Winkley Professor of History, Emeritus
Interviewed in summer, 1979 by Louise P. Wilson
[This transcript was created at the time of the original recording and may contain errors and omissions]
E. Dwight Salmon
Winkley Professor of History, Emeritus
Taped at Chilmark, Mass.
Eugene S. and Louise P. Wilson
For: Amherst College
This is Dwight Salmon speaking. This will probably be very discursive because I shall just ramble along with nothing but very limited lecture notes. I shall try to avoid the temptation to give too much background which I’m sure is one of the faults of my lecturing technique. But since it seems to be fundamental, I shall probably be unable to keep from filling in, in order to give you a setting which the facts have some meaning.
Bill Wilson suggests that I give you a brief biographical setting to indicate how it was that a Western New York boy from the town of Lima should arrive at Amherst and should have spent so many happy and rewarding years there.
I was born and grew up in Lima, Livingston County, New York, in the Genessee Valley where in 1825 the Methodist Church started practically the first college west of the Hudson River. It was known as Genessee College on the main road between Albany and Buffalo and since the village contained possibly a thousand people, it was thought that the youth would be safe from the temptations of great cities. But in 1877 the absence of easy communication, except by horse and buggy or stagecoach, induced the Genessee Conference of the Methodist Church to transfer the college to Syracuse where it became Syracuse University.
Seven years after the founding of Genessee College, the Methodist Church again established a boarding school, a preparatory school for boys and girls, which proved to be a very useful recruiting ground for the Methodist ministry. The Seminary had for years maintained a high academic standard and had, in my years there, a remarkable faculty in many ways. My older brother had gone to Syracuse after playing football at Mercersburg and going to Syracuse primarily as a fullback and a punter, one of the best punters I ever saw in my life. Since I admired my brother so much and hoped to emulate his performance as an athlete-- although there was a slight discrepancy there, since my brother was 6-feet-two and weighed 185, and I was five-feet-eight-and-one-half inches and weighed 142. I had something of a handicap to overcome.
I had liked sciences. Well, as a matter of fact in the Seminary I liked everything that I encountered and decided that I should be a chemical engineer. It must be noted that in the early years of the twentieth century engineering had a very strong romantic appeal to the young. I had done well in chemistry and decided that I should like to be a chemical engineer. I had hoped to go to Syracuse but my father had been very much impressed with what he had known about the University of Rochester, and accordingly, at his insistence, I went to Rochester. Two years in Chemical Engineering was sufficient for me. I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in or near a laboratory. Quantitative analysis in my sophomore year was my undoing because I was a bad manipulator.
But fortunately, in my freshman year Laurence Packard had arrived from Harvard Graduate School and began a course, the traditional History 1, which for me was a revelation. I had always liked history and had done well in it, but the exposure to Laurence’s methods of teaching and his enthusiasm induced me at the end of my sophomore year at the University of Rochester to switch from chemical engineering to a history major-- a switch for which I have been grateful all my life. As a result of abandoning an engineering career, I was uncertain what I wanted to do at the end of my college career. I had thought of business. I spent two of my summers working, one with a button manufacturing company which was run by an Amherst graduate, Henry Noyes; and one summer with the Symington Works doing sub-contracts for Bethlehem Steel manufacturing British and Russian shell cases. Teaching had also appealed to me, particularly in the field of history. But the choice was made for me by the events of 1917. On the sixth of April the United States entered the First World War and within two weeks I had enrolled in the First Reserve Officers’ Training Camp at Madison Barracks as a candidate in artillery. I went to Camp Dix, New Jersey, where the 78th Division, the drafted men from upstate New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, was being assembled; and there I was associated again with Laurence Packard in a staff job at Division Headquarters of the 78th Division.
Laurence had an unhappy experience at Camp Dix and transferred to the War Department in Washington from which he went with General Graves’s expedition to Vladivostok and Siberia. In May 1918, my division went overseas. I sailed from Philadelphia on the twentieth of May 1918, landed in England, and went across to France within a week. All told I spent thirteen months in France and returned home at the end of June 1919.
Irene and I had been married while I was at Camp Dix in December of 1917. We lived in Moorestown, New Jersey, from which town I commuted daily to Camp Dix for five months before we sailed. She had had a very interesting job with the Children’s Bureau as a social worker looking after the unmarried mothers, spending a quarter of her time in court, and hunting down elusive fathers. The job was very interesting and she wished to stay on, and I took a job in Philadelphia with the Retail Credit Company for a year.
At the end of a year I had an opportunity to join George Gardner, a young man who had married Marian Johnson, Irene’s closest friend in Rochester, and who had had a family seed business dropped in his lap. George wanted someone his own age to come in with him and I was given an opportunity to join him in the Gardner Seed Company. I spent two years selling farm and market garden seeds, specializing in the new field we were entering of market garden seeds-- onions, lettuce, and celery. I found salesmanship very unpleasant, particularly because in market garden seed we were in a highly competitive business. It was necessary to convince a rather unwilling buyer that he should use our lettuce seed, for example, and in endeavoring to sell seed on this basis, I had the feeling that I was a panhandler. So, since lettuce-growing was more of a gamble than any game of chance I know, I found it wearing to have to break down sales resistance when the buyer would probably be well-advised to wait until he saw how he made out that season before contracting for any more seed.
We did succeed in selling seed, but the strains of salesmanship and a personality clash with my partner, who looked upon the balderdash of such people as Elbert Hubbard as Gospel, induced me to leave business and to go to Harvard Graduate School.
My experiences thus far had eliminated two possible careers: 1) that of a regular army officer, and 2) that of a businessman. Fortunately for me, entrance into Harvard Graduate School was very much simpler then than it is now, because I had not made a distinguished academic record, having spent my time doing what one of my friends and fraternity brothers called “bucking for All-American Second Team man.” I’d gone out for three sports, made the squad in all three, but only became a starter and earned my letter in football. I had also enjoyed extracurricular activities-- the Glee Club, Dramatics Club, and undergraduate life-- so that my low-B average would not have let me into a respectable graduate school these days. However, I was admitted in the fall of 1922, spent four enjoyable years at Cambridge, teaching in the last three at Harvard.
In the spring of 1926, Laurence Packard came down to Cambridge, came to see me and asked me if I would be interested in taking a job at Amherst. Laurence had returned to the University of Rochester at the end of the War, and when President Georgie Olds was filling some of the gaps left by resignations in the Meiklejohn episode, he sought established teachers and brought Laurence from Rochester in the field of history and Roy Elliott from Bowdoin in the field of English among two examples.
When Laurence came to Amherst he instituted the standard History 1 course and also added an upperclass course on the history of the First World War, with a heavy emphasis on the diplomatic history of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the period up to 1914. At that time there had been an elective course for freshmen and one elective course for sophomores. When Laurence came to Amherst there were two members of the History Department, Professor Frederick Lincoln Thompson of the Class of 1892, familiarly known as Croc-- and the derivation of that nickname I shall explain later-- and Professor Herbert Percival Gallinger of the Class of 1893. Professor Thompson gave a course in American History and an extremely interesting course in Renaissance history in which his emphasis on Renaissance art was the genesis of our art department. Professor Gallinger gave a course in English history and a rather general course in European history in the modern period.
Laurence’s course, History 1, laid the foundation for the later development of the Amherst history department. The sophomore course, however, had presented a problem. In the year before I came to Amherst, the sophomore course had been given by two visitors from Smith: Sidney Packard of the Amherst Class of 1915, did the mediaeval period, and Sydney B. Fay for roughly the period after the Renaissance through pretty much to the contemporary period, as I understand it. The course, however, had not been a success, and although Amherst at the time was relying rather heavily on visitors from other institutions for some courses, Laurence asked me if I would be interested in coming to Amherst as an instructor to give the sophomore course. I seized on the offer with an enthusiasm you could imagine because it would not only bring me to a place of the standing of Amherst, but it would also enable me to work once more with my old master, who, after all, was responsible for my having become a teacher and having become a historian.
It may seem odd to learn that in 1926, while the boom was running strong, jobs for Ph.D.’s were hard to find. In 1925 five men finished their doctorates in history at Harvard. Of the five, one, my classmate Floyd Lear from the University of Rochester, got the only good job, at Rice Institute-- now Rice University. One of the other four got a job in a cram school in Cambridge; two, after failing to get anything whatsoever as teachers, left and went into business; and the fifth in despair went back off somewhere in Minnesota and I never knew what happened to him. Consequently the opportunity to come to such a place as Amherst was an opportunity that I seized with enormous enthusiasm.
Laurence invited me to come up to Amherst for a weekend where I was interviewed by Georgie Olds and discovered that the Amherst President was, like myself, an alumnus of the University of Rochester and had taught my father-in-law calculus at Rochester before coming to Amherst. The weekend I came up was the Saturday of a faculty club supper and at the supper in the old Faculty Club, corner of Walnut and South Pleasant Street, I met what seemed to me like an enormous number of people. I think the faculty at the time had, what was it?, possibly 60 members. Of course I met Professors Thompson and Gallinger and was put up at Professor Thompson’s house-- that lovely brick house on South Pleasant Street which it was our good fortune later to occupy for twenty-five years.
I was asked for lunch at the President’s house and was very much taken with President Olds’s great charm and bubbling enthusiasm. This was in the days when there was a Sunday service in the College church and the preacher that day had been the celebrated Dr. Gordon of Boston, the great orator of the Presbyterian Church, and a remarkable Scotsman who had been an old friend of President Meiklejohn’s father and who had been told by the elder Meiklejohn to see Alex and make sure the young man didn’t make any mistakes but was able to keep such a good job as the presidency of Amherst. Dr. Gordon had talked to Alec Meiklejohn, had been received with courtesy, and he said that he left him with the conviction that President Meiklejohn would do precisely as he pleased. Back in Cambridge I waited for a word from President Olds and we were delighted when he wrote offering me the position of instructor at Amherst at a salary of $2,750, which was $250 more than the normal starting salary for an instructor.
I must be careful to avoid reminiscences too extensive at this point, because one must realize that at the age of 79, the past is in many ways more real and infinitely more interesting than the present. Also, as my friends will know, I am given to excessive verbosity.
It might be interesting to describe a faculty meeting as it was in the fall of 1926. We met in the Latin room in Williston on the second floor, surrounded by plaster of Paris replicas of Roman sculpture-- some busts, some full-size, which were the Dicky Mather collection of art designed to reinforce the required studies in Latin and Greek. Really the predecessor of our Fine Arts collection.
Well, faculty meeting came once every month at eight o’clock. They had ceased opening faculty meeting with prayer, but it was a solemn occasion. And the classroom chairs with the arm rests were arranged on three sides of a square and on the platform at the desk sat President George Daniel Olds with Dutch Newlin-- Professor William J. Newlin-- Secretary of the faculty, sitting along side of him, taking the minutes and checking off attendance; with Tom Esty, then Dean of the Faculty, sitting in the front row on the right hand side. As I remember, there were no assigned seats whatsoever and no one had to grab seats. Of course the juniors sat in the back. In the fall of 1926 I was one of seven new members of the faculty, I believe the largest number of new members of the faculty who had come to Amherst in goodness knows how many years. When the President had opened the meeting, after the minutes of the previous meeting had been read, and very frequently corrected, the idea of assuming an automatic acceptance of minutes was NOT characteristic of that period. Then he proceeded to call for reports from the standing committees, the two power-house committees being the Administration Committee and the Instruction Committee. But the president dutifully ran down the list. Most of the committees reported, “nothing to report, sir,” and so we got through that portion of the business and then came to the actual fireworks. Later on, in the administration of Arthur Stanley Pease, he occasionally stumbled a bit going over the list of committees and President Pease on that occasion made a slight slip and called for the report of not the Religious Activities Committee but the Religious Antiquities Committee.
The other focus of power very, very briefly during the year was the Committee on Committees, which nominated the members of all of the committees, but since there were sixteen standard committees everybody could be taken care of and could be made happy-- oh, of course, excluding the new young instructors.
At my first faculty meeting I remember that Vincent Paresi, who was in the French Department, I think had become-- oh, of course we didn’t have Assistant Professors then because one of the Meiklejohn innovations was to abolish the rank of Assistant Professor and instead install Associate Professor after Instructor. So that Vincent must have been an Associate Professor, only just barely, but at my first faculty meeting I happened to be sitting next to him and when we had to vote on something he turned to me and said, very severely, “I hope you realize that first-year instructors are not permitted to vote.”
Once launched upon this, I find it very, very difficult to keep from maundering generally, but I have one comment to make that I think is illustrative of the sort of person that President Georgie Olds was. On the first football Saturday after I had arrived in Amherst, I wandered over to Pratt Field not knowing anything about the locale or of what the local ground rules were, but I heard the noise over there, the shouting and the band-- of course we had a band always in those days-- and I got over to Pratt Field and simply by chance I turned to the right and found myself in the stands of the opposing side without knowing it. There was a smattering of townspeople there and a solid chunk of Aggie students, now the University of Massachusetts, who always came over to our games to root for the opposition. As it turned out, Amherst was playing the University of Rochester, my Alma Mater, so until the end of the first half I was the sole representative of Rochester alumni. At the end of the first half, the President of Amherst College, George Daniel Olds, walked across the field and looked up in the stands, saw me and joined me so that there were two of us representing the University of Rochester at that game. Incidentally, this was Charlie Cadigan’s team, Charlie was captain that year, a remarkable team, of which Bill Wilson was a member of the squad, and Amherst defeated Rochester by something, oh I don’t remember whether it was 28 to 0, or 42 to 0. But Amherst won. And the point of this whole rambling discourse is, that after the game was over, President Olds and I walked up Woodside Avenue together, and bear in mind that at this time my concern was not whether by being on the faculty of Amherst College I was going to get certain fringe benefits, or whether my service at Amherst would contribute to my getting to something very important, like a huge state university or not; my only concern was, was I going to be rehired next year, because bear in mind that this was by all odds not a sellers’ market as far as we were concerned. And as we were walking up the street, Georgie said to me, “I thought you might be interested to know what the retirement regulations are at Amherst College. As things stand now, at the age of 65 a member of the faculty may retire if he wants to, or he has to retire if the trustees want him to, but at the age of 70, he has to retire no matter what.” Well considering the fact that I was just wondering whether I was going to have a job or not next year, I thought this was a singularly considerate and thoughtful and touching indication that Georgie wanted me back another year.
Having mentioned Dean Esty, one or two reminiscences might be in order. Thomas Cushing Esty, Class of 1893, the son of William Esty, Class of 1860 and one of the great monuments of the old faculty, was a Professor of mathematics and Dean of the College in succession to President George D. Olds who had been Dean for a great many years. Tom Esty had served an admirable apprenticeship as a member of the faculty of my Alma Mater. Called back to Amherst, he was to be one of the great people of the College for many years. His mathematical specialty was vector analysis and one of the wittiest men in the Connecticut Valley in a quiet, understated, decidedly modest way, he said he had selected that specialty because of the fact that its entire literature was contained in one slim book. One of his notable characteristics, a gift that he shared with his three brothers, was an extraordinary facility for mimicry and imitation. A few years before I arrived at Amherst, when another of the remarkable characters of the College, Old Doc Hitchcock, the pioneer in required physical education for under graduate colleges, and apparently a remarkable influence on the undergraduate body, had become with advancing years too infirm to make his annual appearance and speak to the Annual Meeting of the New York Alumni Association. Old Doc wrote out the speech he would have given and at the New York dinner Tom Esty stood behind the screen and read the speech so completely like Old Doc that no one would believe that Professor Hitchcock was not there in person. When he could be induced to perform one of his oral imitations, and it was very difficult indeed to get him to do it, his reproduction particularly of the older faculty members was a delightful and extraordinary performance.
I used to hear from Professor Thompson and from Dean Esty about two of the former faculty members, Hoke O’Neill and Frink-- I believe both of them taught Public Speaking and I also remember very distinctly that each one of them was a stutterer. And Tom Esty once reproduced Frink’s performance when, as secretary of the congregation of the Church of Christ, which is the official name of the College church in the Congregationalist denomination, it was necessary for the clerk to read at the fall meeting of the congregation the letter of transfer from his own Congregationalist Church of each Amherst undergraduate, to permit his enrollment in the congregation of the College church.
[END OF SIDE ONE. BEGINNING OF SIDE TWO]
That was a misstatement at the close of the tape. I’ll repeat what I should have said.
Unfortunately, Professor Frink’s greatest difficulty came with the consonant “c.” And Tom imitated Frink reading the letter of transmittal from his local church which started off like this: “From the C-c-c-c-ong-g-g-g-rational Church of I-i-i-pswich.”
Another of Frink’s jewels which Tom repeated in his deep voice, in his bass voice, was, “How-how-how sharper than a SSSSerpent’s child is to have a-a-an ungrateful tooth.”
Professor Esty had, like all great mimics, a similar physical facility to indicate and to imitate bearing, movements, and so on. I remember one afternoon when I had gone into Professor Thompson’s house on some matter of department business, along toward the end of the afternoon, and when it had been disposed of, it was very near the sacred four-o’clock-hour when coffee began at the old Faculty Club on the corner of Walnut Street. Professor Thompson, who had been one of the founders of the Faculty Club, took this very seriously as did most of my older colleagues. And he glanced at his watch and said, “Oh well, it’s almost five minutes of four, let’s go on down to the Faculty Club.” He put on his coat, we opened the front door, and as we opened the front door Dean Esty was just passing the foot of the steps leading down from the Thompson house to the sidewalk. He paid no attention to us and I thought he hadn’t seen us. We walked slowly down the granite steps, followed Tom down the sidewalk about twenty feet in the rear, he was sauntering along in a very calm way, and all of a sudden he began to take a long swinging step, swinging his right hand forward and back as though he were swinging a cane. Professor Thompson poked me with his elbow and said, “Hoke O’Neill.” Tom continued to walk along completely unconcerned and in a moment began a little tippeting step, almost a skip; Croc poked me and said, “Frink.” And in the remaining hundred feet before we got to the Faculty Club’s steps he’d imitated two more of the older faculty members whom I had never seen, but convulsed Croc Thompson, and even though I didn’t know the originals, the whole effect was so perfect. Tom got to the entrance of the Faculty Club without casting a backward look or indicating that he knew we were there, he walked on in. He had a rare genius, but unfortunately his modesty prevented him from exhibiting it except on very, very rare occasions. And when people attempted to get him to do one of these performances he would very quietly refuse.
While trying to gather my forces and make something that bore some relation to what I had thought of as a structure for this conversation, I remarked to Louise Wilson that I’m finding it a little hard to select, to choose the things that I wanted to get down here, and I said that actually talking about faculty meetings, one of the things that struck me very, very strongly was that celebrated situation in the presidency of Stanley King when the faculty voted to drop the Classics requirement. I have already written an account of this and heaven knows where it is. I assume it might be in the memorabilia collection.
But going down to the Davis dinner one year, on the train, Charlie Morgan and Paul Weathers and I were going down together. And Charlie took out of his briefcase three yellow legal pads and three pencils and handed a pad and a pencil to Paul and one to me and said, “Now write down some of the things you remember very definitely-- some specific thing in the past-- in your experience at Amherst College.” Well I pondered for a bit and then the only striking thing I could think of was the account of that faculty meeting. What’s become of my pencil copy I haven’t any idea, but this is substantially what happened.
At the time they were remodeling the White house and also-- I beg your pardon-- not the White house, of course that was for the Faculty Club-- but were remodeling the upper room of the Octagon to convert it into a room for faculty meetings. The faculty was meeting temporarily in the big lecture room in the Chemistry lab, the Moore Laboratory. And that night President King brought in the proposition that the College abandon the Latin and Greek requirement. It entailed, of course, a great, great break with the past and with tradition and there were many members of the faculty-- naturally the departments of Latin and Greek, as you can suppose, but also some of the members of other departments-- who cherished the old idea of the Classics as a foundation not only for a cultivated gentleman but for the Amherst College program of education. So the argument was fierce. I had more or less assumed that the older faculty as a whole would be in favor of it; but in my first experience as a member of the Administration Committee in the Pease administration, when the question of the Classics would come up, two of the representatives of the older faculty, Professor Howard Doughty of Chemistry and Professor Frederick Loomis of Geology, had to my surprise announced that they had no enthusiasm for the Classics. I wasn’t surprised at Howard Waters Doughty because he was a Hopkins man, but since Freddy Loomis as an Amherst man I assumed that he was naturally very strongly in favor of the classics. But he said that he’d hated Latin and Greek, he had ground through them at the Rochester Free Academy and at Amherst College, and just taken it as a bitter pill in order to get at science, which was the thing he really loved, and he’d be glad to see it go, which shocked me.
Well this was some years later, and when one by one the preparatory schools were reducing or giving up their instruction of Latin and Greek; and when we’re getting to the point where we could not get the clientele, really, if we maintained the rigid Classics requirement, the president, President King, and the Committee of Six had brought forward the proposition that Amherst abolish the classics requirement. Well, as I say, the argument was heated, and in particular the die-hard defender of the classics was Professor Thompson of the History Department, who believed so, so strongly in the value of the classics.
Well it came to a vote and I think practically everyone on the faculty spoke on this. It came to a vote and by this time the bitterness was great. Many of the classicists had simply given up and refused to vote and the only person, and I happened to be sitting near him, the only person I’m sure of who voted against the proposition was Francis Fobes of the Greek Department. At any rate, the atmosphere was very tense and feeling was very high, and President King was glad to have the matter disposed of and, since he had proposed it and believed very strongly in it-- in spite of the fact, incidentally, that he’d been a very able student of the classics as an undergraduate, graduating in three years with a junior Phi Bete-- nevertheless he was relieved to have the thing taken care of that way.
Things were just beginning to relax a little when Dave Morton, who hadn’t the foggiest idea what the proposition meant, rose and in his cultivated Kentucky accent said that he moved a vote of confidence in the president. Stanley King’s face went white. I saw his jaw muscles tighten. He stopped a moment to get control of himself and he said, “Gentlemen, I will not put that motion to the vote. I will call on the Vice President of the faculty to take the chair, and I shall leave the room, but I want you to know that if this motion is lost, my resignation will be in the hands of the Trustees tonight by midnight.” And he stalked out of the room. Well, recently we had had an innovation and that was the designation of somebody as vice-president, and it had, and very naturally, been allotted to Tom Esty who was the Dean of the College also. So Tom Esty put down his pipe, sauntered around to the desk, looked up at the rising tier of seats in the bearpit, and said, “Well, gentlemen, I think we can take care of this nonsense very quickly and very easily. I will ask for those in favor.” There was a chorus of ayes. “Opposed?” None. He turned, sauntered to the door and called out into the hall, “Well, Stanley you can come back now.”
Speaking of Dave Morton reminds me, of course, of the celebrated assault on a police officer in Amherst. Dave, who was at that time a bachelor and who-- incidentally, this is completely off the point, but characteristic of him, this tall, elegant, slender Kentuckian who, I think, was a graduate of Vanderbilt University-- at any rate, Dave, a poet, who had had a little newspaper experience, had been a member of the Amherst faculty for quite a while and continued to turn out his rather facile poetry of the falling-leaf variety, and Dave remained very much both an advocate of physical virility-- he at one time coached the ends as a volunteer coach of the football team and he took boxing lessons from Tug Kennedy-- well, Dave had a couple of rooms with Mrs. Searle on Amity Street. Mrs. Searle was a widow whose father, I believe, had owned the drugstore that many of the later generations will remember as Adams Drug Store on Pleasant Street, and Mrs. Searle had a lovely daughter who married an Amherst alumnus and then had a son who was just a trifle wanting, and she lived there as a widow under straitened circumstances, and a very nice person, a very important person in old Amherst society-- and Dave had a couple of rooms there. Well, something had occurred and unfortunately my memory has lost the details of the occasion, but Bill Engleman was at this time the number-three man in the Amherst police department and he was sent out to investigate a case of some sort and I believe Mrs. Searle was a potential witness. At any rate, Bill came and in his brusque way and fresh from his intensive study of police manuals, Bill was interrogating Mrs. Searle and his severity or his abruptness, I don’t know what, at any rate disturbed Dave who overheard it and came out and in the fashion of a true southern chivalric gentleman to defend the lady. At any rate Bill left soon after, and two days later Bill Engleman was coming out of Harvey’s Market on Pleasant Street-- no, I beg your pardon, he was in Hastings’ store-- and Dave Morton went in and said to him, “Will you step outside, please, Mr. Engleman?” So Bill, knowing what was in Dave’s mind had stepped outside and the moment he got on the sidewalk Dave hauled off and gave him a straight right to the chin. Engleman who outweighed Dave by about 40 pounds and was no mean scrapper, said, “What on earth are you doing, Professor Morton? What the hell are you trying to do?” And Dave said, “Take off your badge, take off your blet, come into the alley with me and we will settle this. You insulted a lady in my presence.” Bill said, “You’re under arrest,” marched Professor Morton across the common and charged him, and put him in the lock up. They went through the usual procedure, took away all of Dave’s personal possessions and his belt, and as I remember kept him in the lock-up overnight.
The Chapel attendance counted one, and you had to have so many of those things whatever the total was per week. You had a limited number of chapel cuts and in Walker Hall, where the administration officers were then, the recorder’s office was on the ground floor, and in glass cases against the wall were great sheets with the entire student body listed there and a series of columns-- could it have been every day?, or every week?-- in which the chapel cuts they already had were entered by Gladys Kimball, the recorder. And some joker had forced the locks on those glass panels, which were hinged and swung out, and stolen the list of chapel cuts for the entire semester. Consequently, nobody knew who was approaching over-cut or who had overcut and so had to make up so many points by attending extra church services or chapel services or whatnot. As a matter of fact, even after this period, it was possible to make up overcuts in chapel as we’d long since ceased to require church attendance; in fact the service in the College church had been abandoned-- it leaked, you know, and it was an awful problem in keeping that building dry inside. Even then I remember one ingenious boy who made up-- he got in seven or eight church attendances in one day, starting with going to early Mass and finally winding up by going to the Eastern Orthodox Church in South Deerfield and making the service there, and he got the minister in every case to sign a card saying he’d been in attendance. And he ran around from the earliest Mass at St. Brigid’s to a mass in the Irish church in Hadley, and then a mass in the Polish church in Hadley, and what with Sunday School and Christian Endeavor and evening prayer meetings and so on, in one day, he managed to get in, I think he had eight delinquencies, eight overcuts and Scott Porter was insisting he would not graduate unless he had made those up and he got them all in on one day, with signatures for all eight.
Mrs. Wilson: There was a boy in the back of the Chapel who took attendance?
Salmon: Oh, there were a dozen monitors who got people as they came in, had sections, just the way a class would be marked. But the chapel cuts, as a result of that... (This was while Tom Esty was Dean under Georgie Olds. I don’t remember whether Tom ran over into the Pease administration or not; he might have. But if so, only a year or two while Pease was President.) At any rate, Tom’s response to that was instantaneous for a gentle, very courteous, patient, agreeable, amusing, delightful person-- there was no lack of iron in the man-- and when it came to a matter of an open-and-shut question of discipline, he swung a club and meant it.
I must check with Bill, as this happened while he was in College and he would remember, I think, what the penalty was. Whether Tom abandoned all cuts, something of the sort. The undergraduate body was INCENSED. This was horrible. This was depriving them of a cherished privilege and it was interfering with individual liberty and so on and so on, and they burned Tom in effigy and went ‘round making a great hullabaloo about it. It seemed a very, very mild squib indeed compared to the revolts of the ‘sixties, but at any rate it was discourteous and Tom had had enough and he quit as Dean. Which reminds me of the way in which Georgie Olds announced that he was resigning.
Georgie told me, when he gave me that reassuring word on the fact that I was going to be reappointed-- oh incidentally I missed the tag line on that. Georgie told me about the retirement age as seventy, and bear in mind that I was hoping that I would be appointed the next year, and Georgie said as we walked up Woodside Avenue-- “So watch out!, the first thing you know you’ll wake some morning and discover that you’re seventy years old and are going to have to stop teaching at Amherst College.” Now to revert.
Along in the spring of 1927, my first year, at the opening of the faculty meeting, President Olds said that in the upheaval of the Meiklejohn departure, Robert Frost, who was then of course doing a full-time stint on the faculty, came into the Dean’s office in Walker Hall and said to Dean Olds, “There’ve been a lot of resignations around here. Thank God the Pelham hills can’t resign.” I’m announcing to you that I’m terminating my period as President on the thirtieth of June.”
And incidentally, when we were walking back from the Amherst-Rochester game, President Olds said to me, “You know,” he said, “I would have retired three years ago because I’d reached the age of seventy, but,” he said, “the trustees asked me to take over the presidency temporarily with the departure of President Meiklejohn, so I’m actually three years beyond retirement.”
[Mrs. Wilson asks Professor Salmon to tell about the walk he had with George Whicher.]
Salmon: Oh there really isn’t very much to that. George, of course, being the child of an intellectual, of an academic, and very much so himself, I think he not only enjoyed but made something of a feature of being in very good physical condition. He was a good tennis player, loved to play, and he was a great hiker and mountain climber. He’d climbed Snowden, for example, in Wales in the midst of a snowstorm. He loved cross-country walking and so on and my first year at Amherst, in spring vacation-- we had one week spring vacation-- George asked me one afternoon if I would go for a walk with him up to Pelham Center. And I said I would. I didn’t know him very well, but I met him at the Town Hall and we started off and walked and George made a remark or two that was interesting and I started a topic or two and talked. George would respond in a very friendly way and we’d gotten down about to the CV tracks and it was his turn to start something and nothing happened and we walked and walked and so I felt, well, after all, I must say something so I thought up a topic and started it and George replied and then subsided and we walked a little while longer and I felt, well, I guess it’s my turn to say something so I started something again and the same thing happened and this went on for a couple of hundred yards and then George stopped and everything was silent and so I felt, well, I’m not going to do all the talking so I’ll just be quiet. So we walked steadily along for a little while and I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I thought up something else and started it and we had this pleasant talk and then it ended. It was quiet and we walked and walked and I thought, My God! I’ve got to show him I’m not an absolute dope, and so I thought of something I thought might get him launched on responses and that he would really face off and say something himself. And so I tried that and George replied in a very friendly way and once he got along with that a bit then he relapsed again and after that we walked and walked and walked, and I said to myself, well I’m damned if I’m going to make all the exertion in this thing. If he doesn’t want to talk, we won’t talk. So we walked in silence from West Pelham, practically to the top of the hill, and not a word was spoken. George seemed to be perfectly happy and I was resentful so I wasn’t going to say anything. If a white horse with a Lady Godiva on it had come along the road beside us, I wouldn’t even have remarked. Then we got along and I just couldn’t stand it any longer, so I started on something else and we had a very pleasant conversation. We got up by the Meeting House, we went in and looked at the graveyard, walked out, and George said, “Well, let’s go down into the Valley.” This was before the Quabbin Dam. So from the center of Pelham, where Shays Highway is now, we walked about a mile down the hill, almost down to the Swift River, turned around and came back. We didn’t talk again until we were headed back for Amherst. All afternoon I’ll bet you we spent maybe a third of the time absolutely silent, but walking along. When we got home I was exhausted, not physically but in every other way, because I had had such an awful time trying to get some response out of this turtle and when he did talk, as you know, he talked most entertainingly.
He was in many ways though a shy person. I think he was essentially shy, but witty as could be, and, of course, some of the turns he pulled were subtle and very amusing. And of course George was the pioneer, really, in his scholarly study of Emily Dickinson, and he was fortunate, because this was the time when there were literally scores of people who were still-- well when I got to Amherst later-- who had known Emily personally and were cousins. Of course, the woods were full of Dickinson cousins, and George was the one who really got the fundamentals before all the flub-dub and the time-servers, the self-seekers, and so on, when Madame Bianchi still had a little money and was not making a living, and Hampson’s living out of what she was dredging up about Aunt Emily. I remember that when he showed up, Squire Dakin (this is Arthur Dakin, Sr.), who had retired from the practice of law and bought the land and started the golf course and was living there in retirement and enjoying the area, and he said, “Who’s that going around with Martha Bianchi?” And someone said, “Oh that’s her collaborator.” And he said, “Oh is that what they’re calling them now?” About that time, Mme. Bianchi was still going to Italy every year, and she and Hampson went over and just as Mussolini and the Fascisti had gotten well, well established, Hampson, who was plump-- that’s understatement-- very plump, came back wearing a black shirt, a Fascist black shirt, and this was Squire Dakin’s crack again, he said, “Well, I hope to God he doesn’t go to India and try to imitate Ghandi.”
Well at that time Genevieve Taggart at Mount Holyoke did her book on Emily, and George Whicher was doing reviews for the Herald Tribune “Review of Books,” and he did a number of excellent ones. He, as you know, was very clever and witty, and in reviewing Genevieve Taggart’s book he really burned the last bridge with Mme. Bianchi and her supporters and he had consulted and worked very closely with Mme. Bianchi. But (I’m departing from here just a little) one of the questions he told me about was really quite tricky, quite difficult, and the evidence was complete. Higginson’s and so on, and Mrs. Todd wasn’t clear on it, so I said to George, “Why don’t you ask Mme. Bianchi?” He said, “There’s no point in asking her; all I’ll get is some transcendental nonsense and be no nearer the truth.”
Well, when he reviewed the Genevieve Taggart book, he wound up with
[END OF TAPE 1, Side two]
This is a continuation of the first tape and of my comment on George Whicher’s review of Genevieve Taggart’s book on Emily Dickinson.
He wound up his review with this: “Fortunately, at last, Emily has been taken up out of the hands of her kin and placed in the hands of her kind.”
Mine. Bianchi, at the time that we came to Amherst, was not only a living presence and we knew her, and in many ways she was a remarkable person. But she was also a legend and merging into the Emily legend and, of course with the colorful additions of her own, into her marriage of the so-called “Captain” Bianchi and the mystery of that (though some of it was not exactly a mystery. I may come back to that if I have time.), but on the other hand by the time that we came to Amherst, Mme. Bianchi still had some money left and she and Hampson used to go to Florence for part of the year, the winters I remember, and, at any rate, they would be gone and then they’d come back and would walk around the streets of Amherst, Mme. Bianchi often with this tall ebony cane. But at any rate as things ran a little low in the exchecquer, Mme. Bianchi had managed to discover a trunk, and then maybe another trunk, with undiscovered manuscripts of Aunt Emily’s which would be published. And then they began to do different tricks with the Emily material-- obviously with economic need as a factor. I may be unkind, but that’s the way it looked. At any rate, for the fall market before Christmas one year, there appeared an anthology edited by Hampson called Poems for Youth. And George Whicher, using the form and the tune of Chesterton’s “Christmas Hymn,” evolved this parody.
Unfortunately my voice is very scratchy tonight, but I will make a stab at it in those clear bell-like tones you’re used to, that fine, reedy tenor, is going to be very scratchy indeed. But George’s version ran something like this. Bear in mind that the name of the book was Poems for Youth. (Sings)
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
A Christmas book as I’ve heard tell,
But apart of victory oh I fling,
Though all the bells of Amherst ring.
I pray Saint Emily’s light may cheer
My works and days through all the year,
But I pray confusion may fall on those
Whose books are written by gigolos.
May all such piffle as Poems for Youth
Be sent to critics who tell the truth
And boot the editor straight to hell--
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
And may his books all fail to sell--
On the legendary side we learned soon after coming to Amherst about this extraordinary, very impressive person, Mme. Bianchi, and learned that she was Austin Dickinson’s daughter and some of the people we talked to, who were either distant cousins or had grown up with her, of course, always spoke of her as Marthy Dickinson. Well she had started out in a career as a writer and as we got the story in the ‘twenties, she was in New York and she did write-- I’ve forgotten whether it was two or three novels which had only a modest success. But in New York she encountered this gentleman, who was supposed to be a captain in the Swiss army, named Bianchi; and as one of the great Dickinson experts, named George Frisbie Whicher, said, each of them thought that the other had an independent fortune and Mme. Bianchi was in the habit of speaking of her shooting box in the Berkshires. At any rate she and Bianchi became engaged and he came up to Amherst to be looked over by Marthy’s family. He arrived and the Dickinsons had invited the cream of Old Amherst to a reception to meet Bianchi. And the Captain, as Mme. Bianchi always referred to him, took one look at them, decided they were country bumpkins, said something rude, went upstairs, and disappeared from the party.
The next time he appeared in Amherst, again according to the legend (this isn’t George Whicher, this is local legend), the next time he appeared they had been married and he and Marthy returned, visited her parents, and while they were there, a Deputy Sheriff arrived with a writ and Bianchi left under cover of darkness and was supposed to have hopped a freight on the CV and got away. At all events, he was in difficulty with creditors in New York-- that seems to be clear. And again the legend was that the lot across from the Emily Dickinson house which was known as the Dickinson Meadows, still, when we arrived in Amherst, where the filling station is now or was the last time I was in Amherst, and that three-story flat thing, that was the Dickinson’s Meadow. And the story was that Austin Dickinson had to sell that to meet some of the judgments against his son-in-law, against Bianchi.
As a result of that, again the legend was, that during the War, the first World War, the captain, as Mme. Bianchi always referred to him, and incidentally President George Harris said to one of the faculty one time, “Well I suppose I’ve got to have that Mrs. White over to dinner.” At all events, that was the legend. The captain was supposed to have been doing very important intelligence work during the First World War and to have mysteriously disappeared, dying a hero’s death.
Whatever happened to him, I think no one around Amherst really knew. At all events, some of the people who hear this tape may have known one of the wittiest women in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Margaret Tuckerman Clark, who, as the daughter of Professor Tuckerman, had grown up in Amherst and was a quite bit younger contemporary of Mme. Bianchi and Mme. Bianchi considered Margaret a close friend and confided a good many things to her. Well after the discovery of the undiscovered Emily Dickinson poems, Yale University, with an eye on acquisitions, asked Mme. Bianchi to come to New Haven for a ceremony and gave her, out of ceremony an award of an honorary degree, a modest honorary degree, but with no public convocation-- not at Commencement time or any great occasion-- made this entirely a private thing with one hand out for the manuscripts. At any event, Mme. Bianchi and Hampson went down to New Haven and after the award, more or less in camera, of the honorary degree, they came back. And Mme. Bianchi came over to Margaret Clark’s and told her what an occasion it was, that the President of the University had been there, the Governor had been there, it had really been quite an affair, they’d given her the degree very quietly but had had a bang-up dinner to celebrate it. And Mme. Bianchi said, “If I had realized how much of an occasion it was to be, I would have worn the Captain’s medals.” And Margaret Clark said, “You know it was on the tip of my tongue to say I didn’t know he had any medals, I thought he only had a cell number.”
Louise Wilson: Dwight and I are talking here about witty things and we’ve just been reminiscing about Margaret Clark and so on, but I wanted just to put two very witty things on this tape that I remember. This is on the distaff side.
When I first came to Amherst, there seemed to be some kind of a feud in the History Department. People were not friendly, there seemed to be two sides and sort of a war going on. But in the midst of this, Mary Alice Conn was pregnant. She was the wife of one of the instructors, Stetson Conn, in American history and apparently there was going to be a great baby shower given for her and everybody was told to come to the shower and bring a little present for the baby, for Mary Alice’s baby. And Mary Ann Sprague, who was witty and had a very sharp tongue, said to me, “Well, it seems as if the History Department was burying the hatchet in a bassinette.” So I thought that was pretty funny; I thought I’d really come to a very witty place to live.
The other thing I wanted to tell was when Charlie Cole was selected as President for Amherst College, Irene Salmon and I were pretty excited about it because we were very close friends of Kitty’s [Mrs. Charles W. Cole], and we were told this exciting news about twelve hours before it was announced publicly. Irene and I conferred and Irene said, “I’m going to send Kitty a wire and I’m going to say, ‘The bushes on your side need pruning’”-- which will show her that I know what’s happening. We wanted to tell Kitty that we knew that she was going to come as the President’s wife. So Irene sent off the telegram. You see, we had to be very careful, because in those days the telegraph office was in the Lord Jeff and the telegraph operator was a close friend of everybody. So we sent this telegram off and within the hour the reply came back to Irene. And the reply read: “Stop beating around the bushes. Kitty.”
Dwight Salmon continues: This is a new story to me. I’ve just got to edit the first episode, though: there was no fight, no feud in the History Department. We were a band of brothers.
Wilson: My editorial comment is that I forgot in telling my story about Kitty and Irene and the telegrams to say that Irene and Dwight Salmon lived in the house adjacent to the President’s house, south of it, on South Pleasant Street, so when Irene sent the telegram about the bushes, it showed Kitty that she knew that Kitty would be living next door.
Wilson: Now Bill Wilson has just walked into the room and announced that when we’re all dead and gone nobody will know who’s talking on this tape. Dwight Salmon is talking. And I, Louise Wilson, am now adding my little nickel’s worth and that’s clear who it is.
Salmon: I might add one or two comments of personal experiences with Robert Frost, who, when I came on the faculty, had ceased to give a course, which of course, as you all know, he detested doing, but was spending a considerable amount of time in Amherst, and in fact was to buy a house in Amherst and make his home there until Mrs. Frost died while they were in Florida. One of the stories that Robert told me was about the time when his first experiences at Amherst, when he was forced to give a course in creative writing. He was giving a course in poetry and he had the students turn in poems they had written to be criticized, and there was one undergraduate who never turned in anything and after a couple of weeks he came up to Robert and said that he was working on this piece of verse and it was so difficult he was just-- Robert would move his arms back and forth-- just straining and straining to get it just right, and he had this great, great concept but he just couldn’t get it, but he was working and working on it, and Robert said, “Yah, yah I know, it’s hard, hard, hard to get it, yeah I know it’s hard.” So the boy went off, Robert said, and a month went by and nothing came up and he came up at the close of class and said, “Well, I haven’t, I haven’t been able to get this really in shape yet,” but he said, “I’m just working on it, I’m working.” And Robert said, “Yes’m, yes’m I know, I know. It’s hard,” turned away and so the kid went on, having gotten away with this, and it got to be within about two weeks of the final examination and with the idea of marks going in, he came up to Frost at the end of class and said, “Well, now of course I haven’t gotten this thing I’m working so hard on in shape yet, but don’t you really want something?” And Robert said to me, “Of course, you know he thought that this was temperament, he could get by with temperament, and I said to him, ‘No, this isn’t temperament, I know an awful lot more about temperament than you do, I’ve lived longer.’ ‘Well’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you what you’re going to do; you’re going to Hastings and you’re going to buy a pound of typewriter paper and you’re going to sit down and you’re going to put some writing on every sheet of that pound of typewriter paper. I’m not going to read the dod-rotted stuff, but I’m going to weigh it.’” And Robert said he came back with the pound of typewriter paper and, he said, “I took a glance here and there to be sure, and there was some writing on every page I looked at, there was some writing,” he said, “so I weighed it. It was a pound, so,” he said, “I gave him a grade. But,” he said, “I think it convinced him that temperament wasn’t enough; and you couldn’t fool all the people.” This is my addition, incidentally, not Frost’s. I’ve forgotten actually what he said.
Frost said once, à propos of “some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice” poem, that “I think I know enough of hate,” he said, “You know, really, it came from a cousin of mine who was an ardent Christian Scientist who became a Christian Science healer and who got the idea that when one of her cures failed, it was because I was building up a great wall of hate. And though,” he said, “it was sort of as though I were making a wax image and sticking pins in it, but it was my hate that was preventing her message from getting through.” So, he said, “You know I sort of think that’s what I was thinking of when I said, but ‘hate is great and will suffices’”
Another time Frost spoke of a distinguished trustee of Amherst, who here shall be nameless, who after Robert had made a very great success, invited him to dinner and rather ostentatiously presented a brand new mint copy of the first of the Collected Poems, and it looked as though it hadn’t been cracked yet, but it was shown, shown to Robert, and at the end of dinner this gentleman said, well, he thought these were quite nice poems. And Robert said, “You know, that isn’t the kind of praise I want. I want somebody to stand on his chair and shout.” Incidentally, as they were leaving the dining room, our trustee’s wife took Robert aside and said, “Oh, I have all of the poems, all of the slender volumes as they appeared.”
In my early years in Amherst, the College utilized the fund for the Beecher Lectureship by inviting a distinguished person, usually from the outside, to give the Beecher Lectures every other year. In the intervening year, the Simpson lectures were given. For years distinguished historians were giving the Beecher lectures and one year Sam Morison of Harvard had been invited to do the Beecher lectures. There were four in number, spread over four weeks, and Sam delivered the four lectures, three of which really were to become or were already chapters of Sam’s Builders of the Bay Colony.
Well, following the custom of those days, the night of the first lecture the President of the College, Stanley Pease, had Sam as a guest and had a dinner for him. The second night Professor Thompson put Sam up and had a dinner. The third night Laurence Packard put him up and also had a dinner. And for the fourth week we invited him to dinner. We had just moved into the Tuckerman house and were not really equipped to have so elegant a person as Morison as a guest so I’d reserved a room for him at the Lord Jeff Inn. I asked Sam if there was anyone he particularly wanted to meet and he said yes, he’d never met Robert Frost and would like to see him if he could. So I invited Frost and I didn’t think to tell him that this was going to be a black tie affair-- this was Sam’s last lecture-- and so he arrived in a business suit, incidentally looking rather more distinguished than any of us in dinner jackets.
After the lecture, we came back to our house and Sam and Frost got into a most interesting argument as to who was the best Union general during the Civil War. At the time, I had no notion of Robert’s interest in military history and his very, very substantial knowledge and competence in that field. But as Frost told me later, he came by this naturally because, after all, remember he belonged actually to the generation after the war and his family, then in Ohio, were Copperheads and I think had some difficulty in the Ohio town they lived in, but of course that was an area where there was a very substantial Copperhead element. At any rate, because of the Copperhead, the southern sympathies of Robert’s family, he was actually named for Robert E. Lee-- Robert Lee Frost.
Well in the course of this conversation, Sam Morison said that McClellan was by all odds the best northern general. Robert took issue with him and said, “No, Grant was the best general.” And the argument continued for a good half hour and on the whole Frost had very decidedly the better of it. In the process Sam mentioned Shiloh and Robert admitted that that was a mistake, but, as I recalled, Sam took a little refuge in the idea that, really, after all-- this had switched now to Grant versus Lee-- that after all, he was hampered by the fact that he didn’t have very good corps commanders-- corps commanders were insubordinate or they fought their own war or they disregarded his orders, whereas Grant had good corps commanders. And Robert said, “Yes, that’s just it. If Grant had had Lee’s commanders, they wouldn’t have been corps commanders very long.”
Also I remember when Frost came back to Amherst the time of the Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign-- the first campaign. This was the time when he’d be back with us in the fall for a few weeks and then again in the spring. And he came back, oh maybe a month before the election, and Sterling Lamprecht hunted him up right away and said to Frost, “Well, you must surely support Stevenson because he speaks so well and he writes such beautiful English.” And Frost said to him, “Lamprecht, what this country needs right now isn’t syntax and rhetoric.”
I should like to say a little something about my colleague Frederick Lincoln Thompson of the Class of 1892. His universal nickname of Crock was not coined because of his build, which was stout and ample, muscular rather than fat. It was a family name in the household of his doctor father in Augusta, Maine, where Crock, as the youngest of a rather large family, was supposed to evade punishment by facile tears. The family called it “crocodile tears,” naturally, and the Crock is simply an abbreviation for crocodile, although I’m sure that generations of undergraduates thought it meant his physique.
His older brother, Dan, had come to Amherst and graduated in the Class of 1889. Crock had, however, gone to Bowdoin and, like his brother, had become a Deke. Always an enterprising and resourceful person, he had realized that the DKE Chapter at Bowdoin, which was occupying a rented room over a store, might very easily acquire a house, and since no one in the chapter had ever shown any interest in it, he had undertaken on his own to get in touch with wealthy Deke alumni around that part of Maine and had gotten pledges for a sizeable amount of money to acquire a house. But in the rigid discipline of the fraternities in the late ‘eighties and through the ‘nineties, upperclassmen were annoyed, considering this altogether too presumptuous for a freshman to start out on his own. Consequently they administered the usual very severe physical correction and attempted to undo the work he had already accomplished. Since no one ever pushed Frederick Lincoln Thompson around, he retaliated by transferring from Bowdoin at the end of his freshman year and entering Amherst. For the balance of his life Amherst was to be the focus of his devotion and of his greatest interest.
He had desired to be a doctor, but the death of his father at just about the time he graduated from college, made it impossible for him to go to medical school. Therefore, he followed his older brother in the career of teaching in preparatory schools, teaching first, as I remember, briefly at Lawrenceville and then going to Dr. Sachs’s school in New York, where he had among other distinguished students Walter Lippmann and Ernest Gruening, later the editor of the “Nation” and finally Governor of Alaska and Senator, one of the first Senators on the admission of Alaska to the Union. The success of his teaching is reflected in the devotion of these two old students among others. And I remember when, at the inauguration of Stanley King as President of the College, Walter Lippman was one of the speakers and in mentioning his friendship with Stanley King when both were Assistant Secretaries of War under Newton D. Baker during the first World War, Lippmann said that also, in the audience, was one of the great teachers and one of the strongest influences on his career. He added the perfect tribute for a teacher by saying of Crock, “He made us know that the earth was round and that someone REALLY did live over the mountain or across the river.” Dr. Sachs wished Fred Thompson to take over his famous school on his retirement, but Crock had decided to make his career in teaching, and after some years at the Sachs school he began graduate work. With his extraordinary wife, Marietta, he spent a year in Paris at the Sorbonne and then, returning to the United States, went to Harvard Graduate School. Here, he did work with the great mediaevalist and English history scholar, Charles Grose.
[END OF SIDE ONE, Tape 2. Beginning Side 2, Tape 2]
They went to Big League ballgames together and Grose was very helpful in shaping Crock’s program.
An offer came from President Harris to join the faculty at Amherst and Crock, having secured his Master’s degree, came back to his Alma Mater to take up the teaching career that lasted until his death in the fall of 1935.
I can testify to his kindness and generosity to a younger colleague and to the extraordinary hospitality of the Thompsons attested by Crock’s interest in fine food, which contributed not a little to his figure. One of his great enthusiasms was tennis, and although his weight had diminished his speed of foot and his freedom of movement around the court, he teamed with Tom Esty as a doubles combination and they were hard to beat. He was a strong traditionalist, devoted to the classics, devoted to daily chapel, which he attended without fail, and to other aspects of the College tradition at large.
When I arrived at Amherst, the Meiklejohn episode was very recent, and on the faculty were devoted adherents of President Meiklejohn and violent opponents. Speaking of the case, Crock said to me once that it was his tendency to support administration as long as he could. As he said, “A president has a difficult enough job, so that he is entitled to the backing of students, faculty, and alumni to the limit of their convictions.” I believe that in the early stages of the controversy he remained in the middle, for he had many points of sympathy with Meiklejohn-- their tennis for one thing-- but I know that some of the President’s innovations were...
The first time that the President read Epictetus in Chapel, instead of the traditional passages from the Bible, it hurt Crock’s sense of fitness. One of Professor Thompson’s great interests was Fine Arts. He knew a good deal about painting and sculpture, in particular, and quite early in his career began a course on the Renaissance, in which he emphasized very strongly the development of Renaissance art. It was he who told me about Professor Richard Mather accumulating the collection of plaster replicas of classical statues and busts, which in addition to a hit-or-miss assortment of bequeathed portraits of a memorabilia character, was the extent of the College’s art collection when I arrived. Crock had long urged the establishment of a department of Fine Arts and it was his campaign that led to the creation of that department and the appointment of Professor Charles H. Morgan in 1930. Charlie Morgan has testified to the interview that led to his appointment in which Crock took a leading role.
Crock was a person of very strong convictions and of great courage. I remember that at the time Calvin Coolidge was running for election following his succession to the presidency as vice-president upon Harding’s death, one of the trustees was Frank Stearns of Boston, a merchant. Frank Stearns had been one of the original backers of Coolidge, was active in the campaign, and was a very active and vigorous member of our Board of Trustees. At the time of the fall meeting of the Trustees in the election year, he said to Crock, “I suppose of course you’re going to vote for Calvin.” Now Frank Stearns was not the sort of person that one crossed unscathed, but Crock replied firmly, “No, sir, I am not.”
I am tempted to record one or two of his Maine stories which were priceless, but I shall resist the temptation at this time. My stage director, Louise Wilson, is urging me to tell at least one of them.
This was when Crock was, oh, probably in his last year in high school. As I said, he had a great interest in medicine-- his father had been one of the great doctors in Augusta-- and Crock was an ardent homeopath. His older half-brother was already practicing in Augusta and at the time that this story took place, his older half-brother was the city physician of Augusta. The brother was courting a girl at some distance, and over a weekend he was going to drive over to visit her family and Crock offered to look after his practice for him. Well, the brother said he had no patients who needed any attention, but there was a tramp who had fallen off the railroad, off a freight car on the railroad, and had crushed his foot. One toe had been damaged. The city of Augusta had no city hospital and patients such as the hobo were put up in the poorhouse. Well, before starting off in his horse and buggy, the older brother had taken a look at the tramp and he said to Crock that the toe was coming along, he thought, all right. He couldn’t be certain yet whether he had saved it or not, but he had redressed it, and he said that Crock might stop in on the Saturday afternoon to see how the tramp was getting along. Crock got a case of his father’s surgical instruments. When he went for his afternoon call at the poor farm, he said that the moment he undid the dressings, it was perfectly clear to him that that toe was going to have to come off. So he proceeded with due precaution to amputate the toe. When his brother got back on Monday and made his visit to the poorhouse, he saw to his astonishment that the toe had been amputated. He knew right away who the surgeon had been and he did have the grace to tell Crock that he had done a very neat and professional job.
As an aside it occurs to me that in mentioning Charles Grose, I have released an association with citations for honorary degrees. When I was in graduate school the man with whom I did my doctorate, Roger Bigelow Merriman, always known to undergraduates as “Whiskey,” was speaking about this matter of citations and he was saying how felicitous Eliot’s were. He quoted a couple and then turned to the great Professor Grose. As Whiskey put it, “Grose was a Jew of the Jews.” He supported a hopelessly incurably invalid wife without complaint for years and years and years. He was one of the greatest scholars this country has ever produced, a rather austere and terrifying teacher, but a generous friend and advisor to the young, a rather withdrawn but dedicated person who carried burdens that the mores of the time made very difficult, and as he was retiring, Harvard gave him an honorary degree. As Grose stood before President Eliot, Eliot said simply, “Charles Edward Grose, historian”-- and nothing more.
I remember the citation that President Lowell gave to Professor Grandgent my first year in graduate school-- the only Harvard Commencement I attended where I rented a master’s gown and joined about twenty of my fellow graduate students who were also getting their masters degrees at the time-- among them Phinney Baxter, later President of Williams-- and I might add that we were dragooned into showing up so that there would be at least a representation of Masters to stand up when the degree was awarded. But Lowell’s citation for Grandgent, of the Romance Languages Department, I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Charles Grandgent, scholar, wit, and poet who with Dante’s eyes has looked on Dante’s vision.”
The house in which Crock lived, to return to him for a moment, had been called the Morse House. A family farmed the land down South Pleasant Street and at the rear, before Woodside Avenue had been cut through or Orchard Street, and the house had originally had a very long ell, a frame ell, of which the small ell that is there now, it was there in our time, is only a truncated remnant. But before the College acquired the house, the Morse family had been making ends meet by running a boarding house and the boarding house had a very distinguished clientele, in particular you may have heard of the fact which was related through successive generations of undergraduates, that in the boarding house the Class of 1895, for example, had a number of tables, at one of which sat Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Morrow. This comes to mind because of the exchange between these two classmates when Calvin was President and the termination of the decade of revolution in Mexico had left Calles in command, had created a crisis with the United States which had been exacerbated by Senator Kellogg from Minnesota, newly appointed Secretary of State, who had issued a ringing statement accusing the Calles administration of being Bolsheviks and puppets of Moscow. Calles threatened expropriation of American business ventures in Mexico, threatened to sever relations with the United States, and gave our press an opportunity to get some dandy, juicy headlines. And, as usual, to register complete irresponsibility toward anything but an increase in circulation. We’ve seen too much of this lately.
Dwight Morrow, at the height of his career in New York as a lawyer and a financier, had, as you all know, a very great desire to be of public service, and since our ambassador had been recalled the administration announced that Dwight Morrow had been appointed Ambassador to Mexico. It is a matter of general knowledge of what happened. Morrow won the complete confidence of Calles, the problems were resolved peaceably, and Morrow contributed greatly to the stabilization of the revolutionary situation in Mexico.
Mike Smith, whom I have not mentioned so far, was one of the influential members of the older generation of the faculty: Harry DeForest Smith, head of the Greek Department, another Bowdoin graduate, a reputation for brilliance, and a devoted following among a certain number of the alumni. Sometime after Dwight Morrow’s return from Mexico, he came to see Mike and told him of the occasion of his visiting the President for instructions on his taking over his embassy. According to Mike Smith’s story, Cal Coolidge said to him, “Dwight, I want you to go down to Mexico and keep ‘em quiet down there ‘til I can finish my term.”
One of the Embassy staff told me in 1933 that he thought that one of the vital factors in breaking down Calles’s hostility and his deeply ingrained Indian and Mestiso suspicion of Gringoes and of white men, was the occasion when Dwight Morrow presented his credentials to the President of Mexico as Ambassador. As Morrow was leaving the Embassy and entering the Embassy car, the staff realized that he was starting off alone and one of them came forward and said, “Mr. Ambassador, you haven’t got the interpreter with you.” Morrow said, “I’m not going to take him.” The embassy man said, “But you don’t speak Spanish.” (Parenthetically, I believe that Dwight Morrow was not a linguist at all. I remember-- to digress a moment-- that at one of the conferences at the end of the First World War, he was given a banquet in Paris, and when the speeches began, Morrow got up and said in a horrible French accent “Bon accent, pas du vocabulaire,” and then reverted to English.)
At all events, in Mexico there’s no pretense of his speaking Spanish, and so the embassy man said, “Well what are you going to do for an interpreter?” And Morrow said, “I’m going to use Calles’s interpreter.” The remainder of the story is that when he was shown in to the President’s chamber at the National Palace, Calles turned to his interpreter and said in Spanish, “Ask the Ambassador where the embassy interpreter is.” And Morrow relayed the information through the Mexican interpreter to the President that he was relying on him.
When Stanley King became President, at one of the Trustee meetings shortly after he had taken over, his wife, Peg King, said to Cal Coolidge, “Mr. Coolidge, what advice could you give me as a President’s wife?” And Cal said, “You can’t please everybody; don’t try to.”
When Cal had retired from the presidency, he took a large number of his private papers from the period of the presidency up to Plymouth, Vermont to his father’s house and got the assistance of a very good research man, a scholar, to get the papers in order with some idea of his doing some writing, some publication. One fine summer morning, the research man and Cal were sitting on the front porch of this frame house, up on the hill outside of Plymouth, and Cal was sitting with a folder open on his knees and was running through papers and the research man said that down the road he suddenly heard a wheel squeaking, as though every time the wheel on a buggy went round it hit a dry spot and squeaked; he said you heard this squeak, and squeak, and squeak. Cal paid no attention and he said that in a moment a buggy came along with a man sitting back, negligently, a horse walking, and that recurrent squeak. And the man in the buggy just took a glance over and turned down the road and when he got opposite the house he said, “Howdy, Cal.” Cal never looked up, with his head down, his eyes on his papers, he said, “Howdy, Lije.” And he kept on going down the road and when he’d gotten out of earshot Cal turned to the research man and he said, “That’s my cousin Lijah Briggs. He always has one wheel that needs grease.”
The intensity of fraternity rivalry, to turn to another topic, in the period even of my undergraduate days, over fifty years ago, was in the period of say forty to fifty years before that, far more vital and far more severe. I think of one or two examples. One, in particular, that goes back to my boyhood in Lima, New York. A friend of my father’s, somewhat older, was George Atwill, who went to Amherst and graduated from Amherst in 1874, a member of Psi Upsilon. He returned to our village and practiced law there for the balance of his life, retaining an intense interest in Amherst and frequently coming back at commencement time. He also married my mother’s first cousin and at the time when President George Harris’s retirement had been announced and there was speculation about the new president of Amherst, the Rochester newspapers came out with the story that Rush Rhees, of the Class of 1883 at Amherst, then the President of the University of Rochester, was going to succeed as President of Amherst. I met Cousin George Atwill on the street and said, “I see that the President of the U. of R. is going to be the new President of Amherst.” Cousin George exploded. “Nonsense!,” he said. “Nonsense! Rush Rhees is no more the calibre of person to be president of Amherst! Of course they wouldn’t even consider it! I’ll tell you what it is-- it’s a typical Alpha Delt trick.” After George Atwill’s death, his widow gave his library, particularly his rather large collection on constitutional history, to the Gammy Chapter (Psi Upsilon). Several cases of books were in the basement of the Psi U chapter house and the boys were occupied with other things and had not opened the cases or found a place to store the books. When I became faculty advisor to Psi U in the period immediately after the second War, I looked into the matter, talked with the Chapter and with Newt McKeon, the College librarian, and I believe that the constitutional history material came into Converse Library.
On the matter of fraternity rivalry, of course, there was a long standing feud between Professor Emerson (Emmy) and Professor Grosvenor (Grovy), but I haven’t time to go into that now. Later, I shall record some of the stories of Professor Emerson and his really remarkable absentmindness later on.
On the matter of fraternity allegiances, when the College for the first time appointed a full-time librarian for the Memorability Collection and Peggy Hitchcock Emerson filled the role, Crock said that at some committee meeting on the matter of memorabilia, and the handling of the collection, Crock said, “Well I wish that somebody would tell Peggy Emerson that there were other fraternities at Amherst except for Alpha Delt.” Peggy’s inheritance both by family and by marriage being A.D.
[END OF TAPE 2, Side 2
Final draft completed 6/11/81]