The Monastic Years
He always kept himself in check.
— OLA FLORENCE WELCH JOBE, ON RICHARD NIXON 1
WHEN RICHARD NIXON RECEIVED WORD of his fellowship at Duke University Law School, he drove to see Ola Florence Welch and beeped his horn outside her house, although—as she remembered—"mother was death against it." "Oh, we had fun that night. He was not only fun, he was joyous, abandoned—the only time I ever remember him that way." 2 The fellowship spelled escape from his parents, from the store, from all that was parochial and stultifying in Whittier. It meant, however, the end of a relationship with the only girl he had ever dated seriously, but which had become precarious.
Nixon had been going with Ola Welch for over four years, and assumed, as did their friends, that they would one day marry. But in their senior year at Whittier College both had started dating others. "He'd go out with other girls but would not tell me," she remembered, "and I'd find out about it. I'd go out, but he always knew." 3 It was in this year, 1933, that she began dating Gail Jobe, whom she married in 1936. But the breakup with Richard Nixon was slow and tortuous, not really final until the middle of his second year at Duke University. He wrote her lonely, sometimes desperate letters. "He sounded like he was close to quitting two or three times," she said. 4
Ola was a small, brown-eyed girl with a turned-up nose who looked something like Nixon's mother as a young woman, although more beautiful and far more joyous. "I'm sure he would not have made it [to be president] if I had married him," she said. "I loved fun too much." They had met at a scholarship party in Whittier High School, and later were in the same Latin class. The enthusiastic teacher, in an ill-fated gesture to commemorate the