A Letter to the Grandparents, March 1918

Henry Meldrum Stevens 1918

Henry Meldrum Stevens 1918

The following was written by Henry Meldrum Stevens, grandson of Harley C. & Mary Elizabeth Crawford Stevens. Henry and his twin brother, Harley C. “Hob” Stevens III, were the sons of Harley C. Stevens Jr. and Pearle Meldrum, both descendants of pioneer Oregon families.

Henry and “Hob”, while students at the University of California Berkeley, were swept into military training in 1918 but the war ended before they entered active service. Both went on to distinguished careers. The twins were born August 11, 1900.

Henry, who worked for the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, died while vacationing at Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada on August 12, 1953, leaving a wife and three children. “Hob” died on December 26, 1959 in San Francisco, leaving his widow, the former Georgiana Gerlinger.

2713 Haste St
Berkeley, Cal

Dear Folks,
Of late several small examinations have been in order here at the college, and I am happy to report that both Harley and myself managed to acquit ourselves with high grades. I know such knowledge always pleases you, for it shows our realization of a very serious purpose in attending this University; namely, to gain an education and make ourselves better men for the having of such.

Another matter of interest is the inter-fraternity basketball league. Of course, a certain amount of recreation is essential to the best study, and these basketball games are but one form of play. Thus far Alpha Delta Phi has been most successful. Harley is a member of the fraternity team, and I its captain.

Speaking of fraternities, you would perhaps like to hear a few impressions which I have gained from my two years connection. It is an admitted fact that there are all kinds of organizations – each one being noted for certain characteristics, either good or bad. This is the big reason why I took so long in making up my mind as to which fraternity, were I bid to several, would I join. My fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, as stated by the author and authority on the subject, Baird, and as typified by her members, Theodore Roosevelt and others, is strictly characterized by a literary trait. Do you not think this a noble one?

But now, just what does even the right kind of fraternity do for a boy? I would say it gives, in the course of four years, four things; friends, ideals, broad-mindedness, and greatest of all gifts, character.
Allow me to take up these bequests one by one. By the term friends, I do not mean, just a bond existing between the boys living in the house – though such an opportunity is surely a very, very wonderful state of being indeed – I mean more than that. In addition to the above, I mean an introduction and acceptance into the very heart of each of my fellow members’ family, a widespread acquaintance and backing in campus life, and a strong tie during future years.

The term ideals brings to my mind not only a notion of fraternity ideals which in itself gives a large glance into the field of literature and the fine arts, but also splendid ideas gained through an association with high minded men.
Closely connected with this subject is broadmindedness. Allow me to cite one case – that of my former room-mate. Olin Wellborn was President of the Senior Class and in all respects an ideal product of Alpha Delta Phi. I wonder if I would ever have gotten elsewhere, certain truth offered by Olin?

Finally, character – this word is not ambiguous and explains itself. It is the final aim of the fraternity. And now, what is the cost of all this? – under ordinary times, absolutely nothing from the material side, i.e. actual money. In fact, according to general rule, it is actually cheapest to live in a fraternity.

In the case of Harley and myself, it is a regretful fact that due to the war the situation has been abnormal. In the way of finance, the life of the fraternity has been at stake – it has had to call upon its members for immense sacrifices. So, in the accounts, you will note that a great deal of money seems to be going out to Alpha Delta Phi. The point I want to make clear, is that such is an abnormal condition. Next year, our expenses which were about $950 apiece, should be cut down to between $700 and $800 apiece, at any rate. Knowing this, you can perhaps better understand the finances of Harley and me for this year.

Mother mentioned that the Rossman girl was living on $50 a month. I can conceive of such a situation. But is must be remembered that from a financial standpoint a girl “has it on” a boy in many respects. Also, a boy must look to the future and business. If he wishes to have rich and influential friends, he must in a very moderate sense to be sure, and yet to the best of his ability, go with college men of such a type. The true college friends are the life-long friends. The average girl is not bothered with such mercantile thoughts.

In submitting my expenses for the rest of the semester – I might explain that charges for an extra month are tacked on to the board and room bill. This money goes toward holding the house over during the summer – at which time it is vacated. The approximate amount of money I will need to finish out this semester is:
Board and Room  $120.00
Fare home  30.00
Academic supplies  8.00
Carfare  1.20
Blue & Gold  4.50
Shoes  12.00
Insurance  12.80
Laundry  12.00
Athletics  15.00
Cap  3.00
Fraternity Assessment  5.00
Writing materials  1.50
Tailor and barber  5.00
Total $230.00

To this $230.00 I must add $70.00 more to pay past debts. You see my expenses for last semester were $470 while I received but $400. So in all, I need $300 to complete this semester.

You no doubt wonder why this year cost so much. Counting the above requested $300, I shall have received $950 from home. I hope I have made the why and wherefore of this tremendous cost clear to you. It is due to tow causes: the immense cost of the very short semester just completed, namely $470 – this due to war conditions, and the extra length of this present semester. All this money is strictly accounted for and, on looking over my books next summer, you will find the whole itemized. Please remember, also, that Harley and I are only too glad when you point out spots where greater economy might be practiced.

In this letter, I have spared time from my studies to tell you of most all my thoughts. In conclusion there is only one other I can think of. You may recall that last vacation I mentioned the idea of going east next year. I have given up the notion for two reasons. In the first place because of expense – my post-graduate work in the east must suffice. And secondly, a Los Angeles boy – a member of my fraternity and class here, has urged that I finish my four years here, and then, if possible, go back to Harvard for my post-graduate work in law with him. Do you not think this a good plan?

I close with best love and hopes of hearing from you soon.

Your loving grandson,