If not too late for news value, I should like through your columns to meet a friend's request by recounting my own recollections and impressions of a once-friend who died a week ago, and of the manner in which his name came to adorn the Harvard Hall of Myth. I refer to J.B. Rinehart, whom I knew well some months before his first name was spelled "Oh." He was a member of my Class of 1900. he was also my table mate; for a year we ate mutton together at Table 6 in Memorial Hall. Among other 1900 men at the Table was Ralph Kent, of Concord, New Hampshire, who was as long as Rinehart was squat. They roamed the Yard together, a sort of Harvard "Mutt and Jeff."
Rinehart roomed upstairs in Grays Hall, at the south end of the Yard. Kent often sought him, but instead of walking up three flights, would stand below and issue forth his name. There was nothing unusual in this. Men frequently called up to their fellow students reposing in open window seats during the hot June of 1900. But the extra frequency and the high power and plaintive tone of this particular call, combined with the figure of a long lank loose-limbed son of the New Hampsihre hills, gradually, from day to day, during that last exam-crammed fortnight of the year, began to pierce the subconscious stratum of the brain-sweating, window-seated public mind. Such was the highly-charged psycho-electric atmosphere on one of the afternoons before the next morning at 9:15 a. m.
I was not present in the Yard on the hour wherein the shout was heard around the world. But the account of it I obtained from Walter Prichard Eaton, 1990, who now lives in Sheffield, Mass, and who should properly tell this story. So I tell it subject to his correction, for the archives of an ever-to-be-corrected history.
Walter was hunched up in his windows seat. It was in Matthews, or else in Weld, I have forgotten which. Both Halls flank Grays. It was in the after-luncheon doldrum time of day, when mankind in its senses should be ossified and not prodded. Walter was tired out: "brain fag", the railroad men would call it. He was ripe to be keynoter at a convention on explosives. And all unconsciously, he was just that, for the convention sat in silence in a score of open windows.
Suddenly he was aroused. Something vaguely familiar was being said. Then said again--anl in accent familiar. Eaton turned and looked. Sure enough, there he was! That long figure of a man in front of Grays. He watched it. It took a long breath, and then up rose neck and mouth; once more brayed forth that plaintive, and this time extra-powered cry--"Oh Rinehart!"
Something snapped in Eaton's cranium. But he did not jump out of the window. His soul jumped out instead. He leaned forward. Utterance of some sort there must be. Had Eaton satire only lent him utterance, he might have said "when you call him, that, smile." Had Eaton ire only lent him utterance, he was. But neither instinct came alone; instead ire and satire met in one grand incandescence; and voicing this potent compound, as only Eaton can, he rasped forth the cry of Kent in one long lingering lung--"OH RINEHART!"
For an instant the convention held its silence. Each man suddenly leaned out. Something weird had happened in the Yard--which was their present world. Then from somewhere, from some window, Eaton knew not which, and it never will be known, there issued a second echo of Kent's lamentive strain. . . Then a third. . . . Next a chorus. . . . You know the rest in the talk you have heard. The chant has reverberated through the decades. At the time of the Harvard Tercentenary, in 1936, the headlines read "Rinehart Himself in Town."
Rinehart at Reunion
I attended that occasion. I met Rinehart for the first time in 36 years. We spent much of the time together, for we were the only ones in sight from Table 6. We went together to a little impromptus dinner of the Class of 1990. There several stories were told as contributions to the Rinehart saga. I think it was Arthur Drinkwater, out devoted Class Secretary, who told of a life being saved somewhere abroad (I think it was Cairo) by calling the magic words from a window. Also, of a man, broke in New York's Grand Central, being enabled to take his train. . . . May the spirit of "Oh Rinehart" march on--saving lives and binding them as fellow culprits in our wicked world, secure within the legends concentric of Table 6, of 1900, and of Harvard. Benton MacKaye '00