Excerpts from My Memoirs
by Ruth Starke Burkhead

"On March 20, 1916 I was born in the kitchen, with the assistance of Dr. Jamieson, by a midwife Mrs. Strine.

"I walked to and from school two times each day. We soon learned that temperatures below freezing for any duration would make it safe to take the shortcut across the lake to town and school. The lake would freeze over, but it needed testing to be sure the ice was thick enough to hold us up. So holding my brother's hand, we trudged across the slippery ice, being careful not to fall. I was the "big" girl to care for my brother, a year younger, and felt at times it was quite a torture to continue thru blizzards till we reached school."

RuthsHouseat550Ruth's House
This house on the northwest shore of Arcadia Lake is where Ruth grew up and lives today. Imagine walking across the frozen lake in the winter.

Going to School in Arcadia

"I began school in Arcadia, Michigan's Lutheran Church School in 1922 (6 years of age). We spoke German and English at home and at school for the first 6 grades, then for 7 and 8 just English. One teacher taught all 8 grades.

"Our school was a one-room school in a two-room building. The second room was used for Ladies Aid Socials and projects, for confirmation class for 8th graders, men's pinochle, etc., congregation meetings for the Lutheran Church next door. All facilities were heated with wood & coal burning pot bellied stoves & church with furnace. The teacher was required to start the fire."

Lutheran Church Buildings
The school was next to the church.

"When we completed 8 grades -- no kindergarten -- we were required to take the county exam to enter Arcadia High School. We worried a bit, but the word was we almost always came through with flying colors.

"Then came high school, the big grey cement block two-story building with six classrooms, a stage with auditorium, and superintendent in a hallway space. A small library was located up 5 steps and above the second story stairway."

Arcadia High School
The school was located on the northeast corner of Lake Street and 4th Street.

"Arcadia High School was the public school, housing students from 1st through 12th grade. My class numbered eight, four boys and four girls. The four high school grades totaled 50 students during the period I attended. We had 3 faculty. Miss Carlson taught the English and Latin classes. Mr. Beverly Martin taught history and literature. The superintendent, Mr. Hansen, taught algebra, geometry, physics, and chemistry.

"The big event for juniors was to decorate via a theme for the senior's prom held in the auditorium. Both juniors and seniors and their dates attended. I recall the theme the year I was involved was an underwater sea scene. We enjoyed trying to make it special."

Working at the Furniture Factory

"I was fortunate to get to work at the Arcadia Furniture Company office under the tutelage of my Dad. I loved it. Early years I retrieved papers, etc. from the waste basket, but found to my horror that sometimes they were contaminated with spit, or cigar stubs, etc."

Arcadia Furniture Factory
The factory was located at the north end of Bar Lake.

"My favorite machine was the mimeograph. I thought at the time that I would like to become a printer.

"Later years I enjoyed taking tourists through the factory to proudly "show & tell" them how furniture was made. The factory saying was "From Forest to Furniture. I would start in the sawmill and veneer vats and kiln, to the planing, to machines that cut pieces, to the assembling and finishing and crating to be shipped via rail, then trucks to dealers in many states, including big department stores in N.Y.C. (Hearns and Macy's)."

Going Away to College at MSC

"I felt lost as it was a large campus. I came from a small town of approximately 650 census, High School enrollment was never more than 50, the total of freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors."

College Life in the First Co-op

"To be involved in the 1st Co-op House, which we named Concord House, was indeed an opportunity."

RuthCoopPres1937at550Concord Co-op President
This is Ruth Starke in 1937 when she was the president of the first co-op at Michigan State College.

"Our duties were outlined as follows: Prepare, cook, and clean up after 3 meals daily. Those who had no class at 11AM were posted to prepare lunch. Those who had no class at 1PM were posted to clear tables, wash dishes, and clean up the kitchen. Same became true for breakfast and dinner. Our Dear Mrs. Cole [the House Mother] planned menus with 2-3 girls, and ordered groceries, which were delivered. All purchases including our heat and meals were met by our budget, the $5.25/per week per girl.

"For all of us at Concord House our duties included meals, laundry, cleaning our bunk rooms, kitchen, dining room, and living room (reserved for guests). Our social life included regular meetings with Mrs. Cole to discuss suggestions."

Ruth Louise Starke Burkhead
Ruth has been very active in community activities including thankfully the Arcadia Area Historical Museum. You often found Ruth guiding smiling visitors through the museum telling them stories of her childhood, great grandfather Henry Starke, the Arcadia Furniture Factory, and more with her personal view of the history of the Arcadia, Michigan area.




Ruth's Branch of the Family Tree

Ruth is a descendent of Henry Starke, the founder of the village of Arcadia.

Henry Starke

  - Henry's Son Charles Starke

    -- Charles' Son Robert H. Starke

      --- Robert's Daughter Ruth Starke Burkhead

Senior Honors at MSC

RuthStarkeInCollegeHonored Student at Michigan State College
Ruth was a Senior at Michigan State College during the 1937-1938 academic year. She was also the Ag Queen, Class Secretary, and Mortar Board honoree.

"When I learned I had been chosen to be Queen, I got busy and made my own dress--Aqua Satin. I enjoyed working on it. My mother, having been a seamstress, had taught me the fine rudiments as well as my courses in the Home Ec Department.

"What a thrill to have President Shaw place the crown on my head at the Senior Prom! With this honor came the duty of opening the AG Carnival, Street Fair, and traditional Cedar River Float Parade the night before."




Click here for closeup view.