Chapt 5 1965-1968 Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
During ‘our” graduate school days, Keith and I had moved from Lawrence, Kansas to Champaign, Urbana, where Keith began his graduate studies in earnest at University of Illinois. Scott was a year old by then and soon would be two years old and our dog, Ebony, moved with us as well. We lived very frugally on the GI bill monthly check of $160per month plus tuition from about 12 piano students that Elva taught every week to supplement our income. Keith also worked on weekends at ‘odd jobs’ such as lawn moving etc. In spite of our meager income, we were able to save $10 a month for emergencies!
As Keith’s graduation for his PhD approached, we decided to use the savings to buy a used Shasta camper. There were 5 of us by then (Keith, Elva, Scott, Teraysa and Todd) and one summer we took time off to take an actual vacation! We traveled to the Niagara Falls area as campers; and, camping became a way for us to continue to ‘see the world’ as a family for many many years.. .and we loved it!
Keith completed his requirements for graduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1965 and began looking for a job. He seriously considered 3 choices: 1) A Redland College for Girls in California, 3) working in a Post Doctoral position in Utah and 3) Ohio State University. Even though his advisor said that OSU was not a serious offer, he decided to apply anyway. He was offered the job as assistant professor of Physiology which was to begin during Fall quarter 1965! All this was taking place about the same time as graduation ceremonies, so he missed his graduation celebration; but we were thrilled with the OSU offer. We asked my sister, Ruth, to take care of the 3 children; and ,pulling our camper to stay in, we headed out to Columbus to go house hunting. We hired a realtor from Columbus who showed us many houses. The one that we liked the best was located at 6209 Ambleside Drive in Columbus. It was a brand new 4-level house that had been used as a ‘showplace’ for the new AmblesIde Dr. Housing Development in the Devonshire area of North Columbus. It had 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths with a basement. The 4th level included 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. The 3rd level was the street level front entrance with a large kitchen, small dining area and large living room. The 2nd level was slightly below ground and included a 4th bed room and a bathroom as well as a large tiled-floor area which would be perfect for piano teaching; and, it was connected to a finished and paneled basement area (1st level) which could become a playroom for the kids and also had a separate laundry area. We used the GI bill to acquire a loan on the house and returned to Champaign-Urbana to get ready for the move. On the ‘big day’ we loaded up the car, and with the 3 children, Kathy Baxter (a high school piano student who often babysat for us and who offered to go with us to help us move) and also with a small cage holding our pet hamster, we headed out for our new home and our new life in Columbus Ohio. It was so hot that day and the car had no air conditioner! The hamster got overheated and suffered a stroke! Kathy took it out of the cage and carried it in her shoe to Columbus! Although the hamster never fully recovered, he lived for quite awhile as part of our family. But, I’m sure that he felt very loved!
It wasn’t long before school began and Scott started first grade at the nearby Devonshire Elementary School. One day his teacher suggested that we have his vision tested, and sure enough he was fitted for glasses. His optometrist’s only comment was, “Did you know that he couldn’t see?” And, sure enough, on the way home with his new lenses, Scott was looking out the window and said: “Look, Mom! The trees have leaves! And see the bricks on those apartment buildings? I didn’t know they were made of bricks!” Oh my!
In Champaign-Urbana, a member of our church had become Foster Parents and they taught a Sunday School class one Sunday shortly before our move to Columbus where they discussed their commitment to helping children who had no permanent family-- thus necessitating a temporary Foster Care arrangement. For this family Foster Care had become a ‘mission’ of sorts. So, soon after school began we applied through Franklin County Children’s Services for a license to become Foster Parents, and it wasn’t long before our first foster daughter, Jenny, arrived. She was about 18 months old, small for her age, shy and cute as a button! Then, one day Keith brought home a white laboratory rat from his research work at OSU to show to the kids. Mom said, “Ok, but we can’t keep him more than 1 day.” But, the kids loved him so the rat was soon named ‘Cuddles’ and he stayed on at our house and became a favorite pet.
Soon, after that, Elva began teaching piano lessons again for just a few students. She started to teach again primarily because Scott was ready to begin piano lessons and she didn’t want him to be the only piano student. But, of course, she loved teaching too, and her piano studio grew and grew. However, one day Keith came home with the news that in his new job he would have a whole month off for vacation at the end of the summer. The idea of using our camper for a whole month of travel was very tempting; so Elva designed a plan for teaching which included an entire week of workshop classes in July which would be centered around a central theme during which students would come to class in groups EVERY DAY for that week; then, they would have the entire month of August off. The new enterprise was named the Michal “Skill Workshops” and this creative concept of pairing music history with piano performance was an ongoing venture for the entire 29 years that she taught piano in a private studio setting in Columbus, Ohio. It also became a family project and each family member had an important role to play in every summer workshop.
Life seemed to be perfect for us! Keith’s dream to study brain and central nervous system function and to teach at the University level had happened; Elva’s dream to teach piano and music in a creative way to children and adults of all abilities was happening; our marriage was everything that we wanted it to be; each one of our children had been a major miracle and now included Scott, Terry and Todd; our foster-child family project was going strong and Jenny had become an integral part of our family by then; and in January of 1968, Kelly was born. Our family of 4 children (plus foster children) was now complete! Everything that we had envisioned for in our life was coming true. Amazing!