Entrance, Ohio Military Institute

Having recently written about my mother’s high school experiences, I decided I should do the same about my father. I don’t have a copy of his high school yearbook. I just discovered that the school (which was a military institute) did have yearbooks while he was a student, but I haven’t yet found a copy. What I do have is several pages from his mother’s scrapbook showing pictures and handwritten notes about her son.

As I have written before, my paternal grandmother lost her first husband and then her second within less than 10 years. She had few job skills and little way to provide for herself and her son. She had moved from the family farm into Felicity, Ohio and that is where my father started school and went through elementary and junior high school. At the same time, she was frequently away from home doing nursing jobs and her mother, Elizabeth Boothby, took care of my father. Thus, the two of them showed up in Felicity Ohio in the 1930 federal census while my grandmother was in Cincinnati living in a tuberculosis sanatorium as a nurse when the census was taken. My grandmother was apparently exhibiting increasing mental problems during this time period, of what variety I am not sure. She was overly attached to my father, that I do know.

Clifford B. Salt, 1931

At any rate, when my father got to be high school age, several people (including a physician my grandmother worked for and my father’s aunt) recommended strongly that my father be sent to a local boarding school rather than attending high school in Felicity and living at home with his mother and/or grandmother. So it was arranged that he would attend the Ohio Military Institute in Cincinnati. In September 1931, 3 months shy of 14 years old, he started high school at Ohio Military Institute.

The scrapbook record shows that my father joined the fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma, played basketball for several years,

Basketball team, 1932-33


and was a good student who progressed through the ranks. I haven’t yet found out anything about the fraternity he joined, besides the name. There is a college fraternity of that name which is a chemistry and chemical engineering society but I don’t know that this is the same one. Based on Wikipedia, there do seem to be two different ones, but the high school fraternity isn’t any further described.

Newsclippings included in Carrie’s scrapbook show that my father won scholarship honors (not sure what that means exactly) and was promoted to

Award for best-drilled company


cadet captain. His graduating year he was selected best all-round cadet officer, and his company was the best-drilled. My grandmother was clearly very proud of him.

And now I understand where his stated activities and interests on his college application came from (“military drills and sports” as well as swimming, basketball and reading). I always thought the military drills sounded somewhat at odds with the college he applied to – Antioch College.  The interests in sports, especially swimming, and in reading were shared by my parents and likely some of the first things that drew them together.

Class of 1935

Judy asked me a couple of questions about the post I wrote about Ruie or my Aunt Susan (as I grew up thinking of her). The questions were good ones, and I decided to write the update, or the rest of the story as I know it.

Aunt Susan as she looked when I was young

I knew my Aunt Susan to the extent any child knows an adult in her life, especially one who does not live close by. We lived in the Midwest and she and Uncle Bill lived in North Carolina and Florida. So I knew her mostly from being told about her, and from gifts and cards. This was long enough ago that there were many obstacles to communication for family living far apart. Long distance telephone calls were only made in emergencies and maybe occasionally for holidays. There was no Internet or email or Skype or texting. So we wrote letters and sent cards through the mail – what we now call snail mail. Occasionally they would travel to visit us or, more rarely, we would visit them. My family’s first real traveling vacation was to North Carolina to visit them.

Aunt Susan (which is what my father always called her; she was my great aunt) had been part of my father’s life from his birth. She was 25 years old when he was born, and was serving in the Army in South Carolina. So, presumably, she didn’t actually meet him until he was a year old. However, from that time forward she was an active presence in his life. From my grandmother’s scrapbook and photo album and from Aunt Susan’s photo album come a number of pictures showing the two of them. This one was from my grandmother’s scrapbook.

Aunt Susan and a young Clifford

Aunt Susan not only visited them, but she took my father traveling with her on occasion. I don’t know for certain, but I think the first trip they made may have been when my father was 10.  From my grandmother’s scrapbook we know in the summer of 1929 Aunt Susan took him to New England, probably for historic and family reasons (the Coffin side had come from New England to Ohio).  He would have been about 10 and a half. My father saw the ocean, and swam in it, for the first time on that trip.

Aunt Susan also had growing concerns about my grandmother’s mental state as my father was growing up. She kept in touch with the physician who my grandmother did practical nursing for, and she helped make the decision that my father should go away to school when he was ready for high school. He was sent to the Ohio Military Institute, in Cincinnati, which was not very far away but was a residential school. I’m certain that this was difficult for my grandmother and probably my father (although he didn’t talk about it).

It was to Aunt Susan that my father went when, at the end of his first year at college, it became clear that my grandmother could not live on her own at home any longer. Aunt Susan was very supportive and helpful in this difficult time. Her nursing experience and knowledge must have come in very handy in helping know what needed to be done, and who to contact, etc. From this point on, it is clear that Aunt Susan took responsibility for my father, standing in as a parent.

A year or two before this, Uncle Henry Coffin had died and it was his death that changed life for Aunt Susan financially. Uncle Henry never married and he had taken financial responsibility for his sisters (Kate Coffin Salt being one) and their children. With this he also took responsibility for dictating much about how they lived their lives.

It very likely was the death of Uncle Henry that allowed Aunt Susan to buy her house in Florida. And it was certainly his death and the deaths of both his sisters that finally allowed Susan to decide to marry. Her remaining cousins did not have the same authority the older generation had.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan about the time of their marriage

So did she live happily ever after? I think so. In general, she and Uncle Bill seemed to be pretty happy together, although of course we didn’t see much of them. I’m sure that there were adjustments required, as for any marriage and especially if you have been used to being independent as both of them had. They were married for 35 years. Susan gave up her nursing job, I think probably about the time she and Bill decided to marry. However, I think it is telling that she kept her original nursing license from Kentucky active into the 1970s, when she was into her 80s.

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