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Setting a Smith "Gold" Standard

A Gold Key Memory from Helene (Pringle) Schulz ’53

I had a most remarkable day in my college life when I was a Gold Key guide at Smith, class of '53. A secretary in College Hall called me at my dorm, Lawrence House, asking me if I could guide Mr. Jack Morpurgo from England, editor and director of Pelican Histories and Penguin Books, around the campus. He was visiting four cities in the USA having names of places in England -- hence Northampton. Would I play the bells for him and then escort him around the campus as a Gold Key guide? Of course I would!

We met at College Hall. Mr. Morpurgo was a charming man, very enthusiastic about this project. He had his recorder ready outside of the building, and I went up to the bell tower at the top of College Hall. Being a "bell-ringer" was one of my sources of scholarship help. There were two of us, and I was an "apprentice" during junior year and "master" senior year. I would go to the second floor and then to a door which opened on a narrow staircase to the college carillon. It was housed in an authentic medieval chamber, something out of the Middle Ages. I would stand before the console, a keyboard of levers with long wires up to the clappers in the bells above--an authentic carillon, a gift of the Carlisle family who lost their Smith daughter in the First World War influenza epidemic.

Mr. Morpurgo was delighted with our collaboration, and then I escorted him around the campus which was especially beautiful with brilliant autumn colors of trees everywhere. He was also delighted to go downtown with me to The Bookstore, where I worked a few hours each week. He was in his element there.

As we returned to campus, he said, "Please do visit us if you come to England, Miss Pringle. Thank you so much for guiding me about. Here is my address and phone. We are in Essex, Bradwell-by-the-Sea. You must visit us.”

I graduated in 1953 and received gifts of money from relatives and friends -- special gifts since they made it possible for me to go to Scotland that summer, attending the course "History of British Literature" at Edinburgh University -- a dream coming true. (I would also look up some Pringles living there).

I had six weeks in Scotland and then returned to London to board a ship for home. Mr. Morpurgo's address was burning a hole in my pocket. I had not called him during the summer. Could I impose upon him now, two days before departure? Yes! I would call him. I did so, and he was delighted. I was invited to visit the next day. He would meet my train and take me to "Bradwell Juxta Mare."

And so I entered into the Morpurgo family for a whole golden day -- his wife, an actress at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford; his four children, ranging from five years to teens -- all jovial and interested in my world. They insisted that I stay for supper. When I went upstairs to wash up for the trip to London, the youngest little boy sat up in bed as I passed his open door and said to me, "Next time you come, will you stay all night?" Sweet words. And such an extraordinary experience with the Morpurgos that came to me because I was a Gold Key guide at Smith College!

Helene (Pringle) Schulz ’53
Winter Haven, Florida

Share Your Memories

Do you have memories of being -- or encountering -- a Gold Key guide? Write to us at jmebbets@smith.edu.

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