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94-year-old alumna reflects on her time in Waxahachie, the Pearl Harbor bombing, and how mice in the dorms saved her from hazing
by Margaret Abbas Dimaline ’44
At 94 years of age, I still remember the first time I heard of Trinity University. It was in the mid 1930s when I was about 10 years old. The Trinity Choir was big in those days and toured around Texas giving concerts. Our neighbor, Nell Anderson Dickson, who had attended Trinity in the late 1800s, always invited the choir to a supper at her home after their concert at our church in Cleburne, Texas, and she asked me to help serve the group. I was thrilled to be among those college students and to listen to their talk. That was when I first started wanting to go to Trinity.
When I did enter Trinity in the fall of 1941, we had no clue that it would be the school’s last year in Waxahachie, Texas. The Trinity spirit was great, and there was a strong religious atmosphere on the campus. The school was supported by the Northern Presbyterian Church, and Texas boys who wanted to go into the ministry in that church usually came to Trinity, as did girls like me who wanted to have a career in Christian education or secretly wanted to snag one of those preacher boys for a husband. Girls were not able to be ordained as ministers themselves in those days. These boys and the girls who wanted to participate met every morning before class in a room on the top floor of a building on the campus, where a little chapel had been created called the Upper Room, and we took turns leading a devotional there. The first time I saw my future husband, Ernie Dimaline, was when he was leading a devotional, and I was very impressed with his voice. Then he later admitted that he first noticed me when I gave a devotional in the Upper Room and that made him want to meet me.
Sophomore girls were very active in hazing freshmen girls for the first six weeks, insisting we always wore our beanies, did not speak to upperclassmen, stopped whatever we were doing to recite little poems and do exercises, and so forth. They often woke us up in the middle of the night, and I recall one time when two sophomores got my roommate and me up and were having us follow their orders when we heard the very strict house mother coming down the hall, so the sophomores quickly hid under our beds. However, we had mice in dear old Drane Hall and had set mouse traps under our beds. Just as the house mother entered the room one of the girls caught her foot in a mouse trap and let out a yell. That was the end of hazing for that night, much to our delight.
I think the people of Waxahachie really liked having us there. Trinity was located on the edge of town, and we had only one small drugstore across from the campus. There was no bus service, so when we wanted to go to town we stood on the drugstore corner and before long someone would come by and pick us up to take us downtown. Then, when we were ready to return to the campus, we stood on the corner of the drugstore on the courthouse square and someone would come by to pick us up there and take us back. I think people in Waxahachie made a point of driving by to give us rides.
On Sunday mornings and again in the evenings, Mrs. Hodges, a leader in the Presbyterian Church there, drove out to pick up as many girls as she could cram into her big old model car to take us to Sunday school and church services and again for youth people’s meetings in the evening. There were no seat belts or limits on the number of riders in those days, and I think we would crowd about ten girls into that old car. Also some people in the church invited students to their homes for dinner after church. I remember Ms. Curlin, who had a large Victorian home near the campus, and she would invite us girls to have parties at her home. However, the biggest social event of the year was when the Country Club gave a formal dance for the students at their clubhouse with a real band. Dancing was not allowed on the campus, so this was a very special treat for us.
The most important thing that happened that year was on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when all of the students gathered outside to sit on the steps of our building and listen on the radio to President Roosevelt speaking to Congress and declaring war. I still remember the fear and the confusion we felt that day as we realized things would never be the same again. The boys were all talking about leaving school right then to join the armed forces, and some did leave then. Most were convinced to wait until the end of the semester, and some until the end of the school year, while the ministerial students were advised to stay in school so they could become chaplains.
Then it was near the end of the spring semester of 1942 when those of us who were left in school learned that Trinity University was moving to San Antonio. We were heartbroken! Finally after getting over the shock a number of us decided that we wanted to make the move to San Antonio and try to help our beloved school get started there.
It was the fall of 1942 when we made the move to the campus of what had been the University of San Antonio. There were some advantages to being in that city, and I was pleased to see that the girls’ dorm, Mary Catherine Hall, was much newer and nicer than Drane Hall. There would be no mice there. It was also good to have a little coffee shop on the campus, but the main building and the rest of the campus left much to be desired. We asked right away for a room we could use as an Upper Room for devotionals, but one was never found for us. I am sure they were having a hard time finding places for everything but this just did not seem important on the new campus, and it was very difficult to create much school spirit there.
I did appreciate the way the new university president, Dr. Everett, handled one difficult situation. A freshman student came to me saying she was taking drama, and they were going to put on a play that she did not approve of because of the foul language and trashy talk, so I asked to see the play and read it. Then I too was concerned, so I went to see the drama professor, whom I had taken a class under the previous year. I told him that I did not think this play was appropriate for Trinity to be giving under any circumstances, and I thought it was especially inappropriate since it would be presented to the public and would be the school’s first presentation to San Antonio. I thought this was not the kind of impression we wanted the city to be given of our school. He became angry and said it was none of my business.
Next I went to see Dean Schaub, whom I also knew from Waxahachie. He listened intently and said he would look into it. Two days later I was summoned to a meeting in the president’s office. There were two or three older ministerial students there who had also talked to Dean Schaub about the play. Sitting across from us were the dean as well as the drama professor, who sat there glaring at us the whole time. It was a very tense atmosphere, as the president asked each student if we had read the play and then to state our concerns. The boys and I said things similar to what I had already told the drama professor. Then the professor was asked to speak, and he was boiling mad. He said we students had no right to tell him what to do with his classes, and we should be expelled for trying to interfere. As for the play, he said that San Antonio was much more sophisticated than Waxahachie and something about us needing to grow up. There was more, but I do not recall everything that was said. I just remember the president and the dean listened carefully to everything that was said. Then we were dismissed, and I had left with a throbbing headache. The next day it was announced that the play had been cancelled, and the drama professor would be leaving. I thought, thank goodness, the Trinity spirit can live on the San Antonio campus.
Ernie surprised me later that year by slipping an engagement ring on my finger behind the Christmas tree in the parlor at Mary Catherine Hall, and I was ecstatic. Ernie finished his class work at Trinity in the summer of 1943 and went on to seminary, but since there was no commencement in the summer he was listed as graduating in 1944. I also graduated in 1944 by doubling up and finishing in three years so I could get married and go on to seminary with Ernie.
We were married in August of 1944 in the church where I grew up in Cleburne. I invited Miss Davis, Trinity’s dean of women, and Mrs. Simms, the Trinity librarian, because I had learned to admire these women in Waxahachie and had worked for both of them in San Antonio. I did not expect them to come to Cleburne for the wedding but invited them to show my respect for them. When they came through the receiving line at the reception in my parent’s home, I was too excited to realize that they had really come. Later on that evening as the reception was winding down, I had gone to the back of the house to change from my wedding gown to my going away outfit when there was a knock on the bathroom door. I peeked out and was shocked to see Miss Davis and Mrs. Simms standing there. They said they were getting ready to leave and wanted to tell me goodbye and that they had such a good time, and they wanted to wish me well in my marriage. These were the most dignified women I knew and I was standing there in my underwear, but I felt like this was Trinity University coming to wish me well in my marriage. I was so overcome with emotion that all I could do was to embrace those women in tears with appreciation for all that Trinity had meant to me.