LOUISE MERRILL Correspondence

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff
Louise Merrill, Housemother & Dietitian 1930s
Louise Merrill Correspondence

Boy's House (Library) ; LOUISE MERRILL Correspondence

Boy’s House. Raking view of facade with upper porch. Playground in front. [II_08_boys_house_326b.jpg]

TAGS: Louise Merrill’s letter home describing a day at PMSS, housemothers, dietitians PMSS staff

LOUISE MERRILL Correspondence

Housemother at Practice House, Far House, Boy’s House 1930(?)-1936
Housemother and Dietitian at Laurel House 1935-1936


[NOTE: The original document was typewritten, except where indicated otherwise.]


Dear Mother:

So you want a full account of one of my days here. Here it is; a typical one, except it is Wednesday when the children come home for repairs instead of going to the playground.

I awoke this morning and to my joy found Enoch [Enoch Hall] had already built a fire. I guess he has at last gotten tired of having to be called and then make it up by building the fire another day, longer. Each boy has two weeks and it seems I am always teaching a new boy how to make a fire. At first they put coal, kindling, and then paper in the stoves, and I had to explain why that is not right and show them just how. [with paper, kindling, coal]

Twenty minutes to get dressed! I dressed quickly, and fastening my collars as I went, snatched up the bell, rang it vigorously, then rushed on to light the hall lamp and be ready for the children. You see, we have to rise ten minutes earlier than the five-thirty rising-bell, in order to get over to Laurel House on time. “‘Miss Merrill, Linda says she’s got the chicken-pox and don’t feel like getting up,” “Miss Merrill I can’t find my stocking,” “Miss Merrill, this button’s off,” “Miss Merrill, I’m freezin’,” are some of the things I hear and at the same [time I] issue orders like this: “Maud, see that every child’s nose is blown,” “Iona, have the girls left their wash-basins and soap-dishes clean?,” “Grant, are the boy’s teeth and washstands clean, and are their beds turned back to air?” “Laura, are the windows all open?”

The breakfast bell rings, and the larger boys and girls help the little ones with their wraps. Then we start on, and are overtaken by Maud, who reports that the lights are out, the screen’s on the fires, and there is no water on the floors. (We can’t have nice oiled floors if the water is left on them, so we are particular to get it wiped up.) And I walk on, my disturbed nerves are soothed by the rippling of Isaac’s Run and the twinkling of the stars.

After breakfast there is the laundry to bring over and Evelyn is already trained to put it away in nice even rows. From this time till nine, we make beds sweep and dust. Everyone has an apron to wear when they make beds and this, even the little boys are taught. I 


have to show them so often how to put on the covers and turn them back nicely that I sometimes get discouraged but this morning Ida encouraged me greatly. Miss Pettit told her she must learn to make a bed right so as to help me teach the children, and Ida said, “Why Miss Pettit, I know how to make beds. Miss Merrill taught me the other morning and I would have shown the children that were working in the girls’ room yesterday but Miss Merrill told me to clean the hall.”

I have had trouble getting Laura to do the lamps right but now have found a method by which she is improving. She first gets all the lamps and puts them on a table and tells me she has gotten them all. I go and look to see that she has them all then she gets the oil and fills them, and calls me to see; then she puts the oil away and cleans the burners and wicks and calls me to see if they are clean; then she washes the chimneys and shows me each lamp before she puts it away.

We try to get all the house in order, the paper picked up and trash from all around the house, and in the roads, before school time.

After the children have gone to school I get out my mending mask and sort the clothes for it is Wednesday and this afternoon the children will mend. My “least youngun” is at home today and while I work I am entertained by his, “Miss Merrill I lub you. Miss Merrill, I aim to help you.”

After dinner comes another putting the house in order. I hear little Laura say to her big sister, Edna, “Ednie, can’t you see the dirt there? Edna looks intently at the floor for a while and then shaking her head says, “No, Laurie, I wish I could, but I cain’t.”

We try to have everything in order by half-past one. Even the cellars are swept and dusted. I just wonder how many of our cellars at home get that treatment every day!

When the children go off to school again I get out needles, thread, thimbles, and darning cotton and have everything ready when they come. The teachers come to help, for I can’t do it all alone. We have the children divided into groups.Some mend, while others have their teeth cleaned with pumice stone and toothpicks. Some put their shelves in order. They are taught just how to wash their necks and ears. The most interesting of all is the inspection of heads. Emmett stars in this.


It is amusing to hear him exclaim, ”I cotch five. Gee, this here’s an old residenter. I never seed such a big ‘un. Why, son, you’ll have to have your hair clipped shore!” The heads of our children get infected by the day pupils or a new boy or girl. We have a constant fight.

This activity lasts until five minutes before supper and we spend that time putting things away. After supper they come to my room and are taught to blow their noses and the day’s handkerchiefs are collected and clean ones given out to those who are too small to keep them on their shelves. Then they all kneel around me and we have just a little quiet talk, sing, then say our prayers. They then get out clean clothes ready for the morning and wash their teeth, and I begin on the baths.

I just must tell you about my little four-year-old roommate Verdie. Every effort in training her has counted. She acts just like a grown person, getting out her clothes, arranging them on her little chair, and putting her shoes under the chair. Then she turns down her bed, washes, empties her water, and dries her pan then hangs up her washcloth and towel. Then she puts her soiled clothes in the laundry bag. Verdie’s work is to help her older sister clean one of the teachers’ rooms. Saraliz was sick the other morning so Verdie took broom, dust-broom, and pan and began to move the things and sweep, when she was asked if she had better ask me if some one could help her, But she replied, “Me tin tean you woom.”

One morning the rain was pouring down and Verdie had a hard time getting on her overshoes and so was late getting started for school. I, not thinking, put a raincoat on her that was too long and she fell down four times on her way to school. Miss Pettit asked her what she thought about getting so muddy and she said, “I fall down and I fall down another ‘nudder ‘gen [again] time an’ I fall down nudder gen, and jes’ keep fallin’ nutter gen, and the mud was awful skushy, but I think I had to go to ‘chool.”

There are twenty-eight children to take baths, and 10 of them are so little that they have to be bathed much like babies. but I do so enjoy it! James says, “We don’t take bafs at our house.” When I ask him the other day what was the matter with his nose he said, “When the Lord fixed me, he never gave me nary good nose. He’d orter, hadn’t he?”

After the other big ones take their baths, Iona takes the lamp and examines their necks and ears, and if they are not clean, the children are sent back to try again!


Eight o’clock. My children are all at last in bed. Now I have time to read my mail, which came two hours ago!

LOUISE. [handwritten notation: “Merrill”]

GALLERY: Louise Merrill Correspondence

See Also:
LOUISE MERRILL Staff – Biography