Moments from the 1930s to 1950s
Taken for a Ride
On Saturday nights in Wilson House, we freshmen had a perfect view of the faculty party in the Women’s Union across the street. A familiar sight was Professor Seward bounding along Frye Street, pushing his bicycle. He’d park his bike, take off his trouser clips, and go inside. One night — our giggling empowering us — a couple of friends and I slipped across the street and let the air out of his tires. We resumed our lookout at Wilson House, and later saw Professor Seward bounce down the steps, put on his pant clips, and mount his bicycle. Needless to say, he didn’t ride, and I’m surprised he didn’t hear our spontaneous laughter. We liked our Spanish professor, and sitting in class every day without laughing was my perpetual punishment. — Gladys Bovino Dunn ’51
Smoke and Mirrors
In the ’30s the women’s Blue Book of rules stated, “Bates women do not smoke.” The powers-that-be, in their infinite wisdom, then approved a smoking room in the Women’s Union and off-campus locations at the “Qual” and Jordan’s Drug Store. Between classes there was a mass exodus of coeds down College Street to the above refuges. The men had a “smoke walk” from Commons in JB down Campus Avenue to Carnegie. From smoking in lounges to rooms, enlightenment finally dawned and today there is not only no smoking in any College buildings, it is not sanctioned within 50 feet of any Bates buildings. — Ruth Rowe Wilson ’36, former Bates Magazine editor
After a winning football game, the Hathorn Bell would be rung loudly. With cheering students following, the cheerleaders — I was one — and marching band walked to Frye Street and down Main Street before returning to campus on College Street. The marching band performed halftime formations in those days, directed by Bob Cagnello, and later Charlie Calcagni. — Beverly Hayne Willsey ’55
In the fall of 1942, I took the train, alone, from Springfield, Mass., to South Station in Boston, then crossed to North Station to find the train to Lewiston. At the station, we were met by enthusiastic members of the Christian Activities Council. They walked us to campus, by way of Frye Street, leaving us at our assigned houses. Cheney was my house, but I had grown up on the campus of Massachusetts State College (now UMass), where my father taught, and Cheney was not my idea of a residence. I looked up the hill at the yellow building and had a thought: If I go home to Amherst, my parents will give me a hug and a kiss and put me back on the train. So, I thought, took a deep breath, walked up the hill, and started my new life at Bates College. I have never regretted that decision. — Jeannette Packard Steward ’46, Trustee emerita
Love at First Sight
When I arrived at Bates in 1942, I was determined to remain faithful to a lovely young lady back home. I pointedly did not attend Saturday night dances in Chase Hall. But one Saturday night that fall I got a call at Roger Bill from my classmate George Stewart. Suffering from a heel blister, he pleaded with me to take his date back to her dorm. That night I met Penny Gumpright ’46 and, except for the war years, I’ve been taking her home ever since. –Donald Richter ’46, Trustee emeritus
In my big book of Bates memorabilia, there’s a receipt for my first semester. The bill was $303, which included tuition, board and room, class dues, and incidentals. These days, I play the “Alma Mater” at the conclusion of the Reunion awards ceremony. The location last year was changed to the front of Coram, where Commencement is held. A stage faced the alumni. And there was my piano. I sat next to our president, Elaine Tuttle Hansen, a nationally recognized educator and a credit to Bates College. The times, they are a changin’! — Doris Neilson Whipple ’34
My first big date with Bob Dunn ’50, my future husband, was the 1950 Ivy Hop. How excited I was when a corsage was delivered to Hacker House that Saturday afternoon! But excitement soon turned to mystery, for me and the girls who watched me open this corsage with long, flowered streamers hanging down. We passed it from one to the other, each trying to imagine how to wear it. The wrist? The head? The shoulder? Finally, a call to the florist revealed the answer: It was a waist corsage! We had a good laugh, but also admired the flowers when they were in place on my gown. I have never seen another waist corsage. — Gladys Bovino Dunn ’51
The spring of 1948 was too early in the Cold War to get anyone from outside really upset, and way too early (by a couple of decades) for anyone involved to imagine himself involved in an actual revolution. That’s why the successful Mayoral campaign of “Comrade Corish, the Smiling Commissar” could come off as the good-natured spoof that it was. Red-shirted denizens of Smith Hall and Sampsonville, a wooden wall across Bardwell Street labeled “Iron Curtain,” acrobatic Russian dancers, a red flag planted on an island in the Androscoggin, and a campaign song called “Hey Tovarich, Vote for Corish” (to the tune of “Volga Boatman”) were only part of the spirited mix. These were aligned against the equally colorful campaign of a Paul Bunyan-like figure portrayed by Norm Parent ’50, who, among other things, carried Margaret Chase Smith across the Quad, as it is now known, in his arms. — Charles E. Clark ’51, historian and author of the forthcoming An Illustrated History of Bates College
Professor Joe D’Alfonso’s philosophy class was early in the morning — 7:35, I think. I sat in the front row, often sleepy and without breakfast. Occasionally I would doze, only to be jolted awake by the professor’s kicking over a wastebasket or dropping his bunch of keys next to my chair. Despite that, I loved that class, and eventually took on the willing role of perpetual foil to Professor D’Alfonso’s wisdom and wit. During a discussion of ethical theories, I said I embraced irrationalism. He asked why. “Well,” I responded, “if I believe in irrationalism I don’t need to have a reason for anything.” “Now,” he said, “you’ve just given me an entirely rational reason for your belief in irrationalism.” Foiled again. He did say, however, while patrolling the aisles during the final exam, that he would miss me. That counted for a lot.
Charles Clark ’51, author of the forthcoming An Illustrated History of Bates College
Ends with a Kiss
For the Chase Hall dances, the girls got dressed up. The hall had a romantic crystal ball and a live band, the Bobcats. As we entered, the boys rushed up to ask for a dance — first, fifth, seventh, or whatever. After five dances came intermission, at which time your fifth partner brought you ice cream. After the 10th dance, your partner escorted you to your dorm, where you both shared a goodnight kiss.- Doris Neilson Whipple ’34, class president
Six days a week at 8:40 a.m., the Hathorn Bell called students to the Chapel. Faculty monitors Berkelman and Whitbeck peered over the balcony to record absentees. Seating was A to Z in the fall, Z to A in the winter, seniors always in front. For 20 minutes we listened to the choir, student musicians, or faculty members drafted to enlighten or inspire us. “Casting pearls,” said one faculty cynic. It wasn’t all that deadly, and we formed lasting friendships with our four-year seatmates. A few pairs — Walker and Webber, Sutherland and Sunderland — made it permanent.
Ruth Rowe Wilson ’36, retired Bates Magazine editor
May We Dance?
Sadie Hawkins Day was a major Bates event in 1948. At the break in the evening’s festivities, I went up to the balcony to look over the prospects for the next dance. Right there beside me was a good-looking, unattached man who had come late after completing a paper. I asked him if he would be willing to dance with me, and he answered with a hearty “Yes!” Hugh Penney ’50 and I are still dancing through life after 54 years of marriage.
Lois Keniston Penney ’50, class secretary
Paying the Way
Edwin Purinton, headmaster of Maine Central Institute, said I could go to any college. But I didn’t have the money, nor did my parents. This was 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. Mr. Purinton, a Bates graduate, said, “I will get you a scholarship.” He did, for the full tuition of $250, and off I went to Bates, the most important event in my life to that point.
Robert Kinney ’39, LL.D. ’85, Trustee emeritus
Pom and Circumstance
Few women were accepted to medical school in the ’30s. There hadn’t been one from Bates in 20 years, but I had my heart and mind set on a medical career. Fred Pomeroy, head of the Bates biology department, went to the three Boston medical schools to do what he could to get his students accepted. Harvard took no women students; Tufts and BU did. “Pom” went to BU and said to the dean, “I have a woman who is eminently qualified and an excellent candidate. You had better accept her because if you don’t Tufts is going to accept her.” Then he went to see the dean at Tufts and said the same thing, ending with “…Boston University will take her.” They both accepted me, thanks to Pom, and I went to Boston University, because they accepted me first.
Elizabeth A. Gregory, M.D. ’38
Don’t Fence Me In
One day in spring 1960, the compulsory Chapel period was set aside for an all-college photo. Everyone was asked (ordered) to assemble on Garcelon Field. President Phillips, faculty, staff, and students stood near the 50-yard line. Photo taken, we headed for the exits, as in those days Garcelon was surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Going expectantly from gate to gate, the assemblage soon discovered that all six exits were chained and padlocked. And no one had keys. Then someone remembered the basement door to Alumni Gym. It took an hour for us all to depart, single file, through the locker room and out to the campus — free at last. It was a prank in the best sense: no harm was done.
Milton Lindholm ’35, L.H.D. ’04, dean emeritus of admissions
Gone but Not Re-Tired
Saturday nights in Wilson House, we freshmen had a perfect view of the faculty party in the Women’s Union across the street. A familiar sight was Professor Robert Seward bounding along Frye Street, pushing his bicycle. He’d park his bike, take off his trouser clips, and go inside. One night — our giggling empowering us —we slipped across the street and let the air out of his tires. We resumed our lookout at Wilson House, and later saw Professor Seward bounce down the steps, put on his pant clips, and mount his bicycle. Needless to say, he didn’t ride, and I’m surprised he didn’t hear our spontaneous laughter. We liked our Spanish professor, and sitting in class every day without laughing was my perpetual punishment.
Gladys Bovino Dunn ’51, donor, with husband Robert ’50, L.H.D. ’99, of the Dunn Guest House
No Worries? Then Worry
The foreboding Brooks Quimby ’18 taught Speech 101. I had never stood up and talked to a group before, so I was vulnerable to feelings of terror and intimidation. On shaky legs, I survived my first presentation. Brooks said “Good job” and handed me a grade of C minus. He also gave advice that stayed with me through many subsequent presentations: “In preparing to speak, you should only be worried if you are not nervous,” because that means you aren’t ready to perform!
Lynn Willsey ’54, Trustee emeritus
After the Fall
Being wartime, we had classes on Thanksgiving Day 1943. At Chapel, the Baptist minister reminded us how fortunate we were to attend classes while classmates fought around the world. The Chapel was filled with students and V-12 Navy trainees. At the end of service, as the organ played the Bates hymn and we all stood, there was a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass. President Gray had collapsed and fallen down the stairs. The Chapel was silent. The V-12 commander barked an order and the Chapel emptied. We later saw President Gray, stone-faced, sitting in a car, waiting to be taken to the hospital. He recovered and retired in June 1944. We never knew what happened. No one asked questions. We were at war.
Jeannette Packard Stewart ’46, Trustee emerita
Hatching a Career
Director of Athletics Lloyd Lux assigned me the task of speaking at a high school near Kittery. I didn’t have a car, and he insisted that I use his. But he didn’t tell me that it used as much oil as gas. So the engine burned out on the Turnpike on the way back, and I got home at 6 a.m. But I wasn’t fired and figured I’d gotten by that one. Then, on a Saturday in 1952 when I was baseball coach, we played Bowdoin. I complained about a bad call, and the umpire tossed me. The headline in the Portland Sunday paper said, “Hatch Gets Heave Ho.” The next day, in the faculty shower room after practice, there’s President Phillips. He says, “Hello, Heave Ho Hatch.” But he’s not smiling. I took the fastest shower in life and left. I survived those two things — I was at Bates for 42 years — but I fully expected to get fired.
Bob Hatch, director emeritus of athletics
Fool Me Once
We published The Bates Prudent, an April Fool’s edition of the Student, in 1951. There was fake news, a deliberately illiterate editorial, and double-entendres that today would be dismissed as quaint. One satiric item was an exaggerated account of the generous allotment by Charles Sampson, the de facto dean of students, of exemptions from the College’s no-cut rule on the eve of vacation. Soon after, a message from Mr. Sampson appeared on my desk. Expecting a verbal thrashing and still in a celebratory mood for having pushed the envelope, I found instead a copy of the article attached to a simple note: “Sometimes I wonder if it pays to be kind.” My glee drained away, and I was left to try to demonstrate, by a letter and personal meeting, appreciation for one of the best-loved characters of the day.
Charles E. Clark ’51, author of the forthcoming Bates Through the Years: An Illustrated History