Friday, May 26, 2017

A Nebraska Farm Girl in New York City: VirginiaT., 1940

After Virginia’s stressful experience with her first teaching job, she went back to Nebraska State Normal School and Teacher’s College at Wayne1 where she lived in Pile Hall2 with a good friend, Irene Dangberg.3 She needed to further her education and prepare for the next adventure.

Upon completing her teacher certification, Virginia secured a job at District 24, Wayne County, Nebraska, where she taught four years.4 During this period in the summer of 1937, she and Neville traveled to Virginia to visit their brother Verne (See “Sisters. . .”). While there, a tall, slender young man named Raymond DeBord5 caught Virginia’s eye, and she caught his.6 But they lived far apart and a summer visit was too short to make life-changing decisions. Nonetheless, they wrote letters.

In 1939, Winside schools hired Virginia to teach in the intermediate room.7 Not only had Virginia been a top student herself, but also she encouraged her students to excel.8 She taught at Winside for one year.9 

History of Winside, 1942, by Jones & Dimmel, p. 97

Then her adventurous spirit prevailed. She applied for and was hired to teach in Puerto Rico.

And off she went, first by train: the Pacemaker, New York Central’s “premier all coach service” between Chicago and New York.10 In a letter to her parents, she raved about her good nights sleep, the boy scouts in her car who entertained the passengers, and the sights of the Hudson River from Albany to New York City: West Point Academy, Sing Sing Prison, and the Palisades of the Hudson.11 She complained about having to pay $3.00 a night for a room at the Commodore Hotel, and she felt astounded by the fact that she could walk for blocks from building to building “and never be out on the sidewalk with the sky above [me].”12

Envelope mailed from Commodore Hotel, NYC.
After settling into her room, resting, and freshening up, Virginia set out to find a place to eat.  Her description of her experience is priceless:

 “I knew the food was above my style here at the hotel so I walked down to the lower level of Grand Central and spotted an air-conditioned restaurant that didn’t look so ritzy. But lo and behold when I got to the door there was the head waiter to show me to a table. I almost collapsed when he brought me a menu. The cheapest thing I could get was a sandwich for 75¢. So I ordered a tuna fish sand. Then the darn waiter asked what I’d have to drink and I ordered a glass of milk. The tuna fish sand. filled a dinner plate. I got 13 slices of bread—5  different kinds, three slices of tomato, half of a hard-boiled egg, half a head of lettuce and a whole can of tuna. When I asked for my check, would you believe it when I told you that I had to pay 20¢ extra for the glass of milk. I gave them a dollar and said Good Night!”13

 She had learned her lesson. The next day, she found a dime store lunch counter on Fifth Avenue and paid five cents for her lunch. Her favorite, though, was an innovative method of getting food that she had never before seen: the Automat. “They are cafeterias where you can get anything from soup to nuts by putting a nickel in a slot," she writes. “All food except steamed dishes are behind little glass doors all along the walls. You put in your nickel and the door flops open. What won’t they think of next?”14

That night she went to Radio City Music Hall to see “Pride and Prejudice,” which was “swell.” But what dazzled her beyond words was the “floor show . . . . presented by the R. C. A. symphony orchestra, ballet, and glee club.”15

And so after two days in New York City, the little Nebraska farm girl reported to her parents that she felt like “one of these New Yorkers who seem to like no one quite so much as themselves. I’ve learned to strut down 5th Avenue and Broadway, crowd at every corner, speak as if you were commanding an army, keep your eyes straight ahead and look at no one unless it’s a cop.”16 She had adapted.

The next leg of her journey took her by boat to Puerto Rico.

1 The name of State Normal School and Teacher’s College was changed in 1949 to Nebraska State Teacher’s College at Wayne and then in 1963 to Wayne State College.
2 Mary Troutman, Winside, Nebraska, to Virginia Troutman, letter, 26 March 1935; relates information about a teaching job opportunity and cousin news; Troutman Letters, CD compiled by Leo W. Nelsen, Jr., copy privately held by Z. T. Noble, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
3 “The Bride’s History: To be Opened on Their Silver Wedding Anniversary,” not dated, but the bride married 27 Oct. 1946; Troutman Letters, CD.
4 Ibid.
5 Raymond DeBord and Virginia Troutman were actually third cousins, but they probably didn’t know it. Their common ancestors were their great-great-grandparents, Oliver Pratt and Mary Fulks Pratt. Their grandmothers, America Ann Pratt and Susan Marion Elizabeth Pratt were first cousins.
6 “The Bride’s History . . . “
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 F. M. Jones and F. J. Dimmel, The History of Winside, Nebraska (no place: no publisher, 1942), 97.
10 “The Pacemaker,” ( : accessed 24 May 2017).
11 Virginia Troutman, New York City, New York, to Clint Troutman, letter, 14 August 1940; relates details about train ride to New York City and her impressions of the big city; Troutman Letters, CD.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.

© 2017, Z. T. Noble

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