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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn E. Cook

Saver’s Treasure Trove —Edwin’s College Costs

Edwin was Grandmother’s husband, Uncle David’s and my mother’s father. I only knew him in those ways, never as Granddad. In 1918, he was felled at age thirty by the Spanish flu, when Uncle David was three years old and my mother was fifteen months.

Edwin was a college-educated fellow, a rarity for the period and the only one of his siblings to achieve it. The family was by no means wealthy and he probably had some kind of employment after classes and summers to pay for his schooling. His chums described him as thoughtful and academic, but also easy-going and fun-loving. He was a handsome young man, as the few photos of him attest. He must have been considered quite a catch by the young women in the town of State College, PA.

Among Grandmother’s saved things are two itemized receipts from Penn State, one from 1908 and one from 1911. She and Edwin didn’t marry until 1913, which indicates that he was a Saver, too. Viewing these papers always brings on feelings of surprise and awe, the recognition that they are over 100 years old!

Of course, the costs for room rent, gymnasium fee, library fee, plus others, seem to be amazingly low, but everything was far cheaper those many years ago, including wages. $38.70 was indeed a princely sum in that day. For a student working off-hours, it would have taken months to accumulate enough cash to pay the bill.

The back of the 1908-09 receipt includes the statement, “Tuition: The tuition fee is $100 per year, but all students residing in Pennsylvania are exempt from this fee.” That was certainly generous. Maybe the state legislators were hoping the free tuition would encourage men to obtain college degrees and become leaders in their communities. (As yet, there were no women students, although by the late 19-teens, a few brave gals insisted on attending and gained admission. Hurray for the ladies!)

Looks like this is what passed for a crazy college party in 1912 or so! Edwin is the smiling guy on the right, white shirt and tie.

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