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Laura Cleaveland Oral History Interview, May 29, 1985

Oregon State University
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JK: OK. My name is Juliana Kelsall and the date today is February 17, 1985.

LC: Well, I'm Laura Cleaveland.

JK: First of all, I would like to start with some biographical information. Could you tell me where you were born and raised?

LC: I was born on a farm east of Prophetstown, Illinois.

JK: And did you have a large family or a small family?

LC: I had one sister. She died a year ago in October.

JK: What college did you attend?

LC: I attended Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa.

JK: And you studied Foods and Nutrition and Hone. Ec. Education?


LC: My degree actually was in Home Economics Education so that I could teach home economics.

JK: What level were you teaching at?

LC: High school. I had a clothing class, a foods class, and, all except one year, I had a third-year class. We called it Homemaking. It sort of covered everything we had not covered in foods or clothing.

JK: How large were the classes that you were teaching?

LC: Oh, I guess I can't tell you. I think it would range from six to twelve 00:02:00people, probably. When the foods classes weren't too big, I had some boys in the class.

JK: But generally it was girls?

LC: Well, usually girls, yes. But the boys were interested in taking Foods so that if they had to get their own meals, they knew how to do it.

JK: Can you maybe describe what it was like teaching home economics at that time? Can you give me a feel of what the home economics outlook was like?

LC: Well, of course there were a good many things we did not have then that they have now. Like, teaching clothing, I finished teaching there about the time that 00:03:00zippers came in, so I had very little experience with having students put in zippers. And I can't think of anything else that is so different.

JK: I was just curious when you were talking about things you didn't have-what kind of cooking facilities were available for the foods classes?

LC: Well, they usually did their work in groups of twos, and everybody made the same thing. Now, during the winter, in the third-year home economics class, we had a cafeteria. They had the class periods just before noon so that they could 00:04:00prepare a luncheon for the students and faculty who wanted to eat it. And we usually had a sign-up list, so that we would have somewhat of an idea of how many people to plan for.

JK: That sounds like quite a big event for the school year.

LC: It was. I think we had about 150 students in the high school, and of course it was the Depression days and many of them didn't have much money, so a lot of them didn't eat, but we had a few faculty and a few students who ate with us a good bit of the time.

JK: OK. What made you decide to go on for a master's degree?

LC: Well, I had been out here to Oregon State for summer school, one six-week 00:05:00session in 1958. And I wanted to get into Institution Management. A couple of years later, I wrote and asked what was to be offered during the summer. The woman who was head of the department said there were no classes offered that summer, but that there was a position open for a graduate assistant at the Memorial Union, and if I was interested in that, I could have it. It appeared to be the best way that I could ever get a master's degree, so I came on a year's leave of absence out here and I worked at the Memorial Union as a graduate assistant to the woman who had the food service there. And at that time, the 00:06:00boys from the main dorm, Weatherford, ate three meals a day over at the Union.

JK: And so you were involved in helping...

LC: Yes, I helped at the Memorial Union, and we had a tea room at noon. It was open to the public. That was upstairs on the main floor, the first floor. It hasn't been used now for a long time.

JK: What was your thesis topic? Was it related to your work in food-service management?


LC: Well, there it is, it's Comparative Study of Wholesale Prices of Certain Dormitory Food Products with the National Commodity Price Trends. It sounds more complicated than it was.

JK: At the time that you started working with the food service, the residence halls were Margaret Snell Hall, Waldo Hall, and Weatherford Hall?

LC: Yes. Waldo was in use and so was Snell. They had their own dining halls, 00:08:00then the boys from Weatherford ate over at the MU.

There was no dining room in Weatherford. There still isn't as far as that is concerned. Well, they now eat in a big dining room in back of Weatherford.

JK: That was added later, then?

LC: Yes. That's been built since I came back to Oregon State.

JK: What was it like being a female graduate student at the time? Were there many of you?

LC: I didn't know very many of them. I was busy. I had regular work to do at the MU, and I had a room, in Snell, which was very convenient. It was, of course a 00:09:00girls' dorm at that time. And the woman who was manager of the MU dining service also had a room there. Now Georgia Bibee, who had been there for years, was gone that year. She was doing graduate work up at the University of Washington. So Nelma Saylor was the manager of the Memorial Union dining service. And I was her graduate assistant.

JK: You received your master's in 1942, and then I understand...

LC: You see, Oregon State does not give any degrees except once a year, and that's in June at the Commencement. And I had my thesis to do then, so I 00:10:00received my degree in 1942.

JK: I understand you became an Assistant Professor of Institution Management at OSU in 1946, but what were you doing from 1942 to 1946?

LC: I was over in Pocatello, Idaho, at what then was the southern branch of the University of Idaho.

JK: And what was your job there?

LC: I had the dining service. I didn't do any teaching. I just had the dining service then. There was this dining hall where we fed the girls from Gravely Hall and the boys from Residence. There were two men's dorms and one girls' 00:11:00dorm; they all came to the one dining hall for their meals. You see, World War II had started, and then they also got V-12's in for teaching.

JK: Can you explain what a V-12 is?

LC: That's a navy service unit, and we had V-12's. We also had some V-5's, which were fliers. But they never stayed so long. V-12's stayed longer.

JK: So they were soldiers, then?

LC: They were there maybe a year or two years. And another dining room was built at the back of Gravely Hall, which was where the V-12's stayed. It had been a 00:12:00girls' dorm.

JK: So, then did a professorship open up at Oregon State, and that's what brought you back in 1946?

LC: I came back in 1946 when I was offered a job here. I enjoyed the work in Pocatello very much. I would like to have had the Idaho job in the Oregon setting. That's not possible, though. When I came back to OSU, we opened the Quonset hut down where the two dorms, Cauthorn and Poling, are. All those dorms 00:13:00were originally barracks from Camp Adair that had been brought in and built there. And back where West Dining Hall is now, there was a Quonset hut. We had two big Quonset huts put end-to-end for the dining room. The dining hall went parallel to the street. Then the kitchen was another big Quonset hut put at a right angle to the two long ones, and then there was a little one set at the 00:14:00back of that for refrigeration and restrooms and that sort of thing. And we had all of our equipment from Camp Adair. Of course, they had metal mess trays the first year. Then the second year, Miss Bibee got us some plastic dishes. Well, they weren't there when school started in the fall, so we started out with the metal mess trays. When they had brought these trays out the year before, the 00:15:00boys were wishing they had dishes. Well, after we got started in the fall with these metal mess trays, then the boys came one morning when these new plastic dishes were out. And they were wishing they had the old metal mess trays back again. You can't please them, you know. Laughs. They get used to one thing and that's what they want.

JK: So while you were a professor, you were still involved with managing the food service on campus?

LC: I was managing the food service only at the Quonset hut cafeteria.

JK: This was in 1946 when you came back?

LC: Yes.

JK: But your title was Assistant Professor?

LC: I was just an assistant professor then, I got promoted to Associate Professor along the way. I taught one class, Purchasing for Institutions, every year. I was down at the Quonset hut just two years. Then, when they reopened the 00:16:00Memorial Union and opened the tea room and all, I went back up there. The boys from the main dorm, Weatherford, ate at the MU, and we had a tea room open five days a week at lunchtime.

JK: That was for serving lunch to faculty and students?

LC: Yes. It was opened in 1948. I went back up to the MU in 1948. I had the Quonset hut cafeteria for the first two years after I came back to Oregon State in 1946.

JK: So you were just teaching one class at that time?

LC: I taught Purchasing for Institutions, always winter term.


JK: Did you eventually take on more classes?

LC: I always had the dining service, so I only had the one class, Purchasing.

JK: So it was a natural step to become the manager of the residence hall food service in 1962.

LC: Well, ever since I have been here, I have always managed some sort of food service in the residence halls. I had the Quonset hut first, then I went to the MU. I was there from 1948 to 1960. The MU dining hall had been under the department of residence halls, and then in 1960, the MU took it over and it's been their problem ever since. And then we no longer had any dormitory students 00:18:00eating over there at the MU. They opened it up as a regular cafeteria, which was open to the public.

JK: And then in 1962, you became manager of the residence hall food service?

LC: Yes. In 1962, Miss Helen Mulhern resigned and went to Seattle to live, and I inherited all the residence halls.

JK: You inherited them?

LC: Yes. That's what I have always said. She had had the girls' dorms and I had had the boys' dorms until then.

JK: And then you continued in that job until you retired?


LC: Yes, I did.

JK: So over the years you have probably seen, well, you have mentioned several changes that have taken place. Are there any other changes that you saw that you might want to talk about?

LC: Of course, we finally went from a stated menu with certain portions to choices of food on the dining hall cafeteria line and unlimited portions.

JK: So the style of service changed?

LC: Yes.

JK: Was that because of the demand of the students of because the profession was changing?


LC: Both, I think. I think students wanted more, but I don't know whether they were just wanting more then or whether it was just with the times that everyone was changing. They had more choices, and wanted more things to eat.

JK: I guess I'd like to change the pace a little bit, and talk more about the field of home economics in general. It's kind of unique in that it has always been considered a "women's field," but still, there has always been the challenge to establish yourself as a professional in home economics. Now, I was wondering if you would share what sort of challenges you saw while trying to establish yourself as a professional, and how you met those challenges?


LC: I have just gone along with the positions that were offered. And of course, they got better as they went along. I had more responsibility. I enjoyed the work. I really did, very much. Of course, I think one thing you have to remember 00:22:00is that I went to work at the start of the Depression, and you didn't fuss about what you didn't like. You kept still because you would have been fired, had you been a great complainer. When I was teaching in high school, one of our principals was fired, and I was told by the president of the school board that if I didn't like it because he was fired, I could leave too. And I very weakly said, "Well, I suppose you had your reasons." But I never did know why they fired that man. He was a perfectly good principal.


JK: You kind of did what you needed to do at the time.

LC: I knew better than to tell him what I thought.

JK: That's very interesting. I understand that you took a sabbatical in the spring of 1965, and that you were able to visit some other food services.

LC: Yes. I visited Purdue University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin. I spent three weeks at Purdue and three weeks at Illinois, and I think just one week at Wisconsin. I also attended some professional meetings in Chicago while I was there.

JK: How did those visits to the other schools help you in your work at OSU?


LC: Well, I got a lot of different ideas on what to serve and a lot of recipes and came back, I thought, (laughs) quite loaded with new recipes to try. A lot of the things were really very good, and they were accepted very well here.

JK: Could you give me some examples?

LC: Seems to me that pizza was one of them.

JK: I think it is still very popular.

LC: It is very popular. The Reuben sandwich was one of the new things too.


JK: During the years that you were at OSU, you worked both under Dean Ava Milam and under Dean Betty Hawthorne. I was wondering if you would be willing to share some of your personal impressions of them?

LC: Dean Milam never really said anything to me about what I was doing.

JK: Because you were only teaching the one class?

LC Yes. And then there was Mrs. Brandon, who was acting dean in between. And 00:26:00then Betty Hawthorne, of course, became dean the year that I was on leave, in 1965. I think she has made an excellent dean.

JK: Could you maybe explain why?


LC: Oh, I don't know that I know why exactly. I think she was younger and she kept abreast of the times, and she's met a lot of other deans in their schools, I'm sure. She's made an excellent dean, I think.

JK: Well, some of the other things that I wanted to talk about would be just some of your views on home economics and perhaps on food systems management. We talked a little bit about some of the changes that you have seen in home economics from when you began teaching up to when you began working...

LC: Well, there have been many changes in the names of the courses and a difference in philosophy, maybe.

JK: Could you give me some examples?

LC: Of course, I just discovered that Institution Management is no longer Institution Management, it's Food Systems Management, I think. As time goes on, 00:28:00they give different names to the courses. Of course, now computers have come into all phases of food service management, and they, were just starting to come in when I left.

JK: Could you tell me what it was like doing everything by hand, all your planning and ordering? What was involved with that?

LC: It was just a lot of work, that's the most I can say. Ordering at Oregon 00:29:00State was different than in the job in Pocatello, because here the state buys practically all the canned goods and all the staple products, but while I was in Pocatello, I ordered everything. Now here, I ordered the meat that I wanted, and I usually had to order it a month in advance so that we would have the amount of 00:30:00meat on hand that we needed. It makes a lot of difference if you are ordering for a couple of hundred people or for a thousand. But the staples were ordered by the storeroom man. That was for the whole dormitory set, not just my dorms. And we ordered the vegetables ourselves; those of us who were in charge of the residence halls ordered the vegetables from a produce man.

JK: As the years went on, did you find yourself using more processed foods?!

LC: Oh, yes. I think we used a lot more frozen food.

JK: Did those become more available after World War II?

LC: Yes.

JK: So when you were first doing the food service managing, there was a lot more food preparation involved?

LC: Oh, yes. A lot more. Can you give me a rough idea of how many people were 00:31:00involved in that?

JK: I can't tell you the numbers any more. Except, I had one vegetable person who used to peel all the potatoes. I think they don't peel them by hand any more, but she peeled and scrubbed the potatoes for baking. One thing we started to do was use a few instant potatoes. But when we first started using them, the students would say, "Are those real potatoes?" You know, they did not like the instant ones very well. Now, I don't know how good they are because I never buy them, but I expect that they have improved. And I never order them in a restaurant because I'm sure they will be instant potatoes. But I think they have 00:32:00improved, and I expect that if they use them at home, the students don't mind if they are used at school. But if they are not used to them, then that's something else.

JK: Okay. Can you tell me what aspect of your work in home economics has been the most personally satisfying to you?

LC: I think that planning the meals and buying the food and just seeing that it went out in the way you'd like to see it go has been the most satisfying. I have thoroughly enjoyed my association with both the students in the residence halls and the people with whom I have worked. Now we had a tremendous number of 00:33:00students work for us and on the whole, they were a very fine group of people. I still hear from a few of them.

JK: You do? That's nice...You were saying that it has been several years since you retired, but I was wondering if, given your experience in home economics and in getting an advanced degree, you might have any advice that you'd give to students who are entering the home economics profession today?

LC: I just think that you ought to pick the field that you're most interested in, that appeals to you most. I don't believe in going into something because it 00:34:00is more profitable from the standpoint of money. The money won't do everything for you. It does lots of nice things, I'll grant you that, but it won't do everything. And I think the work one does choose should be something that you think you'll enjoy. Now, of course, if you have a boyfriend who is speaking of marriage and you intend to get married in a hurry, or when school is out or whatever, that's something else. But you may need to work anyway.

JK: Have you had the opportunity to be involved with home economics, or perhaps the things that are going on at OSU, since you retired?

LC: Well, the faculty have been very nice about inviting us or keeping us in 00:35:00touch as far as the retired home economics staff is concerned. I did some catering for Dean Betty Hawthorne when I first retired. I did that for about seven years. I enjoyed that.

JK: Was that for events on campus?

LC: Well she used to entertain the senior home economics students. She'd invite about twenty to twenty-five people to her house for dinner at night, and I would fix the food. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

JK: Well, is there anything that I have not covered that you would like to talk about?


LC: I don't think so. You've done a pretty good job.

JK: Okay. Well, if there is nothing else that you would like to add, then I guess we can end it here. Thank you.

JK: There was one more question that I wanted to ask-I was wondering, what do you think of as your greatest accomplishment while you were at OSU?

LC: I don't know what you would say was the greatest accomplishment.


JK: Well, through your work in the various aspects of the food service, I thought there might be something that is kind of a highlight in your mind.

LC: When I was at the MU, we had a tremendous number of banquets and we would serve, oh, up to 500 people in the ballroom. We had some groups that were always so well-pleased, and I think it is a very satisfactory thing when you have groups come, and they'll come again year after year, and they seem to enjoy the food you put out.

JK: It sounds like you built up quite a reputation for the food service.


LC: Well, it was all right, I think.

JK: Now, before you received your degree in 1930, I understand that you taught in rural schools in Illinois for three years?

LC: My first year I taught the first four grades in a little two-room school in Emerson, Illinois. I had all kinds of students. One had been in the first grade three years, I think, and I left him there. And I had a little boy in the second grade who couldn't speak so you could understand him, and another little girl who just sat in her seat for almost a year. Nobody bothered to tell me that she didn't speak English. This was 1925 to '26 that I taught at that school. Then 00:39:00from '26 through into 1928, I taught in a school where there were eight grades. And of course, your eighth grade students took a county examination along in May sometime, the end of April or early May. Then if they passed the exam, they all went to a graduation exercise in the county seat, which was Morrison, Illinois.

JK: Now, you did this in between your sophomore and junior years in college?

LC: Between my sophomore and junior years. You see, I had to make my own way through school. I borrowed the money to go the first two years, and then I paid 00:40:00it back by teaching, and I saved a little. Then I went back to school and (laughs) borrowed some more money and had to pay it back again when I went to teaching in Walnut, Illinois after I graduated.

JK: I see. How much did it cost to go to college at that time?

LC: The first year I went to Iowa State, the school cost me $510.

JK: And that was for everything?

LC: The whole year, and I was paying out-of-state tuition too.

JK: That was out-of-state?

LC: Yes, I was from Illinois and went to Iowa State College. The out-of-state tuition, I think, was $40 for the whole year, but the next year I think it went up to $100. But I still continued to go because Iowa State was the best school in the area for home economics.

JK: That's why you chose it?

LC: That's why I chose it.

JK: That's very interesting because in-state tuition alone at OSU is almost $500 00:41:00a term now.

LC: I know. It's terrible. I don't remember what we paid in addition, but that $40 was not very much money really, for out-of-state tuition. And when I started, board was only $5 a week. It's about that much a day, almost, now.

JK: At least.

LC: It's a hard way to get a college education, but it's better than not getting it. When I started teaching, I started at $150 a month, and instead of getting raises every year, we got cuts in salary every year because of the Depression. 00:42:00That $150 for nine months would be $1350 per year. The next year I got $1500, then it eventually went down to $1000 for nine months. But I did Smith-Hughes vocational home economics teaching then, so I got paid an extra month and a half during the summer. So I managed to survive.

JK: If we could back up just a bit-you graduated from Iowa State in 1930, and then took a position teaching home economics?

LC: Yes. You see, I got out of school right at the start of the Depression in 1930. I was fortunate to get a job in Walnut, Illinois. I taught home economics there for ten years.