Letters Home #11

A letter to Jont Roberts of Spring Garden

This is a letter from John Edgemond to Jont. Roberts. The title "Uncle" was one of respect since the two were not related. Jont. mentored John in his youth, creating a warm personal bond between the two. Please see "Spring Garden" under "Communities" for more information.

See additional information regarding John Edgemond and Jont Roberts appearing in two places on the Spring Garden Page of our Communities section. (click here)

July 23, 1928

Dear Uncle Jont:

The following are the chief items of interest in my activities to date:

I was born Jan. 12, 1888. Father died when I was 4 years old, Elza 5, Minnie 3 and Roe 1.

I attended the public school at Water Loo. I lost my left leg at age of 8 years. I walked to school on crutches. I attended the Miller County Institute where I graduated in 1905. I taught my first school at Eugene 1905-06-a 5 months term. Out of this money Minnie and I went to Warrensburgh for the spring and summer term.

Next year 1906-07 I taught at Water Loo, again going to Warrensburgh for the spring and summer term, Minnie also going with me.

I was offered the Water Loo school again at an increase in salary but was recommended by the Warrensburgh Teachers Committee for the principalship of a rural consolidated school near Lees Summit where I was elected and taught for 2 years-1907-1909.

I studied at home during the long winter evenings and took special examinations when I went to Warrensburgh for summer school work. By this means I completed my normal course in almost as short a time as those who were in regular attendance.

The normal school secured me a position as Principal of the schools at Florence, Mont. where I taught from 1909-1913.

Out of my salary as a teacher, I not only paid for my own normal course, but paid for Minnie and Roe to attend and become teachers.

I studied law and accounting by correspondence from the La Salle Extension University of Chicago while I was teaching. I earned enough money by keeping books evenings, Saturdays and during vacation so that after 4 years at Florence, Montana I decided to go to the State University of California and prepare for a teacher of commercial subjects in high school.

I was married in 1912. I could have held my job in Montana for life if I was satisfied with the principalship of a small town school about the size of Eugene.

I attended the University of California for the summer term of 1913, the regular school year 1913-14 and the summer term of 1914. I completed the requirements for the special commercial certificate with honorable mention.

When my wife, baby and I arrived in Gilroy, my first teaching position in California, we had a little less than $5.00. My first months check for $110.00 certainly looked like a million dollars to me.

For the 4 years I was at Gilroy I taught day school and evening school for 2 hours each evening for 10 months. My days program ran something like this.

Left home at 7:30 a.m. for school. Day school ended at 3:30. Kept the books for a large garage where I worked from 4:00-6:00 p.m. each day. Rushed home ate supper and got back to school for my evening classes from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Got home about 9:30 p.m. I usually worked on grading papers are correspondence study for an hour each night after I got home from night school. I worked form 8 to 12 hours at the garage on Saturdays on the books. I averaged $50.00 a month on this outside work.

I was made Head of the Commercial Department after my first year at Gilroy. At the time I came to Oakland 1918 I was Vice Principal as well as Head of the Com'l. Department.

I never spent 4 more enjoyable years than those spent at Gilroy. At the end of 4 years there, however, I realized that I had about reached the limits of my accomplishments so when the opportunity came to me to go to Oakland I gave up a $22400.00 a

year position to accept an $1800 one in Oakland as assistant Head of the Commercial Department in one of Oakland's largest high schools.

Shortly after the beginning of my second year in Oakland the Head of the Com'l. Dept. became vacant and I was promoted to the position. I was Head of the Department for only three months when I was again promoted to the position of Auditor of the Board of Education at a considerable increase of salary. I have been Auditor now for almost 9 years.

On account of my legal knowledge, I was assigned to the duties of Secretary of the Board of Education when the former secretary resigned 5 years ago. My official title now is Secretary-Auditor.

As Secretary of the Board of Education I am responsible for the preparation of all contract for supplies, buildings equipment the purchase of sites and the execution of all executive matters of the Board of Education.

As Auditor I am responsible for all the records and finances of the Board of Education. I must approve all requests for expenditure of funds before the board will officially authorize the expenditure. Last year the Board of Education, upon my approval authorized the expenditure of over $11,000,000.00. About $5,000,000.00 of this was for new school buildings.

I have been told by a number of school superintendents that I have the best accounting system of any school system in the United States. The present system is the result of 9 years work. We try to improve on it each year.

In order to give you an idea of the size of Oakland I will state that we have over 2000 teachers, 7 High schools 15 Junior High schools, 45 Elementary schools and about 60,000 children enrolled. Our daily payroll amounts to more than $20,000.00 a day. I have 2 private secretaries and 14 accountants, typists and clerks in my accounting and payroll office. I have my own private office. My office is connected up with the other offices by electric buzzers. All I have to do to get in touch with any of my office force is to press a buzzer at my desk when the one I want comes to my office.

I have practically no detail office work to do. I meet the public at regular office hours and spent more than half of my time outside handling affairs of the Board of Education.

I am a member of the IOOF Lodge, a member of the Masonic Blue Lodge, a 32d degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Shrine. I am a member of the Athens Athletic Club a $1,500,000.00 institution. This club is where I arrange for a number of my conferences during the noon hour with business men. I also enjoy a swim in the tank 4 or 5 times a week for recreation. My children also have the privilege of the club where they are taught swimming and diving and gymnasium work.

I am a member of a golf and Country Club. Handicapped as I am I enjoy a game of golf and only a few of my associates can beat me.

I have always been interested in Boy Scout work. My boy is an eagle scout. I am a District Commissioner on the Oakland Boy Scout Organization. I am in charge of 6 boy scout troops. I have 3 Deputy Scout Commissioners to assist men.

My salary now is $6540.00 a year. I have my income budgeted so that I provide for the payment of my life insurance which is sufficient to provide a college education for my three children and $100.00 a month for my wife after my youngest child is 25 years old. I also carry sick benefit and accident insurance so that I am provided for should I become unable to work.

My insurance at age of 65 will be payable to me in cash. It will amount to about $37,500.00. This will provide for my retiring then if I should desire to do so.

In order to get where I am has meant long hours of study at night after a hard days work. I feel that it has been worth all the efforts that I have made to reach my present position. Even now I spend a large portion of my spare time in reading and studying in order that I may keep up to date in any new developments in accounting.

I hope that you do not feel that I have written this in any boastful manner. In fact I would not have written it at all if you had not requested me to do.

I hope that this will give you the information that you want. I will appreciate getting a copy after you have rewritten it for printing. I will also like to hear from any of the other Spring Garden boys as to what they are doing.

A number of times in my life, things looked rather blue. When I look back at these times I find that I am indebted to you, more to anyone else for your sympatietic guidance and encouragement as well as your financial assistance. For this I feel deeply grateful to you.

If there is anything else you would like to know about please let me know.

I hope you have continued to improve and are feeling fine. With best wishes to you and Aunt Rose, I am

Very sincerely

John W. Edgemond

P.S. -

I forgot to mention that I taught bookkeeping for two summer terms at the University of California. I taught Classes for teachers of bookkeeping.

I am recognized as one of the leaders in Commercial Education. I was offered the position of State Supervisor of Commercial Education and refused as it paid only $4200.00 a year with $1500.00 traveling expenses.

At the convention of the National Education Association held at Minneapolis I was one of the speakers on the Commercial Program. I have spoken before a number of commercial groups at local teachers' institutes.

I was asked to give a course at the Oregon University last summer on methods of teaching commercial subjects and could not accept on account of my work here was such that I could not get away.