Daily Archives: March 24, 2009

Listen up!

A snapshot of Zelda Feike Rodenwold: How did she become the “housewife’s friend”?

What do we know about Zelda Rodenwold, first director of women’s programs at KOAC? If only you could all read the “Who’s Who in the Faculty Series: Radio Station KOAC” piece on Mrs. Rodenwold from the Archives’ Memorabelia Collection … It’s a late 1930s gem!

Rodenwold, born Zelda Feike, known from teaching women how to make “the best of a little and get the best return from the things they have,” was beloved for her work as the director of the the home economics extension radio programs. She was born in Iowa in 1897 and worked most of her life in the schools (student and teacher). Her family moved to Granite, Oklahoma in 1911, where she studied shorthand and typing, a skill that helped her pay her way through liberal arts courses at Drake University by working as a secretary. Her parents moved to Portland, Oregon, and Rodenwold followed in 1914. She traveled down the Valley, registering at OAC (OSU) in the fall of 1916 in the home economics program.

She was a member of the Chi chapter of Delta Zeta, one of the founding members of their Zeta Chi local, its president, and later the first president of Delta Zeta. Again, using those typing and shorthand skills, she paid her college expenses by doing office work, waiting tables at Waldo Hall, and serving as a student correspondent for the Oregon Journal. She was the first woman editor at the Barometer, member of the Scribe, Omicron Nu national home economics honor society, and Forum (which later became Phi Kappa Phi national scholastic society). And, in her spare time, she was president of Waldo Hall. She graduated in 1919 with a BA.

Though she had planned to be a teacher, after graduation she was asked by Ava Milam to work as the secretary for the School of Home Ec, a position she accepted and held for two years before moving on to another one as the secretary of the Alumni Association. There, shocked that there wasn’t an alumni magazine, she established a monthly paper called “OAC Alumnus.

She was married in 1924 to a fellow OAC employee, Ben Rodenwold (assistant professor of Animal Husbandry). After marrying Rodenwold, she gave up her position as a secretary, but remained editor of the magazine, which became known as Oregon State Monthly. She did free-lance writing and had stories published in Sunset, Forecast, Practical Home Economics, Pacific Northwest Magazine, and School Life.

In 1928, her husband received a year leave, so they both returned to Iowa State College to pursue masters of science degrees. With her advanced degree in Household Administration in hand, Zelda Rodenwold returned OAC and to writing, publishing several educational booklets for the college’s editor, ET Reed. Then, in 1930, she began broadcasting “Aunt Sammy’s Chats,” a 15 minute piece on home economics work on KOAC. As Aunt Sammy became more and more popular, the program was lengthened to 45 minutes, with Rodenwold in charge of planning, writing, and answering all her own fan mail.

That year Claribel Nye, state home economics extension specialist, asked her to serve as the state specialist in home managements. She accepted, but finding her heart in radio, she resigned after two years to become the director of home economics radio programs at KOAC.

Did you know? KOAC is now Oregon Public Broadcasting, aka OPB? And that they maintained their OSU studios until the spring of 2009, broadcasting all nightly programs from campus? Learn more about OPB and KOAC in the OSU Archives’ collection guide for KOAC or by checking out this Wikipedia article.