Bowdoin College

Love Letters of WWII blog and book project content is about Bowdoin College

King Chapel at Bowdoin, June 2016

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Photo, WW2 | 0 comments

Bowdoin campus is quiet in mid-June. I wanted to get with the old guys of my father’s day, away from current campus culture. Of course you can’t escape campus culture. The first thing I encountered was a poster on the inside of every toilet stall door (in every restroom) to remind me, again and again, even after I just passed the same poster on the restroom wall–the only poster in the bathroom–that a long list of names of specially trained students is on stand by to help me come out of the closet and or if I think I might be the victim of a sexual assault. Every time I had to use the bathroom there was the missive that had nothing to do with me.

Bowdoin College, King Chapel Doors

King Chapel Doors at Bowdoin

Anyway, I slipped through two great old doors leading into the chapel. Antiques and art are everywhere at Bowdoin and always have been since the earliest days of the college.

When I got there a lady was playing the organ. The chapel is dark from absence of many windows. In place of any large stained glass, the chapel has gorgeous museum quality murals.

Bowdoin's College King Chapel

Bowdoin’s King Chapel

Bowdoin has been always the greatest of art collectors. The interior chapel is walled on its two long sides by giant murals of bible scenes. To compare, I thought back to my trip to St. Petersburg, to castles and cathedrals I’ve visited. And to rare Byzantine murals of Jesus and the Apostles on cave walls in Turkey. None is more perfect than the King Chapel at Bowdoin. It’s so well preserved it’s almost like a dreamscape. Absolutely awesome. Later I picked up a brochure about the chapel.

Just today, the 4th of July, the chapel brochure informs that I’m a Bowdoin community member. Yea! Bowdoin community is defined as alumni and their immediate family members (that’s me!), active or retired faculty and staff and their immediate family members, and members of the Association of Bowdoin Friends. I’m proud to be Bowdoin.

Bowdoin College King Chapel Centurion, stained glass

King Chapel Centurion

In homage to a bible story is the great centurion today. He stands as a stained glass window high above the chapel’s front doors.

Waiting for a campus tour, I picked up the “The Orient”.  An article by a self-described minority female student is about how it badly it feels to be subjected to Bowdoin’s oppressive colonialist imposition in portraits of old white men in Hubbard Hall. Rather than scholarship, four years of college for her was about a matter of feeling at home. She wants social justice. She wants the walls to reflect diversity, modern Bowdoin. Though I love Bowdoin’s heritage I understand how she feels because I used to feel the same way when I’d vist the bio-medical library at UCLA. In the lobby are huge portraits of founder white men in black scholar robes. Feels imposing, presumptuous, oddly out of place.

Bowdoin College King Chapel

Bowdoin College King Chapel

Excessive political correctness vs. free speech on college campuses directs me back in time to Bowdoin’s founding principles. Liberal arts at Bowdoin is defined best historically. True liberal arts is a science that trains Man how to think. No more, no less.

I noticed, and I may be wrong, but it seems there’s a mistake in the brochure. The description of the murals on the North Wall, starting from the door states “mostly” New Testament themes. That wall is ALL New Testament themes. The stained glass centurion is from the New Testament too. They’re all one theme. All Bowdoin.

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Calisthenics at Bowdoin College in WW2

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Media, Navy, WW2 | 0 comments

When college coaches were sent to war, new athletic managers were recruited.

Newspaper Article on Bowdoin WW2

As teams coaches were sent to war, new athletic managers were recruited from slim pickings

In 1943 Bowdoin College boys were required to take rigorous calisthenics 5 hours a week.  It was normal for boys just out of high school to be weak in reading and writing. Ordinarily the college would greatly focus on upgrading writing and math skills, english, foreign language, history, debate, American literature and the classics.  But in 1943 best efforts at Bowdoin were strained by the war. Bowdoin’s tradition of liberal arts, Christian morality and preparing the intellect for a common good created great thinker leaders of democracy.

Young men like Mose were already heavily burdened with extra classes plus training for sports. Morris played baseball, football, tack, and basketball. Even though Mose wasn’t yet enlisted in the navy the cause of the war subjected Bowdoin fellows to a new curriculum that included extra physical ed classes to ready them for war.

Sportsmen aged 18-21 instantly dissolved from Bowdoin’s varsity teams. Freshmen like Mose were added on the fly. Mose loved to play ball. He must have still managed to have a good time.

Morris’s freshman year at Bowdoin in 1942-1943 was a critical time in American history. The college had to comply with the Army-Navy requirement to get the boys fit for war. No part of campus life remained untouched by war. This film shows an idea about the mentality of bootcamp style military calisthenics.

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Preparing for Notre Dame Navy Training

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Mail and The U.S. Post Office, Navy, V-12 Navy Program, WW2, WW2 Letters, WWII Letter | 0 comments

Excerpt Letter 6-13-44

Excerpt WW2 Letter 6-13-44

Tonight I pulled a letter from Mose at Bowdoin College in 1944. June 13th will be 72 years since it was written. The boys at Bowdoin just saw a film on Midshipman training and “it really inspired the fellows about to leave”. The course curriculum has all been transformed to concentrate the young men’s minds on the needs of war. Morris has reported his grades. He got an A in Naval Strategy. During the war Mose served on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.

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 Bowdoin Graduate, a President of the Christian Science Church

Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Christian Science, Medicine | 0 comments

My historical family survey based on 300 Love Letters my dad wrote in the 1940s included letters from his freshman year at Bowdoin. I sometimes wonder how the war was used to stabilize business interests at the time and to control American society at large. Christian Science was for decades, until the great wars, the fastest growing American religion, and with it a natural healing science, even into the 1930s.

It attracted men of education and also a great number of Jews. What would it take to forestall  this religio-political force, this Christianity and medicine replacement cure-all?

This 1932 Christian Science Journal article records that “Judges and lawyers have accepted Christian Science, and medical doctors have left their medicines for Christian Science as being a more scientific and efficient remedy. The Hon. Ralph O. Brewster, former Governor of the state of Maine, and a graduate of Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School, has recently been appointed President of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, whose branches, including college and university organizations, now number upward of twenty-six hundred. Men of this caliber do not leave their medical beliefs nor their former religious affiliations for a so-called foolish faith cure.

Source: My attention has been called to the “Boonastiel Pennsylvania Dutch”…  / Christian Science Sentinel

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Writer Scores Victory Scrapbook 1943

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, High School Years, Historical Portland, Media, Photo, Portland Maine, Vintage Style, WW2, WWII Letter | 0 comments

Writer Scores Victory Scrapbook 1943

I remember as a child my father coaching me to catch the ball. “Keep your eye on the ball,” he’d always say. I was fortunate to spend several days with my mother over Christmas. I was organizing her front closet and delved into another old trunk. I found a scrapbook. I’d seen it before. We all have. It needs care and preservation so I brought it home to look at. I’m sure glad I did.

My dad made it. It commemorates his sports life at Deering High and Bowdoin College during 1942-1943. It’s ironic because I’m the one person in my immediate family that didn’t become a jock. Not for lack of talent. In high school I excelled in ballet and modern dance. I was also an equestrian in high school. But I preferred the pleasure of riding my horse to the hassle of competitions. I won a ribbon here and there in sports, one for swimming, a couple with my horse. But I never followed baseball or football. And I went to an all girls high school so that put a damper on things…I wanted to be a cheerleader. But not for all-girl volleyball.

My two older brother’s were basketball jocks in high school. My cousin Pete Ladd (on Arline’s side, her sister Ruth’s son) pitched for the Milwakee Brewers in the 1982 World Series. Nothing is more thrilling than watching your cousin pitch on TV.

So here I am, a non-sportsperson writing about my dad’s sports life in high school and college. Thank goodness Dad made this extraordinary catalogue of newspaper clippings from important games and turning points during the war.

Newspaper clipping 1942

Densmore Celebrates Birthday Beats Blue in a Post Stadium Tilt.

How much help can a writer expect? It’s amazing to think that in those days being a high school sports star would get you regular press coverage in the local news. My parents were both featured in the local Portland newspaper at various times including Arline with the headline “The Deering Girls had a Hoop Season”. I never realized she was that serious a player.  It’s super to see my dad like a Titan god killing the competition in a “hurling duel”. Dad in a duel! He truly is a star.

And then it’s incredible to look at his selected clippings from that most historical year at Bowdoin including watching each athlete leave, alone or in groups, called away to service. There’s a clipping of Mrs Roosevelt from the speech she gave at Bowdoin. Eleanor declared that the war would make you a better citizen.

Newspaper Clipping 1942

Densmore Best in Hurling Duel

Eleanor Roosevelt Speaks to 1200 at Bowdoin College

Eleanor Roosevelt Speaks to 1200 at Bowdoin College

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“Generation” by P.K. Page

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Media, Poetry | 0 comments

I sit in the hotel lobby in San Fransisco. Ella Fitzgerald is singing “Blue Skies”.  Like tarot cards I pull a poem from seventy-two years ago, July 1943.  Morris was in summer school at Bowdoin. He wrote Arline often then. No mail delays. I pull up the table of contents in Poetry Magazine 1943.  I’m drawn to read the last on its list “Generation” by P.K. Page. Last lines hit me first “crash helmets of permanent beliefs”. I study the poem. It’s a lot truth, how it was. I love the line “freed from the muddle of sex by the never-mentioned method”. That sure was handed down- the never mentioning part anyway. I reflect on the poem. Art Garfunkel is playing and sings “let your honesty shine”.

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