A Memoir Of A Journey Not Yet Completed
by Glen T. Nygreen
Table Of Contents
Part One: ORIGINS
Making it in Minnesota
An American Story
"Have Ted Do It"
Part Two: GROWING UP
Whatcom High, Rah! Rah!
Windows On the Future
Part Three: SEATTLE
At Last, Athens
Part Four: The Wider World
An Organization Man
Chapter 1 -- INTRODUCTION
The Japanese live in a homogeneous society. They are fully aware of their
long history, during most of it relatively isolated from the rest of the world.
This sense has many implications for the way in which the Japanese deal with
other peoples, including those of countries closest to them geographically, as
well as for what we call the Western world. It helps them define themselves.
This implicit sense pervades their thinking, unverbalized but pervasive.
In contrast, most Americans are aware of their immigrant history. Although
most citizens lose touch with their own family roots in favor of assimilation
into an American identity, the sense that the mixtures of origins which go into
American society is a positive factor in nation building is pervasive. This has
implications for how we approach peoples of other nations. It is clear that
negotiations on issues will encounter communications difficulties when the
implicit assumptions of identity are as strikingly different as those of
Japanese and Americans,
My increasing awareness of this situation leads me to want to understand
better my own origins. This necessarily demands some genealogical research. In
undertaking this, I am not interested in a study of a family tree. I want to
understand the social forces which combined to create my own career. I write
this because the writing itself helps clarify my thinking. I share it because it
is a part of the lives and careers of others as well.
THE SWEDISH ROOTS
Varmland is a major administrative unit in west central Sweden. It borders on
Norway to the west. It is both above and below 60 degrees north latitude, about
the same as Helsinki and Leningrad and slightly north of Stockholm. One would
reach it by train traveling west from Stockholm. It is a farming and dairy area.
Emigration from Varmland between 1851 and 1925 was the highest of all Swedish
districts, both in absolute numbers and in percentage of the total population.
More than 10% of all Varmlanders emigrated.
My great-grandfather, Olof Jonsson, was in the first wave of emigrants. He
left in 1866, at least two years before emigrant fever became widespread. Born
in 1822 (January 7), he was 44 years of age when he reached the United States
(June 22). His wife, Karin Jonsson, born in 1818 (August 29), was 48. They lived
in Nysocken. Migration is usually a phenomenon of somewhat younger people. What
conditions would have produced this urge to leave?
In 1850, 78% of the population of Sweden was engaged in agriculture and
related occupations. In that year a series of new decrees altered the
relationship between farmers and the land. Previously, land tenure was
apparently arranged around a village network. The new decrees gave each farmer
(landholder) access to a uniform allotment of land. This all went to private
landowners so "cottagers and free lodgers" no longer had access to pasture land
There are no family documents to indicate what status Olof Jonsson and family
had relative to the land. We know that Sweden had a low death rate, lowest in
Europe at that time. Despite emigration the population of Sweden grew from 2.3
million in 1800 to 5.5 million in 1910. At the same time the proportion involved
in agriculture and related enterprises fell from 78% in 1850 to 54% in 1900.
Serious crop failures occurred in successive years during the 1860's. The first
emigration wave peaked in 1869. It is tempting to explain this by reference to
economic conditions in Sweden. Surely, that is at least a part of the picture.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Swedish young men
comprised much of the mercenary armies of the time. There was little opportunity
for them in the cities in that pre-industrial period. On the farms,
primogeniture policies made land ownership impossible for other than eldest
sons. And eldest sons often found the burden of caring for the older generation,
an obligation of primogeniture, onerous and probably impossible to manage in a
near subsistence society. Thus when mercenary armies came into disfavor and the
cities proved inhospitable, emigration was an obvious alternative for many young
Religious intolerance was a source of restlessness among many Swedes and
particularly among rural villagers. In 1726 a law was passed forbidding all
religious assemblies ("conventicles") outside the state church. This was
apparently intended to combat the growing Pietist movement, which emphasized the
local worshipping group and was outside the state church. The Pietists resisted
the law. They met in private homes to discuss the Bible and share devotions,
combining religious exercise with socializing. They emphasized conversion and
personal religous experience. The law was repealed in 1858 but the Pietists
still resented the power of the state church and for many years considered
themselves the objects of official persecution. American revivalist movements
were attractive to people who felt persecuted for their sincere beliefs and
therefore influential in drawing attention to America as an alternative
residence. As we shall see later, this was definitely a factor in Olof Jonssons
determination to emigrate.
The other paternal great-grandfather, Otter Per Persson, was born in 1828
(April 29) at Fensbol, in the same area as Nysocken. His first wife, Kerstin
Olsdotter, was born in 1830 (August 25). She died in 1867, leaving Per Persson
with six growing children. In 1869 Per Persson remarried, to Maria Persdotter
from Fryksande. After twelve years of this second marriage, the entire family
emigrated to the United States, arriving on May 23, 1879. Although both the Olof
Jonsson and Per Persson families came from the same general area in Sweden, they
did not know each other there.
Again we have a case of older people migrating with young families. Was it
the hope to give greater opportunity to the young that spurred them to leave
Sweden so late in life? Per Persson was 51, his second wife 36, when they
reached the United States. It certainly represents great courage in undertaking
such an adventure. Behind it there lurks the combination of social factors in
Sweden which made it both hopeless and frustrating to remain there.
Per Persson sent his son, Ole, to Minnesota to check matters out, a year
before the rest of the family came. This would indicate that there was
communication between the earlier wave of emigrants and those who followed
later. Great-uncle Ole came to visit us once in Bellingham, probably in 1928. He
was in his late seventies, at least, a taciturn and somewhat slovenly person. I
remember that his fingers left smudges on his plate and whatever he handled.
When he first arrived in the United States he took the name Widmark. It all
contributed to the confusion about family relationships in my mind when this
name was added to the growing number of family surnames to sort out.
I also remember Great-uncle Ole's widow, Aunt Ella. She later visited us in
Belllingham. In the winter of 1935-36 she accompanied me, Mother, and Beverly to
Vancouver, British Columbia, to see a performance of "Aida." Aunt Ella proved to
be a pleasant and gracious person. For Beverly and me it was our first formal
date. (More later.)
The panic of 1873 in the United States slowed emigration. It was to peak
again in 1880-1893. Per Persson was a forerunner of this second wave. Like Olof
Jonsson, he acted before it was the understood thing to do to better one's
status in life, no matter the risk and heartache.
There is yet another factor. Prior to 1840 all emigration was illegal. In
1866 it was still officially frowned upon and actively discouraged by the
Swedish government and by the state church. In that year, all twenty year old
males were required to spend thirty days in military service. Longer required
periods were being urged. The figures show that in that year, 1866, twenty year
old males comprised 4% of all male immigrants. Olof Persson had a twenty year
To conclude from the limited information at hand that certain factors were
more persuasive than others in motivating our forebearers to leave Sweden is at
best speculative. Whatever, it took courage and determination to take such a
step. It must have seemed hopeless to remain. Their children faced barren
futures in Sweden. Perhaps determination and perseverance would bring them all a
better lot in America.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 2 -- MAKING IT IN MINNESOTA
How Olof Jonsson and his family decided on Minnesota as their destination is
pure speculation. We know that Minnesota undertook an advertising campaign in
Sweden, though the usual beginning date given for that is 1868, two years after
they arrived in the United States. Presumably they landed and were admitted in
New York. They headed west where land was available and settlers were welcomed.
Perhaps it was when they reached Chicago that representatives from Minnesota met
them and encouraged them to come to Minnesota where conditions of climate and
soil would be familiar to them. Many emigrants were met in Milwaukee and
Wisconsin became a prime settling area for that first wave of migrants. Other
states receiving major influxes at that time included Illinois, Iowa, and
The family settled just west of Minneapolis. They started farming in Cokato
Township but without quitting that occupation began business enterprises in
Dassel and Cokato. From that point on I know little about Olof Jonsson, an
information gap I very much regret.
We do know that Olof changed his name to Nygren when he settled in Cokato
Township. Again we can only speculate as to why. The Swedish naming system was
tied to the land. An individual was some man's son or daughter, of a certain
place. Thus Olof was the son of Jon from Nysocken. Obviously such a system could
not be adapted to urban living. Invented names were thus the practice. These
names often referred to geographical features. Among these were Berg for
mountain, compound names like Bergstrom for mountain stream, and Nystrom for new
stream. Great grandfather Olof chose Nygren, meaning "new branch". Certainly
there was a surfeit of Johnsons and Pearsons and similar names. Nygren at least
had the advantage of being less common in Scandinavian settlement areas.
Grandfather John Nygren was twenty years old when he reached Minnesota. He
was probably five inches over five feet tall, a short man and slight of build.
He was nonetheless strong and capable of sustained hard labor. He was also
astute, probably quick of mind, and a convincing negotiator. He had several
businesses. He owned and operated a hardware store in Cokato. He helped organize
a farmer's cooperative which ran a creamery. His official title for many years
was Secretary (manager) of the Cokato Creamery, as the cooperative was known.
In those days the principal farm crop was wheat. It was thought to be too
cold for the growing of corn to be profitable. There were huge mills in
Minneapolis which contracted with the farmers to purchase their crops.
Grandfather and others observed that the price of wheat at delivery time was a
good deal more, most years, than the price at which they had earlier contracted
to deliver. As Secretary and therefore chief operating officer of the
cooperative, Grandfather convinced his members to build a grain elevator along
the railroad siding which ran into their creamery.
The next spring the grain buyers from the mills realized that the entire
Township area had not signed contracts to deliver wheat. They went around to the
farmers and asked why they hadn't signed. By agreement, they responded "Go talk
to John Nygren." When they did they were given a price at which the growers
would sign. The offer was cleverly designed so that it was well above the early
spring offering price and below the usual fall market price. Of course, the
buyers refused to deal. "What will you do with your grain?", they asked. The
farmer's simply referred to the grain elevator. By mid-summer the mills had
signed purchase agreements at the cooperative's stipulated price, for they
needed the grain and the price still allowed them a fair margin of profit.
The record shows that the elevator was kept in perfect repair for over twenty
years and stored not a single grain of wheat.
The railroad west from Minneapolis came to Cokato in 1869. By 1889 there were
four grain elevators in Cokato: Cargill Bro's, Osborn and MacMillan, Standard
Elevator, and Cokato Cooperative, of the last of which John Nygren was the
manager. In 1889 the population of Cokato was 500, about the same as Dassel. "It
is in the midst of a thickly settled and prosperous farming district, and
exports wheat, pork, butter, eggs, wood, railroad ties, hoop poles, etc.
(Lamson). The bulk of the population was of Swedish birth or descent. From
"Person Recollections of Frank B. Lamson: Cokato, Wright County, Minnesota,
1888-1892." comes this description of John Nygren:
"John Nygren, who became manager of the Farmers Cooperative Elevator, was the
best informed man regarding yearly production of grain and livestock in the
Cokato trading area.
"His forecasts were relied upon for years by the railroad company in their
estimates of business from this section. During his expert management of the
elevator the dividends nearly, if not wholly, equaled the value of the stock
issued. Nygren was an ardent worker for temperance."
Grandmother Carolina was twenty years old when she came to Cokato in 1879. By
that time Grandfather was 33 and single. However it happened, they married that
same year and for sixty-one years had a productive marriage until Grandfather
died in 1940 at the age of 94. Grandmother also lived to 94 and died in 1953.
They spent their last years in Minneapolis, living with their unmarried
daughter, Huldah. I visited them there several times. Unfortunately, they lapsed
into Swedish almost exclusively in their late years and a conversation with them
was quite unsatisfactory. It had to go through Huldah, herself hard of hearing,
and often questions were answered in an offhand way by her without being
transmitted to her parents.
On more than one occasion I asked my father why he left home to pursue his
career independently of his family. His response was always the same. He would
have been happy to have made his life in his home area but his father had older
and rigid ideas about the proper relationship between a son and his father.
Grandfather expected his sons to work without recompense, as a family
obligation. The only way the sons could have money and live an American style
life was to leave home and work for someone else.
One winter in my youth, probably about 1928, our grandparents spent the
winter with us in Bellingham. I remember that Grandfather single-handedly
excavated the basement area of our house. I recall our introduction to lutefisk,
dried cod which had to be soaked for a week with frequent changes of water to
leach off the lye and reconstitute the fish. Most vividly I recall asking about
early days in Cokato. He told how they had to clear the land for it was covered
with trees and of course had never been cultivated. They used the timber to
build homes. The first brick building was a church, built as a community center
as well as place of worship. I kept asking what denomination the church
represented. Grandfather didn't comprehend the term "denomination". When he
finally understood he said abruptly, "It didn't make any difference, as long as
it wasn't Lutheran!"
It was years later that I understood his response. To Olof and his family the
Lutheran church represented the state church in Sweden. It was an oppressive
church. The state paid the priests' salaries in return for their keeping the
parish registers, the records of births, deaths, and transfers. In turn the
state asked (demanded?) that they preach sermons upon the faithlessness of
emigrating. Were Olof and his family Pietists? Likely so. But they were so angry
at the Church of Sweden for letting itself be used to thwart the efforts of the
people to improve their lot that they wanted no part of anything Lutheran. Here
they found the Baptist faith congenial and the independence of each congregation
most adaptable to their situation.
Our grandparents had eight children - Adolph, Theodore William, Huldah, Levi
John (Jack), Hannah, Emil, Christine, and Otto. Two, Hannah and Christine, died
in girlhood, Hannah at 12 of diphtheria and Christine at 16 of appendicitis.
Emil died at seven of scarlet fever.
Briefly, this is what I know of the five who reached adulthood:
was apparently a bright fellow whose reaction to the rigid traditionalism of the
family constellation was to turn to drinking. This occurred when he was sent by
his father to school in Minneapolis to learn accounting. I doubt that he was
what we today would call an alcoholic but his misbehavior so outraged
grandfather that he would not send his other children away to school. I do not
think Uncle Adolph was economically successful but instead always a marginal
person. He and Aunt Sophie had six children, all of whom I knew except for Marlis, the last,
who apparently died young. Ernest, Waldemar, Ralph, LaVerne,
and Robert at one time or another visited our family. Robert (Bobby) became an
attorney, practiced in Minneapolis, and was at least nominally successful
Dad was the second child. He was always frustrated because he received no
family encouragement to obtain an education or to develop his obvious high
intelligence and inventiveness. He had four children. More about him later.
Aunt Huldah was really the middle child. She was bright and adventurous. Like
the others, she was not encouraged to develop her abilities and worked at
marginal jobs most of her life. She spent some winters in Bellingham. I recall
that she worked in Woolworth's but that was a time when women's opportunities
were much more limited than now. She was a gracious hostess in later years
whenever I would pass through Minneapolis. She was an active member of several
revivalist groups over the years.
Uncle Jack was tall, gregarious, and a bit of a buffoon. He always had
make-a-lot-of-money schemes which never amounted to anything. He married Aunt
Gladys and had two step-daughters, Lillian and Lois. I met them when they were
adults but have no impressions of them. They married and had children of their
own. I have no idea where they are now nor do I know their married names.
Uncle Otto was a stolid man whom my parents liked and appreciated. He worked
steadily for a dairy company in Minneapolis and thus weathered the depression
well. He and Aunt Inga had two sons. The younger, Wendell, earned an ROTC
commission and lost his life in World War II. The older, Donald, also known as
Blackie, was a pilot for Capital Airways, later taken over by United. He had a
reputation as a brave and competent pilot. One time he brought a full airplane
into a safe landing at the Detroit airport when its landing gear failed to
descend. I met him once when I flew on a Capital Air Lines flight from Chicago
to Cleveland. I saw the name Capt. Donald Nygren on the cabin bulkhead and asked
the stewardess to give him a message that his cousin was a passenger on the
plane. Soon he came into the passenger cabin and we had a long and pleasant
conversation. It was the stewardess who told me the story of his skill in
landing the plane under stressful conditions. He retired and lived in Florida,
and I believe is now deceased. I liked both of these cousins very much.
Grandfather died of colon cancer. My father always said that if Huldah had
taken him to the doctor instead of simply praying over him he might have lived
on. I asked if he wasn't angry with Aunt Huldah. He replied, "Well, when you are
94 you have to die of something." And with that response, I grew up some more.
It was always hard for Dad to be 1800 miles away from his family and not have
funds to make frequent trips. They visited the family in Cokato in 1919. One of
my treasured possessions is the family photograph taken on that occasion. I
don't believe he and Mother made another trip until after World War II. Then
they visited the family in Minneapolis at least twice that I recall. Despite the
infrequency of contact he felt a close bond with all his family and wrote
regularly, yet he prized his independence from them.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 3 -- AN AMERICAN STORY
I have only fragmentary information about Mother's family history. She spoke
proudly of her family but never felt impelled to investigate it carefully. One
of her cousins, a dentist named William Hirschfield, was said to have studied it
carefully but I never knew him and I am sure his study is now unobtainable.
William Carroll, 1758-1845, was from a distinguished early American family. He
was born in Maryland. One brother was the Charles Carroll of Maryland, a signer
of the Declaration of Independence. whose signature was purposely written so
large that King George wouldn't miss it. Others in the family gave leadership to
the Roman Catholic Church.
William Carroll fought in the American Revolution. At
one point he was captured by the British forces. He later moved to Ohio and drew
a pension from Ohio for his services in the Revolution. Mother refers to Volume
27 of the D.A.R. history as authentication. He married Elizabeth Feis (or Fies)
in Allen County, Indiana. Their daughter, Elizabeth Catherine, married Neal
Mother writes: "Neal Johnson Guinn was born in Ireland. He came
to America as a small boy and later fought in the war of 1812. Of three sons I
know about, Jacob was supposed to be very wealthy, having barrels of gold. He
married a Martha Jane Wade. They had a daughter Ann who married a Freeman and
her descendants still live in Chicago. Isaac, another son, struck oil and became
a very wealthy man but of his family little is known. Annias, born in 1814, died
in 1900, was also wealthy but thru the emancipation and the fact that he signed
a note for a friend who defaulted lost most of his fortune and emigrated to
Minnesota. He homesteaded on the shore of Lake Collingwood between Dassel and
Cokato. The farm later became the property of his youngest son, Jonathan (Jack)
and there George and Emily Guinn were born."
"Of two other sons of Neal Johnson
Guinn little is known except that Russell had a lip cancer but was killed in a
horse riding accident."
"Annias (1814-1900) married Nancy Baron or Barone (1823-1886). Of Nancy's
ancestors nothing is known. She was one of three little sisters who were picked
up from a shipwreck by a member of the crew who was also saved. From the quality
of their clothes and the ornaments they wore they were thought to belong to
someone of importance but (no) trace of their origins was ever found. The two
sisters were given to other families but Nancy remained with this man who
rescued her. He and his family (named Barone) were of Dutch descent and lived in
Pennsylvania. Nancy learned to speak Dutch and at the age of nine couldn't speak
any English. At that time her foster mother died and she went to live with a
foster brother who had married and in time she forgot the Dutch."
and Nancy Barone had eight children. The youngest was Jonathan (Jack) who is our
other grandfather. It is worth listing all eight children and their married
Frank, 1848-1944, Civil War vet., married Eliza Stage
married Joseph Yuly
Melissa, b. 1853, married Thomas Groves
Samantha, married Owen Groves Dora
Alice, married Joseph Francis
Mary, married Amos Stage
Jonathan Franklin, married Cynthia Foster
Cynthia Guinn had four children. George Washington Guinn, known as "Sunny Bub",
born on July 4, 1884 and the eldest, was a World War I veteran. Apparently he
never married. He was not a successful person and died penniless. Mother never
spoke of Jess, born in 1886, who must have died young. Edna Belle, the youngest,
married Leo Todd, lived in Portland, Oregon, and had a daughter, Alice. Aunt
Edna died of septicemia while pregnant, in May, 1924. All contact with the
family was lost. Mother (Emily) was the middle child (b. 1888).
When Mother was three years old, her father died of pneumonia (July, 1891).
When she was nine her mother died of the same disease, also referred to as
"quick consumption" (1897). The children were then separated. Mother went to
live with the Jewetts and for the rest of her life considered that to be "home."
There were other tales about her family that Mother would refer to occasionally.
She mentioned some family ties with Henry Clay. William McKinley was some
distant relative, an eighth cousin, so distant that Mother would comment that no
one would have known it had he not been elected President. She talked about
someone who owned an important link in the Pony Express and sold it to Wells
Fargo Company. These may be myths and they may be traceable, I shall never know.
The stories are simply part of the family history.
What is interesting to me is
the recurring motif of wealth gained by chance and lost by fateful missteps.
Those were turbulent times for the economy, cycles of boom and bust. There
wasn't much romantic about the frontier days. Hard work and accidents,
untreatable diseases, many children and little cash, these were the facts of
life. Minnesota was hard farming. Perhaps the good fortune of striking oil or
gaining "barrels of gold" was a way of keeping hopes for better days alive. To
claim family affiliation with a noted person was one way of affirming the worth
of one's self despite the hard conditions with which one had to contend.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 4 -- "HAVE TED DO IT"
Why is it that my appreciation of my father has increased steadily as I have
grown older? Perhaps it is an indictment of my insensitivity that it grew so
slowly. More likely it relates to the sense of independence he, in his own way,
encouraged in me. Or is it because of his Swedish heritage with its elements of
self-determination and perseverance which he transmitted through example?
Certainly he did not communicate by precept for he was essentially non-verbal. I
have now concluded that he was a remarkable man of his time, and altogether
Dad rarely referred to his boyhood. Especially he did not mention his
school experiences. His educational future was foreclosed by his father's
disappointment in his eldest son. It must have been evident to John Nygren that
his second son Ted was resourceful and innovative, clever at solving practical
problems, and constantly learning new techniques and skills. Probably he didn't
know what to do and so, in effect, did nothing.
So Dad left home in his
mid-teens, went to Minneapolis and learned to be a sheet metal worker. His farm
and hardware store experience added breadth to his mechanical and construction
knowledge. Once breveted a journeyman and a member of the union, he decided to
leave Minneapolis and see the rest of the United States. I have only sketchy
information without dates as to what his adventures were. I know he came to New
York City and for about two years supported himself by creating mystifying
mechanical window displays for which storekeepers would pay well because of the
crowds they attracted.
Winters were cold in the north. The warmth of Florida was
appealing and the tantalizing advertisements for cheap land investments
alluring. Dad sent some money in response to an ad and bought some "building
lots." The advertisements said that if you were on site within two years and
were not satisfied you would get your money back. The next winter he spent in
Jacksonville, working in construction. In the spring, before returning north, he
went further south to see his lots. They were at the end of a road, under water.
He went to the land office and asked for his money back. They laughed
derisively. Abashed, he asked where the nearest post office was. They told him
and then asked why he wanted a post office. He replied that he wanted to talk
with postal inspectors about mail fraud. His money was refunded.
The next winter he returned to Jacksonville. Why? "I enjoyed Jacksonville and
all the sunshine," he replied.
There were other adventures. He spent some time
in a mining area of the Rocky Mountains. Eventually he found his way to
California. In San Francisco, together with a fellow sheet metal worker, Jack
Schwartz, he opened a sheet metal shop. It did well. He brought his younger
brother, Jack, out from Minneapolis to join them. Then one morning in 1906 he
was rolled out of bed by a very strong earthquake. Soon San Francisco was in
The sheet metal shop had to be dynamited to create a fire break. The
three young men joined a homeless throng on Telegraph Hill. They put doors
across saw horses and slept on the ground beneath. During subsequent days they
would obtain passes from the militia, go into the city, and salvage materials
which they would bring to Telegraph Hill to create temporary shelters for women
and children who were almost helpless. This went on for some six weeks When
things settled down a bit they left and worked their way north along the coast.
Eventually they settled in Bellingham, Washington, some 90+ miles north of
Seattle. Dad was 26 and single.
(In our family home there hung on the wall a
photo or rotogravure of San Francisco in flames the night after the temblor. It
was a scary reminder of disaster which lies in wait for all of us, unexpected
and devastating. It affected us all as we grew up in that house. It was intended
to reach my sister Ruth in Salinas, California, which had its own brush with a
serious quake as recently as 1988, but apparently never reached her.)
resourceful as ever, Dad's business in Bellingham prospered. He created
advertising signs which hung on buildings and were much in demand. He built
building marquees so that shoppers could be out of the rain as they strolled
down the streets. He built efficient steam tables for restaurants to keep food
hot and inviting. He developed a reliable oil burner for homes and small
buildings. Many of the things he devised he secured patents for, although he was
never willing to sue anyone else for infringement if they copied his designs. He
said he cared only that he had sole rights to them in his home area. Elsewhere
people were free to utilize them if they wished.
Dad had strong socialist convictions. He believed it wrong for anyone to make
a profit from another person's needs. Thus he was unwilling to be a landlord.
Occasionally he would acquire a house or a farm or a store in satisfaction for
an otherwise bad construction debt. He disposed of them as soon as he could. I
never remember him being more uncomfortable, even embarrassed, than when it was
necessary to collect rents from any of these properties. It offended his sense
of what was fair and right.
The Nygreen Sheet Metal Works became in the 1920's,
a leading enterprise. I remember the heating and ventilating contract he won for
the construction of the Mount Baker High School, an early consolidated high
school near Deming, Washington. He was proud of that recognition and did a
superb job. That school quickly became a model for future district high school
The business needed an advertising tag. On his business cards and
all his papers appeared the confident slogan "Have Ted Do It"!
But how did "Nygren"
become "Nygreen?" There was in Bellingham another Nygren in the construction
business. He was a carpenter. Dad began to get charges on his bills at the
hardware stores which really belonged to the other company. When he complained,
the hardware store people said what could they do, given the tendency of the men
picking up materials to say simply "Charge it to Nygren." Dad's solution was to
tell them to put an extra "e" in his name and he would instruct his men to
emphasize the double "e" when they picked up materials. Thus it is that my birth
certificate shows the different name.
Dad was a committed union member. All his
life he maintained his membership in the Sheet Metal Workers Union. Although his
affiliation was with a craft union, his heart belonged to the concept of the "OBU,"
the one big union of all workers. He had been much influenced by the union
struggles in the Puget Sound country, struggles for the right to organize and
for the eight hour day. The efforts of the mill operators, the timber owners,
and the "vested interests", those with capital to invest and the power to
control markets, to suppress the unions and keep the workers "in their place"
went so far as to encourage violence against the workers and even to using the
state militia against the workers. Dad would never listen to criticism of the
I.W.W., for example, for to him it represented an attempt to empower the workers
in opposition to exploitative capital.
I recall vividly a dinner table argument when we children were seated around
the kitchen table. The specific issue I have forgotten save that it had to do
with the conflict between workers and the establishment. Mother had made some
ameliorative comment which angered Dad since it appeared to weaken the case he
was making. He expostulated, "Without a strong, powerful union the working man
has no more chance than a - a - a snowball in hell!" He smashed his hand on the
table to emphasize his strong feelings. Mother burst into tears and left the
kitchen, more offended by his use of the expletive "hell" in front of the
children than by his political position.
Dad had a complex attitude toward
religion and the church. Probably because of his family Pietism, expressed
through the evangelical Baptist theology of the churches in Minnesota, he saw
churches as full of people espousing attitudes of love and forgiveness but
failing to live up to these standards in their daily activities. He could not
understand how one could believe in the Jesus who preached to the needy and the
outcasts and not adopt the notion of Christian socialism. Nonetheless, he
supported Mother's determination that her children would be raised in the
church. He did not attend church services, nor did Mother. Much later when the
children had married and dispersed he did attend services with Mother on a
fairly regular basis.
Dad accepted the Bible literally. When as a young science
student I challenged the notion that the earth (world) was created de novo in
seven days, he was adamant that it was done as the Bible stated. He affirmed
that there was nothing new under the sun. Could chemists create compounds in the
laboratory that never existed in nature? Absolutely not! Such attitudes created
a barrier to understanding and communication that took years to overcome. It
seemed to me that he was repeating his own father's closed mindedness, although
I never said so to him.
Grandfather John was a heavy smoker of cigars until
around the age of fifty when he quit abruptly. I once asked him why. He said he
didn't know. Cigars didn't taste the same as they had earlier and it seemed the
thing to do. Dad was a heavy cigarette smoker, three packs a day, often. He,
too, quit rather abruptly around the age of fifty. He said much the same thing
as had Grandfather. Mother, however, said that for Christmas everything he had
received had something to do with smoking. He told her that if that was the way
his family and others perceived him he would simply change the perception by
There was an admirable quality of loyalty evident in all Dad's commitments.
In addition to his membership in the union he was also for more than twenty
years president of the Labor Temple Association, responsible for the
headquarters building. He was a long time member of the Central Labor Council.
He was a member of the Loyal Order of Moose, and Mother of the Women of the
Moose. Both of them took their membership seriously and strived to keep up the
standards of the group. To his family Dad was fiercely loyal. One time in his
shop some men were talking about the terrible behavior of the younger
generation, in rather specific terms. I was standing nearby but out of sight, as
it happened, and I heard my father respond with feeling, "Not all of them, not
all of them!" Dad would never express that confidence directly to his children.
Hearing him say this gave me a warm feeling of family solidarity.
Nor was Dad a
reader. The daily newspaper, his union journal, and Popular Mechanics was the
extent of it. He thought about what he read, however, and was frequently
stimulated by it. His jaundiced view of newspapers was often expressed by
turning around the newspaper claim and saying "All the news printed to fit!"
Outside of mechanical concerns, he was uncomfortable with ambiguity, avoided
complexity in argument about political or societal issues, and concentrated on
the perceived character of actors in the daily dramas of living.
not a worldly sophisticated place. In the 1920's the Ku Klux Klan had a large
following and held annual parades in the city. Dad was opposed to the Klan and
what it stood for. One of his dependable workers, Jake Komen from Lynden, was
out sick whenever there was a KKK parade. Jake once told me that Dad knew quite
well what Jake was doing but never said a word to him about it. Jake very much
respected Dad for this for he knew Dad's strong feelings of opposition.
I was a
disappointment to Dad. He was not a good teacher. He would want some help while
he was undertaking some mechanical task and I would agree willingly. My task was
to hand him tools and hold the flashlight but he never sought to explain what he
was doing or the reason for it. Thus I quickly lost interest and he soon grew
impatient and suggested I go do something else. As for the things in which I was
interested he had little understanding. Nonetheless, consistent with his
approach to people, he encouraged me by leaving me to my own devices and not
entering unsought judgments or advice.
And Dad loved the outdoors. Uninterested in either hunting or fishing, he
loved to climb in the mountains, the usual objective being to visit some
abandoned mining site. He loved to read mining newspapers and followed the
progress of penny stocks issued by hopeful mine developers. Eventually he
designed his own portable placer machine. Family outings usually centered around
trying the machine on some mountain river bed where the labor of moving rocks to
get to the heavy sands between and beneath them quickly used up everyone's
energy. After each such experience the machine would undergo changes to remedy
whatever difficulties arose in its use. I think he dreamed of finding a black
sand deposit that would be full of gold flakes and even nuggets. He did find
considerable gold dust but never enough to make his efforts pay off.
understanding of automobiles came from Dad's purchases of Model T Fords and old
Chevrolets for just a few dollars, never more than fifteen. He would cut them
down and build pick-up truck beds, then sell the converted cars for twenty-five
to fifty dollars. When I was old enough to drive, he would let me take one of
these around town or into the mountains. If he were not along I was given two
rules. One was that if I picked up a hitchhiker, often Native Americans, I was
to require that they ride in the bed rather than in the cab. This seemed a bit
cruel for it was often cold and very rainy. I never disobeyed this rule,
however, for I perceived the sense in it and also his concern for his son's
The other rule was that if I went into the mountains I could leave the
truck at the end of the road, provided the gas tank was empty. I was instructed
to take a full gas can off the trail and cache it some 100 yards or more off the
trail. One time I and my friends returned after three days to where the road had
ended and found the truck gone. My friends were nonplussed but I simply
retrieved the gas can from its hiding place and began walking on the road toward
home. Sure enough, at the bottom of a hill we found the truck, abandoned and out
of gas. We simply emptied the gas can into the tank, started the engine, and
reached home without further incident. These and similar experiences taught me
that Dad's "rules" were always eminently practical advice and worth heeding.
In 1930, the Great Depression quickly took a firm grip on the economy of
Bellingham. Construction activity virtually ceased. How Dad coped with this
situation reflects both his strengths and his limitations.
and self-reliant, Dad would not compromise either his high work standards nor
his sense of fairness to cut corners to get business. He held onto his business
until long after it was wise to do so. He sold tools and machinery when he could
to raise some cash. The mortgage on his house was held by a Professor Philippi,
later my chemistry teacher at what is now Western Washington University. The
house was saved from foreclosure only by the fortunate creation of the Federal
Housing Authority, a New Deal program designed specifically for this kind of
situation. When there was nothing else to be done, Dad closed his business and
went to Seattle to work for the Boeing Aircraft Company, returning home on
It was a difficult time emotionally for both Dad and Mother. They
never let their despair affect their children's activities, however. They had no
cash money to give but they encouraged us to develop our own resources. Later,
when the Boeing employment seemed to be permanent, they moved to Seattle, near
the University of Washington, in large part so the two younger children would
have an opportunity to study there while living at home.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 5 -- THE OUTSIDER
Mother never got over the breakup of her family of origin. A bright and
sensitive girl, losing her parents between her fifth and ninth year could not
help but be disorienting. She went to live with her Aunt Sarah and her husband,
Jonathan Guinn, my maternal grandfather, was a romantic figure
in Mother's memory. She transferred much of this affection to her Uncle Wallace,
of whom she always spoke appreciatively. It is curious that she was not as
openly appreciative of Aunt Sarah, although neither was she severely critical of
her except in her inability to fill the emotional place of the mother who had
failed her by dying. The family had two children of their own, around Mother's
age. Mother sometimes spoke of the warmth of family feeling. It must have been
an extra, expensive, and somewhat unwelcome intrusion to bring in another child.
It was the way such matters were handled by families in the 1890's. That Mother
was separated from her brother and sister seems not to have been held of any
Of the two Jewett children, the eldest, Myrtle Gladys, married an
Appleton, Minnesota, clergyman in 1903 and died in 1907. The younger, Harold
Wallace, later lived in San Jose, California, and we exchanged occasional family
visits. The emotional attachment between Mother and Uncle Harold was a close and
meaningful one. Uncle Harold and Aunt Gladys had two children. Ardelle, the
eldest was a beautiful girl who married a telephone company executive and lived
for a time in the New York area. Doug, the younger, was an attractive fellow who
served in the Navy lighter-than-air group during World War II.
It was the
awareness of being an outsider, even an intruder, that colored Mother's approach
to the world all the rest of her life. She once attributed this to her Aunt
Sarah. She said it wasn't so much that she was mean or abusive but that she
never allowed young Emily to forget the fact that she was a member of the
household out of a sense of family duty. Nonetheless, Mother often recalled
happy memories of her growing up there, despite the "outsider" situation.
Mother had a quick mind and was a fine student. Like Dad, she didn't talk
much about her school experiences. She became a schoolteacher. How much college
training had she had? Very little. She would mention the University of Minnesota
but it turned out that was summer session only. She taught in St. Cloud where
there was a teacher training institution and she may have pursued some study
there. She taught also in Kimball, for she kept a snapshot of the school
building burning down and still bemoaned that tragedy.
That family relations
were not easy is clearly evident from other things she said. The family opposed
her marrying (she was 26) because, she said, they didn't want to lose the cash
contribution she gave from her meager salary. Whenever I would try to pursue
such matters she would refuse to comment further. Her feelings are conveyed in a
penciled letter she sent me after she knew that Beverly and I were to be
married. It reads in part:
"I wish I could make you understand some of the
innermost yearnings of my life. Of course you know that I practically never had
a father or mother. Sure, I had a place to sleep, enough to eat, something to
wear, but I was never allowed to forget that it was because of my Aunt's
generosity. However, before I married, she was paid back, with interest, all
that she had ever done for me. I left no debt there. Every bit of education I
had was bitterly fought for. That is one reason that no obstacle that I have
been conscious of has ever been placed in your way. I've only wished and prayed
that it might be easier for you.
"Then Dad and I were married. Again, I went
against her wishes but I felt that I had a life of my own to live and I didn't
have to answer to anyone anymore. You see, one engagement had been broken up,
for no reason except when I married a source of income and a scullery maid in
the summer ceased.
"I tho't when I married that my mother-in-law would take the
place of the mother I had missed., but again I was disappointed. I failed to
reckon nationality, and because I'm not Swedish I'm still an outsider."
The poignancy of these words masks somewhat the underlying gutsy independence
of the survivor. Mother and Dad were much alike in this respect. They approached
the threat of economic vicissitudes with the same defiant response. Somehow they
would make it. And no one nor any worldly condition would tear apart the world
of family they created.
They were different from each other, however, in the
tactics they adopted to cope with the world. In contrast to Dad, Mother yearned
for acceptance by others. In their approach to partisan politics, for example,
they took opposite stances. Mother always voted Republican, the party of
respectability. Except once, that is, when she voted for Woodrow Wilson, to keep
the United States out of war. To her that vote was a gesture of independence and
she referred to it proudly. Dad, on the other hand, never voted anything other
than Socialist. Except once, that is, when he voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To him that act was shameful and he was embarrassed to admit to it. Despite
this, one of my vivid memories is that on election evenings, no matter how tired
Dad was after a day of hard labor, Mother would see that he went to the polling
The church was important to Mother. She saw to it that her children went
to Sunday School regularly. We were encouraged to stay on for church, although
during my childhood she herself never attended. She was active in the Ladies Aid
Society. Her circle frequently met at our house, particularly during quilting
projects for we had a large living room, really two rooms made into one, which
would accommodate a large quilting frame Dad had contrived for her. She enjoyed
the women of the church and was interested in the world missions emphasis in the
Baptist Church. It was the custom in her group to have two or three quiz games.
She always won these contests, and would shyly express her pride in doing so to
her family after the ladies had departed.
Mother shared Dad's interest in the
Moose Lodge and almost always accompanied him to the weekly meetings. When there
were social occasions we children would accompany them, particularly at
Christmas time. She served a term as the chairperson of the women's auxiliary
and took a leading part in preparing for the regular potluck suppers the women
would organize for both the men's and women's group.
The school PTA further illustrates Mother's yearning for acceptance and
recognition. She served as PTA president, as delegate to the town central PTA
organization and later its chairperson. She became a minor state PTA officer and
loved that involvement. She dropped out of it, I think, because she simply
lacked the financial resources to carry it on. It may also have been because of
Mother suffered recurrent migraine attacks. She called them "sick
headaches." She tried to work through them but they persisted and frequently
forced her to bed. One winter she was diagnosed as severely anemic, a period I
remember mostly because of the frequency of liver on the dinner table. After
that it was a number of years before I would again eat liver willingly. Some
years after I had left home, probably in 1947, she suffered a rather severe
heart attack. I wasn't aware of this fact at the time. Some years later her
physician told me that someday she would simply collapse in the middle of
walking across the kitchen and that would be it. When she died in her 96th year
it was from other causes, and much more miserably than if the doctor's
prognostication had come to pass.
Mother enjoyed reading. She read magazines,
escape rather than information giving literature. This fact, however encouraged
me to read. I was permitted to go to the library whenever I wanted and never
censored in what I brought home. This was in contrast to her attitude when I
wanted to participate in team sports after school. That permission was denied. I
was required to come home promptly after school. I resented this heatedly but
turned to ever more reading to compensate. I am sure the town librarian had
discussed with Mother my using the adult library stacks rather than the
children's section which I began to do when I was nine. There was nothing left
for me to read in the children's collection so I was permitted to be an
exception to the age rules for taking adult books out of the library.
The Great Depression was unusually severe and long lasting in Bellingham. I
enrolled in college the summer of 1934 when I was fifteen. I was working
Saturdays in a grocery store for two dollars a day. I saved money to pay the
modest fees, fifteen dollars a term. I had enough to pay the fall quarter fees,
but by the end of December I was without any money whatsoever. I had earned "A"
grades and felt confident that I could hold my own in the classroom with the
older students, many of them teachers back in college for a term. On
registration day for the winter term I was as despondent as I ever remember
being. I didn't know what I was going to do. As I was dressing my mother
appeared and wordlessly handed me fifteen dollars. It was the only money I ever
received from my parents for my education. It came at just the right moment. I
was enormously grateful although I had only a glimmer of the sacrifice this gift
required from a family which had severe economic problems.
What my mother
represented to me was much like the lessons I learned from my father. She had a
fierce independence and a determination to manage on her own. She admired
learning even though she did not comprehend what that means in academic terms.
Schools she understood. She wanted me to go as far as I could or wanted to go.
Neither parent imposed any judgment on what I studied or what vocational
aspirations I might develop. And even though they could not help me financially,
the memory of that one gift of fifteen dollars never left me.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 6 -- LOVE LETTERS
Determined to end his loneliness, Dad traveled to Minnesota in the late
winter of 1914 and proposed to Emily Adalyn Guinn. He was accepted. From then
until their marriage on his birthday in September, the letters went regularly
from Bellingham to Minnesota. Mother kept them and we have them today.
What follows is excerpted from those letters.
Aberdeen, South Dakota....April 15, 1914
My Eminent Friend, I arrived here this morning ...I
joshed Anita Halvarson about getting married. She said if it was really so I
would not be so quick to tell it, but I told the truth.
I also told the Mpls. girl I was really all cut and
dried. She did not believe it at all so when I left her on the car (?) she
thought I might be serious and said is that a go for her to stop writing me.
I said yes, without a smile, and told her she was to (sic) stingy about her
love and had lost out.
Now sis I am going to make good and try to make you
as satisfied as possible. I leave in the morning for Bellingham.....
With haste I beg to remain yours, Respect, T.W.
Bellingham, Washington April 20, 1914
I arrived here Saturday eve.....Finest kind of
weather here. If you would be here now you could enjoy it with me...Kindest
regards to Uncle and Auntie...With best of respect, I remain yours Hub
Bellingham, April 25, 1914
My dear Emily, Your letter and card at hand two
days ago for which please receave (sic) thanks. The letter was good and I
liked it very much. One thing I did not approve of and that was this that
you would be satisfied but I would not be. Well, you are wrong. I will be.
Possible you think I expect more than possible or
more than anyone else has. It may be opposite, (that I expect) less than
anyone else has, as you was so afraid. You said keep your hands where they
belong. I was trying to do so but you said you did not want me to, O joy,
joy, stop the horse(ing).
Thanks very much for the letter..I will expect more
of the kind - if not you may lose out as I got acquainted with a chicken
last Wednesday eve. She owns a large two storied house in the swell part of
town but she is not very nice looking as you are. Of course, I do not mean
to flatter you. You are a good girl and that goes further with me than
looks. Well you are OK and I know you will remain so. Yours, Ted
Here the stationery is headed "THE NYGREEN CARRIER
for Mail and Express. Guarantee Test 80 miles in 60 minutes, only two moving
parts." In the upper left corner is "T.W. NYGREEN, Inventor." In the upper
right corner is "J. L. Nygreen", and Albany, N.Y. written in.
Bellingham....May 25, 1914
The nearer the time gets to September the more
lonesome it seems to be. You ought to be here now.
My father did not say any more of me getting
married than "oh, you will get along better two than one." So, you see, he
does approve of you and I do not think there will be any dislike on my
parents' side. The Nygreen families like you alright, alright, and so do I!
Do I? Yes!
I suppose you are having a grand time to home
providing you do not work too hard. Say, you need not get any swell close
(sic), I mean anything out of the ordinary. I do not want to get stuck on
the close. Its you I want, dear. Now I want you to write me a letter and
tell me what your Ma really thinks of you getting married to someone she
never saw....Love and respect, Hub, Ted.
Bellingham, June 1, 1914
Dear Emily, I have been so busy making a drawing
for the patent office that have had no time for anything else, not even
taking my new Bellingham girl out, so she had to go to the show alone last
Yes, your Ma was planning what her and you were to
do between now and September. When you talk this all over why not plan what
I am going to do between now and then. Oh, I know, enjoy myself the best way
possible, but I am thinking about you every day. You do not believe me, I
know, but I will convince you when you get here.
Gee, I hope you will only be half as happy all the
time as I was when you said yes.
My invention is getting along first rate...Please
pardon all mistakes and all foolishness. Lots of love and respect to Emily
dear....Yours with respect o Love oxx Hubby, T.W.Nygreen
P.S. Send me one of your good photos so I can
take a look at you once in a while.
Bellingham...June 4, 1914
Dear Emily,....We had our union meeting last night
and I was elected Financial Sec. so now I have a little more to do but it
will not hinder me from writing to you. You say you wish I was there, and I
do too, but time will soon pass. I think a woman loves better than a man,
but, anyway, I will do all in my power to love you and trust you. You will
never wish yourself back to a lonely life.
I see you get some practice in cooking which you
think will come in handy. Well, you know I like good things to eat, but
don't think I will kick or grumble if things are not the best I ever ate,
knowing well it will beat boarding house hash. Well, nevertheless, be it
ever so homely there is no face like mine.
So you think I would not tell you if my folks found
a fault in you? Why don't you remember who brought that subject up in the
first place. You did! It never entered my head that he was the important
factor. I would consider his word n.g. in this case and he knows the answer
if he should find a fault. If he did he certainly knew enough to keep it to
himself. Wishing your parents happiness and prosperity. In their letter they
said you was kind of happy..I am glad you are. I am too. I remain your boss
to be, maybe boss. Ted
Bellingham June 8, 1914
My Eminent Emily, Your letter of June 5
received....The best note in it is that if someone tries to talk you out of
marrying me they would have a hard job of it. I think the same if anyone
should try the same with me. The old girl of mine here at Bellingham is
trying hard to make up but she will have some time of it. I assure you,
Emily, if I do say it myself, you are the best girl I ever want to see. I'll
tell you why if you will listen. Your kindness captured me. You seem to be
so agreeable and trying to make the best of everything and you will find I
will try to do the same. Yesterday was raining... and it seemed kind of
lonesome. I was thinking of you quite a bit during the day.
I had a letter from my sis today. She does not know
whether she will come out or not. She said it was so sudden. I don't think
so. I think time is dragging, don't you? If you want to change the date of
marriage you have a perfect right to do so. Anything you say goes until we
are married. After that I am the boss, ha,ha! Me the big boss, and you will
not have a word to say. Oh, yes you will, once in a while. I remain, with
respect and love, Hub Ted.
Bellingham June 10, 1941
My Dear Emily,....Gee, I wish you were here now.
One of the boys at the shop heard I was to get hooked up, as he called
marriage, and asked me how I came to propose. But he did not get all of it
altho I told him some of it. He said he wanted to know as he was going to do
the same thing some day...Said he did not want to propose in book form and
that was the reason he wanted to know.
Now, Emily, something I wish to tell you before you
come out so as not to get disappointed on anything. My old girl's mother,
when she found out some ten months ago that I did not want to marry her
daughter, she got peaved (sic) and said all kinds of bad things about me.
So, if you hear some of them, do not take them for granted altho some of
them may be true. But that does not change me toward you in the least. I
know you will hear nothing detrimental to me from any other source, in
Bellingham or any other part of the globe. I treated the lady good and have
said nothing about her that would in any way discredit her. I am sure you
will use some judgment. I do not know what this mother-in-law, as she
thought she would be some day, intends or plans to do when she hears of my
marriage, which she will. Do not fear, she has nothing on me and I will give
her no chance to ever have a thing on me.
You are the kid for me and always will be, if I can
make it so. I love you, Emily, and you know I do. As for getting along, we
will sure get along fine.
I know you will, no doubt, think of the many
friends you leave behind, but we will see them in the course of two or three
years and probably sooner.
Bellingham, June 15, 1941
My Dear Emily, I want you to tell me in your next
letter why you brought this question of my parent's objecting. I am inclined
to think your parents objected in some way and you will not tell me until
you have a chance to talk to me. Well, you know I do not care what they say.
It does not change me in the least. I am satisfied with you alone. Of course
it is better if things are agreeable all around....Yours with respect, Hub
to be Ted.
Bellingham June 18, 1914
No word for three days and it seems like three
weeks. Everything is going fine and dandy. Only one thing wrong and that is
you are not here.
I looked at a furnished house last night but it did
not suit me at all. No nice furniture at all. I have another one, a fine
little bungalow with four rooms but it is about ten minutes walk from the
center of business. If that is not to (sic) far for you, it will be OK. It
is located close to a good brick school house and for that reason probably
it would suit you..Goodbye, temporary only. Yours I hope for good, Ted.
Bellingham...June 22, 1914
My dear Emily, I am waiting, too. Try and find out
if my sis is coming out for sure so I know and can fix a room for her...Best
of respect. I beg to remain yours, Ted.
Bellingham...June 24, 1914
My Dear, I note by your letter your people, or at
least some of them, want you to marry someone with money. Well, you are
foolish if you don't as now days nothing but money counts. You know I have
none but I may be able to get enough of the eagles to take you to Frisco
1914 to see the blowout. That is, providing you marry me. Well, I will offer
to take you anyway. How does that appeal to your reason? (My wings sprouted
and are doing fine but the color is black.)
Since you will not change the date to an earlier
one, then I will, so here goes. August 17 will be the date now. How does
that strike you?...Regards to Ma and Pa from your Hub Ted.
Bellingham...June 27, 1914
Dear Emily....Your Ma - she intends to come out or
wishes she could come out?,,,You don't want to think for a moment that I
object. I wish she would come and stay all winter with us.
You ought to be here now. Say, something new today.
My old girl's folks bought an auto! I met them on the street. They asked me
to have a ride but I refused, because I did not have the time, ha ha. You do
not believe me, do you? No, sis, no one but you will do. Do you believe
that? You may believe me or not but they will have to go some to beat you
out...I figure I am going to cop something money cannot buy and I am waiting
for the day to show you I mean it... With love and respect, I beg to remain
yours, if you will.
P.S. How soon can you come?
Bellingham....July 1, 1914
My dear Emily, Say, did you change the date yet to
an earlier one? If you did not, you had better, because I want you to. See,
I am the boss. You know my old father-in-law has an auto and that is an
inducement - very little but little things grow big. Well, I know you will
come as soon as you can, but sooner the quicker.....I generally lose out at
the last minute, but of course I am not a bit leary about you. Only Ed Long
might buy an auto and then take you out for a ride... Goodbye. Me for the
hay..I, poor working fool, have to get in and drill....Yours better than
Bellingham...July 2, 1914
Your letter sounded good to me but for one thing,
and that is that you are not going to change the date to an earlier one.
Now, Emily, not that I am so over anxious for you
to come for my own sake but for yours as well. I will tell you why. You will
not see enough of the summer if you wait till that time. It will probably be
in one of our rainy seasons, about September 15, or so. You will not have
the chance to get out so much and look around. You will probably be homesick
right from the start and I would sure not like that. You will find about
August 15 the best time to come here. It will make things more agreeable all
the way around.
I know when other people come from the middle or
eastern states and come here during the rainy season, they say they do not
like it here at all! I do not want you to say anything like that 'cause if
you do we will have to move to some other part. I have learned to like it
here and I sure do like it, too. If you possibly can come out in August,
please do so. Will you?
Know you are busy now days but you can do away with
part of that sewing till you get here. As you know, I only have two suits
and a pair of overalls. If you should not have a suit for every day in the
week it will be as good. I am not so particular as all that. Furthermore, if
that lace is not on the pillow cases that also will be OK. I know you are
fixing too swell for the man you are getting. Don't you think so?... With
best of love and respect, I beg to remain yours, Ted.
Bellingham....July 5, 1914
I had a card from my Bro. at Binghamton, New York.
He is going to move either south or west and possibly will be west. I told
him to stop home and take you and sister along. I thought that would hurry
you along some. Will it? I hope it does...With respect, your Ted.
July 6, 1914
Dear Emily, Today the man in the shop, Mr.
Schwartz, asked me if, or I should say when, is your girl coming out? I told
him about August 14, so I have now committed myself again. So you see you
have to come in August. I think you will be late if you don't come before
September 15, don't you?
That old friend of yours pretty near turned you,
didn't he? If he had, poor Ted would have had to look for another girl and
get a divorce from Emily. I think a woman's work is never done on a farm and
nowhere to go after they are done so might as well work to pass the time
away. Little Mary swallowed a watch one day. Now she is taking Cascaretts to
pass the time away. I think she has more time than a farmer's Mrs.
Gee, Emily, I wish you were here now. I can wait
until August 17 but after that no telling what I might do. With respect, Hub
Dear Wife-to-be, I told the landlady downstairs
that I had a wife and once in a while she asks when is your wife coming? Now
I got my foot into it. How will I get out of it? I do not want to tell her
we are not married until the day you come. On the other hand she ought to
know before...I want your advice - see what solution you have to the
problem. I will write Ma and ask permission for you to come next month.
Gee, it is kind of lonesome to be here since I know
you are coming. You know, it would not be so hard if I did not have to be
good. You see, I am trying to be good and don't know how. The someone that
should hold me in check is missing... If you should decide not to come at
all, please let me know. I will take a trip to Australia for a number of
years. Now how do you like that? With respect, your Hub Ted (if you come
Bellingham....July 14, 1914
My eminent Friend, You are a good kid and I like
you but we all have a fault. That includes you also. It is that you will not
appear on the scene in August. Of course, I can forgive, but not forget. You
know I am going kind of easy until next summer as I may have to work short
time the largest past of the winter. I want to eat just the same and eat
good, at that. Your Hubby, Ted
Bellingham....July 15, 1914
Dear Emily, Glad to receive your long letter and
note you are not coming until September 15. Sleep well - that is one thing
we do out in this country. With a good comforter all summer you will not get
too warm here. and not 40 below zero in winter, either. Well, Dear, hurry
and get here and enjoy some of our most beautiful climate during the short
I know you will come as soon as possible and will
stick to your promise. I sure appreciate the same. Am waiting for the time I
show you that I really care for you....Yours with respect, Ted
Bellingham....July 20, 1914
Miss Emily Nygreen (Guinn), Annandale, Minn. My
dearest Emily...I note you have moved. You didn't move far enough, About
2,000 miles more would be just right, don't you think so? Had a letter from
Sister. She says she is coming. Good for her.. We can have more fun, cause I
tease her some. You know I cannot live without teasing someone and if you
were alone I might tease you too much. Of course, you know you will get your
Well, time is going slow but sure. When we get to
keeping house you can take a good rest as I know I will need it after
getting the house ready for you and sister. I am going to try and have as
much of the work done as possible before you come. Say, sis, can't you
change the date to Sept. 10th. or 5th? Well, you can arrange between
yourself and sister. I am going to leave the date part to yourself. Next
time Sister asks me when it is going to happen I will refer her to my
private secretary, Miss Emily. With respect of the best kind, Hub, Ted.
Bellingham....July 24, 1914
My Dear...Emily, I feel proud that you are to come
out and be my partner the rest of the time to come. I thank you for saying
yes when I popped the question and I do hope you will never be sorry for
that "yes". Climate you mentioned again. Oh, we have it....You ought to be
here now to enjoy the best of climate for we have the best right now.
Oh yes, if you were in Dakota you may not get here
at all, 'cause I know what you told me about that fellow. He might coax you
to stay until you lose out at Bellingham and then you would have to go back
to teaching school or go farming in Dakota. Oh no, can't fool a Swede! I
think you had better not let your fancy roam. Stick to the present No. 1 and
you will be as happy as I can make it for you. X Don't that make you think
of the time you saw me last? In the kitchen door at Uncle's. Oh you remember
alright. With respect, I remain your Boss to be, Ted. X
Bellingham....July 28, 1914
My Dear Emily, it seems to me like I am doing
everything, renting a house, buying furniture, setting the date. Now if you
want something to say you better set the date in August....I would rather
live in Wash. single than live in Minn. double. So, you see, you can't me to
come to you. Now that you have to come, why not make it in August? With
respect, Ted. X
Bellingham....July 30, 1914
My Dear Emily...I would have the roast on and doing
but I would have to get a girl and if I did that I might fall in love with
her before you come, as you are so slow getting ready. You ought to be
nearly as quick as I do when I go on a journey. 2 hours notice will put me
on the steel car.
I will soon be in my house, setting things in place
so it will look kind of neat by the time you get here. It will be ready no
matter how soon you come and you can't come any too soon to suit me. Our
address at the house will be 1311 Bancroft St. Well, Sister, I am waiting
patiently for you. Have been waiting so long now that I am getting used to
it. Goodbye. With love and respect, Yours, Ted (When are you coming? Don't
look for any more mistakes till you get here. Then look at me!)
Bellingham....August 2, 1914
My Dear Emily...Now, Sis, I want you to hurry as I
cannot take good care of the furniture and house and work too. Of course,
that is not the only reason you should hurry. You know I like you better
than any other girl. That is the reason. There are other girls here I like
but, oh, you're my own. I wonder if I will say that one year from now. Do
you think I will? I hope to, anyway. Yours with best of respect, Hubby Ted
P.S. Do you want a phone in the house? Let me know
Bellingham....August 2, 1914
I note your Ma wants to announce our engagement.
Too bad I am not there to help you out. You will get it from all sides now.
One consolation, you boarded with Uncle Nygren and anyone who can stand his
teasing can stand most anything.... I bought some furniture yesterday but
got nothing for the parlor. Think will leave it till you get here. Also
knives and forks. As ever and better, yours, Ted.
Bellingham....August 6, 1914
My Dear Emily, In one letter I see you want to rid
the house of mice. Good for you. I don't like mice either... Sis, I know you
will make things as pleasant as possible. Also, try to be satisfied. I knew
you would when I popped the question or I would never have asked. I am
satisfied and pretty sure I will never regret the step I am about to
take....I don't want any outside information either. Your life as a single
woman I will not question. I know you without.
Our furniture goes in the house tomorrow morning
and I move in Saturday afternoon, so me for the baching for a while... I
asked Mr. Schwartz to be the best man and he replied with a big YES. Said he
would be very glad to act, and also said he wanted the first kiss. I told
him I beat him to it long ago.
You may have a time getting out if the trainmen go
on strike. Don't you know it is dangerous to linger? And dangerous in more
ways than one....With best of respect, Your Friend and partner and anything
else you wish, here is a kiss on paper, T.W.Nygreen X
Bellingham....August 9, 1914
Mrs. T.W.Nygreen, Annandale, Minn. My Dear Emily, I
am writing this letter on our dining room table. I moved into the house
yesterday and slept here last night. Now, sis, tell me when you are coming.
It is kind of quiet in my house now. The only noise is when I talk to myself
and that is not very often. Gee, but it is lonesome tonight. You know,
Emily, it is like being in jail to occupy a house alone. Good night, Sis, I
remain yours respectfully, Ted
Bellingham....August 10, 1914
Everything is going nicely at this end of the line
and I hope as well at your end. I see you are not going to change that date.
Well, alright. Caesar has spoken. As for Anna, tease her once for me. Tell
her I beat her to that marrying proposition. Marrying for love has marrying
for money cheated 2,000 miles or more. I think she is like her Dad, it is
only a business proposition. Business propositions pop up every once in a
while. A business proposition is manufactured while you rest. Best of
respect, Hub Ted
Bellingham....August 14, 1914
My Dear Emily, Batching is alright but no
cooking..I eat at the restaurants as usual but if I don't get a cook soon I
will be some slim and will have nothing on you . Believe me, I will make up
when I get my cook, and I am quite sure it will have the restaurants beat a
city block. I hear a noise like a church bell not far away. There are about
1/2 doz. churches around our house and when they get going there is some
noise. I am holy sanctified now and expect my wings to sprout in a week or
No, Sis, I am not afraid you will gossip if we get
a phone. I have your number and am quite sure I have it right. I will leave
the phone out till you come. You say that in about five weeks you will start
for the Pacific. Well, that sounds OK, but you could make a better sound of
it if you said three in place of five. But it is OK. I realize how hard it
will be to tear loose from all your friends and that you are doing the best
you can and I sure appreciate the same. Every little thing in our home is
getting in shape, slowly but surely. With respect always, yours, Ted. (Well,
Dear, here is another X on the wire.)
Bellingham,....August 14, 1914
My Dear Emily, I notice you have been to church and
also got a marriage ceremony so you advised me to read it. Well, Sis, I read
more than one. I read one not very long ago....Emily, I would not carry
anything but your clothes and I would carry them in a good size trunk.
Oh, I do laugh. 98 lbs,! And the hot weather did
it! Ha, ha. You say if it would stay cool like today you would soon get fat
again? Well, when were you fat last? Oh, you are slim, but that is OK. I
will not kick, I hope. When you get here you will have plenty of time to
fatten up as it is nice and cool here.
The little house looks better every day. I am
writing this letter in the light of our parlor lamp. My own make and it
looks swell. I hope you will like it. With respect, Your own Ted.
Bellingham....August 16, 1914
I got your picture last night and think it is
fine...You always looked good to me and here is hoping you always will. You
look kind of fat, reversed. Gee, Emily, I missed you this evening. I went to
the show all alone. I wished you were with me to enjoy same. Well, I can
count the weeks on the fingers of my hand now. One month from today I expect
to see you at your table enjoying a good meal. Now I don't want you to
expect everything to be right in the house as I never kept house before. I
really do not know how you would like things. I will let you do half of the
bossing. How does that suit you?
Saturday evening I went out with a girl friend of
mine. She said she would tell my wife when she gets here. I told her I would
tell her before she gets here. Told her I would invite her up and make her
acquainted. She replied she would not come. Finally she said she would so
you will have a chance to fight it out with her.
Emily, make it the 15th. the day you get here,
'cause you know the 17th. is the day and an extra day would probably come in
handy. With respect and love, Hub Ted.
Bellingham....August 18, 1914
My Dear Emily, You spent a day with my folks and I
note they said I had to come home to get a wife. Well, Emily, I could have
got a wife here and its not too late yet as far as possibility is concerned.
I know the girls here will have to figure against an impossibility now. I
had a number of girls during my bachelor days but found none that I liked as
well as I do you. I have had experience enough to know a good woman.
I finished a kindler on your range so you will find
it easy to start the fire in the mornings. You see, I don't expect to get up
first. Ha ha. Boss already! Well, anyway, it will make it kind of handy for
either one of us. With love and respect, Your Hubby Ted.
Bellingham....August 20, 1914
Dear Emily,... Looked for a letter today. Did not
get one. It will make the next one more longed for so it will be so much the
better....I am still waiting. Am getting up with little fixing, like the
pantry, kitchen, etc. There will be a lot of company in our house for some
time - three women and only one man. And no piano. We ought to have one.
Some day when my barge arrives we may have one. I think more of you than
ever. It is probably because it looks so lonesome..Here is hoping I will
dream about my Dearest. Yours with respect, T.W. Nygreen.
Bellingham....August 22, 1914
I see Sister wants to know what that best man looks
like. Well you can tell her he is a good looking man. He looks something
like me. Of course, Schwartz is cranky and I am cranky, too. That is what
makes us look so much alike. Ha ha. Three more long weeks and you will not
be able to do as you please, either, believe me, for I will be the Boss from
Sept. 17th. on. Don't you think I will?
Emily, who told you September 17th. was my
birthday? I suppose Mother did. Yes, Dear, I do want a birthday present, and
a good one, too, and it looks like I asked for one. Ask and thou shalt
receive. I complied with the Bible. The Bible is a good book, and so is my
birthday present going to be.
Emily, it is a lot of work to fix up a house. I
fixed some more and am not through yet, and will not be so I will leave some
for you. It cost some money, too, for a wild fellow like me that spent it
all looking for some wealth and didn't find it. I can't kick. I found
something better than wealth and that's you. I think I will be satisfied, in
fact I know I will.
I wish it was that birthday now. Say, if it does
not make any difference to you, which it should not now, how old are you, if
I may ask? Now don't say sweet sixteen. I don't care how old you are. You
are going to be my wife anyway....With best of Respect and love, Ted.
Bellingham....August 24, 1914
My Dear Emily, My watch went on the blinks so I
don't know what time it is. I don't care. I am going to write this letter if
it takes all night, 'cause when I write to you I don't feel tired.
I think my parents like you alright, don't you?
I begin to think like your Ma does now. Time is
going faster, but not too fast to suit me. Too bad your mother is not well
and you say if you can't leave when planned, what then? As usual, I suppose,
make the best of it as we both try to do. I will pardon you as you know I am
always willing to do. Here is hoping she gets really well, and by the time
you are to leave. Gee, Emily, I hope I can make your life a happy one. With
best of Respect, your Hub, Ted.
Bellingham....August 27, 1914
Note your Mother is so sick to bed. Emily, I do
hope she gets well before it is time to leave.
Well I don't think we will fight over the fires. We
will probably find something else to fight over. I know you will build the
fires alright and let Hubby sleep till the breakfast bells ring, don't you?
Emily, the big event will take place at our home
here. We will have the ceremony performed in the afternoon and a few friends
will be up for a big feed in the evening. Or do you want the ceremony in the
evening when the bunch is here? Let me know and I will obey your wish. I
will let you be boss once and see if you like it.
I note you have no No. 2 to write to any more.
Well, Emily, you have a No. 1. Write some more to him. Emily, I wish you
were here now. It makes it kind of lonesome to sit here all alone evenings.
2 1/2 weeks more and the trouble will start. Ireland and Sweden may have a
fight. Ireland will lose, I am sure. For all that, you won me and I am not a
bit sorry, believe me. With Best of Respect, your Ted.
Bellingham....August 28, 1914
By your letter it seems you will not be here by the
set time. I appreciate you are doing the best you can. Too bad about your
mother. Well, Sis, if the worst should come to your Ma, would you come at
all then? I hope you will not change your mind. You know I am willing to
sacrifice anything for you, not only willing but will do so. With love and
Respect, yours, Ted.
Bellingham....August 31, 1914
I note you are losing a lot of sleep. Be careful,
Emily. Take good care of yourself. You are willing to sacrifice possibly too
much. Well Mother is the nearest one you have so it is time well spent. I
know you will come as soon as you see your way clear but stay as long as
your mother is sick in bed. I would be very glad to +meet your mother and I
hope I will some day. Tell her I am sorry I did not go to Annandale to see
her before I left last winter. I wish you were here now. I am kind of
lonesome for you and I find you are the same. Yours with respect. Ted. (Do I
want a home of our own? I should say I do. We are going to have one, too.)
Bellingham....September 1, 1914
My Dear Emily,..I note your Ma is still seriously
ill. I wish I could be of some service to her. I am glad you think my
parents like you. I also think they do. I note your Dad wants you to come
out as planned, but you suit yourself. I am at work every day and on my
return I find no one to home, only your picture. I take a look at it every
evening after work and say "Hello, Emily." But the picture cannot smile.
With best of Respect, Hubby, Ted.
Bellingham....September 2, 1914
It looks like rain this evening. All the people
wish it would rain so as to put out the forest fires all around the city.
Emily, here is hoping to see you soon. Work is getting kind of slack and am
thinking it will be a dull winter. I think we can get along as good as some
of them. There is always something popping up unexpectedly so it may work
out OK. Gee I am getting lonesome for you. I hate to think of any later than
17, but don't worry. I will get along fine. Yours, Ted.
Bellingham....September 3, 1914
My Dear Emily, I am glad to hear Mother is getting
well. The reason the house is empty 'cause you are not here. Of course I am
here but I don't count. I am only a figure head. Just you wait till you get
here and you will find I will count.
You say don't get too lonesome before you get here.
Well, I am used to it now. I found something more to do around the house
tonight so I went to the shop and made it. There are lots of things around
our house that is home made but I can put it up against any factory made
article. 'Cause I am some iron butcher!
I have not a picture on a wall. Anything will do
for a start but the wife, she must be good from the start and she is. I knew
what I was about when I popped that question. After I did, I asked myself
"Am I worthy?" And I said let her decide that. With thanks to the givers of
Presents and Brides, Respectfully yours, Ted.
Bellingham....September 4, 1914
My Dear Emily, Glad to hear your Ma is getting
along better. I set up the heater tonight and made a shelf for under the
kitchen sink. Now, Emily, I am going to quit fixing 'cause I will find
nothing to do when you get here, and that is probably what I want. I like to
be like an Indian, let the women do the work. With Respect, Ted.
The wedding took place as scheduled. Dad received his birthday present on
September 17, 1914. The record shows that Sarah Guinn Jewett died in October,
1914, aged 60 years.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 7 -- BELLINGHAM
Growing up in Whatcom County, Washington, gave me a distorted time
perspective. The "Old Settler's Picnic" was an annual summer event held at
Pioneer Park in Ferndale. In the late 1920's it was a lively affair with music
and oratory, food, games, and a general air of excitement. A few grizzled and
undistinguished oldsters were recognized but their significance was never
explained to a grammar school youngster. It was much later when I learned that
to become a member of the Pioneers of Washington one had only to have arrived in
the state on or before 1890. Since that was only thirty-five years or so
earlier, there were a number of "pioneers" around. The event disappeared in the
gloom of the depression thirties. This foreshortened sense of historical time
confused me. Partly in response I looked forward in time, seldom back.
The economy of the Bellingham Bay area was based upon lumbering, fishing, and
some agriculture. These were extractive activities. When the salmon declined and
forests were cut down the economy went into severe decline. The depression of
the thirties lowered the demand for wood products. The mills, which lined the
bay gradually, disappeared, shut down purposely or destroyed by fire. It was a
grim time. The only way to a better life for an ambitious young person was
through education. If one were good enough at some intellectual skill there
would be a pathway to opportunity out of the area. Exporting talented young
people became an industry in itself.
But in the 1920s people blissfully ignored the possibility that their
economic base was being eroded. Bellingham was then the fourth largest city in
the state, with a population approaching 30,000. Bellingham parades featured
floats predicting a population of 50,000 in 1950 and 80,000 in 1980. This was
not to be, but the euphoria was everywhere.
Dad and Mother moved from Bancroft Street to North Street and then, probably
when I was two, to Girard Street, the first home I remember. These structures no
longer exist. Girard Street was on the banks of Whatcom Creek, a constant worry
to Mother. I remember once sitting far back in an easy chair on the porch of the
Mansons, our neighbors, impishly ignoring Mother's increasingly frantic calling
for me. I was found, of course, and Mother always took wry amusement at my
teasing behavior. I recall sitting on a pillow which had been placed over a
round hole in the floor cut for the installation of a central heating system. I
fell to the basement floor beneath, landed on the pillow unhurt and unfazed. I
still remember the thankful attention I then received.
Most of my memories of Girard Street are fragmentary. Dad had his first car
and there were rides in the countryside. There was a neighbor with a fine Irish
tenor that I enjoyed and marveled at. We watched the building of the First
Christian Church, just a few hundred feet away. We went to visit Auntie Woll,
the wife of J.P. Woll, an optician, who pleased us with brown sugar on buttered
bread and sent us home with flowers from her gardens. I learned to lick the
paper wrapper from butter, the beater with which cream was whipped, and the pans
in which cake batter was prepared. I learned to read, precociously, from the
labels on the cans and packages from the food store. My brother Howard was born
in 1921 when I was two and a half years old. Only in the last months at the
Girard Street house do I remember him as a playmate. I was pleased to have a
When I was four we moved to a house on Henry Street. It was a better
neighborhood for growing children. Across the street was a family with small
children and with a huge yard full of climbable trees. The summer I turned six I
jumped from a tree, caught my throat on a clothesline wire, and ruptured
something. The doctor decided to remove my tonsils. Of the operation I remember
these things: the fright from the ether cup being placed over my face; Mother
being present when I awoke; my resentment of being an invalid dependent upon
others. Ice cream therapy carried me through recuperation. We had a chimney fire
while living in that house, no serious damage resulting. In the back was a
chicken coop and yard. I learned to feed the chickens, collect the eggs, the
difference between pullets and hens, and what the term "spring chicken" derived
While at Henry Street, probably in 1923, Mother bore a child, a girl, who
lived only a brief hour after birth. I recall the funeral occasion. I was barred
from attending the services although I was permitted to see the infant wrapped
in dress clothes and lying in a small casket. The child was never named. The
marker in Bayview Cemetery simply notes "infant daughter of". Denied admission
to the funeral parlor while services were held, I played in a big car with
Vincent Bochnak, my own age, the son of friends of my parents. It was the first
time I sensed any distance between me and my parents. I resented this very much,
not in a hostile way but in what became a determination to create my own
identity and never be totally dependent upon others.
In September, 1924, I entered first grade in Columbia School. That lasted
just three weeks, when we moved to 515 Gladstone Street. There I entered Lincoln
School, a six-grade grammar school. It was an exciting time for me. I have many
and vivid memories of those four and a half years. In first grade I learned that
children are not created equal. Some are less able than others. Some are almost
unwilling to learn. Some girls are nicer than other girls. I learned that
competition is fun but cooperation is more satisfying. I also discovered that
other people, including teachers, are not always willing to help you learn, that
you have to do it by your own effort and that mistakes are not always bad.
Second grade lasted one semester when I was promoted mid-year to third grade.
The classroom teacher was a lovely person but she had two groups in the same
room. I was in the smaller group, with more time left to our own device. I used
it to read avidly, a life long enjoyment. In the fourth grade, similarly, I was
in the smaller group with a crusty teacher aptly named Mrs. Savage. She
emphasized mathematics. Bored, I followed what she was teaching the more
advanced half of the class. When no one could answer her questions I would put
up my hand and she, startled, would call on me. I suspect that I was unpopular
with the other students. In any event, Mrs. Savage soon got tired of me and
promoted me to the larger group so fourth grade lasted just half a year. Near
the end of the year I was acting obstreperously and was banished to her
coatroom. There I languished for what seemed a long time. Finally I saw some
coins on the floor, picked them up, and ventured out to her desk. She had
forgotten me, dismissed the class, and was alone. I gave her the coins,
explained where I had found them, and she dismissed me with scarcely a word.
Ever after, I have appreciated Mrs. Savage, despite her angry manners, for the
love of mathematics she encouraged.
That stood me in good stead in the fifth and sixth grade. The latter was
taught by the principal, who also loved mathematics. She consulted Mother who
finally agreed that in mid-year I could be transferred to Franklin School in
mid-year and enter the seventh grade.
Skipping grades was good in that I did not become bored with the classroom.
School was challenging, or could be made to be so. Social relations were
difficult because I was younger and smaller than my classmates. In games I was
not particularly proficient. I loved baseball and could hit reasonably well. In
playground football the largest boys were naturally the most able. I could
tackle the biggest boy, who usually had the football, but I could not bring him
to the ground without help. Because he was so much larger, the other boys were
reluctant to assist. He usually scored, dragging me with him over the goal line.
I was ten and a half years old when I walked into the seventh grade classroom
at Franklin School. My attention was caught immediately by another new student,
a girl with long golden curls and an alert air about her. She was Beverly
Holiday from Sehome School and proved to be the star pupil in most subjects. I
decided she was going to be my girl someday. My awareness of my small size at
that age and my social ineptness, however, meant that I had better delay any
efforts in that direction until I was able to compete better. In the meantime I
could keep a careful watch on things.
Franklin School years were impatient ones for me. Shut out from athletics
because of age difference and small size, I turned to other things. The aviation
age was just beginning to captivate imaginations and I began to build model
airplanes and fly them off the rocky hill behind the school. Music memory
contests introduced me to the world of classical music. Chief Justice and former
President William Howard Taft died and the school gathered in assembly to note
his passing. It was the first awareness I had of the national political scene. I
was eager to grow older and participate in the larger community I was just
becoming aware of.
As a six-year old I had first claim on the daily newspaper, the Bellingham
Herald, delivered about 4:00 o'clock each afternoon. The best continued story in
the paper was the sports pages. The New York Yankees were just entering their
glory years. Babe Ruth, Tony Lazzeri, Miller Huggins and company were fun to
read about and I waited anxiously for each afternoon's paper to arrive. The
major league games were played in the afternoon and with the time difference our
paper carried that day's scores. The front pages were filled with news of the
President of the United States and I followed the changing political scene with
interest as though it, too, were a sporting event.
One had to be twelve years of age to become a Boy Scout. I could hardly wait.
When my twelfth birthday arrived I immediately applied to Troop 15, an active
troop sponsored by the American Legion Post. I grew to love the Scouts. I became
the knot-tying champion of our Scout Council, and won the bicycle riding
contests in the mountains. I wasn't always the fastest but always the most
accurate message carrier. Our troop also won the first aid team competitions
with two teams, usually winning both first and second. We also won the semaphore
signaling contests. I took an active part in all these efforts. It must be
recalled that these events were based on skills used during the World War I
years. Radios were scarce and there was no television. Wireless message sending
was in its infancy. I gained much self-confidence from these Scouting
experiences and have always been grateful for this impact on my life.
We were too poor for me to go to summer camp or even for me to have a proper
Scout uniform. Beginning at ten, I hawked newspapers on the street corner in
down town Bellingham. I earned one penny for selling a newspaper for three
cents. On Saturdays, the Seattle newspaper Sunday editions sold for a dime and I
kept three cents. Rain or cold, I was out there, often with my brother Howard,
having laid claim to a good corner with a popular drugstore and across the
street from the Public Market. At twelve I got a Saturday job in the Stop and
Shop Food Market, first for a dollar-and-a-half and soon two dollars for a
twelve-hour stint. I accumulated my money and before long had enough to buy my
first bicycle, in addition to meeting the parentally imposed requirement that I
buy all my own clothes.
The bicycle broadened my horizons. I decided to sell Collier's magazine and
built a very successful route. Then I bought a Saturday Evening Post route from
a friend who was giving it up, thus having a Tuesday and a Friday route. With
the bicycle I could pedal on Sundays or for two-day weekends to a camp our troop
built on Lake Samish, some eight miles from our home. I could visit Merwin Eames
who lived in another part of town and was ill with tuberculosis. His parents
were friends of my parents. Merwin was hungry for companionship. His parents
were talented people, both of whom worked, so he was alone much of the time. He
introduced me to stamp collecting and to his other interests. We remained
friends until his death about 1938.
The Gladstone Street House was a good one in which to grow up. It was within
walking distance of all the schools I attended, and of the downtown shopping
area. Dad was always working on the house. He knocked out the wall between the
living room and dining room, creating one large living room. It had metal
ceilings because they were easier to care for. There was an upstairs with
bedrooms for the children, a full but unfinished basement. There was a hydraulic
elevator between the basement and the pantry on the main floor, an attraction to
all our young friends. The backyard had a garden and two huge Bing cherry trees,
which bore magnificent crops each early summer. The neighborhood had lots of
other young people whose fortunes waxed and waned, providing both good and bad
object lessons for us.
The mix of families in that neighborhood was remarkable. Mr. Gilbertson was a
Norwegian shingle weaver, missing fingers from shingle mill accidents. His
daughter, Anena, was my age. Mrs. Gilbertson regularly baked fresh bread. Howard
and I contrived to play in their yard when the aroma of baking beckoned us. Soon
Mrs. Gilbertson would appear at the door and give us each a slab of fresh from
the oven bread, well buttered and indescribably delicious. Two blocks away lived
Mrs. Pearson, who baked the most rich and delightful Swedish cookies. We were
always eager to do favors for her for the reward of cookies we knew would send
us away happy.
Down the alley lived the Staggs, a raucous bunch known for their baseball
playing skills. Nearby lived the Sunels, he a Jewish clothier and more
prosperous than most neighbors. Next door to them were the Lallas family, Greek
immigrants and fruit and vegetable merchants. Nearby were the Moens, a Danish
Free Lutheran minister with a large family of boys, known for their athletic and
musical skills. The youngest boy, Chester, was my classmate, an occasional
tormentor but in later years a friend.
Next door lived the Normans. He was a salesman of Florsheim shoes and she a
restaurant waitress. With two incomes and only one son, Stanley, they had a
better life style than we did. However, they were our best friends in many ways.
They had an imposing Atwater-Kent console radio years before we had any radio at
all. Instead of handmade Christmas ornaments their trees were covered with store
bought tinsel. They had an icebox and several times a week had blocks of ice
delivered. They always ate the first of the crop fruits and vegetables instead
of waiting until the prices came down. They were certainly not well to do but it
was my continual awareness of their larger discretionary income that first made
me aware of economic inequities. They were always kind and helpful. Mrs. Norman
(Abbie), was especially meaningful to Mother. In later years they were less
fortunate. Stanley died at a relatively young age and they were lonely,
especially after our parents had moved to Seattle.
Ours was a neighborhood of small churches. Many of them were Lutheran
churches affiliated with ethnic synods. They had small congregations and old
wooden structures. One of my vivid memories is of going to a church dinner in
one of them. The meal was served on a plain white plate. On it was a boiled
white potato with white cream gravy, some white codfish, and steamed
cauliflower. Everything dead white! From that time on I was aware of the way
color could be used to make food more attractive.
My brother Paul was born in the Gladstone Street house in 1925. He was large
from birth. He was slow to walk but the family doctor urged Mother not to
encourage him to walk until his leg bones were adequate to manage his weight
without undue strain. On May 17, 1927, when he was two years and two days old,
he walked for the first time. I was sitting on a stool beside the kitchen wood
stove, not feeling too well, (the next day I came down with the measles), when
he rose from the floor and walked over to me. Of course, I called to Mother to
witness his newfound skill. The excitement did me so much good that the measles
(red) proved not to be a trial.
Two brothers and no sister! The entire family wanted a girl. It was a
glorious April day in 1927 when Ruth joined us. I bubbled over in school,
sharing my pleasure with the teacher and the class. This didn't seem to them to
be as marvelous as it did to me. It rounded out the family in an ideal way.
For Mother, fragile and slight, the strain of child bearing, working as Dad's
accountant and financial manager, and the clamor of energetic boys, proved more
than she could handle easily. Her recurrent migraines seemed to intensify. She
was anemic and had a small goiter. She persisted, nonetheless, and overcame the
worst of it. I was insulated from some of her problems by the busyness of my own
life. I did learn to take responsibility for cleaning the kitchen and other
chores she would assign. As I think back I wish I had been more responsive to
her needs. She never wanted her problems to hamper my education, however, and
for that I am, in retrospect, appreciative.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 8 -- WHATCOM HIGH, RAH RAH!
The New York Stock Exchange crashed in October, 1929. Just turned eleven, I
was blissfully unaware of what this meant. As 1930 wore on, however, the cash
economy began to disappear in Western Washington. Soon times were tough in ways
unimaginable today. People were hungry. There was no organized program of public
assistance so the spectre of the "poor farm" was a dreaded possibility. (We
often drove by the County Farm just north of Bellingham and it was drilled into
us that we needed to be diligent to avoid such a fate.) Our parents did their
best to shield their children from the despair and discouragement, which beset
them, nearly everyone we knew. By the beginning of 1931, when I was leaving
Franklin School to enter high school, people were openly talking about the need
for active government intervention in the economy. When that was clearly not
going to happen there was openly expressed willingness to consider revolutionary
ways to bring about fundamental change.
In the first week of February 1931, age twelve and a half, I entered high
Uniting three small towns on Bellingham Bay, Fairhaven, Sehome, and Whatcom
created the City of Bellingham. In my time there were two high schools which
preserved the names of Fairhaven and Whatcom. (Today there are again two high
schools, now known as Bellingham and Sehome, while the earlier ones retain the
names Fairhaven and Whatcom but are junior high or middle schools.) Whatcom was
the larger and served a district, which included the Franklin School area. We
walked to high school, some twelve blocks or so, an easy journey past a log
pond, a lumber yard and box mill, a sash and door factory, a feed mill, a
commercial laundry, and the Darigold Dairy plant. Except on those rare occasions
when the wind was bitter cold in mid-winter, it was always an interesting trip.
I carried a brown bag lunch, as did nearly everyone else.
The climate of the high school was a macho one, emphasizing athletics and
military skills. At the outset, the coach and physical education teacher, Mr.
Frank Geri, who made it clear that a thin twelve-year-old was of little interest
to anyone else, met the new boys. The principal was the commanding officer of
the Bellingham National Guard units. Troublesome boys were encouraged to enroll
in the National Guard, after which their trouble making propensities were smiled
at. Discussion of political matters was frowned upon. Any mention of the
increasing public unrest was regarded as subversive, the Principal afraid of the
school being identified as a source of political radicalism in a time of
I found this out in a very personal way when a classmate, from a family
active in-groups considered radical in their social aims, in a history class
reported on some local event and read from a form recruiting members and quoted
their political platform. As he returned to his seat he placed the paper from
which he had been reading on my desk. Apparently the teacher reported the
incident to the Principal. Because it had been given to me they probably assumed
it had originated with me. Their fear of being criticized for not keeping the
classroom out of the political arena was sufficient for them to take whatever
means were necessary to quash any student discussion of the political scene.
Subsequently I was called to the Principal's office, interrogated, but despite
his threats and browbeating I refused his demand to say any more than simply
what had occurred. It was a tense moment. The memory of that physically huge man
trying to intimidate me and force me to make statements beyond my knowledge for
some fear of his own has stayed with me. Some years later it was reported the
Principal committed suicide, perhaps because he was fearful his homosexuality
would be revealed, and I recalled his obtuse macho personality with detestation.
That first term I had the great good fortune to be in a beginning German
class with an exchange teacher from Nuremberg, Fraulein Anna Pollitz. We weren't
far removed from the anti-German feelings engendered by World War I. It must
have taken some courage for the Board of Education to enter into an exchange
teacher arrangement with Germany. Several of my closest friends, including
lovely Beverly Holiday, were also in that class. When the fall term began we had
Miss Frieda Millspaugh back, an enthusiastic teacher of German who loved her
students. Those classes in the German language certainly enriched my world
My teachers of mathematics, chemistry, and physics were superb. My favorite
teacher, however, was a small, red haired specialist in history and politics,
Miss Irma Tarkoff. She encouraged me in many ways. The Carnegie Institute for
World Peace held an annual essay examination contest centered on the League of
Nations. I studied for the examination and took it twice but did not receive any
special recognition. I really lacked the background understanding to put into
perspective the momentous events around the struggle to make the League an
effective world force despite the refusal of the United States to participate.
Nonetheless, the involvement helped create an awareness of the world scene,
which has persisted throughout my life.
My being two years younger than most of my classmates, however, made my
social development slow and difficult. I wanted very much to be invited to join
the Hi-Y but it never happened. It wasn't only being smaller, younger, and not
dating. It was that I was poor, didn't have the money to dress stylishly, worked
as a magazine salesman and grocery clerk, none of which conferred any status. I
was an active Scout while my classmates had mostly moved on to other things.
The First Baptist Church and its youth group, the Baptist Young People's
Union, became my social milieu. There were three special ways this served a
socializing purpose. I sang in the choir, led by Mrs. Abby Raymond, a wise and
tolerant taskmaster. We sang for Sunday morning and evening services, and
practiced one night a week in Mrs. Raymond's home. I studied in the
teacher-training program led by Mrs. Harold Fisher. I attended the Sunday
evening meetings of the B.Y.P.U. and participated in their social events. So
much church! I toyed with the idea of becoming a minister or, better, a
missionary with special skill such as medicine. Two things occurred, however, to
turn aside this notion.
One was my growing awareness that the young people around me who did choose
church related vocations were motivated by emotion rather than by rational and
purposeful decision. I did not view them as knowledgeable of the world nor as
being very bright. They were fine young people, admirable in so many ways, but
they weren't people I wanted to emulate. One couldn't hold intelligent
discussions about history or politics and certainly not about scientific
matters. On other than church related matters they were unable to cope
effectively so it was as if they were using religion as an escape from reality.
The other was my growing disillusionment with the professional clergy. The
Baptist Church had a fine minister, Rev. Loucks, who had a talent for
communicating with people of all ages. (His son, Roger Brown Loucks, was the
chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington during
my graduate student days and became a good friend. He was not a religious
person. He was distinguished in the field of learning psychology and hoped I
would join his field of interest.) In those depression years, the church could
not afford to keep a strong minister. When Rev. Loucks departed the church faced
a decision. They could afford either a young minister just out of seminary or an
older minister coming up to retirement. The choice they made was to call a
minister from retirement, the Rev. Carstenson.
For me it was a disastrous choice. Rev. Carstenson was cast in an old school
of Baptist clergy, ready to point the accusing finger at anyone who deviated
from his concept of the church's proper teaching. I would sit behind him, in the
choir loft, forced to listen to his fulmination's twice each Sunday. Early in
his tenure he was appointed to the board of the Bellingham Public Library. He
used this position to grab headlines, berating the library staff for ordering
books he considered sinful. He became particularly wrathful over the
recommendation that the library purchase James Joyce's "Ulysses", recently
rescued from banishment by a court decision, which opened it up to circulation
in the United States.
As a youthful patron of the adult library, I had completed a form and signed
my name to request the purchase of this book. I may not have been the only one
but I knew of no one else and I had so acted. Now Rev. Carstenson was a round,
florid man, who had a large scar on the back of his neck from a serious
carbuncle removal. When he became excited in the pulpit this scar would become
flaming red. There I was, watching this scar aflame while I was guilty of having
provoked his ire because I wanted to read a particular work of English
Other and similar experiences pushed me away from a religious career. I
became fascinated with what I perceived to be charlatanry. There was the
visiting evangelist who preached one Sunday evening on the sinful land of
Canaan. The Children of Israel should have known they were entering an impure
place. "Look at the word Canaan," he shouted, "six letters and three of them are
a's. They should have known." Another preached on the sounds of nature, which
are in a minor key, a sign of sinfulness. Still another called himself a
converted Jew, called to bring Christ to the Jews who have not yet heard the
message of salvation. I visited Pentecostal Churches where I enjoyed the
syncopated versions of familiar hymns but was aghast at the emotional excesses
of trances and glossalalia. One night with my friend Austin Goheen I visited a
spiritualist seance, which we both quickly identified as fakery. By the time I
was fifteen and leaving high school, I was also leaving the church and any
thought of a religious career.
And all this time I was continuing to read avidly. How does one develop taste
in literature? My experience was that reading voraciously did it. I tired
quickly of Zane Grey and other writers of westerns so popular among young
people. Romances and adventure stories soon seem contrived. Tarzan of the Apes
was interesting but by the end of the second volume it, too, appeared
artificial. Tom Swift, Tom Slade, PeeWee Blakely, were the same. Ernest Thompson
Seton was interesting but also was probably contrived. The high school
curriculum didn't guide me, perhaps because I was in so many science courses.
But I kept on reading.
In my junior year I became friends with a smart but unattractive boy who was
a star guard on the football team. During summers and school breaks he worked as
a coal miner in the Bellingham Bay Coal Company property. He thought I might get
a job in the mines and offered to introduce me. We arranged that I was to report
at the mine on a certain morning at 5:45 AM. I arose at five, dressed quietly
and was at the mine ahead of time. I soon learned that I was too young and they
wouldn't use me. Disappointed, mostly at not being able to earn the good wages
miners received even in the depression, I returned home for breakfast. That
evening my father asked me where I had gone so early in the morning. I told him.
He was furious. He told me most emphatically that no matter how hard times
became, no son of his was going to work in the mines. I was not to attempt that
again for he would refuse permission. Later I learned that he had worked briefly
in the mines during his Rocky Mountain days and knew the rigors and dangers of
that occupation. He wouldn't do it again and neither was I to do it.
Three and a half years after entering I was graduated from high school, near
the top of the class. Beverly Holiday was the valedictorian. I was eager to
enter college but had no money. I still worked Saturdays in a food market and
serviced two magazine routes. In June, 1934, there were no signs that the
depression was ameliorating, although the New Deal programs were beginning to
alleviate some of the misery. The FHA program saved our home. Dad was able to
obtain government money to pay off Professor Philippi and the threat of
foreclosure was abated. There was created the Civilian Conservation Corps, but
at fifteen I was too young to qualify. There was a new program, the National
Youth Administration, and perhaps it would provide a way to help. But there was
nothing definite. Prospects were glum, but I was two years ahead of my birth
cohort so perhaps I could turn that to some advantage.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 9 -- WINDOWS ON THE FUTURE
Bellingham was the site of a Normal School, a term then in use for a
collegiate institution established for the training of teachers. Today it is a
regional state university, known as Western Washington State University, and
widely recognized for its strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences. In
1934 it had a total enrollment of just over 800. Today more than ten thousand
students study at Western, the enrollment capped for financial reasons.
As a Normal School, the summer session was a busy one. Public school teachers
would return to earn credits toward a degree since only a three-year diploma was
required to be eligible to teach. "Summer School where Summer's Cool" was an
appealing motto for summers in Bellingham were sunny but cool, very different
from the other normal schools at Cheney and Ellensburg. Fees were low.
Schoolteacher's salaries were also very low. Since money was scarce in the
depression, enrollments were down. Thus admission with a high school diploma
reflecting college preparatory courses and reasonable grades was readily
I wanted very much to go to the University of Washington, less than a hundred
miles away. That was impossible, for we had no money. My parents would not hear
of a fifteen-year-old going away from home. They denied me permission to go to
Alaska for the salmon-fishing season and they certainly wouldn't let me go to
Seattle to attend the university. The lumber mills in Bellingham were shut down
by a long strike. I still had my weekend job as a grocery clerk, augmented by
additional hours in a fruit and vegetable stand. I had money saved sufficient to
pay the summer session fees at the Normal School so I decided to attend there
for the summer.
What was available was freshman chemistry, the first two quarters of general
inorganic chemistry. Professor Philippi tolerated such a youngster and the
returning teachers followed suit. Because I had nothing much else to do I found
the study challenging and to my surprise earned the top grades in the class. One
of the students explained away the embarrassment of being outperformed by a
fifteen year old by noting that returning teachers would work just hard enough
to earn "B's" and if I wanted to work harder I could get the "A's". So I did.
At the end of the summer session the lumber mill strike was settled. Starting
wage was set at $.45 per hour. For a time there was a shipping backlog so the
day I turned 16 I went to work in the Bloedel-Donovan lumber mill as a stamper,
placing a logo on lumber ready for shipping. I worked forty hours a week for
eighteen dollars. The job lasted three weeks and I had fifty-four dollars,
enough to pay my fall quarter fees at the college, buy my textbooks, and the
clothes I needed.
Around the kitchen table at dinner, the evening of my first working day in
the mill, Dad delivered a "policy statement." He announced that as long as I
used any money I earned for school costs I could live at home without paying for
room and board. If I quit school, however, I would have to bear my share of home
costs. He then added that if I were to get married I could not bring my wife
home to live. Tired as I was, I thought it crude and unnecessary and after
supper went straight to bed. Many times later I was to recall his statement and
I'm sure it was instrumental in my acting only with forethought on fundamental
economic responsibility matters. I was grateful he had been straightforward.
At the college I was surrounded by friends with intellectual interests and
abilities. We read books and discussed what we had read. I recall discovering
Thomas Hardy. My favorite study spot in the library was next to a shelf of all
his novels. I loved them - The Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles,
Jude the Obscure, and even A Pair of Blue Eyes. I spent long afternoon hours in
the music listening room, learning to enjoy Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and even
(especially) Scriabin. We discussed passionately political issues -
anti-Semitism, approaches to labor organization, the usefulness of groups such
as the League for Industrial Democracy, the threat of rearmament and war, the
chances for peace, the rising tide of fascism. We were a small group, out of the
mainstream of student activities and athletics. Sparking off each other, we
broadened our horizons. It was an exciting time.
My crisis came when I had no money to return after Christmas. My parents
sacrificed to make it possible. That fifteen dollars Mother handed to me the
morning of registration day lifted me over the obstacle. I never looked back
from that point and, somehow, always managed without further help. During that
winter term I was given an NYA assignment. I was to work with the Professor of
Mathematics and instruct the remedial arithmetic group. The National Youth
Administration paid fifteen dollars a month and expected us to work ten hours a
week. It worked out to $.35 an hour. It was cash money, thank goodness, and with
Saturday food store clerking it made meeting college costs possible as long as I
stayed at Bellingham.
To qualify for a teaching diploma students had to pass certain skill tests.
For many the mathematics test was a stumbling block. The test consisted mainly
of some simple algebra problems. Although I had no previous teaching experience
I sensed that to overcome the student's fears I had to capture their
imaginations so I developed a collection of questions with a practical bent
which could be readily solved by applying simple algebra. I thought if they knew
how to solve them they would pose them to their friends and by this means would
come to understand the principles involved. This proved to be true and I soon
earned a reputation for helping students meet the qualification requirement.
Since most of them were women students, this good perception seemed desirable.
Student government elections were held in the spring and I decided to be a
candidate for a seat on the Student Council. At the assembly held for all
candidates to speak I couldn't raise my eyes to look at the audience. I felt
sure that this failure would doom my chances. My opponent, Steve Turk, was a
campus jock (athlete) and socially active. He was five years older than I. When
the votes were counted, however, I was elected. I served a full year and
thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
When summer came I had an opportunity to help manage a fruit and vegetable
market. I earned fifteen dollars a week but had to put in about sixty-five
working hours. I was tempted to buy into the business, which could be
accomplished out of my weekly earnings. I never seriously considered it,
however, figuring that if I had made it thusfar I had a good chance of doing
what I most wanted at that stage which was to attend the University of
Having done well in chemistry and mathematics, I then discovered zoology and
physics. Being comfortable with mathematics made physics seem easy. Zoology was
another matter. It seemed not to have the kind of theoretical base, which
permitted prediction and control. On the other hand it did have a rational
classification system. It also had the additional lure of the rich biota of the
Puget Sound region. I wanted very much to be able to spend a summer at the UW's
Friday Harbor Experiment Station. Again I did not have the money to do so nor
could I forego the income from a summer working. As was true at so many points
in my life, straitened circumstances foreclosed educational options I would love
to have pursued.
When during my sophomore year I reached seventeen I decided it was time for
me to declare my interest in Beverly Holiday. To me she was a glamour figure.
Bright, talented, and beautiful, I thought her a little supercilious because she
would pass me on campus and not notice me nor respond to my greeting. Later I
realized that she was near-sighted and for the sake of appearing attractive
failed to wear her glasses regularly. That perception was soon altered. Early in
1936 I organized a trip to Vancouver, B.C., involving visiting Aunt Ella, Mother
because that was how I could use the family car, and Beverly. I obtained tickets
to a performance of the opera "Aida", thinking such a cultural event would
impress her. The trip went off well. It was our first date. Much, much later I
learned that Beverly did not enjoy musical events. She did not want to sit still
for them, and was genuinely puzzled how other people could truly enjoy them. No
matter, though. I did have her attention, as a result, and the only reason I was
apprehensive about leaving the next fall for the University was that I was
leaving her in Bellingham.
Bellingham was increasingly worried about political radicalism. Prejudice
against minorities was overt, principally anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic since
there were few Blacks and Asian Americans in the city. A local businessman named
Gordon, who was not hesitant in identifying himself as a Jew, declared himself
to be a candidate for mayor. He spent money liberally on advertising but the
reaction was vicious. When votes were counted he had spent more than one dollar
per vote, a startling figure when cash was scarce. The local newspaper, the
Bellingham Herald was controlled by the Sefrit family. Editorials were
consistently far right wing and dealt with ignorant fears rather than with
issues. I learned for the first time how property and power induced their
holders to paranoid fears of the popular will.
In 1935 the Sefrits concentrated their attention on the President of the
Normal School, Dr. Charles H. Fisher. He was known to be a liberal who believed
that the college should have an open platform and welcome speakers from across
the political spectrum. The newspaper was not interested in a balanced
presentation. They wanted the far left to be denied a platform. I recall that
twice in two years Howard Scott, founder and leader of a group gaining
increasing attention known as Technocracy, was speaking at the college on
evenings to which the public was invited. We students who heard him were turned
off by his fascist approach to social issues, although we were interested in his
forecasts of the technological nature of the society which was rapidly
developing. The newspaper saw students as being vulnerable when exposed to such
notions and used Scott's appearance as one among many reasons why Dr. Fisher was
not fit to head a teacher training institution.
By early spring of 1936 the pressure on President Fisher became heightened.
Gordon Millikan, President of the Student Council, and I organized a meeting of
students with Dr. Fisher. We met off campus, on Sunset Ridge, at 7:30 on a
Sunday morning, the time and place chosen so we would not be spied upon. We said
that the students wanted to organize a public protest, perhaps shut down the
college or whatever actions would draw public attention to our support for and
appreciation of our President. He listened to us, asked a few questions, and
then said he would do nothing to stand in the way of our doing whatever we
decided. However, he made clear that he felt any such action would worsen,
rather than help his situation, and told us why. He finally left us, saying
again that we were free to do what we thought best. In the end, we determined to
do nothing, recognizing that his cause would inevitably be hurt, given the
climate of Bellingham.
I was eager to get to the University. It represented new worlds to conquer,
worlds with greater tolerance for broader perspectives. Somehow I knew that the
only pathway for upward socio-economic mobility was through that route. How I
could manage it financially I had only vague romantic notions, based on Horatio
Alger type tales of working one's way through. My only other alternative seemed
to be to stay in Bellingham, swallow my pride about not becoming an ordinary
schoolteacher, and do what so many others settled for. Despite the deep
depression, which still gripped the Pacific Northwest, I felt that somehow
attending the University could be made to happen.
Then disaster struck. On July 31, 1936, at 2:30 in the afternoon, Mother and
I were returning from my having taken her food shopping. Fire trucks surrounded
our house. A fire had started in the room Howard and I shared. All my clothes
and books were gone. Not having the money to continue carrying household
insurance, Dad had not renewed that policy. There was insurance for the house
but not for its contents. It was a serious problem for Mother and Dad, of
course. For me it was truly a disaster.
But for that night Beverly's parents invited me to stay at their house and
sleep on the living room sofa. I did. It took most of the sting out of the
But how was I to attend the University without funds or clothes? I resolved
to attempt it. Somehow it had to be done.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 10 -- AT LAST, ATHENS!
I left Bellingham for Seattle just after Labor Day, 1936. My fall term fees,
$32.50, were paid on an earlier visit in August. I found a basement room just a
block off campus and shared the $25.00 per month rental with two other fellows.
I had an NYA (National Youth Administration) job, $15.00 a month, and was
assigned to the Office of the Registrar. No money would come my way, however,
until the end of October. All I thought I needed was a job for my board.
For four days I tried fruitlessly to find a board job. There were too few
jobs and too many would-be Horatio Algers in those depression days. On the
afternoon of the fourth day I faced the prospect of failure. I had enough money
- 50 cents - for either supper or breakfast the next day. Once again the spectre
of failure faced me. Without a job and with no money there was no way I could
survive until the first NYA check came. I was as blue as I was that morning
nearly two years previous when my parents gave me the fifteen dollars which kept
me on the path.
Wandering somewhat aimlessly around the fraternity district I met my friend
Gordon Millikan with whom I had worked closely in student government the year
before. When he asked how things were going I told him. He had a problem, too.
He had found a job in a fraternity kitchen which paid both board and room. His
problem was that he had a job which paid board only. He needed to find a
replacement so he could take what he considered a better job. Was I interested?
He took me to the SAE kitchen and introduced me to the cook, known as Mother
Mac. She looked at me a bit doubtfully but said she would try me. The deal was
struck. I went to work immediately, thankful that I would eat a fine dinner.
From that beginning, wonderful things were to develop. Mother Mac, properly
known as Mrs. Louise McLeod, was irascible, demanding, and with an Irish temper
she enjoyed displaying. I swallowed my pride - who can afford pride when truly
hungry and with slender hopes - and did as I was told. That first night I did
the dishes after helping serve a dinner for nearly one hundred college men since
it was rush week and many guests were present. The next morning I appeared at
6:30 AM to peel potatoes and prepare other vegetables for lunch and dinner. I
mopped the dining room floor, swept the kitchen, washed the pots and pans, and
cleaned up after breakfast. Repeated the work for lunch and then returned again
at 5:00 PM for another dinner. This routine went on until rush was over and
classes were to begin.
On the weekend before classes began on Monday, Mother Mac made the
astonishing proposal that if I would come in each morning at 6:30, work until my
first class began at 8:00, return at 11:00 and work until 1:30, return at 5:00
and work until the dinner was over and clean-up completed, I would be paid not
only my board but an additional $10.00 a month! A bonanza! I would have my
board, $25.00 a month cash income, and my only fixed cost was $8.33 per month
for the room. I thought I could make it. I loved the food, a better menu than I
had ever before eaten, and I had come to appreciate Mother Mac and not be
affected by her moods.
What I hadn't figured on was the long laboratory hours my classes demanded. I
found myself tied to a work schedule that scarcely left me time for studying and
no time for a social life. Interestingly, I did not find this oppressive for I
was on my way toward something, I wasn't yet quite sure what. I did feel left
out of the student life around me and became acutely resentful of the fraternity
men who did not appear to be under any such pressure. I expressed this
resentment to one of my fellow kitchen slaves. Mother Mac overheard me. Later
she called me into her apartment off the kitchen, and proceeded to tell me why
my attitude was both wrong and ill informed. However she said it, it had the
desired effect and I began to regard my surroundings with greater perceptiveness
and a sense of gratitude that things were working out for me.
Fortunately my grades were quite good. Each term I registered for too many
credits and was forced to cut back. It was going to take me three years, rather
than two, to finish my baccalaureate degree. I felt I had the time to spare
since I was two years ahead of myself entering college. I took the professional
curriculum in chemistry, took as much physics as time permitted, and took every
exemption exam offered for required courses. Fortunately, I passed them all
easily which gave me added flexibility in my schedule.
For the spring term of that first year I left the basement room and moved
upstairs in the same house. For the second year I found a larger room in another
house a block farther away. It was very comfortable. The other students in that
house were graduate students, serious and hard working, and we became fast
That spring term I was invited to accept a half-time (23 hours per week)
position as a recording clerk in the Office of the Registrar. My pay would be
$35.00 a month, including the fifteen dollars from the NYA. .This gave me a
grand total of $45.00 a month plus my board. It was still tough going, for the
laboratory fees in my science courses were increasing. Nonetheless, it meant
that my economic worries were not insurmountable. I would have to borrow the
money for my quarterly fees and repay the loan from my income, usually with at
least one of the repayments having to come from summer earnings. The loans were
obtainable from the Office of the Dean of Men. It was my introduction to student
services in the University. I appreciated what was done for me and thought it
would be a wonderful thing to be able to share in that kind of work.
For the three summers, '37, '38, and '39, I returned to Bellingham and worked
in various markets, chiefly in fruits and vegetables. The pay was not good but
it was steady work until Labor Day, which fit my schedule precisely. At one
point I was encouraged to buy a fruit and vegetable retail business with
payments to come from income. For someone with no capital this was a tempting
prospect but I soon decided that was a dead end and rejected the offer, with
thanks for the expression of confidence.
Mother Mac was a true friend. She did not ask anything for herself but we
found ways to please her. She was a devout Roman Catholic and on special Sundays
took delight in being accompanied to services. Once or twice a year we would
borrow a car from one of the fraternity men and drive her to Puyallup to visit
her sister. When she was ill, a rare event, she would trust me to prepare the
fraternity meals and serve them. She would understand when some college affair
made an absence from work necessary and always made adjustments. When the annual
state high school basketball tournament was on she would welcome my brother
Howard and feed him generously. When Beverly enrolled in the University for her
senior year, '39-'40, she was gracious to her. And she gave me special
encouragement along the way.
In the spring of 1938, Mother Mac again took me into her apartment and
proposed that I become a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. She said
the men had been watching me and wanted me as a member. When I objected that I
could not possibly meet the $115.00 initiation fee, she said quietly that she
would see that the fee requirement would be satisfied. In this way I became a
pledge and in the fall term moved into the fraternity house. I was still a house
boy, working for my board and room, but I was welcomed into the fellowship of
that group in a way I had always wanted.
The fraternity was a leading group on the University of Washington campus.
Their academic standing. however, was not up to their other performances and it
seems the national fraternity was putting pressure on them to improve. I have
always assumed that my good grades and working habits appealed to them as one
way to improve. Actually, the chapter standing did improve, in part because we
made certain that all the members were included in the summary. Some of the
older members were inactive but they were still members and in school so it was
legitimate to include them.
I was initiated in the spring of 1939, my last undergraduate term. My badge
number was 49,999. I lived in the house my senior year, carrying several
responsibilities and loving every minute of it. I was still restricted in time
availability and could not participate as fully in the social life of the
fraternity as I wished. No one ever alluded to my impecuniousness or made me
feel at all out of place. Many of them were also on limited budgets, though none
of them were held to the kind of working schedule I undertook. I came to admire
them individually and as a group. In a real sense, I owe this all to Mother Mac.
In the fall of 1938 I applied for an interview with the faculty committee
charged with selecting candidates for the Rhodes Scholarship. Nearly a hundred
upperclassmen applied. Twenty-five were selected for interview. Among them were
several of my fraternity brothers. When the candidate selections were announced
my name was among the five chosen, somewhat to the dismay of my unsuccessful
brothers. My interview, scheduled for twelve minutes, took forty-five minutes.
The faculty interviewers were from English, philosophy, and economics. Perhaps
they didn’t know what to do with a student in the physical sciences. Casting
about with “fishing” questions, the chairman asked me to list the most
significant books I had read in the last six months. I replied that I wasn’t
sure about their significance but named several books, including novels, that
had most influenced my thinking recently.
Among the books I mentioned was H.G. Wells’ novel The World of William
Clissold. The chairman pounced. “Critics have accused Wells of evidencing a
passion for fascism in this novel,” he said. “What do you say to this
criticism?” I had no answer so I decided to tell the truth. “When I read
Clissold I was enjoying the work as a novel and I wasn’t thinking about
political issues abounding in the world.” An audible sigh issued from several of
the interviewing panel. From that point on we had a lively and wide ranging
discussion in which I appeared to have acquitted myself creditably. Reflecting
on this I concluded that I had in effect responded to the question with an “I
don’t know.” Faced with applicants who perhaps tried to impress the panel by
covering lapses in knowledge with ill considered generalities, a prompt
disclaimer disarmed them. It was an important lesson for me. In the end, no one
from that year went to Oxford for the war put all such England based programs
out of operation.
In the spring of 1938, the U.S. Congress provided for the training of thirty
pilots in a civil aviation program at four universities. The University of
Washington was one. Four-hundred-fifty-nine students applied. Fifty were chosen
to take physical examinations, selected most likely by their grade point
averages. I was one of seven from my fraternity chosen. The examining physician
was the University Medical Center Director, Dr. David Hall, father of a fellow
fraternity member. He took one look at my medical record and said, “Son, you
don’t want to fly. You’re blind.” “Try me anyhow, Dr. Hall.” He did and I was
the first applicant rejected. All six of my fraternity fellows were accepted and
five served in the air forces during World War II. One, Charles Blaine, an
aeronautical engineer, was killed in a Seattle crash of one of the first B-17
For me the University of Washington was an exciting place. Aware of my
limited knowledge in several fields I begged my fraternity brothers for the
reading lists in their courses in English, political science, and history. They
didn’t read the recommended books but I did, or at least as many as I could
manage. In a way my impecunious state was a blessing for library usage cost
nothing and, when I couldn’t afford movies, dancing, and other forms of
entertainment, reading sufficed. I learned to love classical music, simply by
listening to records, a habit begun my first year in college and continued
thereafter. Of course there were huge gaps in my appreciation of music and art.
Drama always appealed to me and whenever I could manage a ticket to a campus or
community presentation I treasured the opportunity.
I was graduated in 1939 with a degree in chemistry, having pursued the
professional curriculum. I had minors in physics and mathematics, and several
courses in zoology and meteorology. In September I had a half-time teaching
fellowship in the Department of Chemistry and continued my work in the Office of
the Registrar. The Registrar, Dean Newhouse, was named Dean of Men and asked me
to assume a half-time appointment as one of his two assistants. This meant I had
to give up teaching chemistry but I accepted the offer gratefully. I recalled my
feelings when the previous Dean of Men approved my loan for quarterly tuition
when I had no funds. Now I was in a position to begin to help other students.
Dean Newhouse was a charismatic figure and quickly assumed a significant
place in my life. I wanted very much to follow in his footsteps. He went a long
way on personality and acumen but he had never done any significant graduate
work and lacked graduate degrees. I was determined to earn a doctorate. I sensed
that all I wanted it for was so that I could belong someplace in the University
structure. I persisted in studying chemistry and physics although I was
disenchanted with my studies and not giving them the concentrated attention they
needed. Dean Newhouse was not very helpful in resolving this growing dilemma of
what I should choose as a field of study for the doctorate.
The war changed everything. The campus became a training center for various
technical specialties. The chairman of the Department of Physics, Dr. C.C.
Utterback, offered me an appointment as Instructor of Physics. I taught
intensively a section of engineering physics for meteorology cadets.
Fortunately, my section consistently scored next highest to Dr. Utterback’s
among the dozen or so instructional groups. a development which must have
puzzled the department chair. The students in my section were similarly puzzled
but were proud of themselves and gave respectful attention in class to my
emphasis upon problem solving. This situation lasted until the end of 1943. It
was clear by then that I would have to serve in the Armed Forces. I entered Navy
service in mid-1944.
Farewell to Athens!
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 11 -- ODYSSEY
(Definition: an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest.)
One way to examine one’s personal history is to select a single theme and
reflect on how it is represented in one’s life. Such a study is specific to a
time, the twentieth century, to a place, the United States, and to the education
pursued. Perhaps looking at a personal religious history will help others who
may read this to reflect on their own thinking and experiences. However, it is
at least an interesting endeavor to put a personal odyssey on paper.
I choose religious experience because of the interplay between personal
history and societal structures and trends. For most of us, our religious
heritage is a family matter. In my case I have learned much from studying my
paternal forebears. My maternal ancestors present another pattern, perhaps more
typically American. Both strains were important to me.
Great-grandfather Nygren was a Swedish pietist, a house churchman who
eschewed priests and government controlled religion. This self-definition led
him to bring his entire family to the United States, in part for religious
freedom and in part for economic opportunity. He and my grandfather built a
church in Minnesota around which the village of Cokato was established. It was
recognized as a Baptist Church, chiefly to separate it from the Lutheran
organizations, which predominated in the general area, and to confirm the
authority of the local congregation in all religious matters. Grandfather John
Nygren was a leader in the church throughout his life, recognized as a person of
integrity and principle. This was accompanied by family rigidity, which forced
his sons to strike out for themselves, away from the family holdings.
Aunt Huldah, the only surviving daughter, was active in Baptist churches all
her life. (At one time she was involved with the FourSquare Gospel movement of
Aimee Semple MacPherson.) None of the four sons was an active churchman.
Interestingly, however, they always honored the church while remaining very
critical of what they called the ‘hypocrisy” of those who were in the church but
acted in business and community affairs in self-serving ways.
I know less of my Mother’s family religious history. They were more typically
American; virtually all American religious strains are represented in her family
lineage. The family members chose their church relationships because of marriage
factors or the dominant interest of the communities in which they resided. Roman
Catholic, Jewish, and varied Protestant affiliations are all there. Perhaps
because she grew up in Minnesota, Mother found the Baptist sense of independence
As a boy I was sent to the Baptist Sunday School in Bellingham, Washington.
Summers found attendance at Vacation Bible School obligatory. At age twelve I
was baptized by immersion. I had anguished over this prospect for three years.
Perhaps I allowed the rite to take place because of societal pressure. It was,
after all, expected that this would take place at age twelve. The anguish came
about because I didn’t have the inner commitment to “Jesus as my Saviour” nor
the “conversion experience” so much preached about in that church.
Despite my intellectual problems, I did enjoy many aspects of the life of the
church. After baptism I became a regular usher at Sunday services, morning and
evening. Later I began to sing in the church choir, spending Thursday evenings
at rehearsal in the home of Abby Raymond, the director. I attended the Sunday
evening meetings of the B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young People’s Union). Several times I
attempted the Wednesday evening Prayer Services but was always put off by them
and never managed more than once or twice a year to sit through them. Twice a
year the Baptists had a mission study period and that was stimulating, both in
terms of thinking about my own vocational future and helping learn more about
the world at large. I was invited to join the Teacher Training Class, a singular
honor. The classes, however, were really Bible study in which challenge and
conjecture were not encouraged.
Although they sent their children to the church school, neither of my parents
ever formally affiliated with the church nor did they contribute to its support.
Father never attended until the family moved to Seattle and the children had
left home, and then only to keep Mother company. Mother never attended while I
was living at home although she was always active in a women’s circle whose
meetings were held in the members’ homes.
The Baptist Church in Bellingham was a poor church, partly because of the
severity of the economic depression, which beset that area of the country. A
much loved and effective minister reached retirement age in 1933 and the church
was forced to choose between calling a young minister just out of seminary, or
an older clergyman approaching retirement age himself. They chose the latter
course and brought in the Rev. Eugene Carstens, a pulpit pounding stentorian
preacher who defined sin as anything of which he disapproved and sinners as any
who disagreed or opposed him. A heavy set man, he had a deeply pitted scar on
the back of his neck, which became flaming red as he reached the emotional peak
of his perorations.
Shortly after coming to Bellingham, the Reverend Carstens was appointed to
the Bellingham Public Library Board. He began to study the schedule of
acquisitions which was reported to each member of the Library Board. In
December, 1933, the previously banned James Joyce novel “Ulysses” had been
cleared by the courts for distribution in this country. As I was an avid reader
and was intrigued by the furor over the novel, I, age 15, filled out the
required request slip which asked the library to purchase a copy. When Rev.
Carstens spotted this on the routine report to the Board, he declared it was an
unacceptable purchase and seized public attention and newspaper headlines with
his fulminations against a sinful book, which surely he himself had never read.
He used his Sunday evening sermons to keep public attention focussed on the
issue. There I sat in the choir loft, looking at the back of his neck, the
carbuncle scar flaming as he roared his condemnation, conscious that I had
requested the Library to purchase the book, although presumably he did not know
my connection with the matter. I lacked the courage and maturity to confront him
with such a confession and so I wrestled with my feelings of unmerited guilt and
grew increasingly disenchanted with the church.
When “Ulysses” finally arrived at the Library I received a notice that it was
available. I was disappointed. It was difficult going. Having just turned
fifteen, I hadn’t lived long enough to understand what Joyce was saying. I
stayed with the church until high school graduation and then did not return.
In 1934, age 15, I was graduated from high school and began college classes
the next week. That first summer I took the freshman year of chemistry and
earned “A” grades. That initial success spurred me to study more sciences and
mathematics and I continued to do well. I began to question the narrowness of
the vision of the church, as I perceived it from my Baptist Church experience.
There were strains in community affairs, to which the church paid no attention,
but which seemed to me to be important. The Ku Klux Klan had an active local
Klavern. A Jewish businessman who had the temerity to run for Mayor sparked much
anti-Semitic expression. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness were widespread yet
the church seemed oblivious . Evangelists were brought in to conduct special
services on the theory that bringing the poor to the altar would solve their
existential problems. For me it was not so much a matter of conflict between
religion and science as it was that each was concerned with different matters
and that I could not justify the failure of church forces to deal with the real
needs of the people.
Two years later, 1936, I left home and entered university as a junior. Lonely
at first, I went to the Baptist Church and attended their college age youth
group. I was turned off quickly by the same reluctance to talk about the
problems the larger society was confronting. The Inter-Varsity Christian
Fellowship was widely advertised and I attended two of their open meetings. I
found them certain that acknowledging “Jesus as my personal Saviour” would
change my life. Poor and struggling to work my way through college, it didn’t
seem to me that this was in itself an answer to my needs. For the rest of my
undergraduate years I made no further effort to find a “church home,”
But I couldn’t shake my curiosity about religion. I attended occasional
services in a variety of churches. I discovered the Student YMCA and responded
to their social awareness. My classmates, including my fellow science students,
did not seem disturbed by the confusing signals coming from their religious
bodies about questions of war and armaments, conscientious objection,
conscription, and the treatment of mental illness. Differently from them, I
could not ignore these issues, nor could I endorse their uncritical affiliation
with their family religious affiliations. I determined not to be drawn into a
church affiliation. I was not so much rejecting religion as I was seeking to
work out for myself a rational path that would help me cope with a world
seemingly bent on destruction.
Hearking back to the mission study emphasis in the local Baptist church, for
a time I thought of obtaining a medical degree and serving as a mission doctor.
Two factors dissuaded me. The first was that the young people in the Baptist
fellowship who decided to become ministers or missionaries were not persons whom
I considered at all intellectual. They were religiously committed but that did
not lead them to choose more socially responsible behavioral patterns. The
second was that I did not see where the funds were to come from to essay medical
school. I had to work more than fifty hours a week while pursuing my studies and
I was conscious of always being financially needy. I realized that without an
overweening sense of commitment there was probably no future for me in the work
of the established church.
In September, 1939, I returned to the University of Washington and graduate
studies in chemistry and physics It was then that Germany invaded Poland and
World War II began. We students were acutely aware that our world had changed.
We reacted to that awareness in various ways. For me there was a conundrum. Was
I a conscientious objector? Given my social views, it would seem that was the
direction I would take. Countering that was the recognition that my generation
was going to be forever changed by the events immediately ahead. If I wanted to
play a part in determining the nature of the world after the war, it seemed I
would have to be a part of the struggle to influence that world. Thus for that
year I watched closely as the debate over responses to military service
developed. I noted the responses of the various religious bodies to how they
would react to any of their members who would choose the C.O. position. It was
clear they were reluctant to deal with the matter. It was for the most part a
subdued discussion for when the school year ended in June, 1940, the nation had
not yet decided upon conscription for military service.
Beverly and I were married in June, 1940. Whatever transpired in the larger
world, we would deal with it together. We were married in the Bellingham home of
her parents. We asked the Rev. C. Elroy Shikles, of the Baptist Church, to
officiate. That was a concession to family pressures, rather than an acceptance
of the necessity of religious ritual to confirm the occasion. Looking back, I am
aware that I treated Rev. Shikles rather curtly, perhaps even shabbily. Despite
my callowness, we were married before our families and by a minister, both
factors correlated with successful marriages, as ours has proven to be.
When the time came to register with the Selective Service System I did so. As
someone married before theconscription law was adopted I was entitled to an
automatic deferment for the early war years. Later my work with the University
and the personal request of the University President that I be allowed to remain
kept me out of active service until mid-1944. When I was inducted I was assigned
to the Navy, despite eyesight problems which officially consigned me to Limited
Duty status. What this meant, in practice, was that I could perform Navy duties
but could not serve aboard ships. I felt comfortable with this except for my
lingering doubts that I had not been totally honest by not claiming C.O. status.
In “boot camp” I was one day sent on an errand to the office of the Company
Chaplain, just off the reading room of the ship’s library. Gathered in the
reading room were about a hundred newly sworn-in sailors filling out necessary
papers under the supervision of a grizzled multi-striped Chief Petty Officer. I
paused to observe. The CPO informed the recruits that they were to fill out all
the blanks on the form, without exception and without questions. Soon one
recruit raised his hand and said, “It says here “religion.” What if you don’t
have a religion?” Came the prompt guttural response, “What d’ya mean you got no
religion? Ev’erbody in the Navy’s got a religion! Fill it out!” There were no
more questions. That incident has always seemed to me to express the essential
military institutional evaluation of religion. Like it or not, we all were to
identify with a religious polity. No military organization tolerates ambiguity
The Naval Training Center at Sand Point, Idaho, consisted of ten separate
camps, each housing ten thousand men. Sundays were a somewhat relaxed time. Each
camp had both Protestant and Catholic services. One day, after noticing the
straggling manner in which sailors left their barracks for services, the
Lieutenant in command issued an order that henceforward men were to muster in
front of their barracks and march in formation to services. The following Sunday
attendance at services fell by half and the next Sunday by half again. The
chaplains protested vigorously and the order was cancelled.
The sailors in this training center included many from Mormon backgrounds.
Mormon services were held at a centrally located facility. Men were privileged
to sign out of their assigned camp to gather centrally for these services. They
quickly discovered that they could meet their friends from other camps by
signing out as Mormons. Soon there was each Sunday a considerable crowd on the
grounds outside the facility but relatively few inside at worship. After a few
weeks the lack of orderliness was unacceptable and the privilege was withdrawn.
I was discharged in February, 1946, and returned to Seattle to resume my
position as Assistant Dean of Men at the University of Washington. Among my
assigned duties was coordinating relations with the church groups ministering to
students. I found this an interesting assignment. For the next eight years I
spent much time with the men and women who were assigned full time to these
duties. I organized a Council of Religious Group Advisers and for a time chaired
their sessions. I served on the Board of Directors of the University YMCA and
also as Chairman of the Board of Management of the Capitol Hill YMCA, a branch
of the Seattle YMCA located in a neighborhood with a large Black population.
Many of the people I shared with in these settings became life-long friends.
The University YM-YWCA sponsored an end of the year weekend camp for the
student leaders of their groups. At one such event I attended, a visiting
seminary professor of New Testament, a noted mystic, spoke at length about the
experience of prayer. He accepted questions. One student asked, “Do you believe
that the Disciples saw Jesus in the flesh after his crucifixion?” The large
audience was hushed as the professor closed his eyes, leaned his head back while
grasping the podium tightly. After a minute of silence he said, “I believe that
the Disciples believed that they saw Jesus in the flesh.” It was a defining
moment for many in that audience. Here was a believer and an accredited
professor who could answer such a challenging question directly and in terms
which did not beg rationality.
At the same time I was pursuing doctoral studies in sociology and psychology.
Neither discipline in those years took much interest in the subject of religion.
The psychology faculty was a noted one, a leader in the behaviorist school.
Learning theory fascinated them most. Some of the ablest among the faculty were
children of clergymen but were no longer affiliated with a congregation. The
sociology faculty were mainly logical positivists who defined religion as
recreational activity. They, too, often came from clergy families. Their
interest was in studying behavior objectively, sometimes describing sociology as
the science of group behavior. With my background in the physical sciences, I
found these two faculties stimulating and enlightening.
We moved to Ohio in 1954, when our son Ted was seven years old. The small
town of Kent had a number of active churches. We soon found that one’s church
affiliation was one way that people liked to identify you That and the
realization that Ted ought to become familiar with the cultural heritage of
Western Society led us to consider finding a church home. We were fortunate to
find the Kent Congregational Church and its minister, Herbert Van Meter, very
compatible and we soon affiliated formally with that congregation.
The nine years we spent in Kent were productive ones. The Kent church was an
active one. Under Herb Van Meter’s leadership the church took an active role in
regional church organization. It was during this period that the Congregational
Christian and Evangelical and Reformed churches voted to merge to form a united
and uniting denomination to be known as the United Church of Christ. I attended
some of the meetings, which decided upon this course of action. To me it made a
great deal of sense to covenant with a broader spectrum of congregations. The
merger not only created a larger church but also a more geographically
widespread presence on the national scene.
I found a niche by sharing in leading an adult education class. There was
much being published which took seriously the social outreach mission of the
church. Many in the congregation were affiliated with Kent State University. I
found them to be a stimulating and receptive group with whom to discuss the
religious and social issues raised by various writers. In the process I began to
comprehend the yeasting role church members and whole congregations could play
in bringing awareness of these issues to a larger audience.
At one point I was invited to become a member of the Board of Directors of
the United Church Board for World Ministries, the overseas arm of the United
Church. This body was the most recent form of what began in the early nineteenth
century as the American Board for Foreign Missions. The seven years I served on
that Board were a learning experience different from any I had experienced
before. The Board was well endowed and operated globally. It was facing “the
revolution of rising expectations” around the world, which posed many challenges
to the accustomed ways of carrying out the Board’s mission. There were rising
tensions at home. Traditional church people found the new realities unsettling.
The Board had to weave its way delicately between homeland conservatives and
their own staff with rich overseas experience. It was while I served on the
Board that the entire emphasis shifted from sending missionaries overseas under
direction of the American church to sending fraternal representatives to work
under the direction of indigenous church organizations. From this I gained a new
appreciation of the strength and the adaptability of the established church, an
appreciation quite different from my earlier estimation of the worth of the
Then we moved to New York. I was appointed to the faculty of Hunter College
of the City University of New York with responsibilities in Manhattan and the
Bronx. We settled in the Westchester County community of Scarsdale. We sought a
U.C.C. church and found a thriving one right at home, the Scarsdale
Congregational Church. We affiliated promptly. It is a community church, filled
with well-educated and active business and professional people. The tensions in
the outside community during the fifties, sixties, and seventies were reflected
in the life of the church. To my surprise, I was twice asked to serve as
Moderator, the equivalent of president of the congregation, first in 1968-70 and
again in 1994-96. Between those dates I served the church in a variety of
responsibilities, always with pleasure and added learning.
Despite this high level of involvement with the institutional church my
essential religious orientations have not changed. I cherish the church for many
things. One is the continuing need for an organization that nurtures both a
sense of community among its members and also supports those who hold up to
society the needs of those least able to speak for themselves. Given our western
European cultural heritage, it is this combination which gives the church
vitality and meaning. It is a teaching institution, speaking to people of all
ages and formal training. The tension between maintaining the institution and
the need to force society to deal with its failures and contradictions in human
terms creates always a fierce energy. That energy is needed to move the society
forward toward social justice and open access to its benefits. From what other
source does this pressure for change emanate? In one period it comes from
agrarian populism, in another the labor organizations, sometimes from higher
education. The only persistent source over the history of our own country has
been its religious institutions, despite the tension within the institutions
over the issues raised.
For a time during my active professional years I considered the problem of my
lack of belief in the dogmas of religion. Extensive reading in what Helen
Armstrong has called “The History of God” reduced my fear that it was
hypocritical to be active in the church when its dogmas were historical
curiosities to me. Jesus was an historical figure, a teacher who caught the
imagination of learned and perceptive scholars over the centuries. I could
accept that Jesus was the Son of God in the same terms that all thoughtful,
seeking men and women are children of God. Beyond this the mystical never had an
appeal for me. Religion is a form of human behavior. It seeks to impose an order
on the universe of experience, lest we assume helplessness in the face of chaos.
It is “the substance of things hoped for” and this optimism enables mankind to
keep striving for a more perfect society.
It was Joe Louis, heavyweight boxing champion, who, when inducted into the
Army in 1941, responded to an interviewer’s question whether he thought God was
on our side in this war with these words, . “I just hope we’re on God’s side.”
It was Karl Marx who wrote that “religion is the heart of a heartless
society”. He viewed religion as created by men to enable them to cope with the
world of experience. It was when men forgot that they had created a sacred
universe that they succumbed to their oppressed conditions. This concept of
alienation I found a helpful analytical tool.
In these later years of my life it seems useful to help assure the continuity
of the church. Specifically, it is important that there be a non-creedal liberal
church, which provides support for those seeking their own religious bearings as
they cope with the pressures of modern society. I have no essential quarrel with
other gatherings of people who cherish particular creeds and who build
communities with walls defining those inside and without. If that is what
enables them to function more effectively then I wish them peace and prosperity.
I have little patience with those who make harsh judgments of the worth of such
enclaves. Instead, I seek to know more about them and how they think, to
understand rather than to evaluate. I am still seeking.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 12 -- INTERLUDE
At the close of the ‘43-44 academic year I was inducted and assigned to the
U.S. Navy. My first stop was the Naval Training Station at Sand Point, Idaho,
for what turned out to be fourteen weeks. The reason for the extended stay was
an epidemic of respiratory ailments, which, shortly after I left, forced the
temporary closing of the camp and a Congressional investigation of camp
conditions. For my part, I was ill for two weeks with swollen neck glands, a
high fever, and an infected throat. No serious damage ensued and I was back on
duty well rested.
Boot camp was a new kind of experience for me. Its purpose and function was
clear but the instructional modes appeared to me to be counter-productive. I
learned to swim and became confident in the water, a valuable skill for a
sailor, surely. There were minor events, which stood out as examples of military
- recruits who could not handle the stress were classified as psychoneurotic
and wore work shirts with that complete label stenciled on their backs;
- in each camp were companies of 120 men each known as “gummer companies.”
since all were having rotted teeth extracted and dentures fitted;
- on long marches we were supplied with pineapple and pear pies, one to a
man. Since the Navy controlled the transportation of pineapple to the mainland
from Hawaii, they hoarded ample supplies for themselves, and occasionally had to
make use of it before caught with an oversupply, lest it became known to the
civilian market that scarce fruit was being diverted;
- men with professional athletic backgrounds were routinely assigned to
special duties and expected to accept assignments as athletic instructors at
- marchers in drill were supplied with dummy wooden rifles: the only time we
touched genuine arms was in practice on the rifle and pistol ranges;
- men with backgrounds in Mennonite and other peace fellowships did not
participate in drills - it was understood that they would be assigned routinely
to medical service units and would not bear arms;
- reading anything other than service manuals was actively discouraged;
- assisting any fellow trainee who was having difficulty with an assigned
task was considered unacceptable behavior; each trainee was told to attend to
his own situation and let others manage for themselves.
Naturally enough, these things ran counter to my own convictions about how to
turn civilians into resourceful servicemen. I decided it was best to keep my
views to myself, to endure the training as laid out, and wait for the day when I
might have a chance to influence such thinking.
Trainees with backgrounds in the physical sciences were considered desirable
candidates for specialized training. Everyone in the Navy had some specialty for
which he was given training courses. I was considered qualified for further
training as an electronic technician. Actually, I had no previous experience
with electronics beyond understanding the basic principles of radio tubes. In
fact, I had a letter from the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C., suggesting
that I use it to seek assignment there. No one paid the least attention to that
letter. I consoled myself with the fact that the training sessions I was
assigned to constituted the longest such training schedule available.
My first assignment was to a basic sciences course of four weeks in a former
high school building in west Chicago. All I recall about that period was that on
Saturdays and Sundays I could wangle admission to the Chicago Opera Company
season on Saturday afternoons and to the legitimate theatres in the Loop area on
Saturday evenings and on Sundays. Lots of service personnel in the Chicago area
but relatively few of them were at all interested in activities of this kind so
I managed more than my share of admissions.
Next I was sent to Houston, Texas, for three months of training at the
University of Houston. This assignment was one I very much wanted because
married men could bring their wives to Houston and live in civilian quarters. I
called Beverly and asked her to come. She was bravely adventurous. She called
the University of Washington and asked them for whom they were having the most
difficulty finding housing in overcrowded Seattle. They said they had a faculty
couple from Chunking, China, he with an appointment in biological sciences, for
whom they were desperate to find accommodations. She agreed to rent to them, my
parents agreed to act as landlords, and off she went on a trip by overcrowded,
delay prone wartime trains to Houston.
(Housing was so short in Seattle that everyone who knew about her plans had a
candidate for renting. One set of next-door neighbors was especially upset when
Beverly told them her plans. They were unhappy that they could not obtain the
housing for their friends and told her in no uncertain terms that they didn’t
want to live next door to an Asian family. After the war and when we were back
in our own home, the same neighbors told me how much they appreciated the Chu’s
and had enjoyed them as neighbors. I wish they could have told Beverly.)
We found a room in a private home close by the University of Houston. It was
a comfortable setting. The landlady became very friendly. One day she confided
that she had faced much difficulty adjusting to Houston for she was of Italian
descent and soon realized that this was a barrier to acceptance by many Texans.
Her married name did not betray this history so she managed, but uncomfortably,
to bury her heritage. I have many similar stories of the social attitudes of
Texans in 1944-45. To be poor, black, female, Latino, southern or eastern
European was clearly far down on the social scale. Beverly encountered this more
directly than I did for she obtained assignment as a substitute teacher in the
Houston public schools did. Being in the Navy and in training, I was spared most
such direct experience. I read the newspapers. That in itself was an education
in how unquestioned folkways create an oppressive society.
Beverly arrived in mid-December, the best Christmas present I ever received.
Together we explored Houston, found wonderful places to eat, walked through the
markets, and in company with some other service couples created our own social
milieu. I recall the Rice Hotel, which had a dining room featuring huge Gulf
shrimp, new to us and delicious. In fact, the operators of the restaurants
welcomed us because we would eat prodigiously and enthusiastically. Other diners
observed us approvingly and apparently returned on weekends to watch us and,
presumably, to order more for themselves that they otherwise might do. For the
first time I tasted fresh kumquats. I still consider them a treat.
In mid-February I was assigned for further training to the Naval Research
Laboratories in Anacostia, just outside Washington, D.C. I coveted this because
Beverly and I could live together off the base. Again we found accommodations in
a private home close by. Beverly obtained a teaching assignment in the
Washington public schools. After Houston, we were surprised that the social
climate was not more enlightened then than it was in Houston. I had always read
that Washington was really a southern city but hadn’t grasped the sense of that
statement until these two back-to-back residencies.
It was an eventful time to be in the nation’s capital. The poignancy of the
death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt left a never to be forgotten memory of the
emotional outpouring of grief. The sober relief of V-E Day gave us all hope for
an early end to the war. The announcement of the test explosion of an atomic
bomb added to that hope. When the announcement came of the bombing of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki we suppressed our instinctive horror of the widespread deaths of
non-combatants in the hope the early end of hostilities was advanced. When V-J
Day came the release of tension was euphoric. Beverly and I spent that afternoon
and evening on the streets of Washington, observing and sharing in the
excitement. The churches were open and crowded with thankful people coming in
and out. It was not so much the celebration of victory as it was gratitude that
the long war was over and we would soon be able to return to our homes and
During those months we spent whatever time we could in the Senate gallery,
listening to the debates among the Senators over such documents as the United
Nations proposals, the Food and Agriculture Organization, a treaty with Mexico
on the division of Colorado River water, and the return of service personnel to
civilian life. Neither of us had much free time but our preferred choices were
the Senate and the newsreel theatres. We loved the cafeterias in Washington.
Beverly taught me to like watercress. We found seafood restaurants and a chain
called Hot Shoppes which were delightful. I remember all this appreciatively,
not least because it was a relief from the work in the Naval Laboratories.
By August I had received my next assignment. I was to be attached to the
Potomac River Naval Command. We were told that the Navy planned to outfit three
picket ships with all the communications gear they could muster and sail with
300 war correspondents to Australia and then up the chain of island naval battle
scenes to arrive finally in Yokohama Bay six weeks after the invasion of Japan
was scheduled to begin. Our task was to keep the electronic equipment
functioning. Of course, V-J Day scrubbed that plan. Beverly returned to Seattle
and, after a week of leave at home I flew from Sand Point Naval Air Station in
Seattle to Alameda Naval Air Station in California for reassignment. There I
learned first that I was ticketed for duty in the Philippines and then pulled
aside and asked if I would accept assignment in a Civil Readjustment unit. This
was the title given to the discharge-processing group. I immediately called
Beverly, suggested she somehow find a car to buy, and drive down to California.
Intrepid as always, she found a Lincoln Zephyr V-12 in reasonably good condition
and was soon ensconced with me in an apartment in Castro Valley.
For a time we worked all day, six days a week, processing departing navy
personnel. Soon the work eased. We divided into two groups and worked every
other day. Then we agreed that the married men would work only in the morning,
every other day. This left us free to explore California, especially San
Francisco, which we did avidly until mid-February when my own discharge became
possible. We packed our limited possessions and drove the Lincoln V-12 back to
Seattle and freedom. The interlude in career and family building was over.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 13 -- ATHENS REVISITED
We had anticipated discharge from naval service so when the time came Mother
had our house vacant and ready for our return. In late February we were happily
ensconced in familiar surroundings and I was back at my desk at the University
of Washington. Seattle and the University seemed to me to be truly an Athens
The upsurge of enrollment from returning service men and women required a
larger and more specialized staff in student affairs. Student organizations and
student government developed new patterns in campus life in response to a
student body older and more experienced from involvements during the war years.
More students were married and with children. Developing campus housing was a
priority. Financial and family assistance programs were imperative. It was an
exciting time in higher education. University administrative reorganization
became a priority.
The most meaningful development was a purely personal one. Beverly was
pregnant. Nine months after our return to Seattle Ted was born. I noted that
December 5, 1946, was the 170th anniversary of the founding of Phi Beta Kappa!
In the hospital Beverly told me the following day they were coming to fill out a
birth record and she would have to give the baby a name. I had many suggestions
to all of which she demurred. Finally she suggested he be named Glen Theodore,
Junior. I agreed, with reservations. I wanted him to be called Ted, never
Junior. And so it has been.
I soon realized that I was not prepared to resume graduate studies in
chemistry and physics. I was too long away from the laboratory and mathematical
underpinnings of these disciplines. It was apparent that the economy of the
postwar years would not emphasize the physical sciences. I knew that I wanted to
be associated with higher education and that an academic doctorate was a
necessary credential. I plunged into my duties in the Office of Student Affairs,
happy to have an important role to play in the growing university setting,
pushing my ambivalence into the background. This lasted nearly two years.
We were close friends with Bob and Helen O’Brien, he an Associate Professor
of Sociology. The morning after a dinner party at our house Bob said to me: “Why
don’t you consider coming into sociology? The books in your library, your social
and political interests, and your ease with people seem to fit our discipline.”
Later I asked him what would be first step to work out my hesitancy in leaving
the physical sciences behind. He said why don’t you take a course in social
theory with George Lundberg, the distinguished chairman of the department.
Summer was looming, Professor Lundberg was teaching his special course in
summer, and I had G.I. Bill support to cover all the costs. My summer duties
were somewhat flexible so I decided to follow Bob’s suggestion.
Professor Lundberg was a logical positivist. He was an excellent teacher. He
used a seminar style. The second half of each class was an unstructured question
and response session. His point-of- view was very compatible with my background
in the hard sciences. I earned an A grade, the only one in the class. I was
hooked. We became good friends.
In the Fall quarter I registered for a full load of graduate sociology
courses. With the support of the dean to whom I reported I was able to meet all
my professional commitments and meet also all my classes. My grades continued to
I was determined to avoid any appearance of using my administrative
relationships to take an easy route to the doctorate. I chose only the most
demanding specializations in sociology. What would be the most difficult and
appropriate allied field to study. My sociology faculty friends were unanimous.
It should be psychology. Because I had no undergraduate course work in that
field I chose the hardest advanced courses. I found them stimulating and again I
Since I had no undergraduate work in sociology it was suggested that I should
write a master’s thesis. I designed a public opinion experiment that got a lot
of attention. For a doctoral dissertation I designed a complex experimental
approach in the study of married student adjustment. That, too, drew much
The qualifying examinations were a challenge. Sociology exams were managed
successfully. Psychology exams were another matter. I elected to take the
doctoral psychology exams, rather than an easier set. Twenty-five psychology
doctoral aspirants sat for the exams along with me as a lone outsider. I learned
later that of the 26 my papers ranked second. This led to some anguish among the
psychology faculty. One whole department meeting was devoted to an analysis of
how it could happen that an interloper from sociology out-scored all but one of
What was difficult for me? The language qualifying exams were a psychological
hurdle. In mid-twentieth century it was agreed that German and French were the
desired skills. I wasn’t going to let this prevent me from reaching my goal. The
written exams were soon passed. For the German reading exam I sought and found
the original Max Weber article on the “Protestant Spirit and the Rise of
As I pulled the bound journal from the top shelf I was excited. Then the
first sentence ran over to the second page before I found the operative verb.
Nineteenth century German was like that. Regretfully, I replaced the journal and
found a contemporary volume with which to prepare for my reading test. French
worried me more. I chose Emile Durkheim’s “Le Suicide.” I struggled with it. The
examning professor was the Romance Languages department chairman. He passed me.
Perhaps he was amused that I had chosen a classic research tome for testing.
Dean Newhouse, mentor, friend, to whom I reported, left the University of
Washington in 1950 to take the post of Dean of Students as Case Institute of
Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. My title then was Director of Student Affairs. I
hoped to be appointed Dean of Students but in 1953 I realized it was not to be.
I told the University President that I would stay through the 1953-54 academic
year but then I would leave. He graciously tried to dissuade me. I thanked him
but repeated my wish to leave during the summer of 1954.
Leave for what? As the year progressed four good possibilities presented
themselves. I chose the one with the least starting salary but 25% more than my
Meanwhile, parenting was an adventure, both challenging and fun. Ted was
eager to learn, quick to respond to new stimuli. Beverly was a conscientious
mother, a natural teacher. World War II had led to removal of the ban on married
women as teachers in the public schools. Her first step when Ted was just two
was to organize a pre-school playgroup which met in the Montlake Park Fieldhouse
just down the hill from our home. This early socialization experience set a
pattern. As soon as Ted was acceptable as a kindergarten student Beverly went
back to classroom teaching. The Montlake School was just a block away from our
house. She managed always to be at home when he returned from school so that he
was never unsupervised. Ted thrived.
Parents love early childhood stories that illustrate their child’s
perceptiveness. My favorite in this genre is of the time at supper when Ted, in
describing his day at playschool, reported that Johnny and Steve had been
fighting at rest time. “That’s bad, isn’t it? What were they fighting about?
Which one could rest beside Mary. Didn’t Mary have two sides? “Yes,” replied
Ted, “but I was resting on one side!”
We decided to accept the position of Dean of Men, later Dean of Students, and
Associate Professor of Sociology at Kent State University. The University was
positioned to grow rapidly as public higher education in Ohio was being pushed
aggressively. It had excellent leadership in President George Bowman The faculty
was being strengthened. It was located in the northeast corner of Ohio. Nearby
cities included Akron, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Canton. As Dean Lauer, another
mentor of mine at Washington, put it, the people of Ohio were of special
quality. He pointed out that as successive waves of westward migration passed
through Ohio they left there the most stable elements of migrating people. My
experience there would support that view.
We left for Kent, Ohio, with some pangs of regret. Seattle and the University
of Washington had indeed been good to us. We left at the end of June 1954. My
doctorate was conferred formally at the June commencement. As I crossed the
platform to be hooded and my name was announced, the assembled faculty gave me a
round of applause. Of all the plaudits and dinners I was tendered it is that
event that remains strongest among my memories.
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 14 -- MIDDLE AMERICA
We arrived in Kent, Ohio, during a July heat wave. We camped in an empty
women’s dormitory without any air conditioning or refrigeration facilities. This
was a generous gesture while we pursued the purchase of a home. It was not long
before we found an attractive home within walking distance of the University. We
used the proceeds from the sale of our Seattle house as a down payment. When we
went to the most prominent of the local banks we had our first experience of
small town relations. The reputedly "tough" banker, a short man, gray of hair
and suit, unsmiling, not of easy manner, brushed aside any need to check our
credit history by saying: "any man brought here by George Bowman is good enough
for us." The mortgage was thus approved.
Ted was promptly enrolled in the third grade in the University Campus School.
He quickly made friends, some from neighbor families. For the nine years we
lived in Kent Ted was surrounded by bright and talented young people, many from
faculty families. In seventh grade he was swimming with the high school varsity
team. High school was an easy transition. One day he asked me; "Do you want me
to turn out for football?" "No", I replied. But he knew his father. "Is it all
right if I turn out for football?" "Yes, of course. You may do anything you
choose in the high school program and know you have your parent's permission. On
one condition." "What's that?" "That you get good grades." Some weeks later he
again raised this subject. "Dad, some guys who get good grades aren't very
smart." "That's right," I replied. Later, "Some guys who are smart don't get
good grades." "That's right, too," I replied. Still later, "Then why do you care
if I get good grades? "Because getting good grades is a matter of habit. As long
as you develop that habit you are free to participate in as many and in whatever
school activities you choose." Ted was already demonstrating an unusual
thoughtfulness for his years. Ted played both defense and offense on the
football team. He loved basketball and was an excellent baseball hitter and
fielder. One day I asked him what happened to swimming. He said, "It isn't any
fun just beating the same guys all the time." He loved the interdependence of
Beverly was offered a teaching position in the University Campus School to
fill a vacancy created by a teacher's one-year leave of absence. She loved being
a critic teacher, supervising college students assigned to her. Later she taught
in the Kent Public Schools. She was a favorite with both parents and children.
School administrators, however, were anxious to maintain the status quo. They
felt threatened by any activity on the part of a teacher which drew criticism
from any citizen. Once the School Superintendent sought her out to complain
about her social action views, particularly in regard to race relations. She had
earlier written a stinging letter to the local newspaper when the only lake
beach available to Kent refused admission to one of Ted's eight-year-old
classmates because of his black skin. No matter that his mother worked for the
University President and the classmate was an attractive and well-behaved young
man. Even comments in an adult education seminar at the Congregational Church
drew disfavor. Small-town Ohio attitudes were not socially courageous.
Our resolution of the swimming incident was to build our own pool, the first
in the town of Kent. Measuring 20' by 40', it was 9.5 feet deep off the diving
board. The City Council then decreed that a 4' fence should surround private
pools. We fenced in our entire back yard, some 250' deep. When the other
children learned they could come and use the pool whenever we were home or if an
accompanying adult was present, they became not only our defenders but also
protectors of our property. We were popular hosts to summer picnics around the
pool. Ted was the center of a congenial group of young people.
In his first high school semester Ted proposed to include study hall as one
of his five courses. We objected. Take a fifth subject matter course, we urged.
He did, but for the second semester he said he wanted to try it his way and took
study hall. That lasted two weeks. He approached the school librarian and asked
if she could use him to assist her during his study hall period. She agreed and
later told us how happy she was with his service and his happy personality.
There was no further talk about having a study hall period.
One of Ted's coaches taught mathematics. He encouraged Ted to work ahead of
the class, at his own pace. Ted thrived on this. Later when he took the SAT's he
scored the top of the scale, 800, in mathematics and a very respectable 700+ in
the language section. With those scores he could qualify for any college he
chose. He demonstrated breadth of learning unusual for a student with athletic
and social involvements.
The administrative experiences at the University were all I had expected and
hoped for. We built residence halls and staffed them with graduate students
recruited from other undergraduate programs. Some of them were candidates for an
M.A. in sociology and I supervised their theses. I taught an 8:00 AM class,
often statistics, and once had the privilege of having Ted take the course while
still a high school student. He was an A student. My title was changed to Dean
In addition to playing an active role in the Kent Congregational Church I was
also a member of the Kent Rotary Club and of a local group known as the
Wranglers Club. Leadership in the national organization of the SAE Fraternity
was a favorite activity about which more later. I took an active part in both
the American College Personnel Association and the National Association of
Student Personnel Administrators, and also in related regional organizations.
For three years I served as Educational Advisor on the Board of the National
Interfraternity Conference. I served on the steering committee of the National
Student YMCA which led to my serving a term as Chairman of the Ohio-West
Virginia Area Council of the YMCA. All of these relationships were important in
giving me an understanding of student life and educational policies in higher
education in the entire nation.
In early 1954, I was approached about the position of Dean of Students for
Hunter College in the Bronx. I agreed to go to New York and meet with the Search
Committee as an effort to help that committee understand what a Dean of Students
position should represent and strive for in a contemporary setting. I went and
enjoyed the experience. I did not view myself as a candidate and put the matter
out of mind. The Kent State University President had resigned as of the summer
of 1954, having reached the statutory retirement age. We were busy with plans
for the university to adjust to changed leadership. To my surprise, the Hunter
College Committee invited me to accept the position of Dean of Students and
Professor of Sociology at Hunter College-Bronx. They had a number of candidates
but remembered our interview and wanted me to come. I flew to New York for a
personal conference with the Hunter College President. I came away pleased with
what I had learned but uncertain as to what I should do.
Beverly had no hesitation. She wanted me to accept the New York City
position. She argued that it would be good for Ted, would broaden his horizons,
and would free him from the conservative constraints of an Ohio setting. She
also felt oppressed by the conservative social climate of the American mid-west.
She gave me the push I needed. I accepted the New York offer, which was generous
financially, compared with Ohio standards. Ted, however, regretted leaving Kent.
He looked forward to his high school senior year. He thought he would be the
student body president and was already a leader in athletics. He agreed to go
but with nostalgia for what he was giving up.
People were competing to honor us for our sojourn among them. Their kindness
made it difficult to show the sense of adventure with which we looked forward to
life in the metropolis. Dean Lauer had been correct when he paid tribute to the
stable character of the people of Ohio. Although we were excited to move we were
also regretful at leaving many good friends and a fine regional university.
We left at the end of June for a venture in the largest city in the nation,
far removed from our beginnings in the State of Washington. Would we be up the
challenges ahead of us?
Back to Table of Contents
Chapter 15 -- THE METROPOLIS
We made several trips as a family to become acquainted with the new campus
and surrounding communities. We decided against living on Long Island or New
Jersey fearing a long commute and traffic congestion. We looked for a home in
Riverdale (Bronx) but found nothing we thought attractive in our price range. We
decided on Bronxville, Scarsdale, and Tarrytown as possibilities. We found a
seven year-old house on a half-acre in Edgemont, adjacent to Scarsdale and with
a Scarsdale post office address and telephone exchange. It was spacious with
large windows in both kitchen and living room areas. It was a twenty-minute
drive to the college campus with no bridges to cross, which meant that I could
commute easily. The school system was universally acclaimed to be excellent.
Ted found the local high school had nothing to offer him. He had already met
all the diploma requirements. We began to explore possible college choices. We
visited Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, Columbia. All told him it was too late for
Fall admission. He wondered if he could be admitted to Hunter College in the
Bronx. He said it would not bother him that his father was the dean. It was so
arranged and Ted spent his freshman year at Hunter-in-the Bronx. He was an honor
student, played basketball and baseball. He decided to apply for transfer only
to MIT. He had enjoyed his visits there. What if they didn’t take him as a
transfer student? He said simply he would stay at Hunter one more year and then
apply for transfer. As usual with him, his application was accepted for the Fall
Ted’s social life was centered on a group of new friends who were seniors at
Edgemont HS. They were a fine group. Ted met a lovely, lively cheerleader, named
Nancy Harrison Miller. He confided to a friend that this was the girl he was
going to marry. He could not have made a better choice.
Beverly obtained a position teaching first-grade in the Tarrytown Public
Schools. Each day for the next ten years she commuted the ten miles or so to
Tarrytown, never missing a day for reason of illness or personal convenience.
She retired as soon as she was eligible, with accolades from the School Board
for her excellent service. Soon thereafter, following the death of her mother,
May Holiday, her father, Joy Holiday, came to live with us. Beverly was a
faithful and devoted caretaker. Joy’s final years were, until his passing at 97,
an enriching period for all of us.
The City University of New York had been created in 1960 to coordinate the
four city-supported senior colleges in New York City: Brooklyn, City, Hunter,
and Queens. Both City and Hunter had well-established branch campuses, the
latter in the Bronx. Consolidating governance of state higher education
institutions was taking place around the country. There was growing pressure to
increase access to higher education. Enrollments were soaring. New two-year and
four-year colleges were being established. Regional colleges were becoming
universities. New York State had lagged behind in providing publicly supported
colleges and was struggling to catch up. By the end of the 60’s the State
University of New York and the City University of New York were the second and
third largest systems in the country. Later, New York State Governor Nelson
Rockefeller tried valiantly to unite the two New York systems but failed. The
problems in the city were of a different nature from the problems upstate. The
political pressures were disparate.
Hunter College in the Bronx had an enrollment of 4,500 students. It soon
began to grow and by 1985 had an enrollment of nearly 15,000. For five years as
Dean of Students I related to Hunter College and attended faculty and
administrative meetings in Manhattan as well as in the Bronx. Finally the
pressures for separation became irresistible. In 1968 Hunter College in the
Bronx became Herbert H. Lehman College, named for a distinguished New York
Governor and U.S. Senator.
My other hat was Professor of Sociology. From the start I taught one course a
semester, at 8:00 AM. No one could complain if I were not in my office until
9:00 AM, three days a week. I taught courses in statistics, experimental design,
and social organization. For several semesters and one summer I taught as an
adjunct at Columbia University Teacher’s College in the Department of Student
Personnel. Later the City University complained that I was teaching at Columbia
as an adjunct, apparently thinking I ought to be teaching in the CUNY Graduate
Program. Classroom teaching helped me understand the different pressures on
teachers and administrators. An administrator can always adjust his schedule to
handle whatever requires his attention. A classroom teacher is tied to a
schedule he cannot adjust.
The decades of the sixties and seventies were turbulent times on college
campuses. The media gave much attention to campus protests. As a result,
students felt comfortable challenging administrations and faculties. The
consistent theme nationally was opposition to the Viet Nam War, opposition to
the military draft, and criticism of any who did not join in their efforts. New
York City students were always ready to protest, whatever the issue. Some
protests were cut off as darkness fell so students could get home and,
hopefully, see themselves portrayed on the evening television news. In a way it
was a game. Underlying it, however, was a sense of futility in dealing with any
establishment whether it be family, college administration, faculty, police, or
students who did not join with them.
Changing the name of the college brought a series of sit-ins and campus
rallies. The compromise finally reached was to assure seniors that anyone, who
completed degree requirements before summer, 1969, would receive a Hunter
College diploma. This was greeted grumblingly but the fervor subsided.
The decision to broaden access to the City University, called Open
Admissions, promised that any graduate of a New York City high school would be
admitted. Admissions had formerly been an achievement. Now it was a right. Many
potential students went elsewhere. Prior to this, the Lehman student was often
described by religious choice: 50% Roman Catholic, 40% Jewish, and 10%
Protestant. Under the new policies, the description was in terms of race: 50%
Black, 35% Puerto Rican, and 15% other. At the same time the demography of the
Bronx was changing. In these terms, the new students did better represent the
The situation was complicated in the mid-70’s by the decision to impose
tuition upon a previously tuition-free New York State system. Student protests
were loud and prolonged. They wore buttons, carried banners, and chanted “Our
position, No Tuition.” Buildings were occupied and, with difficulty, reclaimed
by the college. An economic recession brought building construction to a halt.
Students then turned to causes they could press upon a reluctant faculty with
the sense that these were moral issues. First was the demand for creation of a
Department of Black Studies. The courses and teaching staff were already in
place but they wanted the dignity of a department on equal status with the
traditional departments. This was finally accomplished. Later the Latino
students, then mainly Puerto Rican, demanded a Department of Puerto Rican
Studies. This was followed by demand for a Department of Women’s Studies. All
this was accomplished but with the groans of creation.
As Dean, later Vice President, and Deputy President, I was a principal player
in all of these events. I enjoyed the challenges. This is what I had hoped to
find in New York – the cutting edge of social change. The college president was
a close friend with whom I could work confidently. I served the CUNY central
administration in a number of settings. Twice my colleagues elected me as
President of the Council of Deans of Students, an influential body in matters of
University policy. On the campus I could help create the system of
faculty/student governance. We created tax exempt organizations to hold student
activity fees and to build scholarship award programs. In many ways I left a
positive imprint upon the educational programs of Lehman College and of the City
University as a whole.
I retired from my administrative duties in 1988 with the title Senior Vice
President emeritus. I was treated royally. The President gave a dinner at the
Bronx Botanical Gardens that was attended by many faculty, colleagues from other
CUNY colleges, and by friends from the Bronx community. I gave the commencement
address at the June graduation. For the next seventeen months I was still on the
payroll. I used this time in large part to develop the CUNY Japan project, to be
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Chapter 16 -- NEW GENERATIONS
Ted was graduated from MIT in 1967. During his senior year he decided to
pursue graduate study in sociology. He applied to five leading sociology
departments: Columbia, Harvard, North Carolina, Princeton, and Yale. He wrote
five different essays and ranked them ranging from, at one extreme, what he
thought they would expect from an applicant to, at the other extreme, what he
wanted to say without respect to what they might want. It was a time when there
were grants available to support graduate studies. When the offers came, he
reported, the amount of assistance offered was in direct proportion to how much
of his own thinking the essay contained. Princeton, in effect, bought him.
On June 17, 1967, Ted and Nancy were married. All four of Ted’s grandparents
were present. They honeymooned in Bermuda. For their first summer they sublet a
Greenwich Village apartment. In September they moved into married student
housing in Princeton. Ted completed his graduate work in 1972. Nancy finished
her undergraduate work at New York University. Not to be outdone, Nancy began
doctoral study at Rutgers University in political science and received her
doctorate in 1977.
When it was time to move out of Princeton University housing, they bought a
small house on Cherry Hill Road just outside Princeton. It came with 2.5 acres.
It was here that Kristin was born in 1970. (Oh, joy!) Later they bought an
additional seven acres behind their property, made possible when a platted road
was abandoned. On this large plot they built an attractive house and then sold
the original house and two acres. Ted and Nancy could have had successful
careers as housing developers and designers.
Ted’s career began at the RCA Research Laboratories just outside Princeton.
There he won a David Sarnoff Research Prize. Then he went to NBC in NYC as
Manager of Information Services, later a vice president. He was an adjunct
professor for several years at Baruch College. He left NBC to join Alexander &
Alexander, an insurance conglomerate then headquartered in Manhattan. After
leaving A&A he joined his friend and former colleague at Radio Computing
Services, now in White Plains
Nancy’s career also began in Princeton. She was affiliated with Opinion
Research and later with another opinion and marketing company. Her skills were
recognized notably for technical expertise but even more for her ability to work
productively with clients. These she developed into a very successful management
consulting company specializing in customer and employee satisfaction studies.
In 1999 Ted and Nancy moved to White Plains, more convenient for both of
their professional activities. For us their closer presence has been a blessing,
brightening our lives. They have been generous as always in sharing their
adventures. We couldn’t have wished for a more fortuitous family setting in
these later years of our lives.
Kristin, as the eldest, is farther along in her own professional development.
She was graduated from Northwestern University and later earned an M.A. from
Columbia Teachers College. She held a series of jobs, mostly in the non-profit
sector, all of which combined to give her the hands-on background essential to
her planned career in foundation administration. She is now with the Citygroup
Foundation as Assistant Vice President and Manager of Community Development
Kristin is a remarkable woman. Sensitive, empathetic, and open to others she
makes and keeps.friends. She is socially conscious in the best sense. Her
experience has also taught her to be tough when necessary. This combination of
qualities will carry her far in foundation administration if this continues to
be her goal. We feel honored to be able to keep in close touch with her
Telephone, e-mail, and fax are wonderful enablers.
Kysa, born in 1975, is multi-talented and high achieving. An actress and
musician, her voice and stage presence have won her opportunities and awards.
Pianist and composer, her productiveness is limited only by time pressures. She
was graduated from Columbia University/Barnard College summa cum laude and Phi
Beta Kappa. She spent junior year in Seville, Spain. There she studied in
regular classes with native speakers of Spanish rather than in English speaking
classes with other American students. He linguistic skills, already excellent,
have been further polished by vacation trips to Latin America.
After graduation from Barnard, Kysa went to San Francisco where she found a
job teaching in an alternative school. She was a huge success. All her skills
were brought into play in reaching out to often-troubled students. She held the
job for two years. Then she was accepted into a doctoral program at the
University of California/Berkeley in what is perhaps best described as
educational policy. Her intellectual interests, however, may lead her into
sociology and political theory. She is fortunate to be studying in a time when
formerly rigid boundaries between disciplines are eroding. She will find a way
to fit the program to her interests, a prospect now more possible than in an
earlier time when students were expected to follow the faculty somewhat
Kathryn, born in 1977, resembles her sisters in her rapport with her peers.
Growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, she was everyone’s favorite baby sitter. So
much a favorite that she accompanied families on vacation trips, often overseas.
In High School she developed into a fine swimmer. In her senior year she was
voted high school athlete of the year. She was described as an assistant coach
for her ability to organize the swimming squad and to communicate effectively
with other swimmers. She chose Tufts University for her undergraduate studies.
From the outset she was an honor student. What she will choose for further study
is now undetermined but there is no limit to what she can achieve.
For the moment Kathryn considers Boston her second home. Her self-confidence
has been immensely bolstered by her very successful undergraduate career. She is
well organized, direct in her approach to people and life situations. Again like
her sisters, there is no limit to her achievements in whatever field of endeavor
she finally chooses.
Grandparenting is marvelous. Twice we had the privilege of taking all seven
of us on Renaissance Cruises. In 1994 we took a Baltic cruise aboard a ship with
104 passengers. We flew to Copenhagen, visited Visby, Tallin (Estonia), St.
Petersburg, and Stockholm. We were in Sweden for the annual Water Festival that
marked the end of the Scandinavian summer. Three years later we took the same
small ship to the Eastern Mediterranean. Beginning in Athens, we visited
Santorini, Rhodes, Kusadasi, Mitilini (Lesbos), and ended in Istanbul.
Our only regret is that we are not likely to get the entire family together
again for a third trip. We will try, but it is unrealistic that five
professional people will be able to join us at the same time for such an
But the blessing is that we will still be able to follow their careers and
families and on occasions join with them in family celebrations.
We are very fortunate, Beverly and I, to have such interesting and talented
personalities to observe and cherish. We are grateful to each and all of them.
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Chapter 17 -- AN ORGANIZATION MAN
Looking back on my life I realize that I must appear to be a stereotypical
organization man. I speculate how this came to pass. Perhaps my fascination with
organizations reflects the fact that in high school I was two years younger than
my classmates and thus unable to compete in athletics or in the dating game. In
college I was forced to work long hours and thus had neither time nor money to
be a part of the social whirl. Perhaps when I was an early teenager it was a way
to escape the protective control that my mother exerted over my attempts to
reach out to new experiences. I would like to think that it was an intellectual
curiosity to learn how society functioned. Other than reading I had no insights
from family history or example. No one in our immediate circle exercised power
in terms of getting things done in the larger society.
In the spring of my first year in the Bellingham college I was elected to a
full-year term on the Student Board of Control. This was my first meaningful
organization participation. I enjoyed the term. Later at the University of
Washington I was twice elected to full-year terms on the Board of Control. This
time I came up against administrators who really believed control in student
matters belonged to them, not to students. We students were advisers whose
opinions could be ignored even when on occasion they were listened to. Good
training for a future Dean of Students!
My participation in the SAE Fraternity taught me how to work in a
self-governing setting to advance a responsible academic and social agenda. (Or,
how not to act if I wanted the members to consider my agenda!) It may be
fashionable today to denigrate college fraternities but for me in the situation
that confronted me it was the best training ground conceivable. Out of college I
was given leadership opportunities to practice techniques of group management on
an increasingly larger scale. In 1955 I was elected to the five-person national
governing council on which I served for ten years, the last two as national
president. The lessons learned were applicable to university administration in
ways that enhanced my professional status throughout my career.
Participation as a Boy Scout in Troop 15 in Bellingham was another early
learning setting. I was ambivalent about the semi-military structure but
grateful for the responsibilities that were assigned to me. Some years later I
was sought out by a Scouting related organization for college men, known as
Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. I served their national governing board
and two years as their national president. In Summit County, Ohio, I served on
the Scout Council Board for nine years and in Bronx County, New York for twelve
years, three of which I was chairman of the Council.
There were other involvements. I served three years as chairman of the Bronx
Division of the American Cancer Society. I was a Director of the Bronx Chamber
of Commerce and when I retired was named a Life Director. Each of these and
other groups added to my understanding of how communities functioned.
As a young assistant dean I was active in what was then called the Community
Chest, forerunner of today’s United Way. I served on the Council of Social
Agencies, helping to overcome racial, religious, and ethnic disparities in
access to social services. More recently I have served as chairman of the Board
of United Way of Scarsdale/Edgemont. Currently I serve on the Board of Directors
of United Way of Westchester & Putnam and as Vice Chairman for Community
Initiatives. This has been a truly exciting involvement. The United Way movement
began as a way to muster financial support for community agencies. Today the
focus has changed. United Way serves as the coordinator of collaborative efforts
to bring together agencies, corporations, foundations, government, and private
giving. The object is to attack problems identified in every fifth year research
studies as the most critical for the social health of the community. It is a way
of attacking the system rather than concentrating on band-aid applications.
In 1990 A group of us formed a not-for-profit corporation and purchased a
37-acre site in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County. An association of churches as
an outdoor ministry site had operated it. They could no longer absorb the losses
from unskilled management and had to dispose of the property. It was in some
demand for housing development but all parties wanted to preserve its forested
character. We operate it under the title Deer Hill Conference Center. Our
programs serve inner city youth and associations of youth counselors. The
buildings were old and required much work but they have been renovated and
improved. For the first time last year we operated in the black. Now we face the
task of raising funds to continue improving the property and adding new
facilities. I serve as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. I find this
involvement interesting and challenging.
Ever since the twenties when the novelist Sinclair Lewis, in his novel Main
Street, satirized Rotary with his character George Babbitt, Rotary has been
viewed by the cultural establishment with derision. As with many satires there
is some truth in his portrayal. Rotary is a worldwide organization. Its Rotary
Foundation arm carries out projects in developing countries around the world not
simply with money but with the active participation of local Rotarians. It tries
to promote international understanding and to be a factor in achieving peace and
justice. The fellowship in local clubs is enjoyable but it is this international
service emphasis that attracts me.
I served Rotary as District Governor in 1986-87. As a PDG (Past District
Governor) I can involve myself as much as I am able. In recent years I have
served as chairman of the District Rotary Foundation Committee. I helped
organize the Rotary District 7230 Foundation and currently serve as its
In 1989 Beverly and I traveled to Singapore. I was a delegate to the
triennial Rotary Legislative Assembly. After that meeting we took a trip to
Bangkok, Thailand. Then, by prearrangement we flew to Tokyo for a week stay.
A New York Rotarian, Raymond Y. Otani, had business interests in New York and
Japan. He was our host in Japan and treated us royally. He was interested in
organizing an American college branch campus in Japan. He wanted to cultivate my
interest in his dream project. He had approached several American private
colleges in the New York-New England area but had been discouraged by their lack
of interest. He said they all seemed to be interested only in making it
profitable for themselves. I explained that this was normal. Privately financed
universities required each program not only to be self-sustaining but to remit
to the central administration a huge fee, often as much as 50% of the total
budget. This was to him an unrealistic approach.
Mr. Otani asked me if perhaps the City University would be interested. I
could see value in giving Lehman College students and faculty an experience in a
Japanese cultural setting. Not only would they be enriched by the experience but
also their American classes would be enlivened upon their return. The
possibility of an exchange of students was intriguing. I said I thought the
project was worth exploring and set two conditions. One was that the American
college would have complete control of faculty and curricula and the Japanese
sponsor would have complete control and responsibility for the financial
The President of Lehman College and I decided to go ahead with negotiations
with the university central administration and the Board of Higher Education.
Despite hesitancies and some opposition, partly because Lehman College was
upstaging the older colleges, we were successful. Then the four of us, the
President and I and our wives, took a ten-day trip to Japan as guests of Mr.
Otani. We had a marvelous time, getting to know the Japanese culture and people.
During the next four years I made at least three more trips to Japan. The
college was underway and successful with a handsome and functional campus. Today
it is no longer functioning, a casualty of the deep economic recession in Japan.
I am asked frequently how I like Japan. I try not to answer that question
directly. It would not be honest to say otherwise. The culture proceeds from
implicit understandings that are difficult to appreciate fully from my American
background. I respond by saying that I find Japan endlessly interesting. That is
at least an honest response.
I have been privileged to give leadership to professional associations,
locally, regionally, and nationally. I served four years on the Executive
Council of the American College Personnel Association. Most rewarding was
involvement over a dozen years in the leadership of the National Association of
Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), including three years as conference
chairman and one year as National President.
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As I write this I am aware of the speculative question. What does this all
amount to? At a minimum it adds up to an interesting life. I trust I have been
helpful in advancing the careers of many younger people. I have helped
institutions grow and prosper, successfully meet challenges and overcome
threatening pressures. I know all of this experience is useful as I help the
associations I maintain in my retirement years grow stronger and more receptive
to social change. The world in which I live in my eighties is much different
from the world I confronted in my youth. For the younger generation it is a
better world. It is up to them to cope with new challenges, to welcome change as
evidence of growth, and to work to eliminate poverty and war. To do that they
must recognize that a better society comes from small steps. No one can create a
better society from his own efforts. It requires group efforts. And it demands
that the poor and disabled among us must be lifted up. I hope that in a small
way I have made a contribution. Perhaps I have shown others the way to realize
their hopes and ambition. If so, I am content.
The faculty and administration of Lehman College honored me by awarding the
honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. In itself this may not be
significant. I treasure it, however, because it came from former colleagues with
whom I had shared the struggle of creating an institution which continues to
serve many who are economically and socially disadvantaged.
An Organization Man, yes.
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