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Dad - In His Words

Letters From Dad
East Fairfax Rd.
Elementary School
Roxboro Jr. High
Early Friendships
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High School
Amherst 1st Year
Jobs '40--'43
In the Navy
USS Drew APA 162
Amherst '46-'49
Tom's Biography
Fran Kimball
Hiram Hardesty

Amherst College June to December 1943

When I graduated from Heights High I was 17 years old and would not have to go into the service for another few months. My folks wisely thought it would be a good idea to get a start in college before the draft took me. Heights was a large high school and I felt I wanted to go to a smaller college. I had applied at Kenyon College in Ohio and had been accepted. At that time that was not much of a feat because the college were anxiously looking for civilian students since the army and Navy had taken much of their space for military training. While discussing the college picture the minister at our church, Dr Ferdinand Blanchard, suggested that I look into Amherst where he had attended school. This was a small school, with a great reputation and the timing was good because they too were looking for students. I was accepted and the decision was made. Unlike today if the school was located far from home you didn’t’ visit before attending. Added to that there was gas rationing and tire rationing so it was not feasible to drive that far to look.

I can remember well, one week after graduating from high school, standing on the train station in East Cleveland waiting with my family for the train to New England. I had never been away from home alone before so this was a rather frightening experience. The first train took me to Springfield Mass. Where I would change trains and go to Northampton Mass. And subsequently take a bus to Amherst. I readily admit I was very apprehensive about the trip and was hoping I got on the right trains at the right time. I arrived in Springfield, got on the Northampton train with, it so happened a number of men going to Amherst. Among them was my roommate Frank Titus, whom I had, of course, never met and finding him just as apprehensive as I the rest of the trip was easy. We arrived at Amherst as a group and went to the appropriate office where we were assigned our rooms. Because there were few civilian students they put those of in Fraternity Houses rather than Dorms. Frank and I were assigned to Alpha Delta Phi which started our college career in a very pleasant way.

Amherst was, of course an excellent choice. The college was very beautiful, located in a mall town and nestled in among the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. There were only about 120 civilian students there, the freshmen being the largest group. Our classes start immediately and I found that college classes were not too different than high school other than the research and the assignments. Our classes were small and as has always been the case the professors were excellent. One class stands out in my memory more than others. Freshman English was taught by G. Armour Craig. He was from Cleveland and had graduated from Amherst about 1938. The class consisted of essays written every day and he was merciless in his critiques of our writings but we learned a lot. I truly believe that my ability to write my Law Exams later on were due to the examples given to me by Professor Craid.

The days were pleasant At Amherst that summer. The war was on and we knew we would soon be in it but somehow we were far removed from it. We gained firm friendships at Alpha Delt. Unfortunately I have not kept in touch with those in the house as closely as I should but many of them came back after the war and we renewed our friendships then.

I was an average student in high school and when I got to college in 1943 I was apprehensive as to the difficulty of college classes. I found that in History, English, French I was perfectly capable of handling the assignments. Unfortunately they had a freshman requirement that you had to take physics and math. And there I had trouble. The first math was trigonometry which I handled quite well but then you advanced to analytical geometry and calculus j which gave me fits.

Physics was even worse. I just couldn’t understand it and what I did get was due to my roommate Frank Titus who was a whiz at physics. We had a great arrangement. I would write his English papers and he would explain physics to me. In December when Uncle Sam came for me we were given credit for our freshman year even though we did not take finals. I have always told you that was a lifesaver for me since I don’t believe I could have cut those two exams.

Friends and Sports at Amherst

Let’s leave the service for a time and return to Amherst in1943. We were spoiled having a fraternity house to live in as freshmen. We had lots of parties in their party room and got to know each other much more than if we had been in dorms. Our social life was good. There were no civilian students to talk of so the picking a Smith and Holyoke colleges were ripe. Some of us even had dates with seniors since there were no senior men around. My very good friend Dave Steel was in the AD House as was my friend Okie Martin. Those two and Frank Titus and I seemed to pal around more that with others have no idea where Frank Titus is but I have written to Okie one or two time recently but received no reply. I talked to Dave Steel via E-Mail and went to the 45th reunion with him in 1994. One of our friends, Tom Hickey, lived in Northampton where Smith was located and he got me a date with a pretty gall named Marilyn Staab. We stayed together until I left for the service and wrote to each other a number of times. I saw her when I got back but things had changed in 2.5 years and she had other interests. I understand she married a man who lived in Hawaii but that ended in divorce and she moved back to Northampton a re-married.

There were no official sports at college during the war years but we had informal teams where we had lots of fun. One of the coaches at Amherst was Red Richardson and he organized a freshman basketball team. I had never played basketball but the competition was not tough so I went out and made the team. We played Prep schools in the area and did quite well. We also had a boxing instructor at the school that was quite elderly but fought in his younger days. He was a very popular English teacher and loved to have students box. I thin he was 65 or 70 and he would get into the ring with us and dare us to try and hit him.
We tried but were never successful. AS boxers we participated in a happy hour for the marines assigned to the school. I drew Sandy McCallum as an opponent and I will never forget the Marines yelling for one of us to hit the other. The fight lasted three rounds, I don’t know who won but we both were glad it was over. Our physical education classes were the same as the Marines and we were times on the obstacle course which consisted of such things as walls, swinging over water crawling under wire and various other feats. WE really got in good shape. We’ll leave Amherst now for a period of 2.75 years when we return and go to life in the navy.