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Half-Century Annalist Letters

Class of 1925 Letter

Lynn M. Case

Delivered: Reunions 1975

I was glad when they said unto me,
'Let us go up to the House of the Lord.'
Our feet shall stand within thy gates,
O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city
That is compact together,
Whither the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord…


And thus it was with us on a September day in 1921 when we began to climb the road up the Hill. We were glad that friends and parents had shown us the way and that the Admissions Office had opened the way for our ascent to the summit. Eager with anticipation, we felt a warm satisfaction that finally our feet stood within the gates of our Jerusalem. Thenceforth we were to be a part of a city that was compact together — a tribe of loyal, steadfast men.

And who were we in that day who "climbed the steep ascent of Heaven?" From what tribes had we come? According to the College records there were at the first 116 of us with ages ranging from 15 to 19. Judging from the names in the Register, one would find that we represented rather well the melting pot of our country as a whole at that time — with 71 of English extraction (61%); 12 of German; six each of Irish, Jewish and Welch; three of French; and one each of Italian, Korean and Negro. Out of the 48 states of that day, we came from only 10. Of course, New York State had the largest representation — 64 men (83%), 12 of whom came with state scholarships. The other nine states were California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Korea was the farthest place of origin and the only foreign country represented that year.

Although our principal purpose in going to college was to obtain a higher education, our attention was at first and periodically thereafter diverted from study by the requirements of the campus class struggle. On opening day came the tug of war in which we more numerous frosh triumphantly pulled the sophs through the fountain in the central quadrangle. A year later it was the reverse, when we were soaked by the more numerous class of 1926. In the annual Chapel rows, when the class war took place around the Chapel steps, everybody and nobody won; but both sides became the Reds from the clay mud of the converging pathways.

Likewise, the tradition of class banquets remained very much alive. In our freshman year we planned our banquet for Sunday morning after the Union game and engaged a special train to take us to Syracuse and its St. Cloud Hotel. We were exultant over the way we had eluded the sophomores, but our joy became mixed with deep humiliation when we learned that the sophs had been holding their banquet in Utica while we were on our way to Syracuse.

In our sophomore year the banquets were more exciting. The frosh got wind of the time of our banquet and held a few of us in the gym, but other sophs came to their rescue and tied up the erstwhile captors. Only two of us were prevented from getting to the banquet in Hotel Utica. Choy had to jump through a window to escape his captors, and Jim Farrell had to commandeer a police wagon to help him, Meritt and Richards break through the soph picket line around the hotel. On this occasion Russ Thompson was only half there, since, for some strange reason, he slept through much of the festivities. The freshmen held their banquet in the Park Hotel in Whitesboro. This was preceded by the Battle of Fraser's Department Store when two of us chased two freshmen though the aisles and two others of our class nabbed them as they tried to escape by the front door. While these two were held captive during the evening, five of us were captured as we burst into the hotel and were made to entertain the banqueting victors by performing the hula-hula dance. This time Russ Thompson tried to enter by a second floor window but was "ousted."

As to other interclass rivalries, we were responsible for some significant changes. Paint Day had been abolished before our arrival; but we, as freshmen, voted to abolish Paddle Day, an action that brought down upon us momentarily the scorn of the rest of the students. Besides this, we made a unique record in the tradition of horsing, a sophomore practice of disciplining defiant and unmannerly freshmen. We turned the tables and were the only class to undertake a reverse horsing of the sophomores in South College. In the ensuing battle Frank Musselman was hit on the head by a bedrail thrown from an upper story. His injury was serious enough to cause a faculty-student committee to recommend the abolition of horsing. Benny Aitken and Russ Thompson boasted of being the first of our class to be horsed, as "the freshest of the freshmen," and Bob Clark and Max Yeckel claim the dubious distinction of being the last.

Another custom, dumping, led to the tragic death of the youngest member of our class. Dumping was a prank played on friends who slept too soundly or too long. "Dunc" Saunders was dumped for oversleeping the hour of Sunday Chapel, but it caused a serious skull fracture from which he died soon after. Our class and the whole College community were plunged into deep sorrow, because "Dunc" was one of the most popular students and the son of Arthur P. Saunders of the Chemistry Department, one of our best-liked professors.

Our preoccupation with intercollegiate and intramural athletics also distracted us from our studies. While we did our full share of the playing and cheering, Hamilton's four-year records in three of the games in football, baseball and basketball. Our only consolations were that in our freshman year we beat our rival, Union, and in our senior year we won a higher percentage of games in football (38 percent) than in the previous two years. Our Bob Morris made the only touchdown in our sophomore year, the only touchdown against Union in our junior year, and with Deed Towne, gained the most yardage in their last Union game as seniors.

In our football history we all proudly remember Coach Bart Carroll, to whom we dedicated our yearbook. We also recall All-American Coach Berry at practice running the ball down the field through the entire team. Not to be outdone, Dave Lawyer of our class then picked up the ball and repeated the same feat to the amazement of the coach. Lawyer later left Hamilton to become military secretary for Governor Al Smith.

On the other hand, in the fourth major sport, hockey, we basked in the glory of an ever-improving record. The new Sage building, housing the first intercollegiate indoor skating rink in the country, opened in our freshman year and thus bears the same age as our class. In the last three years we furnished half of the leading players on the winning varsity squads: Russ Thompson, Bozo Yates, Harve and Joe Valentine, Jack Kaiser and Bill Johnson. Russ Thompson was the first to score for Hamilton on the new rink. The upward progress of our hockey victories is shown by the statistics of games won — 33 percent in 1923, 62 percent in 1924, and 77 percent in 1925. We made this record with very small squads, with hardly any substitutes, and with some Ivy League opponents. This hard-won fame was due not only to the intrepid players, but also to the magnificent coaching of Albert I. Prettyman. Almost worshipped by his players, Coach Prettyman, besides training winning teams, taught character, team-play and clean hockey, a rare commodity these days.

Also with us there came to Hamilton a new sport and another beloved coach. The sport was fencing, and the coach was the Frenchman Jean Marius Gelas, a graduate of France's Ecole Militaire d'Escrime. We of 1925 adopted him as a member of our class, and he in turn adopted Prexy's secretary, Mollie Roberts, as his wife. With six of us on his team, we represented in 1924 two-thirds of his squad, when we beat Syracuse, Dartmouth and Cornell. But versatile Gelas also coached soccer, cross country, and track. In our last year Gelas, with Snyder as captain, helped us to win all five cross country meets.

Of course all of the captains of the winning and losing teams in our senior year were Twenty-Fivers, except in tennis: Deed Towne for football, Bob Morris for baseball, Russ Thompson for hockey, Jack Hatch for basketball and soccer, Pack Packer for fencing, Charlie Thomas for track and Glen Snyder for cross country.

In our freshman year the Hamilton College Choir took a leap forward under the new direction of Paul A. Fancher. With Alexander Woollcott's sponsorship, the choir began to give concerts in New York's Town Hall, on radio station WEAF, and in other cities, gaining a considerable national reputation. This same group made up the Glee Club, which, with the Instrumental Club, constituted the Combined Musical Clubs. These also made successful tours. Our class furnished about a third of these three musical organizations and half of the quartet.

Fancher also coached the Charlatans dramatic club, which, with Woollcott's assistance, was permitted to produce Outward Bound and take it on a successful road tour. Again our class made up half of the Charlatan members, and Glen Snyder was its president.

As if all of these activities were not enough distractions, we, of course, had our fall and spring houseparties, and our Junior Prom and Winter Carnival. And what a winter it was! The snow was so deep that the Utica trolley could not make the run to Clinton. We had to wade knee-deep through the snow on the railroad tracks to go to Utica to meet our dates. Fortunately an O&W train came along and picked us up. Thus the white and glistening Hill became alive with pretty girls and famous dance bands, who had to enter some fraternities through snow tunnels. The evening dancing could be interspersed with winter sports of skating, skiing, sledding, and a hockey game. Some of the ladies present will remember this Winter Carnival because some of the pretty girls became eventually our lovely wives.

In addition to all the class horse playing, the athletic team playing, the singing and the dancing, the greatest amount of our time had to be spent on our studies, the major purpose of our sojourn on the Hill. Here we sat before a learned, friendly and devoted corps of professors, who inspired, guided, drove, disciplined, entertained and amused us. How fondly we remember Smut Fancher, Chubby Ristine, and Bob Rudd in English; Brown and Carruth in math; Cal Lewis and Bill Marsh in public speaking; Little Greek Fitch and Bull Durham in Greek; Chase in Latin; Bill Shep and Gigi Wisewell in French; Supe in Spanish; Stink and Pills Saunders in chemistry and physics; Bugs Morrill in biology; Bill Squires in philosophy; Chisel-Chin Bonham in history; Baldy Wood in government; Patton in economics; and Rocks Dale and his attractive wife on geology trips. Over them all ruled the gentle, steady hand of Prexy Ferry. Our informed minds, accompanying us thenceforth upon our way, constituted the best heritage that they could leave us.

Yet, we also have memories of them associated with amusing incidents: Bonham throwing rocks at dozing students and posting grades at year's end with such remarks as "passed by the grace of God and the skin of a gnat's teeth," Squires making each reciter stand straight on two feet, Brownie bringing his dog to class, Bugs scattering chestnuts under a beech tree before a winter field trip exam, Bugs administering Vaseline to coughing students, again Bugs anesthetizing students with his lectures and opening windows to revive them, Supe shouting Spanish from one building to another, and Waterhouse falling off the platform as he acted out Molière. At the same time, we should not forget, either, that all our intellectual roads led to the new James Library building with its century-long accumulation of scholarly books and periodicals and its ever-helpful librarian, Joseph Ibbotson.

Nor can we ever foreget the inevitable awesome duty of this faculty.
For there are set thrones of judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.

Indeed, from their thrones of judgment these professors handed down their decisions from the short run and the long haul. By their course grades they helped us to evaluate ourselves and revise our study methods. By their averages they determined whether we would have to repeat a course, repeat a year, or eventually receive a degree. In many cases their handwriting on the wall helped some of us to decide to leave college or transfer elsewhere before the four years elapsed. While there has been recent criticism of the use of a grading system, particularly because, with some students, grades seemed to become the objective rather than the indicator, in retrospect we can see its value in self-judgment, in stimulated motivation, and in the proper selection of candidates for advanced graduate and professional schools certainly we have all been graded by system all down through the last 50 years.

Through this grading evaluation we found that three of our men had high-honor averages for all four years, three others obtained high-honor averages in their senior year, and 12 obtained election to Phi Beta Kappa. Herb Meritt and Alex Soper were our valedictorian and salutatorian respectively. As we marched across the Chapel platform, our numbers had been reduced from 116 to 74; 63 received A.B. degrees, 11 received the B.S., and one adopted member, Phil Gray, a graduate from Maine, who had instructed some of us in biology, received the M.A. degree.

Long before the Commencement exercises, each one of us had experienced on some occasion and in some way the sudden shock that our long cherished College days were over, that we would now have to depart from our compact Jerusalem to face the outside world. Perhaps it came at the last meal in the Commons or fraternity, or at the end of the cheers of the last class, or at the dropping of the last baseball bat, or in the quiet bedroom as we packed our last suitcase. Or perhaps it came on Moving Up Day when we were relegated to the Chapel balcony and sang together the parting hymn:

Savior again to Thy dear Name we raise,
With one accord, our parting hymn of praise.
Grant us thy peace upon our homeward way;
With thee began, with thee shall end the day.


Either then or in one of those other meaningful moments, a mist blurred our eyes, a lump rose in our throats, and in our hearts we thanked the Lord for our dear Jerusalem, for our companionships, and for four of the most precious years of our lives.

Before we left those cloistered halls, we had already experienced some of the dangers of the outside world. In our senior year, two weeks after we arrived back on the campus, an intestinal epidemic of some sort struck most of the student body. As it spread and intensified, the whole College community became alarmed. Was it food poisoning, or the onset of typhoid fever or even an outbreak of cholera? The sources of meat, milk and water were investigated without any evidence of bacterial contamination. What was mystifying was that the students from Clinton and the faculty seemed immune. Finally, a clinical analysis by our Chemistry Department uncovered the cause. Evidently the springs feeding our water supply had broken into a seam of Epsom salts during the summer. While the faculty had had a chance to adjust to it gradually, the newly arrived students met the new ingredient completely disarmed. At least we started our senior year with a good internal cleansing.

In the middle of our senior year another typical danger of the cold, cruel world overtook us. On the last day of February of 1925, during a noisy hockey game with Cornell, the whole northern area of New York State, including our campus, was badly shaken by an earthquake. Most of the students and faculty were attending the game and, in the noise and excitement, never noticed the tremors. A few of us, scattered on the campus had some harrowing tales to tell. The high walls and vaulted ceiling of the library reading room swayed back and forth; in South College walls creaked, lamps and chairs slid and bounced; while the walls of the Alpha Delt House shook so violently that its few occupants thought it would collapse. When the spectators returned from the game, they ridiculed the stories of the quake and even accused the eyewitnesses of having imbibed too much firewater. They were only convinced when our crystal set radios began to discuss the extent of the quake. Since 1925 was our year, perhaps we can boast of being the class that shook the world.

Well, now that 50 years have passed, perhaps we can determine how much we shook the world. After Commencement we scattered in as many directions as those from which we had come. Only 34 percent returned to their hometown; the others went elsewhere for new jobs or for advanced professional studies. In 1925, 68 percent still lived in New York State, with New York City, Utica, Albany and Binghamton having the larger delegations; 13 percent lived in states bordering on New York; and 19 percent were scattered in seven other states and in Germany, Argentina and China.

Fifty years later we see evidence of retirement to warmer climates and the ever-increasing geographical mobility of America's industrialized society. Only 13 percent of us (12 in all) still live in their old hometowns (instead of 34 percent); 43 percent now live in New York State (instead of 68 percent); and 20 percent now live in the warmer regions of California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. Altogether, we inhabit today 17 states (instead of 10) and no foreign countries.

Our broad liberal undergraduate training at Hamilton was not the end of the educational process for many of us. Forty-five of our class (40 percent) went on to 27 graduate or professional schools for postgraduate studies. Every Ivy League school was attended except Yale, as well as three state universities and West Point. In this interlude of specialized training, the following degrees were earned: 18 in law, five in medicine, two in dentistry, five in theology, one in engineering, seven doctorates of philosophy, six masters of arts or science, and one doctorate of jurisprudence. In later life honorary doctorates were awarded to four of these men.

Let us then follow our class into the world of work and service after its members left Hamilton or these professional schools. Thus, this constitutes an occupational profile of our class. The largest number, 45 (40 percent), went into business: 15 into industry, eight into insurance, eight into commerce and merchandising, three each in banking, communications, and real estate, and a few in accounting, printing, brokerage, and architecture. Three became company presidents, two were vice-presidents, four were general managers, one was national president of the association of his line of manufacture, and several owned their own businesses.

Next in size was the number of those who went into education: 18 (16 percent). Seven of these went into secondary teaching, two of them as principals and one as a district mathematics supervisor. Two others served on public or private school boards. Eleven of our class taught in colleges and universities, including one dean, six full professors, and two associate professors. Their fields ranged from fine arts, history, English and foreign languages, public speaking, medicine and theology. Three made Who's Who, and five were included in their professional directories. It was particularly here in the area of higher learning that our members published altogether 38 books in their fields in addition to innumerable professional articles. Three of them became editors of their professional journals. One received an award of $10,000; another received two awards of $3,000 each; a third's book received a $500 prize, while a fourth received a medal and an honorary degree. The Class of 1925 is proud that it confirms Hamilton's reputation as the seedbed of scholarship.

The law comes next in the line of our professions, with 16 (or 14 percent) of our class. And here we find, probably, the most strenuous of all the professions because it has the highest percentage of deceased members (44 percent). Among the lawyers we again have distinction; one of them became the presiding judge of the New York State Court of Claims, and another was a county prosecuting attorney. Some who were engaged in business also had law degrees.

Six of our class became physicians and two became dentists, 7 percent of our total; and, in spite of their occupation, 38 percent of them are deceased. One doctor served as a medical missionary in Asia and as editor of a medical journal in India; another was chief surgeon in the Springfield, MA, Hospital; and still another became president of his country medical society and section president of his state medical society.

Six others of our class (5 percent) became ministers, with successful records similar to those in the other professions. Two received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. One was the head of the New York Congregational Churches, moderator of the Congregational Mid-Atlantic Conference, and pastor to the President of the United States; while another is dean of Alderson-Broaddus College, and third became a state administrator for the blind.

Four men became engineers with specialties in safety, industry and marine design.

Eighteen of our members (16 percent) worked either full-time or part-time in government service. Three were elected to local offices, two were regular army officers, five held civil service appointments, and several were appointed to administrative or advisory posts in state or local governments. Three were presidents and chairmen of their respective commissions, and one member, an official of the U.S. Bureau of Standards, was given the Washington Academy of Science Award of 1943 for his important work in synthetic rubber during World War II and, in 1957 and 1958, the Department of Commerce Silver Medal and Meritorious Service Award. He was also elected president of the Washington Academy of Science.

During our 50-year absence from Hamilton, we shared with our fellow Americans two great world crises – the Great Depression and World War II. Our class had very little record of the agony, suffering, unemployment or bankruptcy during the Depression, unless the only suicide of our class, a broker, may have been induced by its effects.

As to World War II, we have a record of which we can be proud. Although at our ages few of us were drafted, 23 of the Class of 1925 (19 percent) served in the armed forces — 12 in the Army, six in the Navy, three in the Army Air Force and two in the Marines. They were on duty in all the main theaters of operations as well as at home. While there is no record of them in the infantry, they did serve in the artillery, flight duty, engineering, signals, medical corps, intelligence, history, supply and adjutant general duty. They held ranks from private and seaman first class up to lieutenants, captains, majors, commanders, lieutenant colonels and one major general. Among the decorations won by these servicemen were four Legion of Merits and two Bronze Star Medals.

Of course these statistics are incomplete because there was only a partial response to the questionnaires. Therefore, we cannot know either, the full statistics on the families of the men of 1925. According to the responses, 34 of our members have had 73 children and 139 grandchildren. If these figures were applied in the same proportion for our whole class of 115, we could presume that we probably had about 245 children and 470 grandchildren, and thus may have increased our nation's population by about 715, or six times our own numbers. One member of our class takes the prize in family growth with eight children and 21 grandchildren as of this date. From similar incomplete returns we know that at least six of us sent seven sons to Hamilton.

But this has not been our sole service to the College. One member of our class recruited 14 young men for Hamilton, and no doubt many of the rest of us have done similar successful recruiting. In addition to our yearly generous response to the appeal for the Alumni Fund, at least three of our members have served as alumni trustees of the College, and at least five have served as presidents of their local alumni associations. One member also served as trustee of the Root Glen Foundation. I think that it is appropriate here to express our deep appreciation for the loyal and unstinting service to our class of Russ Thompson as president, of John Toaz as secretary, and of our much regretted Duke Hawley as reunion organizer. Yes —

While years, Carissima, grow cold —
We still will be they boys…

And in these intervening years Duke may be the latest but not the only one to have left our circle of the living. Thirty-three (29 percent) have passed over to the other side. In our special memorial folder we shall recall each one in our affectionate memory, but here we do want to honor them and bring them back in spirit to our reunion of hearts and minds. They served mankind, country and College, just as we now pledge to continue their good work.

Yet, while we honor those who were mortal, we want also to re-dedicate ourselves to our immortal Mother of Loyal, Steadfast Men. We come to the Hill today with great joy to greet each other and to feel the tie that binds us to a community that ever renews itself in fellowship and learning. We leave it after today, as we always do, with a heavy heart but with our eternal blessing.

Peace be within thy walls,
and prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions' sakes
I will now say, Peace be within thee.


[The Class of 1925 is much indebted to the College administration and library, especially to Frank Lorenz, editor, College publications, and to John Mavrogenis of the Alumni Office, for their assistance in arrangements and printing in connection with its Sixtieth Reunion.]