Cute story reveals a little about life in the 1950s…..
Joyce Ray Wheeler
It was September of the year 1953. A very young mathematics professor had just moved with his young wife and two very young sons to the city of Birmingham, Alabama. They had rented a very small house on 7th Avenue South, joined Ruhama Baptist Church and he began teaching mathematics at Howard College.
First six years we had little time for social life
The first six years of their marriage had allowed little time for social life since that period had been devoted full-time to the husband’s post-graduate studies at the University of Kentucky.
He tutored Bear Bryant’s football boys
To supplement his GI Bill income he had tutored Bear Bryant’s football boys and Rupp’s basketball boys to keep them eligible to play. Now the wedding gifts the Wheelers had received reflected the love of family and friends in the small rural town where they grew up. They were practical gifts such as blankets, pillows, and towels. Giving china, crystal or silver was unheard of. The Wheelers’ parents had “good dishes” and “everyday dishes.” Soon after moving to that little house at 7924 7th Avenue South, this young woman received a phone call.
Just bring eight of your best china plates and cups
“Hello! This is Mrs. Hess.” She spoke with a very cultivated southern accent. (Now the young woman hadn’t met many people yet, but she did know Mrs. Hess was the wife of the HEAD of the mathematics department, her young husband’s boss.) She listened attentively as the precise voice continued: “On the third Friday of October (and this was already mid-September!) the Faculty Wives Club will be meeting at my home. You are to be one of my co-hostesses. Since you are new, I will not ask you to bring refreshments. Just bring eight of your best china plates and cups.” There was a small SILENCE then a polite shaky “Yes Ma’am.”
I can’t be a Faculty Wife
The scene at 4 p.m. when young professor arrived home that day was far from quiet and peaceful. Big-eyed small boy meets daddy at the door—“Mommy’s crying. She’s been crying a long time.” Tired young husband finally interprets the tearful explanation of his wife to be “I can’t be a Faculty Wife because we don’t have GOOD CHINA!” A later, calmer discussion resulted in husband solving the problem (He’s always been great at solving problems!) by saying, “Don’t worry! We’ll buy good china when I get my first pay-check tomorrow.” (And they did).
Loveman’s advertised a Noritake china sale
Loveman’s Department Store advertised a Noritake china sale. Young mother with 18 month old clutched tightly in her arms and young father with wiggly small boy held by the hand walked bravely into Loveman’s china department and purchased a 54 piece set of Noritake china (Arlington Pattern) on sale.
Now if you’ve dined with this couple through these many years, you most probably were not served on this china. They’ve been used on rare occasions. Neither big pink roses nor gray borders have ever fit in too well with our decor. Nevertheless these dishes will never be parted with because of their nostalgic value. By opening the lower right door of my china cabinet you can see them where they’ve lived for 57 years.
Back in the 1950s….it wasn’t so much that the china was expensive as it was that the department head’s wife could reign supreme and order other women around. It’s that way now in the Korean community in Montgomery. The Hyundai department head’s wife commands the wives of his subordinates in social activities. She sets the activity – they come.
Where in Montgomery is, “The Korean community”?
Andrew Payne not “where” but “who”
Dr. Wheeler was at SAmford when I was there and such a great teacher the he wrote Math books. His older son was in school when I was, and married one of my good friends there. I am pretty sure I have a book written by him about his wife. This is a story from a great Samford family.
My Noritake China came from Lovemans about 60 years ago. I’m sure it was on sale also. We lived in Tuscaloosa when The Bear came to UA. Roll Tide!!