George and Nettie Gallup encouraged the interest of boys in sports. In fact, the Gallup homestead was the unofficial sports arena and recreation center for the town. Gymnastic rings were hung on the Charter Oak, and a basketball hoop on the barn. George, Sr. even went so far as to import the eastern game of tennis and built a grass court on his property. He also laid out a nine-hole golf course on his 12-acre land.
George Gallup was called "Ted" from the first days of his life. Elsie White, the Gallups' white-haired nurse was prone to playing pranks, and knew that Gallup's father was no admirer of Teddy Roosevelt, who had been recently elected, so she nicknamed the child "Teddy." However, there were likely other reasons - to avoid the confusion of having two Georges in the house; because "George" sounded too grown-up for a baby; or simply because Elsie White, as well as Nettie, Ted's mother, simply liked the name "Teddy."
Of Ted Gallup's first two years on earth, little of any moment is recorded, save for the observation of his aunt Julia, who seeing that her nephew never cried, concluded that he was "not too bright."
Ted Gallup was deeply influenced by his parents. His mother, Nettie, was a small, dynamic, deeply religious woman. She loved animals, and it was a sad day for her when her pet snake was killed. She was a true FDR Democrat. She was incurably optimistic; Ted himself noted that his mother never failed to start the day by saying something cheerful, even if the day was gloomy and fraught with problems.
Nettie Gallup lived in nearby Eureka Mills, and married George Henry Gallup when she was 27 years old. Her quiet and kind manner did much to set the tone of her home and the character of her children. She helped her children understand the importance of being happy, of working hard, of being scrupulously honest. All of her four children graduated from college, an accomplishment that made her particularly proud.
Dr. Gallup's father, George Henry Gallup, was somewhat withdrawn from the mainstream of life, but he was well-liked. Dr. Gallup described his father as a "true intellectual." He was not simply a scholarly or well-read man - he was a man fascinated with the world of ideas. In the fall 1993 issue of The Palimpsest magazine, Gallup said that his father taught him "a profound questioning of the status quo." He recalled that his father resisted strenuously doing things the way they had always been done."
Ted's father and mother encouraged independence and self-sufficiency on the part of their offspring. At the very early age of eight or nine, Ted and his brother John, who was a year older, had their own dairy business, consisting of a barn (no longer standing), a dozen cows, and a milk route.
Ted's hometown provided a number of advantages that seemed to destine him for achievement, in addition to the powerful influence of his parents. Jefferson had an ethos that promoted success among its young people. Residents place top priority on a good education. In fact, Jefferson High School is distinguished for having turned out a disproportionately large number of famous and important people. Within a few blocks of Ted's home on Chestnut Street lived three contemporaries who were to become big men in the field of journalism - Ken McDonald and Earl Hall, renowned newspaper editors, and one of the nation's top-flight cartoonists, Harold Carlyle.
Ted Gallup was a big wheel on campus at Jefferson High School. He captained both the football and basketball teams, was an excellent student, and served as president of his senior class. He was well-liked and good-natured. He was not at all above playing pranks - in fact, the Principal of the school characterized him as a candidate for class clown.
Whitfield Wilcox, a classmate at Jefferson High School, provides this portrait of George Gallup as a youngster:
I first met Ted when he was in the 7th grade. I was a shy boy fresh from the farm when I moved to Jefferson in the spring of 1914. I was put in Ted's grade along with a number of other boys who lived on the South side of Jefferson such as Lyle Raver, Russell Barker, Ted McDuffy and Dale Harding. We would generally go to and from school together. Since the sidewalk led to our place, it was quite natural that I should go with them.
Ted at that time was rather heavy set, not fat, but on the plump side, always quite jolly, very friendly. Since I was really a country bumpkin, I was the butt of many of the wisecracks, and was teased and tormented by the other boys. Ted always treated me real well, and I suppose for that reason he was my closest friend all through school.
Ted idealized his father, but it was his mother who helped him the most. His father gave him the ideas and thought on being somebody, but it was his mother that gave him the ability to do his best with what he had.
I never saw Ted abuse a dumb animal. he would get quite aggravated at the cows sometimes, but I never saw him strike of abuse them, and, of course, his dog, Red, was his prize possession. Ted liked people and thought well of them, and in turn was liked by all his customers (from his milk route) and all of his teachers.
When Ted went off to Iowa University in 1919, his parents moved briefly to another area of Jefferson and lived in a smaller and less imposing house. Ted's father had gone bankrupt with the drop in farm prices following World War I and the Gallup family had fallen on hard times. They left Jefferson in 1924, to live in Seattle, Washington. George Henry Gallup died in 1930; Nettie died in 1953.