Gwendolen Lampshire Hayden

1904 - 1972

Although Gwendolen Hayden began her professional career as a music teacher at the University of Oregon and subsequently taught at two Adventist colleges, she is best known as the author of a widely read series of ten books for children titled Really Truly Stories.

An accomplished violinist, Hayden distinguished herself while studying at the University of Oregon, where she was concertmaster of and a soloist with the UO orchestra in her senior year. Following her graduation in 1925, she continued as a violin instructor and director of the high school orchestra at the UO for three years.

She taught violin and conducted the orchestra at Walla Walla College, now University, for one year, 1928-1929, where the 1929 yearbook noted that her "excellent leadership so inspired her orchestra members that the notice 'orchestra practice tonight' is received with enthusiasm." She then taught at Union College for three years, from 1930 to 1933, before returning to WWC where her husband, Jesse, completed a degree in 1936. She played in the Walla Walla Symphony during both stays at WWC, serving as concertmaster in the 1935-1936 season.

The RTS series, which was released in the 1940s and 1950s, enjoyed immense popularity with Adventist families. Many of the stories were based on incidents from her childhood in the Northwest.

Two chapters in book two describe how she started in music and her early study and experiences as a young violinist. Her first teacher, Mary V. Dodge, was a violinist who had studied in Boston, New York, and Paris. She had come to the small town of Burns in Harney County, Oregon, where Gwendolen's family lived, because her husband's career as a civil engineer had led him to that part of the Northwest.

Dodge became well known as a teacher and within a short time had formed a group of 30 boys and girls, ages 5 to 13, into a group known as the Burns or Harney County Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra. A strict, yet inspiring teacher, she was a stickler for accuracy and intonation and required the orchestra to memorize its music.

During the time Gwendolen was a member, the orchestra became a sensation when, in 1916, it performed as the Children's Sagebrush Orchestra in Salem at the state fair and in Portland, where it played to overflow crowds. During this trip, the members attended a concert given by Mischa Elman, noted violinist of that time, at which they were seated on the stage. While in Portland, they also gave a private performance for Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, world famous contralto, who was lavish in her praise of their playing.

Hayden described in the RTS series that experience and the effect it had on her. Dodge eventually moved to the Portland area to teach music and established the Irvington School Orchestra. In 1924, this group became the nucleus for the Portland Youth Philharmonic Symphony, now the world famous Portland Youth Philharmonic Association, oldest youth orchestra in America.

Other stories describe how the Lampshires came to the Northwest, their life as settlers, and how the family came to prominence. Hayden also wrote for Adventist publications, including The Youth's Instructor, most widely read publication for Adventist young people in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hayden was living in Oregon when she did her writing. She would spend the rest of her life in the Eugene area. Her sons established a well-known dental practice, The Hayden Family Dental Group, which now has several locations in western Oregon. Her daughter, Marilyn Hayden Melim, graduated with a degree in music from Walla Walla College in 1961.

ds/2007/08

Sources: 1929 Mountain Ash, Walla Walla College Yearbook, 94; Portland Youth Philharmonic, overview page, "83 Years Young," by Britta Johnson, unknown source; Other online sources about the PYP and its founder, Mary V. Dodge; Emails and conversation with Jess Hayden, 2007 and 2008; Gwendolen Lampshire Hayden, Really Truly Stories, book two (two chapters), 1947.