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Alumna Dorothy Bailey '32 Honored at KSC Women's Basketball Game

Photo by Ryan Szepan
Photo by Ryan Szepan

Keene State College alums returning to campus for a basketball game is the middle of winter is nothing new. But when the alum is 102 years old and attended the College when it was named Keene Normal School, well that’s a different story.

Keene State College had the pleasure of hosting one of its oldest alums, Dorothy Bailey, class of 1932, at Saturday’s women’s basketball game against Southern Maine. Bailey, who was born in Marlow, N.H., and spent over 40 years in the teaching profession, was recognized at the game’s halftime when KSC athletic director John Ratliff presented her with a blanket.

“I don’t’ know too much about what it’s like now, but it was strictly run when I was here,” said Bailey about her days at the College. “We had a very good President, (Wallace) ‘Daddy’ Mason. He was a very fine man, and he kept things on the up-and up.”

An elementary education major at KNS, Bailey loved the satisfaction of seeing her students succeed. “My mother (Mary) hoped I would be a nurse, but we weren’t sick that much. We didn’t need a nurse,” said Bailey. “I always wanted to be a teacher. I don’t know why. I liked to help other children when they couldn’t get their arithmetic example, and I just loved to help others do their school work. I guess it grew on me?”

Growing up in Keene and later moving to Walpole, Bailey attended Boston University for two years before enrolling at Keene Normal School. “I changed my mind and decided I wanted to teach,” said Bailey. “Money got short because the depression hit, so I went to Keene Normal because it was near home and I finished up there.”

Moving to Keene, Bailey initially lived in what was called cottage dorms — houses where all the rooms were made into bedrooms before moving into Huntress Hall her senior year.

Trying to finish up her school work in two years kept Bailey and her classmates busy. “Everyone was friendly, but we didn’t have time to do many social things,” said Bailey. Going down town was a big treat. If students wanted to go to the movies at night, they not only had to take a chaperone, (who was always a teacher) but also pay for the chaperone’s ticket. When it came to having boys in the dorm, President Mason kept a tight ship. “There were no problems with Daddy Mason,” said Bailey.

Keene Normal School produced well-rounded teachers. Bailey took a wide variety of classes, including a few about sports. Back then, students were supposed to know the rules and know how to score all the sports. One of the sports was rifle shooting. Bailey got permission from her father to handle a rifle, but her first class ended up being her last class. “I’m left handed,” explained Bailey. “The teacher looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.’ So I put the gun down, and that was my lesson.”

Prior to graduating, pupils were sent out to do their student teaching. Some, like Bailey had an opportunity to work in rural locations as well as the Wheelock School in Keene. “I did one quarter with a first-grade teacher in Acworth and one quarter with a first-grade teacher at the Wheelock School,” said Bailey. “I was scared to death the first time I looked at my new class. What will I say first?” she recalled.

In Acworth, Bailey taught all six grades. “You prepare a little bit differently when you have so many students at different levels,” she said. “It takes quite a bit of preparation to keep some children quiet while the others are talking and learning.”

Despite the trying task, Bailey said she always preferred teaching at the elementary school level. “I didn’t think I had a good rapport with high-school-age students,” said Bailey. “I didn’t know how to mingle with them. I thought I could get along better if I tackled the young ones. And it worked out for me.”

Unlike today where graduates send out resumes and interview for teaching job, superintendents came right to Keene Normal School to meet perspective teachers. Jobs during the depression were hard to come by. Bailey was one of 12 from the elementary education program to land a job. She packed her bags and headed north for her first job – a one-room school in Bethlehem, N.H. Taking a few years off when she got married, Bailey’s teaching travels took her from Vermont to Massachusetts and back to New Hampshire, finishing her career at the Jaffrey Elementary School.

Bailey was married twice, first to Dr. Anthony Kendall and later to Bob Bailey, a KNS grad from her class, who she got reacquainted with while helping to plan Keene State’s 50th reunion. “We were both retired teachers who hadn’t seen each other for 50 years,” said Bailey. “He was living in Florida, so I called him to come up and get busy and help me plan this reunion. He came up and it took off from there.”

Living for a time with her second husband in St. Petersburg, Fla., and later in Royalton, Mass., Bailey, a member of KSC’s Golden Circle Society (Alums who graduated 50 or more years ago) has been residing in Prospect Place, an assisted living home in Keene for almost a year. “Dorothy is one of my most coherent and physically active people that I work with,” said Vicki (Bishop) Bean, a 1993 KSC grad who works at as LNA at Prospect Place. “She just amazes me. She doesn’t like to be singled out though. She just wants to be one of the ladies.” Bean said Bailey plays cards and bingo, does her exercise group, and goes on all the trips – including Saturday’s crosstown visit to watch the Keene State women’s basketball team.

Looking forward to coming over to the campus and seeing the women’s team play, Bailey wasn’t adverse to offering an opinion or two about the old women’s basketball rules that prevented some players from crossing over half-court. “I hope they changed the rules. They were so stupid,” said Bailey before entering the gym. They need to get rid of that rule.”

Asked about the game as she departed the gym, Bailey said the first thing she noticed was the players’ uniforms. “They’re quite different,” she said. “They’re not as prudish as they were in my day.”

Dorothy called the game “zippy.” “I’m glad they changed a couple of the rules,” she said. “The girls aren’t afraid to get in there and battle for the ball. That never happened when we used to play.”

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