Chapter 3: Woodstock, A World Apart
Missionaries in India had to decide: Send their kids away to private Christian boarding school or home to America to be educated?
Dad and Mother were faced with the serious problem of schooling for John during their first term in India, and for Frances and me after they returned to Khargpur in 1931. There were several options, such as using a correspondence course at home or sending us away to a boarding school in India. Another was to send us to the “States” and arrange for our schooling there. That was the one chosen by the Amstutz family (American Methodist missionaries in British Malaya) for their young daughter, Beverly. Of course, Bev and I are indebted to her parents for bringing her back with them from furlough in 1939 and sending her to Woodstock School in India.
Making a school decision for children involved balancing calculation, sentiment and myth. The myth was a widely-held belief that the tropics (before air-conditioning) were unhealthy for white adolescents, especially girls. They mature early like “hot house flowers,” is the comment Beverly remembers hearing. That being the case, it was thought by some parents to be wiser to leave young children in America or send them back as early adolescents from overseas.
A temperate climate was available, however, in India inthe mountains, where the foreigner-friendly atmosphere was celebrated by dispensing with the bothersome topi. Here the British authorities built dozens of town at elevations of 5000 to 7000 feet above sea level. They were places in which to locate summer offices, military cantonments and hospitals, holiday resorts – and schools, run mostly by church-related organizations along the lines of English boarding schools. Dad and Mother wanted to find one with an American curriculum and a Protestant orientation. Three qualified. They were Kodaikanal (pron. cody-kanal) in South India, Mt. Hermon School in Darjeeling, in the Himalayas of Northern Bengal and Woodstock School in Landour (pron. lan-dower), in the Garhwal Himalayas of the United Provinces north of Delhi.
They chose Woodstock.
The Landour location was spectacular. Northward there were views of the snow peaks around the sources of the Jumna and Ganges rivers near the Tibetan frontier. Southward the flat expanse of the Doon valley lay almost at our feet, bordered in the middle distance by the Siwalik hills. Beyond them, visible on clear days and nights, were the receding terrain and twinkling lights of the north Indian plains. The forest of silver oaks, horse chestnut trees, long-needle pines, deodars (Himalayan cedars) and rhododendrons; the lush grasses, wild flowers, ferns and mosses; the immense valleys and sweeping vistas of range after range leading up to the snows were breathtaking. The changing seasonal drama of towering cloud formations above or the endless ocean of monsoon clouds below broken only by mountain “islands;” the swirling mist; and shattering lightning, thunder, hail and rainstorms sending torrents cascading down the mountain, sometimes taking whole pieces of hillside, road and portions of buildings with it, thrilled us to the core.