The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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Home Management House - 1930s

Through the years, what once was the home management house beside the School of Nursing has seen countless students practice the art of homemaking. Do you have any stories of your weeks in the house? We’d love to hear them. Send your comments to beth_english@uncg.edu or Beth English, UNCG-University Relations, 1100 W. Market Street, Suite 201, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, N.C. 27402-6170. Responses may be used in the next issue.

In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt about a memorable meal in the house from “Short Skirts and Snappy Salutes” by Caroline Morrison Garrett ’44.

Home economics students lived in the Home Management House for six weeks, demonstrating their knowledge of house cleaning, preparing meals and following a budget.
Home economics students lived in the Home Management House for six weeks, demonstrating their knowledge of house cleaning, preparing meals and following a budget.

Dinner for the dean

At the beginning of our last semester at Woman’s College, most seniors thought they could coast toward graduation. My biggest hurdle lay ahead — six weeks in the home management house. Designed to put Home Economics majors to the test, the rigid schedule and long hours would make it difficult to keep up with regular classes.

The gracious, brick home on a residential street housed eight students and an advisor. My partner, Doris McRoberts, spoke with a New Jersey accent, which amused me. … As we toured the house, I remarked, “Doris, this is the cleanest place I’ve ever seen.” She reminded me it was now up to us to keep it that way.

McIver Street Home Management House
McIver Street Home Management House

Mahogany furniture gave off a faint aroma of paste wax, windows gleamed, hard wood floors shone. Artistic arrangements of fresh flowers graced the entrance hall, the living room mantel, and the majestic dining room table, which seated twelve.

Much as I missed Mary, my roommate back at Winfield Hall, Doris and I got off to a good start. We found our large bedroom, furnished in Swedish modern, a luxury compared to our cramped dorm rooms with scarred furniture. The bathroom provided privacy we had never experienced at school.

The kitchen reminded me of a magazine advertisement for modern appliances. Our advisor told us we were lucky to draw the toughest assignment first and get it over with. For the next two weeks, we’d be cooking for nine people. It would be our responsibility to maintain a budget, plan menus, buy food, and prepare three meals a day.

She emphasized we must maintain strict sanitary conditions in the kitchen at all times.

After she left, Doris flopped down in a chair. “Let’s forget sleep. How can we do all this and keep up with our other classes in only twenty-four hours a day?”

“By not wasting a minute,” I replied. “Let’s get started.” …

According to the Department of Agriculture, food for the average family, based on low, medium or high income levels, cost 32, 50 or 75 cents per person per day. As luck would have it, Annie Beam Funderburk, Acting Dean of Women, came to dinner the Thursday night we served a low-income meal.

Doris and I agonized over the menu. Not beans for the Dean! Chicken? Too common. We appealed to the butcher. “I have just the thing, beef heart. With meat so scarce, you’re lucky I have one.” The price was right, 38 cents. We bought it.

“Doris, do you know how to cook this thing?”

“No. I’ll ask Miss Tansil in the cafeteria. Let’s make a deal. If I cook it, will you carve it?” We shook hands to seal the bargain.

When Dean Funderburk arrived at 6 p.m. sharp, our housemate Marge, hostess for the week, offered her a chair in the living room. Marge served the guests fruit juice and crackers. When I checked the dining room across the hall one last time, I heard her attempting to make conversation.

The silverware lay exactly one inch from the table edge. The open corner of each napkin faced right, the lower edge in line with the silver. Individual salt and pepper shakers stood squarely between the bread and butter plate and the goblet. Not a chair wavered out of line.

Stepping to the living room door, I announced, “Dinner is served.”

I took my place at the head of the table, with Dean Funderburk seated to my right. Doris, a starched white apron over her blouse and skirt, came through the swinging door carrying a tray of covered vegetable dishes. She arranged the dishes within my reach and returned to the kitchen. When the door swung open again, all conversation ceased.

Doris, hesitating at the doorway, held a heavy ironstone platter in her outstretched hands. On the cold white dish, rising from a sea of carrot tops, towered the beef heart. She gave me a weak smile before positioning the main course before me.

As I stood and seized the carving knife and fork, my hands shook. The first jab with the fork failed to pierce the hard skin of the beef heart. A second attempt lower down sent the heart skidding across the platter in the direction of Dean Funderburk’s lap. Only a swift block with the carving knife averted disaster.

I changed tactics. With the broad knife blade balanced against the stubborn organ, I aimed the fork at the center and stabbed with all my might. Two small holes resulted, an opening where I could insert the top of the knife. I exhaled but relaxed too soon. Hacking through the middle of the heart, I watched in dismay as the stuffing popped out in all directions, splattering the white damask cloth.

To my chagrin, someone snickered, followed by Dean Funderburk’s hearty chuckle. Laughter ran from person to person round the table. Trying to ignore the merry diners, I sawed the meat into odd sized pieces. Doris quickly camouflaged the unsightly jumble with gravy.

Doris and I made no apologies for the insipid gelatin topped with whipped evaporated milk served for dessert in pink glass dishes. On a budget of 32 cents a day, we had done our creative best.

Back in the living room, Dean Funderburk sipped demitasse. “Girls, I want to compliment you on your efforts. This has been a meal I shall never forget.” Doris and I sighed with relief when she left without asking to inspect our messy kitchen.

As we washed the china, my humiliation faded away. “Doris. I bet our acting dean is on the phone to report to Dean Harriet Elliott in Washington. When President Roosevelt meets with his ‘brain trust’ in the morning, Dean Elliott will probably tell him about this dinner.”

We hoped the president would tell his wife. Mrs. Roosevelt would approve of serving beef heart to ‘make do.’ “We did make one mistake,” Doris noted. “We should have done the carving in the kitchen.”

 

 

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