1924 Class Annalist’s Letter
1924 and Before: Reminiscences
Harvey R. Goslee, Class of 1924
Delivered: Reunions 1974
The scene opens on the morning of June 19, 1922. I’m asking you to go back to a class two years earlier than ours. H. Theodoric Westbrook was on this platform. The era was the outcome of mothers who had put their favorite names in the middle — after that prestigious opening initial. My brother was F. Howard, my cousin W. Irving, and I was so fortunate as to be schooled with L. Danforth, J. Lester, F. Carl — along with assorted Juniors and Thirds. In fact, the movement still persists. For real class in 1974 we have J. Martin.
But back to Theo, whose oration on Alexander Hamilton opened crisply with a sentence that has been ringing in my head for 52 years: “Man’s judgment of man is the most unreliable judgment he makes.” Why this devious start? Because I fear that “A classmate’s judgment of classmates may well be the most unreliable judgment which a classmate makes.” Sobered by this thought, I started on a campaign to improve objectivity. Between teaching semesters and Board of Selectmen meetings I came twice to this Hill: once to read the Life and Lit and annalists’ letters; and once to sit in Bristol and look at this Chapel while I read my diary for the first time in all these 50 years. I’ve gone over Hamiltonians once again have had helpful letters from classmates, and — best of all — I wish to acknowledge Les Albertson’s Directory, which is entirely in a vintage by itself. Such a masterpiece so well summarizes the traits and the lives of classmates, and in a permanent form, that I am spared saying any such things today.
I feel honored to be chosen for this appearance here today. I’m proud to be your hired man. You can’t find that personal classification in civil service, but in my native Catskills we thought well of our hired men. I mean to be a man worthy of my hire.
Many annalists have paid tribute to many or all those who are gone. To single out some, seems to me heartless. To dwell on all those dear deserving departed would fill this morning and many more mornings. How then spare the mournful dirge and raise the happy tribute? Again, I am spared a difficult task, for our reunion chairman, Neal McHargue, whose efficiency, we feel, transcends that of all earlier chairmen, has prepared a listing of those gone, which he has prefaced with a verse that will comfort their survivors and will comfort us as we meet tonight and from their memories “take renewed devotion.”
At this point I feel the obligation, as indeed tradition requires, to pay my respects to class leaders. Among my most cherished memoriesis the fact that, upon graduation, I taught at Blair Academy for five years with Ike Griffin, our much respected long-term class president. He has recently been followed by Biff Bates, who has written and phoned and labored unceasingly. George Marks is now vice president, Les Moore our secretary and musical director, Herm Friedlander our treasurer, and Charlie Brainard, the director of our reunion gift program. As a class, we have spread tasks widely. To these and all other chairmen and committee members, we express our gratitude.
In many ways, one of our number who lacked a specific class office much of the time was our most visible, most effective member, Valedictorian George Lyman Nesbitt. He stayed on the Hill, taught students by the hundreds, improving them all, and inspiring many to careers in graduate work. He and Helen have always opened their home to us, for which we are deeply grateful. Of greatest delight for us has been his own prose as seen in a letter, speech, article or book. His style is orderly, taut, going from point to point, as straight as a Schenevus clothesline.
To the spouses in the audience — the feminine spouses (or in the plural spice, for assuredly you are that in our lives) — we love having you here today. I always get a bit tired of praise heaped exclusively on the Pilgrim Fathers. We must remember that the Pilgrim Mothers endured the Pilgrim Fathers besides! Of course, we in ’24 think that all women who have married any of us are fortunate. But really, girls, we love and appreciate you. My own spouse barely made it here. Our daughter is home from Yugoslavia, awaiting her first child. Cece and I have been trying to help. Yet we feel like my father’s hired man who couldn’t come to work because he had a setting hen coming off the nest that day, and he felt he should be with her! [Grandson Aleksandar arrived only a few hours after these words were spoken.] And I’m very happy to have my son here from the English faculty of the University of Tennessee.
As a class we made a special plea for seniors to attend today; so we appreciate the sizable group here with us, some with their parents. I shall not presume to advise those parents or the faculty, shall hope they will listen while I direct a brief message, especially at the seniors and any children of Hamilton men. I personally would hope and expect you to fight inflation, poverty, unemployment, racial or religious bigotry.
Plunge into a race for your state legislature or post in local government. Though we are afflicted with too many local governments and we have far too little cooperation between the components of metropolitan areas, the study of local government has not been intellectually respectable for the last 30 years. Let’s reverse that trend. And let’s learn from Toronto, Minneapolis and other cities how to manage a metropolitan area. We must learn to cooperate and we must stop being scared of that neighboring village, town or city.
On Election Day, as a candidate, I always feel that I have risen from obscurity and am plunging into oblivion. Later one braces and picks up the pieces, no matter what the vote. Now when you get to the legislature or the town or city post, fight against the seniority system and fight for a strong mayor or a city manager. Harold MacMillan has said, “The dinosaur was the largest beast, but it was inefficient and therefore disappeared. The British Empire was a dinosaur.” Don’t keep dinosaur devices just because they are old. Don’t revel overmuch in the far away and long ago. Stand responsible for the decisions in the here and now. Fight for a new constitution or a new charter. You may lose for the moment. But when you and like-minded fighters are dreaming the same dream and waging the same struggle, it’s a good feeling, even against the tide. Believe with Churchill that democracy, even flawed, is the best form. I like the Stryker Baccalaureate wording to Hamilton seniors exactly 80 years ago:
Get health in and sickness goes out
Enter truth, exeunt lies,
Enter liberty, exit bondage
While dupes consent, tyrants rule them
Bad men can be kept out only by putting good men in.
The country does not depend on whether individuals go or stay, rise or fall. It has a life of its own, renewing itself as Japanese cherries blossom in Washington and crops go in, and in the autumn the American harvests will be more important than all the gyrations of Kissinger and Sysco diplomacy.
I find myself totally unable to think that what I am writing is a letter, nor can I bring myself to classify it as an oration, though this platform has sustained the shaking limbs of hundreds of would-be orators laboring under forced draft. There is not the uniformity of a genre, an art form, one acknowledges, as he skims 110 years of these recorded efforts. They run a wide gamut, covering The Way We Lived Then and The Way They Lived Now — with quite a bit of sitting in judgment on the Years In Between.
The body of this talk has three divisions: first, with your indulgence, I propose simply to share with you a few random extracts from my diary in the hope that they may convey in some small degree a sense of the essence of our own life and times on the Hill; second, a sort of sitting in judgment, not on my classmates, but on these 50 years, with emphasis on the way in which the pendulum has swung from certain attitudes and policies of the 20s and 30s; and, finally, a bit of exposition of reasons for loyalty to this place. Putting it in a single sentence, I mean to sample the diary of THEN, to flash on screen how our half-century pendulum swings, and to defend the loyalty of NOW.
A large part of my freshman diary has been reproduced and is available to you today. I shall quote only three brief freshman passages. In general, I shall not give month and day dates — I shall merely pause between selected entries:
Feb. 11, 1921. My term bill is $209.92. I woke up two or three minutes after 8 this morning and left the room in pajamas with fourth stroke of the bell, but got in chapel on time. Some nut in the gallery sprinkled cologne on Ellis and me during the prayer.
Sept. 1921 — Bill Squires now has 64 registered in Philosophy 1-2. Today as usual he made fools of us all.
Bobby Rudd shut seven out of Steele’s composition class for coming in just after taps. I helped them give him a yell.
Friday eve: Pep meeting to get Union! Band, torches, yells, new Klaxons, and lots of pep. Let’s go! Saturday: A crowded day! Big crowd. We beat Union 7-0. Cross Country, we beat Colgate 22-33. Our soph banquet 11-1 a.m. Masonic Temple. Slime Banquet Syracuse. Lots of pep. Greatest day since I’ve been here.
Very cold but little wind. Said to be 32 degrees below at two places in Clinton. Lost to Oberlin 25-22 in basketball. Halloween: Slimers visited professors. Cider in gym. Great riot. Car in Chapel. Carried choir seats away. Horse got away. Next morning: they pressed into service, every buildings-and-ground man to get the Chapel ready.
Across campus they are digging a ditch 15 to 17 feet deep, have struck quicksand.
Three days later: Men digging quicksand out day and night — for athletic building.
January 4, back from vacation: They have given up the ditch!
Marsh sang three hymn stanzas solo. We all came in lustily on the last stanza.
October 20, 1922. Lad Potocki coaxed me to take his waiter’s job for weekend so that he could be home in Ute. Left no details. Was supposed only to put away dishes from all tables after washing. In burst of helpfulness I arrived 20 minutes before the meal. Some damn clown said Lad’s duties began with putting milk, water, and sugar on every one of the 20 tables. They said the individual waiter could check his own salt and pepper. I got nearly through all his pitcher filling, when I caught some jerk laughing behind my back. Did I ever curtail activity fast! Suppose it may seem funny tomorrow.
October 31. Halloween. ’25 and ’26 tore up Clinton. Got 7 ciders and 13 doughnuts. Cow in chapel. Nov 2. Prex reproved slime severely for cow in chapel.
Jan 5, 1923. Little Greek ordered dog out of chapel, but it yelped so piteously they had to let it stay.
Feb. 12. Prex visited history and it is rumored that he is going to visit the various classes — and then the dormitory rooms. (The latter sounds like 1830 or 1840 records.)
Feb. 15. Prex crashed through and visited Poly Sci.
Very crowded Ute trolley. I rode on the steps part of the way. Betty Compson, old girl, sort of “crashed through” in good picture: The Bonded Woman. (She was my favorite but it would have been better in Commons with Les Moore banging out on a decrepit piano, but with uncanny precision, the appropriate mood music.)
April 30. Chapel at 9. Trustees meeting. Old Prex led chapel. Russian hymn: God the All Merciful. Says Stryker, “We’ll sing all of it, and we’ll all sing!” And we did. The roof trembled — probably the best Chapel singing since I’ve been in college.
May 11. Snow flurries all day yesterday. Sun today. Took train down to Colgate and back to see Woodring of Syracuse run the quarter in 484/5 seconds. Missed college dinner for the subfreshmen.
Sept 19, 1923. Got room fixed up. Shopped in Utica. Bought senior cane, topcoat, a necktie and pants. (Note what is of prime importance.)
Sept. 20. Hard to mark chapel now. Don’t know the slime heads and there are 24 men stuck up in the gallery.
Sept. 27 Molly Roberts gives Charlie Brainard a cut for sitting in the gallery. Doc Brydon wouldn’t let me change one of last year’s towels for a clean one. I’ll foot him yet.
Oct .12. 1923. Heard N.Y. Giants win baseball by radio.
Oct. 24. Trees nearly bare. Rainy. Bill Squires and me up on my feet for over 30 minutes about phenomenalism. In law a discussion about Henry Ford for President. Gardner now in the store.
Feb 4, 1924. I was last to get in the door in philosophy. Squires: “So the last shall be first.” Hence I recited first and for 35 minutes. (So endeth the reading of the Word!)
A HALF-CENTURY OF PENDULUM SWINGS
Now, before we come streaking into the last quarter of this century, let’s give a bit of attention to those 50 years In Between. Trot’s Latin 2 brought with it many joys along with the demands of Latin scansion. If a Hamilton man can memorize speeches, he can readily memorize scansion schemes; yet the battlefield was strewn with freshmen dead, who, by elision, wrenched the right Ode into the wrong scheme. Still that course also gave us Horace’s farm and the golden mean, broached earlier by Aristotle. As previously indicated, I now propose to distill some of the grievances against the 50 Years in Between — some of the spots where we have — sometimes tardily — identified a problem, only to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The world needs your help and that of your children and grandchildren to strive for a golden mean, to bring that pendulum part way back down — certainly not back where we were, lest there be no progress.
Our gratitude for being out of Vietnam seems so great that we may get little present therapy crying out against the successive waves of officials who got us in. At the very end we seemed more concerned about the 1,400 prisoners than about the 52,000 dead. Had I an imprisoned relative, I’d omit this paragraph.
The dislike of the draft has now got us into a volunteer army, which is giving us anything but a cross section. One always hopes any war is the last. Call it a war or call it an emergency. I’d recommend a pendulum swing to making each 21-year-old serve two years doing something for his (and perhaps her) country.
In the twenties respect for the flag went with love of country. The excesses of the Legion and of some campus groups seem to have made many of us wary of the citizen flaunting his flag on his car or his helmet. Slowly the country seems to be realizing that that flag waving is not the sole evidence of loyalty.
The swing is from capital punishment to life terms that get shorter and shorter, to capital punishment again. Even correction officials say that 60 to 90 percent of their prisoners should not be incarcerated, but we do not have effective non-institutional programs that draw on community strengths. Meanwhile much of our crime is committed by maladjusted ex-convicts. We shrink from “coddling” prisoners. But society must strive to develop programs that offer some real hope of returning useful citizens from prisons to society.
Students began to worry incumbents in legislatures were becoming too unbeatable, but recent events have scared many incumbents away and are beating away many others, some of them good public servants. For veteran or challenger we need public financing of campaigns. Now races are often only for the rich.
Nor will convention quotas save the day. Witness the 1972 instance: 1 woman, 1 black, 1 under 25 or 30, 1 somebody else. In that same year you had a winning presidential candidate polling on 30 or 35 percent of the total potential vote.
Women surely deserve, and have begun to get, more of their rights. In our college days, the customer was always he, the vendor he, the manager he, the high school teacher in the textbooks was he. Only the elementary school teacher was she. A letter to women only, did carry the she. We male editors and teachers shunned the ponderous he and she. In a general letter we used he because, after all, man embraces woman.
Today the number of women on faculties has begun to climb. Their aggressive side sees Mory’s at Yale open for them and so does McSorley’s Saloon. On their sentimental side Mother’s Day thrives — later gets overdone in poems, sermons and advertising. Then seemingly to repay us for invading our male havens, the arrow goes in the other direction as men are to be wrapped in the welcoming arms of the League of Women Voters!
We had houses overfull of grandparents, mothers- and fathers-in-law. Came the revolution, so that the bride could run her own household. Now we are faced with the Tender Loving Greed of the incredibly lucrative nursing home industry. Too many mentally ill were at home as were varying degrees of the retarded. Now in a cleanup mood we have shipped them off to state institutions where officials say relatives visit them all too little.
We’ll have to study the sociology of leisure. Are we to have a 4-day week? We can’t adjust to purposeful Saturdays and Sundays in many instances.
The Little League, Pop Warner’s and the like seem to start filling a need. The kids themselves seemed to be thriving. But in some towns the fights between parents and the rebukes they heaped on their error-prone offspring caused me to be very critical — inside. But politics hushed me from speaking out, for my town of Wilton won the state championship and all Selectmen trooped out to a monstrous banquet, where I tried to get my picture taken with Orlando Cepeda!
We came from a time of spelling bees to an era of little orthographic precision in a world that can balance a month’s bill — rendered to a penny — a penny not worth anything. The balancing is done by machines. Often the students themselves can’t add or subtract or spell. They are approximating figures as well as letters. They are told to write creatively and we are told to grade for content. Admittedly, error-free prose may be sterile. Yet the red marks that a Douglas Bush or an E.B. White would put on such mechanically messy prose would be so plentiful that we could not admire content until we have a third revised version.
Colleges recruit, especially in football and basketball. Money and time are lavished upon 66 or 77 football boys (and perhaps a girl kicker) and 30 to 35 basketball boys. But there is little compulsory physical education after perhaps a year or two.
Colleges departments are for the most part overtenured. This prompts the administration to prune the tenured percentage. They also push the nine teaching hours a week to 12. The oversupply of Ph.D.’s in many disciplines is so great that hungry applicants are in no position to fight these administrative strictures.
The post-Cambodia furor caused students to fight against numerical or even letter grades. Pass-fail blossomed, usually outside the major field, but graduate schools frowned and letter grades are coming back.
Vassar takes boys, Yale takes girls. This I accept gladly so long as parents and students who want them may have a Smith for girls and a Wabash for men alone.
We of 1924 came from an era of brown paper bags for lunches, saved string, and ten-pound butter pails. Today we wallow in our own tonnage of bottles and cans, plus the scandal of uncontaminated newspaper spread wastefully on landfill areas and covered by gravel because the State decrees that all waste must be thus covered. We pollute our streams with sewage, our roadsides with salt and cans, our air with open burning. Our open space areas (including even those formally called parks) are often landlocked (without roads in) and with weed trees and dead limbs enough to bring firewood for scores of homes — while firewood from the coal and the wood people costs $60 per cord, though my brother gets only $18 in the Catskills.
In our 20s we tilled too many New York acres, some of them agronomically marginal. Such fields should have gone promptly into forests planted with seedlings or transplants from state nurseries in Saratoga. (I had 28,000 transplants from there, long before all the recent strides in silviculture, the most striking of which is the apparent ability of chemists to grow trees in test tubes, not naturally from seeds, but chemically from the cells of another tree.) A few fields were thus planted; the rest have come up to brush; and I thought we were getting down to the truly productive acres. But for second homes the tireless developers promote suburban sprawl as they subdivide, with all too little planning.
We were wasteful of labor in the days of the larger families; now we have been forced into heavy, expensive agricultural machinery that too few can understand, much less afford. Cries of food scarcity and inflation abound. At last we are having land-use studies. We’d better save our best agricultural acres while we save the Adirondack wilderness and the Catskill Park. New York State has pioneered the concept of keeping certain parkland areas “forever wild.” Now let’s show the rest of the country the meaning of “forever farmland.”
Urban renewal burst upon the scene, some good, some bad. With it came much loss of good architecture — buildings that made a town what is was, distinctive, as chronicled by our honored Ada Louise Huxtable.
We have come from a time clock, no-coffee-hour era into the willingness to study how production-line techniques best serve both the worker and management. We work on our expensive computers all night to pay for them; we bless them for all they accomplish and curse them when their impersonal ways keep us from correcting an error or changing an address faster than 90 days. Most data registers, private or governmental, are not a threat to anyone. But if all data on them were combined in a master register, the idea of privacy may well disappear.
Whether our energy crisis is all real or partly oil-company made, we have it in varying degrees in all states. Our airlines ran half-full, with two and three lines serving one town. Now the cutback has made them more efficient but at the expense of smaller cities which, like Utica and Ithaca, have scant service. Rails of our college days shrank and shrank while Germany, France, England and Japan came through with great improvements. Amtrak has saved us from complete annihilation, and will simply have to be added to.
Mass transportation will take some money from highways. The days of cutting up the countryside with more superhighways will have to end after we have filled in a few more links. Many roads planned are being cancelled. Highway engineering courses shrink with the transportation engineering prospers. Near my old home there’s an instance where the old route and the new route have gutted the whole valley. There’s no room for agriculture, for a muskrat, skunk or a summer boarder.
Now the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit has saved lives in this state and in this nation until the 56,000 annual death toll shrinks by 12,000 lives. In a war, saving 12,000 lives would interest us. Should it not interest us now?
The 50 years brought us all these problems — and many more. Some started as we left college; yet others are of much more recent vintage. Individuals will complain that all pendulums are not at the same stage: some up, some down, some already at the golden-mean stage. Or they may wail that mine are merely random crotchets for which I do not have the proper answer.
Oftentimes I do not have an answer. Nor do I feel that I should refrain from mentioning a problem because I can’t feel sure just where the pendulum is now in its appointed swing. All this may have proved too ambitious an effort; certainly it is not the usual annalist approach. But the boy of the diary has been unable to resist the temptation to become the man charting some of the world’s problems. This admiration of one’s own way of doing things may be an annalist’s occupational hazard. As I fall into the trap, give me credit: I smiled at myself first!
For a point of departure for this last section I am indebted to Dean Kinnel. He asked how my loyalty held up in the light of my having lived a total of many years on other college and university campuses and in the further light of having been here at many, many times other than these May-June bursts of nostalgia. When I replied that my experiences — far too bright sometimes for family and friends — the dean urged me to explain, and in a way defend, that loyalty.
I shall begin with an admittedly brief recital of shortcomings and resentments as I recall them from college days. As an opener, I shall express my regret at the absence of anthropology, sociology and advanced Spanish in our curriculum.
In our time I believe that five or six of the faculty were not up to the level of the others as teachers. Compared to the total, that number was very small. Admittedly past annalists have praised the entire faculty. I dare deviate a bit because I have worked in the offices of thousands of college teachers on 485 campuses.
I believe that we could have been charged a bit more in our day — and have stood it — and the College could then have paid the faculty more. All undergraduates hate bursars, I suppose. But I felt ours was particularly humorless and demanding. If the charges had whittled a bit more out of us, perhaps he wouldn’t have had to ride so roughshod over our necks. In a way it is really unkind of me to beam these barbs at him thus tardily, for on the only occasion that Irving Steele (roommate) and I worked (five hours) for him, he wrote a check to Irving for $1.75 and one to me for $175. You’ve guessed it — that bonanza was short-lived.
Two bits of sternness may seem minor to you, yet I still recall my resentment of them: the posting of all flunkers (of one or more courses) in the library about April 22, when those who had failed three or more subjects had already been shipped; and the reticence of an occasional instructor to post public speaking or other grades so that you’d have to wait until the “standings came from home.” Today such practices would breed more than violent editorials.
These were all shortcomings of our day. I close with one that has happened since — the abolition of the curriculum distribution requirement. Some of the strengths of graduates of our time stem from our not being allowed to go through college touched by only three or four departments. Without being thin in spots, I believe we were broad-ranging. They made us offer four years of Latin (or three of Greek) to enter, and they made all A.B. candidates take Latin throughout their freshman year. They made us take a science and a language; otherwise, never in this world would such as I have majored in chemistry and German to my benefit and delight. Today our unstructured curriculum allows one “to flit from course to course in a mindless pursuit of variety, though variety without order is the perfect description of the education of the dilettante.” I would like to see our catalog contain as an option one or two structured curricula, together with a statement of their rationale. I hate to think of a man’s leaving here without any literature or history or science.
The retrogression climaxed in the ’60s with the abandonment of the insistence upon any particular course. To my mind the greatest casualties came in public speaking, English comp and gym. We all had two or more semesters of written comp and eight semesters of speaking — the latter a world of drills, dec chapels, extemps, debates, discussions, orations, prize stabs. These requirements were not for the gifted essayist, orator or athlete. They were college-wide efforts to improve everybody somewhat in writing, talking and sports.
When a college requires the electing from, say, the humanities group, it implies that it is developing “the whole man.” (In our day no one thought of the necessity of saying the “whole person.”) Let’s not allow our degree to degenerate into what a Harvard dean has called “basically a certificate of attendance.” I just don’t accept the proposition that the younger generation should learn only what it wants to learn. That’s not the way civilization has been built.
Now I’m happy to turn to the long list of college traits for which I rejoice. These I have divided into two categories. First, those traits which could not possibly be repeated in today’s college history, economy, society or governance. They are things with a college or a student could not today well repeat, and might not each wish to repeat. Yet, speaking for myself only, I place them on the credit side in my accounting.
Since this group cannot well be repeated in today’s world, I cannot feel the need to defend my every assertion of what I then approved or still now approve. Admittedly, though, I’d not wish a listener or reader to dismiss my stands as valuable only because I associate them with a time when we were young and happy. The items are not to me mere hobbyhorses. But my years on campuses have taught me that alumni of the last 20 or 25 years will not buy the “iodine theory of education,” that is, it’s good for you only if it hurts! So, on occasion you’ll find me nudged into defending a policy or custom.
I have never come to resent compulsory daily chapel or Sunday chapel or the scant three cuts per class per semester. Saying that — and some of the things that follow — has often brought a look of utter disbelief in a New York office or in a college office in Ohio or Wisconsin. But I gladly stand by them all. Chapel carried with it at least a modicum of religion. It also forced upon the entire student body the whole range of announcements that keep a college running. It enabled you to meet students you did not see in class or in sports and to hear all the faculty in action. Sunday Chapel brought many excellent speakers, my diary reminds me. Let’s not haggle today about class cuts. I’ve experienced the therapy of introspection when a student does wonderfully well in an exam after cutting my course repeatedly. But again I’d say that if instruction is good, it is better for a student to be in class than to be in Elmira or Poughkeepsie.
The slimer rules, the slime caps, the “keep-off-the-grass” caveat were all, in my considered judgment, good for us in a man’s school, out in the hills, in that era. These customs brought class meetings, climaxed in class banquets and helped weld us into the class unit we have been over the years.
I feel distinctly aided by having stood to “recite” for Davy in two different courses and Bill Squires for six semesters. The Squires type of grilling would have caused a 1970 campus insurrection; yet I contend we thrived while we smarted — on a campus where public speaking was ever with us.
Other heroics include having freshman write a poem; making us shovel off the original hockey rink and even the whole football field; trekking downtown to get mail or send laundry home; taking the old trolley to Ute, the O&W and D&H Railroads from Clinton to Unadilla to Oneonta, and back on the trolley from Oneonta to Richfield Springs to Ilion to Utica to Clinton — all these plus Clinton weather. I have myself convinced that they were good for me.
I didn’t mind the horsing. Paddle Day I’ve come to glory in — though I was only number 64 — I suppose because it was the last one. Friends later always would say it made more sense for sophomores to paddle slimers. But we of 1924 know it wasn’t that way when we closed our first year running the numbing gauntlet as we whaled each other for the delight of the sophs.
Now let me turn to the traits more nearly attainable in tomorrow’s college. Why do I so like this place? In ordering my list I have tried to have some logic, some putting of like things together, but I also mean to lead with a sense of priority.
I respected our college world for its honor court. In eight semesters I never saw a man give or receive aid in an examination. I deliberately lead with this point. I’ve had friends coax me to think up just a few lapses. But in this I’m unshakeable. I’d shout it, if that would make it more clear.
Next, I have never felt hurt or downgraded for being a farmer’s son, or because I didn’t have much money, or because my parents were not college-trained.
I do not recall animosity toward non-Presbyterians or non-Protestants.
I love the place for having a history and knowing it and proclaiming it abroad. My daughter grandly asked her brother, “Washington and Lincoln are two of my forefathers. Who are the other two?” We saw Elihu Root. We saw Old Prex. We saw Alexander Woollcott. After that there was a lot of competition to be the fourth forefather. But we were emphatically taught our glorious past, and over the years I, for one, have increasingly gloried in it and have come to feel that it helps bring the College its wealth of applicants of high quality.
My next entry may surprise you. I put it here, extricating it from the extracurriculars below. Our class won the first class ring sophomore year and made it three in a row right through senior year. I’m sorry that uplifting tradition has fallen victim to modern sophistication.
Ours was indeed a marvelous world of classroom and lab — of reciting, lectures, assignments, graded notebooks and parallel reading and tests — with few exceptions a world of teachers and teaching — not of invisible professors holed up at home working at research. We saw their wives and many of their children, we were in their homes at clubs and other functions. Even their dogs helped them teach, or lead Chapel. Stink Saunders had a pet mouse in Chem who came out on the table to hear his beautiful lectures and to see his demonstrations. Quipped Stink, “Listen to me. Don’t titter. He has better manners than you do.” We missed that Stuart Little in Chem 2. So smart and mannerly a mouse should never have flunked. Tradition has it that he went up to St. Lawrence in a prom date’s pocket and in due course became valedictorian in their chem lab.
We had senior graders in English Comp — a grand crew. We were good for them as they learned English teaching methods, and I feel sure they were good for us. I thank the College for making me get to class before the last bell tolled. I’ve missed only five or six trains since then. I like to think that inexorable rule toughened us all. The Stryker (and perhaps earlier) eras decided students needed the rule. We writhed, but we also thrived under it.
The College knew how to plan things for Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. In a world where some resent Monday and Friday classes, I rejoice that I had to consider 8, 9, 10, 11 o’clock Saturday classes all in their stride.
We were rich in the non-athletic part of the extracurricular. The Charlatans offered us opportunity for personal participation in theater, supplemented by the credit-course in Dramatic Interpretation. Every three years we had our Latin play, probably the only one in the country. Our debate teams won more than their share, as indeed they should have done under this nurturing. Journalism was good, though we were perhaps editorially a trifle slow to criticize ourselves. Honorary fraternities in forensics and journalism helped.
We were made to say hello. That is still with me.
We had very little theft. In guarding our belongings we had the help of Brick Blake and of our devoted peeladies (maids in dormitory rooms). They were unique. Perhaps that adjective does not admit of comparison, but I insist on this one exception. Peeladies were most unique. My mother shuddered to hear the term and said if I must use such terms during vacation, please discourse on peeladies only when no relatives or friends were in the house.
I love this place for its beautiful campus with all of Bugsie’s trees and its view of the valley down from the cemetery toward Clinton and Utica — on which note I end this listing of our blessings. In the people, homes, churches, theaters, shops and other businesses of Clinton and Utica we were fortunate. Many will agree. If you don’t, I’d wish you could experience the town-gown feuds I’ve encountered in scores of college towns I’ve visited. You’d changed your mind.
And so you have of sorts my confession of faith. It is varied, disparate. You may not agree with all, or with my order, nor with my proportions. But it is genuine, and its wide-ranging character stems from my reading my diary and reading Life.
And now, more especially to ’24…Gather close…Let me begin to pull things together, for “Was ist los is nicht eingebunden.”
No class really has a four-year generation. Actually we touched and were touched by seven classes. Speak not of age. We have the maturity of 50 added years. Stand tall, with high honor.
This is Auf Wiedersehen, yet not a final one. Let’s say it is a sort of Commencement. A college is an academic cradle and each of us, in Stryker words, is the perpetual debtor to the hand that rocked it. When we say Credo, let it be said in present tense. As we see faults, let us not tear down. In the words of the Finnish hymn, “We would be building…” sending our grandsons, our best high school and prep graduates, our money, and our carefully thought out letters of advice to J. Martin — from L. Danforth, J. Lester, F. Carl, H. Reginald and all the rest.
I wish to end with the motto of the Doge of Venice: “Senescit, non segnescit.” He grows old, but he does not grow indolent. I know you classmates will not tire. Nor I trust will the youngest here today, for he will have the chance to see and know and love this place, 50 or even 70 years from now. In what has been, perhaps, far more personal a judging than you hired me for, I have thrown a few criticisms at flaws as I have seen them. They have been thrown, English dart fashion, at a dartboard fashioned over 162 years. Let us all walk together to the boards and remove the darts. The blemishes pale into near insignificance. The respect and love remain…We will still be thy boys!
Harvey R. Goslee, Class of 1924
As a Hamilton undergraduate, Harvey R. Goslee majored in political science, German, chemistry and philosophy, earning honors in the first three and graduating magna cum laude with a Phi Beta Kappa key.
In his post-College life he went beyond the limits of a single career, making marks in the worlds of publishing, teaching and politics. He has been a senior vice president of the Ronald Press Co., publishers of college textbooks, on whose behalf he has contracted for 225 textbooks and edited 100 of them. His teaching career centered at Fairfield University, Western Connecticut State College and Norwalk Community College. At all of them he taught courses in business communications and in state and local government.
A member of the town of Wilton Democratic Committee for more than 20 years, he has served as the committee’s treasurer and as chairman of its finance committee. He has been a town selectman and justice of the peace as well as a member of the first and third town charter commissions. He was a candidate for high sheriff of Fairfield County. In 1975 he was chosen to represent the Hamilton College chapter of Phi Beta at the fraternity’s bicentennial celebration in Williamsburg, Va.