We received a wonderful letter recently from Clarence Schuchman ’38 about tuition costs and music.
Referring to published comments by President Floyd about rising tuition costs, Mr. Schuchman recalls visiting Bursar Kruegel’s office and “plunking down thirty-two dollars and some odd cents” for his second semester tuition, then finding a job—washing windows of the bursar’s office—for which he would receive fourteen and a half cents an hour.
Mr. Schuchman’s letter is just one of the many journeys into the past that frequent my days here.
The past indeed seems “a foreign country,” as novelist L.P. Hartley observed. “They do things differently there.” The Washington State past that Mr. Schuchman and others evoke, however, is foreign in an intriguing and beguiling way.
Maybe it’s my age, or my 21 years at WSU, that increasingly draws me toward trying to understand our past. On the other hand, it is also true that in tough times, we are drawn to the past—and not always just for nostalgic comfort.
Any time a story reaches beneath the surface, the past intrudes. Nothing, after all, emerges from a vacuum, and research about that past always leads toward understanding and insight. As Hannelore Sudermann notes in her story about Northwest architecture, what we are as a university and what much of the region looks like depend very much on President Enoch A. Bryan’s ambition—and continues in spite of the battles between one-time friends Ernest Holland and UW president Henry Suzzallo, who with a cost-conscious legislature tried fiercely to suppress WSC’s ambition. That was 90 years ago.
Hannelore also writes about Worth Griffin, who was head of the art program when Clarence Schuchman was a student here. Griffin was commissioned by President Holland to tour the Northwest and paint portraits of notable Northwesterners. His portraits included those of many Indians, and he organized a summer artists’ colony in Nespelem. What we’re left with are portraits of those who might otherwise have been entirely lost to memory.
Eric Sorensen and I reach into the deep past, he millions of years farther than the mere ten thousand years of my story. As indirect as the subjects might be, however, they became the subjects of study here, woven into the intellectual tapestry that makes a university.
Finally, a World War II memoir by French-born Nicole Taflinger ’66, ’68 tells the enormously romantic story of how she met her husband Gordon Taflinger, who had to ask General George Patton permission to marry her and eventually came to WSU to teach business administration, the two of them adding tremendously to the texture of our collective story.
His financial points out of the way, Clarence Schuchman actually spends most of his letter recalling his musical experience here. If you look in the 1936 Chinook, you’ll find him just in front of the timpani, one of three French horns in the orchestra.
After extolling the ear and talent of Harold Wheeler, Mr. Schuchman recalls a mysterious Mr. Havlicek who came to WSC, late of the Boston Symphony, which he had to leave because of an injured finger.
One day, Schuchman recalls, Mr. Havlicek borrowed a violin and played the Largo movement from Dvorak’s New World symphony, “while we all sat there with our mouths open. I have yet to hear a more wonderful performance from any concert stage.”
Thanks to Mr. Schuchman, now we can hear it, too, resonating through his memory across the decades, part of the score to a rich and wondrous story.
Tim Steury, Editor