girl" makes good
a place for women wasn't the point when Pauline Barnes '30 sought The
Skiff editorship in 1929. She just thought the job would be fun.
Jaime Walker '02
overwhelming results of the 1929 student body election proved TCU's coeds
thought it was a brilliant idea.
men on the University Publications Committee had doubts -- a "society girl"
should not be responsible for TCU's newspaper.
ignore the vote or her qualifications though. Pauline Barnes '30, former
editor of the society page of The Skiff, had a passion for reporting.
She had her finger on the pulse of the campus and she wanted the job.
So on Aug.
29, 1929, nearly 10 years to the day after women in the U.S. earned the
right to vote, "Polly," became the first woman to take the helm at The
back I guess it was a rather big accomplishment, especially for the time,"
Polly Barnes, later Polly Prescott, recalls more than 70 years later.
At 93, it's
harder to remember all the details of her tenure like she used to, but
hers is a memory wide and rich in its scope. Macular degeneration is slowly
robbing this tiny spitfire of her sight, but Polly conjures images of
TCU so vivid that today's green landscapes are reduced to prairie, and
what is now Tandy Hall is transformed into a football stadium full of
a fabulous time to be a student," she remembers, a bright smile flashing
across her face. "It was very exciting. I think that's one of the things
I liked most about working at the paper. We got to see it all."
memories of TCU are vague flashes from long before she began her university
I was about 6 years old, one of my neighbors was studying to be a teacher
at TCU. That summer she held a sort of practice kindergarten for those
of us who would be in school soon. My mother thought it was a great idea.
I remember riding an open-air trolley down the street in front of the
university. Maybe I liked it then and it stuck, but I don't know."
young English major who graduated a year ahead of her high school graduating
class, Polly began her time at TCU in 1925 amid a flurry of university
activity. Campus classrooms were bursting at the seams. Faculty needed
more room for instruction and students demanded more personal space. Female
students wanted fewer dormitory restrictions, while their male counterparts
touted the benefits of further recreational programming. Athletes and
alumni anxiously anticipated a new gymnasium.
a number of campus organization but felt most at home in the two cramped
rooms of Dave Reed Hall known as the Skiff office. Although Polly
enjoyed frequent campus lectures by prominent journalists like TCU graduate
and writer Douglas Tomlinson '09, she was a journalist without a journalism
university officials decreed that TCU would become one of four schools
in Texas to offer journalism courses. They hired well-known reporter,
editor and University of Missouri professor J. Willard Ridings to steer
the newly created journalism department. When he arrived on campus, Ridings
declared in The Skiff, that he would not only "put the university
on the map," but he would become the adviser for the campus paper.
extraordinary and I knew I would learn a lot, so I spent two years as
an English major and then switched as fast as I could," Polly said.
fingernails, polished bright red to match her favorite red coat, lightly
drum the tablecloth, as if the mere memory revives the excitement she
felt when she switched majors.
we used to take field trips downtown to the city paper," she said. "He
wanted us to see a working newsroom for ourselves."
the newsroom atmosphere, so when it came time for vacation she applied
as a "stringer"at the Star-Telegram.
write articles for the Fort Worth society section," she said. "They called
us stringers because they would take our story, measure the type with
a string and then pay us by the column inch."
quite remember what motivated her to apply for The Skiff's editor-in-chief
position in 1929, but she does remember the way it felt when she was selected.
I had to be elected by the student body, then I had to be approved. I
was sure they elected me because I was pretty or something, but I guess
it was because I had written the most for the paper the semester before."
still describes her job as "the most fun job on campus," she said the
most important events of her life took place after graduation.
I always enjoyed meeting people, and working for the paper was a great
way to meet people from all over the campus," she said. "When I left I
had visions I would work for The Washington Post or The New
York Times covering great society affairs or something, but that wasn't
what I was meant for."
1933, shortly after she married the love of her life, Luther Prescott,
the couple moved to a tiny apartment in Washington, D.C. She applied and
was interviewed for a job at the Post, but once she heard the offer,
her career plans changed forever.
told me I would have to come in at 1 a.m.," she said. "I hated the idea
of my husband having to drop me off there in the middle of the night and
pick me up around dawn. I knew I wanted a family so I said no and decided
I could write articles without writing for a newspaper."
found a job with one of President Franklin Roosevelt's "alphabet agencies."
She was hired as a researcher and junior economic analyst for the State
Department in the foreign trade treaty division, writing articles related
to each U.S. state's product manufacturing and exports. She profiled each
state's agriculture industry and became versed in reciprocal trade agreements.
of the articles I had written about the state of New York was used by
a Washington correpondent for The New York Times," she said with
a giggle. "That was as close as I ever got to writing for the The New
returned to Fort Worth in 1946 to raise their son Dan and daughter Paula.
Polly has lived here ever since, first in a quaint house on Alton, and
now in an apartment, where she "can be independent and not old."
involved herself in a variety of charitable causes. She founded Colonial
Columns, the newsletter for Colonial County Club, in the '60s. In
1967 she wrote for and helped found the Women's Club Courier. Never
too old to perfect her craft, she enrolled in a TCU feature writing course
has always been my first priority," she said. "The best copy I ever did
was my two wonderful children."
that some of the most meaningful lessons she has learned in life began
unfolding in her days at TCU. She lives one in particular every day.
simply a series of triumphs and struggles and joys. The best part about
being a writer and a mother is sharing those things. My independence is
so important to me, but really what matters is the interdependence we
all have with one another."