The GI Generation speaks
Editor’s note: We received a great response to the spring 2015 article “After the War” from a number of alumni who attended Washington State College in the late ’40s and early ’50s (and some later). They shared their recollections of the time and wonderful anecdotes of the college. Several of these letters are excerpted below.
The article “After the War” in the latest edition was outstanding and really told what it was like back then. It brought back many memories. Bill Fitch was in your report and I know him. One of his best friends was Bob Berry who was my roommate the first year in north housing. He and Bill would anonymously tear apart the Evergreen paper with criticism. After a time of this, the staff pleaded with them to come forward and help them with the paper, which they did and both became editors.
Our class of 1950 had their diamond grad reunion a few years back. This was the first good glass of World War II veterans. Enrollment of about 5000 then, 6% made it to the reunion. I was just a high school vet, for the vets were some older than me. Fortunately, both Bill and Bob were there.
Point of this letter is that the school missed a great opportunity publicizing this as the first graduating class of World War II vets. I was disappointed and wrote a letter to the editor that nothing was ever mentioned in the magazine, and that they missed the boat. I was somewhat bothered that I never received acknowledgement to my letter.
Anyway, I’m glad your magazine did the piece about those first years after the war.
Dick Kinney ’50
Your fine story, “After the War,” stirred up some memories that were critical elements of my life. I too was one of the thousands of WW II veterans enrolled at Washington State during the period of time described. Like many of the veterans served so well during those years, my college education was not the result of a typical approach to enrollment. I had not been an outstanding high school student and had been told by a high school counselor that I was not college material. After leaving the service, I went to work in a mobile food service job. While serving customers across the street from the main entrance to the Western Washington Fair, my past high school agriculture teacher walked up, spotted me and said, “What in the hell are you doing, Wolfe?” Two days later I was on the Washington State campus, temporarily living with a friend while completing my enrollment procedures.
I do not know where the “can do” attitude came from that caused me to make the sudden transition in my life. In October of the following year my wife Carol and I were married by a justice of the peace on a weekend and were residing the following Monday in one of the two-story temporary buildings described in your article. Life was not immediately “a bowl of cherries” because that winter was very cold. I studied in my overcoat and our car was buried in snow for months. My wife secured employment in the T.U.B. and I worked parttime on a project in the dairy department on campus to supplement our G.I. Bill income. I majored in general agriculture to become a teacher of vocational agriculture. Our first child was born prior to graduation.
My first two teaching jobs were in Colville and Orting, Washington. My wife and I moved to California to be closer to family. While teaching at two different locations, I earned a Master’s Degree in Education at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and completed my academic endeavors the an EDD from USC. I have had the pleasure of starting a new high school as Principal and three other roles in education, the last being the joy of my professional career as the Director of a Regional Occupational Program. After retirement, and while living in Baja , Mexico for seven years, I was honored by having the Wolfe Educational Center named for me in Merced, California. My wife of 66 years and I now live in Hemet, CA.
Life has a habit of providing an “open Road” to success if a vision of that road ahead is kept clearly in mind and if a person is willing to work hard. I am very proud of the career that took “the poor boy from the Western Washington stump ranch” to a solid professional life made possible with the help of friends, college professionals and the good old G.I. Bill. I obviously am deeply indebted to the start I enjoyed at Washington State.
Ellsworth Wolfe, EDD ’52
Though not pictured in the photograph used in your article [After the War], a great many of us had the privilege of sitting at President Compton’s feet in his living room listening to his guitar and discussing our college with him. An extension of the “Compton Attitude” toward building a campus community was the series of retreats at Luther Haven involving student leaders, faculty, deans and administrative staff.
A correction is needed for the article. You report there that Keith Jackson served as student body president in 1954. Keith was a great guy who was well respected by those who knew him on campus. He focused most of his energy on the campus broadcasting program rather than student government.
Peter W. Weston ’54
Editor’s note: Thank you for the correction. Pete Weston was, in fact, the student body president in 1954. In my source of the information, Going to Washington State, William Stimson wrote “…George Goudy, president of the class of ’52, and Keith Jackson, president of the class of ’54, applauding the article…” Jackson was the freshman class president in 1951, when the Compton letter was sent to LIFE magazine.
We really enjoyed the spring issue of WSM. I was especially intrigued by the story of Terry Ishihara, as well as “A Re-dress of the West” and “After the War.” I entered WSC as Ishihara was leaving, and was interested to learn that he received his doctorate from the U of Arizona where I was a faculty member for 26 years, 1966-1992. Do you have the years that Ishihara attended Arizona?
Sudermann alludes to the work of Edward Curtis relative to capturing Indian life prior to the 1900’s. Our property in the White Mountains is adjacent to the Apache Indian Reservation, and I can confirm that walking the streets of McNary or Whiteriver is little different than any small town in Arizona, but Curtis was attempting to capture signs of a culture that was already disappearing. We have visited many sites in Arizona, and have friends whose grandparents were born in those dwellings, and there you gain an appreciation of what Curtis attempted to preserve on film.
“After The War” was particularly interesting since I was on campus during the years 1942–1953. No it did not take me that long to graduate! My older siblings began their education before the outbreak of WW II, and then returned in the late 1940s to graduate, and I made the trip from Spokane many times in those years. In fact, my residence was Pine Manor (now demolished), which housed WOMEN during the war years and then had MEN sleeping in triple bunk beds after the war. I enjoyed that “privilege” the fall of ’49 when six men shared a sleeping room.
I was the 7th Munroe family member to graduate from WSC; my future wife followed in 1956, and counting grandchildren, we have eleven Cougars in the family. Now if they could only play basketball like Wildcats!
Rich ’53 and Mary Jeanne (Murphy) ’56 Munroe
I enjoyed Larry Clark’s article “After the War.” Mr. Clark writes that the wartime housing was razed by 1982 but I remember it differently. I was on the rowing team in 1983, ’84 and ’85. Coach Ken Struckmeyer would rally his troops on Spokane Street, on the downhill side of Pinewood Manor, looking across the street at what we knew as “married student housing.” On those early mornings, while waiting for the vans, we would try to lob pine cones down the chimneys of the little houses. Eventually the rain of pine cones on the roof would bring out some angry Dad in his pajamas who would shake his fist at us from across the street.
Both of those housing areas were cleared in the mid ’80s and became parking lots, which they still are. But they were definitely standing and occupied in 1983 and 1984.
Roger Crawford ’86
In your story on the WWII aftermath at WSC (spring 2015 issue) you just presented a side note about the student body election of 1947. But it was a real upheaval on campus. Never before, nor since, have off-campus and dorm students organized to entirely sweep student body and class offices, right down to yell king, from Greek candidates.
As one of those 1946 returning war veterans, yell king and an Evergreen columnist, I started the “Indepe” (Independent students) Political Party on campus with my roommate Bud Lester. We spent hours contacting dorm residents, veterans’ housing residents and off-campus students wherever we found them and set up political rallies that had people hanging from the rafters. We even had a “limo committee” of drivers to get off-campus students to the polls. Our presidential, and other candidates, didn’t even need to campaign. Voter turnout swept them all into office.
The overall story was well done, though, bringing back memories I hadn’t thought about in years (I’m 90 now). Like working evenings as the TUB’s snack bar as “griddle king,” where I regularly had 40 or more burgers going at once, for a two hour period, after nearly every social or sportive event. Which made me very helpful in the kitchen in later life!
The two journalism profs I had, both now deceased, would be happy that I kept writing throughout my long life. In one of my published books I even came up with a “scoop” when I discovered, in researching Smithsonian Institution files, that Betsy Ross definitely did not design our stars-and-stripes flag. My second “scoop” is in one of the two books I’m currently writing, proving that the acclaimed book “Roots” was not an original theme. There was a silent film made years earlier following the exact story line.
I would love to hear from alums from 1946-50. My e-mail address is RLLoeff@cableone.net
Bob Loeffelbein ’48
I attended WSC (still!) back in ’49-51, when we GIs were still overloading campus facilities. Back then our three 2-story dorms for frosh women, men undergrads and men grads were temps, literally kindling wood firetraps. And we had one veteran setting bulletin board notices on fire; later caught (four more fires believed to be on campus) and wisely sent for therapy.
My room had been a kitchen and now had a double-high bunk with two small desks with chairs. No, that really was the full furnishings for two undergrads. A common big “latrine” and shower room down the hall. Much better than many of our former Army conditions during WWII, so no real complaints that I ever heard, surprisingly not even from the young frosh kids just out of high school.
The Frosh girls, required for all Frosh, were housed across the main road down to Pullman (forget the name) in West House, a similar tempo reassembled on campus. Not much security from crawling in first floor windows!
The Grads were across the turf and narrow road to the Vet Clinic from my South House in an identical tempo. I hope all they had singles for accommodations. Chow was in the Dining Room, cafeteria style, centered for all three dorms. The staff did a very good job taking care of all hundreds of us. They even took care of my Fencing Team (I was also the Men’s P.E. Fencing Instructor) when we arrived quite late from a 3-day winter driving trip (losing only one day’s classes) to a major intercollegiate fencing competition in San Francisco, improvising to feed us.
When my wife and I visited the campus on one of our western trips from back east here, I was completely lost on campus. I was shocked at how much campus was lost to growth demands. The student body that had grown to 6,000 when I graduated and had far outpaced that by thousands. I had to use Todd Hall, the Library and Stadium for my bearings. Our old dorm area was totally unrecognizable, with even the Vet Clinic gone. Astounding growth and changes.
Back in my days I never even thought about an elevator. I was not even aware of one. The first weeks of classes left me with leg cramps in bed at night, until I finally got them back in shape. Every class, everywhere, was UP, somehow. By the time I graduated I had fantastic leg muscles. And the mile walk to town for a cheeseburger, milkshake and pool game at the Smokehouse meant a continuous climb UP all the way back!
What is wrong with the namby pambies now? Let them get the healthy exercise of climbing those Palouse hills. It is what the doctor ordered. It may even help their brain development with the increased circulation. We made the walks to class, back then, regardless of weather, including one winter when, except for three fortuitously well-spaced Chinooks, the entire constantly threatened town of Pullman would once again have had major flooding throughout, requiring boat rescues.
Eugene G. Duffy ’51
Daytona Beach Shores, Florida
Praise for Ernie Kent
Although I always read the magazine, the spring 2015 issue was especially interesting to me, particularly the item on Ernie Kent with whom I have been in contact.
I am a 1943 graduate of WSU (then WSC), I just wanted to let you know of my education with a degree in the fine arts and how that category had no bearing in my life occupation.
After graduation, I immediately went from a reserve status to active duty during WWII assigned to the air force. After four years I was ready to begin my life work at age 26. My first stop was to the Aetna casualty home office in Hartford. This was resulting from a connection while in the service. I had exposure to all aspect of insurance and after five weeks I went back to Peoria, Illinois to begin the next venture of big life work.
After a few years as an independent agent, I derived an offer from Del Webb Corporation in Phoenix to join the company on their insurance managers. During this three-year period I was asked to do some personal advice regarding a widely known and respected builder and city developer and also an owner of the New York Yankees.
After three year and the Webb Corporation I received an offer from the Marsh and McClennan companies to join them as a senior vice president with an assignment to lead the programing of major accounts, one was the world-wide operation of the Howard Hughes Empire. This was indeed world-wide and required that we utilize foreign underwriters to handle the high risk aviation accounts and this requires two or three trips a year to London and Paris, often with our clients with us. My wife would quite often go with me, as she owned a major travel agency and she was well-received by our clients.
It was in this position that I became a personal association with people like Del Webb, Bill Lear, and Neil Armstrong (and not including Howard Hughes.) It was an exciting and challenging period in my life and I appreciated my upbringing from a Yakima Valley fruit orchard guy into a new world of affairs. I also credit
my fraternity (TKE) with an important part of my development into the business world. So this regard, I solute Kyle Erdman and his TKE associates for bringing the TKE chapter from a kicked-off-the-campus operation back to campus and into a re-acquired chapter house.
Last night I watched the Cougar-ASU game and I was thrilled by their win, but also that Ernie Kent style of coaching that showed in the young team. I am hoping that Mike Leach can start having some bright lights himself.
P.S. I played basketball for Coach Friel.
Terry Burns ’43
La Quinta, California