Open Forum

Opinions from our readers

Another Run for Mayoralty
To my mind, the loss of Mayoralty is a loss of the character of Bates. During my attendance in the late ’40s it was “the event” that offended no one and undoubtedly entertained all (even the townies!). Enclosed is a photocopy of my mint-and-aged edition of the Lewiston Evening Journal, May 19, 1949. That’s me in the back of the boat — you could call it a parody of today’s events!

Steve Feinberg ’49
Boston, Mass.

Mayoralty (“The End of Mayoralty,” spring 2003) was so popular that an hour after its brief, three-day life was knelled to official silence, enthusiasts were already preparing for its renascence the following year.

In acknowledgment of its dangerous intoxications, Bates officialdom decreed that campaigning for the hearts and votes of the coeds was forbidden before the opening bell. The bell, of course, was Hathorn’s. By the 1960s its tintinnabulations were mechanized. But during the Mayoralty years it was rung for all classes, beginning and ending, by impoverished students paid a pittance. The duo Quasimodos were housed on the top floor in a narrow room. Through the ceiling a great rope, attached to the half-ton of iron, slithered down into their callused hands.

Imagine, then, the entire student body — nerve-cocked, parade floats gunning to go — anticipating that long-awaited peal! But five, 10, 15 minutes of bell-less silence pass. And why? Because the one available bellringer is in his belfry passed out on blackberry brandy. Curse his degenerate hide, who was this no-account varmint? God help me, his name was Tom King.

Other times, at least, I served the cause. It was I who invented the mystical land of San-Su-Free (1957), taking my cue from W.B. Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” And it was I who wrote speeches for our candidate, “Piper Jim” Kirsch ’58, and coached him to speak his lines. Kirsch was no William Jennings Bryan, but he was so likable it didn’t matter.

In 1955, in the crepuscular hour shortly after the opening bell, hundreds of undergraduates gathered in hushed expectation at the foot of Mount David. Suddenly a searchlight pierced the dusk, and down the side of the hill, with bagpipes skirling the stirring “Scotland the Brave,” strode Highland C’ael Kirk Watson ’56 and his magnificent retinue of stalwarts. Tall, broad-shouldered, and handsome as a matinee idol, Watson was every inch a Highland chief. Even our near-professional staging of Brigadoon was anti-climactic after the mystical moment of the Highlanders’ descent from the Bates highlands.

One final memory: Just days away from graduation, the belfry room was visited by one of our own, curious to see where Hathorn’s weirdest lodged. It was Ken Parker ’58, the diminutive but great-voiced lead from the heart-stopping Mayoralty production of Finian’s Rainbow. At my urging, Ken treated Bill Bradbury ’59 and me to a memorable reprise, a capella, of “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” It seemed the regrettable end of many things, but I could not guess that Mayoralty itself, in all its esprit and splendor and joy, was about to pass forever out of the world.

Tom King ’58
Citrus Heights, Calif.

In 1950, I posed as “Diamond Jim” and was voted mayor of Bates. My term saw what had to be the first-ever campus appearance of a reigning burlesque queen. Along with barbershop quartets and other hi-jinks, it recalls fond memories — and also introduced me to my wife, Patricia (Dunn ’51), of now over 50 years.

Bill Ferguson ’51
Pittsburgh, Pa.

For Brigadoon in 1955, a big problem was finding a place for costume changes in the Cage, since locker rooms and all other parts of the athletic building were off-limits for the production. The guys could change behind the home plate backstop, but what about the girls? We decided on a staircase landing screened by old sheets. Some housemothers were cooperative, but others refused, saying the sheets were absolutely required for making pillowcases. The major players had rented nice kilts, but the rest of the guys had flannel shirt-material kilts (with swim trunks underneath) made by their mothers on spring break.

Carolyn Gove Bennett ’55
Evansville, Ind.

In 1948, I recall the moment in the Smith basement “War Room” when, in desperation at facing JB’s extremely popular candidate, the Smith contingent chose a bold and, indeed, rather daring theme.

Soon, we were submitting shirts to be dyed red. Our candidate would be “Comrade” Cornish ’48, “the Smiling Commissar.” A wooden barrier was constructed and erected on the path to Smith Hall and labeled “Iron Curtain.” Controversial, yes, but originality and determination led to victory.

In 1949, it was white shirts and black bow ties in the successful campaign to elect “Dixie Dave” Whiting ’51. In 1950, the “Gay Nineties” candidate bested our “Roaring Twenties” candidate. But 1951 saw Smith again in the victory column as “Kevin Patrick” Goldberg ’53 and his Irish masses prevailed over a strong, Greek-themed opponent, “Pericles” Pappas ’53.

Memories linger — of original sketches, music, parades, and campaign litany, of drives to entertainment sites for celebrity endorsements — and of concern that voters, our coeds, be subjected to high-class campaigning and very courteous attention. To paraphrase the charge issued by campaign chairs at the beginning of Mayoralty: “If any of you guys dating Bates coeds are thinking of breaking up, you will wait until this campaign and election are over!”

What Mayoralty meant to us might be summed up briefly by saying, “Thank you, Milt Lindholm, for an incredible gift.”

Jim Kelly ’51
Fort Worth, Texas

In May 1942, my identical twin brother, Donald ’44, and I decided to run for mayor with the slogan, “Two heads are better than one.” Norman Temple ’44 helped us prepare an eight-point platform called “The Pacific Charter.” Among other things, we called for compulsory ROTC, which we said stood for “Romance On The Campus.” We were opposed by candidate “Herr X.”

On Friday morning, May 7, a fire broke out in Parker on the third floor. Smoke billowed from an open window. Sirens screaming, a hook and ladder truck from the Lewiston fire department arrived. Hundreds of students raced to the conflagration as word spread: Important Mayoralty documents were about to be consumed by the fire!

As firefighters in black rubber suits and helmets raised a ladder to the window, the stalwart twins for mayor stepped forward, climbed the ladder, and rescued the documents.

In reality, the smoke was caused by tossing dry ice into 30 pails of water. Fans pushed the smoke out the window. Temple, a stringer for the Lewiston Evening Journal, knew the mayor, Edmond Lambert, who arranged for the fire department to join the gag and who himself came to campus to endorse our candidacy.

On Saturday, the students elected us mayor, and that evening in Chase Hall, President Gray presented to us the keys to the College.

Harold Marr ’44
Sneads, Fla.

Mayoralty undoubtedly took too much time away from serious studies. But how we loved it! It seemed like a magic time on campus. Everyday worries and stress were forgotten — at least by the girls. Every girl felt like a princess because the boys were all such gentlemen. We knew it was for the votes, but even so I think some of the boys really enjoyed playing the part of Prince Charming.

My interest in Scottish heritage began with the campaign of “Highland C’ael” Kirk Watson and Brigadoon, an interest my daughter now shares. For several years she and her two daughters were involved in Highland dancing. The younger of the two (adopted as an infant from Korea) was recently the lead dancer in a Brigadoon production. When the committee first saw her face they were a little skeptical, but when they learned she was an excellent Highland dancer, they were anxious to have her in the production.

And it all goes back to the campaign of “Highland C’ael” Kirk Watson.

Alice Brower ’57
Logan, Utah

How I ever ended up coordinating the “Highland C’ael” Kirk Watson campaign eludes my memory but we all sure had fun and Brigadoon remains one of my all-time favorite shows. Aloha!

Russell Tiffany ’56
Kapolei, Hawaii

I was involved in mayoralty campaigns from 1951-55. Our side put on a complete musical in at least two of those years. For our production of The Pirates of Penzance, an upperclassman wrote new lyrics to all the songs. Very clever.

Hal Hunter ’55
Amissville, Va.

My uncle owned the Elms Hardware store in Auburn, and I recall making trips there to borrow a large assortment of tools and nails for Mayoralty’s building projects. Although we returned most of the tools, others were misplaced or lost during the whirlwind construction period.

As Mayoralty became bigger and more complex, the extraordinary time commitment took its toll. A few students flunked out, and several of us, me included, saw our grades suffer. Although the experience was great fun, I feel that Mayoralty had run its course by 1959, and with the crowning of “Gentleman Jeff” (1958) as our final mayor, the tradition came to a respectful close.

Clif Jacobs ’59
Mount Carroll, Ill.

I see on page 4 of the Bates Magazine (spring 2003) about 100 Bates students protesting the Iraq war.

Fifty years ago, a group of Bates men protested the invasion of a peaceful nation, South Korea, by an aggressor communist nation, North Korea. How did we protest? We joined a program that offered Marine Corps commissions as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps upon graduation. I recall some names: Chris Nast, Charles Pappas, David Purdy, Richie Raia, Dave Kelley — and myself.

I think our protest is the type of demonstration that supports America and the people that serve their country.

I am comfortable with the protest we made, in fact, proud of it.

Robert Greenberg ’54
Watertown, Mass.

Dean Boyce
Regarding the letter “Chalk Talk” from Robert Greenberg ’54 (spring 2003): I am surprised at and disappointed by this published comment about the untimely death of Dean of Men Walter Boyce, and particularly at its use in the context of the letter. To the best of my knowledge, he was well respected and well liked, and his death was a shocking and tragic loss to the entire community. It is very difficult to believe that this one incident alone, the “chalking,” was responsible for this student’s dismissal, which the letter infers.

Dick Brown ’63
Waterford, Conn.

It is unfortunate that Robert Greenberg ’54 (“Chalk Talk,” spring 2003) has nurtured a grudge for almost 50 years, particularly since his facts are wrong.

The strong implication of his entire letter is that the dismissal of his friend was somehow attributable to Dean of Men Walter Boyce. He should know that:

1. The dean did not have the power to dismiss a student from school. That decision demanded a broader authority. It is conceivable that Dean Boyce was required to convey the dismissal notice. If so, Mr. Greenberg is shooting the messenger.

2. I cannot believe that a chalking as innocuous as the one Mr. Greenberg says his friend wrote would have caused the dean anything but amusement, had he noticed it at all. It is a family joke that he was very much entertained by the attempts of the “studentry” to try the limits of the College’s approval. For example, students used to hang banners outside the dormitories facing Garcelon Field during football games. Dean Boyce’s criterion was that if the double entendres wouldn’t be understood by the dorm mothers, forget it.

Mr. Greenberg’s closing sentence is particularly mean spirited. Dean Boyce developed severe clinical depression some 14 years after the incident Mr. Greenberg describes. His family, his friends and the many students who wrote to me and called me at the time of his death remember him as a particularly kind, open-minded, and caring man. I would have hoped that Mr. Greenberg’s education at Bates had taught him to be more accurate and more charitable.

Jean Boyce-Smith
Napa, Calif.

The writer is the widow of Walter Boyce. — Editor

Charitable Thought

I had just glanced at the table of contents in the spring 2003 issue of Bates Magazine, and there it was: “Million-dollar gift honors the memory of Bob Branham.”

I read it three times.

I am just one person in the army of Batesies who consider themselves blessed to have known Bob. Mentor, teacher, poet, and philosopher, he left a deep imprint on many of us. Because Bob didn’t just teach us about persuasion and debate, but about using those tools to find our own social conscience, and the duty of spreading reasoned and charitable thought to those who would listen.

For those reasons, I think Bob would have been pleased the money is to go toward scholarships, especially its eye toward Maine students. It’s a beautiful tribute, and one Bob deserves. Its only shame is that the incoming students won’t be able to enjoy the rhetorical thrashings and shredding-of-arguments Bob was so adept at handing even his most prepared students.

My deepest thanks to the anonymous donor.

Jeremy Villano ’97

New York City

Lemming Legacy
Upon reading the most recent issue of Bates Magazine (spring 2003), I was amazed to learn that the association of the lemming with Bates not only survived for a decade after I graduated, but was worthy of mention more than 20 years later.

Although I am not sure the lemming craze could be called a “minor rebellion” in 1978, it certainly was the subject of many campus jokes. As editor of The Bates Student and with several staff members looking for a way to publish their more “creative” work not appropriate for the College newspaper, we created The Bates Lempoon (with apologies to Harvard).

Even though pictures of most of the creators were part of the Lempoon and though The Student wasn’t published that week, word around campus was that this was an underground publication. During my time as editor, we published one more issue (in 1979), but the big story was one that we did not have room to include — a 10-page parody called “The Golden Orb,” about then-second-year Dean James Reese and his magical basketball. That story remains safely tucked away in my basement.

Robert Cohen ’79
Eden Prairie, Minn.