One of the values my parents instilled deep in my soul, was to value and treasure an education. My teachers said, “Arleen is Mitt Taft’s daughter and so she will do well in school. She will study and get good grades like Cula and Karl did.” Because it was expected of me and because I wanted to, I always tried to live up to those expectations. And for the most part I earned very good grades.
It was a privilege to attend school and to improve my knowledge. I did my lessons faithfully and consistently, every day. It was a criminal offense, in our family, to leave lessons undone or poorly completed. After the nightly chores were done, and supper was completed, we got out our books and assignments and studied.
If we had a lot of lessons, Dad left his usual nightly ritual of reading the Deseret News Newspaper, and helped Mom clean up the supper dishes. Otherwise, he did not help out after the evening meal, but went straight to his beloved newspaper. It was an unusual occurrence for him to help and really exemplified his value for schooling.
Even though my father only completed formal education through the eighth grade, he was an educated and intelligent man. He served as President of the Wayne County School Board for many years and he was President of the Fremont Irrigation Company for many years. His inherited intelligence, a driving desire to learn, devouring of the daily newspaper and listening to the nightly radio news broadcasts greatly contributed to his education.
I attended Bicknell Elementary School first grade through sixth grade. I then went on to seventh grade in the Wayne High School building, also in Bicknell. To me, school was a great part of my social life and was wonderful and fun. I loved to go to school.
I was always at the top of my classes academically because I studied and applied myself in class. But, it must be recorded, Guy Baker, my cousin who was a son of Aunt Harriet Ogden Taft Baker, Lane Elliott, and Jack Burr gave me a run for my money. Our test scores were always very close and right at the top of the classes. And I must admit their pushing caused me to give first class effort to my schooling.
Our high school was small. Three hundred students grade nine through grade twelve. Because of the size of our school, there was an opportunity to take part in all the activities in which you had an interest or a skill in. Talents and avenues for personal accomplishments were always open to us.
I never ceased to be amazed at what we could do with crepe paper streamers, and paper flowers along with other paraphernalia for the Junior Prom or other programs. The gym was quite often transformed into a fairyland of beauty and magic. At times, the entire ceiling of the room, including the balcony, was covered with colored streamers and it was a thing of loveliness and pride.
Dates were not the social criteria for attendance to dances, parties, and socials in that day and age. This was a super help for the group of young people who didn’t date much, of which I was a member. This social trend allowed more liberal participation and extended the fun and social skills to all who wished to attend.
Music classes were enjoyable for me and I took part in chorus classes. I also sang vocal solos, duets with Nola Myrl Rees, and in a trio consisting of Nola Myrl Rees, Ethel Taft, and myself. I sang the soprano part and we had a glorious time together. We sang all over the county at church meeting and the like. This music was so pleasurable to me and added much to the joy and refinement of my life.
I also, liked the area of drama. I was active in plays, assemblies, and so forth. I remember being in a traveling assembly in high school with De Waldo Potter and others. We took that presentation to the schools in the Sevier School District. It was a good experience to be a part of and the play was well received by the other schools. Duward Blackburn was our drama teacher. I liked him and learned much from his instruction. I feel the drama and speech classes that I took have helped and improved my entire life in the area of public speaking.
The Home Economic classes were also pleasurable and expanded my skills and abilities, especially the sewing and cooking classes. Mrs. Esther Durfey was the Home Economics teacher. I liked to sew and always received an ‘A’ grade in the classes. Those classes laid the foundation for further education to be added upon.
Earnest Jackson was the math teacher and he took personal interest in his students. I felt and still feel, he did a fine job teaching math. I especially liked Algebra. For me, it was so fun and to figure it out was like working a puzzle.
I guess it can be said that I just cared for school and had a pleasant experience during the learning process. But, I must say that, in college, math classes frightened me and I really think I avoided them. I am now sorry for that fact. I do not know why I had such an aversion to math in college, because I earned very good grades in high school.
I was so honored as to be the valedictorian of my 1948 graduating class from Wayne High School. I gave the Valedictorian address at the commencement exercises. I was very frightened and so worried about the talk. However, it was an honor to achieve such a high academic level and one for which I will always be grateful.
Education is something that can never be taken from an individual. My education will leave the world when I go, but the influence of this education will remain on earth with my children and grandchildren and continue to grow through them.
When I look back over the years of schooling and the influence education has had my life, I can understand why I stress learning so strongly to my children and grandchildren. I feel real appreciation for the opportunities that were available to me. I am a most blessed person. I thank the Lord for my life and the blessedness of it. I cannot say enough in appreciation for the opportunities that have been available to me.