Ellen’s Favorite Housemothers

School Days.  Housemothers.  Those mostly lovely ladies with the very very quiet shoes, which we called, housemother shoes.  These were usually single or widowed ladies, whose sole job in life was to keep the girls in line, acting as surrogate moms by monitoring us, correcting us, and loving us.  In our nursery school days, there were three main house mamas: Mrs. Dague, Miss Gladys Roxbury and Mrs. Springer.  Two out of the three were mild mannered, kind and humble ladies.  Those were Mrs. Dague and Mrs. Springer.  The stickler and the bane of my existence was Miss Gladys Roxbury.  She could be very stern and strict.  One of her favorite sayings was, Ellen, you are as slow as molasses in January.  This complaint was repeated so often that I truly began to wonder what molasses were.  They are fish, I ascertained, who have to swim in the frozen streams in January.  And anyway, how did she know about those molasses? 

She could be very, very funny.  Her name for Jell-o was, nervous pudding.  I still get a real kick out of that one.  And she could be both gentle and sweet.  Night time would find her giving us hard candies and letting us have a spritz of the myriad colognes she kept in a row above the sink in the bathroom.  My favorite was Evening In Paris. 

One really vivid memory I have of the three housemothers was of the three of them, sitting in chairs, watching over us while John Glenn and his Mercury space ship splash landed in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.  They had sonar vision, being able to watch us kindergarteners play while watching the making of history on television.

Tree.  My third grade year saw many of us leaving our kindergarten building and moving into the Main Building.  This is what it was called back then.  Today, it is known as the Mary Schenley building.  But back then, it was a very large, majestic,  mansion, where at one time, our benefactress, Mary Schenley, presided.  More about Mary in a future article.  The Monday afternoon of my arrival in September of 1964, I met my new, and quite tall housemother.  Hello, Ellen, child.  I’m Tree.  My name is really Mrs. Frohoff, but you girls must call me, Tree.  Well, readers, this was, indeed, a major perplexity.  It ranked right up there with my swimming molasses.  I was informed that this name was given to Tree because she was so tall.

Tree never actually treated us to anything, but her television was our major delight.  She, too, introduced us to Billy Graham and his Crusades, and, in an effort to identify with her young female charges, let us watch every Ed Sullivan show and our beloved Beatles.  Beatle mania ran rampant amongst the teens at that time, and Tree would provide us with a minute by minute description of the antics of the besotted Beatle fans. 

The really power television times were Thursday nights.  Lost in Space and the antics of the mad scientist, Dr. Zachary Smith, kept us glued to the tube each and every week.  Then, it was on to the adventures of Batman and his sidekick, Robin.  We would forego dinner Thursday nights and munch on five cent candy bars from the snack bar.  Two of my absolute favorites were M & Ms and little pretzels in the box.

Ellen Goldfon

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