Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Betty Miner Oral History Interview, October 4, 2019

Oregon State University
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

CHRIS PETERSEN: OK, today is October 4th, 2019. And I'm pleased to be in the home of Betty Miner, here in Corvallis. Betty is a former instructor in Home Economics in the 70s, and then early in the 80s. I'm very interested to learn more about that time period and the College of Home Economics and how things changed during that time period and afterwards. But I'll begin at the beginning and ask you: where were you born?

BETTY MINER: I was born in Buffalo, New York.

CP: Is that where you grew up?

BM: I left Buffalo when I was eight years old, almost precisely. And we moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. I lived there until I graduated from the infamous Little Rock Central High School.

CP: Wow. That was a big change. So tell me first about Buffalo.

BM: I have very few memories of Buffalo-we actually lived in a suburb called Snyder, about 5 miles east. I do remember the house-white asbestos shingles, huge big willow tree in the front yard, in which you could quote "hide from your 00:01:00father as he came home and he couldn't see you ho-ho-ho." It was a two-story house. It had a coal shoot-we did not burn coal but there was such a thing in the house. I remember walking to school-again, I went to school there through the second grade-with snow piled on either side of the sidewalk as tall as I was. And that woulda been shoveled by hand-so it's no wonder people were suffering heart attacks from shoveling. So I remember lots and lots of snow. My mother believed in a child needed a weathering each day-so every day, we were out in the cold. [Laughs]

CP: What was your parents' backgrounds?

BM: Both of them were from Kansas, my mother from a farm near Topeka. She had 00:02:00studied home economics and history at Kansas State, college. And my father had graduated from veterinary medicine from Kansas State, then went on for a Master's and a Ph.D. in zoology. And he taught the medical school.

CP: So that's what precipitated Buffalo then?

BM: Yes, University of Buffalo, School of Medicine.

CP: And then you moved to Little Rock?

BM: At the time in the university, you sort of apprentice to become a more important person, like a head of department, and it followed a lineage sort of thing. And the man who was head of department at the University of Buffalo was 00:03:00just a few years older than my father so he realized that he would not have an opportunity to be head of department and advance. So he went to the University of Arkansas. I think he probably went there as head of department-he became head of department if he wasn't when he went.

CP: What did this change mean to you?

BM: It's very hard to have been born in New York, having an accent, and moved to Arkansas. At my 50th high school reunion, a man approached me and said, "I remember you from the 4th grade. And you didn't talk well." And I thought, yes that was part of it. I found it difficult to make friends, switching it-I don't know why. Here I am a third grader and I'm playing with first graders cuz the third graders won't have anything to do with me. So that was difficult. My 00:04:00entire time in Arkansas, I tried never to tell people where I was born. But I'm very proud of being from New York. But I try never to tell that. I don't know that there were other-well, I went to segregation school, and I didn't understand why school was segregated. And I finally decided I could ask my very best friend. And she said, her mother said there was segregation of the races because they-"they", the black people-had a lot of disease. To some extent, that was true because of the poor housing conditions many of them were forced to live in.

CP: What did you enjoy doing as a child? I'm sure you found a niche that were 00:05:00important to you as a girl.

BM: I didn't particularly like dolls-I remember, when I was 7, I thought I should ask for a doll for Christmas because my parents expected it, but I didn't really care about dolls. We played Jacks at school. I liked to read, I liked to sow, I learned to sow fairly early in my life. I liked being outdoors. And every summer, my father was iron-fisted about the budget and he saved money and we would have a month-long vacation, visiting cheap places like national parks-every state capitol building I've been photographed in front of-and just watching the scenery. So that was one of the highlights of my childhood.


CP: Was the tradition of home economics impressed upon you any point as a girl? Or perhaps did it just filter through as a way of life?

BM: It's a required course of course, for-our school system was 7th, 8th, and 9th was junior high-those three years, I took home economics. And somewhere in there-or maybe early high school, starting at 10th grade-you needed to think about what you were going to do, and I thought about what I liked. I could make an A in anything because I'd memorize it quite well. But I loved home economics. I felt at home there. So that's how I chose it, in junior high or early high school, a career in home economics.

CP: Interesting. So this is a professional aspiration. I mean, home economics 00:07:00was training for women to work in home, more often than not. But then you had a different ambition.

BM: Well, but the people who were training the people to work in their homes were professionally educated. And so that's what I wanted to be.

CP: Were you parents important in providing that point of view? Or did it emerge from somewhere inside?

BM: My parents, particularly my father, were adamant that I would go to college from I can't remember how early on-it was very early. And I was encouraged to save my money and we'd go buy US Government War Bond, they were called, and that cost about 18 dollars and they yielded 25-that was for my college fund. So I knew from very early that there was no question about going to college. This is 00:08:00somewhat in contrast to Arkansas, where you really didn't need to go to college-a woman didn't. And if so, two years would kind of like "finish her off" and so both my parents emphasized I needed a skill to support myself, by myself is necessary. So there was this strong support for going to college and completing a degree from my parents.

CP: So it sounds like there was some social issues at school but academically, it went well for you, growing up?

BM: I would say so. Yeah. I am one of five valedictorians of class of '55. There were 5 of us.

CP: Do you have any siblings?

BM: I have one younger sister - three and a half years younger.


CP: And she followed a similar path?

BM: First of all, she was involved in the 1957 crisis in the Little Rock schools when integration occurred. She went to college, University of Kansas, and then on to the University of California, Berkeley, with a Ph.D. in sociology. And she's been in university teaching and research, for her career.

CP: So in 1957, you were out of the home, I assume?

BM: '55, I leave the home.

CP: Are there any anecdotes about that memory for her that you could convey?

BM: She was asked to write an editorial for the high school newspaper on integration. There were two co-editors that year-one was a Southern girl whose family had great ties to the production of rice in Arkansas; and my sister who 00:10:00was from New York. And my sister was the one who was asked to do this. And I think it was to avoid embarrassment of the Southern girl. I think she had sort of a neutral attitude as to whether black people were in the school or not. At graduation, they line up the boys and they line up the girls. And so the first black high school graduate from Little Rock Central, this Ernest Green, and she, Emory, was placed next to him. And there were a number of disturbing phone calls-I don't know what kind of threats were made actually. But my mother became quite alarmed. My father was deceased by this time. So it's kind of an upsetting time.


CP: Yeah.

BM: Members of that class feel that they've been mistreated because a number of them were neutral to welcoming their stories. They have a girl sharing her math book, stories of other helpful little incidents that whites extended to blacks but the emphasis always is on the mobs outside.

CP: So a real strong support system for college. And you have lived in Buffalo, you've lived in Arkansas, but you choose Kansas state. Your parents alma mater?

BM: Yes. My father is adamant that I will not attend the University of Arkansas. He taught in the branch at Little Rock which was, at that time, just the school of Medicine. But he felt that there was too much political turmoil in the 00:12:00administration of the University of Arkansas to be a good place to send me.

CP: And Kansas State, did they steer you in that direction? Or was that your choice?

BM: Who knows? I remember taking the SAT and saying like, college choices were Cornell and Kansas State. But really, I was frightened to leave home. I mean, Cornell is 1000 miles away or so in my mind. So Kansas State became it.

CP: Had you visited it before? Were you familiar with the place?

BM: Did I visit a college before-?

CP: Kansas State, specifically.

BM: No, we didn't do that.

CP: So what was your initial impression then of this place?

BM: It's a very, in my eyes, beautiful place. It's all white limestone buildings, a courtyard nearby. It's huge. It's interesting because there were 00:13:00about 7000 students at the time I enrolled. And I'm trying to remember-it was 7 men for every woman, so it was really a male-dominated place. It had the traditional agriculture, engineering, veterinary medicine - subjects that appeal to men.

CP: Right at this time, you had decided that you wanted to follow the home economics track?

BM: Yes.

CP: Can you tell me more about the curriculum that you studied as a college student?

BM: Well, first of all, it was all prescribed. I had 3 hours of elective in four years. [Laughs] And my parents encouraged me to go into home economics and 00:14:00nursing. And that way, I could marry a doctor. And getting a girl married was a prime objective of many parents, including mine. But I didn't want to do that. So without really telling them, I changed to home economics education. I didn't really know any other fields in home economics so that's where I went. It was very rigorous. I have 15 semester hours of chemistry. And I value that because when a new food vet comes up in nutrition, I can better evaluate it because I understand chemistry. And I can pronounce chemical names-they don't frighten me. So from that perspective, it was a very rigorous and good curriculum.


CP: My sense of the curriculum at OSU, for a long period of time at least, was that home economics essentially served as a little university for women in the sense that they learn things like chemistry, within that context. Was that a similar experience for you?

BM: I suppose, yeah. Anyway, there was chemistry and I feel like the place where I'm weak, as an educated person, is in literature. And I belong to a book group that reads classical literature and I'm just astounded at all of these. But much of it would have been something I could not have understood as an 18-year-old. So in some ways, it's delightful to take up the classics at a mature age.

CP: What else do you remember as having struck you about what you learned as a 00:16:00home ecs student during that period of time?

BM: We did not have cars. So I know one woman on campus that had cars. All women under 21 had to live in approved university housing which meant residence halls or sororities. There were almost no married women. I don't think there were many above average age students at that time. I think that's about what I remember about the students.

CP: Were there any extracurricular activities that drew you in this time period?

BM: Not very much. I'm an overweight person, very conscious of weight. And my 00:17:00family had lived in such a tight circle that we didn't really have conversational abilities or very highly developed social skills. One of the things about the residence hall was we ate every night with white table cloth from a seating chart and it changed every day. And there was a hostess, and an assistant hostess, and member of the group. So there's where I learned to do social chitchat. And, part of the time, there was a lot of conversation about boys and sororities, which bored me. So to occupy myself, I taught myself to eat with my left hand, as a way of sitting at the table and having something to do. But I value the fact that we learned good manners and we practiced a way of 00:18:00serving that makes me feel very much at home in formal dining situations.

CP: Did you have a job?

BM: No. Well, let's see-freshman year, I did not; sophomore year, I worked part-time as a telephone operator on the residence hall system at 50 cents an hour. I think between my junior and senior year, I was asked to participate in a research, a nutritional research study where every little bit of food is given to you and you eat that only and you collect your own feces for analysis, which got me interested in nutrition. I think those are the only jobs I had.


CP: So you made a decision to stay and get a graduate degree, a Master's degree.

BM: Yes. Well, I was offered a $2000 stipend. I finished my Bachelor's degree in three and a half years. And I was offered this opportunity for graduate school of standard payment. And I didn't have much confidence about going out from the university and being a teacher so I accepted that.

CP: And your focus was in foods and nutrition.

BM: Foods and nutrition

CP: So perhaps sprung by this experiment that you're part of?

BM: Yes, and the researcher that was doing that. I did not grow up cooking and my mother cooks without recipes. So I was very hesitant about my cooking 00:20:00ability, or my food knowledge. I was there with women who cooked for harvest crews of 10, 12 men, and just flip out 5 or 6 pies with no trouble. [Inaudible] Anyway, I thought I couldn't be a food nutrition major because I didn't cook very well. And I met this woman who was conducting the research. And she did not cook-she ordered pizza in for dinner, unheard of in a home economics community. So I thought, well if she does that, I could do that. She was very influential in my seeing myself in foods and nutrition.

CP: You did some research on "Calcium and phosphorus retention by two 13-year 00:21:00old girls."

BM: Right.

CP: And tell me about that.

BM: Well the study involves 5 or 6 young ladies, and then the analysis I did was just on two of them and just on two nutrients.

CP: And this was a similar sort of project as the one that you had participated in?

BM: Yes. I was in the pilot projects so it was looking at whatever nutrients she was looking at-I don't remember. And she just wanted to perfect the laboratory techniques. I was on the study, I think there were 1 or 2 other persons-I do not remember-that she did for her pilot. And then it turned into this study with the young women.

CP: Did you do any teaching during this time period?

BM: No.

CP: Did you meet Ron during this time?

BM: No.

CP: Ok. [Laughs] Alright, so you finished your Master's degree. And then what 00:22:00was your plan at this point?

BM: Well then I was going to work in the university. And Cornell University invited me for an interview. Interestingly enough, the offer that I was given, my salary was equal to my father's salary. And it came in a telegram, which I think is rather unique today. So $6,000 per year. The class would be a combination of foods and chemistry. This is how those students got their chemistry credits. There were two instructors, the other woman was actually a graduate student. And then there was a major professor who did the lectures.


CP: And your role was to do what?

BM: I was one of the two laboratory instructors.

CP: Was it something that came pretty naturally to you?

BM: I got along quite well.

CP: And Cornell?

BM: Cornell was an interesting experience. It's a beautiful, beautiful campus. It's founding is pretty close to Kansas State but it lived its history and had a lot of traditions that were associated with graduation. A graduation-I bet 12 different huge semi-trucks came in with beer and they were all lined up in this big field. Well, we hardly did that in Kansas. There just were a lot of things 00:24:00that were, you know-they had drinking songs and so forth. I enjoyed the students there-they were generally very good students.

CP: Is this where you met Ron?

BM: This is where I met Ron.

CP: [Laughs] Ok, can you tell me that story?

BM: Well, I was hired for two to three years. I shared an apartment with another woman who was a Presbyterian. And as a start-off for the Fall, they had Hans Bethe, the atomic physicist who became a science advisor to President Clinton, as a speaker come in. So they were trying to encourage all the Presbyterian 00:25:00participants in their group to gather up their friends and get a good crowd for Hans Bethe. And so I arrived with her, and the minister's going around, you know, name and hometown, the kind of usual questions. My mother had warned me not to tell anybody I was from Arkansas because that would ruin my chances for marriage. So I thought, he asked where I was from, and I said, "Well, I'm most recently from Kansas." And he said, "Well, that man on the opposite side of the wall, who is clinging to the wall, is also from Kansas. You should go talk to him. So I marched over with my most sophisticated-I really want to be a professor at Cornell-and then I said, "I hear you're from Kansas, blah blah 00:26:00blah..." And he asked me if I knew the score to the football game. Well I was much more sophisticated than football games, and I said "no, I do not." And I considered him quite juvenile. So the next week, my apartment mate and I are preparing to go. And I hear the scores on the radio. So I marched to the end and just squashed down this young man with my knowledge of the scores this week. Well he took this as, I guess, a great deal of interest. My apartment mate said, "He's gonna call you this week." And I said "oh no he won't. Not after what I did." But he did.

CP: And that was that?

BM: And that was that.

CP: Were you married at Cornell?

BM: No. We sort of were off and on for about two years. And I was married in 00:27:00Honolulu, Hawaii, which is my second job-was at the university there.

CP: Right. So you did not move there with him, or did you?

BM: No. I moved there all by myself.

CP: Interesting. Ok, tell me that story.

BM: How I got to Hawaii?

CP: Yeah.

BM: Well, I had lived in New York, and I lived in Arkansas, and I never lived on the west coast. And I thought, I wanna try that. So I wrote to the three-I think I wrote to Washington State, Oregon State, and somewhere in California, and said I was looking for a job. Oregon State responded with University of Hawaii is looking for someone. And so I applied and went.

CP: Tell me about that shift.

BM: That's one of the beautiful years of my life. I'm often cold. And Hawaii is 00:28:00eternal spring-it's green and it's warm. It rains every afternoon but so what. And I found the people very welcoming. The students really revered teachers. And I had a supportive department head. It was a good experience. I still, these many years later, correspond with several of those students.

CP: So in the meantime, you and Ron are keeping in touch?

BM: Yeah, sort of.

CP: And then what?

BM: And then he came for Christmas vacation. And I think he proposed once before and I said no. And then my goal was to go to Hawaii to start over. And I didn't 00:29:00really meet anybody. So I guess he looked better when there was less competition. [Laughs]

CP: So he came to Honolulu and you got married there.

BM: We were married in the First Presbyterian Church, Honolulu, in August.

CP: Was the Hawaii job always going to be a one-year job?

BM: Hawaii offers-since they couldn't bring people over for interviews because of the cost, particularly at instructor level-one year contracts. And then upon satisfactory service, that could be extended. So he applied for a job because I really liked being there, but Hawaii gives very preferential treatment to 00:30:00Hawaiian citizens. And in engineering, there were a million men of Hawaiian background that had jobs.

CP: So you wanted to go back to Kansas after that?

BM: Yes, back to Kansas. We were in Topeka. He's with the Kansas Department of Health as an environmental engineer. He inspected waste treatment plants throughout the state of Kansas to approve them for federal funding. And I become a teacher in a local high school-this is my one year of secondary teaching. I was thinking about it this morning-I had four preparations of very different classes. And that's quite a load.

CP: Yeah. Sounds as if your ambition had always been to be in a university setting.


BM: After I got there, I really liked it.

CP: Really liked being in the public schools?

BM: My problem with public schools is-in university I could do really quick little quip or pun, and we'd be right back on topic-in high school, once they laughed, that was the end of the day, they couldn't refocus. So I had to change a lot of my own personal style and that was a bit difficult.

CP: So after a year in Topeka, it's back to Manhattan.

BM: Yes.

CP: And you were there for a couple of years, again, foods and nutrition instructor.

BM: Yes. I taught the second year of foods classes. I taught nutrition. I'm not 00:32:00sure what all I did teach. But I taught a variety of classes in the department. And he worked on a Ph.D.-do you want some details about his life?

CP: Yes.

BM: Ok. Well, he went to Cornell to do a Ph.D. and there was no one there to help him get started, or mentor him or whatever was needed. So he stayed 6 months and left. And meanwhile in Kansas, they had fish, dying on the Neosho River in eastern Kansas. And sport fishing is a big tourist part of Kansas. So this was quite serious. And he and another man, Gene Suhr, who was here with CH2M HILL, took out a portable laboratory and found out that there was no oxygen 00:33:00in the water and the pollutant was coming from 100 miles upstream, a cattle feed line. This is a time when it was thought you could put anything in the river and it would get so diluted, it would never be a problem. So this is one of the first nonpoint source pollution-the pollution was at least 100 miles away, the source of pollution. So the Kansas legislature passed a bill with a thousand dollars for each of the major state universities, University of Kansas and Kansas State, to investigate this problem of fish kills. And he went to the University of Kansas, where he had his Bachelor's degree, to discuss the 00:34:00possibility of a Ph.D. And he did not receive a warm welcome. So he went to Kansas State because he was determined to have that thousand dollars and do research on the fish kills. And they didn't really have any degree that would work out so his degree is in chemical engineering, his Ph.D., and microbiology as a minor. And his major professors were in microbiology and chemical engineering. But there were about 5, maybe 4, cooperating departments on the degree. So we were there. He accomplished a Ph.D. in two and a half years. And I taught during that time.

CP: And you had a child?

BM: And we had our first child.


CP: There's a lot going on at this point then.

BM: Oh yes. I mean, when you think about it, ugh [Laughs]. Yes.

CP: So you left Kansas State and you went to Iowa State for another couple more years.

BM: 5 years at Iowa. This is his first job as an agricultural engineer. He has never ever taken a single class in that topic. But he has his interest in animal waste treatment, which is a developing field with the increased emphasis on environmental concerns.

CP: And you had two different jobs while you were there.

BM: I had all kinds of jobs. Part of the time, I taught in the college of home economics. And I was a laboratory instructor of meal management. Part of the 00:36:00time I ran taste panels on meat. And part of the time, that was in food technology. And part of the time, it was the department of animal science. It was one professor so wherever he could get funding to put me, he would. [laughs] I used to cook 16 steaks in an afternoon, serve a taste panel, keep records of their scores.

CP: And some publication came out of this too.

BM: Yes. My only publications are from that-I don't remember how many, several.

CP: Well we get to 1972 and finally we're in Corvallis. How does this come about?

BM: Well, a professor from Iowa State, Ted Willrich, came to agricultural engineering at Oregon State and decided that he would like to have Ron come and join the department. I think it was 10 years since we'd been married. So we were going to Hawaii to celebrate. And he said, "Well, while you're going to Hawaii, why don't you just drop off and take a look around Corvallis, it was all real casual." So we did. Two things happened. Iowa State had a contract with someone for work in Africa. And we wanted to go. And the dean of agriculture said, you may not go. So that was the first crack in the relationship with Iowa State. 00:37:00Then he was offered a job at Oregon State. And I can remember the exact corner where we sat in our car, debating about whether to go. He was concerned about professional promise at Oregon because the entire state has as many hogs as a single county in Iowa. And that was where his research subjects. So he said, "You know, I think we'll go for an adventure for two years and then we can go back, probably to the Midwest." So that's how we came.

CP: What do you remember about Corvallis from that initial time period? What was your impression of the place?

BM: Well, I will tell you what he thought. He was driving a U-Haul truck. And I 00:38:00have the two children-we'd gone to California to stay with my sister for a while, while he drove. And he talks about February coming across. Iowa is so bleak in February-its grey sky, the snow is black and filthy and grey, and there are slush on the streets-and it's just a miserable time. And here he is, driving across the country, and he crosses the Cascades and drops into Sweet Home. And it's green and the daffodils were blooming.

For me, it was more a little later. We had only been here a few days when the department head's wife invited us to dinner with several other faculty members. I think the table was 6 to 8-so a comfortable size to speak with everyone. And 00:39:00she said, "I'll send my daughter to babysit"-we had the two girls. And this was in great contrast. After 5 years in Ames, I never felt acquainted there. It seemed rather aloof, I guess, or cold. So inviting us to dinner in the first week was-"Oo- what's that?" So I felt very welcome here. I also sense here, after a while, a sense of equality-there were places at Cornell University where you could not eat lunch, in their Memorial Union, unless you were of a certain academic rank. And "who is a professor" and "who isn't a professor", and "how do I become a professor" can be very important in some universities. And I didn't 00:40:00feel that that was quite as prevalent here, as a person who was always at the bottom of the bunk, academic appointment-wise. I appreciated that.

CP: Speaking of academic appointments, when Ron was hired and the family moves, did you also have a job waiting for you? Or did you get here and then find a job-because you started working not long after you arrived, if I understand it correctly. And of course this is with College of Home Economics.

BM: I had a job when I came here-oh dear Chris, I'm not sure. I think maybe I had accepted the job. And I was pregnant and I was concerned that this might not be an acceptable situation for the university. So I wrote and made this very 00:41:00clear. But yeah, I did teach immediately upon coming.

CP: I'm interested in your memories of how OSU compared to the previous places you had worked, cuz it's a similar type of position but different place.

BM: I think that it was pretty much the same-always under the guidance of somebody.

CP: Similar approach to the curriculum?

BM: Less emphasis here on Chemistry, which I am rather critical of-I think it's very important. But other aspects were pretty much the same, I think.

CP: Who was important to you early on within the department?

BM: The department head was Margy Woodburn and she was an important person in 00:42:00guiding the group. And of course, you're acquainted with everyone because it's a relatively small college.

CP: What do you remember about her?

BM: She was able to guide, I thought, very well and could see ahead of things. The idea of faculty evaluations came in during that time. I had never experienced this before. And so I was just not really wanting to go and hear critical things. And she said, "I value you because of your enthusiasm." And I thought, "Enthusiasm?! What's that"-I don't think of myself as an enthusiastic 00:43:00person. But then I thought about some other faculty members who, every time something was brought up, "No". I guess, since I thought, "Well, let's see what we're talking about", that was enthusiasm. She became a personal friend later.

CP: How about Betty Hawthorne?

BM: Betty Hawthorne came out of the United States Navy, World War II. She was some kind of a payroll person. She would talk about swing from ship to ship to do the payroll. And she carried herself very erectly and had a sense of propriety and guidance that I respected. When she met me, she said "This baby is 00:44:00not due until August? It looks like it's due tomorrow." And I was a little bit embarrassed but other than that-and she was friendly.

CP: Did you know Clara Storvick?

BM: Clara was outside the department by the time I came but yes, I do know her. Again, sensible shoes, and she walked before walking as an exercise was as prominent as it is today. She lived to a very ripe old age-several of those women did. And I'm thinking it was nutrition and exercise, and a disciplined life that led them to the old age.

CP: My understanding is you never met Ava Milam Clark. But was there stories told about her or her legacy? Did you have a sense of that?

BM: I had a sense that she'd been very important. She did a lot of international 00:45:00work prior to a time when that was a big outreach. And in general, I heard respectful remarks made about her service to the university.

CP: What do you remember about home economics students during this time period-a different generation from when you were a home ec student?

BM: Well, I remember one of my advisees coming into my office barefoot. [Laughs] And I thought "Oh Gee, you are in a semi-professional setting. What in the world are you doing barefoot?" Students became very conscious of whether you use inclusive language. Often I would refer to "she" because that was the major person usually connected with food and nutrition in a whole. So I had to learn 00:46:00to say "either he or she" or "whoever is preparing the food". I had to adapt my language.

CP: Did it feel like the campus was a place where things were changing with the times?

BM: Well, we came when there was quite a bit of student unrest. And I remember President MacVicar, they were going to have a Peace Park or something-

CP: People's Park

BM: People's Park, thank you. And you know, they were all ready to create a scene. And here comes President MacVicar to help them shovel. [Laughs] I just think he was very wise in diffusing situations quietly. And in the early 70s, it 00:47:00was President MacVicar. And then it was deans of colleges and then succeeding presidents added layers of administration and different divisions.

CP: Did you know MacVicar at all?

BM: Yes I did. He attended our church-he and I attended the same church. He taught Sunday school. And he came with a ring binder and notes, and he read to us, which I found interesting. But he also had the time to take that on as an extra activity and thought it was important. He was in church every week. He was famous for clipping his nails during the service. And I understand that the 00:48:00story was to combat a habit of biting his nails-he'd trim them so that that would be less likely. But during the service, it was interesting.

CP: Let's talk about some of the specifics of your teaching at OSU. It looks like you focused on two classes primarily: Foods and Meal Management. Is that correct?

BM: That's right.

CP: Can you tell me about some of the specifics of those classes?

BM: In the Foods, I do have a unique experience. That was a class, 217-there was a Foods class for non-majors particularly. I understand that it was developed at the request of the College of Forestry where they were sending people up to go to watchtowers in the summer. And they didn't know how to feed themselves. So 00:49:00this was a really pretty basic class on learning to cook but with scientific background so you knew what you were doing. And they have a backlog of students.

So I taught over 200 students-I think it was 225 in lecture. And I did the lecture and the laboratories. And they dropped the class. So they kind of took care of this big request and then dropped it. But major was with 215. There would be a lecture and I would have one or two laboratories. And then with the Meal Management, there was usually the lecturer and the laboratory.

CP: Can you tell me more about that class, Meal Management?


BM: Meal Management involves buying food, menu planning, serving, getting it all together so the meal is on time at the same time. They would plan a meal, and then they would serve themselves and their partner-they were partnered. And then they had a guest person. We had a little kitchen-I just was in the building and the room is still there.

CP: Was there a service component to these meals? Or was it just mostly focusing on preparing the meal? I know once upon a time, they still had the white table cloths and there was etiquette involved.

BM: We did very little etiquette-we did some. But these were people who might be 00:51:00going out to set up a buffet line at their restaurant or a catering service. So we did talk about how to set a buffet table for the convenience of guests. And of course, I walk right in some many catered events and I say "Oops. Oops. Oops."-for example, the plate should be number one in line and things like flatware and napkins should be at the end because you don't need them until then. But you will often see the plates and the napkins and forks and other pieces of flatware right at the beginning. But these people were going out to 00:52:00run restaurants, hospital dietetic services, so they needed a certain sense of etiquette and how to set a table.

CP: Can you tell me more about what a lab would look like? A lab session?

BM: A lab session in Foods, it would consist of 20 to 24 students. And I can hear everything. And I know what's going on simply by listening. And I would go around, circulate and help students. They each had an assignment of one or two things. And they it went up on a display table. And I had labels and names so that you knew what you were doing. And we would taste these and as we taste it, I would taste also and make comments-if things were well done or poorly 00:53:00done-always trying to remember not to put the student down who had not done a good job. I encourage students to keep a neutral face to encourage other people to taste things, and try not to have any negative, like "Ughhh", kind of comments.

CP: You did a fair amount of advising too, if I'm correct about that.

BM: Not very much.

CP: Not much? Ok.

BM: Not very much. At that time, everybody did some-I don't know that I was a particularly good advisor. So now the approach with people devoted to that, I think it's probably a better system than adding it to a teaching and research crew.

CP: So it was mostly about making sure they were on track to graduate, that sort 00:54:00of thing?

BM: Um-hum. I would also pick out top students in advising to consider graduate school. Just because I thought that was the way to develop the profession.

CP: What memories do you have of Milam Hall?

BM: Well, I was always assigned to an 8:30 laboratory class. [Laughs] And my husband spent about half of his time out of town. So when I had 3 children that went to 3 different places, and I to get there in front of a laboratory at 8:30. And we wore white uniforms, hairnets, and white shoes. And these could not be worn outside the building. So I had to come in in street clothes, get to my 00:55:00office, swoop into my uniform and get upstairs and appear totally calm, in just a few minutes. I had one dress that I frequently wore because it had one zipper down the back, came right off, and the uniform went right on. I used to wonder why some of the single women couldn't take the 8:30 classes but that was not possible.

CP: That's really interesting-the uniforms, did all faculty wear these when they were in a laboratory?

BM: Absolutely. If you were in a Foods laboratory, you had a white uniform. My early days, I wore a uniform starting sophomore year in college. The students later wore kind of those lab coat, kind of thing. And the uniform, most 00:56:00professionally, was ¾ or long sleeves, pristine white. I can remember criticism of one of the women who worked at the Memorial Union at Kansas State. And she bought a uniform where the yoke had small printed [inaudible] flowers on it and this was not pure white. And it was a bit of a "tat, tat, tat". [CP laughs]

CP: You talked about having your kids off to school and then get to campus by 8:30 for a lab. I'm interested in knowing about raising children in Corvallis as a place for children to grow up, from your perspective as a mom.

BM: I think this was a very good place for children to grow up. They rode their 00:57:00bicycles all over town. And in fact, we just didn't go pick them up and take them places. It was a good town for at least something on Saturday-we required our children to do something on Saturday, their choice. They belong to the wire [maybe choir?], they did something 4-H or whatever. But they needed something Saturday-you did not lounge around in bed and watch cartoons in my house. It is a community with some high expectations. So for my son who was a lazy student, I think he was capable but did not perform as well as he should. I think it was hard for them. But for academically oriented children, it was pretty good.


CP: And what was it like for you to be a faculty wife? So you husband moved up the ranks-he became department head, became assistant dean. And there are obligations associated with being married to an individual like that.

BM: Yes. One of the obligations was to belong to the Folk Club, the faculty women's club. And in Ag Engineering department, we had a tradition of, I think, it was First Friday Coffee-so once a month, we got together for coffee. And we'd go to various women's homes. And there must have been 8 to 10 of us. So I would kind of organize that for the department. I don't think there were too many-Ok, 00:59:00I've been at universities where it was expected that the department head's wife would entertain the entire faculty-I never had that expectation, or feeling of expectation here.

CP: Tell me more about the Folk Club. This is something that's been around a long time.

BM: Yes, more than a hundred years at this time. It is a club for faculty women, faculty wives and partners. It serves the function of helping you get acquainted across departments. I've mentioned that we had the coffee for the Ag Engineering women. Well, what about women in English? How would I meet one of them? So that's one of the purposes of Folk club. And it has a thrift shop and it does community service. I have enjoyed the people I've met there. I continue to be a 01:00:00member. There are monthly big meetings, some of which I attend. And then I belong to a book group that's organized through Folk Club. And I belong to an eating group and I belong to others through the years. But those two always.

CP: Is it still going strong?

BM: Fairly strong. It suffers a little bit from decreased requirement that a faculty wife belong. In other words, when I came here, somehow it was just expected and that's not part of the picture today.

CP: Did you have any connection with Extension while you were working at OSU?

BM: I had a 6-month appointment, job-sharing, as an Extension Home Economist in 01:01:00Linn County. So I had that. I'm a master food preserver through the extension service. And with that, I used to have a radio program every two weeks-I was on our local KLOO, talking about food preservation. I judge state and county fairs in food.

CP: What goes into becoming a master food preserver?

BM: There's a series of classes-six to eight classes, I think. I don't remember the number. And you practice canning, freezing, working with both pressure 01:02:00canners and boiling water canners. And a lot of emphasis on getting the Extension publications with official United States Department of Agriculture recommendations for procedures so the food is safe and that it tastes good.

CP: What are your memories of the Radio show?

BM: Well, I worked with a man call Radio Ray who would go off on tangents. And I had to learn, when he was off on a tangent, to just come back to what I wanted to talk about in order to keep the information flowing. And they loved to tease me, him and his sidekick, about how long it would take me to say "an extension bulletin or an extension publication". And he particularly liked the 01:03:00Thanksgiving program, how we talked about how much turkey you should buy, how you should cook it for best taste results, how to take care of it after you had eaten the meal and you had leftovers. And I think that was very important public knowledge. And there are people around town who'll say "Oh I heard you on the radio."

CP: You went to Singapore in 1980.

BM: Yes.

CP: Tell me about that experience.

BM: Well, Ron took a leave of absence from the university. And we went with the United Nations Development Program. Singapore was a third-world country at that point. They have high-rise apartment buildings built to house their population. 01:04:00And they value fresh pork, in other words, it would be slaughtered at midnight, and would be in the markets at 6 am. And they wanted to raise those hogs on that island. Well, who is an expert in Hog manure handling so it wouldn't smell. And so we went. There was a major person there. And then 3 men were hired-we were for one year, another couple was for one year, I think the other couple was for two years. So that's what we did. I think we were both interested in international work and we thought Singapore might be a good place because it was under the British and English is one of the 4 official languages, particularly used in law and governments-so English was fairly widely spoken among educated 01:05:00people. And some kind of English was spoken by virtually everyone.

CP: What was the experience like for you?

BM: Very different. I was hoping to find employment but their attitude was that I was a foreign woman and he had a job, so I didn't get one. But oh my goodness, running a household was a lot of work there. I went to the market three times a week. I'm the only white person that I know that regularly went to the market by the way. And I would purchase the groceries there. In addition, we would go downtown once a week to the big supermarket for some things. But the fruits and vegetables-I bought at the market. And then you did laundry, and you hung it 01:06:00up-well, the humidity was over 90%, the temperature was over 90 degrees day and night, all days of the year-so it hung quite a while before it dried. I had a little tiny, funny washer. But I was really involved with household tasks such as washing, cleaning, cooking. Oh, and I belong to the Singapore American Women's Association, I think it was called. And I would go on tour once or twice a week. And I'd take my little notebook which I still have. And I'd take notes 01:07:00that we were on this street and we turned to the left. And then on Sunday, I would take the family on my version of the tour so that we saw different parts of Singapore.

CP: Well you came back, and you were still with OSU for a couple more years, but just a couple more.

BM: Let me go back to Singapore. Singapore was important to my life for understanding prejudice. I would go to the market and I would have my vegetables selected. And other Chinese women, who were sort of behind me, would be waited on first. Why? Is it because I had a larger order? Is it because I was white? And that's the nature of prejudice-you can't specifically say why it occurred. 01:08:00And while the vegetable seller might say it was later in line, because you could have said, well I could quickly take care of these customers, or their old customers. But I truly understood what prejudice was. I came back to OSU and the job which had been half time, all year, three terms-I kind of faded, and faded, and faded, and finally became nothing.

CP: Because enrollments were down?

BM: Our enrollments were down.

CP: Well it's a good segue to talk about a couple macro-level questions about home economics. The first is if you could share your thoughts about how things change while you're part of that department from 1972 to 1983-there is a trend here that's much larger than that, it was a very big deal here and in many other 01:09:00places, and now it doesn't exist. And you're part of that "de-evolution", I suppose.

BM: I can remember distinctly the-wonder what it was called, I'll call it-the Home Economics Journal, it was the journal of the American Association of Home Economics-it's now the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. On the back cover, it had an advertisement, indicating that Home Economics was the second highest-pay profession for women, behind MDs. I think home making was very, very important because that was a major employment of women. Now women are working outside the home, to a greater extent. And home economics has changed 01:10:00from focus on the home maker to, perhaps, more of a professional approach that we're going to teacher and distributors of knowledge useful to people in their homes. I think it's rather sad because some of the major concerns in our country today are obesity, credit- "how to handle money", nutrition. And these are our subjects and yet there's not much emphasis on thinking they're important academically.

CP: Did you see the de-emphasis happening while you were an instructor?

BM: Well, we saw fewer students. And we started seeing programs in high schools disappearing as they became more oriented to AP classes and emphasis on sort of 01:11:00career preparation in high school, whereas previously that had been education for life and it was the terminal degree. So yes, I saw it coming. At one point, I was working with the Oregon association and I had 225 people for dinner that I was ordering, etc. I received something this week and membership is so low that they've been unable to find officers for next year, so this year's officers are going to serve two years. So we're seeing that kind of decrease in membership and numbers of people.


CP: And then from afar, you were no longer a part of the department beginning 1983. And then the College of Home Economics dissolved in 2002. I'm sure you observed that from afar. Can you talk about your memories, or point of view, on how that happened?

BM: I'm very disappointed that there's been a decision to get rid of so many departments. At one time, Oregon State was the only college west of the Mississippi with a Ph.D. program in all the areas of home economics. And now certain of those departments have been totally eliminated. I don't know whether any effort was made to recruit people or to enlarge the vision of home economics. There was recently a member-not from Oregon but on Rachael Ray-and he 01:13:00talked about how it had expanded to meet more modern needs. I just feel like this department and college may be stuck with the old vision and didn't enlarge their vision to include other possibilities.

CP: After you left OSU, you just didn't stop working-that's for sure. And I see that not long after you became a site manager for the Elderly Nutrition Program here in town-talk about that?

BM: Well, it was advertised in the paper and it was nutrition related. Today it's called "Meals on Wheels" which is a nicer name than Elderly Nutrition Program, if you want my opinion. First of all, it was totally different from 01:14:00anything I had ever done. I didn't know if I had the skills. I was managing some forty volunteers, money raising in the thousands of dollars, and providing 8 routes of drivers. And I had to keep up with the federal regulations on who was eligible and work with social workers on things that were observed. It was just a really, really interesting time for me. I greatly appreciate my time there because I learned that I could do something besides teach.

CP: You spent a year as Director of Adult Education for your church, First Presbyterian Church.

BM: Again, this was a very part-time position. And I offered 3 classes every 01:15:00Sunday-something from a religious perspective, social justice perspective might be another angle. Sometimes we had a book group where people read and discussed, you'd have a Christian viewpoint on books. [Laughs] So yes, I arranged for three teachers each Sunday. We kinda had term-classes would go for so long, and then something else.

CP: We talked a little bit about the Extension work that you did. I don't know if we talked about the Extension Mini-College or not.

BM: Oh, the Extension Mini-College. I don't remember how I got started in the matter-who asked me to do that. But again, organizational skills where I'm pretty good. And the women came for a few days-two to three days, I think Chris, 01:16:00I don't remember that for sure-and we offered classes in all the areas of home economics. And these were largely women from Extension. I also had one man who regularly came. So they would be learning about money management, children activities, budgeting. The foods' classes were always popular. And yeah. I think the enrollment was maybe 200 or so and it'd start early in the morning. So I would be there at 7 o'clock for breakfast with 'em and clear until 10 o'clock at night. And after three days, I was just exhausted. But it was fun and they were 01:17:00very appreciative of my efforts-very, very kind, lots of compliments. Criticisms were usually on target and very small, and presented such that it could be heard by me.

CP: Well, 1998, you did make it back to Africa, not to Ghana but to Malawi, for a year. I'm sure that was an amazing experience.

BM: Yes. Ron has a Fulbright Scholar, I believe he's called. And supposedly the bonus was Betty. We went to Malawi, Bunda College of Agriculture which is a unit of the University of Malawi. This is an excellent experience. School was supposed to start in September-they finally started in January because there was 01:18:00no money. I taught Nutrition through the Life Cycle, which is "Ok, Africans are like Americans." I taught local foods and how to prepare 'em. And I learned this by going to the library. And a faculty person also loaned me her notes which were very helpful. I found that she was teaching the standards for milk from the British standards. And I went to the library and got the Malawi standards. So I thought I actually improved the class. I had no more than 8 or 9 students in class, and almost equal numbers of men and women, which was different. They 01:19:00speak English in secondary school so that's not a big problem except the American accent. And you cannot use some of our slang and I wrote everything on the board-so that they could better understand-with chalk that was not the dustless kind so there was white stuff all over and hands were just covered at the end of class. Several of them told me they had never met an American woman. And I was very conscious of being a representative of the United States.

Poverty-it's one of the poorest countries of Africa-with an AIDS problem. And you'd read in the paper "Oh, the new cocktail, only a dollar a day." The per capita income of Malawi was 270 dollars. So this "Oh, only a dollar a day" was 01:20:00still devastating news for that country. Students in general were polite and try-hard. They were great memorizers. One of the things, we hadn't been there too long and there was not a single piece of copy paper on campus, not one piece. And so I'm in town-our supervising person of the Fulbright people had us in for dinner every once in a while. And I'm sitting beside a man who is a confidential person at the embassy. He works in this little, tiny building, 01:21:00maybe 10x10. [Looks out] I think this is my meal that's coming. And I tell him there's no paper on campus. And the next week when I go into town, here are 10,000 sheets from the embassy-when they're receiving the secret messages, apparently a bunch of paper comes in that's blank. So he just gave these to the university. So I took it back and distributed it. They also had some with the old punch hole that they no longer had a machine-well, the university still had a machine, so we used that paper. But an entire campus with no paper-I have 01:22:00never forgotten that.

When we left, they had a cake for us. And we were asked to slice it, Ron and I. And I said, "oh let's pretend we're getting married." And I looked down and there's a trail of ants walking across. So I looked and I saw this trail of ants. And I thought "oh, I guess [inaudible] see that. Went right ahead." Another time while I was teaching there, there was no money for food for my classes. So I just paid for it. I've never purchased the food for my class.

CP: I have a few community questions for you about life in Corvallis, or your 01:23:00involvement in community life. And the first is about the Linn-Benton Opera Guild.

BM: One day I'm reading the Linn-Benton class schedule. And on the back, it says, "an opera lecture", and also Linn-Benton was handling the head source of tickets. And I had always been curious about opera so my husband and I decided to try this out, see what happened. And we kill ourselves to get a babysitter, get over to Albany, and the guy opens up an opera synopsis book and reads to us. [Stresses "reads"] And I'm so disgusted. But on the way back, we stop at the library and get an opera synopsis book ourselves and start studying. They went 01:24:00as a group; they had a coach. Then there was a woman in charge of this, and maybe another woman in my time. And then I was asked to do it.

So what I did was, take reservations for the bus and arrange for a lecture that explains something about the opera. At one time, I had two buses running. It just got smaller and smaller. And finally, Linn-Benton refused to sponsor it anymore. But it was a very good experience.

CP: This is a group that would go up to Portland for the opera?

BM: Yeah. And the charger bus would take us to the opera. You can see over there 01:25:00[gestures], I bought the Time Life series talking about opera.

CP: How about the Corvallis Singers?

BM: The Corvallis Singers was the group-they were largely Presbyterian women but that wasn't a requirement. And we sang religious folk songs. That was particularly a Roman Catholic nun who had a group of folk sounds. And we would perform at nursing homes and in-church service every once in a while. I'm not really a singer but I was acceptable.

CP: I want to ask you about philanthropy. I know you through your connection to the OSU libraries but I know your philanthropy is broader than that.

BM: I have money that I do not need for my life. And my children are well 01:26:00situated. So I have money that I wish to give away. So I choose projects that interest me. I love libraries so both the public library and OSU-I've given money there. I recently established a professorship in honor of my husband. And there's other places that I give. I prefer not to list all of my generosity. But I think hoarding the money is the wrong thing to do. And I like to give very quietly. I do not want huge, big spreads in the alumni magazine or the newspaper 01:27:00about the "illustrious Betty Miner".

CP: Some concluding questions for you and the first is on Corvallis and how Corvallis has changed, your point of view on this town.

BM: Well we've lost all our shopping. I remember when Penny's and there was a Sears catalog outlet, and the Montgomery Ward catalog op office downtown and there was a department store. There were department stores in some of the shopping centers. And that's pretty, well, gone now. I find clothing very hard to buy in Corvallis. The town, I mean, there's whole districts that I don't know what they are. There's some districts in South Corvallis, and there's expansion 01:28:00in the Timber Hill area. I remember when those were fields. I don't think that some of the boutique-y shops that have come-aren't particularly of interest to me. More traffic.

CP: More people.

BM: More people.

CP: The last question is on OSU and where do you think it's heading? We've talked a lot about change but what do you think lies ahead for OSU?

BM: I'm interested in the emphasis on becoming a major research university, in the top 25 of something. And I don't hear very much emphasis on instruction and 01:29:00developing things for students-not extracurricular things but basic education for students. And that concerns me. When I went to college, the emphasis, I think I experienced, was on teaching the students and bringing them into the field of study. And I don't quite hear much emphasis on that these days. And that bothers me. Because I see that as the principle function of the university.

CP: Well, Betty thank you very much. I appreciate it. This has been very interesting.

BM: You're most welcome. I've enjoyed my time with you today, Chris.

CP: Thank you.