LEADERS AND ISSUES
SOUTHERN OREGON COLLEGE,
1963 to 1980
VAUGHN DAVIS BORNET, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of History and Social Science, and Chairman, Social Sciences Division, Southern Oregon College
178 contemporaries are mentioned herein. .
PO Box 534, Pollock Pines, CA.95726
NOTICE: Once again, this publication has been carefully edited and its judgments sometimes modified by the author in the light of comments. It has been gone over to some extent by various individuals who “were there” and by others who once were a part of Southern Oregon College. Even so, accountability for any and all opinions and for the inclusion or exclusion of subject matter resides with ye author. It is always the case that The Truth is hard to establish; then it is hard to offer in responsible prose. The effort has been made for a considerable period of time. Perhaps the final result will largely satisfy coming generations of readers.
Copyright, Library of Congress, 2007
Vaughn Davis Bornet
Copyright, Library of Congress, 2012
Vaughn Davis Bornet
All Rights Reserved
LEADERS AND ISSUES
SOUTHERN OREGON COLLEGE
1963 to 1980
To Beth W. Bornet—companion of these busy years.
A cultured person, indispensible family member, community leader
and cheerful volunteer, I love remembering her through these pages.
What goes on outside the classroom, in faculty and chair-persons’ offices, in the inner chambers of presidents and deans, at a typical state or private college? Is it placid? Or is there built in concern about curriculum, job security and tenure, and indispensible freedoms…? What kinds of things worry faculty members: details of The System? The continuity of one’s presence on the campus? What should be joined to please others, building consensus? Is thought given to what is taught and to how it is taught?
This is an account by one who spent nearly two decades on the faculty at a state college in the Northwest 31 to 48 years ago. It is casual—yet emotional; it can be jovial—yet deadly serious. It is specific—yet full of generalizations. Its purpose is twofold: to reveal the inner history of a single institution in mountainous Oregon, but at the same time to portray part of a single lifetime in some detail. That individual’s career was one focused on lifelong research and scholarship. It developed into a rounded academic life deeply affected by minutia and diverted now and then by leaders, colleagues, and other individuals with unfamiliar agendas.
There is much here that is personal not just to the author but to many who passed his way. Many who are mentioned here are gone but clearly not really forgotten. The audience for this reminiscence may well be surviving members of the faculty, administration, and student body of this college who live on from the overall Vietnam era and after. It is alumni of the college. Hopefully, it is some in the public with curiosity about academia who want “the inside story”—so far as there is one. For all such conceivable readers, while conscious of the impossibility of pleasing everybody; certain sure that the effort is more than worthwhile; the author cheerfully offers this final enriched postscript to his memories of one college.
Vaughn Davis Bornet Ashland, Oregon
A NOTE REGARDING EDITIONS OF THIS BOOK
This reminiscence has remained much the same through various revisions, but new insights have emerged as time passed. So it is that a few subjects have been added, and additional details try to amplify and clarify some old ones.
An important addition is the Name Index, which now includes 178 names of contemporaries.
Much that is mulled over here can be enlarged on by others. This writer also has memories that did not make it into these pages.
Overall, this final book (May, 2012) seems to be just about the ultimate that I choose to offer the public on this subject. It will have to stand in the Future as my last word on the leaders I knew long ago and the issues we contemplated and more or less resolved during our time in the academic sunshine.
V. D. B.
Southern Oregon College—now Southern Oregon University—was once a normal school intended to train future teachers. It has grown to have multiple goals. The campus is blessed with sequoia and oak planted acreage that is green most of the year and brilliant in autumn, a place that offers a view of the mountains of the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges across the valley. The institution is in a climate that is a bit gentle with its heat in the summer and seldom really frigid in the winter. Indeed, the locale in the pleasant town of Ashland now makes recruits for faculty positions eager to spend their careers right here. The college we recall—SOC—is considered by perceptive leaders to be a major player in the Oregon State System of Higher Education. It is the centerpiece of my essay on educational leaders and issues that thrived on Siskiyou Boulevard so many decades ago.
This reminiscence, amounting to a personalized historical account of administrators, faculty, staff, and students in a small college environment, has been written almost entirely from memory by one who was part of the developing scene at the time and found the experience stimulating, entertaining, and (as will be apparent) sometimes upsetting. After long pushing the subject to one side, I finally decided in August, 2007 to begin to write down much of what I recall about Southern Oregon College in the era of the nineteen sixties and seventies (1963 to 1980). In those years I was a faculty member and administrator in what was destined to become the only major university south of Eugene, Oregon and north of the California state line. It turned out to be a pleasure to relive most of my memories of this venerable Jackson County institution. I hoped with publication to contribute substantially to knowledge of yesterday’s higher education in Oregon, and spread awareness of how higher education actually functions in America.
Inevitably, there is much in this 26,662 word essay that was experienced exclusively by this writer. Welcome, dear reader: Old timers will recognize the names of many who are mentioned or dwelt on in this narrative. You will probably have given little thought to at least some of the issues I discuss. And whether you planned it or not, you will be reading my opinions on many subjects–and will have the opportunity to dispute them (at least in your own mind). Sometimes, I fear, candor in revelation may offend. One regrets that. Still, let’s develop some anticipation for what we’re going to be talking about.
Early in this new century (2002) there appeared a nicely illustrated and well-organized book that sought to recreate the history of Southern Oregon University from its beginning to late in the 20th century. It emerged from a decade of intermittent effort by Arthur Kreisman, a longtime Liberal Arts professor and dean at the institution who was there from 1946 to 1981. During much of his long tenure he enjoyed a front row center office in Churchill Hall. His book was a SOU Foundation funded project and a retirement activity. He obviously enjoyed his handling of old catalogs and other source materials, his interviews, and the opportunity to recreate old memories. His book, Remembering,* usually reflects the author’s customary cheerful outlook. An assignment carried through professionally by one who taught English for several generations, it filled a gap in College history with flair. It deserves being bought and read for its memories.
My participant’s essay, here, on the institutional history of Southern Oregon College when it developed rapidly into a modern institution, will keep the existing account in mind. Yet that book is mostly about the nineteenth and early twentieth century era of institutional development. (It gives 100 pages to 1869 to 1960; 37 from that date through 1999. About 6 ½ pages of print deal with the period I treat here.) That decision to focus on the 19th and early 20th Century helped in making the decision that my long essay, though essentially on the Vietnam era and its aftermath, could make a contribution. Individuals are here on whom he is silent. Among subjects treated here are many on which he lacked room or the interest to handle in depth.
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The author of this account will always be that outsider who came to Ashland during the Christmas holidays of 1962-63, met a handful of leaders at the College, had breakfast at the home of President Elmo Stevenson, and was chauffeured by my host up and down the Boulevard. I met some administrators for what seemed virtually idle chatter. Not yet fully convinced when I checked out of the Mark Anthony Hotel’s radiator-heated room, I was offered the chance to be hired officially by presidential telegram a few hours after I arrived back home in Santa Monica. Though only a few lines, it used the word “tenure” and I idly assumed it meant what it said. (I had no idea then that in the coming locale the word “permanent” needed to be incorporated to mean what I thought it was saying. It did seem clear enough that I was to be a full professor and chairman of what was about to be before too long a fifth of the SOC campus apparatus. Gathering a few possessions I quickly departed Santa Monica alone in my good wife’s car, a turquoise Volkswagen convertible.
*Arthur Kreisman, Remembering: A History of Southern Oregon University (Eugene: University of Oregon Press, 2002). 137 pages. Illustrated.
So that was how Dr. Bornet was in Ashland as an officed and titled fait accompli when everybody came back a week later for the winter quarter. I believe I had met nobody in the Social Sciences. Their acquiescence was irrelevant or thought to be irrelevant or just inconvenient. Maybe the whole social sciences faculty was out of town for the holidays. I came to believe, eventually, that the Administration folks feared open resistance to the hiring of the entirely atypical new chairman and maybe to his outsized rank, one not earned “the hard way” (teaching continuously in colleges from instructor on up). Anyway: welcome to academia—and good fortune attend ye.
Newcomer Bornet had hardly discussed his teaching years with the official who would soon become the Dean of Faculty, for it was his role as administrator and figure in the greater community and leader in social science that had chiefly occupied initial conversations. Therefore it was a shock to find that the “needs” of the suddenly growing college meant that it was with a straight face that he was informed that he would be teaching, for “awhile,” 15 hours, the same as non-administrative faculty! The year’s courses would be a combination of all of Western Civilization in a survey and all of the common year-long survey of American History! Except for Asia and Africa, it was most of human history. Still, he had done it before—15 years earlier.
How could this be happening? Shortly, it was intimated that after two quarters he would get a one course reduction. Good, but…. Meanwhile, there would be summer session on his 12-month contract, and giving graduate credit courses for returning teachers. Apparently SOC intended to get their money’s worth. An early reader of this account has inquired if Vaughn planned to enjoy teaching after years of research and limited teaching. In retrospect, respondent believes the question never occurred to him as he faced forward, beset with two children transitioning to Ashland High School from giant Santa Monica schools (where his son had a Negro history teacher and his daughter marched in the Rose Bowl parade). In the first few minutes on the Boulevard his daughter learned that one Arthur Kreisman from the SOC English Department had advised, strongly and successfully, that Latin be abandoned at the high school. She would have to take the rest of her fourth year as a UCal extension course!
Eighteen blocks from Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean surf, my dear wife Beth, who had lived with her scholar husband in clearly sophisticated Alameda and Oakland, Miami, Menlo Park, Glen Ellyn (suburb of Chicago), and Santa Monica after growing out of Susanville (California) and then Reno, privately shed a few tears, I was later informed. “You are taking me to another [remote] Susanville,” she exclaimed. Of course we were totally unaware of the happy evolution that time had in mind for tiny and obscure Ashland beyond the Siskiyou Pass. At the time I-5 the new highway wasn’t quite finished, signboards were common, the Britt Festival was not created, Howard Prairie Resort wasn’t built–and neither were over 20 buildings on the College campus.
I arrived in that something of a frontier town of 11,000 native and adopted Oregonians with a not unimpressive background on paper, one that included university teaching and experience with the wartime military and large nonprofit organizations. My sketch first appeared in Who’s Who in America seven years earlier. In fall, 1962, I had been reluctantly “budgeted out” by my prestigious employer, The RAND Corporation, the noted think tank; but I still worked routinely in my office and was still on the payroll. (Explanation: as its Historian, I was then classified as “administration” and the Air Force (which had demanded “history”) switched gears and said bluntly to cut such “overhead” areas way back. There was no rush, but I and others had to depart.) I would be taking my three published books and Distinguished Service Award from the American Heart Association and that Stanford Ph.D. with me. (My boss there, a pioneer employee, would finally be liquidated in similar budget-cutting. He sued. But well before that, he brought me back for meaningful archival and historical work for all of my sabbatical summer of 1969.) It is not surprising after more than a decade of nonprofit corporation employment that I developed insights into the organization and affairs of SOC, the new locale I had chosen for life and work for years to come. But back to College affairs!
*** *** ***
Southern Oregon College on Siskiyou Boulevard was in the early 1960s a small, quiet, and friendly place for students and faculty that educated modest numbers of male and female students in an education and liberal arts curriculum. It gave them ample contact with a faculty permanently ensconced in Ashland. After my retirement in 1980, a feature of my golfing encounters with miscellaneous old duffers was their prompt and sentimental mentioning of old time faculty by name and very personally. SONS (Normal School) alumni appreciated what they got from the struggling Ashland institution in their years of matriculation, and they apparently wouldn’t have had it any other way.
In the early 1960s the College of which we speak did not yet have its Drama building, its Education building, its new Science building, a Computer headquarters, Taylor Hall for the social sciences, a Central Hall converted to a Business building, the Music building, Stevenson Union, all those dormitories, or a model Library with its easy chairs, mountain views, and a snack bar. Britt needed expensive maintenance. The Library was, well, bare bones.
Southern Oregon College then consisted academically of five Divisions. I would venture to rank them in order of “interest and importance” to the president and persons of consequence (considered by some criterion or other) as: Education, Science, PE, Business, Humanities, and Social Science. The ranking is not scientific, but it is not far off. Changes were coming, but the deanships already to be found at University of Oregon and Oregon State University, and soon to be granted Portland State University (with their $2,000 annual increases to the administrative chairmen about to become instant deans) did not exist at the Eastern, Western, and Southern colleges. That’s life.
Things seemed temporary in the early 1960s. Churchill Hall needed a top to bottom overhaul. Attending a faculty meeting in its upstairs auditorium was a depressing experience. Britt, a former basketball locale, was in disrepair and friendless. The perfunctory Library was jammed into multipurpose Central Hall and could not expand beyond its space stingy boundaries. Adequate grandstands for cheering football audiences, and decent dressing rooms for the players, lay somewhere in the future. There was no swimming pool. Suzanne Holmes Hall was then a central location. Overall, the 1963 College we are recalling had a plant that was not ready to get serious growth in students.
What that College transitioning in Ashland did have was an able and serious faculty and an organization that over the years had become fully able to offer worthwhile classes of 4-year college level. That somewhat middle aged faculty (it does seem to me in retrospect) was, well, responsible. Some students were being housed, and those commuting from home or rented quarters could park more or less in the vicinity of their classes. The loyalty of alumni was quite noticeable. Though the following judgment is trite, it is still easy to assert with some justification that what the College on Siskiyou Boulevard then lacked in physical resources of almost every kind, it strove to make up with integrity at the grass roots and extra effort in faculty-student relations.
*** *** ***
Why should anybody still have such a comprehensive memory of the growth, development, and tribulations of this small institution from 1963 to 1980? It is true that Bornet gained these insights by virtue of chairmanship of its Social Sciences Division for well over a decade, participation as a major player in its summer sessions, manager of one of its buildings, director of social sciences graduate programs, and professor of history and social sciences. My life in those years also involved frequent interaction with the greater Rogue Valley community, including membership after 1963 in the Ashland Rotary Club. I developed into an Ashland citizen and a college figure with an “observation post.” A revealing account of intimate matters appears in my autobiography An Independent Scholar in Twentieth Century America (Talent, OR: Bornet Books, 1995), 382 pages, illustrated, chapters XVIII and XIX.
When our newcomer entered his new position the unit he was to administer was simply called “social science.” That seemed a high school type term to which one quickly added an “s.” The group consisted of fulltime faculty organized into a single entity with about a dozen overworked teachers. They aspired to being departmentalized by specialties, each having its own chairman with a load allowance. They anticipated that far off happy era with unrestrained ardor. Two of them had hoped to be named division chairman when I was imported in 1963, and outspoken Frank Haines had actually served for an unhappy week in the post before being ousted by an angry president. We faculty shared a secretary from Extension, begrudging and ad hoc, and we resided primitively in Myrtlewood Hall, a wooden barracks building moved from old Camp White. Even though virtually slumming then, I chose to envision better days ahead, for a new building had been designed and was about to be built, and vague promises made to me early on seemed plausible enough.
*** *** ***
Perhaps as we necessarily begin to focus repeatedly on Elmo Stevenson, “Elmo” as powerful president, it will be permissible and revealing to relate that as Bornet considered in December 1962 whether to make the thousand mile journey north from Santa Monica to be interviewed for the SOC position, he was strongly advised against making any contact by a History chairman in a California state university who had been offered the job and refused. My former library office-mate at Stanford Library, 1948-51, then tenured at Chico, revealed ominously that he had learned that Elmo Stevenson’s authoritarian presence at the top made the College unacceptable to anybody with a concern for academic freedom. Another individual in Los Angeles who had grown up locally and had familiarity with Churchill Hall was equally unenthusiastic. Soon one would learn that they were describing reality. In addition to the burden of that interventionist president, there would turn out to be three major problems that the recipient of nine college years couldn’t eat: I was not an “educator” and didn’t act like one. I was not an old timer in Ashland or at the College. Also, I couldn’t avoid the aspect of “big city boy.” Although one had never felt the slightest need to think of himself in any such ways, it does seem to be a description of that time and place, one to be accepted and danced around.
My role as a College leader should not be overemphasized whatever the number of paragraphs offered here to the covering of its activities. Nor is it claimed that vast amounts of additional anecdotal material still rest in my head, untold. Even so, SOC (as we termed it until State was added) had a considerable tradition of—may I say—secrecy within its administrative halls. In such a place, an institution constantly strapped for money, knowledge of the passing scene helped one to maintain, if not real power, at least the ability to function—and maybe to remain on the payroll when others didn’t. One soon got to know useful things. But I remained void on such pertinent matters as: For what would SOC Foundation funds ever be spent? How were extra expenditures on the academic and the athletic balanced equitably? What procedures would be used to choose new presidents? Who in the community had “access” on important subjects affecting faculty? Such questions have retained their interest.
*** *** ***
Before continuing, we really should summarize what the attractive book Remembering tells us with charm. Revealed there is how a community effort in a frontier town in 1869 gave birth to an educational enterprise that some thirteen decades later would achieve the name Southern Oregon University. Enroute, it is evident that blood, sweat and frustration accompanied the struggles of townspeople, presidents, and faculty to educate all who sought to become teachers or came to seek other occupations. Certain of the book’s characteristics quickly struck this reader favorably. One is the orderly basic outline: the first 76 pages go to the First, Second, and Third “Incarnations,” bringing the narrative to 1946. The rest of the volume treats The Stevenson Years, Becoming a University, and a few later developments. Those very extensive illustrations are commendable but must compete with the prose for the limited space, especially in the part of the book devoted to subjects of interest in this essay. The author says his book was “a joy to work on.”
Remembering offers information not available or readily knowable until its writing and publication. A. G. Walling’s rare and rambling History of Southern Oregon (1884) was useful in creating early pages, while college catalogs, annual presidential reports, and the author’s memory were central to most chapters. All presidents are sketched, and many faculty and some Ashlanders are portrayed, with identifications. That distant history of Southern Oregon University is both a cheering and a depressing tale: a normal school getting created out of thin air with grass roots faith and determination, only to be handicapped as the years passed by knifing of some (even ALL) of state appropriations needed to survive. One gnashes….
In 1884 the Tidings said those up north in Oregon “studiously ignore the fact that there is a State Normal School in Ashland.” Dr. Kreisman judges, “Apparently, ACNS was headed downhill from the outset.” The Academy, Academy and Normal School, State Normal School, College of Education, State College, and now University were short-sheeted by the people’s legislators in Salem for the century and a quarter since 1882. It is a matter for astonishment that such leaders as William Thomas Van Scoy, W. M. Clayton, Benjamin F. Mulkey, Harry Shafer, Julius Alonzo Churchill, and Walter Redford hung in there. They kept the virtually bankrupt institution more or less afloat in the face of undependable church allocations and downright stingy appropriations from the people’s representatives in Salem. With the departure of Walter Redford from the presidency on January 1, 1946 Southern Oregon College of Education lost a fine man, in my opinion. He was charming to and with me.
Ever there was that Oregon State System, centered on the university campus in Eugene. Its State Board, the one that in 2006 couldn’t find anywhere several million dollars to keep Southern Oregon University intact in the biennium, happily accepted in 2007 a gift of some $100,000,000 earmarked to build a basketball court and shore up athletics in general at the University of Oregon. One has to be approving of the generous gesture. At the same time, may we be outraged as SOU (part of the same System) continues to kill or maim some of its major academic programs and fire essential faculty and staff? La Grande might have to fire 35 faculty, one read in 2007. Meanwhile, far off Oregon State University is able to raise sizable amounts for itself from urbanized Oregon. Yet, withal, the University of Oregon Press in the new century was allowed to die a quiet death, leaving only the science-dedicated Oregon State University Press as an OSU favoring outlet for the State’s book writing faculty.
One might just as well inquire at this point: what kind of a state was and is Oregon? If it didn’t intend to support the universities in La Grande, Monmouth, and Ashland in a professional manner, why did it create them? Their real estate and physical plants certainly comprise a sizable investment. As one looks penetratingly at the history of SOU, an educational institution located hundreds of miles from the seats of monetary power in Oregon (Portland, Salem, Eugene), it is obvious that Higher Education facilities in Ashland were created without the full commitment of the citizenry of the state of Oregon, especially those who reside in solvent cities “up state.” Maybe, as some think (but it can be rejected), the regional colleges now universities have just over expanded by taking on too many exotic programs. Is modern SOU being unrealistic to hope for adequate funding over the long term? Let’s hope not! But I digress, even as I venture truths that need general and repeated airing.
*** *** ***
Some common problem areas for American faculty do have to be discussed here as they applied to our College of long ago. For decades it was the practice for this teaching locale to employ some faculty and administrators for 12 months at the same salary scale as the northern one’s instructors had for 10 months. (The half-truth excuse: “University faculty have to do research.”) The faculty teaching load at SOC was 15 credit hours as the Fifties became the Sixties, when the national standard at public colleges was typically 12 and at universities was 9 or for the famous even less. Thus: everybody on full time at the regional colleges taught five courses per quarter instead of four. Teaching more than 15 credits from time to time was not unheard of at SOC. My predecessor, Arthur Taylor, once even taught 21 course hours (7 classes!). Still, the 12 hour standard was achieved in the 1960s, along with grudging load allowances for teaching administrators.
Do recall: the tiny College was nearly eliminated by the manpower drain of World War II. It seized on every enrollable body in the postwar years to add students. Lower Division class size grew at the College in all too many instances through the years from the low 20s to the number of chairs that could be made to fit the classroom. Unlike the case at major universities, all are aware, faculty and teaching administrators at SOC taught real loads and had students filling their seats, certainly in the lower division. Division chairmen did their share. In all, during my 17 years as 12-month contract faculty member at SOC (17 summers!), I taught 23 different courses, from freshman to graduate level, in a variety of departments. (All in all I was not unhappy with the great variety, which brought continuous personal learning.)
*** *** ***
Smiling President Elmo Stevenson must be featured by all who write on the College. He was central. All should know that handsome rancher-educator, the post-war builder of the modern college who served 1946 to 1969, brought untold energy and determination with him when he arrived in the first year of the G.I. Bill. I was always glad my office and teaching were not within Churchill Hall, which housed administrative offices, including his. The president’s space, registrar and admissions, business office, and deans were all, happily, far away from me. Outgoing chairman Taylor said repeatedly to an uncomprehending Bornet: “Vaughn, you’ll have to spend a lot of time hanging around in the halls of Churchill.” Never did one do that, voluntarily, anyway.
The history of the College and the biography of botany enthusiast and educator Stevenson are intertwined. Growth in foreign students was possible in his years, for he often treated our Kenyan and Nigerian students with enthusiasm, and he joined with Mrs. Stevenson in hosting in their home a handsome Ethiopian student for much more than a year. Later, President and Mrs. James Sours befriended an entrepreneurial Turkish student for a very long time before he finally departed Ashland. If there were few Negro (about to be termed Black) students at SOC, the reason lay primarily in distance from urban minority students and the traditionally inhospitable climate for them in much of Oregon. Some young men were imported for their football potential, but a male/female balance was hard to obtain. I sought out Sherwood Roberts in Law Enforcement, (a Methodist from India via USC) to be SOC’s first dark skinned faculty member. He evolved into a friend of ours and one whose home was a pleasure to visit; sadly, his life was short, but his well educated children have lived on.
Publications by faculty, whether they were major or minor, brought few or no benefits to the proud author, while arousing something like zero interest in that rancher/president. Did he think a load allowance for research would be desertion of the students? Wouldn’t teaching students be unduly neglected while creating that mere book? In one case he pushed a just published volume of mine to one side, unopened, and said, “Good. I’ll give it to the Library.” Yet the president himself had published in earlier years, especially for juveniles. His titles included Nature Rambles (1937), Nature Games Book (1941), Key to the Nests of Pacific Coast Birds (1941), Pets: Wild and Western (1953), and he co-authored a text with a biology professor. None of this, one opines, made him even remotely at home bonding with a “fellow author.”
The forgiving, bordering on empathetic, picture of “Elmo” in Remembering’s pages is of an old style dynamo–a more flattering portrait than emerges in my far longer (and much more candid) autobiography, An Independent Scholar in Twentieth Century America. Our bottom line in both books is oddly similar. Kreisman—whose office was just across the hall from the President—judges: “During this period [his years] everyone was directly responsible to the president. If faculty members wanted or needed anything, they went to the president. Stevenson knew what everyone was doing. Some felt this was too autocratic. And yet, in my experience, no faculty member with an idea or a project was ever turned down, but was instead given whatever help possible. This continued for many years, even after some departments were created.”
Later, he explains, a bit tactfully: “Since arriving, Stevenson had taken command of all aspects of the School’s administration. He knew where everyone was, what the problems were, and what to do. That worked well in a small school. He was able to run it out of his vest pocket. But SOC had grown substantially larger over the years. Stevenson did not seem to realize that with more than 3,000 students, no single person could run the entire institution.” That he controlled policy, in fact, was entirely evident to even casual observers.
In 1966 the totally fed up Faculty Senate resigned, for it “became increasingly unhappy” with their erratic boss in Churchill Hall. Although Elmo’s publicly released perception was (as always) that “faculty spirit is good,” we are told in Remembering that leaders “could no longer accept being ignored by the administration which did not listen to their recommendations and took actions without their knowledge or consent. They felt useless and slighted.” (p. 105) Their president’s controlling conduct was to become directly responsible for the development of a faculty trade union.
The union’s growth in that era is not well known to me, but I was unenthusiastic. How could I be accepting of a Senate, or cheer on a faculty Union, when the leaders of both sought to bypass established College administrative machinery–department chairs, division heads, and deans alike? But I did not attack the union publicly and had nothing to do with it or the Senate either as friend or adversary. Their focus was on presidential power. I stood aside at the time, maybe conceptualizing myself as a “professional” not a “union man” and as management, not labor. One didn’t seem to have a dog in that fight! (I did, and would duly find out!) Now it all seems so long ago….
Does existing prose about the College anywhere, including in present-day press releases, try to remember yesterday’s key individuals so as to give them the credit they deserve? For reasons that need not concern us, the necessary answer has to be in the negative. This professional historian will be giving his attention to a coterie of SOC leaders who—for whatever reason–get little attention in Remembering. Once virtual pioneers, they and their works are being totally forgotten as the years pass. Maybe it can’t be helped. Anyway, under these circumstances, I wish to exalt the achievements of several Southern Oregon College leaders of my day—real movers and shakers.
First and most important, there is Don Lewis, the competent administrator in charge of physical plant including buildings. He was a knowledgeable manager of the visible College and of financial matters. He somehow endured the complaints of faculty when the meager funds of the modern college were inadequate to their assigned burden–which was all the time. He handled details attending construction of 27 buildings–nearly all the modern buildings of which observers of the campus are now so proud! Probably most of his work was unknown to most faculty.
Lewis dealt with frequent charges by local merchants that the College was moving in on their profit opportunities—in housing, dining, entertainment, and other areas. Unfortunately, he is remembered by more than a few faculty and staff as one who had to say “no” to things that cost money he didn’t have. Lewis was the College contact with Jack Hundrup in the Chancellor’s office. He played a guitar at faculty outings (at the ranch house Katydid off Crater Lake Highway, for example), lending a light touch. His capable business manager was Rick Mattos. The College was extremely fortunate when Don Lewis was very ably succeeded by Ron Bolstad, a well informed executive who served the College much like his predecessor and developed into president of the Ashland Rotary Club (as did Dean Esby McGill before him).
Second, the basic history of today’s university must include that very leader, Esby McGill, Dean of Faculty and an absolutely central College administrator from 1960 to 1977. Without this dedicated workaholic the wheels of academic administration would not have turned. The vast services to SOC of this educator (an economist) who became Rotary District Governor and unpaid mentor for founders of various Valley businesses after 1980 didn’t make it into Dean Kreisman’s pages. Innumerable decisions McGill had to make, or made just because he wanted to, were often unpopular with SOC faculty and administrators with different agendas and priorities. I would claim he was allowed to have too much to say, definitely, about who got hired, campus wide, although in Elliott MacCracken, educator and chairman of Science, he met a real match.
McGill stayed out of athletics decisions because they were presidential level across the hall; otherwise, he was into everything academic and always had to be taken into consideration—or else. He was the contact person with powerful Miles C. Romney at the Chancellor’s Office. My considered opinion is that he had few qualms about pushing people around, that is to say, people’s feelings were not inevitably a first consideration for that go-getting dean.
In his decades, workaholic Dean McGill gave final editing to all new program proposals and personally presented them to the Chancellor and/or the Board, usually bringing what passed for success, “up State.” But he was responsible for any number of innovations in curriculum, either by his own initiative or his dogged determination to force SOC’s views onto a State Board that found indifference an acceptable posture to take toward its remote institution of higher learning. I think that McGill came to the Valley with the plausible idea that with luck he could succeed Stevenson as president. (And, he thought that my secret goal! A silly idea for me; but he was qualified. He was ably succeeded by Dean Ernest Ettlich (with a new title).
McGill had ability to spare, but he couldn’t help being a smiling authoritarian. There was a time, maybe oddly, when the two of us considered writing a book together to be called “College Administration.” We never actually tried. My cocky remark to him in that connection that “what you don’t know, I do” rings oddly in my ears. We spent our time in those years—he at his level, I at mine, curriculum building, hiring/firing, trying to sway the gregarious rancher president—feeling our oats. Department chairpersons, meanwhile, labored with a multitude of responsibilities that required leadership, though there was little uniformity.
College histories need tributes to the deans who deal exclusively with students, in our case Al Fellers, Mary Christlieb, and Bob Bennett—overworked veterans of the 12 hour day lifestyle considered appropriate for such administrators by the State and SOC’s presidential leadership of the 1950s and 1960s. Fellers and Christlieb certainly seemed totally dedicated to students and were part of the president’s team. Bennett solved many an academic or personal problem among foreign students. He, like McGill, rose to Rotary president.
Administration of Stevenson Union and the college food service and dormitories was handled splendidly in my years with the College, but I fear it is normally taken for granted by observers, as is campus security. Phil Campbell was a friend-making staff member (food, lodging) who made the whole college a pleasanter and in some ways a more professional place.
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Intercollegiate athletics crossed my horizon now and then during those SOC years, but I am among the last to be able to make any useful generalizations about the coaches, teams, and faculty that built College football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, tennis, and the rest, including (gradually) women’s athletic programs. A balanced account would be worthwhile, but this will not be the place for it. Early on, the president was invasive in his insistence that faculty like me be present at sports events; while my wife and I were not exactly unhappy spectators, we didn’t appreciate the duress.
I had always looked on sports as a participation rather than spectator activity. Coaches like Al Akins in football, department chairmen like Gerald Insley, and longtime PE faculty like Bev Bennett, and many others were absolutely essential to College morale, recruiting, and reputation in my two decades and, indeed, throughout much of its history. My relatively rigorous grading kept me from having more than a handful of athletes in my classes–just as that trait dissuaded faculty advisers from placing foreign students in my classes.
It is an incontrovertible fact that some well-meaning faculty advisers played a role in making my isolation from athletes inevitable. One problem I had was that very early I went along with terminating a young MS-holding faculty member whose charitable grading notoriously attracted dozens of the athletically inclined to his class rosters. My predecessor as chairman (Taylor) said to me, “Be sure to get rid of him,” but it was an act that invited retribution. (I felt better when I helped that athletes’ friend get placed at a small college.) I treasure the seven months I knew Arthur Taylor before his passing in August, 1963 and befriended his daughter Georgia partly in his memory for decades.
A variety of civil service staff were singularly important to the growth and development of SOC. Close to home, Elizabeth Wilson became all that I hoped for when I hired her away from the head of Elk Lumber Company as permanent executive secretary of the Social Sciences Division. (She was a product of UC, experienced, but not at all the youthful image the faculty wanted. Their wishes had to be ignored.) She, and individuals with similar responsibilities on campus–many of whom I recall for services they performed hourly, daily, and monthly through the years, like Rae Sargenti in Liberal Arts–made all kinds of progress possible. In the Sours Administration they were the ones who put Division and Department files in apple pie order for transfer to archives in the Library. There they sit: a record of precisely how we managed to get our new departments and those new degrees authorized; paperwork on new faculty we hired, and problems surmounted enroute. Fiercely loyal staff make archives and so much else possible, in this matter creating living history.
Sometimes a division chairperson must meet the faculty head on. I admit to putting unwelcome pressure on some in our Division to finish up their doctorates so they could in time move onward and upward—and not outward! Sometimes I wondered what those who dragged their feet the most had expected from an academic life lived without a terminal degree. As deadlines approached, most forged ahead to do what was so decidedly good for them. Consequently, they ended up thousands of dollars (and promotion entitlement) ahead in the years after they got those long delayed diplomas–thus qualifying for both promotions and long postponed tenure.
Several times in the evening the chairman endured tongue lashing on the phone from frustrated faculty who thought themselves underpaid, underappreciated, and unfairly under duress. (Since several factors and a variety of individuals at several levels had influence over salaries, there were many misunderstandings and frustrated expectations on that matter; it could not be helped. Explanations were seldom appropriate, not even welcomed. Impossible situations arose, like three or four geographers sitting down together to divide up a pot of raise money among them!)
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One of the things that takes an outsized amount of faculty time is preparation of new courses. Sometimes existing courses need to be updated. Other times the need is for something entirely new both to the teacher and the future students. It is out of the question to offer the same old curriculum year after dreary year, when the faculty member knows perfectly well that professional journals have articles with all kinds of new information, even new ways of arranging and presenting that which is old. Indeed, one form of academic research is that devoted to building coursework, as experienced faculty know full well. That process is an obligation of faculty membership, and it is a pleasure to mention and pay tribute to it here.
May I be permitted to offer a few words indicating the entirely unanticipated influence a single individual like me can have in unobtrusively bringing structured change of several kinds to an institution, step by small step? That new chairman came to Ashland after a life lived in ultra serious organizations (and on classy fellowships). It was not surprising, therefore, that I sought to build a respectable, permanent, and thought provoking social sciences structure, in depth, on Siskiyou Boulevard. I was obsessed with building intellectuality.
Soon I was successful in getting coursework and instructors for theory in each Social Science discipline. Intellectual history, social theory, political theory, economic theory, and, in law enforcement, a required course in Constitutional Law got authorized and staffed. This guaranteed a degree of depth in ideas and vocabulary among our majors.
It was made clear to the patient chairman of History, Fred Rosentreter, that I envisioned our History Department offering real “coverage.” English history was already in good hands. Now Asian history, Latin American history, ancient history, nineteenth century Europe, and Russia and the Soviet Union were requested of the State and authorized after maximum pressure from Taylor Hall. But there were failures: nobody in History showed any interest as I tentatively sought, in vain, to innovate with Business History and History of Education in our Division. (These could have really filled the seats!)
It was only natural—though totally unexpected–that some historians hoped the Division Chairman (a historian from stem to stern) would stay away from their History Department meetings, and, reluctantly, one stayed away. I hated to let several old-time faculty prevail on this simple matter. Elsewhere, achievement helped my wounded feelings. I got three quarters of Conservation in the United States authorized at the 400g level and persuaded a born teacher, Frank MacGraw, formerly a San Mateo high school department chairman, to teach it over and over, with amazing success. Both of us were pioneers in the new Environmentalism. A MacGraw warning from one of many speeches he gave: “This Valley is going to be another San Jose.” McGraw was a winner.
My research, writing, and publication program meant that the last thing I needed was more bureaucracy, with time consuming committee meetings and endless interaction. I had brought to a close three book projects before arrival: California Social Welfare (1956), Welfare in America (1960), and The Heart Future (1961), the latter covered in a long news article in the New York Times. After coming to SOC, there would be Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic (1964), but it was virtually completed before arrival.
A number of new book creations and publications followed during my SOC years, especially that with Edgar Eugene Robinson, Herbert Hoover: President of the United States (1956) and later my The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (1983). My autobiography, a children’s book, this long account of SOC, and Speaking Up for America and writing on the Internet’s History News Network came very long after retirement. Books multiplied to 17 at this writing.
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Back to college affairs of the sixties and seventies…. The potential Nursing program got its four year degree due to committee pressure from Sheldon Rio and a tiny group of us who argued and voted in that bloc. Some in the room were hostile or at best lukewarm, favoring a more vocational two years only. Nursing came to attract exceptionally able faculty, first led by Betty Haugen. Almost immediately I took full advantage of my board membership with the Oregon Heart Association to seek $5,000 to begin our Nursing library. There was reluctance (chiefly from medical school faculty) to “divert” research funds to this innovative purpose, but I gave up future board influence by insisting. Passivity is not a winner in committees where everybody wants something (and where one speaks for others)! We who were present at Nursing’s creation were not amused when leaders up North muscled in on the independence we certainly anticipated for our Valley serving Nursing program.
Some faculty are likely to have personal Causes and crusade often for them. Dr. Kreisman, a product of Brigham Young with a later free year at Harvard, was one who was always in there fighting. His central cause was the Liberal Arts (the Humanities), by the way; one could count on it. In his book he didn’t give himself the credit he deserved for his determination that SOC would be strong in any and all esoteric subjects except any tied in any way to the concept vocational. McGill, an economist/educator, had a somewhat different perspective. He had my support (but little other help) when he tried to create a year of Home Economics to tie in with the degree major in that subject at Corvallis. Our sociologists didn’t warm up to the Social Work I wanted. Really too bad. But we got Law Enforcement.
The problems we faced and surmounted in getting the State to authorize the many departments and programs born at SOC in the 1960s should be memorialized. Stevenson repeatedly denigrated departmentalization. In what may have been an oversight, the Division Chairmen who carried the burden of this curriculum effort get no acknowledgment for some reason in Remembering. Elliott MacCracken, longtime leader in Science, Burt Merriman and then Gerald Insley in Health and PE, Loy Prickett and Gary Prickett who built Business, Kreisman himself (Humanities), and Education’s Bill Sampson (a dedicated high lakes trout fisherman) get hardly a nod. As one of the ostensibly powerful group—Chairman of Social Sciences–I fought an emotional decade-long fight for departments, courses, degrees, and especially new personnel in History, Political Science, Economics, Geography, Sociology-Anthropology, and Law Enforcement (later renamed Criminology). Innumerable faculty helped as we struggled to make a big league catalog, whatever.
I wrote the Law Enforcement program literally overnight in midweek, urged on by McGill. It was Wednesday noon when he called. “If you can write it and get it though the Division and Program Committee by first thing Friday, I can ride in on Portland State’s request before the Board on Saturday in Portland.” I did, and he did. That’s the way things are actually done in life. Such achievements seem to be attributed sometimes in today’s SOU press releases to immaculate conception, when in fact the faculty and department and division chairs debated, drafted, and demanded them—sometimes creating them in committees that met long hours.
In our Division’s democratic practices the wishes and effort of all faculty got a receptive hearing from both department and division chairmen—a procedure guaranteed to take the time of leaders, and lots of it. But in the long run the delay due to relying on democracy is worth it. Faculty need the opportunity to contribute, and they must be kept informed. One seldom participated in a major meeting without later sending, pro forma, a full memorandum to a long time department chairman on what had transpired.
Individuals who accomplish things need not always expect credit where credit is due. Do permit some sour grapes. First: “International Relations.” I taught International Studies, American Foreign Relations, and seminars in World History and, say, Africa, repeatedly early on. Frank Haines taught one, Clifford Miller another, though they were not their specialty. Yet in my day the international arena was virtually mine. Yet professors from a decade later are today always credited with beginning the international program at SOU.
Let’s more fully consider “Environmental Studies.” Early in the 1960s I invented and outlined a new course, The Environment, and taught it at first with an irregular number. Eventually, the State approved my insistence on Social Science 212 and I offered it successfully over and over in big classrooms as an SOC course that pioneered in Oregon. I also urged geography educator Frank MacGraw to stress conservation in various packages, although he needed no urging! He and Claude Curran (later Division chair) both came to teach SS 212, The Environment, now and then, while popular and versatile Curran would finally succeed McGraw overall. Geology’s William Purdom pioneered.
Others from years later are credited with environmental effort at the College. But I and we began before EPA’s founding, side by side with two (and then other) outstanding SOC geographers. I made sure the Library had the classics of American conservation and ordered many new books on environmentalism as Lady Bird and LBJ provided national leadership on what was briefly called by many “the new conservation.”
Historian Bornet did indeed develop into an environmentalist in those years. Bob Packwood invited me to his first Dorchester conference (1964); then new to Oregon, I made a mistake by not going. The next year Beth and I did attend that gathering of Moderate Republicans and then made the 400 mile auto trip annually–for the next thirty years (except 1969). Enroute, VDB strongly favored Public Law 100 on land use planning in Oregon, even handing out copies of the detailed Law in class for a time. Earlier, on clean air, I will never forget an unpleasant interchange on one social evening in 1963 when the retired chairman of Science aggressively debunked Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, saying she was virtually a public enemy for her attacks on DDT and pesticide pollution. Although several faculty of that day were adjacent, I stood alone in Carson’s defense, having read the relatively new book and agreed fully with the New Yorker, New York Times, and a CBS feature on her New Cause. I sensed locally: who is this upstart smart-alec from Santa Monica?) Bornet fought a losing battle to end gravel pit excavations opposite Lithia Park, making page 1 and being accused of this and that. The whole crusade proved an unnecessary strain….
I brought environmental speakers to the campus who pioneered in the coming fight for mankind’s minds. I was never a radical environmentalist, however, although I did willingly help keep the sometimes activist OSPIRG chapter alive when it had few friends. Elmo was caustic in his office when I condemned clear-cutting, stumps, and leftover debris on the West side of the Dead Indian highway, clearly visible and irritating to the sensitive. Of course, he was resistant to change in many ways (aren’t we all?), and definitely familiar with long standing logging industry needs.
Once President Stevenson exclaimed in his office, “Vaughn, why do you teach about thermonuclear war and all that stuff [in World Problems courses]?” To me it came quite naturally–then. Today, that environmentalism that was at the time so new to me and ignored by nearly everybody else has become elementary information indeed except to diehards and those who profit from defiling.
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At new degree and/or new course time a handful of us sat in scores of Curriculum Committee meetings–conferring, adjusting, arguing, and trading to bring high hopes into being (or to thwart). This process, well below the presidential level of public relations recognition, should not be taken for granted by college observers. Speech chair Leon Mulling (a single man whose estate ultimately benefited the College) was a master of the committee process and helped build his outsized department of Speech through mastery of that tricky venue. The non-debatable motion “Table!” was often heard—to postpone a loss. (Off the subject: I once gave Robert’s Rules of Order to a graduating senior, writing him that a knowledge of parliamentary procedure can be a real asset in life.)
Most blocs of new courses (and even degrees) were customarily granted by the State Board of Higher Education with little or even no new money. That is an enduring memory of leaders from that era who had to endure the humiliating experiences that went with Chancellor’s office and State Board second-guessing of everything. (Taylor: “Vaughn, you’ll be going up to Eugene all the time.” I went only when necessary.)
Especially vivid after all these years is the way we felt we had to include in all requests an asseveration to the State that “no new funding” need accompany new degree/programs or innovations. Everybody concerned knew that just our growth, and the creation of new degrees and courses, meant sooner or later, inevitably, a need for new dollars for faculty and equipment. But we offered the patently false no funding necessary catch line routinely. It could be charged that we prostituted ourselves in that parsimonious era to the God of Bureaucracy and Good Intentions.
This is as good a place as any to offer evidence that a primary reason SOC didn’t get subject matter master’s degrees in the 1960s is that President Stevenson was likely to shelve them. (No doubt he had his reasons.) I was in his office when he killed our splendid History masters request—a beautiful document of careful prose emanating with enthusiasm from our then 12 faculty. He muttered to me from behind his desk that since Biology (his field) wasn’t “putting in,” History shouldn’t and couldn’t, either. I can’t remember being more irritated (or more helpless) than on that occasion. It was a rare failure in those heady years, and one I hated to take back to those expansion-minded historians.
As it happened, it wasn’t long before routinely typical budget cuts, sequence changes, popularity of sociology and psychology (and a shift toward Business curriculum nationwide) cost us three of those promising historians we had added. Two were newcomers–Hugh Engstom, Jr. (son of a local insurance manager) and William Bilderback, an American historian who had majored in the 20th century. When Ashland’s Engstrom left, we lost Tudor England; when rotund Raymond Smith left we lost 19th century Europe. All had solid careers later, thank goodness (Smith with the Washington system). Administrative guilt accompanied such forced attrition.
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The exhausting building of a doctored faculty was a burden, back when SOC was a small college in the middle of nowhere (as it seemed to candidates). We wanted Ph.D.s and some Ed.D.s on this campus for prestige, but we were 350 miles from San Francisco, 293 from Portland. Recruiting was a very time consuming function of the division and department chairs, but it is not revealed in many a College history. It is easy to remember the thirty and maybe more new faculty I signed up (often with collaboration by others, of course), and the obligation I felt to help many of them find housing and get settled.
I recall with irritation the myths I was told on the long distance phone by some previous employers who were secretly glad to ease out their unsatisfactory departing one. Once, McGill and this chairman, happening to share the line, were lied to outright by a University of Florida branch dean. (We only found out when the employment papers had long been signed.) There was humor, as when a recently doctored Palo Alto economist exclaimed, “How will I solve my sex life?” and “What about Big League baseball?” (We didn’t get him.) All those contract letters were signed by the presidents, but the scut work of drafting them, and of finding, interviewing, escorting (and elimination later, if necessary) was handled for long hours at a middle administrative level by department chairs and the division heads, all of whom had teaching loads.
Efforts to build inevitably involve defeats, but some mistakes can be avoided by using common sense. Hiring faculty is an art. The newcomers should be good—but usually not quite be one in a million! Working faculty observing the hiring process are likely to be of mixed mind about administrators who habitually sign up “the exceptional best.” Why? Here are new faces to likely to compete with them later on for salary increases and those limited professorships. Don’t venture to hire over existing people very often; better when possible to hire at the entry level. (It didn’t work out well when Elmo early brought in a retiring full professor from San Jose to fill in for several years. His heart just wasn’t in it. I well remember him familiarly opening old bound lecture note books enroute to class before spending the day at a Medford stock brokerage.)
Don’t hint at or, worse, promise quick promotion when one can’t actually control it. Perhaps to repeat, building an undergraduate social work concentration (something I personally wanted and Jackson County needed) proved impossible at the time, for sociologists were unenthusiastic. Doctored individuals in the new law enforcement area were then rare and in demand so we didn’t get many, although our talented new faculty forged on to get their doctoral degrees, spending family money, sadly, on themselves.
Retention could be a problem back then. I was mortified when on returning from Christmas vacation I learned that my favorite economist at the time, Man He You, talented graduate of University of Oregon, had resigned in the Stevenson office in high dudgeon after a high voltage interaction (apparently about expedited advancement of his son in an Ashland elementary school). Dr. You went to Mankato State and later UNESCO in Asia. There were other losses. Our Division did watch some good faculty depart, in several cases to Portland State’s very urbanized environment–the first loss from Criminology. Soon we lost Sociology’s social work specialist. Good faculty in Music, Science, English, and other areas left now and then for various reasons, typically for better employment elsewhere or additional graduate training. I guess it’s “win some, lose some.”
Ill health did away with various valuable faculty in those years, and we must have lost some staff as well. Cancer–apparently linked with the ever present smoking of that time, a habit very common in faculty offices–cost the social sciences some good professors then and later. I never, ever, smoked. I crusaded openly against smoking on campus and at Rotary, where I often changed my dining seat, ignoring nasty looks, to get away from smoke. When I protested against smoking in our worthwhile Division heads’ meetings with President Sours, he issued a written ban; when the addicted proved defiant, the powerful Division Chairmen group never met again. It was hard to believe what had happened.
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I’m reminded of an anecdote. Florence and Bill Schneider came from Arizona to Ashland with sizable capital gains in land. She boasted a Ph.D. in social work from Bryn Mawr College and had read my book Welfare in America. She was anxious to teach a course in her specialty now and then at SOC, and I longed for that happy outcome. Sociologists, tepid on that quasi-sociological subject, resisted–not to my surprise. I gradually acclimated her to them, and there was mellowing. Dr. Schneider became a staple, a part time faculty member for years in our Division. She came to finance a formal annual lecture.
We are entitled to speculate that her really quite evident satisfaction over time led as cause and effect to six figure gifts like the Schneider Museum and other major funding. (This interpretation isn’t far-fetched.) Florence and Bill were my friends. Once in his indoor pool he said to this fellow swimmer, “Vaughn, did you know there’s a man in town telling his buddies you’re a ‘drunk’?” I confronted that gossip. One must endure that kind of thing when employed in ideologically controversial occupations…. As a juvenile Pennsylvanian who early spent Thanksgiving rooting for Penn at Franklin Field, I miss Bill from Cornell, a big, bluff, good one who left his family’s mark on our Ashland.
A few examples of whimsy when seeking new faculty may not be in order, but they ought to be preserved. The president wanted for some reason (goodwill with Medford High School?) to hire a high school Spanish language teacher from Medford for our Latin American History vacancy. I hit the roof. Again, he was ready to sign up for a Western Civilization vacancy one who did his dissertation on Barbados. That idea died when he was told the candidate had no History coursework before 1600. “The sequence doesn’t even get there until it’s half over!” (As I recall I shouted this.) Maybe they would in fact have made good teachers for us?
Several times Elmo hired individuals and I only learned about them when they showed up for work. What, really, can you do? It was he who insisted that all faculty doors in Taylor Hall have transparent glass in them, so that any untoward conduct could be witnessed. Faculty quickly papered them over with photos and notices, etcetera, just as I predicted would happen.
Mornings could be quaint. (At this point I have deleted some rough draft anecdotes that would amuse former and present faculty but possibly be misunderstood by a few members of the general public. There are differences between these two audiences, and it is best to bear them in mind at all times. Instead, I’ll offer a personal anecdote I placed in print in a 1995 book.) It was shocking when the President told me that in his bottom drawer he had FBI files on two senior faculty and me, all of whom ranked high in campus seniority. Since I had enjoyed Top Secret clearances in 1941-42 (Naval Intelligence) and 1959-63 and 1969 (at RAND), I laughed and was in no way intimidated by the outrageous threat. I did not doubt him and was certain how he had gotten them. (New President Sours told me earnestly in 1969 that he threw out those leftover files on his second day in office.) One needed a sense of humor back then!
A phenomenon of these decades was the rise of enrollment nationwide in Business Administration. Business divisions became formidable competitors with liberal arts areas. Students looked ahead to see what their chosen major could do for them in the future; the age old goal of “getting an education” principally to improve one’s mind was in retreat. That was the situation the Liberal Arts faced in the greater society, and there was little to be done about it. Humanities and Social Sciences did deplore the practice of majors in Science and Business piling on their own heavy upper division course requirements, so that there would be little room for juniors and seniors to experiment by electing our courses now and then. We lost.
At the same time, I twice thwarted efforts to seize Economics and place it into Business permanently. That was viewed by me, not as just a grab toward growth in faculty and students, but as an ideological effort to skew Economics into “practical” avenues. I felt there was a lot at stake in this struggle to preserve a liberal education in fundamentals. Telling this, I am often congratulated.
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There could not be effortless growth in graduate work at Southern Oregon College, not even in Business, for the large universities upstate had long offered strong programs. We offered General Studies degrees that were three quarters in length for full time enrollees. They could include a masters thesis but usually did not. While I strongly favored theses (and won’t argue the matter here), and students were uncertain though a bit negative, theses were impossible to require.
Anyway, I remember that after an oral exam on a thesis, a psychology professor on the committee blurted irritably, “I’ll direct no more theses without a load allowance!” Indeed, thesis supervision was a labor of love without reward for the faculty member at SOC. Our College, unlike the universities, gave no credit allowances to faculty who offered graduate instruction, let alone thesis direction, you see. Masters theses were very unlikely to expand in number in such an anti-research environment. (I supervised only a handful, including my son’s on Life’s Henry Luce. Yes, I did!) Undergraduate term papers, which could have paved the way to love of research, dwindled through the years—and not just at our college, I think.
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While by title in charge of Social Sciences graduate programs, I bore the burden of some policy control from the college Graduate Committee headed by Extension’s able Charles Ivie and dominated by very long time political science educator Marshall Woodell–one who taught practical politics and had settled down as permanent Director of Graduate Studies. They saw our graduate coursework as primarily a service we were extending to teachers needing raises Valley wide. Beginning almost at once, in 1963-64, I waged a sturdy battle for universal written and oral examinations for masters candidates. It was uphill all the way, but the point of view I favored ultimately prevailed.
Neither McGill nor the president sympathized with my position, and on the Committee there was outspoken open hostility. It seemed likely to me that when the Committee met face to face one was nearly alone in this type institution having actually enjoyed both graduate work and dissertation. (I’m serious.) I was surely alone in having chosen research seminars rather than lecture courses when in graduate school. That was even true, considerably, back at Stanford. My research seminars at that great institution leveled off at well under ten students.
At SOC I must have displayed attitudes related to those inclinations. I had never taken even one course with an Education prefix. A two week Instruction course I took when on active duty in the Naval Reserve–quite good, I thought–surely doesn’t count. No wonder I enjoyed only limited appreciation from the educators who dominated or monopolized so many College procedures at the time. Disputes unique to the academic world, sometimes narrow and pedantic, routinely foul the higher education community nationwide. At SOC, in our Division at least, Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) holders, who are subject matter oriented, fought the hiring of Ed.Ds. (Doctor of Education) holders, who are education method directed, as even temporary instructors for their Liberal Arts coursework.
I will not elaborate on two glaring instances of this. However. One would have thought the world was to come to an end as the Ph.D. fraternity scowled at having qualified education degree holders teach sections of basic courses down the hall (“emergency”) for only a few quarters. To help understand this, recall that it was a day when required Education courses for teachers were being patronized in casual conversation by students and faculty alike. “Little content.” “Boring.” “Too many.” Surely all the complaining was not justified. But the charges were common then from students and the Ph.D. fraternity alike. Still, I knew fine teachers in Education, for example ever youthful Dave Hoffman, and I was empathetic with the educators. No one is born knowing how to teach.
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The present day university Library, beautiful and imposing, was built and furnished as a structure in the present location, and all responsible for its design and funding deserve great credit. When looking at it I see the books and periodicals. Those contents—the thousands of new books and periodical subscriptions and files that were researched, nominated, and ordered with great pains by librarians and some interested faculty–had to be chosen by somebody before cataloging.
I am not reluctant to assert here that I was one of the most active in ordering, interpreting very broadly an assumed mandate to build the Library in nearly every aspect of the social sciences–stressing orders in environmentalism, foreign affairs, race, civil rights, and war. When cleaning out my office a linear foot of thin confirmed order slips from seventeen years of ordering went out. Librarians, incidentally, made their own substantial contributions to ordering for various departments, although I don’t think many faculty knew about or appreciated all their indispensable ordering.
The Marjorie Bailey Collection, gift of a female Stanford English professor, that contains books by and about Shakespeare and his times, has been developed continuously with the help of librarians and the volunteer organization Friends of the Library. It is an exciting aspect of College stature. Some growth I know more about: As I said earlier, Bornet went as a Board member of Heart to the Oregon Heart Association to persuade them to grant five thousand dollars to us to start the Nursing collection. I went to Washington with the incoming Law Enforcement chairman, Joe Dunn (an MS retired from the FBI and solely the President’s gamble) to maneuver money for its core collection.
At about the same time, my attention given early to foreign affairs and international relations was relevant as in the 1960s I started the New York Times, London Times, some exotic papers from India and Africa, and some government documents series—which were free but rejected before my arrival. My sometimes belligerent insistence that we check “yes” was commonly met with the half-truth “There’s no room!” (It was a bit true….)
The financially strapped president was unsympathetic toward my never ending ordering, saying that “nobody reads all those books you people order that fill those shelves.” (He claimed to have checked to confirm his point. One feared he was technically correct and would pursue the matter–still, “use” may not be until after a long passage of time.) In any case, the Southern Oregon University Library later boasts ownership of huge sets of much value, for example, the War of the Rebellion, and the complete papers of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others of stature. The reference collection pleased me, and the government documents section was splendid.
The Library in its three incarnations during half a century has been a vital part of my perception of a university/college in action. Without adducing a forest of librarians’ names, let me observe that through the years the faculty and students got a superior library: well arranged, stocked intelligently, offering helpful services in great variety, and always cooperating. Its Reference service was a smooth operation; for years one admired Harold Otness, a published author, especially on Taiwan, who was a research scholar in his own right. Deborah Hollens built the ultimately award winning State and Federal Government Documents collection comprehensively.
I had a personal office in the Library for many years, as my Hoover and Johnson books got researched and there was preparation for new course offerings. I was there innumerable hours and seemed always welcome in the Library faculty lounge. The Rare Book Room was where I read 350 oral histories sent on highly special (really privileged) loan from the Hoover Presidential Library, 25 per shipment. I read the endless Henry Stimson Diary purchased on Microfilm from Yale and the highly detailed and discursive President Lyndon B. Johnson hourly diary for all his presidential years, both funded for me by the SOC Foundation and now permanent parts of the Library.
While some readers may not care for this observation, I’ll dare to venture it anyway: One opined that sustained faculty presence in the Library was somewhat below what was appropriate to their professional designation as college professors. Few will agree, no doubt. Student use of the Library was, I felt, somewhat below what was common in the 1930s at private Emory University. Moreover, I came to feel that the setting up of Reserve Lists and the ordeal of reading library-rooted term papers should not have faded–as it plainly did during the years of Vietnam when I am sure standards declined on campuses nationwide. (At Emory in the Depression we often used Library resources rather than costly textbooks. Our term papers then involved constant library use.) These opinions are bound to read irritatingly, but I shall plow on.
In Ashland, I sometimes thought, the home offices of professors were a bit too convenient (a mere ten minutes away?). When strolling past empty offices after lunch I once thought faculty homes were competing too successfully with campus interaction. (More than a few faculty were baby sitting at home to facilitate employment of a spouse.) The official “solution” of mandating a single office hour per day in order to guarantee improved faculty/student personal relations seemed insufficient. Still, most faculty put in many an extra hour interacting one on one with their students.
Idealistically (and unrealistically?), I suppose I wanted faculty to be lunching with students (as in my two year instructorship at University of Miami back in 1946-48 when we talked together out on the tropical lawns). Even while saying this, it needs to be stressed that SOC faculty worked privately with students more, I am certain, than faculty in most major universities. (My own record of casual, unofficial interaction was nothing special, by the way, and of course I could offer a plethora of excuses.)
So what about me? My home wasn’t the problem; my passion for research and writing was the on campus “diversion.” I’m afraid I let research displace the afternoon hours once devoted to bureaucracy during the chairmanship years. I spent endless time at the Library researching and writing on Presidents Hoover and Johnson. After I dropped the chairmanship–to the delight of waiting candidates who made it quite clear that they sought the “honor”–the never ending phone calls from the Dean of Faculty finally ceased (“Where have you been?”), and I could relax. To McGill, I was forever a corporation employee. I cooled my heels many a fifteen minutes midmorning in his office while he interacted with his stock broker in Medford. I should have cultivated him on that interest! And, should I have joined those perspicacious faculty who annually ordered a side of beef from stock raiser Elmo? Yes, sir!
The Science Division, the English Department, Drama, other departments all over the campus, and administrative units, had their own successes and disappointments in those years. Science did get a new building, better laboratories, and well equipped lecture facilities. Yet high hopes were dashed, campuswide, as money might not be forthcoming to fund equipment. (Federal dollars flow better to major research universities.) Morale had ups and downs as Southern Oregon College won—or lost—up state, unpublicized.
The public thinks a college is built by its conspicuous figureheads, its coaches, and perhaps by those from the faculty who choose to run for public office or advise corporations. On the contrary, vast faculty time goes into planning new buildings, for decisions have to be made on style, function, scope, and services to be rendered.
Department chairmen in these decades gave more than anyone realizes to insuring that a Music Building, an Education Building, a Library, an athletic facility, and a student union turned out well. Faculty who dreamed and worked for a variety of vital results seem sometimes to be bypassed by history’s memory; surviving contemporaries can be oblivious.
Again, individuals are builders of a college campus. One who built esprit de corps within a faculty group was Sheldon Rio, campus academic leader and chairman of the solid Mathematics Department, whose bailiwick seemed to observant outsiders to be a model of constructive unity. Some got a chuckle out of the gold colored sport coats they wore when together, displaying esprit de corps. The large English faculty was close knit and boasted literate Carol McNair, and Robert DeVoe (who converted to painting with real precision). Lawson Inada’s published poetry got him well recognized. Psychologist Hal Cloer (once trained in engineering) often interacted effectively with issue-oriented groups. He drafted an eight page analysis of the SOC life he witnessed in the 1950s.
Valuable administrators like Frank Seeley in Budgeting, the Registrar Bob Davidson, and the Director of Admissions Allen Blazak had challenging work and lots of it. Faculty such as linguist Roger Weeks had hobbies (handwriting analysis) that make one remember them. Betty LaDuke’s avant guarde paintings brought her international renown during college years and afterward. There are so many more who raised their heads above the crowd, like biologist Frank Lang, who offered the public information and insights in a charming wildlife book long widely circulated through sale offered through Jefferson Public Radio.
An individual who was in the middle of many projects and activities during the presidency of James Sours was Assistant to the President Stewart McCollom, 1971 to the end of the decade. His productive career was enriched by earlier education related activities in the northern end of the state. Later to be County Commissioner in Jackson County, and often affiliated with and a leader of nonprofit organizations in the Valley, McCollom had a mandate to substitute for busy Sours as some projects began or matured. Gregarious, he was by turns trouble shooter, point man, liaison with upstate officialdom, and facilitator. He had an influential career on and off the campus, as well as before and after SOC.
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Any college, may it be agreed, exists mostly for the teaching function. Some, especially at huge universities, intent on the crass god of reputation, allow research and teaching to get out of balance—while the students suffer. Elmo Stevenson certainly knew that—and didn’t keep that conviction to himself. I should think no college president, anywhere, paid greater lip service to Teaching, with a capital T, than he did. Praise for his long dedication to good teaching should be unrestrained! Yet to me, he overemphasized in all things the importance of methodology over academic content, no matter what.
Many times in the Stevenson presidential office with individual merit our subject I felt I had to blurt: “But does he know the discipline?” (Interdisciplinary faculty like David Alexander taught more than one discipline (English, Philosophy). Seldom or never at Southern Oregon College, by the way, did we allow students to fill in for a paid faculty member who went on leave—commonplace in those big universities.
The State dictated awarding of student-voted Mosser teaching prizes in 1966 got lots of attention. As one who routinely helped determine final salaries, I thought the chosen Plan made no distinction between faculty with, say, four different preparations and a single preparation; faculty teaching 400g (graduate) courses versus beginning coursework; and those whose courses had to be continuously updated, even yearly, versus those who could offer pretty much “the same old thing,” polishing rather than creating. The students had no idea who would be really difficult for us to replace, and I thought them too easily bemused by friendliness and breeziness (even political correctness was a possibility). Our winners in the social sciences seemed to me, in any case, to be fully deserving of their one time financial recognition. They made us proud.
The creative Honors Program which came and went irregularly, living on a shoestring, is worth recalling. Here, Kreisman, an imaginative Honors English instructor, could take credit he certainly deserves, along with English teacher Richard Byrns, biologist Greg Fowler, historian of England Doug Legg, and similar staples of the program. While some dreamed of founding and operating an organized Honors Program that might approach the prestige of that at University of Oregon, it was not to be, as our program was minimally funded—or not at all. Administrators at my level could save it or kill it with the word “yes” on minor matters.
In the last analysis, faculty were forced to remember that the Ashland college was not and could not really be analogous to a well funded private liberal arts college. Some amenities had to be denied us. (That included the services of both Byrns and Fowler as time passed). My daughter says the Honors program did well by her, and I don’t doubt it.
An annoyance at SOC was trying to control the overuse of irregular catalog numbers to teach anything and everything (thus bypassing the State authorized curriculum and upstate permission). This was much argued–too often in my unwilling hearing. (Faculty sometimes hoped to teach their dissertation or hobby subjects under irregular numbers.) Many more areas of controversy could possibly be recalled–like the grade inflation which was a commonplace phenomenon of the Vietnam years (definitely draft-evasion related). The ultimate rationale for it was to somehow aid students, or to just to express comity with draft or Vietnam War resistance.
Another divider: This outsider thought, casually, that we had too many faculty who were Oregon natives and/or holders of one to three degrees from major institutions upstate. It could be a social and intellectual irritant to those of us from elsewhere. I never thought my mostly private university background and Stanford connection were assets in Eugene- and Corvallis-dominated Ashland. I certainly don’t expect my Oregon trained readers to be sympathetic. What real difference did it make? Clearly, all of us have an elitist streak!
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Curriculum matters divide those in higher education; after all, the passage of time can change things. A Curriculum Committee meeting in the early 1960s cancelled the requirement that students take a course in Physical Education. Before doing that, an old injunction in the catalog that all graduates be able to swim got deleted after spirited debate in the same place. One conjectures whether that 1960s deletion should be rolled back–considering the focus in the 2000s on obesity in youths.
Preserving the unity and integrity of academic subjects greatly interests some scholars. In those years there were major disputes at Harvard, Stanford—and SOC—over not unduly fragmenting “subject matter,” that is, on preserving year-long sequences. Let’s look: We had close committee votes over a catalog requirement that students take sequences of three name and number related courses in science, social science, and humanities respectively. This practice of long standing came under successful attack. Preserving that tradition required votes the old fashioned side didn’t have. Actually, much was at stake. Many academic subjects with 3-unit courses stood to reach out for many new enrollees if the traditional requirement should be killed or modified.
The newly altered language allowed students to take up to three utterly different courses in each of three year-long sequences to meet the still retained 9-hour sequence requirements. The long range result was, I know, a disaster for difficult three quarter lower division subjects like Western Civilization, American History, and maybe some hard sciences (physics?). Sociology, speech, psychology and so on blossomed. (Thus Sociology 101 could replace Western Civ 101, so students could begin with Civ 102.) Meanwhile, the old college requirements that all students must take Art Appreciation and Music Appreciation got knifed. I thought ruefully that for my own good I should have been required to take both back at dear old Emory University in my undergraduate days. I would require them at all colleges, if I could, for the history of music and the arts is not easily learned from scratch. I think parents should intervene to guarantee that enrollees take cultural coursework and thwart those department advisors loading them up with course after course in their own departmental “major.”
Prerequisites (basic courses) were then necessary before taking most upper division coursework. How many, and what? were other areas of controversy in that period. This writer cheerfully admits he differed from Chairman of Humanities (soon Dean) Kreisman more often than not on nearly every one of such revisionary matters, with him siding always with change and innovation, while this writer usually went with tried and true orthodoxy. Was I thinking back to dear old Emory and UGA? Not that anybody cares at this late date, surely.
I rejoiced when my Stanford Magazine’s letters content displayed disgust with similar diluting action taken under pressure from “reformers.” The Palo Alto battle was over converting the venerable Europe-based Western Civilization course born in the 1920s into World Civilization. Vocal alumni, maybe from rocking chairs, were dismayed at that possibility and didn’t hesitate to lash out in outspoken letters to our Alumni Association.
From time to time at this Oregon institution of higher learning (and many others) there has been heat-generating planning to convert from the quarter to the semester system and from the existing five courses at a time (full load) to three. Bornet had studied at three institutions that had the quarter system with three courses at a time (Emory, Georgia, Stanford). One result of the three at a time system, I think, no, I know, is much greater familiarity with one’s professors. I remember nearly all my professors!
Three courses for three months, with the class meeting daily, is a formula for almost permanent faculty-student rapport. Finally, graduation after 36 courses seems far less fragmented than after 60 courses. I also felt that a student taking five courses with each carrying only three credits meant a certain ease in casually dropping a course–usually the hard one (or 8 AM), of course. (Graduation is expensively postponed a year or so. Parents: move in!) And, students should enroll for full loads whenever possible.
It has been irritating in our Valley to hear an alumnus/alumna say he/she is uncertain in retrospect about both yesterday’s course title and various professors’ names. (It has been hard to get used to this common phenomenon.) Despite eager committee meetings, SOC didn’t change over in these basics (resisting pressure) in the 1960s and 1970s. Much is at stake when shifting from 3 to 5 or vice versa, but qualified opinions do differ. What a waste of faculty time were those never ending discussions on credits and format, that is, quarters versus semesters and five day versus six day weeks, in meetings one tried to avoid.
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The burgeoning of the SOC Music and Drama Departments in the 1970s might have been detailed here if space permitted, with praise for drama department faculty Harriett Tobin and Dorothy Stolp and Music’s William Bushnell, pianist Francis Madachi, and others. Dedicated Fred Palmer worked to create the Southern Oregon Symphony, directing it, and later bandmaster specialist Max McKee did so ably for a time. Both departments boasted other productive faculty. I was the Symphony’s president for two years. I faced squarely and got rid of the serious problems of costly unionization and the impending exclusion of rehearsals and performances from SOC’s Music Building—on which Sours used great judgment—agreeing with me, thank goodness!
Singer Ray Tumbleson’s development of the fine Rogue Valley Opera (aided by Stewart McCollom), and Greg Fowler’s success with the Chamber Music Society (helped by others, of course) were innovative. A piano specialist who apprenticed at SOC and got the Ph.D. at University of Oregon and served in later to a professorship at University of Arizona is Billie Raye Kean (later Erlings). The Britt Music Festival’s development was greatly furthered by SOC—but they once left the borrowed college piano out in the rain. Some music faculty member had to lose out on summer employment to make possible those early years of funding the Britt orchestra leader’s travel stipend and summer salary to come south from Seattle to serve our Valley’s cultural needs. Thanks to SOC has been inadequate?
The Art Department had a long wait to get its ultimate housing; only frustrated hopes accompanied the years of endless planning meetings until a good solution was found as Art created a home. All those connected with PE take pride in Emeritus track professor Dan Bulkley’s world renown as senior citizen athlete. Apparently a super hobby, that activity followed a long career in coaching. His is a unique accomplishment, for he holds world records in many events.
SOC’s stature in wrestling, born under much honored Bob Riehm, is noteworthy, for they became national champions three times in his day. SOC athletics then and now has had good rapport with local citizens. Of course, the Indian as our symbol underwent the condemnation then common nationwide–for no good reason–I thought; so it is I treasured two bone china mugs bearing the cute little Indian with hatchet that we display with empathy for yesteryear.
The Faculty Lounge that was provided in our Britt building, a crummy place, really, was for some of us in the Sixties a rallying point and almost social headquarters, although some groups like Science and English came to desert it in favor of home (ingrown?) coffee areas. A memory is football coach Al Aiken’s bulky presence and rough humor; basketball coach Ted Schopf hung around too. But it was boisterous Arthur Kreisman, laughing and poking fun, who made the place a lively refuge. It was solely in the old Britt lounge that I got acquainted with English professor Angus Bowmer, the founder—with the help of the College and many interested townspeople—of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, an institution that has often interacted with the College.
As the years passed (and tempers were tested) Stevenson came to think that outspoken chatter he conceptualized as hostile in the faculty lounge was a breeding ground for discontent and planning for changes. When it was abruptly closed I led the protests, waging a bound to be losing fight. One letter I wrote Don Lewis was downright belligerent, I think. I remember idle talk (but little planning) for creation of a faculty restaurant and overnight guest rooms in Swedenburg House, but nothing came of it in localized Ashland. There was much brown bagging among the underpaid faculty in those days; it got in the way of dreams of a fancy restaurant facility as at Eugene and Stanford. Our numbers base was inadequate to any such club-like effort, anyway. provided scores of restaurants and B & Bs. Omar’s was the locale for Bornet’s luncheons with agreeable companions year after year. (Two anecdotes relating to odd events related to that venerable enterprise have to be left untold here.)
Most of the construction of today’s plant (the Music, Drama, and Education buildings, etc.) took place in President Jim Sours’ years. But Taylor Hall, an early 1960s structure, a design disaster, emerged early from an uncompromising architect prevailing then with the President. I arrived a year too late to be in on major design features but did block a done deal to put all faculty office desks in one big room to guarantee cheaper heating. I dragged the president over to Taylor Hall during construction to try to stop placement of sun screening cinder blocks on the panoramic mountain view north side (which lacked sun). He seemed to agree, but gave in to resistant opinions voiced by ye architect.
It was fun to create the redundantly named Taylor Room in Taylor Hall for seminars and oral exams, using swivel oak chairs scrounged campus wide and an historic oak table from rural Jackson County donated by Mary Hanley, an Oregon pioneer and dear friend of Taylor and me. On it I financed an ephemeral plate glass top. In my day the room became the totally appropriate locale for those innovative graduate examinations and other serious gatherings whose members luxuriated on their tilting swivel chairs by the oak table.
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Many instances of constructive contributions by the various college presidents to college/town relations, friendship building, and enlarging of the college Foundation should be included in our histories. The several decades that President Elmo Stevenson devoted to SOC’s development deserve appreciation. President Jim Sours, once a Harvard political science student, was my idea of one who offered calm and constructive leadership for a time to a campus which needed it. I wrote him a three page letter from World Campus Afloat shipboard in South Asia before his own arrival from overseas teaching in Turkey, advising him candidly on what I thought was needed to bring the College into the 20th century. His reaction pleased me.
For whatever reason, Sours entrusted me with several time consuming and meaningful assignments in his years. While his health held up our families had pleasant evenings together. His final time in office, marked by failing eyesight, was controversial and unhappy, but I honor his memory. Not so President Natalie Sicuro, partisan of athletes, who I think lacked appeal for most faculty outside PE but must have looked adequate to some townspeople. (The whole scene is hard to view.)
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The tiny 10 watt campus FM radio station KSOR did not began broadcasting classical music to Ashland and much of Medford for a long time after State and FCC authorization in 1960. KSOR was the major and almost the only radio voice in the whole Valley that carried classical music for, say, opera lovers when it got going. With Russell Sadler crusading frequently in the AM it became an unabashed voice for the new environmentalism. Jeff Golden was a liberal voice. Students hoped in vain to make it chiefly an announcer-training facility! Nor could they convert it to the intrusive Sixties music! Ron Kramer’s imaginative and crusading Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) leadership beginning in 1974 brought new station outlets, even in rugged areas, and new AM capability, serving a 60,000 square mile region of the United States! The importance of this unit of National Public Radio to isolated valleys is evident. Its director Kramer’s dedication to public radio may be unparalleled in the Nation. Worthwhile FM and AM radio has impacted on thousands of people who have come to tune in to SOC’s voice. Some join JPR’s Listeners’ Guild and contribute to a JPR Foundation which sometimes came to venture a bit afield. Its region now stretches from the ocean to Idaho and Eugene to Redding. I think it desirable that the College name should always be part of JPR’s public relations—a point I often called to various presidents’ weary attention.
I have surely kidded myself that a detailed two page factual letter on our Valley’s unrequited need for classical music that I wrote May 17, 1974 to Chairman Richard C. Wiley of the Federal Communications Commission was a bit of a wake-up call to that body that a Valley suffering from cultural stagnation needed relief. (He said in a personal but bureaucratic reply that I should protest at each station’s license renewal time!)
Today, oddly, our other local and Southern Oregon AM and FM radio stations, courting money and ratings, still ignore classical music. Two causes–disinterest in culture and a quest for profit–came with absentee owners who apparently never listen to their own lowbrow signal. The sad thing is that people are used to the mediocrity on most radio stations, say I.
Major SOC contributions to Oregon and the Northwest, vital services, need inclusion here. One must praise English professor Robert Casebeer’s decidedly original federally funded Project Prometheus of long ago (designed for high school students). Max McKee’s huge international Bandleaders organization became an Ashland tour de force. Then there have been the Christian Athletes, Debate Tournaments, Cheerleaders, and the giant Christmas gift bazaar in Stevenson Union for the whole community—abandoned casually and in my view stupidly.
A Naval Reserve unit met on campus led for a time, early on, by Bob Edwards, who ultimately departed for far away Corning Glass. We Reservists remember the group fondly. Some World War II faculty (from various services) who helped themselves get “50 points” toward federal retirement in the 1960s were Marshall Woodell, Loren Messenger, Doug Legg, Wayne Hood, Dan Bulkley, Vaughn Bornet, and the part time SOC instructor I sought out to teach Constitutional Law, Judge Loren Sawyer. From the community came Richard Herndobler and Al Willstatter. There were serious lectures as we earned points and talked of some wartime days of yesteryear.
Higher Education in Ashland (in various forms) has been a godsend for older citizens who live here. The Elderhostel program at SOU was born in 1980. It has been one of the most successful of all the programs worldwide; it was bolstered by the growing Oregon Shakespeare Festival organization and Ashland’s charm. Later than our period came SOLIR, subsequently to become OLLI–Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Both it and Elderhostel (once one of the largest of such units) are very appealing to adult citizens. Gutsy science professor Ron Lamb founded with patient determination and innovation a Natural History Museum on East Main that once featured environmentalism. Rather than brutal carping, he and Mrs. Lamb deserve gratitude for what they struggled so hard to do. (The new science museum and the exciting federal forensic laboratory came after the years featured here.)
Contributions made to the College by financial donors such as the Carpenter Foundation, William and Florence Schneider, the DeBoers, and by local citizens who served long and ably on both sitting and ad hoc College boards and commissions, need to be extolled. I recall pleasantly the regular 50 minute presentations Dunbar Carpenter made on Valley environmental matters to my new class on The Environment. Pear smudging was (to coin a phrase) under fire in those days. Faculty found financing of dissertation completion very hard, so Carpenter support for that in some cases was welcome.
There are entire historical accounts waiting to be written about such subjects as the Science Division (especially), Art, Physical Education, and so on. Professor Marvin D. Coffey drafted a history of the Biology Department, I’m told. Science was able to prepare its majors well for graduate training, and it got federal and other grants. Many names rise for recognition: Chairman Elliott MacCracken, Mike Flower (who left for Jonas Salk Institute, friendly Stephen Cross, Chemistry’s Ken Bartlett, Monte Elliot, Wayne Linn—named at random, they whet the appetite for a published narrative history of Science at SOC. It is embarrassing to leave so many faculty names off this page. Will someone do an account of the growth of Science at SOC? (And PE, Art? Varsity teams?)
Music and Drama need their histories, for the development of their buildings and many programs is much too intricate for outsiders to handle comprehensively. They have long interacted with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and occasionally with Britt. Members of the Drama faculty developed the Oregon Cabaret Theater on their own; it became a long term source of pleasure for many. A Dinner Theater on campus was another Drama innovation. (To balance all this, some failures–like killing intercollegiate swimming just as the brand new pool was filled—are best forgotten.)
The English Department (mentioned earlier) was one of the largest on campus. Its important chairmanship rotated in these years, with the leadership of Ed Hungerford beginning in 1966, and Don Reynolds, Charles (Chuck) Ryberg, and James Dean among those serving ably in the post. English was kept busy with its entry course called Writing, which had many sections. It was a very influential part of the curriculum. English faculty had high visibility on the SOC campus and its members participated actively in activities. Jim Bowen, for example served on the Lectures Committee with me, facing students we tried to educate in parliamentary procedure and worldly matters.
Southern Oregon University has been strong on welcoming international students and featuring their varied cultures. The College story should include memory of a Hawaiian liaison in the 1950s (when the islands were a Territory and high school graduates were entitled to Oregon in-state tuition). There could be up to fifty here then. The International student program has become multi-continental in focus. It was led over the years by various individuals. Dean Bob Bennett dealt with students from overseas on a personal basis. The Dankook and Guanajuato connections have been of long standing.
Professor of Spanish Chela Kochs and Jose and Betty Ferrer (he hailed from Argentina) share credit for developing the Guanajuato University interaction, offering their time and homes. President Sours, Fred and Barbara Rosentreter, Ruth Bebber, Betty Harbert and others who went to Korea and worked there even after sunset served the Dankook interaction. Bornet loaned his office to a visiting Dankook professor for a useful 1969 sabbatical year, but this one never taught in Korea.
Interaction with several Japanese higher educational units has been common, especially in summers. Hosting barely college age and almost always laughing teen age Japanese girls in summer was a memorable adventure for all during the building of self confidence in the young women. Southern Oregon College (eventually a State University) could have relaxed idly in backward looking parochialism and insularity, but every one of its various presidents helped make sure it did not, guaranteeing the increasingly traditional International Week strong backing.
Ashland has been and ought to remain a good town for international students. Asia and Africa, and Arab countries, have supplied many satisfied individuals who got solid educations. At this writing I am willing to surmise that Southern Oregon University in the new Century will prove exceedingly popular with international students as time progresses.
Four year higher education and its various degrees can require protection against invasive actions by community colleges and similar Lower Division coursework facilities, in my view. SOC stepped aside passively and cooperatively for three decades, under pressure from both OIT in Klamath Falls and Rogue Community College in Grants Pass. SOC was intended to grow, but plans lost out to enrollment elsewhere of masses of students in nursing, law enforcement, office skills, and assorted liberal arts work of the freshman and sophomore years. In my view, the two-year institutions cut the heart out of the steady growth to which the Ashland institution was clearly entitled.
Progress at SOC was clearly thwarted by uncontrolled, well, plagerism. State leaders knew the campus infrastructure was being officially planned and built in the Sixties and Seventies for 6,000 students—nearly a thousand of whom never came. Planning for a time was even for 8,000 students! Both Taylor Hall and the Library had foundations for two more floors; the money was wasted.) The two year institutions cheerfully stole large numbers of SOC courses.
The entire SOC administrative team went along without loud protesting that enrollment competition for several reasons. We were helpless to thwart it. We grouched privately all the way. We even protested in Coos Bay! Still, innumerable students in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls and elsewhere saved their time and gasoline. They enjoyed college-level education through their sophomore years. They also paid far less than enrollees at state colleges and universities. There is no claim here that their community college courses were substandard in any vital way. But shouldn’t students who were graduation bound have been in SOC’s four-year college environment earlier? It certainly appears that an accommodation has been reached between Medford and the Ashland institution on future development. Clearly, community colleges are here to stay! But give regional colleges a series of real breaks, please….
Having a campus home base means something to a student during formative years! I am profoundly convinced of this and proclaim it at a time when there is growing conversion to “on line” collegiate education with its vast financial advantages. Living four years immersed in an American collegiate environment does change young people for the better. Online students should frequently flock together “idly” as a way of enhancing the college experience, I think.
One more thing. Some who for one reason or another go to community college should have been studying all along with a painstakingly selected and largely doctored faculty (like that at SOC), who possessed extensive specialized experience in ways of keeping their academic discipline up to date. Yet it is evident that those who transfer out of two year programs to what I might dare to term “the big leagues” do very well in moving onward and upward, even to conquering graduate programs. And those financial benefits are undeniable at a time when the cost of an American college or university education has become frightening.
Some students in my years and today enroll in some upper division work at SOC concurrently with Lower Division work elsewhere. So it is that it is great that Rogue Community College earned successful development and status in both Grants Pass and Medford. I do wish it wasn’t related in earlier years (as I am claiming) to limiting growing Southern Oregon University’s campus enrollment. It is easy to document that the two year liberal arts programs have helped SOC/SOU several ways in the long run.
Even so, our past cooperation with community colleges was demonstrably sacrificing and inhibited our growth (which only reached the 5,000 vicinity in 2009). Still and all, the 21st Century is seeing innovative interaction, heavily publicized, between Ashland, Medford, and Grants Pass institutions. The new surroundings in revitalized downtown Medford are bringing a bright—and sound–future from which all will profit as the years go by.
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Many of Southern Oregon College’s routine services to its region, activities never praised and seldom even mentioned, need highlighting. Many dedicated (and barely solvent) college faculty taught Extension courses during evenings and weekends from Klamath Falls and Lakeview in the East to Gold Beach and Brookings on the coast, and north to Roseburg. Teachers in local schools got their required graduate credit without pesky summer enrollment with travel.
The pay was meager for those who taught, and the highways were mountainous and dangerous at night. Once, as midnight approached on Highway 66, Jose Ferrer spun a college station wagon 360 degrees on the icy surface when Ashland bound; fortunately, he emerged intact and returned unscathed to his lovely wife Betty. The Ferrer family annually (and more) hosted History majors and faculty in their home and gardens with effort and expense, by the way.
Even Division heads like Chairman Bornet with children in college (and inadequate pay) did Extension teaching, in my case in Klamath Falls, Lakeview, Gold Beach, and Grants Pass. Now and then somebody tells me of their gratitude. The Extension Division that arranged all this extracurricular teaching did not make it into Remembrances, nor did Charles Ivie and friendly Larry Helms, its directors for several decades.
Former Municipal Judge Richard Cottle, then City Attorney Harry Skerry, and scores of similar local leaders who taught courses on the campus (especially but not entirely in Business, and usually at night) performed yeoman duty. Attorney Skerry taught business courses for as long as fifteen years for payment well below faculty rates; faculty wife Barbara Rosentreter taught Writing for much less pay than came to her tenured companions in the faculty down the hall. Before concluding this account of Extension work by our faculty (and their spouses!), it does seem justified to point out that unlike many state systems, Oregon did not offer free tuition or discounts to the children of university and college faculty. It was not just regard for remote students but present or future tuition costs for our faculty with children that fueled that helpful Extension Teaching!
Sometimes campus programs, intellectual, musical, and cultural, are dominated by Administration, but at SOC there was much student control of budgeting and spending for activities. Bornet served on the student dominated committee for Lectures and Performing Arts for his whole time at the College, as we tried to stretch ten thousand dollars a year to cover all kinds of visiting specialists. Entertainment came under a Programs Committee; Ed Hungerford served for a time on that. Faculty who joined in this thankless interaction effort with student committees over the years—inexplicably and none too pleasantly from four to six PM once or twice a week–should have been rewarded with thanks from someplace, but I can recall none.
Those who think student committee interaction easy wouldn’t have liked meeting and dropping speakers at the airport; I didn’t, except maybe for A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., although he flew out at midnight after two routine hours with me at my home, shaking far-Western dust from his urban shoes.) Governor Vic Atiyeh was fun, but I told him bluntly there was to be no smoking in my car. John Hope Franklin, the distinguished black historian and his wife, were exciting visitors for four interacting days, expanding our friendship from earlier years. When home he grew orchids as a consuming hobby in his Chicago roof garden. Dr. Franklin was a pioneering black guest at the College and our remote county alike. It was eye opening to drive the conspicuous and decidedly handsome pair to Crater Lake, stopping now and then, absorbing major attention enroute. This memorable visit, something of a gamble, proved a great success!
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Town and Gown (relations between faculty and students on the one hand and townspeople on the other) can be a troublesome subject for colleges located in small towns, nationwide. Professors and merchants are not natural soul mates. Ashland has done fairly well in preventing open warfare, since Southern Oregon’s college has really worked at being an unusually cooperative—really a self-effacing and friendly–local Ashland citizen. Its leaders were in this era astonishingly responsive to complaints and even to potential protests from merchants in the greater community. Not being a rural or small town boy, I will admit that I then thought much of this caution unnecessary, even humiliating.
Some areas in which the College hesitated to compete daringly with local enterprise (as the universities certainly did with impunity at Eugene and Corvallis) were Bookstore merchandising, housing in general, food service, and some recreation facilities. SOC got a multipurpose student union and a health service with resident physician, nevertheless. Successive presidents kept campus economic activity closely reigned in. Our cautious real estate expansion (engaging in essential home purchase for construction and parking) was handled with tact, I thought, judging from newspaper accounts of expansion and minimum outcry enroute.
While the early unpainted concrete dormitories north of the Boulevard seem overly cost-cutting (in my view), the campus in general has grown into a beautiful Ashland asset. Architect Vince Oredson helped with many design elements at crucial points (note the inside décor of the Music auditorium and the Library of those years). Landscape architects ultimately planned the permanent tree placement that eventually added up to an increasingly green and welcoming—even spectacular–campus.
The many dormitories, the dining halls, the student union, the playing fields, and the general atmosphere are all commendable. The visible university environment is a knockout all year, but especially in the autumn when a riot of color dominates. Able Tidings Editor Ed Roundtree donated a carillon to SOC. For a time there was a noontime organist. (Predictably, some Ashlanders soon complained of noise pollution.)
We Division heads discussed innumerable campus problems to limited satisfactory conclusion over the years. One to be gingerly mentioned, considering everything, was the question of a pedestrian overpass or two across the Boulevard. My mind just doesn’t want to bring up many facts on this long term non-academic matter, but I do recall the not quite jovial but frustrated (not serious!) remark, uttered several times, that “what we obviously need, if we ever expect anybody to authorize an overpass, is a solid tragedy involving a college student; then somebody’s going to pay attention!” (Nobody thought a tunnel a good idea.) Sure enough, in 2007 a car hit a SOU student at the very point of contention back then. We had discussed that possibility in the 1970s to no conclusion. Some problems never die; only loved people do. There has been new action by City and University to save lives; and there will—and should–be more.
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Additional women who impacted our College need highlighting. (Kreisman memorializes female pioneers from the Fifties and earlier, for example venerable Registrar Mabel Winston.) Asian historian Betty Harbert, Scientist Irene Hollenbeck, Dorothy Stolp, Lorraine Skaff (now Skaff-Winger) from Business, and Sociologist Cecile Baril were teachers who must be remembered. Dr. Harbert pioneered in Asian history and helped at the very beginning with innovation on women’s studies. Many women filled administrative positions in my years; thus Marythea Grebner ran the Stevenson Union with ability and attention to detail before departing for Idaho.
Education’s Betty Lou Dunlap was another woman who helped build SOC, replacing Marshall Woodell as head of Graduate Studies. (Nobody except me cares, I’m sure, that President Sours told me I could not have that job “Because, Vaughn, I have to appoint a woman.”) Betty Haugen led the nursing program for years with sound judgment. Professor Hollenbeck was a scientist with whom I served on the board of Ron Lamb’s initial modest hope to found a natural history museum in Lithia Park. (My son Steve painted the building gratis as a Boy Scout project, a portion of what got him his Eagle ranking.)
Southern Oregon College in the Sixties and Seventies had a remarkable Summer Session. Burl Brim from Education especially helped achieve that. It pained me to visit the quiet summer campus that developed in later years; but odious comparisons can be skipped. We did have a full curriculum during summer in the Social Sciences and most other areas, even teaching out of sequence courses in Western Civilization, American Government, and Geography, for example. Students could begin or continue their College careers in summer, if so inclined. Stevenson Union was busy in those summers.
Seminar style coursework for teachers during the summer sessions, that is, 400g and 500 level, was imaginative and innovative (if I may be permitted the bias to say so). We brought in a variety of speakers from California and the Northwest to varying attendance from students and townspeople alike. (Bornet chose many scholars he knew, chiefly from Stanford and RAND.) Some of this was funded by grants from the Oregon humanities and arts groups. Those constant efforts to cultivate intellectuality, so often uphill most of the way, might be so much simpler in the increasingly sophisticated Ashland that evolved in the new century…. But, it is clear: cable and satellite TV (with NPR and C-SPAN) has impacted live intellectual programs on the Ashland campus (and maybe others), in my unscientific opinion, costing them audiences.
Individuals whose employment makes it possible to live in ways that don’t require full freedom for their spoken and written words may well shrug. Persons who never test limits (perhaps never need to?) may live out their lives not knowing they are part of the unfree. Those grating demands of an early president that we had to join, chaperone, and “participate” during long evenings by attending or doing this and that should have been revealed to State administrators–and then abandoned. Those most affected just went along as five PM didn’t end the work day, or Friday the work week. Several presidents owed a debt to always reliable Doug Legg (like this author a reservist Commander, USNR) as they borrowed him to investigate and solve occasional touchy personnel problems.
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As a refugee from several large cities and four famous urban based nonprofit organizations in this vast country, I just have to admit I found the small town campus of 1960s Ashland to be constraining. “Just say no!” was not feasible at good old Normal, or SOC. “Handle our visitor from Jamaica, at your home, Vaughn. You’re the only faculty member appropriate to do it.” We were happy to host that dark skinned educator from the Caribbean, for it was a pleasure to mingle with any and all outsiders in those Valley years. That was a case of do it once and be done with it. But other things were semi-permanent commitments. One was made aware that it was better to join those local organizations, to give those innumerable speeches, to join those boards, and attend all kinds of events than face an irritated, salary setting president, sooner or later.
I told a gregarious Stevenson on a variety of occasions I would not do as he urged. “Become president of Knife and Fork, Vaughn.” I said I needed evenings to prepare lectures. “How about the Elks?” No interest at all. Then McGill and Taylor said as we closed the car door in my first week of employment: “Join the Rotary Club,” and I just did. It seemed to make sense.
I had never before considered joining a service organization. Joining Elks would have been the road to acceptance from old timers, and so would local church membership. Both were mentioned. I did neither, but if I were doing it over, well, I guess I’d seriously consider both and use the new warmth as an insider wisely. Said former chairman Taylor presciently, “You’ve got to join lots of things, Vaughn.” I don’t claim that every faculty member felt overt pressure the way I did in my particular job; surely many got by free from what amounted to virtual duress.
The arrival of President Jim Sours (direct from academic life in Turkey!) put an end to the era of impinging on faculty lives. His wife Alice, who relished being employed, quickly put an end to the actively pleasant but sometimes invasive Faculty Wives Club. The over-enthusiastic involvement of Mrs. Esby McGill, long a campus wide pacesetter, faded in light of the disinterest of Mrs. Sours. “I’m just not interested,” Alice said to Beth and me. I am advised it never met again. Nevertheless, we old timers are quite able to remember those 1960s social activities pleasurably, whether optional or not. Faculty collegiality, as in the many social functions of the Stevenson years, was once common and, well, worthwhile.
Moreover, there was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when the social life of Southern Oregon’s faculty and spouses in their Ashland homes was an important part of the institution’s being. The freedom of conduct practiced by that faculty after Stevenson departed can readily be celebrated by those of us who think civil liberties must extend to personal lives. Yet one would be wise to regret loss of the dinner parties and special events involving husbands and wives that vanished with paternalism’s intrusive hand.
Secretly, I think Vaughn and Beth Bornet both came to miss the more sociable early years of the College—whatever the underlying reasons why they existed. After all, it is always nice to be entertained—and entertaining isn’t all work. Those who chiefly did the entertaining in those years were the president and his wife (aided by a state subvention for entertaining purposes), the deans and division heads, and the institution itself on special occasions like Homecoming in the fall. Four who often had faculty cars coming to their driveways were Mrs. Flora MacCracken (in Science), Mrs. Evelyn Kreisman (in Humanities), Mrs. Barbara Rosentreter (in History), Mrs. Lillian Insley in Physical Education, and Mrs. Beth Bornet (Social Sciences), but there were certainly others. Those parties of maybe forty people did break the routine. Reciprocity from all of those invited was not really practical and seldom happened.
Semi-annual faculty visits to the State owned “President’s House” on Elkader were invariably pleasant enough occasions, with even the gardens filled with conversing faculty and spouses. Meanwhile, only a very few faculty got together daily at lunch on campus; to be found at Stevenson Union most days were elements of the English and Art Department faculties, whom I joined now and then. (How I had enjoyed lunching with young Emory University faculty decades earlier–1939-40–as Hitler waged aggressive war in Western Europe.)
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An array of College faculty and administrators in my day gave speeches to Oregon clubs and groups, almost entirely without pay. Some entertaining speakers like Arthur Taylor had long been the lifeblood of now major organizations (in his case the Southern Oregon Historical Society, which would not have survived 1962-64—maybe at all–without him). Division chairmen like gregarious Taylor bore a time consuming burden of representing SOC off campus. An Iowan, he became surefooted on Local History of Oregon and told me I must become the same. My reply was, “Absolutely not. I did Local History in Florida and Georgia, and I’m all through.”
I might as well assert that I soon developed into a frequent speaker on serious subjects on the service club and organization circuit: groups like retired telephone workers or engineers. I once checked: there were 52 articles about me in the paper during my local college employment in Jackson County. A long July Fourth speech of mine (1966, to over a thousand people in Lithia Park bandshell) was published verbatim in the Tidings–filling nearly the entire editorial page, (It was the atypical idea of patriotic and conservative editor-owner Ed Roundtree. (Then was then!)
President Stevenson spoke innumerable times, region wide, admitting cheerfully that he gave much the same college-extolling speech every time. “Vaughn, the difference between us is that you change your speeches; I give the same one!” Public relations man Hugh Simpson enjoyed working at this unreimbursed activity, as did Political Science chairman William Cornelius; both failed to attain the elective offices they craved as a byproduct of laboriously building name recognition. (Bob Campbell replaced Simpson.) While some SOC leaders did not achieve the elective posts they sought, several served on the City Council, among them Frank Haines, Don Lewis, Arthur Kreisman, and Don Laws–an Ashland High product who served several decades. Gary Prickett of Business was an activist mayor who changed the City noticably.
The extracurricular speaking function of a variety of SOC faculty, taken for granted by appreciative Valley audiences, was a major contribution of SOSE, SOC, SOSC, and finally SOU to clubs and organizations for a hundred miles or so in every direction. In my case, I cheerfully say again that I issued short press releases mentioning my College connection and the thrust of my thoughts. Many faculty addressed small groups.
One year, three History faculty including me discussed World Events every Sunday afternoon on local TV. It was early in the 1960s that Betty Harbert, Doug Legg, and I briefed Governor Mark Hatfield on Vietnam for nearly three hours after breakfast at my home—while his regular bodyguard enjoyed standing by.) I don’t claim that we framed or even changed the future U.S. Senator’s individualistic, controversial, and nationally interesting future opinions in a major way, but we were prepared and wanted to. He was most appreciative and left with reluctance.
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Dedicated investigation of Alumni Association records could produce for some future researcher worthwhile figures on numbers of alumni who became professionals, male/female ratios on graduation day, numbers who went to graduate school, and totals by division, department, and major. How many new nurses? Law Enforcement specialists? Accountants? Coaches of various kinds? Enrollment figures would have interest: Californians? Others from out of state? By race and age? From the East? Here is a topic for a master’s thesis. Most faculty, one supposes, are like me in especially remembering “that boy” who went on to finish his Ph.D. in history at UC Santa Barbara, or his law degree at UO, or became mayor of Ashland or a key member of the State Senate. There are many such success stories, but it would be nice to have some numerical facts as well as only recalling the names of various individuals, as most of us tend to do. I would also like to see comparative figures on Federal grants to OSSHE units including applications, awards, and equities as between institutions, but this could prove to be difficult research.
The more solvent and/or more community minded leaders of this region who give time and money to College (now University) board membership get recognition from the President for their essential efforts, and they should! It is not always convenient to give up evenings and/or afternoons to absorbing and discussing the problems of Higher Education, especially when state leaders seem so unresponsive to even the most careful planning.
While it was suggested by an early reader that I offer generalizations on “the kind of students” SOC attracted in my years, there should be caution. Students differ. They came to us from rural and small town Oregon, but at the same time from Portland, California, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria! Some went on to graduate school, entered medical school, and became community leaders. Others, as one might expect, did not aim high and a few from all groups could and did have unpleasant characteristics.
Sadly, many who entered all higher education dropped out. On balance, it sometimes seemed to me that the girls were superior in quality to the boys, yet the latter were affected adversely (it certainly can be assumed) by the continuing threat posed by the draft’s relation to the never ending and devastating Vietnam War, the rise of environmentalism, and aspects of the generation gap. Surely attitudes toward Learning were affected by the spread of “the pill,” consumption of cheap beer in quantity, dramatic changes in musical taste, the generation gap, the sexual revolution in general, and never-ending turmoil. Grades no longer legally went home! I don’t think drugs a problem in my day (1963 to 1980).
The academic environment nationwide did not get through the 1960s unscathed. It is an incontrovertible fact that I could get more work out of our students in 1963 than in 1979; earlier, they were, by far, more in awe of learning (and its purveyors), and I was more likely to enjoy being around them, especially before the arrival of even a partial drug and beer culture to campuses. I also thought then and believe now that they needed more sleep than they got. Widely distributed color TV, I came to think, was academia’s born enemy.
Opinions here on “student capabilities and attitudes” would have little value, for the handful of students in chemistry and pre-med and the vast numbers in, say, art, PE, or criminology may not have much in common. It is an accurate observation that SOC had lots of students who were the first in their families to attempt college. These newcomers needed, deserved, and in my opinion got, noteworthy personal attention in SOC’s atmosphere.
The very idea of “college!” was foreign to a great many decidedly rural Oregonians, and the spoken English of many a new arrival was error-filled. (One student revealed how his father slapped him when that returning student ventured to correct paternal grammar.) Several honor societies helped student leaders to achieve their potential, I’m told. Campus groups like Tri Zeta and Robes, for example—were part of SOC student life. I was proud of trying to increase internationalism across the campus as my personal goal apart from teaching and Division administration, but the heavy duty efforts of Chela Kocks and Jose Ferrer were measurably more meaningful, possibly, especially in Mexican and/or Latino matters.
Many, actually a great many, students came to our College after a quarter or so of failure or unhappiness “up state.” The larger and supposedly better institutions these transfer students had attended failed somehow to serve these students well. (Sorry if this offends any readers from up there.) Time and again those youths succeeded after enrolling with us and were outspoken then and later about what SOC “did for” them. This reiterated opinion—and its reality–was one thing that kept faculty morale up. Our professors and administrators suspected in those years that faculty up state seldom thought of us, and the bureaucracy in State offices in Eugene could not remember our latest updated college name, or even find us without a road map.
The alumni of what a tiny few tried lamely (fortunately briefly) to nickname “Southern” have settled down primarily in Oregon and the Northwest. There’s nothing surprising about that. They have financed the Southern Oregon University Foundation more or less, comprise the Southern Oregon Alumni Association, and seem to enjoy receiving their publications. Alumni can go to the Plunkett Center of Swedenburg House and look at the pictures of non-faculty builders of the College. Since graduates are a central part of any college history, one hopes they never feel taken for granted.
It needs to be said that the more solvent residents of the Rogue River Valley, long time residents and newcomers alike, have been splendid as they have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the SOU Foundation, making projects like the new Library finish up on schedule. Here, the vast generosity of the DeBoer family (Lithia Motors, other local enterprises) have had a major impact. It does seem a long time ago when the State built the new Drama building but didn’t finance the required furniture needed inside it.
A very brief summary note about academician Bornet may not be amiss at this point. My career at Southern Oregon College went through stages. Initially, I busily adjusted to my professorial routine and at the same time the new chairmanship of a major subject matter division. Other college tasks gradually invaded these functions. Then came research and writing on a large book about President Hoover. When that was published, I signed a contract to do a major book evaluating President Johnson. Before these, Beth joined me in a sabbatical of major importance devoted to faculty membership on the World Campus Afloat. Few have such an opportunity!
Here was a salaried four month trip around the world for Professor and wife! Those months of 1969 also brought research and writing at a distinguished think tank, The RAND Corporation. Eventually, I would find it expedient to let my chairmanship go to concentrate on research (although the president and deans said to hang in there). The act of withdrawing after more than a decade pleased waiting replacements. The decision was never regretted.
Late in 1977 there came right after breakfast at home with no warning at all a major heart infarction, apparently hereditary in nature. It was not operable, and I spent 20 days in Ashland Community Hospital, during which time I was visited, ominously, by deans McGill and Lewis. Even so, I graded my finals. Returning to work after some months, I moved out of my large office for a cleared out, windowless, quite large closet down the hall. The surprise resignation of President Sours and the arrival of decisions by his successor I found intolerable, plus a great book contract, led to a decision in June, 1979 to favor moving toward full time research during whatever lifetime might remain to me.
Though definitely recovering via swimming and walking, I decided to retire from College life effective January 1, 1980. Accounting professors offered invaluable money guidance at the time. I planned to devote all working years for awhile to research on the Johnson presidency for Kansas Press—and to relaxing with camping. Sailing was replaced by golf involving walking. Sixty-three jam packed years had passed; were many more productive years left? Surely time would tell, and maybe fortune was with me….
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Before concluding this often serious, but even so, informal and a bit outspoken commentary on the early modern history of what has become Southern Oregon University, I would like once again to salute several administrative faculty with whom I once jousted. Employees like me, who had an underpaid and rocky ride through two decades at that inadequately funded College, and who endured internal turmoil in its corridors, can’t forget many a disputation of yore. Yet the time I spent conferring hopefully with Deans Kreisman and McGill on substantive subjects for nearly two decades does not seem wasted. As Arthur’s friendly colleague, I cheerfully salute him, and am pleased Esby had a particularly constructive retirement.
A final and thoughtful rumination about President Stevenson, ruler of his College for a quarter of a century, a leader characterized in unvarnished prose now and then in these pages—though not enough to satisfy some of his surviving critics I have found—will prove equitable. The College was his Life in every sense. When the new student union was ready for a name I wrote (and they published) a strong letter to the college paper, the Siskiyou, insisting that only Stevenson Union would do. It had been in his era, post-war to 1969, that the college we knew had been assembled as a viable unit that would endure.
Many who thought they knew elements of the story of my troublesome interaction with the rancher president over civil rights and intellectual matters involving AAUP were surprised at my sturdy recommendation of his Name, and will be startled now. They did not understand that no matter what (me scheduled for termination down the line), the two of us never cut the strings of official civility. Ever since that initial breakfast in their home during the holidays of late December 1962, I cherished a warm feeling for Mrs. Stevenson. For his part, Elmo never questioned the plain fact of my dedication to advancing College fortunes in every way in my power—no matter what. (Meanwhile, I just ignored eager Dean McGill’s opinion and advice that I should look into presidencies and deanships in the region, letting the Chancellor’s office take care of my interests—which it certainly did!)
To sum up: Oregon educator and botanist Elmo fought the fight for “his College,” no matter what. Somewhat properly, possibly, as he saw things, he always put students, not faculty, first. A few of us from distant urban America sometimes bore the aspect—for Him–of blocking his deep-felt agenda. Thinking back to when he hired me: signing me up as full professor and a top administrator, he assumed that my obvious assets would turn out to be convertible to all of his Educational purposes. Didn’t he ever sense that here was an uneasy fit for his key vacancy? I certainly thought he could guess there would be side effects from hiring a Research Historian! He had wanted an educator—no doubt about it. I was far too slow in recognizing the implications of the matter, especially that he would take bad (and interested) advice.
President Stevenson told me several times with emphatic conviction, “You are the best scholar on this campus, Vaughn.” (I can’t know if he ever said that to others.) President Sours was kind enough to direct the same words to me twice. Neither implied or hinted, even remotely, that I was “the best teacher.” Considering everything I endured at Southern Oregon College, it helped my morale that I heard such firm and positive (if debateable) judgments on my merits now and then.
I wish to spend several paragraphs on “politics” and turmoil in my years. Some members of the faculty, in my Division and sometimes elsewhere, showed signs of respecting my research and writing activities. Maybe they were just being nice. I noticed and remain grateful. Since I was chairman over more than a half dozen chairmen, there was some inclination toward nervousness now and then down our corridors over “the future.” How far might “that man” inflict research obligations on the careers of a faculty who had little or no intention of letting research affect their teaching life?
There was something else. That my wife and I attended the moderate Republican Dorchester Conference each year in mid-winter appeared to rub Democrats of whatever persuasion the wrong way. When I unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for national delegate committed to Nixon (to thwart reactionary Goldwater, I then hoped), the restiveness was virtually out in the open. (My friend Bill Cornelius, Political Science Department chair, at the time performing active party functions like County Democratic Party Treasurer, didn’t seem all that partisan, somehow.) Yes, there were a few radicals down the corridors, as always in academic life.
And by the way: conservative viewpoints openly on display do better in Business, PE, and Science. (My research on President Hoover in the early Seventies and publication of the favorable book was the last straw in such matters.) I believe political bias in the social sciences to be fact, not opinion, nationally and locally alike, well recognized and commonly documented. There is nothing new about the matter. We are absolutely entitled in America to enjoy political party membership, partisan activity, and freedom of speech. Even so, overt political partisanship just has to, ought to, end at the classroom door.
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The controversial Vietnam Era overlapped considerably with the nearly two decades I spent working on 12 month contract–year around–for our Ashland college as it moved toward university status. More than a few colleges experienced real violence at the time. Perhaps some of us were a bit nervous about our safety, especially with strangers coming and going during summer sessions. After all, our Ashland institution and community were good resting spots for possible bombers and arsonists who might commute on interstate I-5 between the dangerous violence at Fresno State to the south and bad things in Eugene to the north. In light of several credible threats, I kept a baseball bat in my cinder block encased office. (I heard “I’ll get you!” several times from scruffy collegiate hippies during that drug age dawning in that era.)
When considering the Sours “flag lowering incident” on the Britt/Churchill front lawn in May 1970, bear in mind that the lowering he countenanced was to half staff. Most protest mail to Sours seemed not to know that. I was not involved, but I did write Governor Tom McCall precisely, at length, on my views. (He replied fully.) My 23 years in the Naval Reserve might have affected the confrontation had I been in charge—but I was not. Eric Allen, Tribune editor, supported Sours; Ed Roundtree of the Tidings resigned from both Board and Foundation. Incoming letters to SOC were divided. Our College—though halfway between the embattled Eugene and Fresno universities–did not suffer real violence. As one who has read presidential files on the “lowering of the American Flag at SOC,” I think the Sours reputation came out very well, whatever the sniping at the time. Somehow, I never got involved in the matter.
Overall, much of 1963-1980 should be remembered as emotion filled and even enervating for college leaders, the classroom environment, and campus life. I don’t doubt that many sequestered faculty and preoccupied students hardly noticed then, and on reading this quite serious treatment may be surprised. The expression that occurs to me is: “They don’t get it.”
The work of local legislators on behalf of Southern Oregon College should be acknowledged, for there were times when Valley residents read in their newspapers an announcement from a state representative or senator that the College had successfully achieved or was arranging funding for this building or that. Various public servants then had much to do with happy results. State legislators Earl Newbry, Ed Branchfield, Jim Redden, John Dellenback, Al Densmore, Brad Morris, Leigh Johnson, Ben Lombard, Jr., and Lenn Hannon devoted energy to College well-being in those years. While these pages are critical of SOC’s funding levels from the Legislature, the Board, and the chancellor’s office, first to last, it is inescapable that College funding could have been even worse! And: keeping State funding from sagging to possibly crippling levels was essential to Ashland’s economy, for new buildings meant local dollars.
SOC’s people occasionally needed the support of individuals within the chancellor’s office like A. Freeman Holmer, who helped to have the Chancellor force justice from the System in my case. To a five minute AAUP visitor I had reluctantly agreed to serve on a local civil rights committee planning a look at an English instructor’s refusal to sign a controversial loyalty oath. I didn’t know him, but was told nobody in our Division would serve! In a few days I was curtly notified in a one sentence letter signed by the President that I would be terminated at the close of twelve months from date: June 28, 1966. I had been a full professor three years, six months. I kept serving as chairman, performing all duties! In September I introduced new faculty from the floor with appropriate class when Stevenson called on me. It was weird.
The ensuing battle over this Division Chairman’s future lasted through summer session into October, when I drove my car to Eugene. It took rational action upstate to end that unpublicized crisis as I sweated out four tense months with only my lawyer Legislator Ed Branchfield’s vigorous protest and several conversations as action on my part. As I sized it up, publicity would be fatal to possibility of rollback, for “face” would have to be preserved. Since this chairman was (uniquely?) not in any department, the History Department voted me tenure as a late gesture they thought (entirely too late) might help! I declined offers of aid from two local newspaper editors and from the AAUP and the ACLU, choosing instead to pursue a quiet and stressful path to a solution to the contretemps. For details, see my published memoir, An Independent Scholar, pp. 312-318.
Meanwhile, Bornet was the conspicuous July Fourth speaker in 1966 in the Lithia Park Bandshell. The speech was published in full on the editorial page of the Tidings. Four tiring months later I won my job battle: both professorship with tenure and my chairmanship. One could say that Academic freedom for college administrators won with me. No doubt about it. A full apology came from the president-in-retreat in due course, with the promise of permanent tenure. Especially gratifying to Beth and me was the President’s contrite typed phrase, “…with this retraction I wish to ask your forgiveness….” [Italics added.] Few knew anything unusual had been happening, but in those four hellish months my future health may have been somewhat impaired.
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Those of us whose jobs were primarily instructional could assume that various others did their jobs commendably behind the scenes. There was constant fund raising through the years, for example, so that the SOU Foundation finally passed the twenty million mark early in the 21st Century. Good fund raising by non profits depends on many hard working individuals—like Ben Tyran—whose many activities are not always known by the faculty.
Numerous faculty members who once taught and worked at Southern Oregon College in our two decades are now gone. Yet many emeriti still survive at this writing. A look at their names in the Emeritus list in my SOU Faculty and Staff Directory suggests that while many still live in Ashland homes, others reside elsewhere on retirement checks that are often well below the public’s idle and even hostile guesses. (I kept elderly geographer Roy McNeal on the payroll for extra years in the 1960s, because his coming pension was going to be irrelevant.) Most of our retirees from faculty and staff still live in the greater Northwest. They did their share to educate and prepare for life the high school graduates of their era. School marms in the old West didn’t get all that much measurable thanks, and maybe yesterday’s retired faculty won’t either, but who can say? Teaching is likely to be an occupation with rewards that may well lead ultimately to personal contentment.
I am eager to bring into memory all of the students, both undergraduate and graduate, that the faculty taught in these two decades. Of course it can’t be done. I will mention my own multicultural daughter Barbara Bornet Stumph in California, who profited from two years at SOC before leaving for advanced work in Chinese language and culture at the East West Center in Hawaii. My upright son Stephen Folwell Bornet, now in Connecticut, served two lonely years on the carrier Yorktown off Vietnam and elsewhere, returned to graduate at UO, got a masters degree at SOC, rose in the Reserves to Cdr., USNR, and obtained a company financed MBA at Pace University. My niece Joy Smith, once a frustrated student in Pennsylvania, happily got a Liberal Arts degree from the SOC campus. She left SOU her vast Japanese bell collection for permanent display, which it values at $11,000. (Do pardon my pleased inclusion of these relevant SOC-related family successes here.)
Various faculty wives enjoyed graduate work in my day: Betty Jean Campbell, Barbara Cloer, Char Merriman, and Joan Legg are fine examples. A variety of students who attended made their mark in our community. From a long list: philanthropist Karen Wood DeBoer, volunteer and legislator Jerry Barnes, Rotarian leaders April Sevcik, John Harmon, Gloria Thorpe, and entrepreneur Duane F. Smith; teacher Mary Schlotter, dentist Tamara Hald, lawyer Todd Maddox, Alumni leaders Ron Singler and Steven Nelson–to name some is to overlook thousands who enrolled at Southern Oregon College long ago. One hopes those who survive remember their teachers, while we take pleasure in recalling them as students and admiring them as useful citizens.
The Sixties and Seventies were troublesome decades for the American people, so they could not be expected to be any easier for college students and those who were responsible for them. As I have stressed, it was the time of the Vietnam War. It was an era here and there in society of drug experimentation, growth in consumption of alcohol, sexual license, religious ferment with exotic forms of belief, and of political strain involving controversial figures in office and still others contending for power. There were innovative changes in music and the arts, and modifications in how people of all ages sought out and enjoyed entertainment. The very concept of traditional marriage began to undergo modification. Agitation for equal rights for Blacks, Women, and the Disabled was heard in the Land, meeting with a mixed reception. The environment at SOC was not untouched by all this ferment—which was mild and peaceful by Eugene and Fresno (and Columbia and Kent State) standards.
Were those good years for faculty, students, and staff at Southern Oregon College? Compared with what? Surely most of those who came from near and far away to walk our indoor corridors and pleasant outdoor pathways emerged feeling rewarded for the years in which they taught or studied here. Were very many locales for seeking and getting a higher education really “better” than ours? Professors here were exceptionally well motivated. Our students had access to virtually the same relevant library books and texts boasted by other institutions. I think few students got short changed in the 1960s and 1970s at SOC, and most got a very good deal for the money and time they spent.
It is more than a little tempting to ruminate on events and life at SOC after 1980, offering details, and venturing opinions. Best not do that. If there is virtue in this account, it is that its author was very close, in person, to much that is described here. Above all, this has tried to be a revealing account—a very rare one—of life in a small college in a small town in the American Northwest. Outright conjecture (though surely present here even if infrequently) is to be avoided. Mentioning several succeeding presidents will do no harm, however: Joseph Cox rose to System chancellor. Presidents Steve Reno, Elisabeth Zinser, and Mary Cullinan were and are dedicated, even devoted, academic officials and community leaders whose names come at once to mind when considering the era after 1980. Each appears to have been honored in some way by their peers elsewhere in the Country. One reads with empathetic appreciation that Southern Oregon University underwent a quite successful reaccreditation in the 21st Century, a tiring exercise led by President Cullinan’s attentive team.
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It is disheartening to contemplate the vast number of subjects this memoirist somehow managed to neglect enroute. Some will be named: Successes of the Science Division with its graduates. The popularity of Education Division alumni with teacher recruiters, both elementary and secondary. The campus art gallery upstairs in Stevenson Union. Maintaining healthy, participatory, funded student self-government year after year. Campus publications, including many issues of the Siskiyou newspaper and what was featured in it. Development of dedicated, satisfied, and generous audiences for serious music in the beautiful Music Building’s 435 seat auditorium.
Then there was the rise of Drama, that is, Theater as a major player in campus coursework and activity—and in Oregon; the development of women’s athletics statewide and pushback to it for a time; struggles in the Lectures and Performing Arts Committee over “radical” speakers and happy compromises; education minded local citizens whose support with big dollars built the SOC Foundation over the years; quiet growth of volunteerism as a favored activity for students; initiatives by College presidents and others over the years that worked out well (or didn’t survive); finally, the problem faculty had with attending professional meetings and help given by the Carpenter Foundation in defraying travel expenses. Helpful to Ashland was participation by College faculty in any number of social service organizations and clubs—certainly including churches and their activities–through a great many decades. Several religious organizations maintained headquarters adjacent to the campus in small homes, year after year, helping with spiritual matters and counseling.
Many of the problems that concerned institutional Administration in our decades seem no longer to be causing difficulties. As for turmoil occasioned by different views on policies and procedures (often the focus here), my firm view has become that disputation “goes with the territory” of higher education—and it must be expected, endured, and resolved. After all, some SOC/SOU handicaps appear to be permanent: There is the isolation that involves many travel hours south of Portland, Salem, and Eugene; it remains an obstacle to being always in the minds of urban leaders. Funding problems continue, and not just for higher education. One matter must be emphasized: a basic System integrity in equitably financing this remote though incalculably valuable unit of the Oregon State System of Higher Education is a basic entitlement of this permanent institution. Occasional rumination in print about closing the Eastern, Western, and Southern universities should be roundly scorned and its authors energetically corrected with facts. Pride and enthusiasm over heavily funded intercollegiate football upstate must not ever be allowed to divert attention from fair distribution of Oregon’s higher education dollars. The struggle of regional leaders for equity in the funding of teaching and research must continue to be kept in focus year after year.
To finish up: One can only guess at the visceral reactions some readers may have had to these rather open and sometimes candid pages, which do treat all kinds of subjects, while probably neglecting some others just as important. Hopefully, leaders who were remote and unknowable strangers have emerged, better lighted, from the shadows. Because any number of issues of those years never got much of a public airing after their time in the limelight, they could now be just a little more understandable. Possibly the College of yesteryear has become more comprehensible for all who have read this extended account with patience and, hopefully, with growing empathy.
*** *** ***
Would I again enroll my own children at Southern Oregon College’s successor institution? Yes, indeed; I would. The Location is downright bucolic. The Faculty care. The Administration is traditionally student oriented. The Library is light and airy, properly staffed with trained personnel, and loaded with innumerable periodicals and well selected books. Music and Art are appreciated and funded. Athletics, male and female alike, appear to be appropriately emphasized. An International Flavor is cultivated. For this day and age the Southern Oregon University campus has been free of serious scandal, and students normally seem safe from harm. Ashland and adjacent towns are proud of their institution; indeed, the three college oriented small communities in a row—Ashland, Talent, Phoenix–have come to deserve the amalgamated label “college town.” Finally, SOU degrees are acceptable everywhere that evidence of academic stature is expected and demanded.
Make no mistake. The now virtually venerable educational institution which sits at an altitude of 2,000 feet at 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, surrounded by green grass and tall trees, positioned across the upper Bear Creek valley from mile-high Grizzly Mountain, has been a factor in Ashland life–yes, and California life, too, for innumerable decades. Yet to many of us who invested time and emotion in and near its classrooms it bears the aspect of being forever young. Indeed, the college starts over every year as the new students come, escorted happily yet nervously by one or more parents who hope for the best. Busy registration and graduation days that link together parents, faculty, and youngsters are traditional academic happenings. May they long continue.
Perhaps this narrative will somehow help to make today’s Southern Oregon University appear to be an exciting, even vibrant place where freedom is taken seriously and responsibility is routine. Substantive disputation over differences of opinion has become acceptable in these parts. Individualism in conduct can be tolerated, though it is unlikely to be ignored and likely to be publicized. Overall, this lovely locale is a place that is perfect for engaging in Learning. It is a wondrous campus where students and those who love them will inevitably come to focus their warm and proprietary affections.
***** ***** ****
INDEX OF NAMES
Aikens, Al 20, 39 Elliot, Monte 43 McGraw, Frank 22,24
Alexander, David 36 Engstrom, Hugh, Jr. 26 Madachi, Francis 38
Atiyeh, Governor Vic 46 Ettlich, Ernie 55 Maddox, Todd 60
Bailey, Marjorie 32 Fellers, Al 19 Mattox, Rick 18
Baril, Cecile 48 Ferrer, Betty 43, 46 McCullom, Stewart 35,
Barnes, Jerry 60 Ferrer, Jose 43, 45, 54 39, 48
Bartlett, Ken 43 Flower, Mike 43 McGill, Esby 18,19,
Bebber, Ruth 43 Fowler, Greg 36, 39 24,27,30,33,50,55
Bennett, Bev 20 Franklin, John Hope 46-7 McGill, Ruth 50
Bennett, Bob 19, 43 Grebner, Marythea 48 McKee, Max 38,42
Bilderback, William 26 Haines, Frank 12, 24,51 McNair, Carol 34
Blazak, Allen 34 Hald, Tamara 60 Merriman, Burt 23
Bolstad, Ron 18 Hanley, Mary 40 Merriman, Char 60
Bornet, Beth 51 Hannon, Lenn 58 Messenger, Loren 42
Bornet, Stephen F. 59 Harbert, Betty 43, 48, 52 Miller, Clifford 24
Bowen, Jim 43 Harmon, John 60 Morris, Brad 58
Bowmer, Angus 39 Hatfield, Gov. Mark 52 Mulkey, Benj. F. 14
Branchfield, Ed 58 Haugen, Betty 23, 48 Mulling, Leon 25
Brim, Burl 48 Helms, Larry 46 Nelson, Steven 60
Buckley, Dan 39, 42 Hoffman, Dave 31 Newbry, Earl 58
Bushnell, William 38 Hollenbeck, Irene 48 Oredson, Vince 47
Byrns, Richard 36 Dellenback, John 58 Otness, Harold 32
Campbell, Betty Jean 60 Hollens, Deborah 32 Packwood, Bob 25
Campbell, Phil 19 Holmer, A. Freeman 58 Palmer, Fred 38
Carpenter, Dunbar 42 Hood, Wayne 42 Prickett, Gary 23,52
Carson, Rachel 25 Hungerford, Ed 43, 46 Prickett, Loy 23
Casebeer, Robert 42 Insley, Gerald 20,23 Redden, Jim 58
Christlieb, Mary 19 Insley, Lillian 50 Reno, Steve 61
Churchill, Julius Alonzo 14 Ivie, Charles 46 Redford, Walter 14
Clayton, W. M. 14 Johnson, Lady Bird 25 Reynolds, Don 43
Cloer, Barbara 60 Johnson, Leigh 58 Riehm, Bob 39
Cloer, Hal 34 Johnson, President L.B. 25 Rio, Sheldon 23,34
Coffey, Marvin D. 43 Kean [Erlings], Billie Raye 39 Roberts, Sher… 16
Cornelius, William 51, 56 Kochs, Chela 43, 54 Robinson, E.E. 22
Cottle, Richard 46 Kramer, Ron 41 Romney, Miles C. 19
Cox, Joseph 61 Kreisman, Arthur 8,14,17, Rosentreter, Bar 43,
Cross, Stephen 43 18,23,36,37,39,48,50,55 46, 50
Cullinan, President Mary 61 LaDuke, Betty 34 Rosentreter, Fred
Curran, Claude 24 Lamb, Ron 42, 48 22, 43
Davidson, Bob 34 Lang, Frank 35 Roundtree, Ed.
Dean, James 43 Laws, Don 52 47, 51
DeBoer Family 54 Legg, Doug 36, 42,49,52 Ryberg, Chuck 43
DeBoer, Karen Wood 60 Legg, Joan 60 Sampson, Bill 23
DeVoe, Robert 34 Lewis, Don 18, 39, 51,55 Sargenti, Rae 20
Densmore, Al 58 Linn, Wayne 43 Sawyer, Loren 42
Dunlap, Betty Lou 48 Lombard, Ben, Jr. 58 Schlesinger…. 40
Dunn, Joe 32 MacCracken, Elliott 19,23,43 Schlotter, Mary 60
Edwards, Bob 42 MacCracken, Flora 50 Schneider, Bill 28
29, 42 Stevenson, Mrs. Elmo 16
Schneider, Florence 28, Stolp, Dorothy 38
42 Stumph, Barbara Bornet 59
Schopf, Ted 39 Taylor, Arthur 15,16,20,26,
Seeley, Frank 34 40,50,51
Sevcik, April 60 Taylor, Georgia 20
Shafer, Harry 14 Thorpe, Gloria 60
Skaff [Skaff-Winger], Tobin, Harriett 38
Lorriane, 48 Tumbleson, Ray 39
Sicuro, Natalie 41 Tyran, Ben 59
Simpson, Hugh 51 Van Scoy, Wm. Thomas 14
Singler, Ron 60 Walling, A. G. 14
Skaff, Lorriane 48 Weeks, Roger 34
Skerry, Harry 46 Wiley, Richard C. 4
Smith, Duane F. 60 Wilson, Elizabeth 20
Smith, Joy 60 Wilstatter, Al 42
Smith, Raymond 26 Winston, Mabel 48
Sours, Alice 16, 50 Wolfe, Arnold 55
Sours, Pres. James Woodell, Marshall 30,42,48
16,20,28,29,35,38,40 You, Man He 28
43,48,50,51,55 Zinser, Pres. Elisabeth 61 Stevenson, Pres. Elmo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
VAUGHN DAVIS BORNET, born in Philadelphia Oct. 10 1917, attended high school in Miami Beach, got degrees at Emory (BA, MA ’39,’40), attended UGA, 1940-41, and after WWII finished at Stanford (Ph.D., 1951). After WWII service with the Navy as Y1c to Lieutenant, he retired from the Reserve in 1964 as Commander. For a time he was on the faculties of Mercer University and University of Miami and taught in the Naval Reserve.
After years at Stanford Village the Bornets lived in Menlo Park as he enjoyed three successive one year fellowships and a three year book contract with the Commonwealth Club of California. Also in the 1950s came three years with Encyclopaedia Britannica and American Medical Association and going on four years with The RAND Corporation. Described herein at length are time as Professor of History and Social Science, 1963 to 1980, and Chairman of the Social Sciences Division, 1963 to 1977 at what was then Southern Oregon College. Retirement years have been busy with research, writing, and publication.
He authored various books before coming to SOC, and other volumes appeared during the SOC years and after retirement. Some titles are: California Social Welfare, Welfare in America, The Heart Future, Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic, Herbert Hoover: President of the United States, The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and a juvenile, It’s a Dog’s Life and I Like It! Over the years he wrote a number of articles and reviews for scholarly journals. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medals of the American Heart Association and the Oregon Heart Association, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Alumni Association of SOC. He also won a Freedoms Foundation award (as did his son Stephen Folwell Bornet). The Bornet autobiography is An Independent Scholar in Twentieth Century America (Talent, Oregon: Bornet Books, 1995), 382 pages, illustrated, which contains several chapters about his SOC era. He has had many long essays published and archived on the internet’s History News Network, and in 2011 had a 176 page book, Speaking Up for America, published by iUniverse of Bloomington, Indiana.
The author spoke from polished manuscripts innumerable times during his SOC years, on campus and off. He served two years as president of the Rogue Valley Symphony, was a three year board member of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, and is a longtime member of the Ashland Rotary Club (since 1963) and Sigma Chi. For nearly two decades he was Director of Graduate Studies in the Social Sciences Division, handled SOC Summer Lecture Programs, and served during all his SOC years as a faculty member of the student controlled Lectures and Performing Arts Committee.
Bornet focused on civil liberties when he served nearly two decades, beginning in 1987, on the Oregon Committee of the United States Civil Rights Commission, which met frequently in Portland. His sketch has long been in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World. Beth W. Bornet, his wife, was president of innumerable organizations and was an honored volunteer in Oregon and elsewhere. Their two children had rewarding SOC years: Barbara Bornet Stumph two honors years in the Lower Division, and Stephen Folwell Bornet, work leading to a Masters degree. After the Southern Oregon College years she earned additional degrees at institutions in Oregon and California; he, in New York.
Vaughn Davis Bornet
Editor’s Note: The author of this reminiscence of ordinary life 100 years ago (pretty close, anyway) recently offered us a serious scholarly effort that singled out many great events that changed things, 1917 to 2017, in our America. Several weeks have passed. He now thinks we should augment the attention we just devoted to headline events with a return to the life a youngster lived in that Era. It was, primarily, a time of Prosperity that turned all too soon to Depression. Here is the result Dr. Bornet offers: an account of a small boy who lived then from birth to age 15, a youngster who surmounted childhood diseases and roller skating slips and many months of family separation; only then to live on into Our Day. It’s evident that our Research Historian, honored by the Freedoms Foundation and the American Heart Association, is still thinking and writing his way through Life.
Because I turned 100 last October 10, I owe it to others who remember my earliest place of residence (Bala in eastern Pennsylvania) to offer a few memories for publication. Few there are now, I fear, who can recall first hand, life as lived by a boy turning into a youth as the Prosperity Decade choked, then staggered, to its close.
Born in Philadelphia in Hahnemann Hospital the night of October 10, 1917 (when World War I was the premier thing on adult minds) to Florence Davis Scull Bornet and Vaughn Taylor Bornet, a steel detailing engineer, my first home was in Bala Cynwyd on Bala Avenue opposite Bala Elementary School’s playground. My rented home was diagonally situated across from a lumber yard obscured by trees in one direction; nothing but homes the other. That small suburban town, by the way, owes its name to Lake Bala in Wales. It can be found up the Schuylkill River when leaving the Philadelphia Parkway by making a left turn on City Line, then driving a mile or so uphill.
Looking uphill from my rented first home was the already venerable (and a bit ornate) Egyptian Theater which boasted black and white silent movies and vaudeville. Its double bill on Saturday was $.15 and later $.25 for us. It was there in the late twenties that Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer” arrived. I had seen my first Talkie! “Mammmmy; the sun shines East…. It shines on my mammy!” Sometimes we ate Mars Bars (famous after 1932). Live performers were just about to vanish, for then. Distant TV was unknown to all of the public. Heavy bicycles were a must for kids. (Mine with balloon tires, my very last cherished possession back then, was stolen in 1931.)
There was what passed as a decidedly local shopping district (groceries, mostly) half a block up Bala Avenue, near the commuter train station. That grocery store had half a dozen open bins containing dry baked goods and other edibles. Oatmeal was common; but air conditioning certainly was not. More than a few women then wore “real fur coats” in cold weather, with classy mink the ultimate. Spats and knickers were common among well dressed males. Gasoline was likely to be “Sunoco” and “Gulf.” Tires had tubes, and many car radiators boasted visible thermometers (while running boards were common, along with “gear shifts” that relied on a “clutch.” An ice box was likely.
The nearest street originating at right angles off Bala Avenue was Aberdale Road, just one block long. We would buy number 38, stone outside bordering the first floor, wood above; we would live there about 14 years. I started my “working career” as a child, delivering the Saturday Evening Post to neighbors on our street; then the Philadelphia Public Ledger. When Main Line Daily Times started, in 1930, I was among its very first delivery boys with a route that extended a bit into Cynwyd. By then I needed every nickel I could get. (That paper’s name is now News.)
There was much roller skating back then, with the always steel wheels often being totally worn down. There was occasional ice skating on a frozen street. But I don’t remember skiing at all. Sledding was great! I practiced serious baseball pitching in our driveway, hurling, sans catcher, toward garage doors with every window totally protected. (I would win five games in a row in college.) Summers at Ocean City brought surf fishing and fun with relatives at the Beach.
My home seemed a permanent part of life. I wore out two bb-guns shooting at bottles (nothing live). I took note of our overgrown garden. My Father just lost interest in it sometime; the huge upright piano stood neglected as he did professional stride playing “downtown,” The Victrola stood neglected in a corner with Caruso 78 records no longer played. Somehow, my parents’ Twenties were different from their earlier years (I think the death of two infants, the ones before me, knocked something vital out of them, what I don’t know).
We would have gladly stayed on in Bala in Depression years, but “Philadelphia’s leading engineer”–as a newspaper called my father (who did the elevated trains and the House of Correction)–suddenly lost his contract for a giant projected Philadelphia Post office. He released 44 engineers and closed his office. Quickly he lost our two houses and three cars to Merion Title and Trust Company and moved in with his daughter many miles away. I lost $14 and change. (The sheriff shoved juvenile me roughly to one side as he pushed through the back door!) When that Merion sold the home for less than the mortgage, they got a considerable “deficiency judgment” for 20 years! It would bring nothing.
As a growing boy, earlier, I was a steady customer of the Bala Public Library, reading all of the Frank Merriwell, Ken Strong, Boy Allies, and other juvenile sets. I attended the nearby Bala School with “Miss Nellie” long in first grade and “Miss McCahn” solid in 4th. My home boasted a room filled with Lionel O-gauge trains; in a hallway was my crystal set (a link to seven or more big city 50,000 watt transmitters. Silver cornet playing sometimes included playing out an open window!I still toot.
There was an inevitability to my school. My sister Josephine went to Bala Elementary; also cousin Polly Mitchell from Bryn Mawr Avenue, and cousins Paul and Folwell Scull from their home directly across the street from school. My good Boy Scout friends Sam Brown (the dentist’s son) and Harry Kraftsman (carpenter’s son) lived nearby. (Both graduated University of Pennsylvania.) Lawrence Trenholm was a contemporary. Infants dying from the flu, two from our family, were buried in venerable West Laurel Hill Cemetery adjacent to Manayunk (which once boasted the first canal started in our country and long offered cheap living. Today, it’s a locale for the upper class well dressed to spend lots of money).
It seems of very little interest now that fluctuating tensions and disputes of that day in greater Pennsylvania such as Catholic vs. Protestant, discrimination against Jews, de facto segregation of Negroes, inability of women to reach the top in business routinely, as examples; and enthusiasms such as emerging radio, flying somewhere while admiring Charles Lindbergh, all those shiny (largely black) automobiles, and hope that Prosperity was with us to stay, were for better or worse, solidly focused on. In Bala, life was being lived, after all, and I think we did a very good job of living it!
Although my Mother graduated from a Friends (Quaker) high school far downtown, she was totally uninterested in a Meeting long in a stone building several miles up a highway. I was told, when small, to go alone to a Presbyterian Sunday School at an intersection across from Cynwyd; to get there I walked slowly uphill past a substantial Catholic school with playground. (We never talked of religious matters in our home, and I do think that the formal church they chose more than did its duty toward me, especially on psalms and Christian highlights.)
Had I walked the opposite direction from my home it could have taken me to City Line, where if I turned right, I would arrive at a store where 12-exposure black and white Kodak roll film could be developed and printed. Across the street, likely waiting was streetcar 70, one of many, a vital and direct conveyance to good transfers. If vacationing, in the 1920s we would make visits to Ocean City on the Blackhorse or Whitehorse Pike for solvent Philadelphia types in the hot and humid summers. The compulsory ferry (fun for juveniles) was displaced by the Delaware River Bridge, which finally finished its long drawn out construction in 1926.
In the substantial regional snows of winter, kids tied a rope to bread, milk, cleaning, and ice horse drawn wagons, going blocks Saturday AM. Our autos were a LaSalle, Nash, and Chandler. The black telephone used everywhere had a vertical stem nearly a foot in length and a heavy receiver to be lifted to one’s ear. Phonebooths were common. My sister, aware of her Quaker ancestry, graduated from Swarthmore in 1928, relishing her Nash convertible, Chi Omega friends, and near-Ivy League prestige. It was in nearby West Chester. Instantly, that one was touring England and the Continent with our Mother. Father did his own tour of Berlin and Paris two years later, especially ecstatic about his first airplane flight (over the English Channel). My pleasant book about both adventures is HAPPY TRAVEL DIARIES, 1925 to 1933, self-published recently by Bornet Books.
While one could drive down The City’s beautiful parkway to get downtown, it was that trolley 70 that was central to Bala’s economic life. It took one to the Elevated Trains that duly became a subway with access to Wanamaker’s. Many passengers emerged at Billy Penn’s statue high over City Hall—and wide Broad Street’s Manufacturers’ Club (long closed), of course, from whose second story I watched the Mummers Parade annually. (On a wall at home was its framed and very ornate $1,000 stock certificate—soon to be valueless.
Going the other direction off Bryn Mawr for three miles led to Lower Merion junior and senior high schools. It was there in 1931 to 1933 that I attended each—being in band and orchestra, the only male cheerleader in Junior High (partnered uneasily, with a Virginia), and was paid to play in Ardmore Boy’s Band now and then.
A bit older than I and destined for fame were two youths raised across the street from Bala Elementary: Paul Scull and Folwell Scull. Those towering Scull Boy athletes, LM heroes, later were both Bowl Men (the very top) at University of Pennsylvania: Paul an AP All American fullback who crushed Cornell; Captain Folwell of Track narrowly losing nationally famous Olympics trials of 1928 to immortal Charles Paddock. Both emerged from tiny Bala to achieve national fame.
In 1932-33, with my helpless and suddenly indigent parents clear across Philadelphia, I was farmed out to my Aunt Ella Scull’s home where I lived in her athletic sons’ bedroom. It was congested with their medals and cups. Did I ever wonder those nine months if I could one day catch up with them—by doing “something” very well? What I do know is that two nights a week I was Boy Scouting with Troop 1’s lawyer scout master Pop Ferris. That serious scouting was indebted to equipment and procedures derived from awful World War I, a fact little noted at our level. Still, I was a bugler (with the bugling merit badge). I always played Taps. I do recall that our scoutmaster had spent the War as a signalman aboard a merchant ship. (We learned Morse Code well.)
A word about our “tony” Lower Merion Township high school. Its band followed the football team (which used the plumpish balls then good for drop kicking). I took Latin and two years of really dull German. Shop changed subjects each semester and included metalsmithing, printing, woodworking, and electrical; maybe other things, but I took those mentioned. (Years later, in Georgia, my new college friends, other than from maybe three cities I think, got only 11 years of schooling. That would have been considered out of the question in my Pennsylvania where 12 was required of all.) Carved into the concrete out front was: “ENTER TO LEARN; GO FORTH TO SERVE.” Somehow, I am pleased that I remember it without looking it up.
A word about safety. During the nine months I lived fifty miles from my parents, clear across Philadelphia, I visited half a dozen times. I sometimes got to them, starting by walking across Bala. Then I took our streetcar 70. Transferred eventually to the Elevated, riding until the Subway arrived under City Hall. Emerged, glancing at the beggars. Caught a conveyance going 90 degrees off, through urbanized Temple University, alone for a long time. In Jenkintown, I walked happily (but tired) two miles downhill to my sister’s old home in Rydal. (Two days later my sister’s husband drove me diagonally on Park roads back to my Aunt’s, and Monday’s familiar schooling.)
I can recall no lectures on the need for my “safety” from bums, drugs, assault, alcohol, “strangers,” or other catastrophes. How can that be? I was after all walking in Philly’s center and was for most of a day a 15 year old kid who was all alone. Maybe uniting my family, however briefly, was an absolute necessity. I thought I’d mention all that.
Maybe a brief three paragraph self-serving word about me is now indicated. I’ve been in Who’s Who in the World a long time; the other set over half a century; and I have awards. I’ve written 17 books and well over a hundred articles for learned journals. My doctorate (in History) is from Stanford, earlier degrees are from Emory and Univ. of Georgia. I am a Sigma Chi, and for 61 years a Rotarian. I emerged from enjoying Aberdale Road (as a neighbor of the Penn rowing coach from 1927-1950, Rusty Callow). I went through Life as a Research Historian (once with RAND, various professorships, did lots of difficult editing).
Returning to my father, when I was born he was in Washington, D.C. interaction with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Budd Company’s design of the Mines to contain German subs in the North Sea. (Happily, he rushed home to my mother.) A quarter of a century later he would design the steel for 60 Miami Beach hotels in his years of comeback after we were kicked out of dear old Bala for not making those mortgage payments. (Many a talented professional of those years, especially in the building trades, must have experienced such an up/down jolt as did Vaughn Taylor Bornet, later on to serve as the 20 year treasurer of Miami Beach Rotary Club.)
As for me, I married a small town university senior out of the northern California mountains (Susanville) in 1944 when sporting a blue Navy lieutenant’s uniform. She was class president at University of Nevada at the time. Asked where I am from, I often proudly proclaim, “Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania,” enjoying the blank look. Then I add helpfully something like “It’s not far from the site of ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ but not quite as rich.” Katherine Hepburn is a great identifier!
Other times, maybe to a muscular man, “I went to Lower Merion where Koby Bryant got his start in basketball.” For fun, “In my day I had a cheerful black boy, Acklee, assigned a seat behind and teasing me in algebra; he was from Ardmore, a place adjacent to Villanova and Bryn Mawr College. (I wonder if he, like me, sweated his way out of the Depression in late youth or when a young adult to land on his feet….)
Oh. My father from a half Jewish family, it seems, won the Figure Skating Championship of Philadelphia at age 19 in 1899. It was held on the Schuylkill River, not too far from where I grew up. Back then, like so many, my father’s family name was still that of 1840’s immigration: Borgenski (from Poland). His Presbyterian mother hailed from County Armagh in Ireland. My mother’s ancestors were an English family of Sculls who came to the Colonies in the 1600s. Somehow, my grandfather’s brother had and spread the lifetime name Borgenicht.)
The eastern part of Montgomery County which hosted “Bala” was a Welsh place with strange names, and as good a suburban village for all of us to get started in Life as there was back then. Or so we grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of temporarily upwardly mobile second generation immigrants in the Twenties seem to have thought—way back then, nearly a hundred years ago.
I do hope this cursory account of a boyhood and early youth centered in a place called Bala (not far from Overbrook one way and Valley Forge (yes!) 14 miles the other) has jogged the memories of some readers. I hope it has stirred interest in an American past long since read about or seen in a movie by some others. (Maybe a budding novelist will be jarred into seeking out my Eastern Pennsylvania locale for that next book.)
Anyway, I doubt that there are very many around that can do what I just did. From entirely personal memory I have tried to restore somewhat a Past that is close to 100 years back. What one must do is remember that many of those upwardly bound in the Twenties would be descending downward in the Thirties. That’s what happened repeatedly back then, believe me.
Those years of Prosperity destined to sink to Depression were enclosed by two terrible World Wars. My childhood and boyhood years portrayed here, 1917 to 1933, would change course after those “normal” years, unexpectedly. Prosperity took two steps (and more) backward, 1930-31, the nation’s transition point, and for years afterward. That is all too true. I have greatly enjoyed recreating for us both here—because I can—some of the more pleasant and normal aspects of that start in Life that I had the good fortune to experience so very long ago.
Link for articles by Vaughn Davis Bornet on the History News Network website
Copy and paste this link for Dr. Bornets contributions to the Herbert Hoover Library Collection.
The Real Reason LBJ Didn’t Run for Re-Election in 1968
tags: LBJ, 1968, Democratic Party
77 20 28
by Vaughn Davis Bornet
The author of this corrective piece researched his heavily documented Johnson effort—resulting in the Kansas Press Book The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (1984)—back in the era 1976 to 1983. He pioneered in use of the LBJ Papers in Austin. Dr. Bornet (soon to be 100) lives busily in Ashland, Oregon and is a frequent contributor to HNN. His new book, “Seeking New Knowledge: A Research Historian’s Rewarding Career” (130 pages) will be out soon.
Let’s begin with a quick summary: President Lyndon B. Johnson inherited the presidency in November, 1963 after the terrible events in Dallas. He ran against Barry Goldwater with great success in 1964. Then he served a full term “in his own right” from 1964 through 1968, stepping down on January 20, 1969 as the presidency changed hands, Democratic to Republican, from his to Richard Nixon’s.
Our concern here is just how did it happen that in the spring of 1968, the President of the United States announced that he would not be running again for president in spring, summer, and autumn, 1968?
Almost any place one looks (except my account of the Johnson presidency!) the answer usually offered is that “the Left” or “Liberals” in the months of February to April, 1968 succeeded in a major goal. They allegedly made sure everybody would be certain that he could never win if he ran in 1968. As Johnson came to sense that, it is said, he found it necessary to abandon any thought, hope, or plan to run because it would be a waste of time—and embarrassing to boot. Several prominent Democrats claimed they were rising toward probable success at the time. (One of them would fail, one would be shot, others would fall by the wayside.) Hubert Humphrey ultimately obtained the nomination and ran an acceptable race—but did not win, against Richard Nixon.
In the years that have passed there has been conjecture as to why LBJ didn’t attempt to run for reelection. It has been easy to speculate that maybe it was the difficulty facing him in obtaining the Democratic nomination that was the problem, not the strength of the Republican Party with its chosen ticket.
Why did LBJ decline to offer himself? The Vietnam War? (Not going well.) Decline of initial enthusiasm for that Great Society? Let’s admit right away that these are extremely important—and relevant—matters to history and for historians.
But what will be contended here, documented, and soon become quite clear (I trust) to one and all, is this: Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson had long since determined (in September, 1964) out loud, and in front of reliable adults, that the campaign of the year they were in (1964) would be The End of LBJ’s Campaigning for office!
That decision, “witnessed” for all practical purposes, would become known and recognized, amply documented in December, 1967, for all practical purposes irretrievably (though not publicly), starting right then. Letters signed and transmitted behind the scenes, written to several top leaders of the day, pronounced the decision of the Johnsons, husband and wife, in a manner allowing for no retreat, change of mind, or finally “stepping up to the plate,” as is said in some circles. Let’s examine some of the evidence.
(Interrupting a moment: This story appeared deep in chapter 12 of my book The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, pp. 283-305. Offered were footnotes, both single and double, 39 in all. Under the circumstances, what is being offered here to HNN is a readable precis of that account, footnotes deleted, but with several important sources clearly indicated within the prose.)
Let’s admit at once that there is ample evidence of growing opposition to any Johnson election to a second full term in 1968. Little would be gained here by reciting it. That year was a dramatic one, to be sure, with assassinations, a convention with street demonstrations, and a highly visible—and audible—left wing of the Democratic Party yelling ever louder in the hope of crushing the incumbent part of the party as soon as possible, forcing it to give up, in advance of evolving events.
The burden here is proving that Lyndon B. Johnson was not physically “well” and then indicating that the fact was quite clear to the Johnsons, husband and wife. It is evident that his poor health needs documenting. Then we need ample evidence that the candidacy of 1968 was abandoned because of health considerations long in advance of the time for announcing.
Let’s see. His appendix came out in 1937. He had “chest trouble” when serving briefly with the Navy, actually, six to eight bouts with pneumonia. By developing bronchitis he qualified for a 10 percent veterans disability pay (applying for it but then rejecting it). A kidney stone was taken out in 1948, and after a Mayo Clinic stone removal in 1955 he wore a brace for awhile.
Pretty well known is the 1955 “infarction” of the heart: death of part of the muscle. (On that, I am surefooted, for mine was 1977.) My death of a quarter of the heart laid me out. LBJ’s made him prepare for death; talk was of retirement, as he stayed in the hospital a month (I, 22 days). Recovery at the Ranch was solid. Still, the recommendation was for “carefully regulated hours of work and rest.”
Unexpected, of course, was inheritance of the Presidency in November, 1963 (and he would have no vice president!). Moving out of the Elms – his home while vice president – LBJ had a very severe cold and a chest condition, but it was kept private. For a time smoking was out, and he had some sort of prescription. Pajamas were worn in part of the afternoons. His diet was carefully supervised. There were massages and enemas (with others commenting), and he routinely avoided shutting doors. An intimate says he concentrated on his physical distress—but one byproduct was hyperawareness of the medical needs of others, ‘tis said. (A reason for Johnson to appreciate Medicare and Medicare?)
It is interesting to read of how comprehensive (and expensive) were the medical costs of Johnson’s government air tours anyplace; people and preparations added up. His physician was promoted to vice admiral, and joint appointments for M.D.s were general. Adjacent medical facilities in Texas got shots in the arm. Three days after the 1965 inauguration LBJ was taken by ambulance at 2:26AM, allegedly with a “cold,” but the VP says “chest pains.” (He is described as “solemn” and “grim,” with “fears and apprehensions.” Was there heart arrythemia?)
There was in 1965 “stomach pain.” There were “night sweats.” In October 1965, ten doctors attended a two-hour operation to take out a gall bladder and kidney stone, leading to “limited activities.” There would be abdominal and throat surgery in 1966. Why bother even mentioning here the 40 or so skin pre-cancers or the eye styes? Or his complaints of “foot trouble.”
While an English biographer noted “recurrent anxieties about his health” rather early, it is clear that President Johnson did survive his elected term, returning to the Ranch as planned. More to the point, he came down with chills and fever on December 16, 1967. Lady Bird offers a graphic description of his indolence and demoralization (my choice of words) in the hospital at the time. John Steinbeck said Johnson was “too drawn and too taunt” just then. Precautions were made routinely for a turn to the worse by the incumbent President.
Detouring to the post-presidency a moment: Johnson died before a term beginning in 1969 would have been over! (Before generalizing on that, one should take account of how LBJ abused his wellbeing in post presidential years: heavy drinking and smoking marked those sad months when that past President’s responsibility was minimum. All in all, there is plenty of evidence that President Johnson in office was often seriously ill, that the public was kept ignorant of many episodes; indeed, that the major heart attack of 1955 was considered a guidepost to the future by some—not all. Now, it’s time for evidence about retirement not to be ignored.
Lady Bird says in her Diary that the decision to run in 1964 (repeat, 1964!) was only made after searching conferences with cardiologists James Cain and Willis Hurst. They wondered if he was up to a full term as President, that is, four years, either psychologically or physically. (I summarize the group’s opinion in my book: “they thought he should try.” Emphasis mine.) That is, he should try to run in 1964!
Time passed. By mid-1967 it was becoming important that the tired and often discouraged man in the White House get ready to make a decision about running in 1968 and (behind the scenes, of course) let key people know. Fortunately, one decision had been made—over again— on Labor Day, 1967. (Governor John Connelly was sick of serving the national ticket by running as governor of Texas. He had to be told.) At the Ranch, pressed by Lady Bird, Lyndon proclaimed: “All right, you’ve been talking about this for a long time, so we’ll make this decision right now and make you happy…. I’ve decided I won’t run for reelection.”
There is little to be gained by tracing LBJ’s hints and warnings from that point on, but one can. What is relevant is how he handled his mandatory, official, notifications. (We’ll even ignore speculating on the significance of the secret study of Johnson’s life expectancy conducted quietly in 1967.) That intimates were given hints by LBJ in that year is merely interesting. What evidence would have deep and compelling meaning for us, today? How do we really know that the totally private decision of late summer, 1964 was still considered compelling as the time for getting ready for a Real Decision (even if behind the scenes) came into focus at or just before Christmas, 1967?
An early communication of consequence was when Lady Bird told the Johnson’s good buddy Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas in May, 1967. (Some readers may have read of the terrible Fortas summer when the top position on the Court escaped him as the President lost. Jack Valenti, dearest of friends, no stranger to life in the White House, had been told even earlier, by quite a bit. It is wonderful to read in Lyndon’s wife’s diary intimate words reinforcing her unqualified faith in the decision early on not to run.
Far more relevant are these actions: James Webb, head of NASA needed a successor to get ready…. So he was told early. Texas congressman Jake Pickle had to know for many reasons; he was told. The time was at hand in autumn, 1967, when the highest of officials had to be advised officially from the top. General Westmoreland was one. McNamara was leaving, he learned, and enroute the General was filled in on facts about Johnson’s health. LBJ candidly discussed “presidents’ health” where talk included the term “invalided.” General Eisenhower was next. (I observed in my book version that LBJ would never have lied to West Point graduates on a matter of this kind.) Ike instantly conveyed what he learned to General Goodpaster, who, advised, says he found it “very revealing” on many matters.
There would seem to be little real gain in moving on at this point to a discussion of exactly how President Johnson chose to reveal to the greater public and to an array of key figures his decision not to run. The time came when it was very late—March, 1968, and the chief executive was weighing all kinds of things: principally just what could he get out of North Vietnam with a conveyed decision that he would no longer be in “that office.”
Need we, having established the truth about the Johnson renunciation of being on the 1968 Democratic ticket, trace any of the events that occurred then and in the more than a half year to come? No; but a quotation from astute Richard Nixon is worthwhile. Late in 1967 he said observantly of the sitting President: “He seemed to be running away from…his policies in public” and failing to generate support. So observed the master politician! Not even knowing the decision had been made, that veteran could sense that something important had been decided on a key matter.
Few, or no, individuals were as close to Lyndon Johnson as Arthur Krim (who would in later years lead Hollywood, but at the time was the guarantor of candidate LBJ’s solvency when seeking election. On March 11, 1968 he selected Hubert Humphry to be President’s Club speaker on April 30. As for Humphrey, sitting vice president, he was told well ahead of time, and Dean Rusk, Secretary of State was another who learned of the truth (though he didn’t believe it).
At the appropriate time the crafty President, seeking to get something out of words and deeds, said to a national audience: “…I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.” May I now quote my book on the reaction? “Listeners were incredulous. Eric Severeid and other TV anchormen were at a total loss for interpretations, just as Johnson had hoped they would be. Contrary to what some have alleged, Lady Bird was ‘radiant’; to her Lyndon she said, ‘Nobly done, darling.’ ”
Having (I think) established my main point, that Lyndon B. Johnson was not forced out of running for reelection in 1968, I see nothing to be gained by ruminating about reactions nationally in party circles, or among White House aides. Johnson seems to have thought he could/would have won.
Maybe giving Lady Bird the last word is warranted. In autumn, 1967 she had written in private: with four more years in office for a man in his sixties, “bad health might overtake him…; a physical or mental incapacitation would be unbearable, painful for him to recognize.” (There had been so many visits by Lady Bird to hospitals!)
My conclusion is sturdy: (page 296) “So, Johnson’s withdrawal from candidacy for another term could have been—but clearly was not—due to Tet, the war in general, rival challengers in his party, the protesters, the polls, the ‘system’ working, any alleged mental quirks or supposed tendencies toward avoiding conflict, or the fear of losing.” His key words of summation were used by me in my chapter title, to wit, “I’VE GONE THE DISTANCE.”
A GOLDEN AGE FOR SCHOLARSHIP IN AMERICAN HISTORY:
Vaughn Davis Bornet
“The profession of history is thriving, the professors are vigorous,” exclaimed the executive secretary of the American Historical Association as New Year’s Day, 1957 approached. Historians were said to be on the move; they were writing and publishing quantities of books and articles. Professional meetings were well attended. American history seemed to be enjoying increasing interest from the public. Asking from the Far West, “What is Right With the Historical Profession?” textbook master John D. Hicks found the current scene much to his liking; in short, historians could be proud of themselves. Yet there had been dissenting voices in the 1950’s, such as that of Howard K. Beale in the Pacific Historical Review. University historians, he thought, had many failings both as teachers and researchers. Other critics intimated that closer relationships between secondary school history teachers and scholars on the campus would be fruitful. Meanwhile there were new ideas aplenty expressed from platforms and in writing.
The present account of new viewpoints and new productivity in American history covers the middle years of the 1950’s. Most of the books cited were published in the years between the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 and the middle of his second term, say 1957. Summarized are attitudes that highly placed historians voiced on the teaching of history, and there is much assessment of the book publications exciting American history specialists in those years. New interests like military history, labor history, and even history built around topographical features of the landscape are indicated here, while controversies and a new research techniques are duly noted. It was a great time for a venerable profession to be functioning and to rejoice.
TEACHING AND STUDYING HISTORY
In the seventy-odd years since the founding of the American Historical Association, no presidential address had dealt exclusively with the teaching of history until respected historian of the Monroe Doctrine, Dexter Perkins, then president of the A. H. A., chose in 1956 the theme “We Shall Gladly Teach” for colleagues meeting in St. Louis. He asked if the true function of the teacher of history was to arouse doubt and foster the critical attitude—or to set some positive standards of thought and action–and he urged,
“We must make the past more vivid and the quality of men’s adventure more deeply understood; we must interpret the past broadly; in the spirit of a man to whom nothing human is alien: we need not be afraid to speak of moral values, to be sensitive and compassionate, or to exalt wisdom and goodness; we must set the example of a sound intellectual and moral balance, of a broad view of human values; we must make the process of the mind in seeking truth so fair, so understanding of various opinions, and yet so clear that they will command respect and deserve imitation.”
Perkins suggested that teachers retain a familiarity with source materials, a point once advanced by Thomas A. Bailey in his “The Obligation of the Teacher to Be a Scholar,” Social Education (Dec., 1949). Meanwhile a high school teacher from Peoria, Illinois, Hazel C. Wolf, told a considerable audience in 1956 that the burden for training teachers could not be shirked by university professors of history in favor of other things.
Hopeful of improving the teaching of history, the American Historical Association inaugurated in 1956 a Service Center for Teachers of History (400 A. Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003 since 1963). It hoped to bridge the “growing gap” between school history teachers and university scholars. There would be a new AHA publications program. A job Register was staffed.
In this connection, the appearance of the third edition of the Directory of American Scholars in 1957 was of unusual importance to teachers of history since, with removal of sketches of other social scientists to volume III of American Men of Science (1956), many more historians than ever before were included in the Directory’s 836 double columned pages. A 1952 survey of historians at the hands of J.F. Wellemeyer, Jr. in A.H.R. (Jan., 1956) revealed that of 2, 979 members of the American Historical Association who replied to a letter of inquiry, sixty-three per cent had the doctorate and another thirty-one per cent had a master’s degree. Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, and University of California (Berkeley and U.C.L.A.) led at the time in quantity of doctoral graduates.
Active, with journals and conventions, were state and national associations, too many to list here. Truly national was the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, while the Southern Historical Association remained regional in focus but with a national membership. The A.H.A. maintained a branch in the Far West. Meetings of such groups could be at Christmas-New Year time, in the spring, or the autumn, depending…. Those who managed to attend the two or three day meetings now and then were rewarded by meeting with authors, seeing textbooks and their writers, and seeing those who were rising to leadership. Exhibits of new books, panels, presidential speeches—all vied with “mingling” at meetings, while former classmates rejoiced at getting together.
A striking development of the 1950’s was the increased granting of research, travel, and teaching fellowships to historians, even though in this respect they lagged behind grants to natural scientists. Some universities had trouble keeping a quorum of big names in classrooms, as Israel, Austria, and other distant parts of the world listened to lectures that were delivered, quite often, in English. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (1953) was a direct outgrowth of such a period of overseas residence, and there were indications that the United States gained in stature from upward mobility of most historians who enjoyed the overseas experience. Shepard B. Clough, The American Way (1953) consisted of discerning lectures delivered by the Columbia professor in Europe.
At home, there was preliminary effort to utilize TV for adult education in history. Some program series, like that by James C. Olson of Nebraska State Historical Society on the “Sodhouse Frontier,” were filmed for repeat broadcasts on educational radio stations in coming years. Long accustomed to microphone lecturing at giant universities, some historians wondered if the future would see them lecturing at giant universities; others wondered if they would lecture into cameras for students lounging at home in bed or in fraternity houses. The emerging small screen TV was viewed with suspicion for the most part, although it might well have a future….
As has been said, conventions of historical associations were well attended in the 1950’s. After balloting by mail, the Mississippi Valley Historical Association refused to change its name to something indicative of its focus on American history. Tradition triumphed. The Association for State and Local History was immensely invigorated by sponsorship of its new publication American Heritage. In the pages of that beautiful magazine the elusive “layman” and his children were eagerly courted by favored writers. Indeed, state society, archival and museum specialists in the nation no longer worried about drifting into sterile antiquarianism.
In the 1950’s there were moves away from that sort of thing, and James Parton, publisher of American Heritage, rejoiced that “There is today in America a great reawakening interest in history…, how we got to where we are and how that rediscovery can help us through the difficult problems of the present and the future.” His hard cover periodical, edited by Bruce Catton with heavy emphasis on human interest and social history and illustrated in full color, came to have a vast circulation among laymen, unheard of for a history magazine. Meanwhile, The Directory of Historical Societies and Agencies in the United States and Canada (1956) rose to 48 pages.
Several networks on historical method interested historians in these years. James C. Malin, The Contriving Brain and the Skillful Hand in the United States (1955) rejected entrenched interpretations in its concern with the philosophy of history. Homer C. Hockett, The Critical Method in Historical Research and Writing (1955) was a thoroughly revised edition. Wendell H. Stephenson, The South Lives in History (1955) discussed famous Southern historians appreciatively and otherwise. Mirra Komarovsky edited Common Frontiers of the Social Sciences (1957), among whose seventeen essays was the 70 page “Research Problems in American Political Historiography.”
A British scholar, H. Hale Bellot, American History and American Historians, had in 1952 discerned weak spots in American historical productivity in a thoughtful survey of leading books. Historians were also concerned about the factual basis of more than a few major interpretations. The Social Science Research Council appointed a committee of five in 1957 “to encourage the development of better methods for assessing the evidence underlying selected historical prepositions or generalizations.” Both style and content were matters for concern at the time.
The 1,711 would-be history Ph. D’s who had doctoral dissertations in progress in 1955 were the recipients of much advice on such matters. In a humorous vein, Walter Prescott Webb spoke (from Texas) of the young faculty, chiefly in the larger universities, “who are driven to write when they have nothing to say and are fired if they do not say it with documentation.” Boyd C. Shafer, the new editor of the American Historical Review thought “We should examine more closely the problems involved in winning a wider audience—more buyers of our books—and we should continue to explore how we can publish less expensively.” He urged paying more attention to style than to what he termed the apparatus of scholarship, seeking out really significant subjects, not just those with convenient source materials. All work should be related to the full history of the time and to writing already in print, he thought. (His journal had received 157 essays during one recent year.) His opinion:
“In American history…we saw too few top-notch studies and almost none which tried to interpret American history in the venture- some fashion of Tyler, Turner, and Beard. The bold new views that these giants have led us to expect of American historians seem strangely lacking, as least insofar as submitted articles indicate.”
A disgruntled reviewer, irritated by reading a newly published dissertation, wrote in June, 1957, “University presses would do well to leave the business of publishing doctoral dissertations to University Microfilms.” None of these complaints were new. It was left for a British scholar to tell American historians what he felt about 1,300 footnotes supporting a monograph on an obscure topic:
“…my blood ran cold. I am all for historical research work at the grass roots but boggle at being asked to look at each blade of grass. American history being by the nature of events a somewhat recent development in human affairs, American scholars, aided by the bounty of many foundations, are inclined to blow up a subject for the sake of research rather than research into the subject on a scale commensurate with its importance.”
Highly placed historians surveyed in their presidential addresses such matters as bias and passing of judgment on men and events. President Edward C. Kirkland of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association said, for example,
“… it is essential to apply the same standards of judgment and appraisal to all groups and to all individuals: to realize, for instance that success is no more a reason for denying a man or a cause a hearing than failure is a reason for granting it; to discard the sentimentalism that associates truth with one social class and error with another; to acknowledge that trade unions as well as corporations may use power arbitrarily. … Let us be on our guard lest, by dividing our standards, we ruin not only ourselves as practicing historians but also the heritage of American history which we are under obligation to honor, to explore, and to transmit.” Kirkland, himself a frequent writer on controversial 19th century themes, passed on to colleagues, for what it might be worth, a free-wheeling translation of an old Latin phrase, namely: “Democrats and Republicans I treat alike.”
This gentle warning was particularly appropriate in the 1950’s because of a tendency in some historians to be increasingly discontented with merely telling the story of the past. The passing of judgment became common in new history books. Perhaps the reason for this was just a natural desire to be influential. Yet behavioral scientists with their open door policy on all questions relating to the actions of mankind may have had its due effect. Gerald M. Capers wrote in March, 1956,
“We historians must speculate as to how and why things got like they are, though we should know when we are speculating and admit it. Why should we stick to the data and details of the Populist Revolt or the Missouri Compromise and leave the sixty-four-dollar questions to the anthropologist or the social scientist? Just because it is safer, and we know the exact answers cannot be found?”
SOME INFLUENTIAL BOOKS
Some books of history seemed more important than others in the years 1953 to 1957—as was natural. The Pulitzer Prize for History was awarded to George Dangerfield, The Era of Good Feelings, Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox, Paul Horgan, Great River: the Rio Grande in North American History, Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform, and George M. Kennan, Russia Leaves the War: Soviet American Relations, 1917-1920.
Biographies awarded the Pulitzer Prize covered the lives of John C. Calhoun, Charles Evans Hughes, Edmund Pendleton, Robert A. Taft, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Charles A. Lindbergh won with his autobiographical Spirit of St. Louis, and Senator John F. Kennedy won with a collective biography, Profiles in Courage. Professor Hofstadter’s book, subtitled “From Bryan to F.D.R.”, an account of populism, progressivism, and New Dealism pointed out contrasts and similarities discerned by the author, some of which were not necessarily concurred in by all readers.
Other books, while not prize winners, won attention. Randolph E. Paul, Taxation in the United States (1954) was an 830-page classic on the federal tax system—the political origins of the individual and corporation income taxes and the inheritance tax. In 1956 a sparkling survey of American history for textbook use, The American Pageant, which had been checked in manuscript by scores of experts (often, by this recent Ph.D.). Thomas A. Bailey showed again, with a classic headed for innumerable editions and coming editor-authors, that he had few equals in the preparation of readable history–diplomatic or not.
New textbooks by young historians began to invade the sales territories of standard treatments. A stimulating book was Oscar Handlin, Chance of Destiny (1955), which treated eight incidents that marked turning points in American history. Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 (1954), a five-volume production by many political scientists, showed the complexity of the American electoral process with its variation from state to state.
David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (1954) brought to bear an interdisciplinary point of view of deep interest to teachers of social studies. The effect of plenty on our social and political institutions was the theme. Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (1955) and Wesley Frank Craven, The Legend of the Founding Fathers (1956) aroused discussion. Leland D. Baldwin, The Meaning of America (1955) was an attempt to understand “the American spirit.” Readers of Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.’s The Decline of American Liberalism (1955) found it easy to become mentally excited. War, nationalism, government intervention, and majoritarian democracy came to be considered historic evils. Major figures of our history were measured and evaluated in accordance with the extent to which they furthered these defined “evils.”
Books like these were likely to recharge the batteries of teachers bored with “the same old history.” Yet it was abundantly clear that such new interpretations were not welcome in many places. Shouldn’t they withstand scholarly criticism before entering the mainstream? Tradition! History journals for historians were carrying new articles and innumerable book reviews, and there were many state journals of history. The Historian, prepared since 1938 by Phi Alpha Theta, a history group, was thriving.
Books that exposed large new portions of American history to view were John W. Oliver, History of American Technology (1956), A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government (1957), and Mary M. Roberts, American Nursing: History and Interpretation (1954). Books on the patent system, petroleum pipelines, and the water supplies of municipalities were fresh treatments, for example Nelson W. Blake, Water for the Cities (1956). An unusual sectional history was D.G. Brinton Thompson, Gateway to a Nation (1956), the first Unitarian account of the Middle Atlantic States and their influence on the development of the nation. American Catholicism (1956) by John Tracy Ellis consisted of four lectures and was termed by an expert the best short history of its subject from a Catholic point of view. By the same author was Documents of American Catholic History (1956).
Historians showed an interest in presidents of the United States, living and dead, thereby disregarding protests against any “presidential synthesis.” An urging to give increased attention to less exalted figures of American history affected some writers, but publication proved difficult. The centennial of the birth of Woodrow Wilson brought new evaluations, among them a biography by Silas B. McKinley, a book of diplomacy by Edward H. Buehrig, and a psychological analysis.
The work of Arthur M. Link on Wilson (at Princeton) seemed to approach definition, but reviewer John M. Blum wisely observed that books seldom meet the needs of all generations. He contrasted the Wilson portrayed by Link with the restful figure of Ray Stannard Baker’s earlier work—which so well suited contemporaries. Authorities banded together to contribute to The Greatness of Woodrow Wilson (1956) to which President Eisenhower added an introduction. A Centennial Commission sponsored some memorials to the World War I president.
The Rutgers Press finished issuing its attractive set of Lincoln papers, and Elting E. Morison completed the editing of eight volumes of Theodore Roosevelt Letters. New books on T.R. quickly gained publication, John M. Blum’s The Republican Roosevelt (1954) among them. A 22-volume set of Madison papers was projected.
Books on Franklin D. Roosevelt continued to appear (see below); former President Herbert Hoover’s Memoirs reached three volumes (with help), but volume I’s readability dominated. Harry Truman’s effort stopped at two. There was a biography of Rutherford B. Hayes and a thoroughgoing one on James K. Polk through the governorship. Irving Brant’s Madison series attained five volumes, rejuvenating its central figure, but the mighty Henry Adams treatment of the era still appealed—as reprints showed. Douglas Southall Freeman’s study of Washington attained posthumous completion. There were also studies of Presidents Jackson and Tyler, while Samuel Flag Bemis released a second volume on John Quincy Adams. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, published at a reasonable price by the Princeton University Press, continued regular appearance, rehabilitating his long era.
There was major activity on Alexander Hamilton. An edition of papers was projected; meanwhile, a well edited volume by Richard B. Morris was convenient. The Hamilton career attracted Broadus Mitchell, Louis M. Hacker, and others. Books of tribute and antiquarianism on Benjamin Franklin saw print; publishing his papers was discussed. Teachers of history, buried in words of wisdom from the great men of America’s past, rejoiced–but may have postponed a reading of these immense multi-volume sets of papers for a later day.
A useful reference book was Encyclopedia of American History (Harper, 1953) edited by Richard B. Morris which offered essential facts about American life and institutions and a 5,000-entry index. A major publication replacing older versions was the Harvard Guide to American History, a topical and chronological guide to books, pictures, and other materials. Richard G. Lillard, American Life in Autobiography (1956) was a guide to 400 books on the personalities and character of great men and women. An index to the Writings on American History, 1902-1940 series was finished. The series reached 1952, skipping 1940-47. The New American Nation series, the Library of American Biography, and the Library of American Civilization were readable books.
WRITING A NEW AMERICAN HISTORY
At the conclusion of World War II there was published in School and Society (Feb. 2, 1946) an essay by Stanford’s venerable History chairman Edgar Eugene Robinson calling for “A New American History.” Soon available in an appropriate book, the call was to recognize a new era. Robinson wrote:
“We must be prepared to deal with (1) a tremendous increase in detailed subject matter; (2) a greater emphasis on the last half-century, when mankind has traveled as far as in the preceding thousand; (3) a wide dispersion of Americans throughout the world, making the American not a continental but a world civilization; and, finally most important, (4) a present necessity in emphasizing the political activities of men, here at home and in every corner of the globe. We must insist, as never before, that the one continuous, all-important theme in the new history is the story of man’s attempt to govern himself.”
By 1957 the tremendous increase in subject matter was overwhelming all who studied and wrote American history. Yearbooks, like those of Encyclopedia Britannica, Americana, Colliers, Worldbook, and others, told the present-day story in the large sets, usually correcting any errors discovered during the year. Scholars later on could find continuity in many key yearbook articles like “United States,” drafted in 1956 and 1957 by this writer. Books of history flowed like wine from the presses; still, unpublished manuscripts existed in abundance. There was new emphasis on the 20th century. Colonial historians became concerned about the future of their specialty. American history specialists were lecturing overseas to various parts of a world audience. Political history and biography made great gains as the history of man’s attempt at self-government acquired new advocates while the worldwide Soviet threat was constituting a Cold War.
State and local history seemed to be gaining in favor. A state study of really notable competence was Wyoming’s War Years, 1941-1945 (1954), in which T.A. Larson showed what quality could be reached by a researcher trained in medieval history, when tackling events of his own day on “the home front.” California became a fertile field for specialized studies, including books on farm organizations, politics, and social welfare. There was a book on Huey Long’s Louisiana, while five volumes of The Papers of Willie Person Mangum, (1956) edited by Henry T. Shanks amounted to an account of North Carolina history. That state, and Alabama, had new summary volumes of history similar to University of North Carolina Press books on Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina. State narratives were discussed at the 1955 American Historical Association meeting, where some contrarians thought that regional history might be better.
The Rivers of America Series reached 40 volumes in 1955, while other series covered lakes, mountains, trails, cities, and regions. A series entitled “The Far West and Rockies” would one day reach 15 volumes. Texas history, almost regional in itself, saw new accounts of merit. Bessie Pierce continued to publish on Chicago, and Blake McKelvey completed three books on Rochester. Frederick Sha’s History of the New York City Legislature was local history with a punch; Bayard Still traced traveler’s opinions of the New York City in Mirror for Gotham (1956).
“American Studies” programs blossomed at Yale, Stanford, and elsewhere as the result of financial assistance and the desire of some historians to produce for journals like the American Quarterly some new insights in the cultural-literary social area. An American Studies Association was formed in 1951, and there was much interest in the image, the myth, the stereotype, and the symbol. At an institute of Behavioral Science in California a handful of historians united in a year of contact with social and natural scientists financed by the Ford Foundation. “Interdisciplinary approaches”—was an expression gaining in use; yet there was resistance.
Labor historians saw new vistas ahead when they were presented with an inventory of the American Federation of Labor archives by this writer in The Historian (Autumn, 1955) together with a call for a “New Labor History” to be based on labor manuscripts. Transfer of large portions of these archives from AFL/CIO to the Wisconsin State Historical Society after microfilming prevented destruction and could encourage research. Labor historians formed a small society at the New York School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Ithaca, N.Y. New books on Gompers and the AFL were published, and new treatments of the CIO appeared, one on political activities, while another focused on Communist penetration. Local in its focus was Grace Heilman Stimson, The History of the Labor Movement in Los Angeles (1955).
Historians and social welfare specialists organized a committee in 1957, the executive secretary being Ralph E. Pumphrey of New York University. Studies of importance on social welfare were also likely to result from a call for historical productivity contained in a Report of the Princeton Conference on the History of Philanthropy in the United States and an article by Merle Curti in A.H.R. (Jan., 1957). Reviews of From the Depths (1956) by Robert H. Bremner, a treatment of “the discovery of poverty in the United States” were favorable, and a study of Jewish charity in Boston was revealing. California Social Welfare (1956) by Vaughn Davis Bornet (this writer) dealt with the public and private current scene, especially in law, agencies, and programs; there were 108 tables. Unique archives assembled on the State’s voluntary and public agencies were organized and deposited in the Bancroft Library to be open for use. Social welfare archives at University of Minnesota were growing.
The 1950’s were a post-war world. More than forty courses in military history were being taught in American colleges and universities by 1957. Walter Millis, Arms and Men (1956) was a study in American military history, while American Military Policy (since 1775) was produced by C. Joseph Bernardo and Eugene H. Bacon (1955). Robert V. Bruce wrote an account of ordnance in Lincoln and the Tools of War (1956), and Wallace Evan Davies, Patriotism on Parade (1955) told the story of veterans and hereditary organizations, 1783 to 1900.
Books about World War II sponsored by the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army were produced in quantity in the dozen years following victory. The United States Army in World War II series reached 27 published volumes by 1958 with dozens yet to go. The History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II by Samuel Eliot Morison came to eleven volumes in 1957.
Controversial was Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., The Civilian and the Military (1956) whose theme was the decline of civil supremacy and of the American anti-militarist tradition. A memoir with military overtones was Arthur M. Compton, Atomic Quest; A Personal Narrative (1956), an account of the A-Bomb project chiefly from memories, official records, letters, and testimony. Books on older periods of our history, meanwhile, brought new ideas and new approaches. Late in the decade, at the request of Congress, a score of scholars of The RAND Corporation researched pioneering The Space Handbook (1959). The present writer soon prepared a 70-page summary, intended to offer lighter fare (see the website clioistics).
THE COLONIAL AND REVOLUTIONARY PERIODS
Constituting half of American history in point of time, the colonial and revolutionary years continued to be researched by specialists, their books finding appreciative review in journals like American Historical Review, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, William and Mary Quarterly and Pennsylvania History. A Conference on Early American History was placed on a permanent footing in 1955 with a Williamsburg, Virginia, address. Clifford K. Shipton of the American Antiquarian Society wrote that “the mass of knowledge now accumulated in the colonial field cannot be mastered by any scholar who devotes less than full time to it.”
Still, increasing interest in recent history was diverting attention from the older field, and some thought this entirely proper—at least in moderation. Revisionist Merrill Jensen edited American Colonial Documents to 1776 (1955), a book intended to facilitate new work in original sources. Perry Miller’s The New England Mind in 1953 moved along the road from colony to province. Alan Simpson also wrote on Puritanism, while William L. Sachse described the status and activities of Americans in Britain. Lawrence H. Gipson in 1956 reached volume IX of his minutely researched imperial study, bringing the story to 1766. Yet the old (once the new) “empire” approach was losing some ground.
Small but perceptible increases in conservatism and patriotism in the 1950’s affected the interpretation of the American Revolution. It was plain that, for whatever reason, many teachers and writers were oriented toward colonial-centered, not empire-centered history. The causes of the conflict were discussed afresh by historians—for example at the Pittsburgh meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association in 1956. Richard Pares, Yankee and Creoles (1956) dealt with trade between North America and the West Indies, and a new book on the Stamp Act crisis appeared. Louis B. Wright took colonial culture for his subject in two books, Edmund S. Morgan wrote The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 (1956), and monographs proliferated. The Colonial Records of South Carolina was a major project.
Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735-1789 (1956), John E. Pomfret, The Province of West New Jersey, 1609-1702 (1956), and John Duffy, Epidemics in Colonial America (1953) were new and important, as were books on Shays’ Rebellion and one on immigration from Scotland in the eighteenth century. The renewed interest in military history showed itself in the posthumous publication of two volumes by Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution (1952), made possible by the editing of John Richard Alden.
The revolutionary period attracted many scholars in the 1950’s. Many publications were source materials with human interest value. Political history was not neglected, as the nation reexamined its origins. Elisha P. Douglass, Rebels and Democrats (1955) studied equal political rights and majority rule, and Stuart Gerry Brown, The First Republicans (1954) contributed to early party history—as did Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists (1953). Nathan Schachner’s book The Founding Fathers (1954) was comprehensible, causing Curtis P. Nettles to comment on the lack of agreement among historians on the relative importance of Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson when compared with lesser-known figures who left fewer personal papers. Federalist Delaware was definitely described by John Munroe (of that state). Anglo-American foreign relations were studied.
It was in reviewing Clinton Rossiter’s Seedtime of the Republic (1953), a development of the political ideas that sustained the rise of liberty in colonial and revolutionary America, that Benjamin F. Wright made a challenging comparison with Vernon Parrington’s stimulating but sometimes impressionistic Colonial Mind. Some colonial historians thought they were doing more thorough work than great scholars of the past. Yet publication in 1956 of A.S. Eisenstadt’s Charles McLean Andrews and of a thoughtful study on Carl Becker, plus availability of many published letters of A. H. A.’s “dean” John Franklin Jameson was a reminder that earlier scholars like Van Tyne and Osgood had also plowed deeply in their chosen fields.
The publicity expressed views of the Founding Fathers on the weakness of the Confederation were in the 19th century those of historians as well. For John Fiske it had been “the critical period,” but those writing in and for a new generation wondered if economic chaos, 1783-87, had been largely imaginary. Richard B. Morris wrote a historiographical essay on the controversy in William and Mary Quarterly. Disagreement on facts continued. What of the franchise in 1787? And what was the extent of real property ownership? The frontier elements and the urban dwellers of those years were now contending through researchers, deadly serious, on the period of Confederation through Constitution.
Charles A. Beard in his life was often an upsetting factor in American thought. Historians and political scientists ventured to read his trenchant prose and marveled at his originality. In death the master proved as important as ever, as obituaries and eulogies brought remembrance and return visits to old books on the shelves. Howard K. Beale edited Charles A. Beard: An Appraisal (1954). Articles on “Beard and…” began to appear. In 1913 Beard began his An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States with the words, “The following pages are frankly fragmentary.” Even so, the thesis of that penetrating book created great excitement among thoughtful persons. In those pages the Founding Fathers seemed to be concerned with the adoption and ratification of the Constitution in proportion as they stood to gain financially by creating a strong, centralized government. Emotions like patriotism and idealism seemed needlessly minimized to many readers of Beard, and early critics like William Howard Taft had been incensed.
The Beard thesis received major acceptance at the college level, but far less heed was obtained at the high school level. Maurice Blinkoff revealed in The Influence of Charles A. Beard Upon American Historiography (Univ. of Buffalo Studies, Monographs in History, 1936) that of 42 college texts published, 1913-1935, 37 picked up the Beard thesis. Fourteen of 19 revised editions did so. Just three of 47 secondary school texts followed Beard’s economic version of events, and no revisions picked it up. Here was a gap between the reading matter of high school and college graduates. When the former reached college they sometimes abandoned the selfless Fathers dedicated to order, unity, and destiny who lived (since Channing) in high school classrooms.
Questions were likely to be left unsettled. Were the Founding Fathers really economic men, chiefly interested in “money, public securities, manufactures, and trade and shipping”—as Beard had put it? Was the convention majority “a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labors”? (Beard, p. 324) Were the people really “a large propertyless mass” excluded from voting by property restrictions on the franchise? The Fathers, Beard said in summary, were “immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.” Favoring ratification were “substantial property interests;” while opposed were “small farming and debtor interests.”
A book that claimed to destroy most of Beard’s views on the matter was Robert E. Brown, Charles Beard and the Constitution (1956). Fresh from a study of middle-class democracy in Massachusetts, 1691-1780, Brown retraced Beard’s research path: his book even had Beard’s chapter titles. The historical method used by Beard had been faulty, said Brown, and he ripped into it with gusto. The thesis that the Constitution was put over undemocratically in an undemocratic society by holders of extensive personal property got flatly denied.
The “propertyless masses” of Beard were said to be largely a fiction. The Revolution had been fought for life, liberty, and property, he said, and all Americans were property-minded. An assumption of the Fathers had been that theirs was a democratic society. “The Constitution was created about as much by the whole people as any government could be which embraced a large area and depended on representation rather than on direct participation.” The Fathers had definitely not been self-seeking conspirators.
There could be little doubt that to the extent one followed Brown, the Founding Fathers emerged from his pages much closer to the men of selfless integrity and wisdom conceptualized in grade school textbooks than to the more self-seeking politicians portrayed in revisionist texts at the college level. Yet much research clearly remained to be done, particularly on voting and property ownership, before the division among scholars could be minimized. Innumerable reviewers of the Brown book (many of them clearly devoted followers of Beard) did not give up entirely on their Economic Interpretation.
Another controversial book of the 1950’s was William W. Crosskey, Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States (1953), an evangelical two volumes comprising a semantic analysis to prove that the key words in the Constitution were used with meanings in 1767 far different from those presumed by later jurists. Here was a book to be absorbed and escorted clear up to the Supreme Court justices.
THE NATIONAL PERIOD
The Origins of the American Party System (1956) by Joseph Charles studied the years to 1800, while the pioneering administrative history of famed Leonard D. White came to three volumes with the new Jacksonians (1954). A book by Bray Hammond revaluated the subject of banks and politics for the nation’s first half century. John William Ward, Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age (1955) was one of several monographs treating themes with implications for the political minded of the present. Glover Moore, The Missouri Compromise, 1819-1821 (1953) would clearly stand the test of time, as would Henry Thompson Malone, Cherokees of the Old South (1956). Treatments of David Crockett were, in general, a different matter. Upsetting was a well-written book with a challenging thesis: Norman Graebner, Empire on the Pacific (1955), which saw in the westward expansion of the Polk era the calculated intention of the administration to seize the Pacific Coast for commercial and maritime reasons!
Slavery found a thorough and daring researcher in Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution (1956), an author markedly unsympathetic to the U.B. Phillips school of books once popular. Wisconsin born and trained, Stampp wrote in a field long occupied by the Southern born and oriented. Meanwhile, John Hope Franklin, The Militant South, 1800-1861 (1956) presented evidence to suggest an unpleasant case. Its white Southern reviewers remained unpersuaded that violence was the same as militancy, or that the Old Northwest was much different or much better. (In any case, its handsome black author would rise to the A.H.A. presidency.) The vigorous battle over Reconstruction at the close of the 1940s, featuring Franklin’s attacks on E. Merton Coulter, who wrote some 30 books deep in Athens, Georgia, was not over by any means. Bibliographical volumes on travels in the Old South, Texas history, and the religious press in the Southeast portended further productivity in such neglected fields.
The heated school segregation issue in the South as it emerged had its effect on historians of the Old South, Civil War, and Reconstruction, it appears. Two historians asked in 1956, “Can Differences in the Interpretations of the Causes of the American Civil War Be Resolved Objectively?’ There was little to suggest this would happen in the 1950s. As Howard K. Beale observed in 1946, “In the case of the Civil War, peculiarly persistent sectional feelings and traditions about that conflict have given the historian’s early environment a particularly telling influence.”
A flood of books on the Civil War appeared in the 1950’s. A new periodical, Civil War History, began publication. Allan Nevins, The Ordeal of the Union, reached three solid volumes: he interpreted men and events in his slender The Statesmanship of the Civil War (1953). J.G. Randall did not live to see the publication of volume IV of his mighty study on Lincoln, but Richard N. Current finished his teacher’s Lincoln the President: Last Full Measure 1955). The handsomely bound History of the South series passed the half way mark by 1957, its bibliographies alone offering impressive testimonies to Southern historiography in the 20th century. Coulter’s solid book on Reconstruction was first to appear as revisionists resisted.
Kenneth P. Williams was greeted by qualified reviewers as a fully professional historian and not like a “mathematics professor” when his Lincoln Finds a General, a military history of the war, reached four volumes in 1956 with three still projected. Clement Eaton, A History of the Southern Confederacy (1954) was a good treatment of a popular subject. Monographs dealt with the election of 1864, Confederate finance, Negro troops, loyalty tests, Mrs. Surratt, pardon and amnesty, and the martyr complex among abolitionists. Also Lincoln and Greeley, the Sanitary Commission, the Southern Claims Commission, and books of fiction written around the war theme. Books varying in quality on battles and generals abounded, General Sherman being a popular subject. Journalism in the war was covered minutely. A noticeable trend was the reprinting of contemporary diaries and older accounts like F. L. Olmstead’s The Cotton Kingdom.
Reconstruction was represented by books on the 14th Amendment, Northern Methodism, and the Grand Army of the Republic. C. Vann Woodward contended in The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955) that the policies of prescription, segregation, and disfranchisement came later than the restoration of home rule, and “the belief that they are immutable and unchangeable is not supported by history.”
ONWARD TO THE 1920s
A considerable emphasis on immigration and on the role of racial groups in the building of the nation appeared in these years. Immigration historiography was studied as a field, resulting in many publications, and Oscar Handlin continued his effort to treat immigration coming from continental Europe as a major theme in American History. There were new books on Dutch and Irish immigration, the German language press and culture, and repatriated Greek-Americans. The memoirs of American Jews were edited in three volumes by Jacob Rader Marcus. Immigrants, nativists, and agrarian radicals received book treatment, with John Higham, Strangers in the Land winning the Dunning Prize in 1956. The Socialist party received new attention in books rooted in the party press and availability of manuscripts.
Was the history of education about to take on a new lease on life? The History Education Section of the National Society of College Teachers of Education held its first joint session with the A.H.A. in 1955, while histories of several universities and colleges, the lyceum, and civil liberties in the classroom displayed new interest in education. A book unifying American educational development around a large organization was Edgar B. Wesley, NEA: The First Hundred Years (1957). The book was financed by the National Education Association. A pamphlet by five historians and educators, “The Role of Education in American History,” suggested that more books from historians on that subject would be welcome.
The West was not neglected in these years. Two works on the cowboy, and books on the Indian wars of Minnesota, Fort Griffin, Dakota Territory, and the Sioux were a few of many. Less exciting but possible more revealing of the lives of less adventuresome folks was Lewis E. Atherton, Main Street on the Middle Border (1954). Carl F. Kraenzel, The Great Plains in Transition (1955) was a book by “a sociologist with a historical conscience” as one reader put it. Three books in 1953 surveyed aspects of agricultural history: Carl C. Taylor, The Farmer’s Movement, 1620-1920; Grant McConnell, The Decline of Agrarian Democracy; and Murray R. Benedict, Farm Policies of the United States, 1790-1950. Distinctly original books based on hard research were these of John E. Caswell, Arctic Frontiers (1956) a treatment of pioneering explorations, and John J. Daly, The Use of History in the Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1900-1930 (1954).
Studies of business history and businessmen appeared often in the 1950’s. Irving G. Wyllie, The Self-Made Man in America (1954) attacked a “myth of rags to riches.” The baking industry, a carpet company, the American Bankers Association, and many companies were described in books. (Sometimes they financed the research.) Although some 40 books on the petroleum industry had been published since 1937, the first two volumes of the History of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, financed by them, contained new information in the realm of administrative history. The rise of the Carpenter’s Union was traced in book form, while National Civil Federation manuscripts showed close association earlier by leaders of labor and business. A book dissected National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce positions of the 1920’s but somewhat to their disadvantage.
The “robber barons” theme in American history came in for questioning in the years following 1950. The nation had been deep in the Depression when Matthew Josephson wrote The Robber Barons, a book concluding with an anticipation of class revolution. Books like this and the old History of the Great American Fortunes (1907) by Gustavas Myers were undermined by new books based on company manuscripts. Speaking in August, 1951, prolific journalist-historian Allan Nevins had called for a careful reassessment of the years from the Civil War to 1910, predicting that restudy would lead to greater appreciation of businessmen-industrialists, men he called true heroes of our industrial growth who had built “an indispensable might” in the nation. Historians, he thought, had been “apologetic about our dollars, our race to wealth, our materialism.”
A brief article by the present writer on “Those ‘Robber Barons’” in Western Political Quarterly (June, 1953) suggested ground rules for the new revisionism to avoid excesses. Ford: the Times, the Man, the Company (1954) was the first Nevins volume on the controversial industrialist. Thirteen per cent of its footnotes were references to “oral history” interviews made by the author’s Dearborn staff. When volume II appeared in 1957 it proved to be an outspoken account to 1933.
Time would show the full significance of W. Dean Burnham’s painstaking Presidential Ballots, 1836-1892, but its ultimate impact on research and writing in the political field would be great. Here was a worthy companion to the two pioneering books of Edgar Eugene Robinson which first offered election statistics, 1892 to 1944. New volumes traced the rise of the Progressives in Wisconsin, the development of the federal anti-trust policy, and politics in the Middle West, 1865-1896. Sidney Fine, Laissez Faire and the General Welfare State (1956) was a lengthy survey. Other books traced the history of voting in New Jersey, the history of Senate confirmation of presidential appointments, and the conscientious objector. Sidney Hyman, The American President (1954) was well received.
The 1920’s became a popular period for research and some revaluation during the years of the first Eisenhower Administration. Henry F. May noted “Shifting Perspectives on the 1920’s” for Mississippi Valley Historical Review (Dec., 1956), while the Red Scare, the Washington Conference, and religion in the 1928 election campaign were subjects of monographs. George H. Knoles (who would live to 107) analyzed British opinion of strange American doings in the Jazz Age Revisited (1955). “The critics, impressed by prosperity, sought the secret of America’s success,” wrote Knoles. “They found it in the chief characteristics of the American economy: high wages, mass production, and mass consumption.” Here were factors to add to conventional “flaming youth” and prohibition themes.
F.D.R. VISITED OVER AND OVER
Remaining the focus of a host of writers who had researched at Hyde Park on the Hudson was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Articles and books appeared, but the 1950’s saw fewer memoirs. Frank Freidel won admiring reviews for the first three volumes of a projected six, which brought his biography to 1933. Daniel R. Fusfeld examined the economic thought of Roosevelt, and Bernard Bellush published a study of the governorship. A reviewer judged that the book by Edgar Eugene Robinson, The Roosevelt Leadership, 1933-1945 (1955) made “a real contribution to posterity’s understanding of Roosevelt’s foreign policy,” and some reviewers reacted well to the long chronological bibliography drafted by the present writer (who researched for it a year but saw the text on publication). The Robinson book, prepared on a Philadelphia estate grant, was atypically critical of F.D.R. and was reviewed adversely by his admirers. The New Deal and the causation of Pearl Harbor would remain controversial indefinitely.
Dexter Perkins’s own book, The New Age of Franklin Roosevelt, 1932-45 (1957) rejected the idea of a Roosevelt Revolution, finding the age new because it emphasized the dynamic responsibility of the Federal government. The Robinson book’s emphasis on a “tragedy of leadership” which was destructive of resourcefulness in American life would not gain adherents. James M. Burns cleverly interpreted the actions of F.D.R. during his first two terms, in The Lion and the Fox (1956), while the first volume of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, (1957) treated a “crisis of the older order, 1919 to 1933.” The latter book brought many partisan reactions—much as had been the case with Roosevelt literature created earlier. Rexford G. Tugwell wrote in detail on The Democratic Roosevelt (1957), aided by his insider’s memory of men and events.
The New Deal years were becoming popular among researchers seeking subjects for study. The coming of World War II invited so much attention that Wayne S. Cole, author of a book on the America First group, could draft “American Entry Into World War II: A Historiographical Appraisal,” M.V.H.R. (March, 1957). Despite the extensive coverage of two substantial volumes by Langer and Gleason on diplomacy in those years, therefore, there was still room for books by H. Bradford Westerfield, Donald F. Drummond, and others.
The years of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower were the subject of Eric F. Goldman, The Crucial Decade: America 1945-1955 (1956); he got to work in White House corridors later. With America at Mid-Century (1955), Andre Siegfried tried to repeat a much earlier success at interpretation. Norman Graebner, The Neo-Isolationists (1956) was a disapproving interpretation of foreign policy formulation during the Eisenhower first term. (Graebner had spent the first year after WWII in uniform in Japan, striving to inculcate democracy in future leaders.)
THE INDIVIDUAL IN HISTORY
The role of the individual in history seemed as important to historians in the 1950’s as before, judging from the number of biographies produced, even though in many historical works the presidents have been a focus. One of note was Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power (1956), a book rooted in manuscript research. Arthur S. Link completed Wilson: The New Freedom (1956), another in his long term Wilson series. “Biographical writing, as old as history, has never been more popular than it is today,” wrote one observer.
Evaluation of the staggering biographical productivity of American scholars in the 1950’s cannot be attempted here. Consider some subjects of biographies: Billy Sunday, Charles Evans Hughes, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Jonathan Trumbull, Tecumseh, William Ellery Channing, Henry Adams, Samuel Gridley Howe, Henry Watterson, Elias Hicks, Booker T. Washington, Daniel Webster, Caleb Cushing, Brooks Adams, William B. Allison, Henry Varnum Poor, Joseph E. Johnston, Commodore Thomas Truxton, the Coker family of South Carolina, Edward Palmer the botanist, Robert Morris, P.G.T. Beauregard, Henry George, Sam Houston, Robert M. LaFollette, Eli Stanton, George Peek, Horace Greeley, Big Bill Thompson, Jefferson Davis, Joseph McCarthy, Schuyler Colfax, Bernard M. Baruch, and General James Longstreet.
The worth of all those books may be evaluated neither by their respective sizes nor the apparent importance of their central figures. The two volume study of Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois by William T. Hutchinson, for example, met standards of scholarship and significance with flying colors. There were some grounds for believing with Joe B. Frantz that “As generations move on and personal recollections fade the men whose reputations endure will be those with the best biographers.”
The present writer sat on a sofa for an hour once with Benjamin P. Thomas, chatting pleasantly. His passing in 1956 (at his own hand) reminded historians once again to admire his Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (1952), which was not just another addition to the 4,000 books and pamphlets on Lincoln; some claimed it to be the best single volume study of its subject. Claudius O. Johnson summarized well:
“In this volume one gets a close-up view of Lincoln as a log-rolling member of the Illinois legislature, sees him, as he grapples with great issues, transforms the craft of a politician into the art of a statesman, and follows him as he, ever increasing in wisdom and understanding, in gentleness and charity, in humility and patience, saves the Union and joins the immortals.”
Another model book was Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742-1798 (1956). Collective biographies that made good reading were Roy F. Nichols, Advance Agents of American Destiny (1956), Russel B. Nye, A Baker’s Dozen (1956), and Reinhard H. Luthin, American Demagogues: the 20th Century (1954). The memoirs of Admiral Ernest J. King, Bernard M. Baruch, and Nicholas Roosevelt were reminders of things past, and the diary of Harold L. Ickes recalled old battles in politics and conservation.
HISTORIANS AND MODERN MACHINES
The development of machines for producing photo copies and for microfilming records had a noticeable impact on historical research and writing in the 1950’s. It no longer was a matter for comment at archives when historians from far away appeared with typewriter in one hand and photographing device in other. Long periods of residence in strange cities gradually gave way to trips by air to archival collections. Pondering would be done more cheaply on home grounds. Increased use of the propeller airplanes at third class rates for cross continental research trips also facilitated research.
Archivists were increasingly aware of the possibilities in modern techniques of document reproduction. The Wisconsin State Historical Society inaugurated a major program of exhaustive microfilming of all significant labor newspapers in the 48 states, work to be kept current and added to its AFL/CIO papers. Books printed in America before 1820 were systematically placed on microfilm by University Microfilms for purchase by libraries unable to afford rare volumes. Whole files of contemporary newspapers were kept on film in university and public libraries, with battered originals being thrown away.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission reported in 1950 that it had been engaged in “an extensive program of microfilming and photostating, in order to gather together in Harrisburg the scattered resources for Pennsylvania history, wherever they might be found.” With new technology it had been possible to build an outstanding collection of facsimile copies of manuscripts, newspapers, and early maps. Similar reports were made by other state societies as genealogists shared historical society space with traditional scholars.
An important development in the dissemination of knowledge in the United States was the gradual acceptance of the idea of placing all doctoral dissertations on microfilm for easy purchase by interested scholars and libraries. Two journal articles by the present writer influenced that decision for permanent change, I was reliably told. A new monthly publication, Dissertation Abstracts, became a national reference tool, and there was hope that graduate students might come to feel a new usefulness in their thesis work as they gained a small and new audience.
A technique to excite the interest of historians (and amateurs) was “oral history,” careful interviewing with a recording device to elicit biographical and historical data to be typed and filed in libraries as new source material. Initial successes were scored by the Oral History Project of Columbia University innovatively developed by Professor Allan Nevins, which interviewed several hundred diplomats, judges, politicians and leaders. Another elaborate project was that of the Ford Archives. Tape recorders in the hands of interviewers were part of “oral history” effort, so that many developments once forgotten would be remembered. The present writer first suggested Standards for the new activity, writing in American Archivist for July, 1955. The technique had possibilities for bringing the outer world into the classroom.
More than ever before, the opportunity to become scholars lay within the grasp of teaching historians at the secondary school level as well as in universities. Meanwhile, there were some signs that scholars were concerned over the reiterated obligation to teach admirably. The clear implication was that teachers and scholars should come to absorb each other’s better features.
The striking developments of the mid-1950s in the teaching, research and writing, and publication of American history did not go unnoticed. As demonstrated in the vast number of book titles contained here, the mid-1950s were full of worthwhile scholarship, extraordinary for that day, and a remarkable example for the Future.
Vaughn Davis Bornet’s Ph.D. is from Stanford University (1951), the B.A. and M.A. (1939, 1940) are from Emory University; his year 1941 was at University of Georgia. Author of over a dozen nonfiction books and scores of articles and essays, he has been published frequently in recent years on the internet’s History News Network. He holds “Distinguished” awards from American Heart Association and Freedoms Foundation. He taught at University of Miami, 1946-48, and Southern Oregon College, 1963-80 and was a staff member of The RAND Corporation in the 1960s. A Commander in the Naval Reserves, his active duty (Y1, to Lt.) was 1941 to 1946. His books Lovers in Wartime, 1944 to 1945 and Happy Travel Diaries, 1925 to 1933 (both Amazon) are recent. An Illustrious Cavalier’s Character is imminent. After a 68 year marriage, he lives quasi-retired in Ashland, Oregon.
Vaughn Davis Bornet, 548 N. Main Street, Ashland, Oregon 97520 541 690 6511 email@example.com Born October 10, 1917. This article was prepared on a PC computer, in Word, Times New Roman. For other recent work by the writer see archives of History News Network. Aspects of my bio are detailed on Google (6,200 entries) and in Marquis sets on America (since 1957) and the World (since 2006). My Birthdate: October 10, 1917. (This Article has 9,236 words–but no footnotes, tables, or illustrations. Note: every cut of paragraph length required at this point might well eliminate a full item of prose in the essay, perhaps.)
This article was originally published on History News Network on April 17, 2016.
As the 2016 Presidential election moves along through the coming conventions to Election Day itself, interest in “Socialism” has grown in our society somewhat in proportion to the apparent successes in the primaries of Bernie Sanders of Vermont, second term U.S. senator and 16 years a Socialist claiming congressman.
Sanders is not the first Socialist to run for a major office in our country, not even the first to run for President. The name of Eugene V. Debs is well known as a Socialist who was fiery and got jailed in World War I—all long ago. His successors carry far less baggage and are more relevant for us. A serious campaign for President was mounted by Socialists and Communists alike in 1928, and Socialism was promoted through the New Deal years and beyond.
The hero of the movement, back then, was for years the educated and articulate Norman Thomas. Socialists campaigned seriously for mayoral offices in Milwaukee, Wis., Reading, Pa., and New York City—even governor of California (in 1934). The Socialist newspaper The New Leader (1924-2006) was a literate spokesman for the cause.
We want to know what being a Socialist means. Bernie Sanders seems virtually mute on Socialism these days as he asks Democrats to help him get the nation’s top office. We should know more than we do about his professed ideology.
In instinctive reaction, we won’t join those who say look to Sweden, Denmark or the British Labour Party. Analogy with us is troublesome. These countries are very unlike our giant and powerful United States with its Wall Street, its oil, that giant highway system, farms that are incorporated, and money that is the standard for the world.
We also have a giant Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Ours is, after all, a land 3,000 miles “coast to coast,” a giant place of mountains, valleys, lakes, deserts, coasts, cities, and a remarkable diversity of people. The 50 states have governments; so do those more than 3,000 counties and all those cities. Advocating real Socialism for America must be thought through carefully.
Oddly, the place to begin on what this country’s Socialists profess is with what they decided long ago to reject. They reject Lenin and Stalin and, on doctrine, Trotsky. Socialists totally reject membership in the Third International that emerged after World War I. And how did that happen?
Initially, Socialists wished the Soviet Union well, while watchfully waiting. When the Third International arrived after World War I, and it arrogantly tried to unify worldwide the wild and wooly revolutionary doctrine being spread from Moscow, American Socialists stepped back. Any leader could soon see that here was ruthless conspiracy, with a reliance on money and spies.
In August, 1920 the Second Congress of the Third International met in Moscow and drafted the uncompromisingly defiant “Twenty-one Demands”that would forever separate Socialists from Communists everywhere. (That many intellectuals seem never to have heard of the ultimatum just reflects on them. It could not be more important in the long history of planetary radicalism.)
The chief objective of the Demands (I once wrote) was “to isolate the Communists of the world from their previous mooring and develop purity of doctrine and practice within the party ranks.” Moreover, the document would make clear “who would be party members, what leaders might do, and how both might do it.”
Harsh or not, it was reprinted at once in the N. Y. Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Current History; it was not secret. Stressed within its belligerent pages was the idea of unquestioning obedience, with the goal uniformity among international Communists. The Monitor thought it uncompromising.
The future Socialists of the world, including America, could see at once that compliance with any future demands of the Third International was going to be the sine qua non of Communist membership. Nor did those who drafted it expect compromise or surrender from Socialists. Reliability as to doctrine would be the watchword; groveling to the U.S.S.R appropriate.
“Really revolutionary propaganda and agitation” was expected in the coming era of “intensified civil war.” Any who rejected the Conditions was to be expelled at once from the Third International.
The word “Party” used by Communists had nothing in common with its use in common political activities in the West. The list of Demands was silent on elections, nominees for office, conventions and campaign speeches, and voting. The goal, it made abundantly clear, was “the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.” And, there was to be no confidence in “bourgeois laws.” Much was said about the need for infiltration and control of trade unions.
It is vital to say again at this point that the Socialist Party of the United States “rejected membership in the new International reluctantly but nonetheless decisively.” The Soviet Union, in theory, was to be considered a noble experiment to be wished well (more or less), but the means that had brought it into being were to be totally rejected here at home.
Before long (1923) Lenin himself seized an opportunity to uphold the Demands (during the Third Congress), just ignoring vigorous protests from delegates from Italy, Germany, and other nations who said that doing that was certain to inhibit growth of their new parties.
The Communist Party that emerged in America in the years after 1920 “came and went” in name from time to time, following opportunism and expediency. Many know of its going underground in World War II as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. jointly fought Hitler, for example. Less known is its vote much earlier, on April 7, 1923, to dissolve.
For several years it had a new “front” organization called the Workers Party of America, a name it used in the election of 1924. Meanwhile, by the end of the decade there had been organized a Pittsburgh-based Socialist Labor Party and a Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party.
It is the Socialist Party of Norman Thomas and its doctrines over the years that have undoubtedly been absorbed and espoused by Bernie Sanders. He has several years to go as the Socialist United States Senator from Vermont. The election of 2016 has made him famous as a Socialist stereotype. Yet other leaders of that party should be at least mentioned.
Four are Morris Hillquit of New York City, James H. Maurer of Reading, Pennsylvania, and Daniel W. Hoan and Victor Berger of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two ran for mayor of their cities and won, and served in office. Hillquit and Norman Thomas before him had little chance of carrying New York, but they tried anyway. This writer had Hillquit’s personal papers broken out of a wooden box for their first use in the Wisconsin State Historical Society in spring, 1952 and found them pleasant going. (Since the Party sold its papers to Duke University; I used them there.)
Victor Berger of Milwaukee served in Congress four terms, taking the floor 29 times, introducing both bills and resolutions. One of his wisecracks was: “The average man does not know the difference between socialism, anarchism, nihilism, communism, and rheumatism. They are all fearful and wicked ‘isms’ to him.”
Anyone who seeks strong, unequivocal, public statements from Socialists about their “fundamental beliefs” may be a bit disappointed. Blending in to run as a Democrat requires careful tact. Socialist author Upton Sinclair, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in California, once gave campaigning a shot. The Socialist goal, said he, was the gradual transformation of natural wealth resources and basic industries to public ownership. A “socialist state,” of course, is bound to be the goal. The best vehicle for getting there is, it is hoped, is with the help of the trade union movement—or at least it might be if “the despoilers” (a dated categorization) can be thwarted.
Considering the handsome and constructive leader for decades, Norman Thomas (of Princeton and Union seminary), a worker for welfare groups, and supporter of many a worthy voluntary organization, one finds his “socialism” (though ardent) carefully proclaimed. Its nature was usually buried under prose devoted to his generally praiseworthy life as an American, urbane man of affairs. (As a boy he delivered to neighbors the newspaper published by future President Warren Harding. As an adult, even William F. Buckley respected him.)
Often, Thomas did try to tell repeatedly why he was a socialist. He said he favored freedom and justice for the individual, a free press and free speech. Achieving these things, and socialism too, would have to come through the ballot. That totally ruled out Communism. His idealistic vision was for a world wherein a fellowship of free men might live in peace. As for him, he publicly and consistently opposed the involvement of the United States in World Wars I and II and Vietnam as well.
Well, good. But it is capitalism that is the major enemy. Another is ownership of property in private hands. Reading Socialist speeches and documents of yesteryear, it can be hard to find declarations that, though pertinent and practical, are very offensive to a welfare capitalist property holder in America. Using diplomatic speech when pushing their doctrine seems somehow de rigueur.
Just how do we convert to Socialism? Officially, this should be spelled out to be the exact way: The Constitution is to be modified in a convention with one omnibus major goal: the nationalization of coal mines, water sites, industrial power systems, railroads … and communications “to recover the rightful heritage of the people.”
Continuing: All sorts of activities are to be shifted to operation by government (as has been tried and partly achieved in the New Deal and LBJ years). It is tempting to say that all the reforms one ever heard of were sought in the late 1920s Socialist platforms and key speeches. The preferred tone is normally proposals—not demands.
Reading masses of Socialist literature of the 1920s and 1930s, it is hard for those familiar with the New Deal and the Democratic Party speeches of later years to avoid the conclusion that the political figures of the Socialist Party “urged all that” years earlier. The words of Norman Thomas, as a public figure on display in the late 1920s, read in retrospect as one quite prescient. The subjects he discussed do sound like predictions of things to be debated and enacted.
Today’s reader does come to realize—if at all alert—that this group of Marxists is preparing hopefully to convert resources and industries to government control and ownership, and that incalculably large units of private property with stockholders are somehow to have their ownership transferred from where it is to, well, everybody probably except its owners. That is to be done somehow or other.
There can be pride in being a Socialist. The New Leader, the party organ, editorialized once about a recent Convention: it had been enough “to make you hold up your head and stick out your chest and be all-fired proud of the fact that you are a Socialist.”
One thing that intellectuals should bear in mind about Socialist lingo. They speak of “workers of the mind” and “workers of the hand.” A special target has long been, they admit, teachers, ministers, artists, and writers; that is, articulate leaders among us. Success has been considerable.
Names of famous persons show up in lists of authors speaking kindly of Socialism. The writings of allegedly Socialist editors, columnists, and others who write to persuade are full of cheerful acceptance. I am reluctant to offer names, for maybe they weren’t Socialist. Many by reputation are considered merely “reformers.” Finally, I don’t even know when or if they quit being party members—if they ever were. The truth is that a vast array of smart persons with solid educations have “flirted” with Socialist preaching.
Socialists in earlier decades did sometimes have to endure caustic critics. Said Arthur Garfield Hays, author of Let Freedom Ring of Socialists then: “Your socialism has become a religion. You have a pattern. Economics must fit into that pattern. You have a philosophy. You have a dogma. … You forget that any system of society is a means, not an end.” (New Leader, Nov. 3, 1928.)
Some years ago when coming to the end of a considerable written discussion of Socialism, I ventured to summarize—in conclusion—the nature of Socialist politicians in action, leaders who spent vast amounts of time enthusiastically making appeals to American citizens. My conclusion was that Socialists displayed “a naïve but enthusiastic mixture of the realistic and the unrealistic; the idealistic and the opportunistic; the enduring—and the ephemeral.”
Marxist leaders “dreamed dreams of perfectionism and thought they could see just over the horizon a better land and a better world.”
In the mid 1960s this non-Socialist summed up the thinking of true believers:
“The Socialist Party was a threat to private ownership of property, to the continuing existence of a balanced two-party system, and to the continuation of a society more interested in opportunity than class consciousness. It did not, on fundamentals, deserve the support of the American electorate.” Moreover,
“No amount of admiration which some may want to give to individuals, reformist program, or occasional idealism of individual expression should wave aside these plain and altogether vital facts.”
At the same time I ventured to summarize my convictions on the value of the overall American electoral system: “The election,” I observed, “had been a political contest—not a battle, struggle, or ideological war.” *
*Quoted from Vaughn Davis Bornet, Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic (Wash., D.C., Spartan Press, 1964), pp. 320, 322. A detailed analysis and summary of the Demands appears on pages 268-281 of my lengthy microfilmed doctoral thesis, Labor and Politics in 1928 (Stanford University, 1951, 520 pages). Domestic Communism in the U.S. is summarized from that work in Bornet, “The Communist Party in the Presidential Election of 1928,” Western Political Quarterly, XI, no. 3 (Sept., 1958), pp. 514-538.
This is a review essay rooted in a new and unnerving book–Mimi Alford, Once Upon a Secret (Random House, 2012, 198 pages), originally published on History News Network on March 5, 2012.
Toward the close of the movie version of the Broadway hit Camelot, the suddenly optimistic king who developed The Round Table and its dreams exclaims hopefully to the idealistic boy before him, “What we did will be remembered—you’ll see!” The audience, teary eyed and let down by the burial of the movie’s hopes and dreams, eagerly associates with the leader’s fervent declaration. A great refrain has been delivered by the chorus, “Don’t let it be forgot/That once there was a spot/For one brief shining moment/That was known as Camelot.” It was that idealism that so attracted a stunned Jackie Kennedy when in November, 1963 she forcefully quoted that famous appraisal, adding judgmentally at the end, “…and it will never be that way again.” Continue reading Does Mimi’s Book Write Finis to “Camelot” for JFK?
The following essay was included in a collection of papers on the origins and future of the American Social Insurance System entitled, The Quest for Security, published by the Center for the Study of the Recent History of the United States, 1982
The Herbert Hoover presented in this essay is the humanitarian concerned with planning for the long-range welfare of the people of the United States. Little has been known about the desires, hopes, and plans of Secretary of Commerce and President Hoover in the area the public has come to call social welfare. This is true even though he and several close associates later asserted that those years did in fact witness thought and action by them on behalf of payments and pensions for the unemployed and the aged. The Hoover interest, when mentioned, has been given minimum space. Never, so far as I have learned, has been any effort to place the Hoover ideas in the context of at least some of the national social welfare experience.
My interest in social welfare goes back a quarter of a century and my research on Hoover longer than that. Invited to explore this area of concern, I have tried to piece together a story that ultimately surprised me and that should be new and useful to scholars, students, and the interested and receptive part of the public. For Hoover did in fact leave a record of dreams and efforts in this humanitarian area, just as he did in so many others. Continue reading Herbert Hoover’s Planning for Unemployment and Old Age Insurance Coverage, 1921 to 1933