Louisville, Ky.



The why: I wanted a college education.

The how: By sticking type, kicking the 8 x 12 Gordon jobber, feeding the old Babcock drum cylinder, yanking the lever of the paper cutter (which usually had a dull knife), doctoring the ramshackle old engine in the print shop of The University Press at Chapel Hill, N. C., and working fourteen and sixteen hours a day,—and enjoying it, too—on rare occasions, especially when there was a ball game on the “the Hill.”

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Later, when I came to be manager of the shop, the principal part of my work, at times, was finding new and novel excuses for not getting the work out on time. I am not sure, but I am inclined to think that I did my full share of creative work in that field, a field in which imagination has done and is doing wonders. I believe that I may safely refer to Acting-President E. K. Graham, Dr. Archibald Henderson, Dr. George Howe, Dr. L. R. Wilson, Professor N. W. Walker and other members of the University faculty for testimonials along this line. Certainly they will bear me out in the statement 50 that I always had an excuse ready; also that I usually needed one.

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The smell of the print shop had been in my nostrils since I was a mere youngster. I “learned the case” on The Express, at Sanford, N. C.; graduated into the shop of Cole Printing Company, in the same town; worked for a short time in one or two other shops, and so when I started for Chapel Hill in the fall of 1904, fired with enthusiasm by glowing tales of life on “the Hill,” I felt that I was fairly well equipped to earn my living and get an education.

I might state, parenthetically, that the enthusiasm lasted almost to University Station. It came back later with compound interest; but when I first set foot on Chapel Hill soil I did not stand calmly and survey the world that I had come to conquer. In fact, the conquering instinct in my manly breast was distinctly dormant.

I was armed with fifty dollars, enough to pay the registration fees and to give me a feeble shove. The above soon lost its force, however, and it was up to me to dig, which I did. There may be poetry and there may be glory in working your way through college, but I found that it consisted mostly of digging.

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I got along fairly well with my school work during my freshman year. I earned enough money, lacking just five dollars, besides my initial fifty, to pay my expenses, but I didn’t luxuriate noticeably. I did, however, learn to study. 51

It was well that I had learned this. During the summer I received the appointment as manager of the print shop at Chapel Hill. And then my troubles began in earnest. I used to examine my head before going to bed, to discover if my hair had turned white during the day.

The shop handled six or seven university publications, ranging from the weekly students’ paper to the annual catalogue, in addition to a goodly amount of job work. The work, all except the binding, was done by students. Their work at best was irregular. The supply of printer-students was always short. The university authorities gave free tuition to the boys in the shop, but there never were enough of them on hand to keep up with the work properly. It was owing to this fact that I was compelled to develop the excuse-making part of my imagination. Oh, it was a man-sized job. And I was just turned nineteen, and the little blue devils were constantly on the job. It was probably very fine training. But it was also rather fierce.

But never mind. The job carried with it a regular salary, ridiculously small, but enough to furnish the necessities and a luxury now and then. I learned to crowd much work into a given period of time. I learned the value and limitations of running a bluff. I learned to love some of the faculty men, who were patient with the shortcomings of the shop. Also I got off my school work in pretty good shape. 52

My junior year was not so bad. I had learned that it was not a hanging crime for a publication to come out late—although some of the editors seemed to think so. I had a better and larger force of student printers, and I had more time for recreation. Also my salary had been increased so that I never had to worry about my board bill.

At the beginning of my senior year, having been elected editor of The Tar Heel, the college weekly, I resigned as manager and borrowed a little money. I did some work in the shop, enough to keep me from forgetting that I was a horny-handed son of toil, and associated (euphemism for loafed) with my fellows more, and played a little football—and made marks that were not nearly so good as those I had made in the days of my labor.