November 24, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker
Arlagene Clark Bailey’s scrapbook, faded with age, tells the story best, of long-ago adventures at La Sierra College during the early 1940s.
Numerous black-and-white photos of college pals, event tickets and well-wishing, reminiscing inscriptions in delicate, flowing penmanship fill the fragile, brown paper pages. It is one of the few documented accounts of campus life in 1942, as the two-year college did not produce yearbooks during that time.
“I hope you won’t soon forget the picnics …and all the little get-togethers on weekends and such,” wrote one classmate.
And from her bath-mate and long-time friend Rosemarie White, “… Haven’t we had a lot of fun? Those study periods! Whew! Poor Aliene and Gretchen. I’d hate to be a monitor. …Guess we’ll always remember these days for a long, long time.”
Not only did they remember those days, but those early La Sierra experiences, many recorded in Bailey’s scrapbook, forged lifelong friendships between the two pals and their two bath-mates in newly-opened Angwin Hall, a foursome whose ties have stayed strong for 68 years.
The relationships between the four friends are recorded in numerous photographs taken of the women over the decades, beginning with a dorm room snapshot in 1942 of the college pals sprawled across one of the girls’ beds, text books in hand. Whenever the friends reunite for anniversaries, family vacations and other events, they have their photo taken, and most always pose in the same order as they did in that first black-and-white picture; Jo McClintock Rhodes, Katie Holmes McGhee, Rosemarie White Osmunson, and Bailey.
Bailey recently described the fun and antics of past college days during an interview in her home near La Sierra University. Back before developers built the neighborhood, before she and her three friends got married and took on new last names, orange groves blossomed on land now occupied by blocks of houses with spacious yards.
During the school year of 1941-‘42, Osmunson and McGhee occupied two rooms on one side of an adjoining bath. During that year, Rhodes moved into the room on the other side and Bailey joined her. Their quartet was complete. That year the four friends, three pre-nursing majors and one education major, bonded. They studied together, worshiped together, made weekend roller skating plans, talked about boys, and plotted against the tyranny of stringent campus rules. And together they endured the sirens, blackouts and insecurity brought on by the country’s plunge into World War II with the attacks on Pearl Harbor. “They thought we were all going to die. That war was worrying us a lot,” Rhodes recounted.
Even though their time as campus cohorts was relatively short – barely one year with all four girls – the ties they formed stayed strong, honed by mutual college experiences during a time when strict rules dictated skirt lengths, outlawed cars and bound students to a 24-hour, on-campus life …except for the times when they sneaked away.
“We used to walk to ‘five points’ for burgers,” Bailey remembered with a smile, referring to the intersection of streets near the campus. “We used to sneak out all the time. We used to go to the orange grove and talk,” added Rhodes. They also took basket lunches to a forest cabin for a picnic, and were promptly suspended from off-campus travel for two weeks when someone snitched on their whereabouts. “We weren’t going anyplace anyway,” said Rhodes.
Sometimes administrative action brought more direct and dramatic student reaction. Bailey recounted the administration’s decision to end student mingling outside the cafeteria after dinner, mainly to stymie boy-girl interaction. “We were to go straight to the dorms,” said Bailey.
The students retaliated first with noisy behavior in the cafeteria that included spin-the-bottle games with salt-and-pepper-shakers. A campus leader advised the rowdy students, “if you can’t act like ladies and gentlemen, leave,” recalled Bailey. And so the noisy students promptly left, the boys shouting “Heil Hitler” on their way back to the dorms where they later pranked the dean of men by calling an ambulance for him.
The young women responded in similar dramatic fashion, but with a little more plotting. One convinced an Angwin Hall monitor to let her hand out candy to the residents. As she did, she coordinated the attack; at the signal, girls in every room slammed their doors simultaneously, as hard as possible. “It sounded like the building was coming down. Poor Dean Wallace. She walked the halls for the rest of the night,” recalled Bailey. The following evening, the female residents of Gladwyn Hall followed suit. The angry protests continued with brooms thrown down stairs and swastikas painted on sidewalks.
And then, “nothing happened,” Bailey said, still surprised all these years later. Instead of punishment, the administration arranged Wednesday night supper dates in place of the usual assigned seating for meals. Young men could arrive at the women’s dorms to walk their dates to the cafeteria for a meal together, on Wednesdays.
The suite-mates worked various jobs while at La Sierra. Bailey peeled potatoes in the cafeteria kitchen and ironed shirts. Rhodes worked as a secretary for the women’s dean in Angwin Hall, an important reconnaissance position for gathering key information on the dean’s whereabouts. McGhee worked at the nearby vegetarian food factory as did many other students, and worked in the college store.
Osmunson also worked for the dean for a time and recalled a clothes-throwing protest in which several garments were sent sailing out of an open window. “I was probably telling them to quite down,” she laughed. Many of the four friends’ male pals worked the college’s large dairy where cows were pastured on a property that included a small lake.
Rhodes and her husband, John, married at the end of 1942. Following graduation from La Sierra, Bailey and McGhee studied nursing at Loma Linda University then went to work at White Memorial Hospital in Glendale where they met two medical students who became their husbands. Bailey’s husband, Don, was the former La Sierra roommate of McGhee’s husband, Earl.
Over the years McGhee, Rhodes and Bailey served as nurses. Bailey also worked as a nurse nutritionist for the state nursery school system. Osmunson followed her husband, Bob, to the mission field in Africa where Bob Osmunson was in charge of education facilities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Following their return to the United States, Bob Osmunson served as La Sierra’s dean of admissions from 1965 until the late 1970s. Rosemarie Osmunson taught classes at La Sierra Academy and taught an English class at La Sierra College while raising her children. She eventually wrote a book about her Africa adventure and served as principal of a Seventh-day Adventist school in Moreno Valley.
Osmunson currently resides in Sandpoint, Idaho where she and her daughter-in-law co-owned a flower shop for several years. Bailey’s late husband, Don, served as a physician at Chino State Prison for many years. McGhee lives in Dalton, Ga. where her husband practiced medicine many years prior to his passing two years ago. Rhodes’ husband, John, served as ministerial director of the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for 17 years and then later directed retiree retreats at Pine Springs Ranch for 17 years. The couple lives in Riverside not far from Bailey.
Between them the four friends had 10 children. The college pals keep in touch with phone calls and letters and get together whenever possible, hopefully once a year.
“The most fun we had was just being roommates,” said Rhodes.
“We were more like sisters,” McGhee commented. At 87 years of age, she is “the young one” of the four, she says with a laugh. The friends have been there for each other no matter the circumstance. The support of her ‘sisters’ meant a lot to McGhee when she lost her first baby and when her husband passed away, she said.
The four bath-mates shared one other key commonality: “Johnny [Rhodes] married all three of us,” quipped Bailey, “All of us had dated him at some time or another.” But Jo McClintock became his wife, she said. John Rhodes performed the wedding ceremonies for Bailey and McGhee and their husbands, while a relative married Osmunson and her husband.
The four friends last got together in 2009. They’re hoping to reunite for another rap session and group photo in the future. Bailey hopes it will happen during La Sierra’s Alumni Weekend on April 15-17.
“There were times when we didn’t see each other but there was this fact that we were roommates and had been very close,” Osmunson said. “I have happy, happy memories. I remember so well the four of us.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University