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Chapter 139: Clues in the Alumni News

July 20, 2021
Chevy Chase, Maryland

When the mail arrived to Emmett’s office (or, the John Kehoe house where he boarded, depending on where he preferred to receive his mail), I wonder what he thought when he unrolled his alumni copy of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate.

This was what Emmett saw on page 4, of the January 30, 1907 issue. See the middle column, with the red text highlighted:

Surprise! Pearl Spaulding, Emmett’s first love, now lives in New York City. Given the somewhat-uncomfortable ending to their relationship in 1904, I wonder what he thought when he read it. Source: Stetson University Archives.

Pearl was a popular co-ed at Stetson with numerous friends. Both Pearl and Emmett were copious letter writers; it would be wonderful to find and read any existing letters, but there’s little chance any of them are around anymore.

What we do know; however, is that Pearl still had a year or more left before graduating from Stetson, and, once Emmett graduated from Stetson, he never went back, not even to pay a visit to Pearl or other friends still attending Stetson. Here’s the proof:

In the March 6, 1907 edition of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, Emmett catches us up on what he’s been doing. Source: Stetson University Archives.

Notice: No mention of Emmett’s sojourn in Sterling, Illinois; a clue that Emmett & Co. were going to edit that six month period out of any biographical information as best they could. Also, notice that Emmett says once he graduated in 1904, he didn’t come back, not even to visit friends (ahem, Pearl).

I’ve wondered if Pearl’s letter to her old school in January was a way of letting Emmett (and her other friends) know what was going on with her; if she and Emmett had broken things off completely in 1904 (as I believe they did), that this was a way of letting him know where she was. You see, Pearl was a smart woman; her great-granddaughter said she was ahead of her time, and I believe it. One of the reasons Pearl went to New York was to have something for herself, to prove she was self-sufficient, and that she didn’t need to have to have a husband to be successful (see the earlier chapter on this). Pearl was all about proving herself a success on her own terms, and I don’t blame her. (Eventually, she would work for newspapers as a reporter, and have a short-lived radio program in the early 1920s, before she married in 1925.)

Pearl Spaulding’s wedding photo. This is the only photo I have of her. Pearl was 41 at the time of her marriage. Source: The Birmingham News, June 28, 1925, p. 51.

One comment her great-granddaughter shared with me was that the family always wondered why it took Pearl so long to settle down; why she married late (in terms of marriageable age in 1925, that is). I told her that I thought that Emmett considered Pearl his first love, and that relationship appeared to be getting very serious around 1904, before he graduated, and his family (i.e., Cephas) stepped in and discouraged the relationship. Also, I told her that if the relationship on Emmett’s part was, truly, a love relationship, he would have ignored Cephas.

Regardless, I could see how Pearl would have been extremely careful about any similar relationship; but also, I could see how she might have used the alumni letter to the Stetson Weekly Collegiate as a way to, maybe, encourage Emmett to contact her. Although Pearl was ahead of her time, I can’t see her sending a letter to Emmett in those days, on her own, after they’d broken up and time had passed — it would appear to some if she was chasing him, or desperate to get back together, and Pearl was neither grasping nor desperate.

I believe that Emmett might have considered reaching out to the editor at the Stetson Weekly Collegiate, but, he’d been through a lot just to get back to a new starting-over point in 1906 that he decided against it, except to follow up with his own update, with the hopes that Pearl would see it, and that would be enough to let her know his focus was his career, period, just as he probably told her when they broke up. I like his mention of hoping to come back for a visit to the campus during Commencement Week (which would be in June, 1907), and maybe, they’d run into each other there, but Emmett never made it back to a Stetson University Commencement.

Categories: Book Congressman Florida History Interesting & Odd

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jsmith532

Professor
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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