The Autobiography of Phyllis Rosenau
October 11, 1944
It was a blistering August day – 103 in the shade – when I arrived in the Mary Lanning Hospital – another red, squirming, squalling bit of humanity. From this humble though not at all unusual beginning, I have somehow attained the age of eighteen years, although beset with every childhood affliction from thumb sucking to pneumonia, including whooping cough, which misery I shared with a friend who lived across the street, chickenpox, which all developed on the soles of my feet, measles, which I caught on the day before a school program in which I was to be announcer, and mumps, which, before I had recovered, I had given to a pair of elderly spinsters and a seventy year old couple, all of whom were living in our apartments.
My parents being strong Presbyterians, I was baptized at an early age and soon thereafter became a regular, if involuntary attendant at Sunday School and Church. Any benefits I may have received from those first services must have resulted purely from the wholesome atmosphere, for always as soon as the anthem was finished, I went promptly to sleep. However, in more recent years I have become very grateful to my parents for starting me this habit of church attendance.
Eventually, I started school. I have no strong memories of grade school, neither of liking nor disliking it especially. It was during this time that I lost my dimples and began, as the saying goes, to grow like a weed. Two neighborhood pals and I used to sit on top of a garage and discuss the world in general for hours at a time. One summer we dug a cave in our backyard which was the very envy of the whole neighborhood but the despair of my parents, as we happened to choose the exact spot where they had planned to erect a garage. After the cave had lost its charm for us, it was filled in again, but traces of our ambitious undertaking can still be seen in the floor of our garage. In the winter of about the fifth grade, we all happened to receive ice skates from Santa and from then on, we spent all our spare time on nearby Heartwell Lake. It must have been about this time that I became a Girl Scout, and for about three years I enjoyed the hikes, picnics, other good times, and also the working for badges which accompanied the fun.
During the year of sixth grade, two cousins and one third-cousin came to live with us, because of family upsets. In age, we were spaced almost exactly a year apart, being ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen years respectively – Do you have any conception of the amount of deviltry four teen-aged girls can carry out? I doubt that Mother knew what she would have to cope with when they came, but it didn’t take long to find out. And so our home life was very, very lively for about a year.
Then in the year in which I entered high school Mother suffered two cerebral hemorrhages about three months apart. After the second, a little before Christmas, Dad took her to Rochester, Minnesota. That Christmas was a lonely, worry-filled one for me. But with a new technique of operating, a miracle of modern medicine was wrought, and Mother’s condition has now improved to the extent that a nearly normal life is again possible for her.
I cannot remember any other distinguishing feature about that year except that I was lonely and bewildered, especially at first. I was very timid and self conscious at that time, but in spite of these handicaps, I began friendships then that have lasted through the years..
The “Awkward Age” is what it is called, and I believe it has never been more awkward than it was in my case. But I finally began to stop growing, so rapidly at least, to get my hands and feet under control, and to learn what to do with my hair and my clothes. This began to happen in about the tenth and eleventh grades. I had always read a great deal, but at this time, too, I began to notice beauty where I had never been conscious of its existence — in music, nature, in poetry, in character. It was during this time, too that I began a beautiful and steadily deepening friendship with a fine, intelligent, high-minded girl who is, incidentally, a lot of fun. She has been a friend in the highest sense, a constant source of inspiration to me.
In order to give a more complete picture of my life, I must list some of the organizations to which I have belonged. Joining Christian Endeavor in the ninth grade, I held various offices, being president in my junior year. While our Junior Choir at church was functioning, I was also a member of it. These organizations enabled me to be associated more closely with the finest man I have ever known, Reverend Silas Kessler. He has been my greatest inspiration and ideal. In my sophomore year, I joined Girl Reserves. During my three years with this group I held several offices, ending with president in my senior year. My union with Job’s Daughters was neither long nor glorious, my sole duty being to act as outer guard for one term of six months.
When I was in fifth grade, I began to play the trombone. This is a rather unusual instrument for a girl, but it was a matter of circumstances, not of choice. My father had played trombone at some time long past and owned a horn in playable condition. As instruments are rather expensive, I began on what was available. Progressing through Elementary and Junior bands, I became a member of the Senior High band when I was in the seventh grade.. This in itself was unusual, but it was all the more so because I was a girl who played the trombone. I soon learned to take a ribbing – I got plenty of it from the rest of the trombone section, all male, and all several years older than I. I wouldn’t have missed for anything the work, fun, and satisfaction I have derived from Band, Music Contests, Clinics, and all the other activities of the musical organizations of which I have been a part, such as Choir, High School and Symphony Orchestras, City Band, and small groups. Participation in these has indeded been an education in itself.
My high school career finally ended, and I made my temporary escape from the halls of learning after collecting a few assorted honors such as Rotary Award, Regents’ Scholarship, Church College Scholarship, Valedictory and most important, High School Diploma.
During the past summer I worked in the Chamber of Commerce Research Department. Then on September 11, 1944, I started to Hastings College,
I place a comma at the end of my story because I wish to indicate a pause, not a full stop. The end of my story is hidden somewhere in the mists of the future. I hope that end does not come very soon, for there are many, many things that I want to do between Now and Then. My life has not been an unusual one, yet it has brought to me many things I treasure highly.
I like living.