Going to College

Bill and Velma Stacey in 1945

Bill and Velma Stacey in 1945

In April of 1945 the Russian Army began its occupation of Vienna and Berlin, and one year later East Germany was divided from West Germany. In May of 1945 the Russians took Prague and in November Yugoslavia announced it was part of the Socialist Republic. In September Japan surrendered, but North Korea announced its violent brand of socialism.

In spite of these discouraging events, on December 31, 1946 President Harry S. Truman announced World War II was officially over, making a distinction between hostilities of the past and conflict looming for the future. The next day Emperor Hirohito of Japan announced he was not God after all and twenty-one days later the President of the United States, responding to the darkening world, announced the organization of the CIA.

Bill, Velma and Janet in Woodruff

Bill, Velma and Janet in Woodruff

Bill and Velma Stacey had been witness to all of it. On December 17, before World War II was officially declared over, Bill had his twenty-seventh birthday and Velma was two months away from her twenty-fourth birthday. The world was still a frightening place. Having grown up in a small town, they partook of a small town camaraderie no longer easily found. Life had been good and the temptation to try to perpetuate it was strong. Many of their friends chose to stay in Rich County and shut out the rest of the world. Bill and Velma thought a lot about that. They knew Woodruff would be a good place to raise a family. Bill could get a farm and do what he had always done and they were certain they would succeed.

Yet they had seen enough by then to know the alternatives, and Bill had a strong desire to go to college. The U.S. Government had announced the G. I. Bill June 22, 1944. All who had served in World War II could have help paying for a college education. To young people in a small town for whom college had been an unreachable goal, the world suddenly opened wide. Bill and Velma talked about the possibilities and about their fear of failure in a college environment after having been isolated in a small town. Few of their friends and family members were ready to leave the farms and their families and break away. The decision was difficult, and the hours spent huddled over the table in the rented Orange House in Woodruff reflected their deep concern.

The site of the Orange House, on 100 East just norht of Center Street in Woodruff.  The house is gone, but the list survived.

The site of the Orange House, on 100 East just norht of Center Street in Woodruff. The house is gone, but the list survived.

Bill had unending faith God would carry them through whatever they needed to do. Velma knew she could accomplish almost anything with hard work. She too knew God would bless their righteous efforts, but she also knew God expects our best efforts. She sat down one day and asked, “Do we want to live normally or do we want to be very conservative and get through school? There won’t be enough money to do both.” It was obvious there would have to be some plans made. “Since you are 27 years old and we already have one child, we both know we have no time to waste,” she said.

After considerable thinking, they had a plan. They would make whatever sacrifices were necessary to get Bill into School. They made a list and saved it for half a century.

This is their 1946 list in their own words:

  1. The basic premise: Without the help of the Lord, we have no chance, and He can only help us if we are completely honest with Him in our tithing.
  2. We must make it entirely on our own; there was no one we could call on for help.
  3. Bill will have to find a job in addition to school. (They had the GI Bill except for the last two years. It helped but came nowhere near supporting the family.)
  4. Velma will not leave the children to go to work.
  5. We will make a policy of paying our tithing when we get our money so we will never get behind.
  6. We will limit entertainment and fun things that cost money to that which is absolutely necessary to keep our personal relationships solid.

Bill’s part of the bargain:

  1. Work as many hours as necessary to support the family.
  2. Keep up school grades.
  3. Get six hours of sleep each night, where possible.
  4. Spend a reasonable minimum amount of time with Velma and the children.
  5. Keep the Sabbath Day holy no matter what. Sunday will be for The Lord and the family. No work. No books.
The family in 1947 with Grandma Charlotte Dickson holding Dennis

The family in 1947 with Grandma Charlotte Dickson holding Dennis

Velma’s part of the bargain

  1. Instead of working, Velma will make a super effort to conserve our income.
  2. She will make our budget minimal by:
    1. Making ‘scratch’ meals, and buying as little prepared foods as possible because they cost at least twice as much.
    2. Cold cereal or eggs for breakfast only occasionally. Normal breakfast is hot cooked cereal or cold (oat type) cereal or scratch hotcakes.
    3. Bread is mostly homemade.
    4. Dishes comprised mostly of potatoes, beans, rice, vegetables, with very little meat.
    5. Making clothes for herself and the kids where possible.
    6. Thinking ahead on groceries to prevent travel to the store to buy things
    7. Limit the use of the car whenever possible.
    8. Eating at a cafe is taboo. Eating at fast food chains about once in three months. (Janet Porter note: I’ll have to say, the fast food thing never happened.)
    9. Friday date night consists of low or no cost events (temple, visiting friends or family, going to a park, etc.)
    10. Distant pleasure trips, taboo until school finished.
The family in 1951 at Bill's graduation

The family in 1951 at Bill's graduation

The interesting thing about their rules is that most of them carried over into their lives later. Those very rules–paying an honest tithing and strict observance of the Sabbath Day, home-cooked family meals together and time spent with the family, conservative spending habits and the family pattern of hard work–all these stayed with the family throughout their lives.

Setting good family goals based on the guidelines set by God Himself brought out the best in each person in the family. Bill and Velma would say, “Instead of thinking of ways to get around God’s commandments, think of how you can honor Him by keeping them with integrity. You will be blessed in all areas of your life, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll find hidden sources of energy in all you do–exactly as God promised.”

“And all who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments…shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:18-20)