Home management memories

Author: Cal Powell

In fall 2016, UGA became the largest public university in the country to require students to engage in experiential, or hands-on, learning prior to graduation.

For former residents of the college’s home management houses, experiential learning is nothing new.

Since shortly after its founding as the division of home economics in 1918, the college required hands-on learning through its home management course.

Here’s how it worked: students lived in one of four 1930s-era homes on South Campus (Houses A, B, C and D) and oversaw all operations involved in managing the home, from budgeting to cleaning to laundry to preparing meals and hosting dinners.

Most homes housed eight students at a time, meaning students had to navigate inevitable personality conflicts in addition to stretching limited resources – all while being graded for it.

Marihope Troutman Flatt jokingly called herself a house “captive” in the sweltering summer of 1957.

House mother Matilda Callaway, famously and ruthlessly attentive to detail, was “the head jailer,” Flatt joked.

“I recall vividly bounding up the steps to my shared bedroom, lying on the wooden floor and sobbing when my meat effort was ridiculed,” Flatt recalled.

The residency requirement was phased out in the 1980s, but the legacy of experiential learning lives on in the college.

Flatt said like the curriculum, her thoughts on the value of the home management experience have evolved, as well.

“In retrospect, it was good to live in an organized fashion as that was my one experience,” she said. “Actually, it was the best course I ever had. I think I need a refresher.”

A few former residents of the homes shared their thoughts with us:

Six women in front of house

Nanci Posey, BSHE 1956

“Miss Matilda Callaway was our housemother and she was tough! She hid that toughness behind a perfectly honed model of a genteel Southern lady. We had to mind our manners at all times and dress as proper Southern young ladies when we were downstairs: no jeans, no shorts, no pajamas or robes. Upstairs in our bedrooms we could dress as we pleased as long as the room was tidy.”

“Not only did we learn to plan and cook nutritious and attractive meals, but we learned how to serve them properly, how to seat the guests – and there was a definite ticking order to that – what subjects were appropriate for dinner conversations and those that were not! I think I realized for the first time that running a home is a big job!”

Mary Jo Smith Beverly, BSHE 1970

“The most important thing I learned from home management was that I didn’t want a family of eight! Two sons were enough.”

“I also remember almost causing a fire when we sprayed lemon extract on a baked Alaska to impress Dean Speirs when she was our dinner guest and having to cook calves’ liver rare because that’s the way Miss Jenkins liked it. I also remember fondly eating lunch many days with my home management housemates at the nearby Continuing Education Center - the only meal of the day we didn’t have to cook.”

“I think of home management when I buy a head of iceberg lettuce: ‘Wrap your head in a towel!’ and ‘Core it, wash it, drain it, wrap it and refrigerate.’ ” Fifty years later, it still works!”

Vera Stewart, BSHE 1974

“My fondest memory is the time I was in charge of meal preparation for the entire week. You had to utilize all of the equipment in the kitchen at least once during the week in preparation of the meal. Let’s just say the microwave was truly new on the scene and that most people did not know anything about it. The dish I chose to make it in was stuffed peppers, which exploded several minutes into the kitchen setting that day.”