Graduate Studies at Champaign-Urbana, Illinois 1960-1965

     Keith received approval to enter graduate studies at the University of Illnois!  It really was going to happen!  We borrowed a farm truck from my brother, Richard Tice, and loaded it full with our belongings.  It reminded me of 'Ma and Pa Kettle" - even complete with a washtub hanging on the outside of the truck bed.  So, we loaded it up. The truck was full and we were on our way.  Not only was it a step toward our future careers, it was a promise for our future family as well.  You see, while we were in Lawrence, Kansas, we had been told  we would not be able to have more children.   Scott's birth was a miracle...and thank goodness for that !  But, we wanted him to have brothers and sisters too.  So, we soon decided that we would adopt children and we began the adoption process with the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society.  In order to qualify, we had to be home owners; so, we got a bank loan and bought a 3-bedroom house located at 1409 Glendale Drive in Champaign, Illinois.   

1960:  We moved in but we did not have any furniture because the three homes before (in Texas, Virginia and Kansas) had all been completely furnished.  And, we did not have enough money to buy new furniture.  These were definitely the 'lean years!"  So, we loaded  a mattress and springs from Mom and Dad Michal's storage barn as part of the farm truck articles.  When we unloaded the truck, we propped up this mattress in our new bedroom on four stacks of bricks (because we did not have a bed frame) -- and it worked!  Then, we went to the auction in Urbana and we bought furniture for the rest of the house (just to give you an idea-- later when we moved to Ohio, we sold that same furniture back to the Auction House and they gave us a total of $30!).  I found an old piano that someone donated to us, and we placed it in our bedroom because this is where I would teach piano lessons!   We put a single bed in one bedroom that would be Scott's bedroom; and the 3rd bedroom was empty--just waiting for the adoptive process to be approved.  We fenced in the back yard for the dog, spaded up space for a garden, planted grape vines around the patio space, and we were ready to begin our new life!  Keith began classes at U of I that autumn and I soon started teaching piano lessons for $2.25 a lesson (the extra 25 cents would help to pay for a babysitter for Scott when Keith was not there to take care of him.)  By November all the adoption paperwork was finished and we were placed on a waiting list to adopt a baby.  It was exactly 9 months later that our second child, Teraysa Kay was born -- but I will tell that story in the next paragraph (1961).  

We were very poor.  We lived on our GI Bill check of $160 per month plus money received from piano students.  But, we managed!  Each month we put all of our money in separate envelopes marked for groceries, gasoline/car repair, house payment, utilties etc. and we even had $10 left each month to begin a savings account!  Little did we realize that later (during our retirement years when we were volunteering to help families who were living in poverty in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas) we would really understand what it is like to live in poverty because we had experienced it ourselves.  Although we had great neighbors, it was lonely at first because we did not know anyone in Champaign, Urbana.  We soon joined the downtown Methodist Church (Dr. Plumb was the pastor) and before very long we met Rosemary and Mel Thornton who were members of the Sunday School class.  Mel was also in graduate school at U of I.   they lived just a couple of blocks from our house.  Rosemary taught violin lessons, and as graduate students, they were living frugally as well  They were about our age--great people!   We also became friends with some of the foreign students who were also studying in grad school--1 couple from Japan and another couple from South America (Bogota, Columbia).  We would meet once a month for dinner at one of our houses and although language differences made it more difficult, we shared our culture, customs and our friendship with each other.

1961:   Keith and Mel began riding Keith's motor scooter to and from the university to save money on gasoline.   Scott was a busy toddler who was growing rapidly.  With no money to buy new clothes, I  sewed everything that was needed for any of us to wear or I remade 'handed-me-down', old,outgrown clothes and I turned them into new ones.  Another of our neighbors, Jerry Lowder, was a grad student in music at U. of I.  He was excited about teaching group piano and although he encouraged me to continue to teach private piano lessons, he also motivated me  to begin teaching piano (using electronic keyboards) and music history and theory through small groups as well.  The was the beginning of my 'piano parties' and 'skill workshops' which continued and expanded into various forms throughout the remainder of my teaching career.  

Finally, graduate classes at the University were finished for the semester, and we decided to drive back to Kansas to visit our families.  Before we left, I went to visit our adoption caseworker to give her a phone number where we could be reached "just in case" our new baby was ready to move to our home.  However, she laughted and her words were "Oh, it will be a long time yet.  There is nothing pending."  So, we left for Kansas the next day When we arrived at Keith's parents house late that night, they greeted us at the door with "Your adoption caseworker called this afteroon.  You have a new baby, born June 23rd!   They want you to pick her up in St. Louis."  Wow!  We stayed in Kansas for two days more (long enough to visit our parents and for me to sew 3 baby outfits for our new baby at my sister's house) and then we returned to St. Louis to become acquainted with our new daughter whom we had decided to name 'Laurie'.   We could not afford a motel, so we pitched our tent and stayed that night in a State Park just outside of East St. Louis.  Our appointment was set for 9 a.m. the next morning.  So, we woke up in plenty of time, ate a quick (cold) breakfast, got in the car to go......and it would not start!  Finally, our new caseworker came out to the park and brought us back to their building.  It wasn't long before they brought in our baby, all dressed up in a new pink  dress.  She was so beautiful!  Scott was excited too. But, she didn't look like a 'Laurie' for some reason, so we spent several hours deciding what to name her while we were waiting for the car to be repaired and for the agency to finish the paperwork.  Finally, we decided to name her after our Colombian friend at the University--Teresa,   I loved the soun of that name because it was pronounced with a Hispanic accent--and I wanted to be sure that people pronounced her name properly; so, we spelled her name, 'Teraysa.  We added a middle name, Kay,  and nicknamed her 'Terry'.   And we headed back back to Champaign, Illinois to a house with no crib and no baby equipment to a neighborhood that would be quite astonished that we had left as a family of 3 and within a week returned home as a family of 4...with no prior warning!

1962:  Scott had a circle of preschool friends in the neighborhood and Terry had just begun to walk when I discovered that I was pregrant!   We were so happy -- but how could this happen -- the doctors had said that a second pregnancy was impossible.  When I asked my obstetrician, he just laughed and said, "Well,  when you tell a woman that she cannot do something, you can be sure she will just turn around and make it happen--just to prove you are wrong!"  We bought a second crib to add to the 3rd bedroom and about noon on June 11, 1962, Todd Richard Michal was born--another miracle!    Terry was 11 months old, Scott was 3, the dog, "Ebony" was 6, Keith was finishing up his Master's degree, and I had a piano studio program in full swing.  It was going to be a busy year!

1963-1964   Life was beautiful!   Keith was finishing up his work for the PhD degree and preparing for the oral exam.  I was a full time mother and also had a studio of about 20 piano students to teach each week.  And we had fun as well:  We became campers!  We purchased a large tent and could manage a weekend away from time to time.  Who would have believed that it could be so much fun to spend a weekend outdoors with 3 preschoolers and a dog!  But it was wonerful!  Those years were the beginning of a life-long dream come true for both Keith and me.  Keith was on his way to an academic career, I had established a music studio with creative and innovative music activities, and our family was a reality after all!   Only one thing was lacking.  

1965   It had been our original hope to be a family of 6 (Mom, Dad and 4 children).   Although the 3 that we had were absolutely the most beautiful, the smartest and the happiest kids we had ever known, and the fact that everyone of them was a major miracle, we still longed for 1 more to complete the original dream.  One day a family who were members of our church told us that they had been Foster Parents for many years and they were so excited about their experiences!  We soon would be moving to Columbus, Ohio, where Keith had been invited to become a member of the faculty at the Ohio State University Medical School.  Scott had just finished kindergarten; Terry and Todd had just had their birthdays--both in June.  We bought a 4 bedroom split level home in the subdivision of Devonshire in Columbus, Ohio.  We used the savings account money to purchase a camping trailor and we moved in the summer of 1965 to our new home and our new life in Columbus Ohio.  AND, we decided that as soon as we could complete the training and the paperwork, we, too, would become certified as a Foster Family.  

Lessons Learned from my Elders
Kansas University (KU) at Lawrence, Kansas 1959-19...

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Elva Michal (website) on Sunday, 23 July 2017 01:47


I am amazed and thrilled to read your stories! How determined you and Keith were as you began your life together. And how exact were your dreams and your plans to make them a reality! Thank you for the privilege of enjoying your stories. Can't wait to read more! Pat White

Elva, I am amazed and thrilled to read your stories! How determined you and Keith were as you began your life together. And how exact were your dreams and your plans to make them a reality! Thank you for the privilege of enjoying your stories. Can't wait to read more! Pat White t