Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 14

IT'S SUMMER! That means I can write more on Letters from Marilyn. Hurrah! Today's post has a variety of things - my trip to Augsburg, M's final letters before her death, and "what's next" for this project. With the start of June in only a few days, we've come round-robin since June of last year. While today's post will be the last of Marilyn's letters, it certainly won't be the last post.

Let's start with my trip to Augsburg on May 5! After my last post in Pella, IA, I went to Mankato to visit family. From there, I went to Minneapolis to explore Augsburg for a few hours. Nestled right in the heart of the city, Augsburg is a small but beautiful campus. There's so much to see and do in the surrounding community and we were blessed with a beautiful day of weather.

Of course I needed a picture by the campus sign! Go Auggies! The next stop was the music hall:

This building was really unique. Outside the main doors, they had a variety of large musical instruments you could play! I will do my best to link a video of this later. The music hall, named after the eighth president of Augsburg, houses so many practice rooms, chapels, and more.

It's really not a trip if you don't stop in a library (or in my case, two or three). While the archives office was closed due to summer vacation, I did get the contact information of the professor in charge of the department. But the yearbooks are public access, and so we looked through all the yearbooks of when Marilyn attended: 1950-1954. We found her picture many times (and even more exciting to me, pictures of her friends and professors - we don't have pictures of them!). What's more, all the yearbooks have been digitally scanned along with other Augsburg publications. You can access them here.

In the main building, this beautiful stained glass (it literally takes up a full wall) is located in the Harbo Meditation Chapel. A place for community members to reflect quietly in prayer, this was a peaceful room. 

While I took many, many photos, I simply don't have room to share them all here! This is in front of the Augsburg seminary building. When we were in the library, I looked up this building in the yearbooks. 67 years later, it looks almost exactly the same as it did in 1950 (the main difference being the signage that says "Augsburg Seminary"). We have photos of M standing right on these steps and being there made this all seem so much more real to me!

It was a wonderful three hours. Because classes were out for summer, we had the full place to ourselves! Now that I've had some time to collect my thoughts and make notes, I know I will make another trip in the future. 

Shifting gears, let's now focus on the last of M's letters: fall of 1953. She only wrote 7 letters home before her sudden death, so I will include snippets of all of them here. This is the start of her senior year and it is certainly busy for her in September:
September 14, 1953: It seems like there's a constant rat race and then I'm really quite tired. Tomorrow classes begin and then I think there'll be choir try-outs. Certainly is nice to see Joan again. I think I'll go out to Clair and Gladys's tomorrow!
September 14, 1953: I had quite a hectic time getting registered. I have 18.5 credits and couldn't get voice lessons in. I'm taking piano. 
September 16, 1953: Today I had my first piano lesson. My teacher is just wonderful. Now I'm all excited about that. I hope I remain enthused! He told me I played very well and he seemed quite enthused about me so I was happy.
[from the same letter as the last]: You should see the beautiful pair of pajamas I got from Strommens. They're yellow rayon ones with lace trim. I hear you got something too! I was out there the other evening and cut Gladys's hair. I cut it real short. It looked so cute!
September 21, 1953: I heard unofficially today from Clair that I made choir and I'm singing 1st soprano! [M was a 2nd soprano the last 3 years] Was I ever surprised! I've only had one try-out and I only sang a hymn so I don't see how he can tell much by that, especially changing me to first. I really don't mind. The experience will be good. 
September 23, 1953: Hilde and I were out at Atwater today observing and the trip was really wonderful. Both of us have lost all our fears and are really looking forward to practice teaching. The teachers are all so wonderful and they made us feel so welcome and professional! I'll have mixed chorus, girls glee club, and one speech class. 
[from the same letter as the last]: We had choir yesterday and of course it was thrilling as ever. I'm going to like singing first soprano. Sateren came up to me and said he wanted me to sing first this year and that I wouldn't have any trouble and "of course," he said, "you have a wonderful voice." I felt extremely complimented. [at the end of this letter:] Guess I'll go to bed and sleep on all my experiences of the day. I really feel like a teacher tonite. 
September 27, 1953 [the last letter, as Marilyn died on September 28]: Arlene, Joan, Rachael, and I went out to the church this morning, where Sateren directs the choir. Wonderful place and choir. [this tidbit has significance later, in a condolence letter that Sateren sent to the Solberg family. Now, later in the letter:] Last week was rather busy! I've been practicing piano 2 or 3 hours a day plus choir and classes. Then on Thursday the Big-Little Sister tea was happening. Arlene, Hilde, and I had charge of food and I also had to model my suit for the style show. Friday evening was Club Carnival night and last night the football game.
[also from the last letter]: Both Dorvan and Curt have informed me that they are coming down. Wonderful! I can hardly wait. You'll maybe be coming in a couple weeks also. Good! Good! Not that I want to get rid of the car but guess I'd rather see you!
And that's it. I'll be honest, I had a really, really hard time reading these letters, especially the last one. Here was Marilyn leading a full, busy life and making plans down the road. She was looking forward to student teaching, being a first soprano in the choir, having visitors in October... and then, in a blink, she was gone. 

Reflecting on all of her letters and plans, it makes you think about our time here and our own mortality. I've put off reading the condolence letters for so long, mainly for the reason that I need a major supply of Kleenex to get me through them. It's not for a lack of trying - the first try, I made it through 3 (seriously, 3). The second try, 5, before I was sniffling all over them. I'm sure the people in the coffee shop I was in at the time thought I was having a mental breakdown or a relationship crisis. Maybe the third time's the charm.

We still have many more updates to go. Thanks for staying with me and M for a year. These updates have received the most comments, reads, views, and shares. I wouldn't be this far without you, devoted readers.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 13

Hello from Pella, Iowa! I am taking a much-needed vacation and visiting friends and family for the week. Later this week I will be in Minneapolis to see Augsburg college, so I will post some pictures along with a new update on M.

Because I have more writing time on my hands, today's post will be longer! Marilyn wrote a lot of letters home from March to May of 1953. This is the end of her junior year. As such, there will not be many more letter posts here on Certainly Candid. She wrote 6 letters home in September of 1953 before she died, but I will include snippets of the condolence letters that were sent to her family. In addition, you can expect what I'm calling "phase 2" of this project - the novel drafts! Until then, let's move on with Marilyn's posts from these three months.
March 6, 1953: For Palm Sunday I'm singing the soprano solos in an Easter Cantata given in some church downtown. Mr. T is the tenor soloist and in the cantata we even have a duet. It's really my first professional work so I'm quite thrilled about it. I got the part over a week ago so I've worked on it some. The cantata is "The Seven Last Words of Christ." I don't have to chase out there for many rehearsals as I'm working here with Mr. T and I guess we get paid!
March 8, 1953: It's just midnight [while she is writing this] and I know I should be in bed but Joan has so much studying to do and it seems so dreary to stay up alone so I decided to find something to do to keep her company. 
March 16, 1953: I've been working quite a bit on this cantata for Palm Sunday. Mr. T and I sand our duet together the first time Friday and I can't ever remember being so thrilled. It's times like that that I'd really like to be a professional singer. Mr. T claims I have what it takes if I keep on but I really doubt it at times. I'm afraid that would be one hard road to climb.
March 19, 1953: Last night Betty and I got a ride out to Cokato, Minnesota, which is about 60 miles out, for the Augsburg band tour. It was really fun! [At the end of this post, I've included a photo of one of her typewritten letters - it talks more about the band tour.]
[From the same letter as last]: We have to let the Education dept. know where we would like to practice teach next fall, in the near future. I'm going to see if I can get at Atwater or Pine Island. It would make it so much easier if we could be where we knew someone. Hilde and I are planning to go to the same place if we can. The very thought of it scares me but I know it will be fun. This last week we had to spend one afternoon observing at one of the city high schools. I didn't enjoy that much because it's so big but I'm sure a small school would be fun.
April 14, 1953: I can hardly wait to start digging my fingers in my flower bed. I've decided to have an old-fashioned garden effect. I'm going to plant painted daisies, zinnias, marigolds, moss roses, and possibly sweet peas I have some ideas as to arranging it and I wish I could get a few fairly large flat rocks. Just wait - I know it will be "purdy." [This entry sounded so spring-like and cheerful, I couldn't resist including it here.]
April 18, 1953: [In a post-script that Marilyn writes about an upcoming roller-skating party she and her roommates are attending] We just had an argument here. Joan thinks everyone should wear skirts roller-skating and none of us are going to. What do you think? I said I'd rather have jeans on since I'll probably be sprawled on the floor half the time!
May 12, 1953: By the way, I'm practice teaching [student teaching] at Atwater for sure. I'll have two high school choruses, grade school music, and one speech course and possibly learn a little about the band, etc. I get the "willies" even at the thought of it but I suppose it will be fun. HIlde is going to Atwater too!
May 20, 1953: Our lilac bushes are just gorgeous. I've never seen so many blossoms. How's the yard at home? I hear you've really had the rain! [I included this because of the lilacs. I love lilacs - our homes in the country had so many beautiful varieties.]
And as promised, here is the typewritten letter postmarked March 13, 1953. I enjoyed the section about the weather and getting snowed in again - ironic timing, as my town just received a bunch of snow and ice less than a week ago! 

Reflecting on today's selections, I liked reading her entries about teaching. I always feel a kinship with educators, and I'm so glad that M pursued vocal music education in college. I only wish she had gotten to use what she had learned. I'm sure she would have made an excellent teacher.

Anyway, that is all for today, friends! My next post will be about my adventures in Minneapolis and Augsburg, just like Marilyn!
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