October 7, 1933 – Ted Dreier to his mother

  • October 7, 1933 – Ted Dreier (Black Mountain College)

Dearest mother:

Well our college year is two weeks old and some things look very good and others rather bad, but on the whole I feel we that we have a splendid chance to do something worthwhile. We have a splendid group of students to start with and the way they are pitching in to make everything work is really wonderful. Of course the test will come when some of the initial enthusiasm has had more of a chance to work off.

I feel more and more sure as we go along, that Dr. Aydelotte was right when he said that our biggest problem would be that of working out things so that the best use would be made of the good in people we have without letting ourselves at the same time be forced to use their bad qualities; in other words, that our biggest problem is the human one, bigger by far than the financial one. He feels that if we can solve the human difficulties successfully we will make such a favorable impression that there will be no trouble about finances.

Our greatest difficulty is that our nucleus of mature people on the faculty is so limited. There are just four of us: Georgia, Lounsbury, Rice and myself. The first two do not seem to have the fundamental ideas that we are working for at all; they don’t really know what it is all about. On the other hand, although this is a dreadful handicap at times, they have other golden qualities that we very much need, and it is worth everything to keep on working with them. Unfortunately, it now looks as though we might have to get along without Lounsbury, at least for a time. He has a very high blood pressure, and yesterday he had a stroke. It was mild, but his condition is so bad that the doctors seem to feel that there is only about a fifty-fifty chance of his living. He is better tonight.

All the other more mature people on whom we had counted have failed us: Binghams, Oldham, Feuerstein, Spurr, and then a fine new man we had for history just cabled from France at the last minute that he couldn’t come because his wife was critically ill. Everybody here is terribly keen to have John stay – so much so that they have even said they want him to stay even if he does no teaching at all, but looks after our connections with the community, such farming as we can do, and joins in the informal discussions whish he apparently greatly enjoys. There would of course be bushels of things for him to do if he did see his way clear to staying and joining in right now, if he were willing to teach, he could step right into the breach where Lounsbury is now out, as his subject is American History and Government.

If we could only find one or two able people to join us, I think our chances of success will be improved one hundred percent.

Georgia does not turn out to be nearly as able an executive as we had thought him; and he has no tact at all, which has gotten us into a number of unfortunate messes already. He will be valuable in handling things that can be taken care of in a purely mechanical or logical way.

Rice has been splendid, and although there are a few minor dissentions about the way he does things, I think that in nearly every case the others are to blame. Lounsbury has been a great asset on several occasions with his legal knowledge and ability and as secretary of the corporation, he has done a bang-up job that anybody would be proud of, so that I think the corporate records will be in excellent shape if any of our business advisers inspect them. I wish I could say as much for the Treasurer’s Office. I have been so swamped with things to do that I have not been able to get the books in shape yet. This is a thing that is quite new to me, though I think that I can take to it very naturally. Mr. Pittinger, the Swarthmore Treasurer, was not able to come down, though I am still hoping that he will come down later this month. The financial records are of course of prime importance and I shall have to keep after them.

The property we are using has just been sold over our heads. I don’t believe that we have anything to worry about as the new owners will probably be tickled to death to have us rent it from them, but it was none the less disconcerting to find that we had been fooled and that our lease which we had been told would hole in any case, is now no good legally. There is still a chance that the property may come back into the hands of the original owners ( who lost it by foreclosure) as they will undoubtedly do everything they can to get it back, and in this case we have nothing to worry about anyway. We have not paid our rent yet, as we want to make sure that it goes to the right person.

We found a fine young girl who had been at Hollins a couple of years ago to be our secretary and registrar. Thank you very much for your efforts in this direction.

I have never heard whether Mrs. Earner got anything into the papers about our method of organization or not. She did not have a chance to show it to me before sending it out, but as I recall, she showed it to you. Did it ever get into any of the papers?

We are hoping to get out our regular printed announcement sometime before Christmas. I thought that we ought to get it out now and send it to the schools, and then send out another one in February telling what we had done and giving announcements for the second year. Mr. Rice thinks we might better delay until December for our first. In the meantime, we have nothing except the enclosed mimeographed sheets which are not very good.

This is a grand place to be. The country is wonderful and I do wish you could visit us.