Love in the archives

written by Evan Spencer, Graduate Assistant

Sometimes while working in the archives, you come across a mystery that you have to solve. About a month ago, while working on a finding aid for the Midlanders, I came across my mystery.

The Midlander was MTSU’s yearbook from 1926-2004, and here at the Gore Research Center, we have both plain copies and people’s personal copies.

Everyone remembers scrawling little notes in their friends’ yearbooks, right? As a child, yearbook day was exciting because no matter what our teachers wanted us to do, my classmates and I would pass around our yearbooks and write funny notes to each other. Turns out that students at MTSU in the 1930s and 1940s enjoyed this same activity!

*Cue mysterious music*

So here’s where it gets interesting. While processing the Midlanders, I may have been slightly distracted by reading some of the notes in the margins. These notes were fascinating. Friends have always goofed around, even during tough times like World War II. All of the notes are interesting and worth reading, but one in particular caught my attention…

In the 1944 yearbook of Blanche Cook, who was Miss S.T.C. in 1946, there are many notes. Most of them reference Blanche as a “sweet girl” with a bright future. Some of them reference her relationship with a mysterious man, known as “Bill.” I describe Bill as mysterious because it’s hard to know exactly who Bill is. No one mentions his last name, or anything else about him. Luckily, Bill wrote a lengthy letter to Blanche in the yearbook. Here it is:

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So basically, Bill was unquestionably in love with Blanche. The post-script is what made me interested. How could I not want to know if Bill and Blanche rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after? (Bill +Blanche 4evr!!1!) What if Bill wrote “P.S. wanna get married?” and Blanche said, “YES! Finally!”? I had to know!

First, I tried to find out Bill’s identity. If I was to find Blanche in any later publications (presumably as a married woman), I’d need to know her potential husband’s last name. I found several potential “Bills” in the yearbook, but I had no way to know if any of them were my Bill  er… Blanche’s Bill….

At this point, with inspiration coming from The 5th Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues,” I decided to search for Blanche in other ways. First, I searched online for “Blanche Cook ____,” trying the last names of the several Bill candidates from the yearbook (This sounds like a good premise for a game show!). None of these worked.

Getting desperate, I tried “Blanche Cook MTSU” in Google. Finally, I came up with a result! Blanche Cook McClure. So now I know Bill’s last name! McClure! They got married and lived happily ever after!

…Except they didn’t.

By this time, my ranting and manic searching for Bill’s identity had attracted the attention of my colleagues. They popped out from their cubicles and entered in the all-out search for Blanche’s love interests.

Finally, we found a file in our own archives that would settle the issue once-and-for-all.

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There’s our girl!

This file was MT Oral History #281 Blanche Cook McClure. Turns out that on February 22, 2006, Blanche had come to MTSU and done an oral history interview about her experiences at MTSU.

She talks about how she had been deeply in love with Dean Beasley’s son, Dale Beasley (who went by Bill). Bill was in the service, and he spent three years in the Philippines. In her 2006 interview, Blanche explains that they carried on their relationship through letters and occasional visits. When Bill arrived home permanently in 1946, he wanted to get married right away. Blanche said that while she had always expected to marry him, she didn’t feel like she knew him well enough, and couldn’t marry him right away. Bill gave her an ultimatum (marry him by September 1946), and she refused.

Our heroine was an independent woman who needed time to understand her feelings for Bill. Bill wouldn’t give her the time, so she moved on.

Relax, folks. Blanche found love a few years later in the form of Clyde McClure, a coach at the high school Blanche taught at. As for Bill, well…. we haven’t found any information on him yet. His story has yet to be uncovered.

What kind of stories are hidden in the archives? Love stories!

Come to the Gore Research Center to see what you can find!

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