Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca (1928 – 1987)
While there, she met a young exchange student from Hong Kong, Margaret Yu. Margaret had gone to Marquette University, where she majored in Linguistics. She and my mother became close friends, and Margaret spent many a night at the Schiavon household during weekend trips home to Chicago.
|Cover of the Drake University 1949 yearbook|
I used to think the name of the Drake University yearbook (pictured on the cover at left), Quax, meant something significant in Latin. How naïve I was not to see that it was clever play on words – named for the noise a drake (an adult duck) makes! (Drake, of course, was not named for a duck but an Iowa state governor, Francis Marion Drake.)
My mother was not exactly the most serious student at the time, but she sure enjoyed campus life. She excelled in her favorite classes – drama and literature – but she also took classes in costume, social science, gym, and badminton. She ate lunch daily with her “chums” at the popular Benson’s Restaurant at 2417 University Avenue in an area of Des Moines called “Dogtown,” and she cheered on the Drake Bulldog college football team along with a number of her many admirers, or “dreamboat escorts,” as she called them, many of whom she met in her drama classes or at the Newman Club.
Her yearbook is dotted with her breathless and exuberant descriptions of classmates and friends:
|The Fine Arts majors – my mother is
on the bottom row, far right
“A real doll…met her in Women’s League.” “Real swell gal – in costume class” “Dick played pinocle til late one night. He and Bill took me to (the) football game – real sweet guy! …Bill lived upstairs – a real dreamboat – I had an awful crush on him.” “Lyle was a real ladies’ man – but a sweet guy – in drama classes!” “Arlene was always borrowing my clothes – we double-dated at a party at my place.” “Tall and blond and dreamy eyes – just my type – I was in charge of his costumes!”
My mother used to tell my sisters and me that she was too young to appreciate a college education at the time. Many women of that era, in fact, went to college to major in “marriage,” hoping to find a husband and settle down and raise a family.
Whether her parents wanted this for her or not, they apparently were unimpressed with my mother’s “social” studies and decided that their $400 annual tuition would be better invested in other ways. They called my mother home to Chicago in June 1949. She hated to leave her exciting life and friends at Drake, but she was otherwise glad the experiment was over.
It would be some years before she wished she had stayed and completed her degree, but she went on to become a savvy and successful businesswoman, all the same. When my sisters and I were young, she read to us constantly, making stories come alive with her dramatic interpretations. Often repeating the words of her college drama and Shakespeare professors, she encouraged us from an early age to write well and develop good diction. I can still hear her coaching us as we practiced school presentations to “Project! Project your voice so it reaches the back of the room! Make your voice heard!”
My mother stressed to us the value of education and encouraged us to seize every opportunity to make the most of our school years – and to never stop learning. Never was this more evident than in the last years of her life, when she became an assistant teacher for special education students at Modesto High School in Modesto, California. She had a way of inspiring even the toughest students to discover their potential and to excel.
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