Alumnae sisters reminisce college life in 30s

Eunice Trimm is an alumna who began her college career in 1930 when UNA was still Florence State Teacher’s College. After earning her teaching degree, she traveled to Japan and France to teach children of Air Force personnel.

by Staff Writer Melissa Parker

It is hard to imagine a time when working one job could pay a student’s entire tuition or dorm fees. Think about being able to attend a movie for less than a buck. In the 1930s, students were able to do just that.

The university has seen many changes over the years. In 1872 it was converted to a training school for teachers and was renamed State Normal School at Florence. Opening in 1874 with the addition of 31 female students, it became one of the first teacher-training institutions in the nation. Henry J. Willingham took over as president in 1913 and saw the completion of the first women’s dormitory, O’Neal Hall, according to the website encyclopediaofalabama.org.

Willie Mae Hamm, who graduated from Florence State Teachers College in 1937, said she remembers going to see Willingham in his office.

“He recommended me to go be a teacher at Carbon Hill,” she said. “That’s where I started my teaching career.”

In high school Hamm said she did not think she would be able to attend college.

Hamm said her older sister, Eunice Trimm, began attending classes at the college in 1930. After sending all of Hamm’s older siblings to school, Hamm’s father told her she might have to miss a year.

“Times were hard back then,” she said. “My home economics teacher asked me if she got me a job, could I go to school and I said yes.”

Hamm said her teacher called the college and was able to find her a job working in the lunchroom.

“I was paid $25 a month,” she said. “I helped prepare food for the students.”

Trimm said she was also fortunate enough to find a job in the lunchroom during her time on campus.

“I helped prepare food for the students,” she said. “I made $10 a month, and that paid my tuition.”

Both women said during those times students would teach for part of the year and attend classes during the

summer months.

Hamm said she and her friends spent much of their time studying and working but did find time to have fun.

“We stayed in the dormitory, and our house mother knew exactly where we went and what we were doing,” she said.

Trimm said she spent most of her time studying, but during her free time she liked going to the shopping centers in town and attending services at a methodist church in Florence.

Hamm said she and her friends did meet boys and date, and going to the movies was one way they enjoyed their free time.

“There were two theaters in town,” she said. “One was 10 cents and one was 25 cents.”

Hamm found more than a teaching degree while in school.

“That’s where I met my husband,” she said.

Trimm said she also used her degree to travel. She spent one year teaching in Tokyo and one year teaching in France.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade,” Hamm said.

Trimm said she helped in the library when she was in high school and that is when she decided she wanted to be a primary teacher.

Both women retired after more than 30 years of teaching.

Trimm’s advice for young people today is simple.

“Be kind, honest and truthful,” Trimm said.