I finished college in three years after taking summer classes, but no teaching job was available then, so I signed on for M.A. classes.
Then, a stroke of luck! A pregnant teacher at a nearby school decided to retire. In August, I got my first job as an English teacher at Altamont High School, about 15 miles from my home in Troy, New York.
Finding a place to live was easy at first. For $17 a week, I got a room and board at Mrs. Burns' house. As soon as she heard my steps on the stairs, she cracked an egg in the pan and set out a tasty breakfast.
Lunch was at school, where great food was available from dedicated cooks. Dinner at Mrs. Burns was varied and filling.
There I was at 20 teaching farm kids who were receptive and challenging. I learned to be careful about what questions I asked.
"What happened during Queen Elizabeth's period?" brought forth a muttered "I guess not much could have happened" from Gray Stevens, the class wit.
Mrs. Burns' granddaughters were in my classes and I was happy with everything.
Alas, once I left home for the Jewish New Year, Mrs. Burns told me I had to leave her house. Her brother occupied the room next to mine and because the room had no heat vent, he'd have to leave his door partially open.
Mrs. Burns said perhaps I could get lodging with "my people," a farm couple on the outskirts of town. The Zweig's certainly didn't need to take in a boarder, but they understood my situation and agreed to take me in if I consented to preparing my own meals anytime Mrs. Zweig was busy.
When I mentioned to students where I was living, they told me that Mr. Zweig was the only guy they knew who could wear two pairs of overalls with the fly open on each.
The hired man was Frank the Tank, so-called because he was usually carrying a gallon jug of Zinfandel as he worked.
One day as I was home alone, I decided to make a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Coming from a kosher home, I'd never made bacon. I poured oil in the frying pan and cooked the bacon, but it didn't seem very appetizing.
At the end of the year, my fiancé and I got married. He'd gotten a job teaching science at Altamont.
There were no apartments for rent, at least not for us. As a desperation move, we rented a room with a single woman, with kitchen privileges. That was not a happy home, because we had to follow our landlady's orders.
Near the end of that year, a woman approached me on the street and said, "We heard what a tough time you're having and would like you to move into an apartment just vacated in our house." There was a kitchen, a huge living room with a fireplace and a dining room downstairs and large bedroom upstairs.
We were so appreciative and enjoyed living there for three years. At that point, my husband went to Cornell University to work on his Ph.D. There we found inexpensive housing and other students who banded together learning to live on a budget.
Veteran's housing was available once a child was expected. My husband had served in the Army toward the very end of World War II.
At $38 a month with fuel supplied, it was a tremendous help. When the family expanded, a two-bedroom house was provided for $48 a month.
We were lucky to have so much help. It eased the studying for countless impecunious students like my husband.
Estelle Reisner is a longtime Meadville substitute teacher and blood donor and a former district justice.