 cents a (inaudible), and then everybody hollered because they raised it to 15 cents. (inaudible).

Working as a Secretary

I started working when I was 17 and I made more money than my girlfriend’s mother and I made 7 dollars and a half a week.

gp: Really. Wow.

ej: And that was back in 1939. Times have changed, of course, the value of money has gone up so much, too, so . . .

28:38 gp: You held a secretarial or secretary’s position, so your work wasn’t as tedious as someone in the factory, right? You didn’t have to work long, long hours?

ej: It wasn’t manually, but it was physically. It was, well, back then you’d have to make 5 or 6 copies of the same thing. You couldn’t go to the copier and make one copy and then use the rest of them. You’d have to use carbon papers.

gp: That must have been terrible when you made a mistake.

ej: In fact, I have arthritis in every joint in both of my hands. I used to type the price list at Foster Forbes at night, after working 8 hours a day, and I would get some extra money.

Keeping Up with the Big Cities

29:40 gp: What else was Marion like? You said it was pretty large. Was it fairly modern when compared to like Indianapolis or Chicago? Did it keep up with the current trends, or was it more conservative?

ej: It was about even with Kokomo when I was in school, but Kokomo has far surpassed us, now, I think.

gp: Did it keep up with the technology for the most part? The technology was basically the same, but did the electricity come in? The phone? Did those become fairly mainstream around the same time as it did in the rest of the United States? Or was it . . .

ej: It kept up that way, I think. It's just never kept up the complete potential it could have.

Trains and Planes

31:04 gp: From what I understand Marion became Marion because of the train stations. There were 2 or 3 different rail lines.

ej: There was one right here down here at 10th, at the bottom of the hill on 10th street, and the main depot was at 10th and Washington Street. And I left for Chicago over there at 10th and Maple, between Maple and Nebraska Street. And we had the Marion Airport out west of town where Fisher Body is located now.

gp: It’s not where the airport is now?

ej: No, nuh-huh. They had a pretty active airport back in that time. It just never grew like it could have grown. I think.


Wendell Ray Hurley

gp: I think that’s about all. We’ve covered a lot of ground.

32:44 ej: Is about Wendell Ray Hurley on this one?

gp: I’m not sure. No, it’s not. Actually it’s not.

ej: Do you want that on there?

gp: Yeah, why don’t you talk about that a little bit.

ej: Wendell Ray Hurley was our band leader for the Marion High School band and he was in Honolulu when the Japs attacked and he went down with the Arizona which is buried there at Pearl Harbor and a lot of our the boys of 1939 were killed in action at that time. I got married in 1942, so I missed and was gone for 8 year, so I missed out on a lot of 6 years, so I missed out a lot of people who server, the classmates who died.

Edna's Opinion

gp: That was after you graduated, and you lost touch? Was that kind on you? What was your opinion of the war? Did you believe that we should have been in the war? Did you think it was our business?

ej: I think World War I, definitely, we had to be in it. But, Vietnam War, no, like today.

gp: What about World War II? Do you think we should have been in World War II?

To Serve or Not to Serve

ej: I think there was no way of getting out of it since they attacked us. But, a lot of the people that I later worked with did not see any service activity due to that they would have their bosses excuse them from service, you know. So, they would stay home and work a double shift at their companies and they are the ones that became rich but when the veterans made money . . . I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true.

gp: Was there corruption? I mean, how did they do that?

ej: Politics, yeah, all the way. That and they good reasons for not being there. I don’t mean it like that, but there were a lot of them that could have gone to service that, too, didn’t. But it was an experience World War II, and then my husband was in the Korean Conflict.

In Conclusion: Reviewing the Data

35:56 gp: I think that is about all. Your school, it’s amazing how much Marion High School has changed since 1939 and there are so many more activities that you would have thought to have always have been there and I never would have thought that M-Club would have been as old as it is.

ej: It’s always been an honor to be in the M-Club.

36:38 gp: I really appreciate the time you have taken to let me interview you like this, and I hope to talk to you again. This was very informative, and . . .

ej: Thank you for asking me and I’m sorry that I wasn’t active when I was growing up or I would have been able to help you more.

gp: It’s quite alright, just finding out about how the school was. Athletics is something a lot of people are interested in. Now, almost everybody is involved with athletics one way, and to see how it was then it is just so fascinating. I would never have realized that there were male cheerleaders. I mean, you see male cheerleaders now, and you don’t, you would never had thought that males were the dominant cheerleaders in . . .

ej: In college, it is about half-and-half now, isn’t it?

gp: Yeah. Dress, I mean I never realized that the dress was as contemporary as it is. I was always under the impression that it was a lot more conservative than in was. The life experiences, and no ones life is ever boring, and you lived a very interesting life and it was really informative and I really appreciate that you took the time to . . .

38:15 ej: Oh, I am happy to be able, to be able to help you in any way. If a person would just look and realize some of the things what the old people have at their reunions, before sliced bread and before all the different things people have nowadays and take for granted, electric irons and washing machines and things like that. They were just not in existence. Well, they were in existence, just not . . .

gp: They weren’t mainstream.

ej: (inaudible)

38:55 gp: There was one more thing I wanted to say. Oh, I know this kind of backtracks, but was Marion always - urban isn’t the word for it, but do you know what I mean when I say the word urban?

ej: (inaudible)

gp: Was Marion more farm-like than it is now? Was it more like open country?

ej: Yeah, what they call (inaudible), there were no houses there when I was. When people came back for our class reunion, they couldn’t get around ‘cause there was no bypass. Everything was downtown Marion, and now it is . . .

gp: All on this side. So Marion is really expanded. It's expanding southward, isn’t it?

ej: It’s becoming a cavity in the middle of it. Like Washington, Adams, Gallatin, Boots Street are all empty homes and spaces where those were all houses with big families in them. And that is where our population has gone. Really, we’ve had no core of downtown Marion, is the reason our population is dwindling, lessening.

gp: I think Marion is now about 34,000, maybe 35,000, I believe. It is smaller than it used to be.

ej: We need new minds, like you, to help build up the city of Marion.

40:57 gp: Let me stop that now.