Attending Heaney's Commercial College, 1936-1937

From the unpublished autobiograpy of James McNitt, 1992

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James McNitt's text Bill McNitt's annotations
Glenn had gone to Heaney's Grand Rapids Commercial College for a short refresher course. He asked Mr. Heaney if there was anything he could do for me. It developed that he had on occasion donated the services of a student to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in exchange for tuition at the school. I was offered this opportunity and accepted. Mr. Heaney's first name was Herbert.  Heaney's Grand Rapids Commercial College was located at 14 Fountain Street NW.
I became an assistant to the janitor. On Saturday we worked together, dusting the pews and getting that church ready for services the following day. Sunday mornings I sat in the vestibule guarding the coats and hats. There had been instances when such garments had been stolen in the past. Sunday evenings I attended the young people's meeting, then banked the furnace in the winter, shut off the lights and locked up. Mondays I opened up, stoked the fire, pulled out the clinkers, mopped the vestibule and picked up the tiny sacramental wine glasses from the racks on the pews. On a couple occasions the massive old furnace got the best of me, and I had to call on the janitor for help. He was a good sort, and never objected.

Westminister Presbyterian Church

Wesminister Presbyterian Church

Westminster was built in 1886 and is located at 47 Jefferson Avenue SE. 
Westminster Presbyterian is a prestigious older church, just a block from Fulton Avenue and four blocks from the center of the downtown area at Fulton and Division.  I rarely saw the minister or the church secretary, then only if there were problems. I did make some new friends at the Young Peoples' meeting, particularly Lyman Shields. We joined together in writing popular songs, but produced nothing of consequence.
My school schedule [at Heaney's Commercial College] was limited to four days a week.  I don't think missing a day a week affected my work any. I did well in book study courses such as Business Law and quite well in Bookkeeping. This was taught by a middle-aged one-armed man who wrote beautifully in spite of his handicap. Sad to say, I couldn't emulate him. I once received a 74 in penmanship (75 was passing). Typing and shorthand came hard for me. One teacher suggested I stick to bookkeeping. However a new teacher named Jalva Vale came along, and it was her encouragement, coupled with my own stubborn persistence, that helped me development into a quite adequate typist and better than average at shorthand.
Girls far outnumbered boys in the student body. Seated next to me and behind me were Mary Schaaf, Frances Milanowski and Nelva Bos. I once dated Mary, but it came to nothing. The only fellow I remember is John Merryweather.
I haven't mentioned that I was again staying with the aunts. My memory of exact time periods is vague, but 1 was to stay there a good many years. Aunt Leena worked at McInerney Spring & Wire Company and Aunt Myrnie took care of varying patients in the upper front bedroom. Granddad Roando retired after many years as a freight handler on the railroad. He could tell some great stories of his early experiences as a lumberman in the north woods. He was particularly voluble when a brother would come visiting, and the two would imbibe a bit. Roando Merrill was the eighth child in a family of thirteen.  The first son died young and the second died in the Civil War, but that left ten siblings - five brothers and five sisters - who married and had children.  Roando's wife Mary Angeline Woodin Merrill was the ninth child in a family of eleven children - only one of whom died young.  Thus my grandmother, Emma Merrill McNitt, had nearly 100 first cousins (most of whom my father knew as he grew up).  Unlike his mother, Dad had only a single first cousin - Tom Plowman.
Uncle Elmer was there much of the time. He completed a course in chiropractry, but never opened an office. He dabbled for a while with a house-washing project which went nowhere. He married a woman named Grace, but they drifted apart. I never knew the details, but I suspect it was all quite amicable. She was offered a job elsewhere and accepted. I remember her as a very gracious, intelligent lady. Eventually he just gave up.

Elmer Merrill graduation picture (probably from his chiropractic training)

Elmer Merrill graduation photograph, probably from his chiropractic training

Back at the school, I made a little pocket money in a one-time deal typing envelopes for Hope College alunmi. I went out for a job interview, but it wasn't suitable, involving mainly telephone solicitation.