By age nine, I’d attended four public elementary schools, excelling in third grade as the top speller, before entering the school system at Newton, Iowa. Though my adolescent years were not a happy time in my life, I managed to finish high school with decent grades and, after a year of farm work, enrolled at Central College in Pella, Iowa. I was the third in a family of six to matriculate at the small, Dutch, liberal arts school. All five attended for periods of two to four years, and my sister’s two children earned bachelor’s degrees there. It was a church-connected college, and most students were from the devoutly Christian families similar to mine. Almost daily attendance at chapel devotionals was required, and dancing on campus was forbidden, as was about everything else that gives zest to life. After three years, I dropped out and went to work at the old Look magazine in Des Moines, operating addressograph machines while sneaking glances at the comely lasses filing stencils at metal cabinets. I then enrolled in Drake University while continuing to work at Look, happy in the camaraderie of several other students who shared lodging in the basement of an off-campus house.
Down through the decades, that treasured artifact has traveled with me on my peripatetic journey. It is safely ensconced in an envelope in my desk drawer, yellowed with age. I must have it framed before it crumbles and meets the same dusty demise as the person whose signature it bears.