Elsie did not go straight to UNO. She worked the summer at an Iowa Beef Processors packing
plant, where it was “cold and slimy in there; it was rough” (Clark Nov. 2010). That fall, she made her way to Haskell Institute, an Indian vocational-technical institution/boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. She was there for two years and was certified as a linotype operator. She said she made the honor roll a couple of times and enjoyed the social life, but expressed dissatisfaction: “I wished I was more determined. I wished I had a goal in my life at that point. I wished I had been able to be committed and determined under any odds to finish with good grades” (Clark).
During the summers, she came back to Omaha and lived with her sisters, working jobs at the World Herald, the Tip Top ice cream factory, and Rapid Printing. When the print shop moved farther west, beyond the bus routes, she had to quit as she had no car. These early experiences developed her sense of determination: “Somehow I ended up at Bacone Junior College, in Oklahoma. There, through working and going through all the things I had since high school . . . I had my determination at that point and some commitment, so I graduated from there on the Dean’s Honor Roll with a Ford Foundation Scholarship” (Clark). This scholarship would pay for “everything” at a university. Elsie had discovered that, unlike what her high school superintendent had told her, she did have the ability to succeed, and excel, in school.
Elsie was accepted by Colorado State, but that summer stayed with her friend from the reservation, Rosa Porter (also in the Gateway photo), who persuaded her to attend UNO instead. Rosa was in a wheelchair as the result of a car accident but was still attending UNO. She had a specially outfitted car, so she could drive.
The Gateway photo and articles give us an uplifted vision of Elsie at UNO, but she herself gives us another: “I did good for a while, and then I got into drinking, so that got me into a lot of trouble. Couldn’t make it to class, didn’t want to go to class. And then when I started getting behind, I didn’t withdraw or anything, I just ruined my transcript” (Clark).
After Elsie dropped out of UNO, she worked at the World Herald for a while, was a public relations person for the Indian Commission, and then got an internship at KFAB Radio. She worked in the newsroom before getting an early morning broadcast spot. 4:00 a.m. was very hard to get up for after a night of drinking. She ruefully describes the outcome:
So, I ruined that too. I knew I was in trouble, so I didn’t go back. Maybe they would have worked it out. You know, I wish they would have. I think if somebody would have talked to me about my drinking . . . I never received any help or didn’t even think about it being a problem. I didn’t even blame that as being the problem for missing class. It was normal for me. I guess