I entered Mary Washington College in 1941, but shortly thereafter was the attack on Pearl Harbor. After two years there, I did not want to go back to Mary Washington. My father said there was a special engineering course to be given at the University of Virginia and if I could get into it I would not have to go back to Mary Washington. To be accepted by the program, students were supposed to be college graduates and a math majors, but after we’d spoken with the dean, he said, “Well, you will be living at home, your dad is an engineer as well as a lawyer, your only cost will be your books, so we will accept you.”
They needed to have 10 students to give the course and only had nine! I loved the engineering classes—some were held outdoors. One of my neighbors growing up, Harrison Waite, was one of my teachers; he was only a year or two older than I was. Most of the ladies in the program were older—all college graduates—one had taught math for 14 years. One was a graduate architect.
When I finished, I received a telegram job offer from Langley Field, testing model seaplanes. I worked there for 14 months, then came back to UVA to study at the Curry School. I graduated in January 1947.
The Co-Ed Room played a big part of my life at UVA, it was a lovely big room with a fire place, an adjoining kitchen, and on the right was a bedroom with a bathroom. Betty Slaughter was the housekeeper and cook in those years and I occasionally worked as her assistant and served lunch to the coeds. I got paid a free lunch and about one dollar a meal.
I was taken into the Lychnos Society—comparable to the Raven Society. In the summer of 1946, I was assistant dean of women in Madison Hall while Dean Roberta Hollingsworth Gwathmey was away. I remember that during that time, the Co-Ed Room was closed for the summer, but I needed to go in there to get something. When I opened the door, the room had birds in it, I’d guess they’d come down the chimney while the room was shut and were living there.
I entered Law School in February 1947. In my class, there were 110 men and three women. There I met Barney Gordon, originally from New York, who had come to Virginia Law via Harvard on the GI Bill. We announced our engagement on May 27 and married on June 21. I taught while he finished law school. I worked at Greenwood School, between Crozet and Afton, and Barney would drive me there in the mornings and pick me up in the afternoons. As a child, I’d attended Greenwood, which went from first grade to high school, for four years before my family moved to Crozet, where I graduated high school. In the evenings, Barney would study, we’d go to the Law Library where all his classmates were studying, then we’d go to the movies.
We lived all over and eventually ended up in California, where you had to have five years of college to teach, so I earned my master of arts in education in 1970. I taught high school and junior high English, reading, history and business. I was a substitute, but I was expected to teach as much as a regular teacher and was paid the same. If I taught 60 days before Christmas, I was paid for the holidays, and if I worked 40 days before Easter, I got those holidays, too. If I taught 100 days in the entire year, I got a raise the same as the regular teachers. I remember that in both New York and Florida, the pay rate for substitutes was $10 a day.
Barney Gordon and I had a wonderful 37 years and three terrific children before he passed away in 1984.
In 1986 at summer session at Principia College—where I studied everything from art to history to swimming to religion to jewelry making—I met my second husband, Ken Hargraves from London, Ontario, Canada; we were married by December of that year. Together we went to my 50th reunion, where I was inducted into the Thomas Jefferson Society of Alumni. My picture was taken with President John Casteen. Ken passed away after 17 great years together.
Back at Principia College, I met Richard Davis from Colorado Springs, Colo. We were married in 2004 and are enjoying glorious times together. We live year-round in Tucson, Ariz. I’m grateful to live close to my children and grandchildren.