1936 Class Annalist’s Letter
Frank W. McKee, Class of 1936
Delivered: June 7, 1986
“As the mummies are brought to light and made to speak by what remains of them, so I, after my long-ago burial in Hamilton College, am unearthed by an archeological party, if perchance somewhat may be learned through me.”
With this statement, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Hull, Hamilton 1936, opened his “semi-centennial contribution” on the occasion of the 1886 Reunion and reading of the traditional “letter.” His dissertation continued with an account of his college admission examination, conducted personally by then President Henry Davis, and some observations about dress and men of faculty and students in the 1830s. He recounted an incident in which a mischievous student had submitted an encyclopedia for the Bible on the Chapel pulpit. In this situation, President Davis, described not only as a scholar, but a master of good sense and ready wit, “looked calmly on the assembled classes, recited a due portion of Scripture, and offered an eloquent prayer,” as if not noticing the change.
Dr. Hull also remarked on the location of the College, which he did not regard as ill-chosen, and commented that “the arduous walks down and up College Hill” were a factor in his physical wellbeing and while “probably the now popular athletic sports would have done the same,” his hill-climbing exercise “was sufficient, without the supplements of bruises, sprains, and ponderous hands.” Lastly, he remarked “and now that the old days of staging are past, Clinton, with its crown of joy, Hamilton College, is by railway rendered easily accessible.”
Such is a brief glimpse of a reminiscence of the 50 years between 1836 and 1886. A second “Letter,” read in 1936, the graduation year of this 50th year class, by Edward Fitch, professor emeritus of Greek, was titled On the Threshold. He commented on an “intellectual stir” in his freshman year of 1882, related not only to some changes in faculty personnel, but also to the beginnings of the elective system of studies. A major point in Dr. Fitch’s letter was the effort of then new president, the Rev. Dr. Henry Darling, to bring the College into a close relationship with the Presbyterian Church, a move designed to provide the College with an endowment of $500,000, to be raised by the church to increase the supply of trained ministers in exchange for certain concessions as to filling seats on Hamilton’s Board of Trustees. This scheme created a serious turmoil within the College and was removed only with the departure of some faculty members and the succession of a new president some 10 years later.
Both of these letters are worthy of an in-depth review as milestone along Hamilton’s historic road.
Such model backgrounds as Hamilton 150 and 100 years ago help to define the task of bringing college life in the 1930s up to this year of Halley’s comet — 1986. It would be incongruous of me, today, to try to put Hamilton of 1936 into present perspective, as it would be for a graduate of this year’s class to comprehend this College 50 years ago. I shall make no direct attempt, and will leave the comparisons to the comparators.
The format of my presentation this morning will emphasize the Class of 1936 and other students, as actors, with Hamilton College the stage, and will cover essentially the College years of 1932-1936, with more concise mention of the five immediate post-graduate years, the World War II years of 1941 – 1946, and the subsequent 40 years of survival, careers, and inevitable attrition. I will also comment on the relationship of the College and its alumni and alumnae, with extension beyond the Annual Fund.
I once worked with the university president who began his annual report as follows: “We have our good years and our bad years, and this is one of them. The purpose of this report is to probe the improbable, ponder the imponderable and unscrew the inscrutable.” I can make no claim to these objectives, but will jog your memories with some history and nostalgia. My principal resources for this letter are the Hamilton Handbook, purchased in 1932, along with a green “Slime Cap,” each for one hard Depression dollar; a diary I kept faithfully during the College years; my own memory; and material gathered from my classmates.
I have also scanned the files of Hamilton Life, and other College publications, and obtained useful information from Frank Lorenz, and welcome support from Ed Nichols. And if the heavily male-oriented theme of this report distresses anyone, it must be remembered that the era of concern is in the antediluvian Hamilton Dark Ages B.C. — Before Coeducation.
When we entered Hamilton as freshmen in 1932, the message from President Frederick Carlos Ferry, offered in the handbook, was, in part, as follows:
Hamilton College is ready to provide for you a course in liberal arts which it regards of great value to every young man of intellectual capacity, of earnest ambition, and above all, of sound character. Should you wish to become a member of any of the learned professions, a thorough preparation is afforded which will open to you the doors of the very best professional schools if you make an excellent record in your undergraduate course… This old College aims, most of all, to be forever a place where “ideas are born ideals acquire authority.” Your cooperation toward that end will make you a very welcome member of the undergraduate body.
On that encouraging note, with its clear assignment of responsibility to the newcomer, 165 members of the Class of 1936 were embarked on the seas of college education. Of that number, 10 were from previous classes, and in total, 131 were from New York State, 17 from New Jersey, 6 from Pennsylvania, 12 from Massachusetts and 9 from six non-congruent states. As a class, we were hardly affluent, with many teetering on the poverty line of the era. And, as visible evidence of stringent times and changed mores, even though possession of automobiles was privileged only to seniors, students with official business, and commuters, the front apron of Carnegie Dorm comfortably served as the only student campus parking lot.
The earliest days of acclimation were mostly filled with a non-academic exercise, “fraternity rushing.” Many of us were quite unprepared for the sudden attention and demand for scheduling social engagements, most including free meals, at one or another fraternity house. After several discussions with experienced rushing chairmen and committees, I found a new dimension in that memorable line from the Aeneid: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis,” which, to rusty Latin students like myself is translated, “I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.”
A more official confrontation, also a form of rushing, was the “freshman-sophomore flag rush,” as well as other contests described in the handbook to “provide outlets for the surplus energy of the underclassmen, and give the newly arrived freshmen a chance to organize and prove their mettle in action.” Be that as it may, the record shows that the sophomores, as usual, won the flag rush, which in time allotted and numbers involved made a freshman victory virtually impossible, but the 1936 wrestlers won two of the three matches and had the final pleasure of pulling the sophomores through the now departed campus fountain.
Another event of significance was the freshman physical examination to record baselines of physical fitness and capability. This procedure was conducted in the old Soper Gym, now Kirkland Dormitory, which was then an aromatic barn. Formerly Middle College, it was converted into a gymnasium in 1891 and remodeled in 1912. Within those walls, the pungent aura of successive Hamilton teams, both participants and their supporters, would have miserably failed every test of the current Environmental Protection Agency. The basketball court on the second floor was a classic example of “home court advantage” with its splintery fore-shortened floor, exposed hot steam pipes along the lateral walls, and the low-hung balcony running track, packed with students during games, which defied shots from the corners.
The class assembled in the early evening and was ushered through a procession of investigations of blood pressure, pulse rate, chest capacity, etc., under the aegis of the College physician, Dr. V.B. Hamlin, and the staff of the Physical Education Department, Messrs. Prettyman, Gelas, Winters and Weber, ably supported by the “Pooh-Bah” of the Gym, “Doc” Bryden. The most important dividend in this experience was the initial acquaintance with these fine men who were, in addition to serving as coaches for the athletic program, teachers in the real sense of the word. Not only did we have compulsory sampling of each and every sport, but we had classroom lectures on rules and fine points of the games themselves, which were frankly stated to be of use to us later in life. I am sure many of us owe our continuing interest in golf or tennis or even TV sports watching to that early basic instruction.
One traditional item early on was a consuming concern with the Chapel bell, with which one developed a love-hate relationship, due to the rigid “cut,” or absence allowance, system. With only a 10-minute interval between classes, a tardy student would loudly shout, “Hold that bell” as he ran to make his seat without penalty. Often the bell-ringer, hearing this plea from below, would grant a few complimentary clangs before the three sharp claps that condemned the poor soul not yet in his place. The bell had other uses, and, to signify that Hamilton had won an intercollegiate contest was tolled long and loud by the freshmen that had this traditional assignment. Like the curfew in Gray’s Elegy, the bell was an integral part of our lives, and led one disenchanted humorist in Hamilton Life to forge the unforgettable couplet,
“The boys who ring the chapel bell
Are doing wrong by our knell.”
The Inter-Class Singing Contest, was a recorded tradition, held annually in May, with the winning class having its numerals engraved on a silver cup dedicated to that purpose. Each class had an assigned position at one of the buildings on the inner quadrangle, from which it offered, in rotation, two songs. Our class was directed in this effort by John Denny Dale, who also for three years led the College Band to increasing proficiency. On the occasion of our Freshman Sing, the judging ritual was carried out pro forma until the very moment of awarding the cup on the Chapel steps. As the committee chairman, Dr. A.P. Saunders, offered the prize to the winning senior class director and stepped aside for the customary remarks, down tumbled the contents of a couple of buckets of water on the unsuspecting senior. A brief moment of stunned silence ensued, and then came a roar from that class as the seniors surged into the Chapel and up the stairs to seize the culprits. The soggy saga became even soggier a few minutes later with the unceremonious submersion of the ill-fated bucket wielders in the campus fountain. Shortly thereafter, these sadder but wiser students disappeared from our midst, after what must have been a stimulating conversation with President Ferry and Dean Ristine. However, the story is not without a happy ending, for as I understand, one of these over-enthusiastic but unfortunate men returned to College, his penance paid, earned a later degree with honors, entered the clergy and became the recipient of an honorary degree from Hamilton. As epilogue, the well-known words of Shakespeare seem appropriate: “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”
The last stated tradition in the handbook is that, “During the singing of Carissima all men shall stand with bared heads.” However, as this has changed from a unisex to a multisex population, the words, and perhaps the respect and response to the song, have also changed. I presume Hamiltonians still stand for Carissima as a recognized strain, with de-sexing changes of wording, mainly the work of the late Professor Tim Johnston, successfully retaining the original Stryker spirit. In the handbook are songs of Hamilton, 1932 versions, which, under Freshmen Rule 13, listed clearly defined conditions for memorization of Carissima, Fair Hamilton, Bright Hamilton, We Come To Hang Our Banners and Thy Sons Will Ne’er Forget Thee. These songs, apparently now seldom sung, were a basic part of the spirit of our times.
A few other ingrained memories of our College years deserve recounting. One of these is the College Infirmary of the ’30s, our bastion of health maintenance, housed in the Perry H. Smith Hall, the red brick edifice across the road from the Chapel, formerly the College Library. The infirmary was supervised by Dr. Varney B. Hamlin, a general practitioner in Clinton, and on site by Gertrude Welch, R.N., a burly and no-nonsense matron. My infirmary experience was memorable only for the fact that my flu or whatever coincided with the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 4, 1933. Languishing my convalescence, through the miracle of radio I was able to hear first-hand in full the now famous rallying statement, “Let me assert that the only thing we fear is fear itself —nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat in advance.” An earlier October pre-election poll of the College produced 412 votes: 265 for Mr. Hoover, 89 for Mr. Roosevelt and 58 for Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist candidate, which shows that even college students are sometimes off the mark.
With Mr. Roosevelt came an immediate closing of the nation’s banks to sort out the weak members, and in the process to create a number of temporary problems of cash flow. This caused particular concern to the Hamilton Choir, about to set out on its annual trip to New York. Much of the cash needed for this venture appeared as heavy bags of coins, a hastily gathered, bulky, but welcome resource. And a short time later, in April 1933, came the sale of legal 3.2 beer, followed by all other beverages in December 1933, after the unusually speedy repeal of the 18th Amendment. We were unencumbered by drinking age limitation, since there was no official recognition of such activity, and I often wonder what became of a covert little family operation atop a fire escape on an obscure Utica side street. There, as freshman, instructed and dispatched by two seniors, I climbed the steps, tapped on the window, and when the shade was raised a few inches, I waved a dollar bill in the opening. A moment later, the window rose and a hand took the money, and a paper bag containing two quart milk bottles of a colorless fluid, said to be gin, came to my hands. This fluid shortly joined the house party punch, with no lasting ill effects.
An annalist’s letter traditionally comments on Hamilton’s wise emphasis on public speaking courses, which every student suffered for his entire four years. Much has been said about the helpful efforts of Professor Willard B. Marsh, more intimately dubbed “Swampy,” who was the principal and most effective member of the department, and who, though not from outer space, spoke in stentorian Martian tones. When he said, “A speech without gesticulation is like pancakes without ” we knew we had better gesticulate. In retrospect, however, the general theme has been the sheer terror of the student, forced to learn his declamation, rehearse it for intonation, gesture and footwork, and then rise to the stage to recite it. Anguish for the student, but less sympathy for Swampy. In his support, it is difficult to imagine his personal torture, year after year, class after class, to attend, listen carefully, and grade, victim after victim, week after week. He was, indeed, a dedicated man. I must confess my personal feelings about him changed in later years. In the early ’60s, after his retirement and the death of his wife, Swampy came annually to Los Angeles in the spring to visit an unspecified friend. At that time, Henry Work, Class of 1933, and I were on the faculty at UCLA, and on these visits Swampy would call and we would have lunch together. It was then that I belatedly realized what a truly fine person Swampy was, and our conversations should have been recorded, as we discussed Hamilton over the many years and miles and events of his and our memory.
Other faculty members of our era were remarkably respected and even beloved, and the list is too long to read with appropriate comment without omitting many favorites. One class member who pursued a career in the field of secondary education wrote, “At the time I attended Hamilton, I thought the teaching was satisfactory. With the passing years, I have come to realize it was clearly superior.” We are all eternally grateful to those remarkable and dedicated men, who, with years of integrity and devotion, are also immortalized in David Ellis’ essay, “Giants in the Earth.”
Reminiscences of scattered happenings are something else. James Michener has written, “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” but some moments qualify for this record. An incident of which I have only recently learned was an action by a small student group, calling themselves “Veterans of Future Wards,” who decided one murky night to carry off one of the cannons mounted before Sigma Phi House. The purpose of this expedition was to take the cannon away, somehow, and have it melted down to its basic metal, which would then enable the striking of distinctive medals. These medals could be worn and enjoyed by these “future veterans” before they might be called to service, instead of afterwards. The project collapsed when confronted by the mounting of the cannon and its sheer weight (just tap on one of these as you go by) so that no harm came to either cannon or group. But a delightful idea!
A less spectacular but more erudite moment occurred in one of the classes of Economics Professor Francis Patton. He had been discussing the plight of Pennsylvania coal miners in the Great Depression, then rampant in the land, and after painting a dreary picture, a cheery encouragement, “Hope springs eternal, sir,” came from the student section. Dr. Patton did not locate the voice, but asked rather sharply, “Who said that?” Back came the answer, “Alexander Pope, sir.” Eventually the laughter subsided and we returned to economics.
From the economics course came another item of wisdom about retirement. We were told that one sure way to enjoy one’s golden years was to have at least ten children, and after raising them in more vigorous times, one could then sit on his front porch and let these grateful offspring support him. Dr. Patton was not a man of vision for current times, for to date, I have no concrete example that such a concept has proved successful.
As a class, 1936 was a well-rounded group with sufficient talent to full the many opportunities offered us. We had our share of good football players and there was a gleam in Coach Art Winters’ eye when he saw the speed and agility of Ike LeFevre and the steadfastness of Harry Goss and Jack Carmer. Another of our real jewel was Dick Millham, senior class vice president, who, though of less formidable stature, displayed his considerable talents in soccer, basketball and baseball, captaining the latter in his senior year. And in hockey, Fran Baker, an indomitable goalie in the days before face masks, with plastic and dental surgery to prove it, joined the U.S. Olympic team under Coach Prettyman for the 1936 Winter Games in Hitler’s Germany, where the United States finished third behind Great Britain and Canada. There is not space or time to name each of the other members who filled out the ranks of Hamilton athletic teams, and who were the mainstays of the Debate Team, the Choir, the Charlatans, the Honor Court, the Press Board and other campus cultural activities. They and we know who they are, and how much the College and each of us owe them for their efforts.
I cannot leave this theme without a comment on the weather. No one escaped the heavy fall rains, or the snow and cold of winter and spring in these Adirondack foothills. A most memorable experience was an entire week in January 1934, when the highest temperature was 10 degrees below zero, and attempts to heat the building were, at best, frustrating. Another incident was a snowstorm in late May that delayed a track meet, leading to a modest debate as to whether this was a very late storm, or perhaps a rather early one. Whatever the college dress code may have been, and it was not elegant, it surely suffered in the winter when keeping warm prevailed over any vestige of sartorial splendor. Jackets and ties were required for even meal in the fraternities and for Sunday Chapel, but otherwise, the only appearance in respectable garb signified it was that student’s day for his semester declamation or other public speaking assignment. One other area where weather and dress came together was the careful attention paid to the grounds by Supt. Elliott Crim Burton, known as the “General” because of his habitual campaign hat and leather puttees. A comment in Hamilton Life accused him of establishing the fall colors’ style for students’ trousers, socks and shoes, as well as the carpets and floors of fraternity houses and other buildings, by the steady addition of the reddish low grade iron shale, pasty when wet, dusty when dry, which paved the campus paths.
One significant deviation in the normal course of events came in our junior year when a certain restlessness emerged about required daily chapel and the rigid “cut” system. The first action came one February morning when the student body, including the Choir, remained silent during the usual chapel hymn. The moderator, Professor Marsh, undauntedly handled the verses of the vigorous song as a fine baritone solo with organ accompaniment. Only passive conversation with the College administration followed, so a few days later, another tactic was tried. Each student brought a newspaper to Chapel, unfurled it and rustled it through the service. It was, indeed, a strangely overpowering noise in this confined space, and blotted out the scripture reading and all other matters doggedly pursued. On adjournment, some urgent consultations were held at high levels, as reported in Hamilton Life, vice chairman of the trustees Daniel Burke appeared at the following Sunday chapel to discuss the situation, a message described in my diary as “The same old oil!”
Nevertheless, reforms did follow, with a reduction of chapel sessions to three days a week and a more liberal absence allowance. To my memory, that was the only group of which I was physically active member, and it was successful without property or other damage.
So the years passed and soon Commencement was on the horizon. Our joy and expectations for that final ceremony and its implications were shocked and dimmed three weeks before this event by the sudden death of one of our classmates, Robert Jay Durkee, who was accidentally drowned on a recreational weekend at an Adirondack lake. It was a stunning blow. Bob Durkee was a fine, friendly and thoroughly good person, and his tragic and much too early demise was an immeasurable loss.
Commencement came on June 15 with the assembly of 104 graduates, the largest class to date, to whom eight were from previous years. Dave Burgess gave the valedictory address, Rudy Eldridge the salutatory in traditional Latin, and Fred Meagher delivered the Head Prize oration, titled “George Washington’s Debt To Alexander Hamilton.” We sang to the Latin version of Carissima, had a 30-minute “comforture break” and then returned to receive our diplomas. Many, including myself, have not been on this podium since that day. The benediction was given by our own Bill Foreman. Bill also entered the clergy and was mentioned by several of our class for his later assistance and counsel in their hours of need. He is sorely missed from our ranks. We then dispersed, as the Moving Up Day song predicts, into the “Cold, Cold World.”
My recent poll of the 1936 survivors and a more general review of the whole class show that 18 went on to a variety of graduate school programs, 10 to medicine, 12 to law, six to clergy, while others pursued more immediate careers as teachers and in various business enterprises. However, many of these endeavors and plans for the future were curtailed, delayed, or greatly changed by World War II.
The record of that conflict shows that, while the majority of the class was engaged in direct military activities, others were involved in essential war-support industries. Two members were in the Manhattan Project, which produced the war-ending bomb, while another applied his inventive skills in devising magnetic marine mines. Still, others were concerned with colleges and secondary-school teaching, church work, public utility operations, chemical engineering, and legal and medical services for the civilian population.
In the field the class was represented in all major war theatres and operations. Beginning in 1942 in Africa, and in the Pacific at Guadalcanal, there was class participation in all phases of those major campaigns on land and sea. Two members served on the China-Burma-India front in a grueling effort to support China as a potential ally. In addition and more specifically, one member was a field-promoted Marine officer in charge of a machine gun platoon in the Pacific, another served as a cryptographer in the Arctic Hudson Bay area, a third pursued an intermittent military career with eventual award of the Legion of Merit and a fourth was decorated by the Norwegian government for his “outstanding contribution” as an OSS captain in the liberation of that country.
Lost in his crucial struggle were Ed Kellogg, Henry Jenks and Bill Combrinck-Graham, who leave us with sad but proud memories, and abiding gratitude to a Divine Providence that watched over the extensive exposure and the perilous action of so many of our group.
The return to civilian life and the more normal routines of peacetime offered the awaited opportunities for more permanent careers. Sorting out the variety of pursuits of this class is remarkably complex, and like a movie with good scenes left on the cutting room floor, I cannot list each one. However, we find one judge, John Keane, among the lawyers, one bishop, David Cochran, among the clergy, a spectrum of specialties among the physicians, a senior editor of a prominent newspaper in the active media group, one sometime “Voice of America,” several administrators of secondary schools, six professors and/or chairmen of departments of major universities, one renowned sculptor and one concert pianist, both now deceased, one historian and writer of history, a bona fide inventor, a promoter of workshops for the handicapped, a designer and builder of fire engines, a small college business manager, and good representation in corporate and business enterprises. Disappointments with career and other matters of life seem to have affected only a few. The accomplishments of these alumni are by far the best personification of Hamilton College and President Ferry’s 1932 predictions for us, and as “living wills,” they provide a legacy unmatched by more material considerations. I suggest a review of the 50th reunion yearbook for its autobiographical record of the Class of 1936.
Now having taken a substantial amount of your time this morning with a retrospective glimpse of Hamilton’s most recent half-century class, as annalist, as i.e. a recorder of chronicle and personal history, spelled with two Ns and an A, I would dwell for another moment as analyst, with one N and a Y, who analyzes or examines component parts in the context of the whole. I direct particular attention to the most important element in the College’s existence, the alumni and the alumnae, the production and prepared competence of which are the sine qua non for Hamilton’s prosperity. In this 50-year interval since our graduation, many of us have served the College the way a sugar bush serves the maple syrup farmer. We are a stand of stalwart trees, which are both annually and less regularly tapped as a major resource for the support of the College. This is really an act of faith, with no strings attached, which rests on the premise that the College is hewing to sound liberal arts program, is consonant with the times and is producing graduates who are competent to use and profit from, and thus revere, their experience here, as we have done.
In this context, I am quite sure that many graduates are aware of and appreciate the difficulties facing education and educational institutions, at all levels, today. Colleges in particular are currently faced with a declining population of high school graduates, and along with this menacing problem are accompanying reductions in public funds for education, both institutional and personal, compounded by growing costs for salaries, maintenance and insurance. Tax reform poses threats to charitable contributions, student reaction to international circumstances gives certain corporate support pause, and foundation support is becoming more selective, with even insinuation of conditions not unlike the Presbyterian Church 100 years ago, with implications for student body size and composition, facilities and program. In the face of these challenges, institutional integrity must not become a commodity.
The concern with the support of alumni and alumnae in this situation should, therefore, not be a small one. In the Class of 1936, as in all classes before and after, there is a large spectrum of competent people, not members of the Board of Trustees, not routinely engaged in substantive College matters, not always wealthy, but usually successful, who might offer considerable wisdom and support in an advisory capacity if invited to provide it. As Will Rogers once said, “We are ignorant, but not about the same things.” This is an essentially untapped reservoir, and while both supplementary consultative bolstering of the Alumni Council may appear to create impediments and dilution in confronting problems, it may well clear the air and be helpful in decision reaching and making.
When the Annual Fund and other projects produced many fewer dollars, there were also of rather minimal or passing concern to the donation sources. An interesting statistic is that the entire tuition for the Class of 1936 could have been covered by a check of $25,000! Times have indeed changed! But with big money comes a much greater responsibility for direct and open College communications with, and inclusion of, the donor constituency, before the fact, about the College’s problems and needs and plans for their resolution. I would encourage a long overdue revival of a regular Annual Report to be sent to each alumnus and alumna from the College about the College, i.e. the students, the faculty, their attitudes and aspirations, and facilities for the educational activity. By facilities, I do not mean the physical plant, but rather the social and intellectual facilities for contract between students and their teachers. Another helpful area of communication in the tradition of a half-century annalist might be a presentation at an appropriate College function, by a graduate of the 5th or 10th reunion class, who would describe, for later wider publication, his or her more recent experience at Hamilton and what he or she is making or expects to make of it. Such information would complement the work of today’s annalist, who has dwelt on the way we were, as the Class of 1936, and its results and the way we are now.
What I am really saying that even in a land of milk and honey, some real concern must be given to cows and bees, despite some of their less agreeable characteristics, if we are, indeed, to uphold Hamilton as “the College on the hill top whose days will never end.”
And with those comments, I will close on a somewhat sentimental note, with an old story, not beyond the pale of reality, in a version once told to me. It is about a young boy, growing up with his family in a homestead on a green wooded hillside overlooking a peaceful river valley. For some time, each day as the sun rose, he would look across the valley where stood another house, its windows gleaming in the reflection of the morning sun. He dreamed about this house with the golden windows, and wondered who might live there, and what kind of people they were, and what they did; and he even began to mingle some magic notions with his thoughts. One day, when he was about 12 years old, he asked his mother if he might go down into the valley and up the hill to see this wonder house. So she prepared his lunch, and he started off, reaching his destination in the late morning. He was greeted by a friendly woman, older than his mother, and he was invited in.
He told his new friend about her house and his long-standing wish to visit and find for himself who lived there. She listened carefully and sympathetically and knowingly, and told him about her family and her children who were grown now, and had gone away. She gave him some cold milk to drink with his lunch, and they talked of many things. Soon it was time for him to go, as he waved goodbye and turned to go down the hill, he looked across the valley, and lo! There on the opposite hill was a house, its windows gleaming in the afternoon sun. Startled, he exclaimed, “Oh, another house with golden windows!” And her reply was, “That is your house. My children used to talk about the house with golden windows, but none of them ever did what you have done today — go and see.”
The boy returned home and told of his adventure and his new friend, but also showed his satisfaction and happiness to be home with his own family in his own house with golden windows.
Many of the Class of 1936 have had experiences as students, teachers and administrators in many colleges and universities in this country and abroad, and still others have been intimately involved in the selection of such institutions by their children and even grandchildren. Some of these schools had golden windows. However, I dare say that today we are back again in our own house with its golden windows, not to stay, but to relive and recall briefly, past moments and our experiences as we matured under the auspices of Hamilton College and our mentors here.
As President Ferry wrote in his greeting message so many years ago, “This old College aims, most of all, to be a place where ‘ideas are born, and ideals acquire authority.’” As alumni we believe that Hamilton is offering its current students the quality of instruction and preparation for long and useful lives that we found here in the ’30s. Again, “we have our good years and our bad years,” and we know that 1936 was one of them. I believe that Hamilton College continues to have successive good years, and that 1936 was among the best of them.
Frank W. McKee, Class of 1936
Frank McKee, a native of Pennsylvania, began his career as a physician, medical educator and administrator when he was graduated with honors from the University of Rochester school of Medicine and Dentistry in 1943. He later served as associate and acting dean of the school. Prior to his retirement as associate director of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates in 1980, he had also served as professor of pathology and director of clinical laboratories at the UCLA Medical Center, director of the Division of Physician Manpower of the National Institute of Health, and dean and professor of pathology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.