May 2, 2013
Chevy Chase, Maryland
The more I learn about Pearl, the more I get her. And I like her, for a lot of reasons, though I wasn’t sure I would once I started digging around — but Pearl was unique, surprisingly so, and wanted to make something of herself. You see, I’ve learned that Pearl considered herself a ‘new woman.’ The ability to make something of herself, so that she would not be dependent on anyone (even a future husband) was important, as you’ll see later on.
In the last post, we learn that Pearl and Emmett met at a public outing, the first-ever car race that would eventually become the Daytona 500. By the end of the 1902-03 academic year at Stetson, Pearl appears to have ditched her current boyfriend in favor of Emmett Wilson. According to my current sources, Emmett spent the summer working at Cephas’ law firm in Marianna, Florida and regularly visiting his family in Chipley. He finally took a vacation at the end of the summer (for three weeks) to see his sister Katie in Alexandria, Virginia.
It doesn’t look as if Emmett visited Pearl during the summer of 1903; she lived in Seabreeze, Florida, (which was a six-hour train ride one-way for Emmett in 1903) but went to Massachusetts and New York to visit family and take the occasional voice/music lesson. This makes sense, because Emmett had to earn most of his money during the summer for school. Although the Wilson family was prominent, Emmett was not wealthy and Cephas probably worked him enough that he really didn’t have a lot of free time. (Recall that Emmett already either dropped out of college, or, he changed his mind about what he really wanted to study; Dr. Wilson did not have the financial reserves to back the second college go-round for Emmett.)
Pearl’s mother, Alice Spangler, was from Massachusetts. Her step-father, Adam Spangler was from Illinois. Pearl’s biological father, Wilbur Spaulding, was also from Massachusetts. Pearl would visit her mother’s family, and probably her father’s family as well, during the summer every year. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of the story — and believe me, Pearl’s family makes quite a story.
I don’t doubt that Emmett and Pearl were out and about socially, but they weren’t an official couple as of Fall, 1903. Emmett was busy, not only with law school, but as president of the Oratorical Association, and an active member of the Kent Club. Pearl was busy too; she was not only attending school and serving another year as associate editor of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, but she was also the monitor for the Music Department.
Also interesting: Pearl’s mother, Alice Spangler, moved to DeLand to be with her daughter while she was in college. This seems odd; Alice Spangler and her husband Adam were the proprietors of a successful hotel in Seabreeze. Alice not only helped manage the hotel, but she was in charge of all the social events, especially concerts — she managed as well as played in an orchestra — and trotted Pearl out often to sing in official programs for the guests (when Pearl was home, that is).
Why did Alice follow Pearl to college?
Maybe Pearl asked her mother the same thing — wasn’t she busy back home? Or, perhaps, Alice didn’t trust Pearl to make good decisions on her own? I don’t know where that mistrust would come from, as Pearl appears to be focused on getting a degree while holding down two jobs.
And here is one of the reasons I like Pearl so much: I had to do what she did to make my way in college.
My parents told me they wouldn’t pay for my college tuition, so if I wanted a degree bad enough, I had to make it happen. So, when I was 18, I got into Mississippi State University (MSU), I moved there, I got a job waitressing at a local restaurant as well as a job at the student newspaper (because I was a journalism major). Eventually, I earned scholarships, but mostly, I got through MSU by working my ass off. It was all very hard work; but when I graduated, I had no debt, money in the bank, a newspaper job upon graduating, and a portfolio of clips. Looking back, I appreciate having had the experiences, though I admit at the time I was always tired, I didn’t have money for extras, and I had almost zero spare time for four years. I didn’t do a lot of stupid things not because I couldn’t; I just didn’t have the time!
See: Pearl was also in a situation where she didn’t have a lot of free time, or a lot of disposable money, or time to do stupid things with Emmett. But Pearl sure wouldn’t get a chance to do stupid things with Emmett while Mom was her roommate.
Alice Spangler had to make money to finance her time in DeLand, though:
So Alice started a dancing school at the Hotel Putnam — not far from the Stetson University campus, where she lived with Pearl in the dorm, Chaudoin Hall. The dancing school was reported to be successful. I wonder if Alice drafted Pearl on occasion to help out with the dancing?
But it isn’t until March, 1904 that the student paper reports something going on between Emmett and Pearl. In the March 5, 1904 issue of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, there’s a writeup of the Kent Club Banquet by Pearl on the front page (and by the way, the banquet was covered by both Pearl and Billy Crawford):
Billy Crawford’s coverage of the banquet, on page three, is more interesting:
This wasn’t the only clip I found that hinted at a relationship between Emmett and Pearl; there were several over the next few months gently teasing Emmett about his attraction to Pearl. Because of other descriptions of Emmett’s personality (retiring, shy, quiet), it makes me think this relationship was percolating along slowly, surely; his friends (being happy for him) were also encouraging it along slowly, surely.
But things changed during the last week of March, 1904: According to the DeLand Weekly News, Pearl withdrew from Stetson University on account of poor eyesight, and was returning home to Seabreeze for the remainder of the school term. It was also reported she planned to spend her summer in Boston.
School was not out until the end of May; it is likely Emmett and Pearl wrote to each other, but they did not see each other often. The first report that Emmett was visiting Pearl in Seabreeze is from the April 16, 1904 issue of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate:
Emmett and Pearl see each other again twice more before graduation about two or three weeks apart; The first time Pearl comes back to friends (and Emmett) in late April; the last time was an invitation from Pearl (and her mother, as propriety would allow) before Emmett’s last week of school.
Strangely enough, that’s it. Nothing more reported between Emmett and Pearl. The only thing we know that happened was she definitely attended the graduation, because she sang at the cermonies — including the law school graduation — and Emmett was the class valedictorian.
After the ceremony, Pearl went to Boston for the summer and stayed through September, 1904; Emmett started his career working as a lawyer with his brother Cephas on the first Monday in June, 1904, after he was sworn into the Florida Bar in Jacksonville.
Pearl continues on at Stetson University for another year, graduating in 1905:
While Pearl was enrolled at Stetson that last year, she worked on the newspaper, inserting her comings and goings as she did previously — it’s logical to think Emmett subscribed to the student newspaper — perhaps she hoped he would see what she was doing, maybe pay a visit to the campus.
The last item in the Stetson student newspaper from Pearl is dated January, 1907:
Perhaps this item spurred Emmett to reach out to the old student newspaper, because in March, 1907, we find this item:
Unfortunately, Emmett never made it back to Stetson, either to visit or renew acquaintances. It sounds like he and Pearl broke up right after or right before graduation.
I wish I knew why — his Stetson years were some of the best in his brief life. But there was a lot going on behind the scenes in this relationship. Other people were pulling strings, and perhaps that was what hastened this relationship’s demise. I’ll explain in the next chapter.
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