Monday, June 2, 2014

July 20, 1939: Wait, What?


Dr. Albert Martin
Westbranch, Iowa

Dear Sir:
      I am writing to you in answer to your telegram of July 16.

     The committee in charge of this plan met last evening. Their sentiment was this. You are in a better position to know these boys, their characteristics and their background, than we are and so, acting upon your recommendation, we have decided to accept Thomas Doeppner if he is willing to come under our present plan. 

     I would like, at the present time, to make clear several points so that there will be no misunderstanding of hard feelings later on. Do not think that I am being arbitrary. I merely wish to outline the situation as I see it. 

     First, the financial plan. We have acheived our goal of $490. This amount will enable a student to attend McPherson College one year but it is obvious that he cannot live in luxury on that amount. The College Administration has promised $150 in work or scholarship at their discretion. The rest of the amount has been raised by donations and is the form of cash. The financial plan has been set up for one year only. Personally, I hope that it will be possible for the plan to continue longer but that is only my personal wish.

     McPherson College is a small, midwestern college supported and maintained by the Church of the Brethren. It attempts to maintain the standards and ideals of the church on its campus. Smoking, drinking, and dancing are not permitted. If Mr. Doeppner should decide to come he would be expected to conform to the ideals of the college. 

     The biggest difficulty, it seems to me, is whether we can benefit Mr. Doeppner. According to his credentials he desires work in engineering and electricity. McPherson College is a Liberal Arts college and as such could give Mr. Doeppner only a preparatory course. We are not familiar enough with the European grading system to know whether Mr. Doeppner has taken any or all of the courses that we might be able to offer him. I am sending you a catalogue of the college under separate cover and I wish that you or Mr. Doeppner would look it over carefully and see if the courses offered will benefit him.

     Do I make myself clear? We should be very happy to have Mr. Doeppner with us next year if he feels that he can fit into our situation and can obtain such courses as will help him to achieve his life's work.

     Since the time is growing short would you inform me of Mr. Doeppner's decision as soon as possible. Thanking you for your courteous attention to our demands. I am

Sincerely yours
Phil Myers


Charlotte Salmon
Philadelphia, Penns.

Dear Madam:

      I am sorry to have been so long delayed in answering your letter.

     The situation was this. Luther Harshbarger contacted Dr. Martin at the Kansas Institute and Dr. Martin recommended two boys to him. We wrote to Dr. Martin about these boys and we were waiting for his reply when we received your letter. I then wired to you inquiring as to Dr. Martins address and have since corresponded with him. At present it appears that we shall accept one of the boys he recommended. I shall let you know definitely as soon as I hear from Dr. Martin again.

     I am sending this special delivery in an attempt to make up for some of the lost time. Thanking you for "putting up" with our seeming slowness, I am

Sincerely yours

Phil Myers

This is a very interesting development. You may recall that Jan Rosenbach was in the lead (at least in Charlotte’s mind) for the acceptance and scholarship to McPherson. She had all but told them (here) to go ahead and tell her that his acceptance was approved so she could get a move on his paperwork for a visa. Then we find out that Phil Myers and the McPherson folks were actually doing a little research on the recommended guys, and Opa was actually the stand-out choice. It all depends on Dr. Martin’s final suggestion. That is pretty crazy.

Here we had been thinking Opa would go to Oberlin, and Jan would go to McPherson, and that would be that. Then we find out that Oberlin puts Opa at the top of their wait-list, and McPherson has essentially chosen Opa, pending Dr. Martin’s response. At this time, even Charlotte does not know that they have chosen Opa.

If you think about it, this is the quintessential argument for not burning bridges. Not that Opa had any reason to burn a bridge with Dr. Martin, but at this very moment in our timeline, July of 1939- the person who can tip the decision in Opa’s favor is not Albert Einstein, not a governor, not a prominent journalist and business man, but a Quaker. A professor of little renown who is a trusted opinion. That’s wild.

Was Charlotte perturbed by this sort of “going around” her to get information, or was it business as usual? From what I gather of Charlotte - I get the sense that she didn’t mind so much how it was done (at least if ethically), so long as it got done quickly and she could get folks to safety. She doesn’t strike me as one who would get her feathers ruffled easily. Of course all we have gotten to read is her business/professional correspondence.

SO- now what? Will Opa get an acceptance to McPherson right on the heels of his wait-list news from Oberlin?? It’s all in Dr. Martin’s hands.

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