EDUCATION 1936 Alumni Questionnaire Responses

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY 
Series 13: EDUCATION
Series 19: STUDENTS
Alumni Responses
To a 1936 Questionnaire

EDUCATION 1936 Alumni Questionnaire Responses

09_2458 Alice Minniard, Polly Turner, Polly Wilder, Elizabeth Mitchell. [098_IX_students_09_2458_001.jpg]

EDUCATION 1936 Alumni Questionnaire Responses:
Alumni Reflect on Their PMSS Education

TAGS: Pine Mountain Settlement School students, alumni questionnaire responses 1936, Everett K. Wilson, student self-reflections, survey results, alumni reflections

A Promise of Place

Pine Mountain Settlement School came with a promise of place. It was a school that left an impression and an education. It could perceptually motivate, anger, soothe, or savage, but it rarely left any student unchanged.

Many students left and became doctors, lawyers, prosperous entrepreneurs, teachers, preachers, and other pillars of the community. Yet, some of the more interesting students danced around the edges of what we recognize as success. Their stories are often far more intriguing than those that followed the traditional steps.

In 1936 Everett K. Wilson, a teacher and counselor at Pine Mountain Settlement School, compiled a questionnaire and sent copies to former Boarding School students. Most were graduates, but some did not complete the program. They were asked to provide written reflections on their education at Pine Mountain Settlement School. Some responses were short, while others filled pages with very detailed information regarding the respondents’ successes and failures. (See examples below.)

Wilson’s survey attempts to look at the outcomes of the various students through their own assessment and critical introspection of themselves and the School they all shared. Thus, the impact of the Pine Mountain Settlement School on the life of the student could be assessed and the results of that assessment could be used to improve instruction and point a way forward for the School curriculum.

The self-reflections, very much a part of Pine Mountain’s educational self-reflection history, are very revealing in their details. Of the survey results,17 surveys remain in the files at the School. They are reproduced in full in the GALLERY.

The Questionnaire

There were several versions of the questionnaire. An example of one of the questionnaires asked the following questions: 

When were you at Pine Mountain?
What school did you attend before you came?
How old were you when you entered?    When you left?
Did you go to another school after you left Pine Mountain
What school, or schools?
What are you doing now?
Married?    Children?
Do you live on a farm or in town?
Do you think Pine Mountain helped you any?
In what way?
What, in your estimation, were the faults with Pine Mountain?
In which way do you think it could have helped you more?
Do you think you should have had more book learning or more industrial work?

(See “IRENE COMBS” and “PAUL TOLLIVER” below for other examples of questionnaires.)

EDUCATION 1936 Alumni Questionnaire Responses 

JOAN (JOANNA) AYERS (Student 1931-1935, Office Worker 1935-July 1939), Twila, KY

[ayers_joan_quest_003.jpg] Typewritten list of answers to the questionnaire, February 11, 1937, page 1 of 2. Her present address is at PMSS where she is working as a bookkeeper in the office; she is not married.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? 

… It has developed the spiritual side of me, which I think is the greatest thing it could have done….It has made of me two persons. One is the plain old mountaineer type, the one that the writer was when she came to Pine Mountain. In this person is still retained the knowledge possessed by a mountaineer, their way of thinking, way of doing things and a great deal of their spirit. The other person is the cultured and educated one with mind broadened by travel and association with a highly cultured people….

How could Pine Mountain help you more?

… I am afraid they were too lenient with me. The first year I came here I studied more than I did the last two years put together; but it was because I had been accustomed to it, working to stand head of my class, which I succeeded in doing all through school. But, when I came and saw no goal (there was a great one, but I was not made to realize it) I began to care less about my progress and studied pitifully little

… I find the outside world, (perhaps I should say people), for the most part, composed of human flesh bloated with air. I am [prejudiced] and really am no good judge for I have only been away from Pine Mountain one summer, but my experiences have been disgusting and it makes me love the sincereness found in the mountains.

[ayers_joan_quest_004.jpg] Continuation of final answer to the questionnaire, page 2 of 2.

MAE BOGGS (Student 1931-1933), Ages, KY 

[boggs_mae_001.jpg] Handwritten 1-page letter to Glyn Morris from Boggs, June 27, 1934 (?). She is not married; lives on a farm.

How has Pine Mountain helped you?

I think Pine Mountain helped me very much. To be more cooperating. How to sew, cook and several things…. Mr. Morris, I certainly would like to come back to school. I was young and hadn’t stayed away from home. If you will let me come back I will be a better girl.

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “No, I don’t think we should have any more book learning.”

IRENE COMBS (Graduated PMSS in 1935), Jeff, KY / Pippapass, KY

[combs_irene_001.jpg] Typewritten 2-page letter with blank questionnaire addressed to Combs from E. (Everett) K. Wilson, Student Counselor, March 30, 1936. Page 1 of 2.

March 30, 1936.
Irene Combs
Pippapass, Knott County, Kentucky

Dear Irene,
Undoubtedly since you left Pine Mountain you have had any number of interesting experiences, many of which might be valuable to our present seniors and older students. And so we are writing to ask if you won’t share those experiences with us. We know that this information will be helpful both to those of us who are to graduate this coming May and to the rest of us who are always interested in what you are doing.

If you have any suggestions or criticisms about improving life at Pine Mountain, we shall be glad to have them. We are, of course, anxious to do anything which will help the school to accomplish more in the future. Will you, then, write us a good long letter about yourself, including in it the answers to the following questions ?

(1) What is your present address and home address ?
(2) Are you married ? If so, how many children have you ?
(3) How old were you when you graduated from Pine Mountain ?
(4) Did Pine Mountain help you any ? In what ways ?
(5) How could it have helped you more ?
(6) what are you doing now? (If at work, what is the nature of your work ?)
(7) For what company or for whom do you work ?
(8) What salary group are you in, if working, A, B, C, or D?

A is from 0 to 10 dollars per week
B is from 10 to 25  “   “    “
C is from 25 to 50  “   “    “
 D is from 50 dollars up

(9) How well do you like your work ? Why ?”

[combs_irene_002.jpg] Page 2 of 2. Continuation of letter with blank questionnaire, 

(10) What do you do in your leisure time ? What are your hobbies ?
(11) If in school, what is your field of major interest ?
(12) What are you training for in the way of a life’s work ?
(13) Would you like to subscribe to a Pine Mountain Alumni Bulletin ?

We will appreciate the fullest possible answers to these questions and any advice or suggestions you may have to other students and staff.

With best wishes for the remainder of the school year and hopes that you may be able to get over this way during the summer, I am

Most sincerely yours,
K. Wilson

[combs_irene_003.jpg] Handwritten letter to Mr. E.K. Wilson from Combs, April 1936.  She is attending school, studying for a teacher’s certificate. Page 1 of 3.

[combs_irene_004.jpg] To Mr. E.K. Wilson from Combs, April 1936, page 2 of 3.

Pine Mountain helped me in many ways which I could not have obtained from a public school. I had a chance to take a business course which would, no doubt, aid me in securing a position. I greatly enjoyed working in the Glee Club and Choir, and most of all, Pine Mountain gave me a cheap high school education. I was seventeen when I graduated in the class of 1935 and now that I am away I realize how valuable it is and how much I appreciate it. While attending Caney Jr. College, many of the teachers would ask me about Pine Mountain. After answering their questions they too would help me admire it.

[combs_irene_005.jpg] To Mr. E.K. Wilson From Combs, April 1936, page 3 of 3.

At present, I can’t possibly think of any suggestions or criticisms that might help to improve life at Pine Mountain. All that I can seem to do is idealize it and wish that I again could be with you all.

[combs_irene_006.jpg] Carbon copy of typewritten 1-page letter to Irene Combs from E.K. Wilson, April 27, 1936. Wilson thanks Combs for her letter and encourages her studies at Caney Jr. College for a teacher’s certificate. Describes plans for an alumni bulletin.

MEGAN CORNETT (Student 1928-1929)

[cornett_megan001.jpg] Typewritten answers on questionnaire, n.d. Married with one child; lives and works on a farm.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “Social, educational, different nature of people, and in my manual training, mechanics, electrical, carpenter & plumbing.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “Too strict. Caused the students to take every chance that they got for privilege and to do things that they wouldn’t have done.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “Just have had me to do more.”

Should you have had more book learning or more Industrial work? “Industrial.”

Other criticism or suggestions:

One fault when I was there was that the Director put too much faith in the workers and punished students when they didn’t deserve to be. Just because that some workers didn’t like some students. That was my EXPERIENCE.
    If the Director would have more to do with the students and know them better they would be able to do a more fair job. And not put too much faith in the workers, for they are just human too.”
[Penciled notation at bottom of page] And allow more social privileges but have a moderate limit.


[cornett_winifred_001.jpg] MISSING IMAGE

[cornett_winifred_002.jpg] Handwritten answers on reverse side of the questionnaire, n.d.

I think that the students should be taught modern dancing as well as other because if they ever get out they [need] it to mix with society. … The students all should be compelled to do some public speaking.” She also suggested that a group of “the most trusty students” should be formed to lecture at assemblies or in the Chapel on the benefits of a Pine Mountain education and act as role models. She concludes, “The students all should be compelled to do some public speaking. …”

GREENE ESTEP (Student 1927-1932) 

[estep_greene_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Currently unemployed; not married; lives on a farm.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “[Pine Mountain] gave me a start toward life in which I couldn’t have got otherwise.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “Not enough time for studying. If the students have plenty of time, they haven’t anything to [?] about. … I had too much liberty. I never knew it at that time. I should have put more time in reading.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “More book learning” on the form is underlined.


Your students should have … very close medical attention. … I believe the School should help the students get jobs. In that way, a good student could make a record for the School and [himself,] too. A man like myself that hasn’t anyone to help them get jobs, he will find it very difficult to get anything worthwhile. As some people [have] relatives in business, it’s easy for them to get work. I can do as much hard work as any man. But a man can’t get the chance.

This has been a great pleasure to me to write. I surely wish that I could return even part of what I learned at Pine Mountain….

JOHN HAYES (Student 1929-1932)

[hayes_john_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Currently at school, not married, lives in a “mining village.”

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “[Pine Mountain] … created more ideals of life, home and many other primary groups.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? Too many smaller boys and girls. I don’t think that you stress morality enough. Not enough thorough training. …I think a large percentage of training should be industrial. …I think that the student government is a flop.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “I think a large percentage of training should be industrial work.

[hayes_john_002.jpg] “Pine Mountain taught me to work, how to take orders and observe time. I think most of all it taught me that I was not the only person living, or how people[’s] lives affect other humans.”

NORA B. HOWARD (Student 1921-1927)

[howard_nora_b_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Attended Berea College and is currently in charge of Boone Tavern dining room and tea room at the college. She is not married; lives on a farm.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “I learned how to work and I have never been out of a job since. Organization of work and honesty will follow me the rest of my days and I learned that lesson from Ruth B. Gaines.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “When I was a student I thought there were too many restrictions but since I came to college I have changed my mind. Pine Mountain in my estimation is heaven (as near perfect as possible).  

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “I should have been required to spend more time studying. A high school student is likely to ramble[?]  and not settle down to books as they should if they intend to come to college.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “More book learning.”

Other criticisms or suggestions: “I feel I could be of a help to the school if I knew more about the [changes that have taken] place because I often meet influential people who could help gain friends for the school.”

[howard_nora_b_002.jpg] “… I am thankful to Pine Mountain for what little I amount to. Otherwise I might be living up a “hollow’ with a dozen “young’uns [with] scarcely enough education to read and write.”

BECKY MAY HUFF (Sexton) (Student 1914-1926

[huff_becky_may_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Attended Berea College after PMSS. Currently married, doing housekeeping and has one child.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “In industrial work.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “Needed more book-learning. Not enough different studies.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “In social studies ….

Other criticisms or suggestions. “Pine Mountain was started and considered to be a school for poor mountain boys and girls. I think they should not be taught to imitate the ways of city boys and girls…”

[huff_becky_may_002.jpg] “… This makes them dissatisfied with mountain living.”

FREDDIE JOHNSTONE (Student 1927-1931), Harlan, KY

[johnstone_freddie_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Currently working in a department store. He is not married and lives in town.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “Pine Mountain taught me to do many things in the industrial work and books which I did not know.

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “I can’t seem to find a single fault. I think we were all perfectly satisfied and happy. After we were used to the place.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “No. I think the schedule was arranged very well, as I certainly learned to do very many things…”

Criticisms or suggestions: “…which I don’t think I could have learned elsewhere. And I also think I got a very good education from my books. I sometimes wish Pine Mountain was like it used to be and I had four more years to go over again. I also think it would be a very good idea if you wrote the students’ parents and saw what they thought about the way…”

[johnstone_freddie_002.jpg] “…their children were taken care of. I am certainly grateful to Pine Mountain, Miss Pettit and all the teachers for what they taught me.’

MARY LOU KILGORE (Student 1931), Harlan, KY

[kilgore_mary_lou_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Not married and currently helping at home; lives in town.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “Taught me to work and associate with people.

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “The students should be pushed so that they could finish the textbook every year.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “I can think of no way.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “More book learning.”

Criticisms or suggestions: “Still I think Pine Mountain SS has helped me in many ways. It teaches you to work. Just the same as book learning.”

[kilgore_mary_lou_002.jpg] “During the latter term of this School, my stepfather was out of work and my tuition was behind. They kept me and I appreciated as much for I was helpless myself but hitch-hiked to Harlan after school was out and so could not take my clothes. My housemother told me to leave them and I could get them and [my] suitcase any time. But after several letters offering to send postage, I [gave] up, thinking they had destroyed them. And I sure needed them. Now this is one thing I hold against this School. …”

RALPH MINIARD (Student c. 1923-1924)  

[miniard_ralph__001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Currently owns a bakery. He is married with three children and lives in town.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “To work, an education is very necessary but due to the conditions of our country today you have to be a hustler to get an opportunity.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “I haven’t any faults with Pine Mountain.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “To my estimation your schedule at that time was as good as could be arranged: 4 hours work, 4 hours school.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “I think it is just as important to learn to work although a certain amount of education is necessary in educating boys for the public industrious[?] of today they must be well-mannered, have at least a high school education, be willing to work, be ambitious, courteous and always willing if you expect to get anywhere today. Competition is so strong today in all walks of life…”

[miniard_ralph__002.jpg] “…that you have to be up or[?] ready when your opportunity comes, girls are the same way. At one time here in Hazard I had two restaurants, a bakery, a hotel, a beer garden and dance hall combined, a mill and produce business and the above described. People …[?] that I employed, I had so much business I couldn’t look out for it all. So I sold most of them, now I am baking, a trade which I have been working in for years and am well satisfied with it.”

[miniard_ralph__003.jpg] Handwritten 1-page letter to Glyn Morris from Miniard on letterhead stationery from the “Dutchess Cake Kitchen, Hazard, KY, Ralph Miniard, Proprietor,” July 16, 1934.

“Dear Sir —
Being a student of Pine Mountain about ten or eleven years ago, it has been my ambition to be somebody and return to Pine Mountain School on a vacation or visit. So far in the business world, I have been a success and some time, if it is possible I am, or I want to come back for a short stay and when my children get advanced far enough I want them to go to school at Pine Mountain. To me Pine Mountain is a Health Resort. … Ralph Miniard”

ELIZABETH (ELIZA) MITCHELL (Student 1929-1935), Fulton, NY / Coalgood, KY

[mitchell_elizabeth_001.jpg] Typewritten list of answers to questionnaire on letterhead stationery for The Manse in Fulton, NY. April 16, 1936. Currently employed caring for a child and doing housework for Rev. and Mrs. Allen Hackett in Fulton, NY. Her home address is Coalgood, KY.

How has Pine Mountain helped you?

Pine Mountain has given me practically all the education that I have. The practical things that I learned at Pine Mountain [have] certainly been put into use this year, because my work has been along that particular line. … After meditating on my work for awhile I have come to this conclusion – I certainly wouldn’t want to earn a living by doing this kind of work. I think that one year is enough for me.

I realize though that I have accomplished more than I am likely to give credit to, for I have learned quite a bit about caring for a child and more about a home, which I know will be very useful in the future. I have met some very lovely people also. I submit though that it gets very tiresome at times and I simply loathe it. Personally I think that it has made me want to climb a little higher so that I may acquire a better position, which is quite an accomplishment.

[mitchell_elizabeth_002.jpg] Describes her leisure activities and hobbies. I expect to start Nurse Training in the fall for my life’s work. I plan to train at the Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut.” Describes her “good many experiences during my stay in Fulton…”

OSCAR PEACE (Student 1930-1935), Greeneville, TN

Currently attending Tusculum College, with a major interest in social sciences and possibly will major in sociology and minor in religion and history.

[peace_oscar_cor_001.jpg] Handwritten 4-page letter to Mr. Wilson from Peace in Greeneville, TN, April 13, 1936. Page 1 of 4.

…I sincerely feel that Pine Mountain, more than anything else, has [molded] me into what I am, giving me a fair start in life, which I would not have had otherwise. If I hadn’t gone to Pine Mountain, I would not be in college today.

[peace_oscar_cor_002.jpg] Page 2 of 4.

Besides making me an honest, truthful and sincere man – with much modesty I say that – Pine Mountain opened up for me fields of knowledge and gave me a train of social and economic idealism. In the process, no doubt my extreme radical tendencies, both innate and environmental made, were guided into more reasonable channels. 

…The two single experiences that I value most highly, of the many very valuable ones I had while at Pine Mountain, were the senior trip to New York last spring and the political stump speeches in the fall of ‘32. The only suggestion I have…is that the senior trip be made an annual affair for the seniors, as Mr. [Arthur W.] Dodd suggested in sociology class last spring. By all means, don’t fail to have the stump speeches and the straw election this fall.

…[T]he dancing trips should be made to include a larger number of students since many of them do not get such educational trips outside of Pine Mt.

There is only one very definite thing in which Pine Mountain could have helped me…

[peace_oscar_cor_003.jpg] Page 3 of 4.

…more and that was in study habits. Of course, it is up to the individual how much he wants to study but I believe that the school should point out to him the most efficient methods. As I remember, Mr. Dodd is the only person I ever heard say anything about how to study. Had I learned to study at Pine Mtn. I could do much better work here I’m sure. The longer one studies incorrectly the harder it is to learn correctly.

I am not so sure that doing away with supervised study hours was really the best thing for the students at Pine Mtn. Personally, I was able to accomplish more when we had to go to study hour. At present too much time is spent doing nothing. I used to never go to shop – and I wasn’t the only one – unless it was to see a girl.

I believe it would be well to have at least an hour of supervised study hour in which the student should be taught how to study.

As for improving life at Pine Mountain, there is only one suggestion I have to make and that is some form of inter-scholastic games.

[peace_oscar_cor_004.jpg] Page 4 of 4.

Competition with other schools would do much to develop confidence…in the individual and would serve as publicity for the school. …[or] I would suggest debating.….

My ambition is to become director of Pine Mountain. … In closing …Pine Mountain for four years gave me a more inspiring environment than I would have had in my home community. It also gave me the opportunity of associating and working with more inspiring people.

[pease_oscar_005.jpg] (sic) Typewritten 1-page letter to Mr. Wilson from Oscar Peace at Tusculum College, Greeneville, TN, May 24, 1936. He plans to visit Pine Mountain soon. He will return to college next year with a work scholarship of $75 granted by the college. He explains his other financial arrangements.

CORA SCEARCE (Young) (Student 1924-1929)

[scearse_cora_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Currently teaching school and lives in a small town. She is married but has no children. After PMSS, she attended Berea Normal School, Berea College and Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “I was taught a better way of living. In my labor, I learned the correct method of raising chickens and caring for cows and the milk. I learned how to cook and can vegetables and fruits.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain? “We were not taught enough history, English and arithmetic.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “I could have been helped more by a more thorough study in the courses previously stated.”

Should you have had more book learning or more industrial work? “I feel that the industrial work was stressed then more than at present. Although the industrial work was valuable to me, I feel I should have had more ‘book learning.’”

Other criticisms or suggestions: “More work in grammar is needed. Had it not been for the constant conversation with the faculty members, I would not be able to speak as correctly as I do today.”

[scearse_cora_002.jpg] Continuation of the first answer: “Had it not been for the Pine Mountain Settlement School, the profession of teaching would have been an impossibility for me to attain. It would be my pleasure to serve Pine Mountain Settlement School any way possible.”

Mrs. OVA SEXTON (Student 1927, 1929-1932) 

[sexton_ova_001.jpg] Handwritten answers on questionnaire. Attended Whitesburg H.S. and Caney Jr. College. Currently a work on the railroad; married with 1 child; lives on a farm.

How has Pine Mountain helped you? “In character, social and academic work.”

What were faults with Pine Mountain?“Not enough cooperation and not hard enough enforcement of rules. Partiality was too much.”

How could Pine Mountain have helped you more? “By better enforcement of rules and more cooperation and more useful work than was being given.”

Should you have had have had more book learning or more industrial work? “Just a little more of both to fit the present day needs of an education.”

Other criticisms or suggestions: “Pine Mountain, of course, is on the trend of progress but it still hasn’t reached the top yet. It seems that it hardly equips a boy or girl for things most benefiting in life. The standard of living seems to go beyond their capacity which causes unrest and discouragement in…”

[sexton_ova_002.jpg] “…the students, [causing] them to do things which they wouldn’t do if they had been taught the real value of things. The [lavish?] and luxurious things [are] what most of them seem to be seeking after, which is almost beyond the capacity of mountain people.”


[tolliver_paul_001.jpg] Typewritten 1-page letter on PMSS letterhead to “Dear Friend” from Glyn Morris, Director, n.d.

“Dear Friend:
We are trying to make Pine Mountain as valuable as possible for its students, and we believe that if we can secure the information requested here, we may be better able to judge what the school has accomplished, and perhaps make changes which will help it to accomplish more in the future. With this in mind will you add also any criticisms or suggestions which you believe should be taken into consideration?

Thanking you for your cooperation, I remain
Sincerely yours,
[signed] Glyn Morris, Director”

[Notation on the bottom margin of the letter] “I think Pine Mountain would be a better school if it would use more men workers and not so many old maids.” 


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