College on Five Dollars

by Bruce Carlson

On a sunny, late summer morning in 1954, a crew-cut 17-year-old with two cardboard suitcases boarded the Hiawatha Zephyr in St. Paul, Minnesota. He took a seat by the window as the train pulled smoothly away from the station and began to glide down the tracks toward Chicago. Art Mampel had finished high school and was bound for North Park College. In a zippered compartment inside of his belt, a money belt, he had a five dollar bill neatly folded. The money was for college expenses. It was what he had left from his summer job at a truck farm near White Bear Lake. He also had a few sandwiches that his stepmother had given him for lunch. No other family assistance was anticipated.

Arne Carlson and Art Mampel

As the train rolled along through Wisconsin, Art stepped into the bathroom a couple of times, locked the door, and checked on the safety of his stash of cash, the fiver, riding securely in his new money belt. He had also paid the train fare—nine dollars.

When he arrived at Union Station in downtown Chicago, Art phoned North Park. A minister, Dewey Sands, was dispatched to collect Art and to bring him to the college, modestly situated on the corner of Foster and Kedzie Avenues.

Art immediately went on a job search and soon found work at Chapin Hall, an orphanage a few blocks away on Foster Avenue. There he received room and board and a small salary in exchange for looking after the kids. He also worked in a nearby greenhouse fixing broken windows. At Chapin and in doing the odd jobs, he cooked up some friendships, including one that stretches nearly fifty years with fellow in-coming freshman Tom Tredway. Over at the college bursar’s office, a desk on the first floor of the President’s house, Art handed over the five dollar bill. Arrangements were also made for additional payment from his new salary at Chapin Hall. Tuition was about $500 a year. It all worked out fine.

North Park was a junior college in the 1950s and, after two years, Art transferred to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Later he went to North Park Seminary, graduated, and soon was in a small Covenant church in Brainerd, Minnesota. Way led on to way including parishes in Minneapolis, Hawaii, Seattle, and service as the personal Chaplain of Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson. Recently Art retired after a sunny, thirty-five-year career in the ministry.

Bruce Carlson (1940-2006) was the Executive Director of the Schubert Club and Pietisten Editor of Poetry and Navigation.

See all articles by Bruce Carlson