Mildred Carpenter: School and Marriage

Excerpted from Mildred’s letters and interviews I had with her between 1977-1990. My additions to her letters are in brackets and I have edited her letters to clarify family names and to put events into chronological order. Photos are from my personal archives.

Mildred at left, her sister Nella at right

My folks moved to Gunnison so Nella and I could go to high school. We rode horses to school, though the one I rode sometimes aimed for low hanging branches and knocked me out of the saddle.

I took piano lessons; it was so good to work out my problems on the piano. I spent hours there, progressed fast and soon joined three others that played for some dancers. I took voice lessons, belonged to the drama club and the Glee Club. Our Glee Club entered state contests in Montana and took second place each time. I used to do some painting, took two years of instruction under a college teacher. She wanted me to go into designing clothing but I wasn’t interested. Most of the paintings were scenery. [Much later in her life, Mildred would apply her artistry to becoming a ceramist, and ran a shop in the back of her home where she sold greenware, supplies, and finished pieces.]

When I first entered high school, the principal had us write down what we would like to do when we graduated. I said “be a teacher.” Three weeks later I was in charge of the study hall for one period. It was a trying job as all my classmates were in it. Each day six or eight were sent to the principal’s office for misconduct.

A few weeks later I was asked to work in the office two hours a day. I kept that job the full four years I was in school. It was great! I knew what was going on in school and out of school as well. There were drinking problems, thievery and family problems to deal with. I learned to type so I sent letters for the principal. [Mildred insisted that I learn to type when I was in high school as well, which I fought against at the time but am now very grateful for.] I also did extra work after school some days, addressing envelopes for pay. It wasn’t much but gave me some extra spending money.

I excelled in athletics and when school was out, I helped the coach teach tennis to college students at summer school. [Mildred must have been very engaged in high school sports – she had several photos of the football team as well as shots of both the basketball team and the individual players in her scrapbook. ]

My sister and I were among the 21 students on the class roll for the Gunnison County High School commencement exercises on June 11, 1928. Our class motto was “No Progress Without Labor”; our class colors were Emerald and Silver, and our class flower was White Rose. My sister was listed as Elizabeth McKee Carpenter. We didn’t make the honor roll or other class distinctions, but I did serve as Class Treasurer. [Her diploma was dated June 13, 1928, and signed by W.L. Curtis (President), Mary A. Lawrence (Secretary), Richard Aspinall (Superintendent) and V.M. Rogers (Principal).]

Earl Hughes and I were married [the day before graduation] on Sunday, June 10, 1928 at 2 PM . The Roman Catholic priest was the only minister in town that weekend, so we had a Justice of the Peace [Robert J. Potter] perform the ceremony.

My mother did nothing for my wedding. No reception – nothing. All she did was cry. I knew nothing about weddings. Margie said she should have been told so she could bake a cake. Mamma didn’t tell her until that morning. She kept hoping something would happen and I wouldn’t get married. [Mildred would later relate this to her daughter Wilma – that her wedding was very simple with no flowers; that her parents did nothing to help; and no one told Earl that he was supposed to buy the bridal bouquet.]

Earl and I were happy. There were some arguments but the anger was gone in a few minutes. I couldn’t have had a better husband. We were very much in love.

[Her daughter Wilma, also recounts that not much was said about her parent’s courtship. Her mother did tell her that the night before the wedding, she slept with one of the Voutaz boys to make Earl jealous. This story gained some validity when I removed a photo of my grandparents from its frame to see if there was a date on the back, and out popped a photo of my grandmother and a man “not my grandfather”. That photo appears to be Joe Voutaz, captain of the Gunnison High School basketball team, shown in the sports section above. Perhaps it was a final fling…]

Published by August-Phoenix-Mercantile

I'm a self taught hat maker, working in rescued textiles and found objects. My designs are inspired by my travels and historical studies. Learn more about me and my hats at

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