PHS Alumni Honor Roll Member
Margaret (Norman) Froebel
Class of 1954
When Margaret “Kit” Norman was born, her family was living in the shack provided for their father, the rural school teacher at Fay, Blaine Co., OK. Her parents, Ernest Delbert and Gertrude (Hartung) Norman told stories about how cold it was. Supposedly, a bottle of bluing, used to whiten laundry, froze and broke although placed next to the potbellied stove. That helps explain why Margaret never considered teaching school as a good job to support a family. Her mother sometimes blamed the freezing temperatures at the time of her birth, for the poor health she suffered as a child.
Winning a framed picture, for reading the most books in her first grade class, left Margaret with a desire to excel. Her family moved to Perry when she was entering third grade. During her fifth grade, she was awarded the American Legion Good Citizenship Award. She was a member of both the National Junior Honor Society and the National Senior Honor Society. During High School, she was active in 4-H Club and Theta Rho Girls Club, of which she served in all the offices, including State Secretary. She was twice a member of the winning State Trio Contest, as well as the First Place State Drill Contest. She was awarded a $100 Scholarship from the Oddfellows Grand Lodge of Oklahoma for her work within Theta Rho. From the age of 15, she worked as a clerk and bookkeeper for Kraemer’s Store in Perry, earning $.50 per hour. She even came back from A&M on weekends to help when they sold out the store.
During her early teens, Margaret decided she wanted to pursue a career in drafting and design as a good way for a woman to earn good wages. There was no opportunity to learn this craft at Perry High School. Following graduation in May, 1954, Margaret attempted to enroll in Drafting within the Engineering School, at Oklahoma A&M College (OAMC). She was told by her counselor that she would have to enroll in another discipline and prove she could make the grades. They argued that all freshman students enrolled in the same basic subjects, so she wouldn’t lose anything. Unfortunately, Drafting and Design was a 2-year course resulting in an Associate Degree within the College of Engineering, so she did lose a year toward reaching her goal. After making the Dean’s List, and completing her freshman year in Art Education as a substitute, she presented her grades to the Dean of Engineering, and was accepted into the School of Drafting and Design as a first year student. Because of Margaret’s pioneering efforts, all women who followed her in the School of Technology at OAMC, didn’t have to go the prior year, saving them both dollars and time. In 1955-56, there were 24 women enrolled in all disciplines of OAMC Engineering, and only two of them were in the school of Technical Training.
Her tuition to college ($67/semester) was paid by Oklahoma Vocational Rehabilitation because of a spinal curvature, the result of childhood polio. One of their objectives on the campus at OAMC was to push toward complete accessibility to campus buildings for handicapped students and faculty. A club on campus that spearheaded this campaign was the Double O Club (Overcoming Obstacles), a service club to which she belonged.
After earning $.50 per hour typing book cards at the college library, and with the help of two of her professors, Margaret secured employment as the draftsman for the city engineer, for Stillwater, OK. The $1.10 per hour was enticing, and allowed her to continue attending classes year round until graduation.
During the next two years, Kit was a finalist for OAMC Institute of Technology queen, Independent Students Association Sweetheart, and OAMC School of Engineering queen. She was elected to serve as Secretary to the Technical Drafting Club, Treasurer to the Society of Safety Engineers, and Recording Secretary to the Technical Students Association. She was elected to Tau Alpha Pi Natl. Honor Society for Engineering Technology.
She was the subject of Oklahoma State Engineer magazine salute to the outstanding Engineering Student. During the final Engineering awards banquet, Margaret was presented with the Hughes Tool Company Cash Award for outstanding leadership and scholarship. In May, 1957, Margaret was the first female to graduate from OAMC School of Technology.
Margaret interviewed for employment with several Oklahoma companies. Without exception, those that offered her a job, offered a salary lower than that offered her male classmates. They were not shy about stating that it was because she was a female. When Hughes Tool Co., of Houston, TX sent a representative to interview prospects for employment in their drafting department, their offer was the same as for the men. Their salary offer was better than the Oklahoma offers as well. She was soon on her way to Houston, TX to work for Hughes Tool Co., the only draftsman Hughes Tool hired from OAMC that year.
In October, 1957, Margaret met her husband-to-be, Dick Froebel, who had also accepted employment with Hughes Tool. They were married in Perry, OK, the following February. Nearly 2 years later, their daughter, Susan was born. Company policy dictated that a female employee must take a leave of absence when she was six months pregnant. They decided that by living frugally, they could make it without her salary, so she became a stay-at-home mom. They bought a new home in Houston when Kit was pregnant with Susan. Elizabeth was born three years later. They lived there for 41 years, before retiring to New Braunfels, TX, to be nearer their two daughters and three grandsons, who live an hour away.
Her motto was that everything that took her time must either save money or make money. With that in mind, she sewed most of the clothes for herself and her two daughters, sold cosmetics, and became a freelance fashion model from 1958-64. During that period, she was also employed by the Houston Parks and Recreation Dept. to teach Girl Scouts the requirements to qualify for the Grooming Badge. Nearly 500 Houston area girls received that badge under her tutelage. She was a Sunday school teacher, was in charge of the church nursery, and taught Bible School several years.
When her younger daughter started to school, Margaret was hired as the only draftsman for the Replacement Parts Co., of Pearland, TX. After a year there, she spent five semesters adding more drafting courses to her transcript as a student at the University of Houston, in their four year Drafting and Design program.
In 1978, Margaret became a collector of thimbles and other antique sewing items. In 1982, she attended her first convention of Thimble Collectors International. There she met a woman who wanted to sell her thimble collection. She and Dick decided that instead of a fancy trip for their 25th anniversary, they’d invest in this collection and start selling what they didn’t want to keep. That business continues to this day, having gone on the internet in 1998. Dick invented a device for looking at the tiny marks inside some of the antique thimbles. They named it Thimblescope, and remain the sole source of this handmade magnifying device, now in use on five continents. During the following years, Margaret became a trusted source of information about this hobby, and is in demand as a speaker wherever thimble collectors gather. Many of her excellent photographs of thimbles and the stories behind them, are available as PowerPoint programs on CD. She has appeared in numerous publications about thimble collecting, both as a collector and as a contributor. She served as program chairman of the 1998 Thimble Collectors International convention in Dallas, Texas.
As a lifetime member of the Perry High School Alumni Assn., she encouraged her classmates to also become lifetime members. For over half a century, using telephone, email, and snail mail, Margaret has endeavored to bring her class of 1954 members closer together. She has kept a current list of contact information, notifying members of important news affecting them, and has helped organize and promote all reunions through the 60th. When Leroy Quance, as alumni Assn. president, started a system of Class Representatives, Margaret was chosen to represent the class of 1954. She collected the material for the 1954 Class Scrapbook, which led to that class receiving the certificate designating it as an outstanding Alumni Assn. class, in September, 2009. She produced, by editing individual 1954 Maroon Spotlight photos, the collage that hangs in the Alumni Assn. building. Presently, she is helping the PHS Alumni Association obtain obituaries and photographs to post on the web pages for deceased Perry High School alumni.