Don't forget the allies
As a survivor of World War II, I was most interested in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin featuring Kenyon war stories. However, I have one bone to pick.
In the article "War Stories," Tom Stamp '73 lists the number of Kenyon men who served in the various branches of the U.S. armed forces-- Army, Navy, and so on. But he forgot me.
I was a junior at Kenyon at the time of Pearl Harbor. One week later, I contacted the British embassy and volunteered for the British army. I served four years overseas in England and throughout the European conflict as a first "leftenant" in a Vickers Machine Gun Company. At one time, I was attached to the American army during the Battle of the Bulge.
I also remember that my fraternity brother Robert "Buck" Weaver Jr. '43 served in the Canadian army. So let's not forget those who served on "our side."
I was also very interested in the fact that Kenyon now has a course on the Holocaust. Towards the end of the war, my platoon liberated a small concentration camp, so I am quite sensitive to the principle of educating our youth to the horrors of genocide. As a matter of interest, my daughter, a Christian, graduated from Bethany College in 1977. At that time, Bethany had a mandatory course for all freshmen on the Holocaust, the professor being a camp survivor. We should never forget.
Murray Smith '44
Forest HIlls, New York
Honoring an era
It certainly was a pleasure to read the section on World War II in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin.
The articles were interesting, varied, well written, and with good documentation. Especially nice were the photographs of the Kenyon men who gave their lives during the war; a couple of those fellows were friends of mine.
Particularly as we move into the twenty-first century, it is good to know that the Bulletin editors and the College seem to recognize what many of us World War II veterans feel--namely, that the whole war experience was a major watershed and an especially important focal point of many of our lives, and, indeed, of the whole twentieth century.
Thank you very much for a superior job of focusing attention on a significant and historic era, both for the nation and for Kenyon.
Henry A. Kittredge '45
Memories of Rudy Cutler
Thank you for the interesting Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin on World War II, "War Stories." It brought back a lot of memories.
I would, however, suggest one addition to your list of faculty members who played a significant role in the war.
Rudy Cutler, the College's athletic director and football coach, left Kenyon probably some time around 1943 or 1944 to serve in the Veterans Administration to help in the rehabilitation of seriously disabled veterans. We student veterans looked forward to seeing him when we returned to the College in 1946, but Rudy believed he would be more useful in continuing to assist those disabled veterans not as lucky as we healthy returnees. The details of his careers at Kenyon and the Veterans Administration must be in the files of the Bulletin.
Rudy's dedication and integrity touched all with whom he came in contact. His impact on us in the reserves in 1942-43 was unforgettable. He established the Kenyon Commandoes and ran all of us up and down the many hills surrounding Gambier. It must be noted that a few of the less dedicated escaped when he made the mistake of running our group past Jean's.
Rudy also gave us boxing lessons and conducted a boxing tournament just before we were called up. Our featherweight class included Andy Bliven '43, Ed Early '44, and Ed Stewart '45, who are featured in the article "Pro patria mori." "Jab and run" was our motto, or at least mine.
Frederick B. Arner '47
Down the Kenyon Path
The Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin, "War Stories," had an article about Kenyon and the US Air Force. One of the students in the program was responsible for my attending the College. After I had been discharged from the US Army and had returned to my home in Lima, Ohio, I was considering finishing college when a close friend who had attended Kenyon in his Air Force days strongly recommended the College.
His most influential argument was, "Fred, if you want to study, go to Kenyon; there's nothing else to do there but study." Being the type who would look for any excuse not to study, I decided this would be the place for me and applied immediately.
Not having heard anything from the College, I drove down to check out the disposition of my application, on the first weekend in May. The 1947 Spring Dance Weekend was in full swing (with a capital S), and I learned I had been accepted.
It didn't take long for me to discover that my high-school friend was wrong; there were other things to do, and I usually found them. I never made the honors list, and I strongly believe that John Chalmers (history) and Paul Titus (economics) agreed that neither wanted to list me as their major, so I appeared in the annual as a major in both.
Perhaps the most lasting advice I received from Kenyon was a line by President Gordon Keith Chalmers at a student assembly to the effect that you do not come to Kenyon to learn how to "make a living," you come to the College to learn how to live.
I did, and I have. I wouldn't exchange the Kenyon experience for anything. I have since run across alumni much younger than myself, and, from my conversations with them, I believe the Kenyon experience is continuing. How we need it in today's world.
I still thank my high-school friend for leading me down the Kenyon Path.
Fredrick J. Holdridge '50
My father recently sent each of us, his children, a copy of the flattering article ("Kenyon's War Correspondent") on our grandfather, Robert Bowen Brown, that was included in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin. I spent a fair amount of time in Gambier when I was young, and I'm always happy to have additional insights into my grandparents' lives there.
When I visited my father in Ohio recently, I had a chance to see the whole issue, and I want to compliment you on it. Just one small correction to the article: Robert B. Brown Jr. was my grandparents' younger son.
I also saw, in the July 1999 issue of Along Middle Path, the article on the naming of the Middle Path gardens in memory of Jim Hayes. I would've recognized him in a minute from his photograph, although it had been decades since I'd seen him.
When I was quite young, my grandparents used to send us to Jim Hayes's store to get the newspaper each morning of our visits. Jim always gave each of us a free candy bar, and for that reason and others, I have very warm memories of our interactions with him. I'm glad to see that he's being so well remembered in Gambier.
Evelyn Brown Newell
Memories of the Old Kenyon fire
The brief article in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin about the fire that destroyed Old Kenyon and killed nine students who lived in Middle Kenyon recalled to me some sad memories.
In 1950, I was a sophomore at the College. My roommate, Erik C. Ekedahl '52, now dead, and I were pledges of Alpha Delta Phi, housed in Old Kenyon's East Wing. We had moved into Old Kenyon that year, following a freshman year spent in the barracks area. However, because there was no room for us in East Wing, Erik and I occupied a room in the rear of the first floor of Middle Kenyon. Our room was immediately adjacent to East Wing, overlooking the Middle Kenyon patio. In those days, most upperclassmen who were not members of or pledged to a fraternity lived in Middle Kenyon. We referred to them as the Mu-Kaps.
The weekend of the fire was Sophomore Dance Weekend. After the dance, and after I had partied much too late into the night, I took my date to her sleeping quarters and returned to Old Kenyon. As I entered Middle Kenyon, I glanced to my right into the lounge. Although it was empty and the building was quiet, I noticed a flicker of flame on the far drape of the lounge's far window. I thought Erik was probably asleep in our room, so I first ran to our room, hammered on the door, and yelled, "Get out! Fire!" I then went to the basement for a fire extinguisher I knew was there.
When I returned with the fire extinguisher, I was greeted by dense smoke, heat, and flames as I reached the top of the stairs. As a result, I lost my eyebrows, my hair was singed, and my clothes were dirtied and torn by a fall. Nevertheless, I headed for Hanna Hall to call the fire department. There were lights on in Middle Hanna, where I had earlier attended a party in the Delta Phi lounge, and I knew the location of a telephone there. On my way to the phone, several students ran past me and asked where I was going. When I said to the Delta Phi lounge to call the fire department, they said the fire trucks were on the way. In a short time, the campus was swarming with firemen, as well as administrators, members of the faculty and staff, and local residents.
Since I had not seen Erik in the crowd, I was afraid he had been trapped in our room after all, so I began to search for him. I went first to North Leonard, where I found him, drinking beer in the Beta Theta Pi lounge, and heaved a sigh of relief.
But the fire raged on, of course, and Old Kenyon was destroyed. Nine students were killed, several in jumping from the second- and third-floor windows in Middle Kenyon.
My roommate and I were left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing. We had lost all of our possessions--books, cash, checkbooks, clothing, furniture, everything. Dean Frank Bailey, who did a remarkable job during and after the fire, had wired our parents that we were alive and well. As Erik lived in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, his father drove to Gambier to take him home, and I accompanied them. In Pittsburgh, Erik's father put me on a train to Brunswick, Maryland, then and now my home. Needless to say, despite my appearance, my parents were relieved to see me.
While on the train, I noticed that I was being stared at by a number of passengers. Finally, a couple seated across the aisle from me asked, "Were you in a fire?" When I answered, "Yes," they gasped and spoke in whispers to each other during most of the rest of the trip.
After being reprovisioned, Erik and I returned to Gambier. Those of us who had lived in Old Kenyon were placed in faculty homes and in the homes of other Gambier residents. Because of his heroic actions during and after the fire, Dean Bailey never fully recovered his former stamina. His already bad back problems were exacerbated by his efforts that night. By the way, Dean and Mrs. Bailey were marvelous people.
I also remember a number of other things from the fire. Several of the parents of students killed in the fire seemed certain that their sons had escaped from the fire and that they would be found lying in the woods behind Old Kenyon, either dead or badly injured. Consequently, groups of us were assigned to comb the woods for them. Of course, nothing was found. We were later told that the fire had been so intense that the College bell had melted completely. An imprint of the bell was found on what had been Old Kenyon's basement floor. Imprints of the bodies of several students who had perished in the fire were also found in that area.
When the walls of Old Kenyon were taken down, the stones were marked, numbered, and returned exactly to where they had been prior to the fire. As Old Kenyon had been built when Ohio was "Indian country," its walls had been constructed with a thickness of six feet. From the front and sides, Old Kenyon looks today just as it looked before the fire.
While Old Kenyon was being restored, the first page of an issue of the Kenyon Collegian carried a picture of President Gordon Keith Chalmers laying its cornerstone. The picture was captioned, "Chalmers Lays Stone." A later edition of the Collegian carried a first-page picture of a pretty young woman riding a bicycle, captioned "Miss Stone was recently in Gambier." President Chalmers was not amused.
Hon. William W. Wenner '52
Killed in action, missing from the Bulletin
Congratulations on the excellent articles about Kenyon men in World War II in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin. There were such fresh, intelligent faces among the forty-one casualties. The articles did a great job presenting these young men as individuals and not just statistics.
However, I was surprised not to see my uncle mentioned along with the College's other war dead. My uncle, James Holmes Dickerman, attended Springfield College in Illinois for two years before enrolling at Kenyon as a junior for what I believe was the 1940-41 academic year. Like many of his classmates at that time, he entered the U.S. Army at the end of that year, fully intending to return to the College and complete his studies after the war. He was killed in action at the battle of Leyte Gulf as American forces invaded the Philippine Islands.
By enrolling at Kenyon, I felt that in a way I was completing his unfinished business. I have also always thought of him as a Kenyon student and believe that he belongs among Kenyon's war dead.
Robert Dickerman '82
Further celebration of Robert Lowell
My commendations to Dan Laskin on his fine article on the Robert Lowell '40 celebration--and on his feature story on Charles McKinley '40--in the spring issue of the Bulletin.
On the "not-very-minus" side, I wish more time had been spent on the photo captions: the Kenyon Summer School of English deserves an article all by itself as it brought many contributors to the Kenyon Review to Gambier. The picture of Lowell reading, on page 14, was taken at the first (and only?) John Crowe Ransom memorial lecture. Ronald Sharp recalls that Lowell read little of his own work but recited "great poems" from memory. The photo of Lowell and Allen Tate in tuxedos, on page 15, was taken at Ransom's gala eightieth birthday party in 1968. The picture, by Truman Moore, appeared in Life. The gala's guests included Elizabeth Hardwick, David McDowell '40, Peter Taylor '40, and Robert Penn Warren, among others.
Finally, I wish there had been some way to work in two points:
1. Limited quantities of the poster and the keepsake book from the celebration are still available.
2. Anyone interested in knowing about or attending future Kenyon symposia should let the people in charge know!
Again, kudos on the article.
Richard H. Levey '68
Editor's note: Levey was a major benefactor of the Lowell celebration, which was also supported by the Shiffman Foundation, of which he is president. Those interested in obtaining a poster or keepsake book from the Lowell celebration should contact the Kenyon Review, Sunset Cottage, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022-9623, telephone 740-427-5208, for further information.
Kenyon is unfortunate indeed to have among its alumni a retired encyclopedia editor (me), who for forty-one years was paid to pick nits. Here are two from the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin:
Page 18. Charles McKinley '40 "and the eight other passengers huddled around the wireless that September 3 , listening to the prime minister, then stood for "God Save the Queen" out of respect for the British and Canadians on board." Well, maybe, but I suspect it was "God Save the King" that they stood for.
Page 71. The obituary of Virgil Aldrich says he was on the Kenyon faculty from 1949 to 1965. He was there in the fall of 1947 (see the 1948 Reveille, faculty section). He was also there in the fall of 1948 when I took his course in Ethics.
But all is forgiven. Of the five college alumni magazines that come into my house, Kenyon's is the best--and the others range from very good to excellent.
And now for something completely different. In the article "Kenyon celebrates Robert Lowell," there is a photo of Lowell with students at the Kenyon School of English. At upper right is the late Myron "Mike" Bloy '50. In a letter to me dated June 30, 1950, Mike had this to say about the gentleman in the center of the photo: "Lowell is very good; doesn't rely on critical categories, but to more or less rambling insights. This is confusing to many persons in the class who find it necessary to depend on categories for any sort of understanding. Lowell teaches as you would expect a poet to teach."
Douglas W. Downey '51
The Fall/Winter 1998 issue of the Bulletin entitled "Hello Columbus?" was saddening, maddening, but certainly interesting. At the risk of sounding the "way back when" alarm, I fondly remember bicycle rides along Yauger Road to photograph the farms, ending up at the edge of "Vernon" at the stop sign at Ohio 36 (Coshocton Road). Walker's, up on the Bishop's Backbone, was way out of town, but it was a worthy walk. Lower Gambier Road was a rough back way into town, past some rather seedy-looking houses, but it was easier than pedaling the bicycle up the big hill, for that beer run to Kilroy's.
I recently was in the Gambier environs, and I was sorely disappointed to see what's happened. As a prospective student, I chose Kenyon precisely because of its rural isolation. Gambier and Knox County offered something unique, well away from the cookie-cutter culture of other communities. There were, and are, a multitude of colleges and universities in "developed" communities.
Barring some major turn-around, where are Mount Vernon and Knox County headed? This isn't rocket science; just look at other small, college-related cities. I live near Marion, Findlay, and Tiffin, Ohio. At one time, all bore similarities to Mount Vernon, with academic institutions in town or nearby, not-too-distant big-city access, and a wealth of local flavor. Now all three have been infected with the "bubonic plague" of K-Mart, Kroger, McDonalds, and all the rest. All three now have dead or dying downtowns, a worn-out, paved-over mallish shopping area that continues to expand outward as new buildings fill and old buildings deteriorate, and a local population that finds the major shopping areas of Toledo and Columbus close enough for those big shopping trips.
Who lives in these towns now? A transient upper-middle class that uproots when the job demands (after all, one Wal-Mart town looks just like the next one), and a permanent lower-middle class that, in times of economic down-turn, becomes a low enough economic class that a certain physical unattractiveness creeps in when funds for services and maintenance cannot be found. I can't help but recall E.L. Doctorow's town of Hard Times. Is the Bad Man unstoppable?
The truly rural culture and setting are what Kenyon, Gambier, Mount Vernon, and Knox County have to trade on. If that is lost, what used to be an island of beauty in a suburban sea becomes just another outpost of bad taste. The cancer of suburban development has to be stopped, controlled, eradicated. John Rohe, in "A Bicentennial Malthusian Essay," uses the analogy of the lily pond, in which the lily population doubles every day. On the day the pond is half-full of lilies, each individual lily sees that there is still plenty of space to grow and stretch out. I am afraid that Kenyon College and Gambier may be in that half-full pond.
Phillip P. Smith '80
Upper Sandusky, Ohio
In the sidebar article entitled "The faculty and the war effort" in the Spring 1999 issue of the Bulletin, Muriel Barker Kahrl was incorrectly identified as the wife of George F. Kahrl. She was, in fact, married to George's brother, William Kahrl.
Also, as suggested in the letter from Douglas W. Downey '51 (and comments from several other readers), Charles McKinley '40 and his fellow passengers indeed stood for "God Save the King" in 1939 ("Charles McKinley '40: Exemplar of a life well lived").
We regret the errors.
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