Julia struggled with homesickness while in Paris—especially during holidays. Writing to her friend Beatrice Fox on December 11, 1896, Julia reported that her first solitary Thanksgiving had been “a miserable failure.” It’s unlikely that her next Thanksgiving Day was much better, since Julia had recently learned she’d been unsuccessful in her first attempt to pass the École des Beaux-Arts’ demanding entrance examinations.
Avery tried to cheer her up, writing on November 21, 1897, “Dear Judie [his nickname for her], Mamma read to me your letter about . . . how the jury had ‘cinched’ you. I hope you will try again in February, ‘brave old gal.’” He continued, “Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day and the usual football game is to be played, and in all probability with the usual victors victorious.” Avery meant the “Big Game,” traditionally played by longtime rivals Stanford and UC Berkeley on that day. He correctly predicted Stanford as the “usual victors”: they trounced Berkeley, 28-0. Another event made this particular game memorable: a portion of its temporary stadium collapsed, due to the weight of the large crowd. There were many injuries, but fortunately no fatalities. Julia may have thought back on this tragedy five years later, when she undertook her first professional job—as the construction superintendent for UC Berkeley’s open-air Greek Theater.