Not only did Miss Hockaday prescribe the schoolgirl’s uniform — middy blouse, bloomers, black stockings, and high-top brown leather "cow shoes" — but she passed judgment on the girls’ street dresses and ball gowns. Delivery trucks from Neiman’s sometimes brought the long boxes with prom dresses first to Miss Hockaday’s cottage. At the tea dances, if she detected alcohol on the breath of any young man, he was blacklisted from further participation in Hockaday social functions. Indeed, some of the earliest graduates recalled that no men were allowed at dances at all. The girls danced with each other and, to this day, some admit, they have to consciously remember not to "lead."
Hardly anyone remembers being scolded by Miss Hockaday; it simply wasn’t necessary. Her awesome presence was usually enough to correct any irregular activity. Exie Tunson remembers serving coffee to the faculty after dinner in one of the rooms not far from the study hall. "We’d close the doors and all have a ball in there," Exie recalls. "One night, Miss Winifred Clopton was playing the piano, and I said, ’Miss Wini, play the "St. Louis Blues."’ And boy she wailed away on the 'St. Louis Blues.' And Miss Gulledge and Miss Dolly and a bunch of us, we were all trying to sing low all about ’got the St. Louis Blues,’ and Miss Hockaday opened the door. Oh boy! It was like a bunch of roaches when you turn on the light."
A similar story comes from an early boarding student. She and her roommates dared to sneak back into the kitchen after lights out for an additional serving of ice cream. Just as their spoons were digging into the large ice cream can, the lights went on. There stood Miss Hockaday in her bathrobe with flashlight in hand. "Oh, girls," she said sweetly, "You must still be hungry. Well, this is certainly no way to eat. Put those spoons down." With that she summoned a maid, instructed her to put on a uniform, set the table with linen place mats, napkins, crystal bowls, and spoons. The errant boarders were led to the dining room and required to choke down two bowls of ice cream before returning to their rooms. No scolding. Just a presence powerful enough to scotch any signs of rebellion within her realm.
Those were the days when rebellious girls seamed-in their middy blouses with safety pins or waved at the boys from the Terrill School who circled the campus and sometimes left notes in the columns out front. Surprisingly enough, some of those with the safety pins in the seams of their middies have the warmest recollections of their days at Hockaday. "She gave me hell," says one who is still something of a rebel, "but I admired her because she was tougher than I was, and she never held grudges. She came to my wedding even though I married a man she had blacklisted for responding improperly to a tea dance invitation. Actually his roommate at SMU had responded to the invitation for him — on toilet paper."
Miss Hockaday attended a lot of weddings. And even the husbands of Hockaday graduates can often tell you what Miss Hockaday sent as a wedding gift. The wives can also tell you how it was wrapped and whether she brought it personally or had Sam, her chauffeur, deliver it. Her gifts invariably became family treasures. An inveterate collector, she almost always gave pieces of antique silver, sometimes from her own collections. "Thanks to Miss Hockaday," one early graduate says, "many of us who graduated in the '20s are 'silver and china rich.’ The Depression was already hitting Europe, and many fine European families were having to liquidate their assets. Miss Hockaday encouraged us to invest in these treasures." Always a frugal woman, Miss Hockaday supported herself during lean years with her antique collections. "If she needed a little money," Exie Tunson says, "she’d just sell off a little Rockingham china."
If Miss Hockaday seems a little stuffy, it may be because I had such difficulty getting what I felt to be a complete picture of her. Even those graduates who returned as married adults to have a dinner at her cottage admit that they never quite felt relaxed enough in Miss Hockaday’s presence to partake of the preprandial martinis and cigarettes she proffered. If she had any sense of humor, no one I talked with could specifically recall it. They remembered her intelligence, her probity, her self-discipline, her kindness, her concern for each of her students, her impeccable taste, but no one seems to remember a time when she took herself less than seriously or displayed any vulnerability. Helen B. Callaway of the Dallas News recorded a favorite story about Miss Hockaday in a 50th anniversary story in 1963:
On the third day of World War II, the news wire had chattered out a sizzling story that was to send American blood pressures soaring: A German submarine had torpedoed and sunk the British liner SS Athenia, with 1,418 people aboard, including many from the United States. A number were Hockaday students.
Reporter Fred Zepp called Miss Hockaday late that night, rousing her from sleep to break the news of the stunning tragedy at sea.
After the briefest of pauses. Miss Hockaday commented: "That seems highly irregular."
Perhaps the maintenance of very high standards always requires a little stuffiness. And sometimes Miss Hockaday’s highly valued code of self-discipline went to extremes. The story is told of a Latin teacher, a spinster as most teachers were in those days, who came to Hockaday from Virginia. She brought with her the exquisite antiques accumulated by generations of her aristocratic forebears. She was just the sort of refined woman Miss Hockaday valued as a model for her girls. "Self-control is the mark of a gentlewoman," preached Miss S. And she demonstrated it most dramatically one day when a breathless student interrupted her class to announce that Miss S’s apartment was on fire. "Is the fire department there?" Miss S. calmly asked. "Yes," replied the excited student. "Very well, class, we will continue our declensions." The teacher lost everything in the fire and was generously taken in by a day student’s family for the remainder of the term. That she hanged herself after graduation that year is a sad commentary on the virtues of gentlewomen.
The parents who brought Miss Hockaday to Dallas wanted a college preparatory school for their daughters, and she obliged by sending members of her first graduating classes to such schools as Barnard, Smith, Radcliffe, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Stanford, and Vassar. As there was no ambivalence about proper conduct for a young lady, Miss Hockaday had no lack of conviction about what belonged in a woman’s education. She based her school on what she called the Four Cornerstones: Scholarship, Courtesy, Athletics, and Character. According to a 1928 graduate, "Hockaday gave me the nuts and bolts for building a very satisfying liberal arts education. In those days we were never asked to do anything particularly creative. There was too much to be learned, and I guess we were vessels to be filled. I know that’s not a popular educational concept today, but I’ve never had any regrets about the sort of discipline that Hockaday gave me." "A passion for thoroughness" was the way a later graduate phrased it. To Miss Hockaday’s credit, in an age when women were under no pressure to pursue careers, a surprising number of her graduates gained some national attention as artists, writers, archaeologists, and musicians.
As early as 1935, Miss Hockaday saw fit to bring Judge Sarah T. Hughes to speak to her junior college students on "A Woman’s Opportunities Today." Just what those opportunities were is suggested in these remarks by a student who recorded Judge Hughes’ visit in the 1938 Hockaday history:
As a result of her talk, my typewriting took on new significance, and shorthand was no longer an unintelligible offspring of the Morse code. Later Miss Trent asked her psychology class how many planned careers. Still under the inspiration of Judge Hughes’ talk, every hand in the room was raised. The students fully expected a woman like Miss Trent with fifty years of successful teaching behind her to endorse their decision. Instead, she chuckled and said, "I’m sorry; I wanted you all to get married and have children."
And that is precisely what most of them did. Even many of those Hockaday scholars who showed early promise in their chosen careers willingly exchanged their ambitions for what society regarded as woman’s chief service, motherhood and homemaking. Many of them married very well, and as one put it, "never again had the fire in my belly that would have fueled a career."
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