GOING TO HARVARD
Class of '46
Herodotus stated at the start of his Histories that he was writing down things that would otherwise become lost. That of course is the fate of most of our human activity, events which after the passage of decades we can hardly recall. I am still somewhat surprised to find that it is sixty years since l942 when I entered Harvard in the class of '46. That span is a whole lifetime for someone else, but I still have somewhere in my memory very vivid impressions of those first days of my ventures into higher education. Some people by the time they are in their eighties have forgotten everything, some see their youth as a small part of a long lived life, while other have lost interest in putting pen to paper and writing an account of those past years.
Much that happens early sets patterns to what comes after. But there is a clarity and vividness to impressions drawn from youth that is often missing from a life busy with career, marriage, achievements and disappointments. There is something pristine about those early impressions that I find still alive and interesting, even after the passage of so much time. In those days it seemed that the sun shone brighter, the air smelled sharper in the brisk breeze of fall, there were new walks and buildings to explore and new people everywhere to meet. And above all there was that first introduction to the world of a great University, with its special furniture of new ideas, lofty professors and only a vague sense of what it was all about and where it was leading.
As I started to write notes on my early experiences, I found them inviting me to add something here and there, a moment, a comment, a criticism. Why was it all so fresh, I thought to myself? It came to me later that life has its own set of scenery changes stored somewhere backstage, and each is used only once for a specific act as it is being played out. We can pull out the wood and painted canvas sets and reminisce how things used to be, but that is often disappointing, a sad nostalgic musing.
But if you go into those early years again and probe more deeply for the actual moments when you were there, the snapshots when you walked up the stairs in ghostly Sever the first time, the time in an exam when you broke your pencil point and looked around in desperation. . . . . then the scenery becomes alive for a moment and you are actually there. Wordsworth was trying to catch some of these moments, he called them the "spots of time" which filled the pages of his amazing Preludes. And this is what I found myself chasing as I put together the notes that form the story that you are about to read.
He was in the basement painting the worn panels of grandmother's huge portmanteau trunk with black enamel, carefully brushing around the nickel plated corners and the large lock. It was the older gentlefolk's trunk for going overseas on a long vacation with a everything that could possibly be needed. It opened in the middle, standing like the jaws of a whale, with hangers on the right for clothes that would come out as neatly pressed as when hung, and a set of drawers on the left for everything else. When all was loaded, it was snapped shut with two large toggle clamps and a lock on a swinging arm, proof against any molester.
He had just painted "WILLIAM MILLER '46" on the front, he stepped back to see if he had got all the panels painted, when he had a sad sense that it looked like a coffin, an intimation of a coming homesickness he had not expected. He cleaned the brushes, capped the can of paint and washed his hands with a turpentine rag before going up for supper. The man with the truck took the trunk away the next Friday.
It was in early September just as the air was beginning to suggest fall again, that he boarded the train at Grand Central Terminal on an expedition to the distant destination of Cambridge near Boston in the state of Massachusetts. The train trip was scheduled for a little under five hours with a locomotive of the ancient steam type running on soft coal, it had been pulled out of storage for the war to save diesel going overseas to the troops. As he ducked between cars to reach the dining car for lunch, he tried to avoid breathing the sulfurous atmosphere of mephitic fumes, at last was sitting at an elegantly laid out table in the dining car, attended by a black waiter who volunteered he had been on that run for over twenty years and was thinking of retiring when the war was over.
Viewed in passing were the factory towns of Connecticut, then open fields hedged in by forests in the distance, and in the last hour, just as it was getting closer to Boston, the train was coursing among the backyards of homes that lined both sides of the railway. What was once open country for the tracks as originally laid in the straightest path, was now built up with growing townships, as houses had been built closer and closer to the tracks. Why not? There were only half a dozen trains coming through a day, and the kids liked to wait to see them go through, waving to the engineer who always responded with a short blast from his whistle.
Progress got slower and slower, now it was stopping and starting again as the tracks crossed roads here and there. There was no hurry because the train was supposed to be at South Station at 5 PM, and what is an hour late to a lordly locomotive with its fire chest breathing live steam into great cylinders to move oscillating connecting rods driving the great iron wheels to a grudging start? And the diet was nothing but water and coal for this monster which would be scrap metal. The diesel-electric was here and the soft coal engines with their plaintiff steam whistle would be things of the past, a historical memory of another age.
Now it was coming into the station, then a cab to Cambridge and lunch at a bench from Mom's basket before a walking tour of the Harvard Yard with its old brick dorms from the days of the Revolution, a hand worked pump which once gave the boys their morning water, and on the other side the great Victorian buildings with their round doorways as reminders that entrance here was different from going through any other doors. Everything had a sense of year history from the time when an English gentleman gave a library to the Puritan colony in the New World so the coming generations would not be without education. John Harvard still sitting there in bronze, surveying in silent satisfaction the growth that accrued from his gift, now spread respectfully around his chair. An imposing hall in whitish marble stood at the center of this area, central in site and in importance, this was University Hall where he would find the office to give him papers to sign and a key to his dormitory room.
A few hours later he stood in the middle of his Harvard dormitory room, Leverett I-24 , listed as a Single which meant it had a living room with fireplace and two windows, from which a door on the left opened onto a compact bedroom while on the right stood a full bathroom with marble lined shower. This was the way the old Trustees felt a Harvard Man should be housed, with an elegance suitable to boys who were accustomed at home to a similar sense of space and dignity.
Walking down two floors and across a spacious yard enclosed by brick walls furnished with iron gates, the new Freshman went to a spacious dining hall simply laid out like a European restaurant. Tables were covered with white tablecloths and a menu placed at each setting, where a student waiter earning his tuition would come to take the order and bring forth the meal in style.
--- Would you like dessert? We have a slice of cheese and a pear, but that will be an extra fifteen cents if you want it. Sure, I'll bring it, you just initial the charges on the slip and I'll be right back.
There were indications that there was a war on. The occasional choice of horsemeat instead of sirloin was a sign of things that were about to change, and the coffee was already a weak wartime brew with sugar in small cubes in the interest of the national economy. But elegance was still to be conserved in that grand dining room, with its tall windows looking out over the flowing Charles in a scene that had changed little in the last decades. After dinner the new Freshmen would be invited to the Master's Common Room where they had a slightly better coffee in the company of the Junior Masters, the lower echelon of the rulers of this academic mansionry. The talk there was light and pleasant, but so polite that you might upon leaving remember almost nothing from the afternoon's conversation. Going back to his room, the novice Freshman could sit at his desk and outline the classrooms for next week by marking dots on the map of the University buildings. Before going to sleep in that new atmosphere, he might pause lightly in wonderment at the changes in his swiftly altered lifestyle.
Last afternoon before classes began, it was a good time to explore the realm of this venerable Yard, going from the commemorative slabs for the Civil War dead in the dark Memorial Hall, past the maples and wandering campus walkways past Hollis with a few tugs on the hand pump well from ancient days, past Widener through the ironbound gates to Mass Avenue with a stop at Schoenhof's to peer at old books in the window, past the barber and down the steep incline past Adams and at last back to the river and up two flights to what was now home. But the slabs of the dead were staying in mind, a war was on and there would be no room there for new names on the wall.
The next morning he was uneasily juggling the green bookbag on the string from his left shoulder, in his left hand a map with a mark for the morning classroom, while the right clutched an oversize umbrella dripping a circle of rain around him as he found his way toward the Yard, when he suddenly remembered that underclass permission was required for Philosophy 204. Entering the hall on the basement office level, he asked scurrying students where he could find Professor Demos. One office door was open, a slight man with thinning hair and a sagging blue suit was bending over a desk sorting papers.
--- Professor Demos, I think I need your permission. . . . .
An embarrassed laugh. I am just his T.A. section man, and I am in a hurry so if you have the slip here I'll sign it for you and you go up those stairs at the end and get a seat in the hall. You should have done this ahead of time you know, but . . . . .well.
Stowing his gear under the chair, he looked around the already filled lecture hall. It was laid out as a theater with ranks and rows focused on a lectern where the professor would appear in a few minutes with a loose sheaf of papers under his arm. The students all had the same style of dress, narrow labeled jackets over white shirts topped at the neck by a tie of one dull color. Sitting in rows with identical haircuts and absorbed with the same attention to getting pencils ready to scribble notes, they had the uniformity that college students were at that time expected to show. On the third level toward the side window, one fellow with a red plaid shirt and no jacket seemed to be protesting something like a personal identity but this was the only sign of a ripple in the comfortable conformity of the class.
Professor Raphael Demos arrived. A light applause went through the front row thatthe Seniors philosophers had taken for themselves. Not that they had read or could ever fathom his analyses of metaphysical quandaries, but they felt it was honorable to be in the presence of a famous scholar, even if you didn't understand exactly what he was saying. He nodded his head beneficially to the audience, cleared his throat, and proceeded with his lecture on the origins of Greek speculative thinking. The younger students were taking notes frantically, the older ones wrote a line here and there, often just a word or two, and spent most of the hour checking the great clock over the podium or looking around the hall to see whom they might join for lunch. This was standard conduct of a student of the day at a well attended class lecture. Too much attention to the actual words of the professor might indicate a lack of confidence in your own personality, a distrust in the invincibility of your well-bred upper class background.
Freshman Miller had a new notebook with a lot of empty pages but he had an idea of not filling them up with insignificant details. Just get the main ideas and enough of the professor's wording to recreate the segments of the lecture later when he was back in his room with time to digest when he had written. In fact, he felt these notes were on important matters and typing them up seemed a proper mark of respect for the famous Professor's reputation. After all, a man born of Greek parents in Turkey in the previous century, who had managed to come to this country and work his way through college, even persisting on to a Harvard doctorate and accruing a scholarly reputation solid enough to be famous even in his native country, this was indeed a man to respect. It was rumored with a smile of humor among the Seniors of the Gold Coast aristocracy that he formerly had a job as a janitor at the Harvard Lampoon to support himself while doing his doctorate. Now tell me, is that something suitable to talk about? Here was a veritable Socrates rewarded with an affluent Harvard Professorship, much better than the Socratic cup of hemlock. Doesn't that indicate progress over the millennia? Typing up the notes that evening, this Freshman almost imagined himself a future acolyte of the aging philosopher professor, from whom he knew he could learn much, but of course this was a private thought thathe did not dare to enter in his notebook.
After the first quiz which came back with a grade of D, he went to the Department office to see if it was a mistake. He came to the office where he had first inquired about the course, the closed door had a paper card "D. Scarafoglio", so he sounded a knock instantly returned with a COME IN from the same man in the same crumpled blue suit who had sent him to the classroom, still there sorting papers at the same desk.
--- Wait a minute, I have to finish these for the section meeting. Oh yes, I remember your paper. You see, the trouble was you had a lot of ideas, some of them very interesting as a matter of fact. But the way it works here, it is the assigned reading thatcounts, this is the basis of the whole course, and the lectures are a sort of public exhibition in the tradition of the English colleges, but they don't really count. You could skip the lectures or get notes from someone who went, just in case some question came from them, but if you do the readings carefully, down to key phrases thatcome up on a quiz, you can pass the course. You did it the other way around, you thought the lectures were important. They are interesting and Prof. Demos is a brilliant lecturer. But it is the readings, first and last thatcount, do you get what I mean, Harry? Your name is Bill, that's OK with me, same thing. But do you get what I am saying?
It was time to go to the Section Meeting, where most of the fellows had got their gentleman's C, some a B for the prep school boys who knew how to do a course at college without getting overly involved. But he had none of this college preparatory grooming, he was a poet writing verse in rhymed Spenserian stanzas while the Exeter preppies were learning how to write compact themes on assigned topics with passing interest in the subject. For them it was like debate team, but done with pencil on theme papers and now done for points and grades.
So advised, he was ready for the next quiz with the reading thoroughly in mind, but he inserted a few ideas from the lectures just to keep his interest alive. Mr. Scarafoglio, who was always thinking like a T.A., saw the ideas floating at the head of each paragraph, and told him he still hadn't got the hang of it. But next exam it was all from the reading with not a trace of a notion from the professor's lecture, so he got a B+ with a note at the top saying that he was doing better. This was his first enlightening step in the complicated art of getting a college education.
The adviser Professor W. C. Greene had been working since the days of his doctorate in 1910 in the area of collecting, emending and editing the Platonic Scholia, now brought to completion just before the War. He was tall with a bald head and a fine aquiline nose, a formal style of academic gentleman who always addressed his students as Mr. Miller, Mr. Whitman. But when a student broke his pencil in an examination, he was instantly there taking his boyhood penknife from his pocket to sharpen and hand it back with a sign to go on writing. He liked to have his advisees in at intervals to see how they were doing, and felt that the nicest way to go about this was to invite several to his house, just a few streets from the Yard near the Radcliffe campus in a weathered shingled house with two maples in the front yard. Come over for tea and cakes on Sunday afternoon, we'll expect you around four. His wife had her silver service laid out, the teacups were fine Baleek which you knew from her glance you should be careful not to drop, and the little ladies' cakes were a perfect accompaniment to the afternoon's gentility.
--- Mr. Miller, how is that class in Greek going, are you getting a sense of the grammar yet? Yes, it is difficult and wait till you get to the irregular verbs, takes a lifetime to get them all in your mind. When I was a student that was required for the degree, it was not important if you were interested or not, just a requirement which later went out with changes in the curriculum. I remember my headmaster asking me why I was studying Greek so earnestly, if I was intending to open a restaurant. (The boys laughed but they were not sure exactly why.) Yes, it was great training for the mind, and when I went into philosophy working on Plato it gave me a sense of discipline in the language which was of inestimable value. All disappearing now, Latin will go soon with the changes in college admissions, but I am glad you are taking Greek, Mr. Miller. It is part of a great tradition.
Bill ambled back to the college on that gentle fall afternoon along with Roger Whitman and Harry Levine. Harry was surprised that there were so many Jewish students in the Freshman dorms, there were even a few Negroes so it must be part of a plan for breaking down the old prejudices, he figured.
--- Did you try Princeton too?
--- Oh yes, got same response as you did I guess.
And they both laughed. Imagine some colleges that still require chapel twice week and take off a quarter of a college credit for each one missed, two credits off on a weekend. And they weren't even church colleges, so it must have been a part of the American way of life, church and country as the foundation of a democratic society?
--- Your folks keep kosher household, Harry?
--- Maybe my grandparents did but that is all part of the past, we are just Americans I guess, although Dad had to go to the Scottish Masonic Lodge to get entered since the other one was still restricted. You know several of the guys in Adams are Negroes, looks like things are changing here.
--- You know, Bill, that thing about Greeks starting restaurant in the city, that was sort of unnecessary. My uncle Sam Levine is a radiologist at Mt. Sinai and I remember he told the same joke. I think that is really a mark of prejudice, the Greeks running restaurants and the Jews having a pawnshop or being a lawyer or practicing medicine, all the same thing.
Roger Whitman had been silent during this wandering conversation, but as they were ready to split ways, he stopped before heading toward his House, and remarked.
--- What you guys say is very interesting, and you certainly have the best intentions in mind. But I have to tell you honestly that my Dad is a Christian minister and he says that the Jews are responsible for the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He even showed me the passage in the Holy Bible that says they will be held to that even unto the last generation. I don't think that should really apply to you fellows, at least I hope not. But it is in the Bible and that is the word of God. I have been following your talk with interest, but I must say I have my reservations.
When he walked away on his own direction, Bill Miller had nothing to say. He was thinking was there a middle position between Harry's persistent Jewish consciousness and Roger's biblical condemnation, a place where he could be himself without thinking about it? He went back to his room with an uneasy feeling about both of his friends, but he felt that there would now be a different breath of air blowing among the elms at Harvard.
He didn't know much about Harvard's history. There had been protracted fights over the college's first centuries between the Boston Puritan faithful and the professors at the College, and the College had always refused to cave in. Harvard became identified with that honorable word "liberal" which it maintained firmly in its theology, in its social outlook and its educational programs. So when in the 'twenties the Lowell administration announced its new plan for seeking out students from distant parts of the country, from families of working people and farmers who had never thought of Harvard, that seemed a new frontier for the democratic enterprise. It did open the college to a national aspect and the changes did open up space after 1960 for the minorities, but there was more to the story that came out later.
Alarmed by the influx of well prepared students from the urban minority populations, Lowell had noticed the seven percent of Jewish students entering Harvard at the turn of the century that had increased to twenty two percent in l925 and it was felt that a linear increase would make Harvard a Jewish college in the coming decade. By opening the admissions to a national spread, where there were few Jews who would apply, Harvard could hope to retain the characteristics of its former population. This was only discovered years later, at a time when admissions had turned from social acceptability to the hard facts of the best prepared and most promising student body. So the restriction of the Lowell period passed quietly from Harvard's academic scene, as times and the country went through the changes of the second half of the century.
The Greek course was supposed to be taught in the first term by an assistant working on his doctorate, but he was drafted in the month before the Fall Term, so it fell by an unusual chain of events for one of the Professors to teach this elementary course to a scant dozen undergraduate students. This was not the usual procedure, but John H. Finley felt it would be a good opportunity for him to sow intellectual seeds for a new crop of possible majors, and see if he could instill some of his own personal sense of excitement while they were absorbing the grammatical basis of the lovely Hellenic language thatwas his passion. Indeed, this should be an engaging opportunity to Mr. Finley, for whom life was a concatenated string of great challenges the pursuit of thathe believed to be the aim and core of the whole educational process. Scholar in good part, he was an enthusiast in every aspect of the humanistic arts, but at the heart of his being he was above everything else, a vivid and vital thinking teacher.
A small man of wiry and athletic build, Mr. Finley was always on the move, as active in the classroom moving from the desk on which he would perch to then wheel himself unexpectedly, as he was on the university squash courts. Everything in his mind had to be done with drive and thrust and at top speed, whether he was talking or walking or expounding to a surprised class the essence of what he had discovered in his last evening's fascinating reading.
--- Yes, that fellow Arbuthnot may be a formal Oxford don and he is in person a reserved fellow indeed, he was just that when I met him last year at the conferences. But his ideas on the rise of the Greek Drama are astonishing, absolutely astonishing, and they open a wholly new way of approaching that most difficult of Greek subjects.
And he would go on to explain to the surprised class the core of the professor's new book, going from point to point with promise of a revelation thatwould sum it all up.. (The class bell was already ringing). Just a moment, Gentleman, we cannot leave the matter here, just five minutes (and he would go on for ten while the next class was waiting with the angry professor standing uselessly at the door). The students got it open and were already coming in looking for seats, at which point he raised his hand and said it would be just a moment, please do have patience. At last he would move toward the exit still talking with four students trailing after him, as he lectured his way down the hall and through the arched entrance, pausing at the doorway to make his final point before leading them through.
Those who thought this was to be a Greek grammar class sat back in disbelief at the first class, surprised by his dramatic and at times wildly theatrical show. A few pedants were there to learn declensions and they were disquieted, but the others understood the flair of his passion. When class was over the class exited the room, heads reeling under the thrusts of his multi-level argumentations. Having understood only parts of the professor's interleaved and overlapping insights, they went to the next class thirsting for more, waiting for the moment of a clarification that they felt would shine forth as a ray of pure understanding.
But there were the real acolytes who walked along with him after class as he talked, marching daily from the brick doorway of the Sever arsenal hall across the pathways of the Yard, crossing the traffic on Mass Avenue at their risk, led by this Pied Piper of vivid things of the mind, until they came to the gate of Eliot House of which he was Master and supreme ruler. Standing in the iron gateway, he would finish a sentence which culminated a long paragraph, and then turning to enter he would call back to them:
--- Perhaps can we let it rest a little until tomorrow, and then I can shed a little more light on this curious subject. Until then . . . . .and he would disappear into the recesses of his college, which students living in the lesser houses always assumed was a place of lofty reputation reserved for the sons of the wealthy and the social dignitaries of the time. Some felt this pointed to a snobby elitism, but the idea could never have occurred to the master at all, he knew every boy democratically by name and family and interests and created an atmosphere of intelligent congeniality thatwas unmatched.
--- It just happens, he would say, that certain things come together at a certain time in history. It was that way with Pericles' Athens and it had little to do with an aim or a purposeful plan. History is more subtle than our outlines of it, he would remark with a genial chuckle and a wave of his hand. You can't plan for things like greatness, there are centers where a certain magnetic draw arranges the components of the game, and this Commons is such a place, not by plan or any wish, but just because it has so happened. We can't read a happening backwards to the causes, you can try that in the sciences but not in these matters of the mind.
He would still be expositing that last notion at the table with his close students at dinner that evening. He liked to dine in the hall several times a week to maintain a touch with the young, who he said are always so open and so impressionable. And so it was that wherever he went there was elaborate conversation, much surprise and always a sense of excitement and fire.
He was wheeling himself off his perch on the desk in the Greek classroom one day, he had just been talking about the phalanx of the Greek foot soldiers at Marathon, but he sensed he was not getting the point across to the bookish students ready with their notes at the benches. Imagining himself facing a crowd of a thousand Persian archers bending their bows, he seized the ten foot pole used to open the upper windows, and aiming it directly at the class exclaimed that this is how it feels to have a platoon of heavy armed hoplites with their spears leveled coming straight at you. He stood poised for a moment while his attack seemed to have gone through the benches and was crashing into the classroom wall. A small dose of histrionics is always a useful complement to a full measure of excited imagination, especially working with high insight and important content. Nobody of his generation had a better sense of the elements thatgo into a classroom hour, than John Finley.
Nobody moved or breathed, until he put the pole back in its corner and in an entirely different manner read the famous lines of Aeschylos who had been at Marathon, the broken words about the crash and fracas of the front line troops in the first line of battle. He might also have been thinking of some of the boys before him who would be lugging their Browning automatic rifles and cans of rounds forward under heavy enemy fire in Belgium before the year was out. Yes there could be another Marathon but with would not have the same rousting glory, it would be grim gunsmoke without the glory in the softening effect of a historical mist.
But there were things which were not within his framework of understanding, humorous associations which could easily pass him by. A new boy who said he had done some Greek before asked to be added to the course. Mr. Finley greeted him cordially, asking his name.
--- Gerald Levin, yes that has a familiar ring. Now wait a minute, you must be the son of Levin the Aztec anthropologist? Is that correct Gerald, am I right?
--- No, Sir, it is Levin the Brooklyn gynecologist.
This story was related to a T.A. who told it around as a bit of sly humor about Mr. Finley, but when he heard it later, he thought it curious and rather odd, he nodded his head in puzzlement and wondered what it meant.
One of the students at the end of an especially impassioned impromptu lecture asked near the end of the hour: Sir are there any other teachers in the college like you? Finley paused a moment in thought, as he looked out the window to the Yard encircled by brick buildings and halls where the rules of education had for years been solidly outlined and established, and finally turned back to the question and answered:
--- No, I am afraid not. Not that there isn't change in the air, and some of us are working on new ideas for a broader based Humanities, something like a new grasp on the aims of a true General Education. But there is opposition even in my department, some of the older ones cling to the old ways, and although it will come eventually, it is going to take time.
He seemed a little depressed and the students let him walk to his House alone that afternoon, our of respect for his frank statement and for his personal concern. Talking with each other, they were sure there would be new teachers in his mold, they would come along but there would be few and they would be rare because the world does not generate a great many Pericles in a single generation.
In his student days he had discovered an abandoned schoolhouse near his father's house at Tamworth NH where he would read, write and lucubrate in uninterrupted meditation. For graduation present his father had the building moved to his estate and it was in the schoolroom that Finley did most of his thinking and writing in the coming years. The countryside around Tamworth was his other side to his teaching activity at Harvard, each vacation he brought back a touch of the New Hampshire hills to Cambridge to balance his personal equation. Having a gifted teaching life and enjoying the pleasures of the countryside equally, he was living a charmed life indeed.
The only thorn troubling his mind in l942 came from the appointment of the Classics Department Chairmanship to a man who was very different in mind and temperament, a man by nature cautious, meticulous and conservative and perhaps more distant because of his increasing deafness. If Finley had plans for an expansive spirit in the Classics, with new horizons for a large number of general Humanities students, the older Arthur Stanley Pease would be an obstacle for their realization. Finley chafed at the restraint, he let his students know things were not as he wished, but his time was not yet.
"If you pour oil and water into the same vessel,
you would not find them friends, but enemies" . . . . Aeschylus
Arthur Stanley Pease had his Ph.D. from Harvard in l902, he taught there before going to Illinois and then to Amherst where he became President 1927 -32. Returning to Harvard a few years later, he continued as Professor of Latin with the publication of Cicero's De Divinatione and the exhaustive Vergil Aeneid Book IV. He might have been thought a typical Latinist, but there was another side to his activity which few of his students would have surmised. Since his school days he had been a serious walker in the hills and countryside of New England, he had compiled vast collections of information on the flora of New England, had even in the 'twenties ventured with fellow botanists to the distant Gaspé area of Canada,
always marking and noting and later publishing precise accounts of his amateur researches which were more professional than the work of many in the field.
This continued throughout his teaching years, he was tramping with notebook in hand through the same New Hampshire hills where John Finley was summering, they were living in the same ambiance but in entirely different ways and with small awareness of the other man. In l909 Pease had discovered a remarkable carpet-forming willow on Mount Adams where "the dripping rocks of the gully and the high precipitous cliffs have proved forbidding to the path builder, and only the most expert climbers have found their way". This tree appropriately bears the name Salix Peasei, and later years he identified unknown varieties of Orchidae, as a series of his papers went to botanical journals annually.
Pease described himself in these words:
"I will confess that I am by nature a collector, that I began with marbles and horse chestnuts, advanced to postage stamps, continued with botany and books, and have at all times gathered facts and occasionally ideas. These two latter items, in lack of cranial space for dead storage, I enter methodically on 3 x 5 slips of paper. When digested these may lead to the writing of an article of a book."
Few knew of Arthur Pease's divided career, the botanists accepted him as a man of serious authority whose articles in their Journals were highly respected, possibly thinking of Latin as his livelihood or his hobby. But the Classicists were always tight and conservative, they had manicured their discipline into a pseudo-scientific study after the manner of the great l9th c. German philologists, and they would have been far more interested in the growth of a literary tradition than the flowers on a bush or a tree.
But since Pease was the Chair of Harvard's traditional Classics Department, there was no room for an expansive Finley who had to wait several years for a change in the chair for his own plans to flower and spread their intellectual seed. In the meantime he was energetic with Eliot House, he was restless with the classical curriculum, he matured his work on Thucydides and Pindar but his aim was with the advanced students who could fathom the intricacies of his agile mind, rather than Journal articles on details of wording and language.
Finley's career did blossom after l950, he became the leader in a great new wave of General Studies which brought the masterpieces of thought and literature to an excited student population at Harvard and later nationwide. But in a quiet mode, the botanical work of Arthur Pease did continue to generate new leaves, his papers were read and re-read long after his death in l964 at the age of eighty three, in fact the very year in which John Finley retired from teaching.
If there were a contest between these two lives and the meaning of what they had been about, each of us might choose according to his own preference. But in the case of two so disparate directions, we should pause a moment before saying which one would last longer. Finley left an image of the gifted teacher, one which would influence imaginative teachers in the coming generation. Pease left a lifetime of careful observation and judgment, first on file cards and then in Journal articles, many still retrievable on the web for their accurate value. What seems important to note is the great difference between two minds which work each in its own sphere, with a hopeful suggestion that we will continue to protect and to value differences, in a world where sameness seems to be the order of the day.
Now let us pay a visit to the aging Professor Pease in his Sever classroom as he conducts a class in Latin Literature 204. We are in a venerable building which looks like one of the massive National Armories built after the Civil War, designed as a mark of American strength and durability. Sever Hall's arched doorway is wide and tall, edged with a purposeful brick-rim declaring that it is firm and would never crumble under stress or age. Mortar might leach out, bricks with too little straw might disappear like a nonagenarian's front teeth, but the structure would stand firm and become as solid as a Roman arch to stand on its own for a thousand years. Up wide steps you would march past gas lamp fixtures on the walls, their thorium mantles long unlit, and advance to the classrooms where a thousand boys had sat for a hundred years at long plank desks busily carving their name and year with a penknife behind a perched textbook shield. There is grand history in those rooms, deep letters carved into the wood, and if you found a year '38 you would know it was not a date from this century. In such a hall and in such a room, a sense of an ancient literature was likely to make its mark on youthful minds, as they were becoming part of a historical tradition merely by being there.
Professor Arthur Stanley Pease, the man who had been active for years walking the hills of New England for many years, was now at Harvard becoming deaf, turning toward his other side, his literary work. He was five years from retirement, his thin whitish hair was the same hue as the wrinkled skin under his eyes, his shoulders were slightly stooped to the curve of his arms, he sat at the desk of the professorial chair facing a class of Freshmen who were to be instructed in the intricacies of the remains of Old Latin as preface to the florious age of Augustus. He paused to see if his flowering witticism florious had generated a spark, it hadn't so he went on with his placid account of what he said was the high period of the late Republican world.
The smart-ass boys rumored he had been taken out of mothballs because of the wartime shortage of teachers, but as soon as they saw that he was hard of hearing, they winked to each other and contrived intricate questions laced together with pauses and acoustic lacunae, waiting for the professor to try an answer or ask for a repeat of the question. He had always welcomed student questions, he thought that encouraging them was an essential part of the teacher's role, but would he have a suspicion of the evil intent of these junior inquisitors, whose self contented smiles he could not exactly perceive through his glasses? Two such trials in each class were enough to give them enough for an hour's ribaldry leaving class, as they exited the armory's giant gasp of an arch, laughing all their way to their squash court exercise before lunch.
Disrespect for one's elders was not something known or acceptable in Jewish education and young Miller was incensed. After class one day he stopped two of the offenders at the top of the third story stairway. Remembering how threatening a bully's finger had felt poking into his thorax in grade school, he folded a hard knuckle and thrust it firmly onto Jeffrey Worthington's chest bone, asking if he wanted to walk down the stairs with a promise never to do that again, or be thrown down the stairs headlong.
--- What do you mean, Bill, it was only a joke, just for fun. And the old fellow is so deaf he couldn't know what we were doing, could he? Anyway what business of yours is it? You think he'd thank you and give you a good grade for this, you ass kisser?
He looked down the long staircase, decided it wasn't worth a fight, unwillingly put out his hand to shake agreement, and went down with his pals without saying a word. As Bill went back to the room to get his notebook, he saw the professor standing there in the hall with his hand on the rail, and thought from his smile that he might have taken in the whole situation. A man used to observing the detail of leaf and blossom on the side of a New England mountain as the wind whipped through the fall-time valley, would not be likely to miss the signs of a snotty schoolboy's ill-conceived prank.
Coming back that year after the Christmas recess, everything was different. The university agreed to house an Officer Training Program thataltered the quiet and casual nature of the streets thatwandered from the River Houses to the far side of the Yard even past Memorial Hall. Now it was all men in uniform marching here and there in a great hurry, at last the War had come to the school in reality, beyond news in the daily papers. The changes were there for the duration and that meant still more changes coming which would prove irreversible in the course of time.
When Freshman W. Miller came back from vacation and went to his old room on January 3rd, he found two Navy Officers there with a double-decker bed in his old bedroom, their crates and gear piled in the living room, and a folder on the door with his name in large letters telling him where to go. His stuff was waiting for him in a strange little room at another building, his books and clothes and some furniture were piled up in front of the ground level window which looked out on the street to a used book store. The change to Adams House and that odd room were a surprise, but the real difference was when he went to the dining hall where nothing of the old style remained.
You got a tray with a plate and you walked through a line where meals were dished out from heated containers. Go through as fast as you can get served, find a table somewhere where there is an empty chair and eat to get it done and get along, because there is a long line at the serving line waiting down the hall. No menu, no waiters, no view of the Charles where a fellow could linger after dining with his friends, that was all gone in the year l942 as you saw the new view of what College Dining was to be in the future. Only those who had seen the old way would feel a loss, new Freshman would think it had been like that forever. College learning would be the same, but college living at Harvard and across the country would be quite different from then on.
Adams house had been sandwiched long ago into a tight space without lawns and views. It was built in compact brickwork with a Master's House wedged in somehow, but it had a hidden swimming pool under the basement, and a lovely library tucked into an odd space that the architect probably hadn't counted on in the drawings. A library can be a room where books are stored with numbers on the shelves, guarded by an eagle eyed lady with pencil and a stack of library cards. Or it can be a walnut paneled room with tables on Oriental rugs, bookshelves arranged here and there to make comfortable corners for sitting with a volume or talking quietly with a friend. Such was the library at this house, an inviting place for all who loved books although a place unknown to the college sports crowd who would have felt intimidated by the display of so much elegant learning.
It was to this library that Professor Demos of the Philosophy faculty often came on a Sunday afternoon. Contrary to the university practice of students calling the professors Mr. Finley or Mr. Hathaway, this eminent scholar of Greek Philosophy was always referred to as Professor Demos since he was felt to be of a different strain from the others. Visiting and sitting at ease in the Adams library atmosphere thathe loved, he would invite a student who came in to talk with him, he would ask his name and when he was asked what he did, he would modestly say: "I am just a teacher here". Perhaps they would fall into a conversation about life and the possibilities of a better way of living, a conversation that the surprised student would not forget.
He could explain to a colleague that he wanted to keep in touch with the students and learn something new from their ideas, but there may have been another reason for his visits to the library of that particular House. It was only fifty yards from the Lampoon building up the street toward Mass Ave. where many years before he had been the janitor while slowly earning his way to the doctorate, and that was a memory he did not want to forget. Here at the Adams library he could savor both ends of his professional career with a thoughtful reminder to himself, noting that one can in fact seek and find a better way of living without having to face a spiritual compromise.
There was a story that a young assistant in Sociology. came to a new class of thirty students wearing a cleaning man's jacket with pail and mop, which he put in a corner at the front of the room near the window, where he stood viewing the scene outside. It was the first lecture of the term and the class was waiting for the Professor to arrive with his bundle of notes to set himself up formally at the lectern with a cough as signal that he was ready to begin. But the bell had rung and the professor was still not there. The janitor was now standing at the lectern and was looking around at the faces in the class. They were puzzled, slightly embarrassed and wondering if he were going to make a fool of himself. He slipped out of the jacket which he put with the pail and mop, and proceeded with his Lecture on the effects of rank and privilege in a democratic society, with equal attention to the Founding Fathers and to 20th century developing America. This was a good story for the students to retell about professorial oddness, but it was a also a lesson about the acceptance of rank and privilege as dangerous components in the learning experience. This curious episode stuck as he had hoped in some of the students' minds.
An experiment into Chemistry was disappointing. It was taught much the way high school algebra had been taught, an automatic balancing of equations without explaining the meaning or how the juggling was actually done. But this was a time when the tabulation of the Elements was still thought to be a scientific breakthrough, as new elements were being added to the list one by one. The science of chemistry was thought to be waiting for the completion of the full list, with substitutions and rearrangements to be checked out in the laboratory with real materials to see if it was working as planned. Valences were seen in the student's mind as mysterial powers that made the matches all come out right, and the students in Inorganic were advised not to consider going on to Organic unless they got a high grade, because that door would be closed to them by their intellectual limitations forever.
After class one day he asked the teacher, whose name nobody seemed to remember other than he was a retired Professor of note who had come back to teach because of the shortage in the war, about some of his quandaries.
--- Walk along with me to the Faculty Club where I have lunch and we can talk about it. Yes, we are very far down on an ascending ladder and there are many things thatare going to change in the coming years. You guessed right, chemistry should be taught on an atomic rather than molecular level, and there may be a time when we will be teaching it on levels far beyond the atomic, thatwe will then consider primitive and restrictive. But these things take time, and research has to be done by some very exceptional minds first, then we will be able to interpret what we have found for the public, who will want to know more about how the world is put together. I started in this field before the First War, I have done my part and was known for a while as a leader in certain areas of the research, but of course it caught up with me and has passed me by. That is the way it happens and the way it should be happening, at least in a growing field of knowledge.
They paused at the Faculty Club, the professor leaned on his student's shoulder for a moment getting his breath back, he asked him to help him to the door where they parted. But a young woman assistant took over his classes the next day and in the coming week the professor was mentioned in the Obituaries as an early leader in the important field of macro-molecular synthesis and the development of the man-made rubber substitutes, now so vitally needed for the War Effort.
There were many new doors to knowledge. One opened through the door to the classroom of Robert Pierpont Blake whose course in Byzantine History was reputed to be both dry and exotic at the same time, a keyhole peep into a scholarly world unknown to undergraduate students. The serious students in the class were advanced history majors who each hour scribbled their notes avidly until a pencil broke or they ran out of paper. They were clearly far ahead of any Freshman but he thought he would try to do the course by getting the major points in class and using reference books for the details later. What seemed most interesting was the professor's references to his research before the first War in Russia; his mastery of a half a dozen languages from Georgian to Armenian to Persian reaching far beyond his college classical Greek; his occasional references to helping President Wilson with a translation problem; and a suspicion of sly humor thatthe advanced students said was reserved for his afternoon tutorial sessions.
There were things to be learned quite incidentally from this unique professor's class. First was that much of the class note taking was not necessary if you traced out the lead idea clearly in your mind, so long as you knew where to find the body of historical detail from the right reference sources. He brought the professor's two volume Byzantine History to class at the last lecture and set it on his desk in the front row to show the professor why he had not been taking notes. He saw it instantly and gave a broad smile of understanding. Studying the text non-stop for two days before the final exam, he got a B plus thattold him he was on the right track with his notions about notes.
The professor was a large man well over six feet tall and heavily built. For some reason he liked to stand before the blackboard gripping the wood chalk tray with a hand on each side as he swayed back and forth slowly while enunciating his sentences. One day just as he was reaching the end of a complex analysis of the relationship of the Jews with the government of the Eastern Roman Empire in the sixth century A.D., he leaned forward a bit more than usual and his weight tore the wood tray from its attachment beneath the blackboard. Not a sound from the astonished class, as he walked calmly to stand the strip in the corner, still outlining his argument and continuing until the bell rang.
A second lesson was learned here and filed for future use: If you ever become a teacher; never pull on the chalk tray as you are lecturing to a class.
Knowing that the draft was looking over his shoulder, he decided to use his last term in 1942 in another exploratory direction, and by permission signed up for a course in Historical Linguistics. Prof. Joshua Whatmough was a roundish and ruddy faced Briton with white hair, a terror to secretaries and underlings who shrunk from even meeting him in the hall, but to his students a marvel of learning in torrents of linguistic examples chalked on the blackboard with his right hand while his left wielded the eraser to make room for more. Here notes were essential because there was no textbook, the lectures were from a pile of papers on the desk, perhaps a book he might someday publish were he not continually adding and revising the entries year by year. He spoke with the intonations of the Manchester University he had left twenty years before with his M.A. while retaining for colloquial use some elements of his North Briton dialect. He lectured in detail rather than outline, following each linguistic item he was explaining with a train of subordinate examples as proof of the historical family tree which he was adumbrating. Having studied mathematics earlier, he know from Euclid that the proof in linguistics too was the point of the pudding. Only at the end of the term would the rationale of his method become clear as students would scramble to unwrap the intricacies of the notes they had scribbled in class, while for some the scurry would be too late and in vain.
--- Mr. Miller, you did very well for a new student, it was a solid B and you could go on with this work, if you were interested.
----Thank you very much. I think I am up for the draft but if I survive the war, I think I will be coming back for more.
He nodded a sign of approval and was off marching down the hall calling out imperiously for his secretary to bring him the copy he had told her to type up the day before.
One student who dared to test his nerve, asked the professor one day after class why he wasn't listed in the Catalog as Dr. Whatmough, Ph.D, expecting a furious or at least a tart reply. But he was answered with a surprising smile and a confidential answer: "Why, if I were to be examined for the Doctorate, who would there be sufficiently competent to test me?" Reaching into the sheaf of papers he was gathering up from the lectern, he drew out two offprints from a folder of his recent articles, and handed them to the surprised student as a positive proof of what he meant.
Harvard Square and Mass. Avenue in those days was a quiet and rather ordinary place. Going around the corner from the COOP was a string of stores where everything that you would look for in a small town could be found. There was a paint store, a hardware, a Dime Store and some clothing shops for men and women, leading to the Post Office past which you could walk on to shady streets with large lawns protecting the privacy of the private homes.
Going the other way toward Boston, Mass Avenue was different. After the WurstHaus, beloved of boys who missed their hometown delicatessen, were bars where you could get a beer if you were six feet tall and looked old enough, a coffee shop thatlooked like every cafe in any midwestern town, a barbershop where the barbers wielded stropped razors for a bloodless shave or the sideburn trim thateveryone got each week. Long hair was for bums and tramps. A tobacconist with barrels of imported leaves kept files for customers forever, so no matter where they went in later life, they could have their undergraduate private pipe mix sent from this sanctum of this nicotine empire. Further down were bookshops and a news stand and ice-cream parlor to which groggy undergrads who had too much to drink the night before, could repair the next day before breakfast. The owner had something for them, a special mixture thathe pumped out of one of the fountain tanks, a black and vile looking fluid thathe said would put lead in your pencil. Nobody was sure exactly what that meant but the headache did go away. Some classical jokester had persuaded the owner to put up over the door to the toilet a quote from Horace: UNDE OMNES COGIMUR meaning "where we all have to go", in this case to the toilet, not the post mortem realms of the underworld.
For social life of the students, there were formal meetings with girls from the other campus with parties and dances every weekend, but the college realized that the boys would want to meet with girls in other ways as acceptable to the rules of both privacy and propriety. So the official printed rules for the year l944 stated that :
: Women shall not enter the Houses, dormitories or club-houses, without special permission. In he case of the Houses, permission will be granted in accordance with the procedure established by the Masters.
Yet there could be room for intelligent arbitration. First, it was required that girls be signed in at the office before going to a room, and signed out when leaving the building. Second, the Masters could set rules as deemed suitable to them at the time, and there were subsequent regulations stating that the student entertaining a girl in his room must leave the door open to a width of not less than eight inches during the time of the visit. Letting the Masters make their own decisions seemed better than trying to formalize the details in print. And third, permission for such visits was to be given only between the hours of 1 PM and 7 PM, actually a generous set of hours with no specifications as to the day of the week.
This was. for that time a very liberal situation. Many colleges allowed girls and boys to meet only in a designated parlor in the dormitories, often under supervision of a watchful faculty proctor. Under such harsh regulations the students of course found ways to meet in privacy, sometimes in ways school and parents would never have imagined. By establishing a liberal attitude toward the ancient proclivity of students of both sexes to meet in privacy, Harvard led the way toward an openness thata later generation would have to accept as a matter of personal responsibility, ultimately leading to the generally accepted mixed dormitory life.
But some young fellows had heard of the Old Howard vaudeville theater down in the seamy side of old Boston, and in a fit of indiscretion approached some of the prostitutes who hung around that area. Educated about the dangers of disease, they had enough sense to use a condom but the problem was where to find one. If you asked the girl at the pharmacy desk for a pack of Trojans, she would turn red and go to the back room to bring out the Manager who would ask how you have to nerve to talk to a decent girl like that. After a sincere apology was offered, be might go get the small package, hiding it in his hand from other customers' view, slipping it into a paper envelope before letting you have it. But he would add in low tones that you should read the words on the neck of the safe, which specifies use for protection against venereal ideas only. You know what this means, he emphasized, not for contraception or for fun but just what the Church permits, that is all very clear from the wording. But when you used them up you had to go back to that store, because if you went to Kelly's Pharmacy, you would be told they wouldn't handle stuff like that, and you just get out of here and don't come back. If a city could ban a book because an Okie took a piss at the side the road, it would not be tolerant of anything as closely connected with the forbidden area of sex, as a condom.
Two brothers ran a helter-skelter bookstore on a small street near the dormitories, always busy scouring the city for loads of old books to furnish their long shelves. They had little respect for the books they sold, printed material was cheap and most went to the dump after a while on the shelves, but the printing on the dollar bill was very interesting to them and they sold anything and everything for a dollar or less.
---- This large folio size edition of Dante's Inferno with the Doré drawings, half leather binding and as clean as new, I wonder what he'll want for it. Well, go ask him!
---- That's got to be worth a five. No? well, you can have it for two, maybe one fifty. And these five little books (five 12mo volumes of the 1751 first edition of Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison), well I don't know what the hell they are so how about a buck for them all. You know I don't read stuff like that, that old English print would screw up my eyes. I wonder if books like these are legal in Boston, just take a look at this page, look at the way they write:
"In an agony of despair, she fucked in her breath abruptly".
He had never heard of the long-tail 18th century printed character: -s-.looking just like a -f- without the cross mark. The brothers handed the book back and forth in roars of laughter, took the dollar bill which they examined carefully to see if it was counterfeit, and went on with their sorting of moldy volumes for the trash.
But it was a question about the two volume edition of Horace's Odes, London 1732-7 which John Pine had engraved throughout, both text and the medallions on each page, in the finest detail imaginable. Dissatisfied with the English fonts used by printers in that time, Pine decided to take a few years do the text in a better format than anyone had ever seen.
--- Wait a minute, Joe said to this brother, feel this paper. The whole goddamn text is engraved, you can feel the ink on it. This is amazing but what gets me is that a guy could do all this work page after page, just to illustrate some ancient Latin book that nobody reads anymore, while he could have been turning out twenty dollar bills and making a fortune before they caught up with him in South America. What a waste, can you imagine that, Sam?
--- Gotta get twenty for that book, no I can't go less, I'll hold for you and you go think about it. I am not a collector but I know that is something special.
--- Dad, I'm sorry to have to phone you, but I found a very rare book from the 18th century, Latin and all engraved and he wants twenty dollars for it. I know that's a lot but I really want to get it and the man in the Houghton library said it's worth more than a few hundred dollars right now. I know I haven't been careful and I've been spending too much on books, but this one time and I'll be careful. I won't even run up a bill at the WurstHaus anymore, I can do without that, but I do want this. What a good Dad, he does really understand.
Joe said there would be a great sale next week at the Fellowes Athenaeum which turned out to be a brick library building in Roxbury from the Athenaeum craze before the Civil War, now gaunt and moldy with the damp air of fungal books thathad been sealed up there for thirty years. The return library cards were all dated from 1912 to the War, but it appeared no books had been added after 1880. In the front cover of each book was an engraved bookplate explaining that the building was the gift of one piratical Caleb Fellowes 1771-l852, whose grim and tight faced portrait suggested a man Captain Arab would have been glad to have on board. There were sets of English history with one volume missing, a complete Shakespeare edited by Payne Collier with his forged interpolations and marginal corrections from an imaginary folio in his personal possession. Here were all sorts of things there thatyou could never see elsewhere, pick carefully and you may find a few volumes thatthe mold hadn't yet touched, but maybe on second thought better put down the cardboard box of books you have just loaded and leave them here in their proper fungal environment.
Or you could take the subway from the Square and a after few stops toward Boston you would be walking on Washington Street down to Goodspeed's elegant bookstore under the great brick church, where there were tables of books for a quarter each, among which you could find a copy of the first printed edition of Bradford's chronicle of the l7th century Plymouth Plantation, or Emerson in the original format as printed in Boston, or sets of Browning thatnobody had the patience to read in those active days of Progress. Old books were just old books then, never thought of as rare because just old and the few collectors of antiquities had the book market to themselves.
It was in May just as he was finishing his final examinations, when a telegram from his mother said that the formal "Greetings from the President of the United States" had arrived and he was to present himself on June 24th at the local Board to get papers arranged for his military duty. So now as the term was ending his business was getting boxes and crates for his accumulation of books, the black portmanteau trunk was lugged up from the basement and stuffed with everything he had, carefully marked with the shipping address in large letters, and he was soon on the train going back home in a whirr of uncertain activity.
The delivery truck brought the crates and the black trunk to the cellar entry. He had been busy putting everything away in boxes to store for later, and had just snapped the locks on the portmanteau closed with a sense of finality, when he suddenly remembered how it had looked when he was painting it a year before. He remembered he had thought of it than as a coffin and the same thought returned to him again, but in a different way since he was now going into the military service. He put the thought aside and pushed the trunk into a corner where he could forget about it for the time being, there were many other things to get ready for his immediate future.
--- It is already May and there are a few weeks until I go off to the army. Mom, can you find me new school notebook and a couple of pencils, I was thinking of doing a little writing while waiting for the final notice. Not much to do now and a lot of thoughts rolling around in my mind, things I would like to remember and just something to keep my mind busy before I go.
May 19: Getting ready to go the army, I was just thinking about Dad in the last war, and here we are again. No, it's just me here this time. Some people still say we should not be in the war now, but most are with it as something we have to do. But I wonder if the Nazis could have got by unnoticed by taking over the European countries slowly by alliances, buying up Europe with their deutschmark and even accepting the Jews. They might have slipped by peacefully. No, it never works that way, the British Empire was built with armies, the Romans too, the god of war Ares represents the earliest big business, which is War, and his name even sounded to the Germans like Aryan. So now we have to go back with a stronger army, same old routine.
May 25: Mr. Fairchild came to tune the piano, he did a rebuild on the Steinway four years ago, all new inner parts and replaced the legs with modern ones. I remember Dad's joke: "Piano for sale by a lady with carved wooden legs". Very distinguished gentleman, Mr. F., he looks like Basil Rathbone. When the piano had been rebuilt and delivered he made a point about signing it with his name, he had smeared something with the pen and had to wipe off, still shows next to his signature. Dad said he started with a Z because his name was originally Zuckermnan and he started to write that from habit before writing Fairchild with a flourish
May 31: Last day of the month, time to go soon. Went to say goodbye to my old piano teacher Hans Burger, he told me how the Nazis tore up his Ph.D. parchmnent on the stage in front of him at Heidelberg, and when he was conducting an orchestra at Frankfurt how the brownshirts had come in dragged him out and threw him out in the street. He went to Paris on the train the next morning. Lucky he got out, many didn't..
June 2: A warm morning, summer is really here. I will miss all the things we always do in summertime, going to Jones Beach and spreading our blankets out on the sand before going into the breakers for a swim and then opening the wicker basket with Mom's lunch of sandwich and goodies. I don't suppose the army will be like that at all.
June 5: Putting away my books, I won't be needing them for a while. That copy of Caesar's war Commentaries seems sort of different now,. not just words about the legions and tribunes and that evil Vercingetorix all laid out like a war-game. But he was doing to Gaul what the German have been doing to France, trying to break the spirit of the people, and at ancient Orleans he had forty thousand people murdered to make room for his retired soldiers' farms. Americans who had been reading Caesar at school had no problem after l776 about killing off the Indians and grabbing their lands, they had read about that sort of thing in their classical author.
June 9: Maybe I can take with me the French-English pocket dictionary, Dad said he can send it when I get to camp, might be able to try out some of my French if I am sent over there. I was reading in the l911 Britannica about Germany and the reasons for becoming military, they said it was so they will never again be invaded by a Napoleon again in the future. And there was under the entry for Japan a statement by some Japanese Baron Something-or-other from l906 that Japan had to develop a strong army and navy to show the Europeans that the Japanese were not a second-rate people, that they were as good as any of the the Europeans. Dad said when the Third Avenue EL was torn down, the scrap was bought up by Japan, I guess most of that will be coming back by now as ships in their pacific fleet.
June 12: Dad gave me the bible he had in his breast pocket during the war, they gave each soldier one and he put it in his breast pocket automatically. Glad he did because when a piece of shrapnel hit him in the chest it went just half way through the book. I put it with the books I was storing in the cellar, said I would get a fresh copy for myself if I wanted some protection.
June 16: Time is getting near, nothing much to do anymore to get ready. I went out today for a long walk around town, all the way over to the park when Dad and I used to go sledding in the winter, we had long runs down the hill and we would climb up again dragging the sled talking about this and that. Then I went over to the bridge over the Sound, must have walked several miles and was tired when I got home. Soaked a while in the bathtub thinking of leaving home, wondering where I would be in a few weeks, what it would be like to be living in a barracks with men I didn't know. Some of those sergeants are real tough on the college boys, no education and they like to give them hell. Oh well, I can take it.
June 18: The papers came in the mail today giving the date and place for me to appear. It will be downtown at the bus terminal, they said look for the four army busses and check with the officer in charge. We had a good dinner, Mom made the stuffed crab meat baked on a large scallop shell the way I like it and I ate four of them, we had a six layer chocolate cake the way she makes it with the orange flavor frosting. Dad gave me a short drink of his whiskey on a piece of ice, he said sip it slowly, guess you are a man now that you are going in the army. Just before we went to bed he called us together in the living room, and recited in Hebrew a prayer he called the Yiskor. I had never heard of it before, but he said it was a prayer for peace. Then I went to bed and thought about going to the bus terminal on Friday morning.
June 20: Last day home and not much to write about now. Lots of thoughts but I will put the notebook away with the pencil in it, and leave it to continue later when I come back from the War.
They were waiting, the three of them together, in the downtown bus station, she handed him a paper bag with some sandwiches for lunch just in case he got hungry before they got to Fort Lee. Sometimes there are traffic tie-ups, she said. He didn't want to take it along, makes me look sort of foolish he said, but his father said just take it because she means well, and who knows you may get hungry too. He gave a nervous grin and they all smiled.
The Sergeant told them to get their papers out and the men should all get in line. Time to say goodbye now, we are going to get moving in ten minutes. The four army busses opened their doors, the corporal at each door checked the papers as the men went in looking for a seat by a window from which to wave to the family. It took a long time to get everything in order, the cool morning was getting warm and sticky in the breathless bus yard, fathers were giving their sons a firm handshake and a slap on the shoulder while mothers reached for a handkerchief to hide a stray tear.
Still the motorcade was not ready to go, there were orders and papers which had to be cleared, so there was still time to have a last look at a departing son in the window of his bus. Many a father might think to himself in that waiting interlude :
--- I hope he is able to get along with the army. These boys think of themselves as individuals and private persons, but when they are in the Army they have to make big changes. They are going into a system thatdoes not have much tolerance for individuality. We teach our kids the value of independence, now they have to put it aside and get on with the business of the war. I hope he can take it.
Another parent was thinking:
--- He still looks to us like a kid, and in many ways he is still one. But he has the benefit of eighteen years with the experiences thatmake a boy into an man. Every one of these boys boarding the Army busses is different, they have different ideas and different ways of doing things, and they are not going to lose these things now. Everybody changes a little with new situations, but a person's basic being is formed by how he has been living, and personality is written with indelible ink. We don't have to worry about him at all, his spirit will survive.
The busses are starting to move, they are rolling out of the bus yard into the street, the parents have followed them out to the sidewalk and are looking down the avenue as they disappear in a cloud of exhaust smoke into the far distance.
--- It is all done and he is gone.. He is needed for the war and he will do his duty just fine, the way I did. But I didn't think it would be happening so soon all over again.
Thinking about all these things, he couldn't talk further, he just added:
--- Mother, I think it is time to go home now.
And a second thought to himself:
--- I hope he makes it. I hope he will be coming home as good as he went out. Even if he doesn't make it into the Air Force. He always had that idea of his, like going his own way, something like . . . .flying solo.
Prof. Em. Middlebury College