Lucene, my Dearest:
You have told me that you are interested in having a sketch of my growing-up, prior to the time of our marriage on Aug.25, 1920, as well as a bit regarding my parents and grandparents and their families. So here goes.
My mother, Lillian Elizabeth Potter, was born in Ohio but grew up in Fairport, Russell County, Kansas, a place of one general store and one flour mill run by waterpower from a millrace channeled off from the Saline River and both run by her father, Edwin Potter. She was the youngest and had four brothers and one sister--Ernest, Walter, Frank, Will, and Carrie. My father, Joseph William Bayles, was born on a farm just north of Manhattan, Kansas, a half-mile south of the dam of what is now Tuttle Creek Reservoir. The old stone house still stands on the east side of the road, but other residences are now built up all around it on what used to be the Bayles farm. He had five sisters and two brothers -- Sarah, Ruth, Lydia, Emma, Ellen, John, and Ben. So you see, from both sides of the family I had lots of cousins. Grandfather and grandmother Potter and grandfather Bayles all were born in southern England and themselves when grown came over to the US. GM Bayles alone was born in the US, in New York State.
My father and mother both graduated from Ottawa University, Ottawa (Kan.), in 1895, mother in music and Dad as a minister. Dad had previously graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan. Mother carried on her music as long as Dad was active in the ministry. She had a beautiful, contralto voice and was a highly accomplished pianist. For many years she taught a number of private students in piano, and for those and many more years she directed the choirs in the various churches where Dad was minister. Before I went to college, it was from her that I learned all the music I knew. However with the many, many duties she had as a housekeeper, mother, minister’s wife, piano teacher, choir director, etc., she just didn’t have the time to sit down with me and teach me piano or even to schedule me for regular lessons like her pupils; so I never learned to play the piano, which I have always regretted.
Five children were born in our family. I was oldest, born in 1897. A brother, Floyd, died in 1902 when two years of age from a combination of whooping cough and pneumonia. A second brother Ward, seven years younger than I, now lives in Manhattan, just a half mile south of the old Bayles home. A third brother, Gordon, ten years younger than I died of diabetes the year I went to college in 1915. Finally, long afterward just a year before Spencer was born, my one sister, Lillian, was born -- now Mrs. Frank Thayer of Ottawa, Kan. The Thayers have four children, three boys and a girl.
My father was a Baptist minister, but maybe more than that he was a builder of churches. And not only did he take the lead in getting them built, he designed them down to the details of drawing the blue prints and making out the plans and specifications, then spent his weekdays working on them as a carpenter along with the regular carpenters. As a result, I also got a lot of first-handexperience at carpentering and other building skills, which I greatly enjoyed. The churches he built were at: Onaga, Kans., Laclede, Kan. (20 mi. south of Onaga), and Clay Center, Kan. Perhaps I remember his church building so keenly because it was during my years at home, before going away to college.
I was born in Auburn, Kan., a very small town a few miles southwest of Topeka, on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 1897. Lucene was born on Christmas Eve, ten months before, in Iola, Kan. Shortly afterwards. we moved to Peoria Ill., where Dad became pastor of the Baptist Church. But we stayed there less than a year, then moved to a farm (we called it the Stillman Place) just north of Bluemont, the big hill at the north edge of Manhattan which houses the reservoir for the Manhattan water supply, and is 1/2 mile south of GF Bayles’ old home on the west side of the road going north out of Manhattan. Dad farmed that place from about 1899 to 1902, when we moved to Onaga where he again became a minister and we lived till 1909. Onaga is in Pottawatomie Co. and it was during this period that the Onaga and Laclede churches were built, and also when I went through elementary school from grades I to VI.
Then we moved to Clay Center, where I went through Grades VII and VIII and High School, graduating in the spring of 1915. During the C.C. years GF Bayles died and we inherited the Shetland pony, Jumbo, with buggy and saddle and did I enjoy him! After 2-3 years we gave him up, and I drove him back to Onaga by way of Topeka, where he was put out to pasture for the rest of his life on the farm of Aunt Sarah and Uncle George Young about one mile south of Onaga. Onaga had a population of 636 while we lived there and it looks to be about that same size now.
My Clay Center years were busy ones for me, especially in high school. During 8th grade, I came out second in class in grade-average but first on the County Superintendent’s high-school-entrance examination, which we had to take for entrance into high school which was the high school for the whole of Clay County, entirely separate from the grade-school system of Clay Center.
In high school, I took the college-preparatory course of Latin, history, English, mathematics, and science. But during the summer after my Freshman year, my friend -- Albert Randolph -- court reporter for the County Attorney, who had just graduated from high school and was getting ready to go for college at K.U., taught me the beginning course in shorthand and typewriting and arranged with the commercial teacher for me to take the speed-course in both with the seniors in the commerce department. Consequently, in the summer after my sophomore year, I took a job as stenographer in the real-estate office of Eric H. Swenson, the richest man in Clay County. The following (my junior) year, I became stenographer and bookkeeper in the Union State Bank, where I’d work after school hours and full-time during subsequent summers during both my junior and senior years in high school. (Swenson was president and his son-in-law, Frank O. Oberg, was cashier of the Bank.)
Here is a pretty good point to bring in my sub-career in music, and to follow it through to the time when I ended it, about 1935. As a youngster in Onaga, I did considerable singing in church festivities -- in choruses and occasionally a solo part. In Clay Center, I became a regular member of the church choir and gradually worked into taking the alto solos in the anthems. In 8th grade I did the boy’s solo part in the Operetta, and first year in high school was a 1st tenor in the boys’ glee club and alto in the mixed chorus. Then my voice changed and into my sophomore year I had become a bass and had shot up from 5’4” to my mature height of 5’9 1/2”. I moved into the bass sections of the musical organizations, became a bass-baritone soloist (a two-octave range from Low-E to High-E), and began singing duets with the high school music teacher, Miss DeWitt. We had a boys’ quartet as well as a boys’ glee club.
Entering college (Ottawa University) in the fall of 1915, I began my first professional voice lessons and continued them throughout college. However, not until my junior year at Ottawa did I have a voice teacher who really developed the full resonential quality of my voice -- Paul R. Utt. (Incidentally, in 1926 I got him appointed as head of the music department of the College at Warrensburg, where he served until retirement and now the fairly new Music Hall on the campus is named after him).
My first year in college I sang in the chorus choir at the First Baptist Church, the official church of the college which is a Baptist school. During my sophomore year I was the bass member of the quartet-choir of the First Methodist Church. Then my junior year I became director of the chorus-choir of the North Ottawa Baptist Church. Afterwards, after release from six months active duty in the U.S.Navy, I changed schools to Kansas University and became the baritone member of the male-quartet choir of the First Baptist Church in Lawrence, the bass being John Ise (long-time member of the University faculty), the first tenor being John Wahlstead (who later became the Cook Paint and Varnish Co. tenor soloist over one of the Kansas City radios), and a second tenor whom I do not remember.
My first year out of college, at Iola, I was immediately asked by the Presbyterian minister who knew me in Clay Center to become director of the chorus choir of the First Presbyterian Church. The next year, after you and I were married, we moved to Newton, Iowa, and I was immediately asked by the Presbyterian minister (tipped off by Dr. Mathis from Iola) to take charge of the music (chorus choir) there, which I did. The next year we came to Lawrence where I taught in the high school, finished for the master’ degree at K.U., and was bass in the Congregational Church quartet. The next year we went to Warrensburg, Mo., where I joined the College faculty, and was asked to charge of the chorus choir in the First Presbyterian Church. Enough for music, though I continued in it for another dozen or so years.
In school extracurricular activities other than music I was also active. As a high school freshman, I was miler and pole vaulter on the track team, class news reporter for student school paper (becoming business manager when a senior), YMCA vice president and literary-society president when a senior as well as playing pretty good tennis and mediocre football, etc. At Ottawa Univ., I continually dabbled in athletics though never was really big enough for it: fair tennis, some track, broke a bone in my hand in baseball and a collarbone in football; tried out for the debate team but didn’t make it; was a pretty good editor of the college newspaper in junior year; etc., etc.
In August of 1914 Dad and I took off for a week in Manitou, Colo. There we took long walking trips, including two different climbs up the cog railroad to the top of Pike’s Peak, five days apart. In the summer 1917, several of us students from Ottawa Univ. went out to Colorado and spent the summer in and around Hooper in the San Luis Valley north of Alamosa, doing farm work. I put up hay on the Travelers Insurance Co. ranch, then cultivated potatoes near Del Norte, and finally spent the last six weeks or so driving a four-mule team on a Fresno scraper leveling land for irrigation preparatory to planting to alfalfa. I stayed at that for two weeks past the start of fall semester at O.U. at the urgency of the boss, Verne Rudd, who wanted me to stay on.
After my junior year at Ottawa (May 1918), I enlisted in the Navy as a radio man; I had tried to get into both first and second Officers’ training camps in the Army but was turned down because of age, later to be accepted for third but was then already in the Navy. Trained for the summer at Great Lakes and had just qualified for advanced training when I came down with the Flu, spent a week in the Hospital, and upon release received orders to report to Boston Tech. for ground training to become a pilot in the Naval Air Force, with a provisional rating of Chief Quartermaster (Aviation). Just completed ground school at Tech and was ready to be shipped to Pensacola for flight training when the Armistice was signed. I first chose to continue and become an Ensign, but then thought it would be better to complete college, get a bachelor’s degree, and get out into life work: so changed, was released to Naval Reserve, permitted to go home and reached there (Salina) by Thanksgiving. There I worked for a month in one of the banks, then entered K.U. on Dec. 31 and got my degree the next August at the end of the 6-weeks Summer Session. Finished out the summer working on a threshing crew in and out of Blue Rapids while visiting with my K.U. chum, Ralph Rodkey.
Into more detail regarding my college years, my freshman year I was away from home. But the sophomore and junior years were at home since my folks moved to Ottawa, Dad having become for two years Secretary of the Kansas Baptist Convention and doing a lot of traveling around. And during my freshman year I did some part-time work in the State Bank of Ottawa.
College courses were in the “heavies”: chemistry, physics, mathematics, German, etc. at Ottawa where by the end of the three years I had a total of 96 hours to transfer to K.U. At K.U. I first thought of becoming a chemical engineer so took advanced organic chemistry with Dains, quantitative analysis with Allen, and calculus with U.G. Mitchell, besides a sociology course with Blackmar and one on Modern Europe with Frank Melvin. In late spring, however there was a shortage of high school teachers and, realizing that chemical engineering would take another year of college, I decided to take the proffered job of teaching chemistry, physics, and math at Iola High School. Then it was necessary to scrounge around for some work in education in order to get a teaching certificate. I don’t remember exactly how, but I did manage to get a provisional certificate from “Lizzie” Wooster, State Supt. of Public Instruction for Kansas, and so qualified. Afterwards, Ivv never thought of leaving the profession, and took all my graduate work (MA&PhD) in education.
And, though I had heard much about her while a K.U., it was a Iola that I first met Lucene.