Sunday, September 3, 2017

Was Sarah Eva Howe Salyers America's First 'Helicopter Parent'?

In September 1925, Robert King Salyers started his sophomore year at the University of Kentucky. He lived at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house at 430 E. Maxwell in Lexington.

The scrapbooks yield several letters from Bob to his mother, Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, and from Sarah to Bob. What a treat to discover some things in this world are the same 92 years later! In excerpts from one letter (transcription below the image), Sarah pines for Bob and mentions other parents who are missing the young people who left Carrollton, Kentucky to attend college. Sarah also offers advice, entreats Bob to keep promises made (with no mention of what those promises were), and urges him to continue with medical treatment for an ailment not disclosed in the letters. I was amused to find that our precocious, inventive, fiercely independent Sarah had become a bit of a “helicopter parent,” today’s definition of one who hovers over a child to the point of micromanagement.
Dearest Bobby;
I was so sorry not to get to talk to you tonight –- I long to hear your voice, my Bobby! The town is full of bereft mothers tonight, tho. Mr. Harry and Miss Grace say they are missing the girls so terribly –- I haven’t talked to Miss Mabel, but I know how she feels; Roman [Browinski, a 1923 graduate of Carrollton High and Bob’s distant cousin] leaves tomorrow, and Doug Vest on Wednesday. I have tried to get you on the telephone at least six times! Especially when Roman was here at dinner yesterday, and again today at dinner, so you could talk to Giltner [possibly surnamed Salyers; another distant cousin].

I’m afraid you were cold tonight, without your covers. I sent them today; I hope you slept in your bathrobe and put your overcoat over you!

. . . [Referring to making pumpkin pies] I’ll save one till you come home, or perhaps I can send you one in a box. Please write and tell me about everything. Can’t you write me a letter as long as the ones you used to write to little Thomy? You don’t have to write [those] any more. Please don’t put off the inoculation and lose the effect of the first! Please tell me about the courses you are taking, what studies, etc. About the [Kappa Sigma] House, and what boys are there. Don’t forget what you promised me to do –- and don’t forget to go to church. 
With deepest love, Mother.

A letter from Bob to his mother responds to a few of her inquiries:
Dear Mother,
. . . I got my suit yesterday, also my laundry, for which I thank you very much. I’ll send you some more soon. I got a letter from Dad yesterday and he said he’d be thru here about next Thursday. I’ll certainly be glad to see him.
Well, it cost me $38 to register, and I have my schedule fixed up, but it does not suit me. To begin with, I changed into the college of commerce and had to take 11 hours of freshmen requirements which I did not have last year. I have college algebra, 3 courses in economics (3 hours each), psychology, military science and 2 hours of psychology lab, every Tuesday.

. . . We have all of the old boys back, except the ones who graduated, and ten good pledges. There are 24 living in the house now. Everything looks good for a big year.

Give my regards to everybody.

Your son, Bob
In a later letter, Bob named the Kappa Sigma pledges of 1925:
Dave McNamara and Eggy Marshall from Frankfort
T. Newman from Ashland
Bill Matheny from Stanford
R. Dycus and J.H. Adams from Smithland
George Penn of Lexington
Ed. Davis from Berea
George Broadus’s brother (no other information)
Joe Thomas from Hopkinsville

Like any college student, Bob wrote home about money:
I wrote a check on you for $3.50 and perhaps you had better send me $7 or $8 as I still have some books to get. Books cost $5 apiece or thereabouts once in a while $2.50 or $3. I am not going to write any more checks now.
Of course, college can’t be all work and no play. There’s football! Bob writes home to his brother:
Jim, old boy, I’ll be glad to have you come up to the Centre game if we can get seats and a way over, both of which will be pretty difficult. I’ll let you
Ticket stub, 1925 (found for sale on eBay)
know right away so you can come up to some other game if I can’t get seats for the other. Really, the best game will be the one with W&L [Washington and Lee] this Saturday. . . There is one with Sewanee the next Saturday and one with Tennessee on Thanksgiving – the Homecoming day. Maybe that one will be best.
To his mother, he mentioned going to a couple of college parties and the football game. He also wrote home about an achievement:
. . . I am enclosing a clipping [gone now from the scrapbook] announcing the pledging of the SuKy Circle, considered by many the foremost honorary [fraternal organization] on the campus. . . . To make a long story short, your little boy was among the lucky ones to be pledged at the exercises tonight. I have worked pretty hard for it but now I realize it was worth it.
He also reassured her:
I have been to church both Sundays, once at the Presbyterian church and once to the Baptist. Will go to Park [a Methodist church] this Sunday.

Sarah, an active member of the Carrollton Methodist Church from childhood, must have been pleased to read that!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting. College kids never change but the dollar amount sure has.