University of Minnesota
In the fall of 1919 I entered the University and signed up for a course in Architecture. I decided on this only because I figured it would give me a career where I could make practical use of my art talent being too ignorant of any other possible fields of endeavor. I liked it very much and excelled in the studies that required art ability.
I turned in a few cartoons to the school annual whose art editor at the time was Levon West – later a prominent etcher and who later on as a prominent photographer took the name of Ivan Dmitri. Years later, in New York city after a lecture he gave on the then infant business of color photography I went up to shake his hand and we reminisced on our days at U. of Minn.
Despite the fact that I had a part time job in the school library the $600 that I had saved was pretty well depleted by the end of the year. I began to look forward to what to do the following year. I returned home on the train a sadder, hungrier and thoroughly dispirited failure and got back on the telephone gang. During the summer of 1920 I decided to quit my study of architecture and go to study art at the Chicago Art Institute. I regretted leaving the University and dropping the study of architecture but I figured I had no choice. I just knew I needed more money than I could raise to continue.
While at the university in the early spring I was sucked in on a deal to sell books during the summer. “The Peoples Home Library,” a combination cook, doctor and veterinary book for farmers. After taking training on the “steps of selling” I was assigned a territory in Southern Illinois with Roodhouse as my headquarters. I took the train, of course, and took along my bike as baggage to use for transportation after I got there.
So I arrived in Roodhouse, rented a room and started out hopefully to hit the highways and by-ways to sell the book, eight dollars complete. Well, I soon found out I was not a salesman or the farmers were too poor to buy. All I heard about were their troubles, the seven year locusts were eating their crops, etc.
Anyhow, I decided to quit trying to sell books. I mulled the idea of riding my bike all the way back to Eau Claire. I lacked the money to buy a R.R. ticket all the way back. But by begging the station master to buy my fountain pen I was able to raise the necessary cash. In those days they didn’t have these ten cent pens they have now.
So I returned home on the train a sadder, hungrier and thoroughly dispirited failure and got back on the telephone gang for the summer.
Studying Art In Chicago
So in the fall of 1920 I headed for the Chicago Art Institute, by train, of course, for in those days practically all traveling was by train,. Intercity busses were non-existent and who could afford a car. The first thing to do was to pick up a roommate which I did, a fellow named Roland Beard (long since dead) and we rented a room on the near North Side, about a mile from school so I could walk back and forth. This area was, at that time, practically all rooming houses for students, etc. We never worried about coming home late or feared muggings as they do now.
I always had a roommate to share expenses. One time four of us had a room together, Henry Chapman, Bob Middleton, Kazu Kaueko and myself. Harry Reynolds took Kaueko’s place. Bob Middleton, who used to cut our hair, became a famous type designer for Ludlow Co., Harry Reynolds head of Art Dpt. U. of Utah, Logan, Utah, and Chapman a very successful Chicago commercial artist.
Clarence at the Chicago Art Institute.
My years at the Art Institute were very happy as far as school work was concerned. I excelled in practically every type of art, had lots of fun with fellow students and began to like the girls, too. My favorite, and the one dated frequently, was Margaret Schneider. I really loved that gal, but as time went on she showed less interest in me and I did not press matters.
Making my way through school, though, was pretty grim at times. I always had a job in a restaurant or cafeteria near school so I’d be sure to eat. One year I did janitor work two hours before school and one year I taught children’s class Saturday mornings for my tuition which was $200 per year. A couple of years I worked nights as a checker at the Dearborn St. R.R. station for the Express Co. for 49 cents per hour. After work, I had to walk two miles home, sometimes very late at night. Every summer, of course, I worked for the Telephone Company which put me in good physical condition to start the fall term.
I joined the Delta Phi Delta “fratority” (men and women), charter member Zeta Chapter, and had some nice times socially with them. We had dances and picnics and got in some nice homes, but it was mostly an honorary organization.
(Clarence is pictured back row, center.)
I really worked hard and I guess I ran myself down more than once. As an example one year my schedule was like this. Up at 6 a.m. with a mile walk and a hasty breakfast to the Art Institute for my janitor job 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Classes to 11:30 when I would rush over to a restaurant and eat lunch, then bus dishes 12:00 to 1:00 noon hour. Back to classes and to the restaurant for the second meal I had earned then a mile walk to the R.R. station to report for work at 4:00 p.m. I would work here anywhere from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. depending how much work there was and then the two mile walk back home. In addition I was doing some charcoal portraits of famous people for a phrenologist who used them to illustrate his lectures. One year I had a job working nights at the Chicago Public Library. This was right down my alley for I had worked at the U. of Minn. Library and practically lived in the Eau Claire Library. The librarian who hired me said he chose me because he said I had an “honest face.” Most of the time I spent finding books for customers who would put their requests on a slip. Half of the year I worked in the periodical room handing out magazines. It was a wonderful hangout for bums and other characters – a nice place to spend a cold winter evening. I really met some characters there.
An artist by the name of George Trimmer spent a lot of his time working on us art students to join the Bible Class at the Fourth Presbyterian Church which was in our neighborhood and which was perhaps Chicago’s wealthiest church. I joined the class and enjoyed it very much. I met some very fine people and gained a lot of respect for this church’s missionary efforts among we students. We poor art students certainly could add nothing to their coffers. I joined the church, too, and when I moved to Wichita, joined the First Presbyterian Church.
Clarence on Michigan Avenue, outside
the Art Institute.
Another job I had one time was helping to decorate a ritzy restaurant on Michigan Blvd. in the Blum building. The designer was a real nice Russian by the name of Ozanoff who mixed his colors with dry pigments and egg whites. The restaurant was decorated entirely with Russian motifs and was called The Samovar. Another time I helped the Art Institute curator make a survey of all the paintings in the Art Museum “catacombs” and never realized the enormous amount of art they held that was probably never shown.
Now and then a few of us students got free tickets to the Chicago Philharmonic concerts and even to the Chicago Opera Company’s productions. I spent many hours in the Field Museum of Natural History. I did a lot of walking in Lincoln Park and along the lake front and another Sunday afternoon diversion was attending free concerts at the Art Museum.
I graduated in the spring of 1923 and the program showed me as one of the honor students. I tried for awhile to get a job but was unsuccessful so I went back to Wisconsin to work for the Telephone Company deciding to come back in the fall to look for one.
When I did come back I first got myself a job bussing dishes so I'd be sure to eat and roomed with an art student on Chicago Ave. The first job I was able to get was as a "flunkie" in the Irwin H. Henoch Studio on Michigan Blvd. The job only paid me $10 per week so I had to keep right on bussing dishes. I picked up an art job one day and made $20 on it and I thought here I was a big shot making more in a few hours than I could make in a week at the studio so I quit. I did a job or two for "The Modern Hawkers" an advertising business. Their best account, as I remember, was Globe - Wernicke. All this time I kept right on bussing dishes while looking for a job.
Above: Two surviving painting from his time at the Chicago Art Institute. On the left is a watercolor which he once said "won first place." It's not know if that was a competition at the Art Institute or in another event. On the right is a surviving oil painting.