Memories of Living on a Student Budget

September 21, 2009
By Chris Richter

In the Summer 2009 issue of NC State magazine, we asked readers to tell us their memories of living on a student budget. We received nearly 175 responses and printed many in the Autumn 2009 issue. Below is a submission from (Ret.) Col. Ralph Brake ’40.

Ralph Brake '40, from the 1940 Agromeck.

Ralph Brake '40, from the 1940 Agromeck.

Not only did he send us his story (below), he loaned us the ledger in which he recorded his income and expenses for his junior year (1938-39). We’ve reproduced images of pages from it at the end of the post.

How much did college cost? I estimated my freshman year expenses at $400. Expenses went up approximately $100 per year for my sophomore, junior, and senior years. For my junior year, September 1938 to May 1939, I kept a written ledger of my income and expenses.

I had to work to stay in college. I had no bank account. I was fortunate to have three older sisters who provided financial support during my four years at NC State. My father and mother died before I enrolled.

Beginning with the second term in January 1937, I worked daily in the dairy, milking cows by hand starting at 3:30 a.m. The building for milking cows in 1937 was located near the site of Reynolds Coliseum. I occasionally dropped off to sleep at 8 a.m. classes. At the end of my freshman year my roommate, Bruce Hildebrand ’40, informed me that I had a choice: I either get a new job or get a new roommate for my sophomore year. I got a new job in the botany department doing typing, filing, etc. A bonus was working for Prof. Murray Buell occasionally as a babysitter.


Brake's ledger, where he recorded his expenses for the 1938-39 school year.

[After] my first year at NC State, I was given summer employment working for the U.S. Forest Service doing a timber survey of Pisgah National Forest between Asheville and Blowing Rock. This job helped pay for part of my sophomore year expenses.

In September 1938, I was accepted for the Advanced ROTC program, which provided some additional income. I also was offered a job in the ROTC Military Department for my junior and senior years, which helped pay my expenses. During a six-week ROTC camp at Ft. McClellan I was given extra duty as the company clerk in addition to the required training, but no extra pay.

Another source of income was from selling pecans. My father had planted about 5 acres of Stuart Pecans on his farm. I sold and delivered about 100 pounds of these to faculty members and students each fall.

Editor’s note: Click on the images for a closer look. There are more after the jump.







One Response to “Memories of Living on a Student Budget”

  1. cheaptvtelevisions says:

    the book looks olds. that’ s good memoryi the past. 🙂

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