When I was in high school, two of our neighbors employed live-in female helpers from Concordia Teachers College. These girls helped with household chores and child care. The girls had a room, two meals per day, and a weekly salary.
The Bournes were at work from 9 to 5, Monday-Friday, but Mr. Bourne took the helper to the campus at 7 a.m. and picked her up at 5:30 p.m. Mr. Schue did the same with the Schues’ helper.
The Bourne family was blessed with Eleanor who remained with the Bournes for four years. She was like a member of the family, and she cared for the two Bourne children with both love and strictness.
The Schues had two helpers over a period of four years. The first helper was named Mary, and she was with the Schues during her junior and senior years. I remember Mary for two reasons: She had flaming red hair and she was a great softball pitcher.
Mary would often come to the corner lot to play fast-pitch softball with the neighborhood guys while also keeping an eye on the two Schue children who sat on the sideline at first base.
I thought I was a good batter, but Mary struck me out practically every time I came to bat over two seasons. I managed just two hits off her during that time.
Not only could Mary pitch well, but she was also a talented pianist who could play the classics as well as jazz and rock & roll.
When Mary graduated from college, she got a teaching job near Oak Park. She wanted to stay on with the Schues, but Mr. Schue decided it was time for her to leave and be on her own.
Mary was succeeded by Laura, a pleasant, remarkably efficient person who, among other duties, helped the Schue children sharpen their study skills. Laura was a happy, bubbly girl with curly dark hair and a keen sense of humor.
Years later, Mrs. Schue and Mrs. Bourne told me that even though these girls taught and Laura and Eleanor married, they would come back to visit the respective families.
The idea of having a helper from Concordia spread, and I heard that other families from our neighborhood followed the example set by the Schue and Bourne families. I thought it would be a great idea if my family hired a helper for my mother and my grandmother. That idea fell on deaf ears as I was told by my mother and my grandmother that they could do just fine without any help.
I then brought up the thought that my family could hire a college guy to help me. This met with a cold silence when I mentioned it one night at dinner. I was told by the adults that I was capable of doing my regular chores, and if I complained or had any other wacky ideas, I could easily be given more work and that I should be grateful that I was able to be of help to the family.
The presence of the college girls was a great benefit to the families that employed the girls, and I am certain that the girls benefited as well.
I wish I could have reaped some of that benefit.