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Excerpted by Jim Dillard


Florence ConnerFlorence Conner graduated from Shorter College in June, 1930, with a major in piano and a minor in pipe organ. She had hopes of continuing her music education at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. However, these were the days of the Depression. Her parents could not afford to send Florence to Oberlin, and a local bank would not lend her the money. For a year she lived at home and taught piano in the city schools. Then she taught school in Albertville, Alabama, and boarded at the Hearn home.

During these years following graduation Florence (or Flonnie, as she was known at Shorter) kept up with six of her close college friends. In order to encourage them to write more frequently, she suggested a round robin. When a packet of letters written by the friends arrived, the recipient was urged to take out her previous letter, write another letter within a week, and send the letters on their way to the next friend on the list. The round robin made its rounds from June, 1931, to July, 1933. Florence married in September, 1933 and started classes for her Master’s degree in English at Vanderbilt University. The round robin ceased to function about that time.

Florence treasured her association with her six friends–so much so that she asked them to mail their letters to her. She lovingly typed carbon copies for each of them and compiled them into a little booklet, which she called Nonsense and Sense. These letters reveal the interests and activities of the writers, their fondness for their Alma Mater, and their struggles to make a living. In Florence’s case, they show a developing relationship with Aubrey Hearn, whom she had met while she was a student at Shorter. During the days of the round robin letters, Aubrey was attending law school at Vanderbilt University, earning his master's in English from Vandy, and working at the Baptist Sunday School Board.

We lovingly print excerpts from these letters in memory of Flonnie and her dear friends–Ida Shepherd McRae, Alice Shepherd Kimbrough, Genie Dodd Green, Birdie Bondurant Clower, Lucie Richards Perkerson, and Grace Jackson Cox (Florence’s college roommate for four years).

Andalusia, Ala., June 27, 1931 - Lewis, Thelma Moates and I spent last week at Mentone. Everything was wonderful. I took a book for Junior BYPU leaders with Mrs. Jerry Lambdin as teacher. . . Aubrey directed the recreation, and believe me he put things over in fine style. I was and am very proud of him. There was a tennis tournament, a horseshoe tournament, and games such as dominoes, checkers, croquet, and miniature golf all of the time. . . I seem to have written mostly about the recreation, but I would never stop if I tried to tell you about those inspirational addresses. And as for being with Aubrey! You will be glad if I never even begin on that. I will say that he gave me a beautiful sweetheart pin of his fraternity. It has twelve pearls in it. He also gave me a Vanderbilt pillowtop. . .
I believe I am having my compensation by getting the place in Albertville. I am well pleased over the prospects for my class, and over living in the Hearn home. They are so nice to me. I am to room with Mary Nell, Aubrey’s youngest sister. She is about fifteen and is adorable and likes me, I think. We have a room upstairs. Besides the advantage of being near Shorter and most of you, there is the very decided advantage of being nearer Nashville. Of course, Aubrey will have to come home often to see his folks, and I might get in on that. Then Mildred and her husband have a new car and have said they might go to Nashville some week-end. They want me to go when they go. . .
Albertville, Ala., Aug. 18, 1931 - I think I’m going to have a right good class this year if I will continue to work hard on it. It certainly is a job to go around to the different homes and argue the parent into letting their children take music. . .
Aubrey will be home next Friday night and will stay the week-end. The following week he will teach in a training school in Gadsden. I shall probably see him some during that week.
Albertville, Ala., Sept. 22, 1931 - After I had been here two weeks Allen wrote that he was going to Menlo for the week-end and would come by for me. As luck would have it, Aubrey was coming home that week-end, so I didn’t go. . . He was to teach in Gadsden the next week and they asked me to teach also, so I went down every afternoon on the bus and came back every morning–except on Wednesday I spent the day there. Aub. stayed with his married sister, Mildred, and I was with her mother-in-law, just three or four houses away, so we had a grand time. The next week he was in Mobile and last Saturday night he surprised us by coming home en route to Nashville. Unexpected visits are very thrilling–especially this one...
Albertville is a lovely little town up on top of Sand Mt. We are just about 30 miles from Gadsden and about five miles from Attalla, which is this side of Gadsden. . . Albertville is in the middle of the plateau and it doesn’t seem as if we are on a mountain. . . All the houses away from the town are beautiful. The little country homes are made of brick, and everyone prides himself on having lovely lawns. Our school campus is beautiful with its huge oaks. It is much like a college campus. My studio is in the junior high building, which is a nice brick building. This high school belongs to the state and is the 7th district agricultural school. It is entirely separate from the city school. We have a high, junior high building, an agricultural building.
Albertville, Ala., Oct. 22, 1931 - Aubrey and his roommate, George Kunkle, came down the week-end before the Ala.-Tenn. game in George’s car. I certainly am glad he is with him, because they can come often now. George lives in S. Dakota and he wants Aub. to go home with him for a two weeks visit after school this year. . .
Genie, you just make me realize how wonderful married life must be. I have always resolved that when I am married I am going to keep on growing (not fatter, I hope) in spite of all arguments to the contrary. If Aubrey locates in Gadsden as he is planning to do, I will be near enough to Shorter and Birmingham to continue my musical education and I mean to do it. Then too, what could be more wonderful than working in your own home to make it as attractive as possible? I think you are absolutely right.
Albertville, Ala., Jan 29, 1932 - [After a trip] Aubrey drove the Lambdin’s car back to Nashville with five other of his BYPU folks, including Mrs. H. Kelly White, his pastor’s wife. When they got to Chattanooga they spent the entire afternoon sightseeing. About five miles from Chatt. They came to a fork in the road. One led to Ala. And the other to Nashville. Aubrey asked which he should take and as no one said anything he turned to the left. They were here two hours and had supper.
Albertville, Ala., March 21, 1932 - I am going to be at home the most of the summer. I will spend one week-end in Mobile with Aubrey and H.S. and Mary Lou Sauls. Then our association is going to have an encampment from July 31­Aug. 5 on Lake Jackson, which is between the Ala.­Fla. Line. I am going to teach a Jr. BYPU study course. Aubrey is coming down home for a week-end and after he takes the Ala. bar exam.
He took the Tenn. Bar exam last month and was one of the 47 out of nearly 200 who passed. I am proud of him. . .
The Vanderbilt Glee Club sings over the Nashville station (not WLAC) every Tuesday night at 7:45 and you know Aubrey sings with them. . .
Andalusia, Ala., July 21, 1932 - Aubrey and I had a wonderful time with the Sauls in Mobile. We didn’t do much running around except for riding to see the city and to go swimming in Mobile Bay. . . .
I am not telling any secrets because nothing is definite yet, but I hope none of you are planning to be out of the USA between June and September next year for I might need every one of you. Of course I won’t need you the whole time–only a short while in fact. But I am contemplating something serious and I want all of you present. I will have some other news for you too in a week or two. Now, aren’t you excited?
And still some different news! I may teach here this winter. It may just be a private studio and it may be in the schools. The school situation in Alabama is so uncertain no one knows what to plan. It seems improbable that the school in Albertville will open and I couldn’t afford to go if it didn’t. I would love to teach here I think because I already have a splendid class and I wouldn’t have to pay board.
Andalusia, Ala., August 10, 1933 - You girls mustn’t get too enthused about next summer because it isn’t definite yet. I must save quite a pretty penny–and just now my prospects are uncertain–and I haven’t talked to the family yet. So you see there could be a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip! But we are almost certain . . .
Oh, goodness! It doesn’t seem possible that it will happen even in a year–we have waited so long already, so I won’t be surprised if it has to be put off longer.
The other surprise hasn’t happened yet, but I will tell you a little about it. Aubrey may not practice law after all but is considering some work with the S.S.B. Which will mean that we may live in Nashville.
Andalusia, Ala., September 25, 1932 - Well, girls, Aubrey has decided to give up law–surrender his ambition he calls it–to do religious work. He will get his masters at Vanderbilt this year as Mr. Lambdin advised him to. Time alone will tell if he chose wisely. He will always have law to fall back on if he is not happy in the other work.
Andalusia, Ala., May 5, 1933 - Aubrey will get his M.A. the fourteenth of June if he can pass all of those exams with a grade of B and finish his thesis. . . He truly is working himself almost to death and he writes very seldom. He knows though that he will have a week’s vacation as soon as school is out so he is holding on.
It has been definitely decided that we will live in Nashville and that Aubrey will continue his work with the S.S.B. After we are married and after I finish going to school next year and if we have a car and if we don’t decide to have a family too soon I might get to go with him some. I am very happy over the outcome of things in spite of the fact that his work will keep him away from home a great deal of the time. I don’t believe there will be any danger of our getting tired of each other. There will be compensations in some way I know.
We haven’t been able to make any plans for the wedding yet as we don’t know what the outcome would be about the job of Aubrey’s. We will plan while he is here in June and I will let all of you know what we decide. We may change the date [from Sep. 9] to Sept. 2. . . Mother doesn’t approve of a church wedding in these strenuous times and it can’t be a big affair as all of you have already been told. I just want all of you here and have the wedding simple yet beautiful as possible. If we can’t make a go of it it will break my heart, but don’t be surprised if I write that we will just have to elope.
Andalusia, Ala., June 8, 1933 - Did I tell all of you about sending my quilt to the Sears Roebuck Quilting Contest? It has been in Atlanta since May 16th and will be returned June 15 unless it should be selected to be exhibited in Chicago. Several here have said it is the prettiest quilt in Andalusia, but there are no experts here so that doesn’t mean anything, but it would be grand if I could win a nice sum on it. I would be proud of five or ten dollars.
Andalusia, Ala., July 7, 1933 - Aubrey asked me when he was here when we were going to the World’s Fair. We are planning a quiet honeymoon without much travel so won’t go then. If we could go it would have to be before Sept. 25 as that is when Vanderbilt begins. It seems unlikely to me that I could see nearly all of you, get married, have a wonderful honeymoon, and go to Chicago all in the same month. It is just too much for me to grasp and I can’t believe it can all happen to me.
Today my traveling bag came. While we were in New Orleans Aubrey took me to Leonard Krowor and Son and let me select the bag I wanted. It is brown leather and is fitted in amber. The mirror, brush, comb etc. (Fourteen pieces) are in a little overnight bag that fits into the larger bag like a tray. It is a lovely outfit. It is my birthday and wedding present.
He also bought my wedding ring while we were there, but I didn’t see it because I wanted to wait.