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Peggy Allworth Oral History Interview, ca. 1975

Oregon State University
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INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Allworth, where were you born?

PEGGY ALLWORTH: Down in California in the San Joaquin Valley where it's very, very hot.

IN: What was your family like?

PA: My father was 22 years older than my mother. He was her protector in everything. We didn't dare say anything about the cooking or anything. He was right there for every reason. He was principal of the high school before they were and when she graduated they were married. My parents were very, very literate. I heard on KOIN the other day that they were dismantling the old high school at Hanford where I was born. My father was principal there and I remember very distinctly playing in the belfry with the stage properties and peeking through the holes in the little shed where the commuters left their horses and 00:01:00buggies and hay. For no reason at all I wrote to them about dismantling it. I don't expect an answer but I had to do it.

IN: It's sad to see things like that go isn't it. How many were in your family?

PA: Well, there were six of us children, not all born in California though. We came up here about the time I was twelve. We traded our home in California, for a farm out near Fairhaven Heights and then two children were born after that.

IN: How did you get up here from California?

PA: By train, of course.

IN: Did it come up to Corvallis?

PA: Yes it came through Corvallis. I remember getting off at the old station. It's now a freight depot I believe over on 7th St. I remember how beautiful all 00:02:00the Oregon women were that I saw because their complexions were well-down there where I was where it was 115 in the shade, our skins were so parched. But the Oregon women looked so beautiful to me. Such pink and white skin.

IN: What did your father do when you came up here?

PA: He retired and came up here and lived here ever since. Now they went out into the Alsea Country which they considered practically a paradise. But they came to Corvallis for us to live because of the schools. And I went to school here and through college.

IN: When you went to school how did you get there? Did you walk?

PA: Oh, we walked of course. Well, on terribly cold or rainy days my father 00:03:00hitched up Billy and took us into school. We were about 2½-3 miles out, but we loved that walking.

IN: How long were you in school during the days?

PA: Oh, Just about like it is now. I went to high school where Central Park is now, then later it became the junior high and then it was burned of course. One of my sons was in the first graduating class of Corvallis High. I don't remember exactly what year that was. I never can remember dates that well. But this was very exciting to us. And this was way out in the sticks you know. There were very few houses there. That's out between 11th and 13th. It isn't way out now 00:04:00but it was then.

IN: When did you decide to go to Oregon Agricultural College?

PA: This was just a matter of routine I think because in those days it never occurred to me not to go on to college. I majored in dietetics and took Home Economics because this is what my parents thought was good. I minored in recreation work. But I never worked a day in my life because that was during the war. I graduated the same summer the war was over and the Major came home and we were married.

IN: I understand you were high school sweethearts?

PA: Not really because he didn't go to Corvallis High. He was a junior at Oregon State when I met him.

IN: How did you meet him?


PA: He saw me walk by his house so he planned a blind date. I thought he was an old man because he was a junior in college. My first memory of him was at this place where we had this blind date. He was playing the piano. He could read music but he also played by ear. I was awfully excited of course. Then I went with him from then on.

IN: Did very many girls go to college in those days?

PA: Yes almost everyone I knew went on to school. Of course there were a lot fewer of us then there are now. Our graduation class, you would laugh...we graduated in the old Men's Gym, that was where commencement was held. There were hardly any men because they were all at war. So we were mostly a group of girls.


IN: What was that graduation ceremony like?

PA: It was very much like it is now, probably on a smaller scale. Of course nobody had cars and transportation was a bigger problem. If people couldn't come by train or drive their horses then they weren't at commencement. Of course nothing is so large as it is now. But it was just as exciting.

IN: What kind of things did you do when you were in college to entertain yourselves?

PA: Oh, we had dances, we had gorgeous dances. We danced a lot more than they do now. Of course we had plays and we hiked constantly. If we wanted to go 00:07:00someplace we put up a lunch and we'd hike 10 or 15 miles out in the country. We went to the top of Marys Peak many times. I rode on a hay wagon to the foot of Marys Peak and then walked to the top. I was told the other day that it's paved all the way to the top-a two-lane highway. I can't believe it because we used to pick wild violets along the deer trail. It was beautiful.

IN: Was there a lot of movies?

PA: There were movies but most of us didn't have any money. It never occurred to me that I needed money. The year that I lived at Waldo, he Just made a check for 00:08:00my board and room and I probably had about $3.00 a month for my incidentals, but it didn't occur to me that I wanted to buy anything. We made our own clothes you know so life was very different and much simpler.

IN: You lived in Waldo Hall?

PA: I lived in Waldo one term and the Gamma Phi Beta house two years. We had an old house over on 15th St. at first and then we moved down on 7th St. It's a fraternity now, I've forgotten which one. Oh, that was wonderful. One whole year I lived at home and that was the best of all. I loved going home in the evening. 00:09:00I knew my mother had a hot dinner waiting for me. Oh it was nice. It was my favorite way to live.

IN: Where did your parents live then? On the farm?

PA: Right where the new dorms are on 13th St. One year they lived in Philomath but because my mother was ill they moved back to Corvallis. They were right near the campus. The girls had no fear at all. We walked everywhere from early to late. There wasn't anything to fear in those days.

IN: Major Allworth graduated from here in 1916. What did he graduate in?

PA: In Commerce.


IN: Did he go right to the war after that?

PA: Yes. He took ROTC all the time already. I can remember when he told me good-bye to go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the first step of his trip east, and it wasn't too long before he went overseas. He was away from me for two years.

IN: I read an article in one of the old Oregon Staters that said that Major Allworth was overseas but he was still manifesting an interest in the sophomore class of the Home Economics Department.

PA: Yes, he was. I have a trunk full of his letters. They tell me you shouldn't keep things like this but I couldn't possibly throw them away. And that trunk is so full of things about him, and all of his letter sweaters. He even had his letter sweater, his wrestling sweater, made my size one year.


IN: He was a wrestler and football player. He was pretty good at both wasn't he?

PA: Yes, he was. He had a number of sweaters and I have them in the trunk. They're awfully well worn because we really used things like that then.

IN: Did you go to his wrestling matches?

PA: I went to quite a few of them. This was when I first became acquainted with wrestling. I had never been to one. This was really an art in itself and he did very well in it. He worked hard at whatever he started out to do. He was a very quiet man and never really talked. We were in the service and then he was retired when we were in our twenties because of war disabilities. We were in 00:12:00Walter Reed Hospital for a while. My baby and I lived in one room and he lived in another building. And then when we were sent home we went to Portland and bought a little home. He worked in a furniture store for a while. Then he was offered the job of raising money to build the M.U. This was not owned by the state. As long as he directed the M.U. it was a corporation. Whatever money he had he had to raise for it. This man--first thing he did was to enroll in a public speaking class! I'll never forget that. The night he finished the course, of course they had a banquet, and I was there. When he was supposed to make his talk he stood behind my chair and my chair rocked back and forth because he was nervous. But he did go up and down the coast talking to alumni groups and he 00:13:00raised the money to start the building.

IN: He became the first manager then.

PA: He was the first manager for 34 years. There were lots and lots of problems. When they were right in the midst of digging for the basement of the M.U., they discovered this huge spring under there with water flowing everywhere. I remember his stomping around looking for a big pump to get that out of the way.

IN: They asked him to be the manager then.

PA: Yes, so we moved down here. We had an old house renovated and we moved into it. That's when our second baby was born. We had a lovely time and I wouldn't change any part of it.

IN: What were his duties as manager of the Memorial Union, what kind of things 00:14:00did he do?

PA: Oh, everything: conserving money and hiring and investing whatever was extra. Because they had to have the money when the pledges weren't paid they even came to the point where they had to sue for some of it which just broke his heart of course. But they were totally dependent since it was a corporation, you know. He loved it so dearly and it was immaculate. Nobody sat with shoes on in those davenports. When he ordered the furniture for the M.U. and that big rig which is a quarter of an acre, I remember so well. The furniture was very high class and covered with beautiful material. We loved every inch of that.

IN: And of course he himself being a distinguished war hero I'm sure it also meant a lot to him since it was dedicated to those who served.


PA: Oh, yes, very much.

IN: Living here in Corvallis at that time you must have been very busy. How many children did you have?

PA: We had four children. We were always busy. We traded our Portland property for a house which is now part of the campus. We didn't live in it at first because a fraternity lived there but since we had to renovate it every summer we decided to move in. We rented the other rooms to graduate students. Oh, how hard we worked. But it was good for Ed because it was right next to campus and he could walk over. However he spent a good many of those years on crutches and often with a cane, most of the time with the cane. But never did I hear him complain about it. He was just grateful for everything that came his way.


IN: Do you remember the day the M.U. was opened?

PA: I remember it very well, but I can't remember the exact date. I'm almost sure it was in 1926. I'm not very good at remembering dates. Sunday will be our 56th anniversary, we had 45 of them together. When he came home, we decided to get married right then. I remember I had a pink hat and I had make it myself and had a pink dress on. He thought I looked beautiful. I hadn't seen him for two 00:17:00years, you know, I wasn't sure. Then we decided to marry right away and we went to Portland to Bishop Sumner at the Episcopal Church. We were married at his little chapel. His wife and a friend were our witnesses and she went out in the garden and cut some rosebuds for me. So we didn't have invitations or any kind of a wedding, nor wedding presents. It was alright, it worked fine anyway.

IN: The M.U. has been called the hub of campus activities, with dances, socials and meetings going on over the years. Did you ever go to any of these activities?

PA: Oh, sure, lots of them. Many interesting things have happened there. They used to have what they call the Spanish Ballroom. I think the crafts are down 00:18:00there now. They had a place to eat there, kind of a nightclub, but it didn't work out. I have some pieces of equipment, one or two now, that they had down there: big mixing bowls and things like that. While he was director he had boys sleeping in the basement: boys who didn't have enough money to pay room and board. After we moved to the farm we had lots of fruit and he used to take boxes of apples and pears to these boys.

IN: What other kinds of activities did you go to?

PA: They had everything: music in the lounge of course. And I remember when he ordered that piano. It was a major thing. The Petries who headed the music department selected the piano. I can't remember exactly but it is a 00:19:00Mason-Hamlin. I think they have the same piano and it gets lots of use. I remember the first year they had the Christmas party, we were so excited about that! All those children were there. They didn't have any TV of course. During the war the campus rented the west end. This was before the food service and the court were put on. This was for dormitories and the girls lived in there during the war. This was kind of interesting.


Every once in a while some women will say, "Oh, yes, I lived in the west end of the M.U. building during the war." Whenever they could rent out a little extra space it was good because they needed the money. But as soon as he retired the state took it over and so they have lots more money to spend than they used to have. I can remember when they'd take down old draperies I'd make my children's coats out of them. We were all doing this. And when they had to recover the furniture I made all kinds of beautiful things-pillows and everything. And of course our salary couldn't compare with the salaries now. But that's alright 00:21:00because we got along fine.

IN: You didn't need as much money then, either.

PA: No, we didn't.

IN: Where did you live during those years?

PA: Well, we moved out to the farm. I believe it was in 1933. I lived there 41 years. He passed away when we were living there. But, oh, we loved that farm. We had a dairy and we worked hard. We made our own cottage cheese and our butter. We had horses, too. At one time we had 14 or 15 horses. The children all rode. We had a lovely time. His horse-though I don't ever remember him riding because it was hard for him--it was Chief Joseph. He was the nephew of Man-of-War and 00:22:00such a beautiful horse I kept him longer than the rest of them. It was awful hard for me when I left to part with the horses. I still had several. I think I miss them just as much as any one thing-I love horses. We planted the orchard and planted everything. Of course the house is almost 100 years old. I made rugs for the whole house, every rug, and all the walls we covered with hangings. And it was just pure joy. It was hard work. But the children learned to work and at some time during their lives they have thanked us for teaching them to work. Of 00:23:00course they're not milking cows. But they learned that when you have a job to do you have to do it. And they often walked to school although there were school buses. And then finally each one had a car because they went different places since they were six years apart. But our children loved that farm. Of course they had all kinds of pets, dogs and cats and lambs and pigeons and pheasants and everything.

IN: He must have been pretty busy then with the M.U. and the farm.

PA: Oh, terribly busy. I'm sure our days were 16 and 18 hours long. We had a very bad fire one year which took our milking machines so we all pitched in to milk. They had to get up at about 4:30 and then shower and have breakfast. When 00:24:00I think of those breakfasts I just don't understand it. We would have cereal, fruit, fried potatoes and eggs, hot biscuits: how did we eat that much! And the boys were always hungry! We didn't have freezers or automatic washers, and I canned 1000 quarts a summer-and I loved it. I used to go out to an old stone house which used to be the milk house and I'd go out just for fun and see my rows and rows of canned fruit.

IN: Then you probably didn't have too much time for other activities.

PA: Well, it's surprising how many things we did. Ed and I went to everything we 00:25:00belonged to. Our formal bridge club is still in existence which meets over at the M.U. I don't go without him because I'm not that interested without him. And every summer we went on the M.U. trips. We had to pay my way so we went on Wednesday to get the rates.

IN: Where did you go on the M.U. trips?

PA: We went to West Virginia twice. White Sulfur Springs, Utah, and he went two or three times without me. Every year the president of the institution is invited to go on the Navy Midshipman's trip. One time Pres. Strand couldn't go and so he asked Ed to take his place. This is the longest time I was ever without him. He was gone six weeks. He had a life-time pass on service planes 00:26:00anyway so he flew to Norfolk and took the ship from there. And it was a very nice experience. I think he spent all his time buying presents for me cause he came home with all kinds of things. He said, "Don't ever let me leave you again."

IN: He sure got a lot of honors over the years. I know in 1963 it was said by Pres. Kennedy that he was a distinguished war hero in World War I.

PA: Yes, we flew back there. That was a very wonderful experience. All the Medal of Honor men from all over the world were flown to Washington. I was thinking about this last night because I was at a dinner and we were talking about Scottish bands. Well, there on the White House grounds they had all kinds of bands. They had the men in the Revolutionary War costumes and the Drum and Bugle 00:27:00Corps, and the Scottish Highland Band. We could see them coming up over the lawns. It was a very nice experience. We had been to Washington a number of times before, but it was beautiful.

IN: There were 63 men honored there?

PA: Yes, it was a regular reception. Every year they have a reception there in the Rose Gardens for Army officers. Now, I don't know just where the line is drawn but they were included in that. I remember it was at the White House where we had been a number of times but Jackie wasn't there and the children were taken care of by a nursemaid. They were hanging over on a balcony and I thought 00:28:00sure they were going to fall down! Of course being a mother I was anxious about those children! But they survived. It was a lovely thing and they were all so nice to us.

IN: He was also honored by Washington as their state's distinguished war hero of WWI, correct?

PA: Yes, I'll show you those medals if you'd like to see them--the diamond medal he received as the most outstanding soldier from Washington where he was born.

IN: How come he decided to come to OSU?

PA: You see, he and his sisters were left an inheritance. All three of them came. He came when he was 15 I believe. They didn't require a high school diploma then. They had been going to Pacific University. They were all very musical. So the two girls came and they brought their little brother. So he 00:29:00finished college when he was about 20 or 21 years old.

IN: Then he got his doctor degree?

PA: That was an honorary doctor's degree. That was presented in 1929.

IN: When did he retire as the manager of the M.U.?

PA: He retired after 38 [34] years of being there. We have a picture of the day 00:30:00we walked out of the M.U. I didn't realize then just how hard it was for him. But we had lots of plans. Of course we were still on the farm, but we had lots of traveling to do and he was going to raise stock again. He wouldn't have been the least bit idle in retirement even if he were on crutches.

IN: One time in 1929 your husband made the statement that "the development of a spirit of democracy and good fellowship among the students, faculty and alumni was the aim and purpose of the M.U."

PA: Well I think that was right because he tried to show them that by being involved in these things and working toward them...Now, President Strand had the 00:31:00idea that the young people who were involved in M.U. activities probably were spending too much time with it. But their grades were fine. And this was proved to him that it was almost an incentive to do better work. He had a number of people who worked for him there, even janitor work, who became very successful businessmen. And then he filled some positions there like Mrs. Johnson who taught those students how to make problems into opportunities which was a very wonderful thing.

IN: When he retired did he feel his union had fulfilled this purpose?


PA: I think he never felt completely through with his interest in doing these things. He interviewed George Stevens in West Virginia when we were there and that's when he decided that he would make a very fine director, and he was his choice. He wasn't married then, they were married later, he and Delores. They have been wonderful to me.

[Interviewer note: "Mrs. Allworth was no longer able to be interviewed, so our talk was ended at this point."]