Adjusting to life in Elgin was far from simple. The change from a busy teaching day to long hours in the house was painfully different. The weather was stiflingly hot that first summer. The last thing before going to bed each night, George steamed up his new toy and we drove up Chicago Street and back to cool off.
I had always been self-supporting, besides contributing to the family fund, and now I felt inferior in this role I knew nothing about. I was always afraid our maid ($3.00 a week) would discover that I knew nothing about cooking as, of course, she must have seen my experiences from the maid’s day out. I began by making jelly and jam and cake, the extra-curricular items, as it were. The fruits were a success and, after I ceased trying to economize by using Mumford’s Baking Powder (which the grocery store salesman assured me was as good as Royal or Parte, only cheaper), rose to unexpected heights, too, but I was very nervous in the process and overly tired.
The older women of Elgin, mostly Mother Cook’s friends, called during the summer. While we were at Mama’s over the Fourth my spirits rose promptly. I had a bunch of cards under the door when we returned. I made some odd mistakes in returning the calls, for George didn’t know anyone in Elgin. I went to many old addresses and had quite a time, but everybody forgives bride’s mistakes.
It was the loneliness of doing without my family that got me down. A few friends would have helped mightily. I was really lonely during those first months and then one day Nettie Ashman, who lived a half block away, came over to see me in a folksy way and confided that the other neighbors would come if I wanted them. They were holding back because I was “rich”. I have often thought of that characteristic, not only how false it was and inconvenient, but also how it injured us in a way. People used to say, when I was sick, “Why doesn’t her husband take her to California? Surely they could afford it.” On $100 a month?
By fall things were running better. George had taken over Dew Drops and Little Learner [David C. Cook publications], and the Publishing House moved to the new buildings over the river [on Chicago Street in Elgin]. Since the Publishing House reception, I had enjoyed going to the plant and eating in the cafeteria with George and I had blown the whistle with as much pleasure as a child would have shown. [The plant’s steam-powered whistle graced the neighborhood twice a day for many years.]
The heads of departments were flattered that I liked them and the driver of the Publishing House wagon, John Smitherman, used to bring me flowers from his garden. John had been gardener for Mother Cook in the early days. He was English, spoke with an accent, and he was very quickly my sworn admirer. As he went about on Fridays and Saturdays delivering Sunday School papers to the local Sunday Schools, he would drop in for a lite chat and bring me long-stemmed pansies and mignonette from his garden. In all my life, no one was ever more loyal to my children and me than dear old John.
My next door neighbor, Mrs. Outhouse, was a large-hearted woman, equally impressive in stature. She obviously cared nothing for calorie charts. She would run in and offer advice as to shops and people. As soon as she knew I was expecting a baby she gave me interesting data about the various physicians. She had endured a hard labor and lost her first baby. When the second was due she had engaged Dr. Pelton, a brand-newcomer, only nineteen years old. The baby proved to be twins, born easily, and she could not say enough in his praise.