Bowdoin College

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

“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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Bowdoin College Moonlit Pines 1943

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Holiday, Vintage Style, WW2 Letters, WW2 Love Letter, WWII Letter | 0 comments

It’s 1943. The WWII draft is on. For all he knows it may be his last Valentines season. Seventy years ago Morris finds exceptional beauty in a winter night at Bowdoin College. Moonlit pines weighted with snow glisten like Christmas Trees. He writes Arline a Love Letter a few days post Valentines day, “I have never seen Bowdoin as beautiful…”

WWII Letter excerpt

Bowdoin College Winter Night 1943

 

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Sailor who Never Went to Sea

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Mail and The U.S. Post Office, Media, WW2, WW2 Letters, WW2 Love Letter, WWII Letter | 0 comments

Today is February 1st, 2015. I pull a WW2 love letter, the first one that matches the date, but 1943. Today lends itself to the fine the art of avoiding writing by reading sentimental old love letters.  This is how one writer spent her Super Bowl Sunday. Morris would be at the T.V. if he were here. But he’s now seventy-two years ago, the Morris who is at Bowdoin College in winter. His good friend has just been drafted, got a notice and is leaving. Morris is returning from the movie Casablanca and finds a sailor lying out in cold Maine snow:

Excerpt WW2 Love Letter

Sailor who Never Went to Sea. Image of WW2 Letter

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Christian Science at Bowdoin College

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Christian Science, Holiday, Media, Portland Maine, WW2, WW2 Love Letter | 0 comments

Young people impress me. I hope if I ever visit Bowdoin College that it will be the best the trip of my life.

Bowdoin College Tea Cup

Chai Brew in Bowdoin China Teacup

I spent two years traversing history to meet my parents in the 40s. It started with 300 love letters from my dad to my mother. Arline had a fall soon after she gave me the letters. I nursed her  for two months over the 2012 winter holidays. Two years later I’m back on extended visit. My chai tea multi-cultural brew is delicious in old Bowdoin teacups.

Family history research dropped me at the door of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of Christian Science. It started when my eye caught a first edition of her CONCORDANCE to MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS at a thrift store.

Concordance to Miscellaneous Writings

CONCORDANCE to MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS by Mary Baker Eddy

In Miscellaneous Writings (1883-1896), in Easter Services, there’s a sermon by a “former member of the Congregational Church”, a Bowdoin Graduate named Rev. D.A.Easton. “He left his old church…because he was not satisfied with a man-like God, but wanted to become a God-like man.” What Easton found in Christian Science surprised him.

Google is like a concordance. I googled Bowdoin and Christian Science. I got: “Student Lecture Series Debuts with Talks on Christian Science and Squirrel Diabetes”.   The 2013 article highlights “Food for Thought” lectures. The twice a month talks are presented as a fun study break “for students to talk about anything they want to”. The speaker on Christian Science, Alioto, refers to her faith as being in the category of Bowdoin “topics such as religion — ones that students tend to view as taboo or uncomfortable”. Her talk was titled “Go Away…I’m Healing”.

In other old news Bowdoin made headlines last year when it ousted a Christian Bible study group’s leaders, despite student protest. Chapel was mandatory at Bowdoin in Morris Densmore’s day, the 1940s. Important and serious talks were held there. The September Commencement of 1942 graduated sixteen “Accelerated Seniors” at Bowdoin. Three degrees were conferred in absentia for the men already in the service. That left only thirteen graduates in attendance. It was a small Commencement, first time in Bowdoin’s history the ceremony was moved to the chapel.

Critical thinking requires intelligence plus an open-mind. In an earlier blog I jotted about how WW2 was an attack on liberal arts and critical thinking. To understand Christian Science takes an open-mind.  In Christian Science the Bible is explained in mystical intelligent context.  C.S. is a good fit for Bowdoin.

At the Food for Talk debut students “flooded in”. No short thirst for knowledge there. The squirrel diabetes lecture was presented as comedy. But when Alioto shared about being a Christian Scientist, finally in her senior year, apparently sort of outing herself as a Christian to the community at large “Her anecdotes and reflections on life as a Christian Scientist on a college campus inspired a stream of questions from the audience, as well as a discussion about the presence of religion in the Bowdoin community.” Yea, a mid-course correction. She welcomed the “gifts” of intellectual curiosity.

Christian Science was no squirrel in 18th century New England. Here’s a link to a film about Mary Baker. I dismiss commentator views that C.S. was more applicable before modern medicine. In light of modern physics and my own experience as an RN and acupuncturist, C.S. Divine Mind fits better than ever our modern days. I ponder God. I sure am thankful for great minds like Mary’s, for her teachings, for my Bowdoin heritage and beautiful Bowdoin china.

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A Fan of Professor Coffin

Posted by on May 15, 2013 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, Poetry, WW2 Love Letter, WWII Letter | 0 comments

“A man should choose with careful eye the things to be remembered by.” ~ Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Strange Holiness
won Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 1936

…When Morris went to Bowdoin’s in 1942-43 (he returned and graduated after the war) his english professor was American poet, Robert Peter Tristram Coffin. On the evening of May 5, 1943 Morris writes Arline:

I have been sitting in the living room for more than two hours listening to him talk. He is really a remarkable man but he is a bit hard to follow. He was giving us some insights on the intellectual abilities of the medieval man. Then the conversation, or more appropriately monologue, shifted to religion. He gave us some amazing information on many religious sects such as the Shakers, Mormons…etc. It isn’t often you have the chance to talk firsthand with a Pulitzer Prize winner and Rhodes Scholar.

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Bowdoin Dilemma in WW2: The Battle for Critical Thinking

Posted by on Apr 15, 2013 in 1940s Life, All Blog Posts, Bowdoin College, WW2 | 1 comment

In 1942 liberal arts education at Bowdoin College cultivated critical thinking, tolerance for opposing views, and moral values vital to society, democracy, and America as a nation.

The September Commencement of 1942 graduated sixteen “Accelerated Seniors” at Bowdoin College. Three degrees were conferred in absentia for the men already in the service. That left only thirteen graduates in attendance. It was a small commencement, the first time in Bowdoin’s history the ceremony was moved to the chapel.

1st “Accelerated Class” of Bowdoin
September 1942

One of the oldest features of Bowdoin commencements was missing, the undergraduate speakers. In the “swift and streamlined” days, the undergraduate oratory was sacrificed. Professor Coffin described it this way, “Undergraduate orations have never remade the world, but they have meant a good deal to the class and to the men who delivered them. It would be too bad to have any war end a tradition as old as the college. It will be a sad day if, after the war, Bowdoin gives up having the students themselves furnish the heart of the celebration and hires some distinguished speaker to serve as that vital organ, as most colleges do nowadays.”

Bowdoin College was turned upside down during World War Two. In its support of the war effort, Bowdoin faced a dilemma. How do you maintain a liberal arts institution and support for “liberal” education against extreme pressures that necessitate bare bones pragmatic courses of accelerated vocational training? It might seem that Yankees are a natural choice for embracing the practical. No so. Not for Bowdoin. Not then. After the war there continued a steady chop.

Prof. Robert P.T. Coffin was a WWI vet. He had endured a ten year fight with the V.A. to win his disability. Manhood was the sacrifice of war not its prize. What’s the point for persons driving tanks to have a working knowledge of ancient history, oratory, debate and the classics? How is the war effort served by anyone’s ability to reason and tolerate opposing views?

Mr. Sills, Bowdoin’s president wrote, “Some of us believe that one of the contributing causes of the chaos in our modern world has been the fact that in so many nations, due to The First World War, thousands of young men and young women grew to maturity without having received in their early days the kind of education that is rightly called liberal, and without having received in their early days emphasis on the spiritual and ideal side of life.” Mr. Sills knew the essence of what was at stake, America, morality, manhood, intellectual freedom, the skill to reason.

Sills was long retired when in 1969 the administration decided to abolish all general education requirements. A new study traces the reverberations of that decision across decades, as Bowdoin faculty members struggled with students who could not write well, were deficient in math, neglected foreign languages, ignored the sciences, or over-specialized. The purpose of the report is not to pick on Bowdoin but to evaluate higher education using Bowdoin as a representative example. The report doesn’t claim that Bowdoin is materially different than other wealthy elite schools. Here is an excerpt:

“Politics is enthroned at Bowdoin where Reason once reigned. Like all usurpers, this one presents itself as the legitimate heir of the old order. Bowdoin manages this substitution by claiming that Reason all along was  political and that “truth claims,” seen accurately through the lens of “critical thinking,” are only assertions of self-interest by the powerful. Since everything was politics anyway, why not promote the politics you prefer? This is the short route to replacing open-minded liberal education with political activism centered on diversity, multiculturalism, same-sex marriage, sustainability, etc.”

 

I believe that spiritual good endures at Bowdoin. Political activism has its place.  But the purpose of a college is better met when critical thinking is cultivated far above and beyond any indoctrination in political correctness.

The new study shows the outcomes. The modern campus culture has replaced moral education, including a tolerance for opposing views, with a brainwash of contrived political correctness: The exhaustive 355 page report starkly concludes with ‘What Bowdoin (representative of colleges across the nation) Does Not Teach” (anymore): Intellectual modesty. Self-restraint. Hard work. Virtue. Self-criticism. Moderation. A broad framework of intellectual history. Survey courses. English composition. A course on Edmund Spenser. A course primarily on the American Founders. A course on the American Revolution. The history of Western civilization from classical times to the present. A course on the Christian philosophical tradition. Public speaking. Tolerance towards dissenting views. The predicates of critical thinking. A coherent body of knowledge. How to distinguish importance from triviality. Wisdom. Culture.”

In my father’s 1940s story graduate degrees conferred at Bowdoin were still in the ancient latin form. And Kenneth Sills’s handclasp went with each one. And so did the Dean’s smile. During the 1942 commencement President Sills gave a speech. It was a desperate appeal for young people to think. There was a sharp silence after. When the President then asked for applause, the applause offered a kind of unexpected relief. There were no honorary degrees. Wars cut across such patterns. An undergraduate sang a solo “The Hills of Home”.  The uncut version of a song was sung “Rise Sons of Bowdoin”.

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