Return to Home Page Books Gallery Members Songs History of MHS Memories of 1954--55 Photo Gallery Newsletter Little Gems Links News Update MHS' Most Famous A Headmistress' Story MHUSA Newsletter Daughter of Tibet Contacts Charles Swan Growing up in INDIA David Stewart Mr Murray MH Reunion USA John Johnston

 

A  HEADMISTRESS'  STORY:

LILA  ENGBERG

 

The following is an extract from a book, "Lila - A Biography" by Kitty Katzell (Mildred Engberg) the daughter of Lila Engberg, former Teacher and Headmistress of Mount Hermon School between 1926 and 1934, and reproduced with her kind permission.  The two chapters "To India" and "Earthquake" cover the period when she taught and became Headmistress of Mount Hermon, previously known as  "Queen's Hill  School "when she first took up the position of Headmistress.  She travelled all the way from the USA to India accompanied by her infant daughter Mildred (Kitty).  Kitty  lives in the USA in a retirement community and is now 89 years of age.  She still has a great interest in the school, and set up a Scholarship in the 1990s with a substantial donation known as "The Lila Engberg Scholarship," which students today are still qualifying for.

 

TO INDIA

After closing the apartment in Chicago, Lila returned to Mitchell, South Dakota, to stay with her sister and her husband, Elsie and Fred Rolfe. Both Elsie and Fred worked in a local florist, so Lila took care of Mildred and kept house for them. They had a small home and they raised a few chickens and had a small garden. Lila kept hoping and praying that she would be able to go to India, where she could take care of her baby and earn her living as a missionary.

Meantime, their sister Alta had gone to India in 1924 to manage a girls' school in Lahore in what is now Pakistan. Alta had also studied at Dakota Wesleyan University and had signed up to be a missionary so she could travel. After Royce died, Lila was distraught. She wrote pathetic letters to Alta telling how upset she was, how she was suffering with boils that made her really ill. During the summer of 1925, Alta went to the mountains for her vacation, and had a chance to talk with the India-Secretary of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) about Lila and the fact that she wanted to go to India. The president of Lila's alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University, Dr. Schermerhorn, had also been a missionary in India, and he, too, was trying to help her.

Suddenly, through the combined efforts of Lila, Alta in India, and Dr. Schermerhorn in South Dakota, Lila was told that there was a place for her to teach in an English boarding school in Darjeeling, up in the Himalaya moun­tains. This was 1925 so it took a month for the letter to reach her from India and another month for her reply to reach them, but Lila was exuberant when she learned that she might go.

But there were still hurdles. "Send a widow and baby to India?" The WFMS knew they were taking a chance. Arrangements were made for Lila and Mildred to have physical examinations in Minneapolis, since it was from that branch of the WFMS that she would be sent out. Lila knew she was not in her best physical condition, and, when the physician hesitated and then asked if she really wanted to go to India, she broke down and cried. He had found a slight heart murmur and that was why he was hesitating, but when he saw that she was really anxious to go, he passed her.

Friends and relatives in the U.S. thought she was crazy to take Mildred to heathen India. They predicted all sorts of dire consequences, but Lila believed that it was God's will and that He would give her the strength she would need. One relative told her point blank that it was stupid or worse, and that if anything ever happened to Mildred, it would be Lila's own fault. She never forgot those words.

She signed a three-year contract with the Woman's Foreign Missionary Soci­ety of the Methodist Church, and on January 1, 1926, Lila and Mildred set sail from New York on the S.S. Homeric. Mildred had her second birthday on the Atlantic (incidentally, she had her seventh birthday on the Pacific in 1931, when they were returning to India after a six-month furlough in the U.S.). It was a rough crossing, and nearly everyone was seasick, but not Lila She would put the two-year-old Mildred on the floor and as the ship rolled back and forth, Mildred would roll from one side of the room to the other. They were travelling with another missionary family all of whom were ill all the way to Cherbourg. From Cherbourg, they crossed Europe and took another ship from Marseilles to Bom­bay via the Suez Canal.

Although Alta was already living in India, she didn't know Lila was on her way until she received Lila's cable from Port Said. Immediately, she sent off a letter which was awaiting Lila's arrival in Bombay the end of January. There, Lila and Mildred stayed at the Methodist Mission, while they cleared Customs and made arrangements to join Alta in Lahore until school opened the beginning of March.

From Lahore, they went to Arrah, in Bihar province, to visit another missionary friend who was also a graduate of Dakota Wesleyan. That evening at dinner, Lila asked about the humming sound she heard. "Mosquitoes!" she was told. Right after dinner, she and Mildred went to bed in a single bed. Lila had never seen a mosquito net, so she didn't know that one must tuck them in on all four sides of the bed. Toward morning, she was wakened by Mildred's restlessness. It was getting light, so she sat up and saw that the inside of the net was black with mosquitoes. Mildred looked like she had the measles; she was covered with mosquito bites! Lila drew a circle the size of a dime on her own knuckle and counted 64 bites within the circle. She was tough, so her bites dried up and faded away pretty soon. Mildred's became infected and she got malaria, which Lila had to fight periodically over the next few years. Eventually, she read about Esanophele tablets, which she bought, and after the first few, Mildred's malaria left her and she never had another attack. (During World War II, Mildred tried to donate blood but was refused as a donor because she had had malaria.)

They took the train from Arrah to Calcutta. In order to be thrifty Lila took third class not knowing anything about the conditions in which they would be travelling. The train was noisy, crowded and dirty, but they finally reached Calcutta, having picked up head lice on the way. Before lunch the first day at the mission house in Calcutta, Lila washed Mildred's hair with a suggested treatment for the lice, and they went down to lunch with Mildred's hair bundled in a towel. One of the other missionaries at the lunch table commented "Did the little girl have her hair washed?" to which Mildred responded gaily, "Yes. I have lice!" To treat her own case of head lice, Lila sprayed her head with Flit, a common treat­ment for all sorts of household vermin in those days. The Flit killed the lice, but it also caused her hair to fall out in handfuls.

The trip from Calcutta to Darjeeling was another unique experience. They took trains north to reach Darjeeling. They left Calcutta late in the afternoon on a regular wide gauge train, changed in the night to a medium gauge train, and, in the morning, got into a rear car on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the so-called Toy Train, because it runs on a narrow 24" gauge. The train winds around the mountains, sometimes backing up to go higher and higher and often posi­tioned so that the front of the train overlapped the rear. There were no restrooms on the train, and there came a time when two-year-old Mildred needed one. Since there was no alternative, Lila held her out the train window to do what was necessary. It happened to be at one of the times when the front of the train over­lapped the rear of the train as it circled the mountain, so everyone on the train was able to see what was going on. After a six-hour ride, they arrived in bitter cold Darjeeling. Miss Stahl, the principal of the school where Lila was to teach, met them at the station, took one look at Mildred, and said, "What has she got?" Mosquito bites.

Later, Lila understood her concern. Miss Stahl was the principal of a boarding school, Queens Hill, where the children lived in close proximity to each other in dormitories, so any contagious disease was a serious threat. They ate in a com­mon dining room and they were always together. There was a full-time nurse on the staff, and the English Civil Surgeon was always on call from Darjeeling. In fact, he came to the school every Monday morning to provide routine medical care.

In India, Mildred lived through pneumonia twice, flu, tonsillitis, whooping cough, malaria, and epidemics of measles, chicken pox, and mumps. She started whooping with the whooping cough while she was on the operating table having her tonsils removed. The one epidemic that Mildred avoided was diphtheria.  To avoid that, she had been given an anti-toxin to which it turned out she was allergic  She developed a rash that was only relieved by continuous application of compresses of witch hazel and baking soda. Lila often wondered if it would have been better for her to get diphtheria, since the treatment of the rash lasted for weeks. One long-term benefit of Mildred's many illnesses was that she learned to knit while she was confined, a hobby that she continued to enjoy for the rest of her life.

Lila's first job in Darjeeling, before school started was to engage an ayah to take care of Mildred while she was teaching and on duty. Lila had talked to Mildred every day about Darjeeling and what she would be doing, and how there would be an ayah to be with her all the time when Lila was working. Every time Mildred saw an Indian woman, she would ask, "Is this my ayah?" until it became embarrassing. They all wanted to be her ayah.

Lila talked with Miss Stahl the principal, about getting an ayah who would be clean, competent, and dependable. Finally, Miss Stahl picked out the small Nepalese wife of one of the school servants. She was clean and very bright, had children of her own, and she loved Mildred. Almost overnight, she learned to understand Mildred, and soon Mildred was speaking Nepalese and serving as Lila's interpreter. One day, Lila told Mildred to ask the ayah something. They conversed and went back to their play. When Lila asked Mildred what the ayah had said, Mildred replied, "You heard her."

When they first went to Darjeeling, Mildred never saw any men except the Indian servants. One day she heard a man's voice in the hall and she went run­ning to Lila and slammed the door behind her, screaming, "Mummy! A man! A man!" Seeing that she was afraid of men, Lila cultivated married friends and also managed to have Mildred spend a few weeks of every year in a normal home away from her mother.

Although Lila had been sent to Darjeeling as a "Contract Teacher for a three­-year term, she stayed four years. In a boarding school, a missionary teacher is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Her specific responsibilities included being in charge of the older girls' dormitory which was next to the room that she and Mildred shared. She also conducted morning worship services; took her turn at various duties, such as supervision in study halls and dining rooms, and taught English, Scripture, Algebra, and other subjects.

Queen's Hill School was primarily for the children of missionaries and other Europeans as most white people were called. The students were taught a British curriculum which prepared them to take Junior and Senior Cambridge Examinations sent out from England. These examinations were administered each  December following the end of the school year which ran from March through November.  One year, Lila discovered at the end of the year that one of the classes preparing for the Cambridge Examinations had not been taught by the correct syllabus in their Scripture course. With only two weeks until the examination, she taught the students what they were supposed to have learned during the year, and not one of them failed the examination.

The school was also associated with The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London, which sent examiners to evaluate the music achieve­ment of individual students seeking their certification. Mildred took piano les­sons at the school from the age of four, and took the associated examinations the last two years that they lived in India.

The credentials provided by the two aforementioned institutions were accepted world-wide when the students returned to their home countries.

When Lila and Mildred first arrived in Darjeeling, Mildred was in the habit of calling her mother by her first name. After all, everyone who knew her called her "Lila." But many of the other missionaries thought it was highly inappropriate for a 2-year-old to call her mother by her first name. So Lila sat down with Mildred and explained the situation to her. Most of the other children in the school called their mothers "Mummy" so Lila suggested Mildred adopt that prac­tice. During the transition, Mildred used "Mummy-Lila" but eventually she grew comfortable calling Lila "Mummy".

Other teachers would sometimes ask Lila to wake them in the morning so they would be on time for classes. So Lila would send Mildred on the errand with instructions to tell the teacher it was half-past-seven. Mildred could then be heard going down the hall from Lila's room to the teacher's room, chanting all the way, "Mummy says it's half-past-seven, Mummy says it's half-past-seven."

Being in charge of the older girls' dormitory also meant meting out discipline when it was needed. On one occasion, Lila was summoned because one of the girls had "fainted." When Lila arrived on the scene, she was told that the girl, who was lying on the floor, often fainted. After hearing the other girls' explana­tion of the situation, Lila asked someone to bring a glass of water, which she calmly poured on the girl's face. For some reason, the girl never fainted again.

One time, the girls were eating tinned fruits in the dormitory and got sticky syrup all over the floor. When Lila came into the room, she stepped into it. She sent one of the girls to get a pail of water and another to get a supply of rags. Then she had the girls wash the floor.

Other examples of discipline were equally colorful. When students had been flicking spoonfuls of water at each other in the dining room.  Lila had them come out to the playground after the meal wearing their raincoats. Each of the guilty students was given a teaspoon and a pitcher of water, with instructions to stand there and flick the water at each other.

In a similar vein, in a study hall that Lila was supervising, some students were whispering instead of studying for an upcoming examination. Lila took their books away from them and wouldn't let them study. She soon got a reputation as being a firm but fair disciplinarian and she rarely had problems with the students.

The year 1926, when Lila arrived in Darjeeling, was the year that Queen's Hill School moved to the Mount Hermon estate. The school was in a brand new fieldstone, three-story building with a basement which housed the kitchen and a large area used for a variety of activities. The previous school building had been nearer to the city of Darjeeling, but it had been destroyed, with much loss of life, in a landslide.

The year 1926 was also the first year of co-education at Queen's Hill. Up to that time, only small boys under the age of ten had been accepted; above that age, they went to a boys' school. Most of the teachers were Anglo-Indians, and Lila was the only person on the staff who had ever taught boys before. As a result, she had the older boys in her home room and she was responsible for their discipline. The boys were American, English, and Anglo-Indian. The boys soon got to know Lila.

As an illustration, one day the boys, aged 13 and 14, did something for which they had to be punished. They were turned over to Lila. When she dismissed the other children from the dining room after tiffin (a light meal served at 3 p.m.), Lila asked the boys to stay. As she talked with them, they admitted that they had to be punished, "But none of that girl stuff" they said. "OK, so what shall your punishment be?" she asked. "Cane us!" came the reply, almost defiantly. Lila agreed and told them to go out and bring their switches but they'd have to tell her how to do it. When they returned, they bent over, hands clasping their ankles, and said, "Do it hard!" So she did it "hard" till they told her to stop. Then they shook hands and thanked her. Thereafter, they could face the boys in the All-Boys schools and brag about having been caned.

Another time, one of the small American boys had been sent to Lila's office to be punished. She asked him what kind of punishment he thought she should give him, and he asked for a spanking. So she bent him over her knee and spanked him, after which he climbed into her lap, put his arms around her neck, and said, "Thank you, Mrs. Engberg."

Students in one class had been cheating, and someone tattled to the teacher, Mrs. Ryan. Mrs. Ryan was very strict and stern so the students expected severe punishment when she came to class. As a prank, they all had reversed tangerine skins covering their teeth.  When Mrs. Ryan saw them, she stormed out of the room and went to get Lila.  Lila came to the class and asked for their side of the story. Then she made them promise never to cheat again, and she would deal with Mrs. Ryan.

What the students had no way of knowing was that Mrs. Ryan hated teaching. She had gotten married to get out of it. She had a child, but her husband and child were both killed in a boating accident. She had had to resume teaching to support herself. Lila tried to work with her and help her to deal with her personal situation.

Since the school had a kindergarten, Mildred started attending it right away and continued for the next four years. She loved school and, despite being sick much of the time, she progressed. She was able to read when she was three years old and could write her name when she was four. The kindergarten taught much of what American children were learning in the first two grades.

As already noted, during Alta's fourth year in Lahore, she was sent to Ajmer to fill a vacancy there. In Ajmer, she met Cecil Harris to whom she became engaged after a year, and married early in 1930. Lila and Mildred were present for the wedding, with Mildred serving as flower girl.

Soon after the wedding, in January 1930, after four happy years in Darjeeling, Lila and Mildred left India for a furlough in America. On the trip, they were accompanied by Miss Stahl, the retiring principal of the school. The three of them shared a cabin on a lower deck. When the ship was passing through the Red Sea, the sea was rough and Miss Stahl had the berth under the porthole. A wave poured through the open porthole bringing live fish and drenching Miss Stahl and all her belongings, which she had left on the floor.

While sight-seeing in Egypt, Lila was spat upon. She asked the guide if he understood what had happened. His response was, "They thought you were Jewish." The travellers also visited other countries in northern Africa and Europe on their way home, with Mildred and Lila compiling scrapbooks of the sites they visited

In the U.S., Lila was occupied with travelling for the WFMS, telling church groups about mission work in India and throughout the world. She left Mildred with her friends in Minnesota, and Mildred went to school there for four months. Initially, when Lila took Mildred to enrol her in the school, because Mildred was six years old, the school wanted to put her in first grade. Lila would have none of that. So they said they would try Mildred in second grade. After a few days of that, the school decided she was too far advanced to stay in the second grade, so they put her in the third grade, which was a bit more difficult but still not challenging enough to keep her occupied.  Finally, she was put in the fourth grade, to the dismay of the principal who could not condone having a 6-year-old in the 4th  grade. But Mildred worked hard and did reasonably well.

It was in Minnesota that Mildred first learned to trust dogs. The friend with whom they were staying had a black cocker spaniel called "Nigger". Nigger would escort Mildred to school and then return to escort her home at the end of the day. He would sleep on the foot of her bed, but when he heard Lila coming to bed, he would get off Mildred's bed and hide underneath till Lila had settled down. From that point on, Mildred never had a fear of dogs.

Lila and Mildred had been in the U.S. less than a year when Lila received a cable asking her to return as the principal of Queens Hill School. They returned in early 1931. As principal, Lila had a suite of rooms on the third floor of the school building, with windows looking north toward the Kanchenjunga range. Mildred shared her rooms until 1934, when she was 10 years old and moved into the girls' dormitory. Lila's suite consisted of four rooms: a living room, bed­room, bathroom, and sewing room. In the living room, there was a fireplace, and the cement floor was covered with her 9' x 12' Chinese rug. In the sewing room, she had her electric sewing machine, which she had brought from America, and her American electric iron. She also had an American electric waffle iron. To use these appliances, she had a transformer, since Indian electric outlets did not accommodate the American plugs.

Lila often entertained visiting dignitaries for tea in her living quarters. On such occasions, she would usually have a fire in the fireplace, and serve Darjeeling tea, accompanied by waffles. The waffles were sometimes flavored with cheese or chocolate, but even ordinary waffles were an unfamiliar treat for anyone in India.

Lila used her sewing machine to make many of her own clothes and all of Mildred's clothes, except for school uniforms. Even after they returned to Amer­ica, and when Mildred went away to college and then married, Lila continued to make clothes for her.

Lila's position as principal of the school was a very responsible position with a good deal of authority, and Lila very much enjoyed it. She lacked self-confidence but she loved the feeling of power. She liked being able to do things to make the school and its pupils grow and develop. She was happy in her work and would have been content to live there the rest of her days. She was quite popular; she had a position of respect and responsibility, and she felt that she did her work well; the teachers, pupils, and parents all cooperated and the future looked bright. Then, in January 1934, the earthquake struck and everything changed.

 

 

 

EARTHQUAKE

Lila and Mildred were in Calcutta on January 15, 1934 taking their usual after­noon rest when there was a major earthquake in India. In Calcutta it lasted for eight minutes. They followed the usual evacuation procedures, which meant going outdoors and leaning against the building. The theory was that if anything fell off the building, it was not likely to fall straight down.

The next day, the newspapers were full of the news of the earthquake. There were places where the earth had opened up and people had fallen in. Buildings had collapsed, crushing people to death. People were sleeping in the parks because they feared more tremors. The damage in the Himalayas nearer the epicentre had been even more severe, although it had been felt for little more than a minute.

Lila received a telegram from Darjeeling, which read: "School extensively damaged. Come immediately." So she went, leaving Mildred with missionaries in Calcutta. School was scheduled to open the first week of March. Was the school going to be usable? What would she do? What could she do?

Queen's Hill School was built in the shape of a large U, with a quadrangle playground between the two wings. In one wing of the U there was the Assem­bly Hall, which was two stories high, and below it the Kindergarten. The other wing was three stories high with teachers' rooms on the top floor, dormitories on the second floor, and classrooms on the first floor. Both wings had been virtually destroyed and all of the interior partitions in the building had fallen like blocks. There were six weeks in which to get the place habitable before school was to have opened.

The school was already in debt and the managing committee said they could not afford to rebuild it because it was estimated that it would cost $35,000, a lot of money in India at any time and certainly in 1934. Lila insisted that the school had to be rebuilt and that they would get the money somehow. That was the beginning of a year that was a nightmare for Lila.

School opened only 10 days later than had been planned. It, was exactly two months to the day since the earthquake, but all the partitions were in. Work con­tinued on the outside walls until August. Lila had made friends and had a good reputation among Indian government officials who thought highly of her ability and her efficiency.  She used her connections to get a substantial amount of earthquake relief money to rebuild the school.

Meantime, what about the students who were going to attend the school? They had seen newspaper stories of damage in Darjeeling, so they wondered what would happen to them.  Little by little, word spread among the students that Lila had been summoned and that the school was seriously damaged. Eventually, Lila was able to send letters to all the students' families describing the situation she had found and the plans as she saw them. She said that the school had been judged to be structurally sound and it was expected that it could be repaired suffi­ciently to open it but a bit later than originally planned.

Some parents were worried about sending their children up to Darjeeling, so they took a trip up to see for themselves. They returned to tell others how all the partition walls in the two upper stories had been dismantled where the living quarters were located, and they were being rebuilt with reinforced concrete, so the building would be quite new and entirely safe. Until the building was done, the staff would live in cottages on the school grounds that were usually occupied by parents visiting their children during the school year.

When the students arrived on March 15th, there were piles of stones; mounds of broken plaster, sand, and other debris; a forest of scaffoldings; the broken ends of the school's two wings; hundreds of broken windows; bent and twisted steel girders. Many saw it as a picture of desolation and destruction. Inside, the building reeked of new paint, new plaster, and varnish. It was cold and damp. The floors were not their usual spotlessly clean. There was evidence of fresh cement everywhere. The building looked quite safe, but very depressing.

Some students tried surreptitiously to make arrangements to go back to their homes. Others stood rooted to the spot, not knowing how they could adjust to what stood before them. Some went directly to Lila and asked her to let them go home at once. Lila gave each of them her time and attention and asked them to try it for two weeks. If, at the end of two weeks, they still wanted to go home, she would make the arrangements. Apparently, it worked. No one went home.

School was organized and classes began immediately. They were held wher­ever space could be found: in the library, an unoccupied office, the sewing room, the art room, anywhere. Two dormitories had been destroyed, so sleeping arrangements were created by crowding beds into the usable dormitories. The next morning, the bell rang as usual for students to attend morning prayers - but the Assembly Hall had been destroyed. They were crowded into what had been the teachers’ parlor, where benches had been placed.  Everyone had a seat, but their knees were up to their chins, and they looked like a tin of sardines.

That temporary arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory so after a couple of weeks a divider curtain was hung in the children's dining room and the benches were put there for church and chapel services. The arrangements meant that the dining tables were placed very close together causing problems for the bearers serving food, but it was manageable.

Classes began in earnest despite the noise of pounding, coolies singing, chipping stones, etc. Teachers developed strong lungs in order to be heard above the din. Daily the work continued, and daily everyone watched the progress. When the children had arrived on March 15th the Assembly Hall and Kindergarten wing had already been dismantled, the roof was off, the walls had been torn down to the foundation, and they were already rebuilding. They were still dismantling the classroom and dormitory wing. Day by day, the reconstruction progressed.

It was a tradition at the school to hold an annual Sale Day in May. To this event, parents and other guests were invited. There were speeches, entertainment, and concerts. In 1934, Sale Day was held on Saturday, May 26. The Assembly Hall, though still incomplete, was used for the first time, despite the fact that it resembled a huge barn with a tin roof.

Soon after Sale Day, the Kindergarten was able to move down to their old quarters. Gradually, the hammering, pounding, and scraping diminished The scaffolding was removed front the exterior and the finishing touches commenced. Now, in place of the sand and debris on the playgrounds, there were resurfaced tennis courts, new swings, and new playground equipment. The Assembly Hall had a big beautiful stage in place of the inadequate one of the past. The acoustics of the hall had been improved by the installation of a special ceiling and stage. The exterior, too, was more imposing, with the seal of the school at the top gable and the name "Mount Hermon School" across the end of the wing where it could be seen as one approached the school.

A word about the name of the school. When it opened in 1926, it had the same name as its predecessor, Queen's Hill School. It was built on land known as the Mount Hermon Estate. Over the years, as the number of male students increased, many of them expressed their disapproval of the name "Queen's Hill School". It sounded sissy. Gradually, the name "Mount Hermon School" had crept into general usage. So when the school was rebuilt, the name was officially changed to Mount Hermon and that name was emblazoned on the end of one wing.

During the 1934 school year, Lila arranged for the publication and distribution of a little booklet (3½" x 4¾") entitled “What is an Educated Heart?”  In January of that year, the Reader’s Digest magazine printed an article, “The Educated Heart” by Gillett Burgess, from which the booklet was developed.  The Preface, signed by Lila, said: “This little booklet is presented to you in order to help you lay solid foundations for Christian Characters. I hope it will help you to form good habits, attitudes and relationships in the life and work of the school, and in your later life.  Remember, boys and girls, that the only human example we have of a perfect Educated Heart is found in our Bible. I would urge each of you to take Jesus as your example and try to develop an Educated Heart.” Each page of the booklet presented a set of rules and a familiar quotation related to one of the following characteristics of an Educated Heart: Reverence, Loyalty, Truth, Social Attitudes, Obedience, Punctuality, Stick-To-It-Iveness, Self-control, Initiative, Judgment, Thrift, and Good Sportsmanship. Throughout the year, Chapel services addressed the various rules and their application in students' lives.  As principal of the school, Lila made it a practice to send letters to the parents of the children periodically. One of those letters was dated July 27, 1934.  It is printed here because it reveals something of Lila's responsibilities and practices as principal of that mission school at that time in its history:

 

Dear Parents:

I have had several inquiries about our date for going down this year. The school  party will leave here on Monday, Dec.3rd. That is exactly ten days later than the date I had asked for before the earthquake, but we came up just ten days later also.

A couple months ago I mentioned in my letter that we are making arrange­ments for a more adequate school uniform for next year. Whiteaway Laidlaw have now in stock boys' hose sizes 7½” to 10½”for Rs.2/- to Rs. 2/12 per pair. These are wool hose with the gold double border below the knee. Caps are Rs. 2/3 each; elastic web blue and gold belts with a snake fastener @  1/3; little girls' hose sizes 6 to 10 @  1/8 to Rs. 2/per pair. If you wish us to get these things for your children, write and we shall give the order. I am getting prices of tennis socks with a gold border for the bigger girls to wear.

I am making a campaign against our children reading trashy literature. I wish to make an appeal to you parents not to send the girls and boys any magazines except really good literature. I am forbidding them spending time reading Movie magazines etc. They can put their time to much better use than filling their heads full of trashy reading and I’m sure you all agree with me and cooperate.

We have begun our special study of Ideals or Character Traits for this year Each pupil is given a pamphlet "What is an Educated Heart?". This booklet has the rules for developing an Educated Heart or for forming a Christian Character. Last year we started this study and it was so successful and was spoken of so highly by both pupils and teachers that we decided to elaborate on the rules and to try to make them apply more closely to our own school. We have based the study upon an article in the Readers' Digest "The Educated Heart". This article has proved so helpful to pupils and teachers that we decided to weave our own traits around this and make our finished product an "Educated Heart". I hope you will remember to ask your children about the pamphlet when they come home and will try to continue the training through the holidays.

In case you are planning a trip to Darjeeling this autumn, I am giving the dates of some of the coming events in the school so you might time your coming for some of these.  Each fortnight we have a recital by the piano pupils. We had one a fortnight ago on Friday the 27th of this month. Work has begun on the recitation contests. There will be six preliminary contests (dates will be settled later) and then the final contest will be held on October 30th.

Miss Sutton has done some very good work in her Drill Classes this year and she is having them give a Gym Display on September 28th. We have set October 6th for our Sports' Day.  On October 10th, we are having a School Sale, Tea, and Concert. The Concert is to be an Operetta by the Junior Singing Class. The Trinity College Music Exams are to be September 24th or 26th, Associated Board Exams October 23-25th. The Progress Association is having its annual Floral Fete on October 20th and our school will give an item on the programme. The Euro­pean Schools' Singing Festival is to be on Nov. 10th I hear.

The staff is very busy getting the Blue and Gold ready for publication. We shall hear more about that later.

Almost everybody in the school has had mumps now so the epidemic is subsid­ing. We have had over 70 cases in all not counting the day scholars who have had it. Our Isolation hospital is without any occupants at present for the first time since the last of March. We are not sorry.

I'm sure you will be very sad to hear that Mr. Sur's daughter, who I told you had galloping consumption, passed away in Calcutta on July 12th. Mr. Sur will soon be back here in the office, and Miss Field has come up from her work in Calcutta for a couple of weeks and I am to go away for a two weeks' rest. I shall be in the station near enough to be called in case of an emergency.

Before another month has gone we expect to be in the whole of our repaired sections of the building. We are now using the classrooms and teachers' rooms. The dorms will be completed in another few days and the assembly hall in a couple of weeks.  We hope to have an opening of the new wings in the autumn when Government is up here, especially if they give us a substantial grant towards these repairs!

Yours sincerely,

L. Engberg

 

Seven months to the day after the earthquake, on August 15th the new Assembly Hall was re-dedicated. To quote from the dedicatory speech: "We need not mourn for the greater glory of the former building that was shattered by the earthquake. Instead we all rejoice that the latter glory is greater than the former.  The Assembly Hall is now more firmly constructed, more strongly bound together than before. We would now, therefore, render hearts full of thanksgiving to our Gracious God who, of His infinite mercy and goodness, has made all this possible. It was He who gave the faith and courage that enabled us to say 'it shall be rebuilt'.

So the school was rebuilt; it was well regarded by the parents and by the Indian government; the children were happy. It seemed that what Lila had done had turned out well. But the building committee and the people in charge in the mission were displeased. Lila's success in raising the money and getting the school rebuilt when they had thought it couldn't be done, did not please them They wanted to get rid of her, so when her four-year contract expired, they refused to renew it. Lila had given what she considered nine of the best years of her life to the school and she had loved It. She believed she had done her work well, that she had made many friends and few enemies, but the enemies had the real power.

School closed in December, so Lila and Mildred left India later that winter. On their way back to the United States, they stopped in England and spent three months with Alta, Cecil, and their two children, Lenore, born in 1930 and Alfred, born in 1933.  Mildred attended school in London during the time they were there.

In May, 1935, Lila and Mildred sailed from Southampton to New York on Cunard's Berengaria.

 

Copyright © “Lila - A Biography" by Mildred E.  Katzell,  2006

  

 

   

Return to Home Page Books Gallery Members Songs History of MHS Memories of 1954--55 Photo Gallery Newsletter Little Gems Links News Update MHS' Most Famous A Headmistress' Story MHUSA Newsletter Daughter of Tibet Contacts Charles Swan Growing up in INDIA David Stewart Mr Murray MH Reunion USA John Johnston