Return to Toll Hall

by Margaret Nilsson

Those were the days of housemothers, curfews, and dressing for dinner. Hildreth Green von Kleinsmid ’33 remembers them well.

On a recent visit to Scripps, Hildreth shared some favorite memories with her son and daughter-in-law. At Graffiti Wall, she noted where 70 years earlier she had signed her name near that of her friend “Petunia” (Ruth Stelle Barton). From the rose garden, Hildreth pointed out her second-story room in Toll Hall. “I loved my room because it overlooked the garden,” she recalls,”and it had a balcony. That made it very convenient when the Pomona boys came to serenade us.”

Hildreth was able to show her family around her old residence hall thanks to a Scripps student who let them in. Hildreth’s son, Richard, recalls the visit:”As we went from room to room hearing about how little things had changed and what used to go on in this corner and that, we gathered a growing audience of current residents who began to ask questions. Was it true that dinners were served? Did everyone dress for them? Were desserts forgone to help pay for grass in the quadrangle?” (Yes on all three.)

For her captivated audience, Hildreth painted a picture of Scripps College in its earliest years, including details about residential and social life in Toll Hall. There were several “date rooms” where Scripps students could visit with their male friends. Men were not allowed on the second floor, of course. If, for instance, a father planned to help his daughter move furniture, each resident received a phone call alerting her to a “man in the hall!”

Each Wednesday a faculty member was invited to Toll for dinner and conversation. Saturdays nights were unequivocally for dancing. “A Saturday night when you didn’t go out dancing was really lost,” according to Hildreth. She would sometimes go to the Coconut Grove or the Biltmore Bowl in Los Angeles. In fall 1929, the women from Pomona College invited Scripps students to a “mixer” on the Pomona campus.”We all went in our finest attire and the Pomona girls were chagrined to discover that we had usurped so many of the Pomona boys,” Hildreth recalls.

Hildreth earned the reputation of the most gifted “marceller” of hair. She was sought after, especially on Saturdays, to help her classmates achieve the perfect wave. In the 1933 yearbook, La Semeuse, the inscription next to Hildreth Green reads in part,”How many of us can lay the success of a date to her excellent hair-waving that put us in a spirit of conquest?”

Hildreth tackled the social and academic life of early Scripps College with aplomb.Though her “leading boyfriend” at the time proposed marriage, Hildreth insisted on graduating first. She was one of 31 women to graduate in the College’s third graduating class. She married Walter Benjamin von Kleinsmid five months after commencement.

In the 1950s, at the College’s request, Hildreth began hosting receptions for prospective Scripps students. Her enthusiasm for the College led daughter Shirley von Kleinsmid Novo ’55 to enroll as the first second-generation Scrippsie and Shirley’s daughter, Laura Novo ’81, to graduate as the first third-generation Scripps student. At 95, Hildreth enjoys her enduring relationship with Scripps and her extensive family, including children Richard, Nancy, and Shirley, 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren.