Once her brother Dick took off for his freshman year at the University of Virginia, Jane and her aunt and uncle returned to Manhattan where their new apartment at 1100 Park Avenue waited for its first occupants. At the beginning of October she put on a blue or grey shirtwaist dress and headed just four blocks away to The Nightingale-Bamford School. Jane joined a class of 15 other young ladies from similar backgrounds in a much smaller setting than she had known at Redondo Union High School. In 1930, in this narrow world, the girls were quite sheltered from the problems faced by the city’s public schools where 1,250,000 students had begun their academic year on September 8.
A year earlier the school had opened at 20 East 92nd Street in its brand-new six-story neo-Federal style red-brick building designed by Delano and Aldrich, one of the city’s foremost architectural firms. Frances Nicolau Nightingale and Maya Stevens Bamford had worked tirelessly to build a school that emphasized truth, friendship and loyalty (Veritas Amicitia Fides remains the motto), as well as academic excellence, the arts, and physical education (including good posture).
They put education first; the parent-driven social life of their pupils was something they lived with reluctantly. Between Monday and Thursday the girls were not allowed “to give a party, go to a party, or to the theater or moving pictures” after school. For in 1932, despite the worsening economy, more Nightingale graduates would be presented to Society than went to college—hopefully as debutantes they would meet young men from prominent families with promising futures. At least that’s what their parents had in mind.
Though the formal program ended at 1:15, art classes, dramatics, glee club, supervised study hours and athletics – silver and blue teams competed in basketball, fencing and tennis— filled the afternoons. On four days of the week students could buy a hot lunch for $.75. Opposite the day school was a house used as a “very small Boarding Department” for up to ten young women who needed a place to stay during the week but lived near enough to Manhattan to return home on the weekends.
Jane plunged right into activities at which she excelled – her talent as an amateur artist and wordsmith attracted notice right away. She became assistant editor of Chirps, a literary magazine, and was art editor of the 1932 Year Book. (Two of her poems and her art work came out in Chirps.) The seniors in the Class of ‘31 named Jane the “friendliest” girl in the school; tall, poised Jane (“Jamie”) Voorhees gladly bequeathed her “a few inches from her height” in the annual tongue-in-cheek Senior Will. Jane’s performance in A. A. Milne’s “The Ivory Door” and her role as the lamp in “And the Lamp Went Out, a Pantomime in One Act” inspired her fellow juniors to predict she would be another Lynn Fontanne, the celebrated stage and screen actress who often worked with her husband Alfred Lunt.
But the challenge of being a writer would now be more difficult. Just before leaving California for New York, Jane had bought Where and How to Sell Manuscripts – a Directory for Writers by William B. McCourtie. It was full of practical advice and an annotated list of periodicals in every conceivable category. Carefully, she checked off the names of magazines that might accept what she wrote and penciled in a list of her submissions at the back of the book. During the summer of 1931—one of a half-dozen she would spend at Poplar Springs– sixteen-year-old Jane mailed her poems, stories, articles and humor from the tiny Casanova post office to several of these magazines. This time her efforts did not make it into print. As she competed in this new adult literary world, accolades from her teachers and her friends became vital to her fluctuating morale.
So Jane must have been pleased when four samples of her work appeared in the 1932 Nightingale Year Book. There was also a page for each of the 16 graduating seniors. Quotations in italics under their profiles drew attention to the girls’ personalities. “In righte gude fellowshipe could she laughe and carpe all day,” read Jane’s, source unknown. The rest of her page sums up her two years:
“Jane blew in from California last year, late as usual. However, on account of her numerous talents, this lapse of temperament can and must be overlooked. Jane draws and writes amazingly well, but sometimes throws us all . . .into fits of extreme melancholy, by means of her distressing talent for puns. Yet Jane and her artistic ability have saved the Year Book more than once this year from utter destruction. And what a sense of humor girl possesses.”
And now she would be off to The Womans’ Art School at Cooper Union on Manhattan’s Lower East Side–what a change that would be.