Among the many intriguing items in the Archives is a box labeled “Rollins Reminiscences.” This box contains recollections from many of our earliest students, including Emma N. Gaylord, who attended the Rollins Academy (the College’s preparatory division) from 1897 to 1902. We hope that she would have been pleased to serve as a “guest blogger” and share some of her memories here.
Emma’s “Reminiscences” file holds a letter written to Prof. Alfred J. Hanna on May 23, 1935, in which she recalled her work for Pres. George Morgan Ward during her student years. She began by writing, “They say reminiscing is a sure sign of old age. But it is no trouble at all for me to recall the beginnings of Dr. Ward’s work at Rollins, for the events are as clear in my mind as it they had occurred but yesterday. And perhaps it is a peculiarly appropriate employment for his birthday.”
“At the trustee meeting that fall , one of the trustees, Rev. E. P Herrick, then my pastor at the Congregational church here in Tampa, walked into Mr. Ward’s office and saw him struggling with a pile of correspondence, trying to answer the letters in his own energetic but somewhat illegible script. To Mr. Herrick’s suggestion that he needed a stenographer, he replied vigorously, ‘I certainly do. I’m three weeks behind right now.'”
“The upshot of it was that I entered Rollins immediately after the holidays, to work my way as Mr. Ward’s stenographer. . . I had had seven weeks instruction in shorthand and typing at the Tampa Business College the summer before, and was in the junior year at Hillsboro High. The only typewriter on the campus was a Blickensderfer belonging to a student named Louis Lyman, and inasmuch as the only one I had ever seen before was a Remington, it was hopelessly beyond my ability to manage. So for the remainder of that year the letters were transcribed in longhand.”
A Blickensderfer 5 typewriter, featuring a DHIATENSOR keyboard layout (with the most frequently used letters on the bottom row)
It was no thanks to this equipment that the President’s correspondence was caught up after three weeks, but rather “because neither of us paid any attention to the hours we put in. We simply worked till the work was done. And that was true as long as I was with him.” It wasn’t until 1898, when “the college finances were sufficiently prosperous that a brand-new Smith Premier was installed, which I used from then on until I left, in June, 1902.”
At that time, the President had “the two rooms on the southwest corner of Pinehurst, Dr. Ward using the one opening out of the hall as his private office.” Emma recalled that when the office clipboard was full of letters, “we removed them, strung them together with a piece of twine and a darning-needle, and stacked them in the bottom of the closet in the private office.” As she described it, “The first two years, no record was kept of outgoing letters except my stenographic notes. Inasmuch as owning to the meagerness of my instruction I soon developed a system all my own, there was no particular loss when those records were burned in the fire that destroyed Knowles Hall.”
Living and working on campus in those days could be challenging and uncomfortable. Emma remembered that “there was no way of heating the offices except a charcoal burner, whose fumes made me sick.” She would put a hot brick under her feet, or stand over “the hot air register in the hall” to warm up. “Fortunately, such cold days were not very numerous. Only twice during the six years did the water pipes freeze and burst, so that we had to use water from the lake until they could be thawed out and repaired.” During her second year at Rollins, a steam pump was installed on campus, which supplied running (though non-drinkable) water from the lake to the buildings.
“No sketch of the Rollins of that day would be complete without mention of the College’s one means of transportation, a buckboard and Old Kate, a sorrel mare whose head hung dejectedly to her knobby knees. Fortunately, Dr. Ward’s sense of humor was strong enough to enable him to ride behind her without hanging his own head. She brought supplies from Orlando, took Dr. Ward on his errands about the town and countryside, carried Dr. and Mrs. Ward to church on Sundays, all without ever lifting her head or getting out of a little jog-trot that most any of the boys could have beaten for speed at a walk. I never knew what became of her.”
“Nor would the sketch be complete without mentioning Mrs. Ward’s tremendously big warm spot in her heart for the boys, particularly those living in Pinehurst, where Dr. and Mrs. Ward had their apartment. They swarmed in her parlor and overran the halls, and played with her fox terrier more than she did. I can see them now, Arthur Lincoln, Neville Clark, Harry Thompson, Russell Barr, snapping their fingers while that dog jumped to shoulder-height, with no regard to the consequences to her floors. It was her delight when she entertained to make sure there was plenty of ice cream and cake left over, so she could invite the boys in to eat the remains.”
Students at Pinehurst in 1899. Their average age was 14; most of the boys pictured here were enrolled in the College’s preparatory division and came to Rollins from Cuba, under the Latin American Program created by Dr. Ward.
Emma noted that Pres. Ward had come to Rollins shortly after the “Big Freeze” of 1894-95 that devastated the Florida economy and led to the resignation of the College’s previous president, Charles G. Fairchild. (The booklet President George Morgan Ward and His Three Administrations tells of a young man visiting from England that year, who wrote that “the country looked as if swept by fire. . . The orange trees were black, the fruit lumps of yellow ice. . . Not merely the fruit growers but everyone in the State, from the grocer to the land agent, was utterly ruined.” The same booklet also quotes Mrs. Fairchild as saying, “if there had been a death in every family in the State we could not feel more depressed.”)
“Dr. Ward took charge just a year after the ‘Big Freeze,’ that wiped out the college’s endowment. It was hopelessly in debt, but no worse off than the people for the benefit of whose sons and daughters the college had been founded. . . Meagerly as the college was furnished, it was luxurious compared to the homes from which the majority of the Florida boys and girls came. And most of them fattened on the generous diet provided by Miss Merrill. It is well known that Dr. Ward spent most of his time, ably abetted by Mrs. Ward, soliciting aid for the college. But it probably is not so well known that they also solicited clothing for individual students. . . Nor is it known that often and often, when things were the darkest, he would come into the office, after prayer in his own room, slap the palm of his left hand with a sheaf of bills in his right, and say, with a rather tight-lipped little smile, ‘Blessed be nothing, for then you can’t lose it.'”
Emma described Pres. Ward as a “marvelous man,” who was “eloquent, witty, tender and sympathetic with the students in all their anxieties, knowing each one by name, stern in reproof when necessity demanded, always firm, a very rock of integrity, he left an indelible impress on our characters. It is Rollins tradition, how we all idolized him. I do not think we were any more hero-worshipping than other young people of that age. We just had a better hero to worship!”
“If I could ‘make my heart leap into my mouth,” Emma continued, “I might find the words with which to utter a fitting tribute to George Morgan Ward.” She was “not unmindful of the influence that others at Rollins had upon me, of that galaxy of brilliant golden personalities that was the faculty,” but “because he was the key man, upon whose will depended altogether whether I stayed there at all or not, as well as because his influence was exerted more constantly as well as for a longer period of time, looking back from the hilltop of the years, I can say from my heart, ‘I am what I am, by the grace of God and George Ward.'”
Emma last saw Dr. Ward in 1930, shortly before he died, when he was just about to retire after many years of serving as pastor of the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach. At his Rollins memorial service, Pres. Hamilton Holt declared that “no friend of Rollins has been more zealous in the upbuilding of the College, more devoted to its interests or more delighted in its success” than Pres. Ward. He went on to say, “I suppose that every college president imagines that his own academic and financial burdens are heavy, but I should be ashamed to complain of mine after hearing of the trials and tribulations that Dr. Ward met and surmounted. It is of such saints and heroes that most American colleges have been built, and the sad part of it is that most of their sacrifices can never be fully appreciated nor adequately repaid.”
For his part, Dr. Ward once said, “If I could keep but one experience of my own life, I would keep the years at Winter Park. I learned there the real discipline of life.”
~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist