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Heeding the Call of Reinhardt

HARVARD 1943

By Virginia A. Triant

The still night is broken by a lone, hollow cry reverberating through the Yard. Soon, other voices join the chorus.

"Reinhardt!"

Heads emerge from dorm windows as the cries carry from Holworthy to Grays, from Weld to Matthews.

"It was a sort of battle cry," recalls one alumnus. "It is part of the folklore...sort of a spring riot where spring fever got to be such that certain people got to be rowdy."

Treasured by nearly all members of the class, the fabled call of Reinhardt was initiated before the class of '43 arrived. Apparently, a resident of Matthews Hall launched the tradition by shouting his own name across the Yard. Soon, the trend caught on, and the sound of the name served to rouse residents of the Yard, causing them to "jump around really without any cause," according to David E. Place.

But the spirited and boisterous tradition of the call of Reinhardt was overshadowed by a larger and graver call to the Harvard class of 1943: the call of World War II.

Germany's September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland coincided almost exactly with the class' first days of College life. The war played an understandably immense role in the lives of students, but they nonetheless underwent a traditional college experience, replete with customs, activities and the intellectual growth which typically accompanies the college years.

The class of '43, however jaded by the war, was characterized by its acute awareness of its role in world politics as well as its commitment to society at large. Students confronted matters as trivial as broken curfews and as solemn as deceased classmates. They ate in the Union; they taunted Elis at The Game; they attended classes in Sever and Emerson.

Student life in the 1940s differed form that of today in many respects. Tablecloths and china, rather than today's orange pseudo-hexagonal trays, graced Union tables; students were attended by waiters and waitresses, often other students, and meals were an integral part of the day.

"The dining hall was a very important part of social life...to bring Harvard students together to have civilized conversation," says Andrew G. Whiteside. "My hours at the table are among those that stand out as my most characteristic Harvard experience."

Class and school spirit flourished, particularly at sporting events. Place, the manager of the football team, recalls beating Yale 50 12 and remembers a "very strong spirit for the class" which prevailed during his undergraduate years. John R. Moot recalls that students of his day were more likely to storm the field and topple the goal posts--wooden at the time--than students today.

Many of Harvard's student organizations, however, have remained the same, if not the issues with which they dealt. Former Crimson President Paul Cushing Sheeline says that in addition to covering the war, one major concern addressed by The Crimson during his tenure was the popularity of private tutoring schools.

Students would attend tutoring schools in lieu of classes, and proceed to pass their exams. Sheeline says many opposed this practice, dubbing the schools "intellectual brothels." Sheeline also notes that competition at The Crimson was "very difficult."

And five decades have done little to change other student groups. According to Sheeline, while the Lampoon was "doing its usual crazy things." The Crimson stealthily crept to the top of the Castle in 1942 to steal the Ibis "a difficult feat done brilliantly by The [Crimson] staff." And The Crimson beat the Poonsters softball squad by the unbelievable score of 23-2. Mirth-seeking students read the Lemon, an alternative humor magazine, while Lampoon staffers licked their wounds.

John "Buzz" Sawhill notes that community service, through the Phillips Brooks House (PBH), was a more prevalent aspect of campus life in his era. "[Phillips Brooks House] was a highly regarded undergraduate program," he says. Sawhill participated in the seemingly divergent activities of ROTC and PBH. But he says the offices of both Harvard cadet colonel and PBH president shared the same ultimate goal: doing service. And the entire community, he says, shared his desire to serve. "Harvard undergraduates in the 1940s were involved," he says.

Numerous activities reflected the camaraderie of the Class of '43. The class sponsored an annual beer party in the Union, called the Freshman Smoker, marked by "self-contained debauchery," according to Sawhill.

Houses also fostered a sense of community. The Lowell House opera production was of "'A' number one quality," recalls Sawhill. Sawhill also remembers Lowell's dramatic club, jazz quarters and high table, at which students joined the House Master and his wife in black tie and drank sherry. Interhouse rivalry abounded, in athletics, debating and chess.

Like the ties between students, professor-student relationships were close. Richard M. Bloch remembers playing bridge with his mathematics professor late into the night. The next morning, the professor arrived late for his 10 o'clock class, whispering to Bloch that he couldn't see straight and that he would never join the students again. Richard K. Winslow recalls that his philosophy and sociology professor, W. Ernest Hocking, invited the class for Sunday afternoon tea once per month.

Harvard President James Bryant Conant '14 was a respected president, but not extremely visible at Harvard. A chemist, he spent much of his time advising President Franklin Delano Roosevelt '04 on scientific issues. Whiteside, who became acquainted with Conant as a graduate student, said he was "indescribably remote" during Whiteside's undergraduate years.

But he qualified his statement. "I now understand how significant his remoteness was...he was interested in the country, the world, and the great structure of Harvard University," he says.

Classes varied in popularity and difficulty, much as they do today. History 1, taught by "Friskie" Merriman, described by Place as "a great big powerful guy," commanded the attention of many first-years, forcing them to poster their bedrooms with massive lists of significant historical dates. Also required of first-years was English A, an introduction to British and American literature. And the 1940's were not without their guts. Winslow remembers Music 1, which taught the recognition and appreciation of music, as "easy but fascinating."

Students enjoyed themselves as much as outside circumstances permitted. "We had an awfully good time...breaking parietal rules," recalls Place. "We had fun in Boston going to crazy places to learn about life."

After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Whiteside noted, student attitudes began to change. They began to concentrate on academics and socializing before the war claimed their futures. There was the need to "dot all the i's and cross all the t's before [we] leave this place never to return," says Whiteside.

But it is impossible to examine the lives of the members of the class of '43 without considering the war; the two will always be inextricably linked. The majority of the class invested themselves in the war effort, whether serving in the Army or Navy, or receiving medical training.

Many students were drafted or volunteered while those left behind debated the United States' role in the war and its policy toward Great Britain. "People spent a lot of time in bull sessions talking about intervention," says Whiteside. "It affected us so intimately." He says the majority of students favored doing everything necessary to defeat Hitler and that most would endorse all aid short of war.

ROTC's popularity was at its height, for it represented the ultimate desire to serve one's country. Sawhill says this desire reflected the overriding philanthropic philosophy of the time. "The whole program worked in those days...[Now] it's much more self than nation." The "pivot point," he says, was Vietnam.

Alumni agree that life was simpler in their day; there was less political activism and less competition for positions of rank and power. Occurrences of racism were negligible. "The same changes you notice in the rest of society have affected Harvard students...narcissism and almost neurotic idealism," says Whiteside. "There was far less social concern...political correctness was unthinkable...the politicals were a narrow cult, just as the jocks were."

Bloch agrees. "The pace was slower. Crime wasn't as rampant. There was relatively little racism that I noticed. What there was was a deep hatred of what Germany and Hitler were doing and what it was all about."

Perhaps Bloch best sums up the essence of the years during which the Class of '43 traversed the streets of Cambridge and the halls of Harvard.

"We were pretty serious about having a decent life and existence economically and educationally. I think that we had a lot of friendships built up and a lot of people getting together," he says. "To me it will never be quite the same. In many ways it's more modern and there are nicer facilities, but I always look back with longing at that time."Courtesy Harvard ArchivesPre-Pearl Harbor: Harvard students protest outside the office of Harvard President James Bryant Conant '14 against increased U.S. involvement in the war.

John "Buzz" Sawhill notes that community service, through the Phillips Brooks House (PBH), was a more prevalent aspect of campus life in his era. "[Phillips Brooks House] was a highly regarded undergraduate program," he says. Sawhill participated in the seemingly divergent activities of ROTC and PBH. But he says the offices of both Harvard cadet colonel and PBH president shared the same ultimate goal: doing service. And the entire community, he says, shared his desire to serve. "Harvard undergraduates in the 1940s were involved," he says.

Numerous activities reflected the camaraderie of the Class of '43. The class sponsored an annual beer party in the Union, called the Freshman Smoker, marked by "self-contained debauchery," according to Sawhill.

Houses also fostered a sense of community. The Lowell House opera production was of "'A' number one quality," recalls Sawhill. Sawhill also remembers Lowell's dramatic club, jazz quarters and high table, at which students joined the House Master and his wife in black tie and drank sherry. Interhouse rivalry abounded, in athletics, debating and chess.

Like the ties between students, professor-student relationships were close. Richard M. Bloch remembers playing bridge with his mathematics professor late into the night. The next morning, the professor arrived late for his 10 o'clock class, whispering to Bloch that he couldn't see straight and that he would never join the students again. Richard K. Winslow recalls that his philosophy and sociology professor, W. Ernest Hocking, invited the class for Sunday afternoon tea once per month.

Harvard President James Bryant Conant '14 was a respected president, but not extremely visible at Harvard. A chemist, he spent much of his time advising President Franklin Delano Roosevelt '04 on scientific issues. Whiteside, who became acquainted with Conant as a graduate student, said he was "indescribably remote" during Whiteside's undergraduate years.

But he qualified his statement. "I now understand how significant his remoteness was...he was interested in the country, the world, and the great structure of Harvard University," he says.

Classes varied in popularity and difficulty, much as they do today. History 1, taught by "Friskie" Merriman, described by Place as "a great big powerful guy," commanded the attention of many first-years, forcing them to poster their bedrooms with massive lists of significant historical dates. Also required of first-years was English A, an introduction to British and American literature. And the 1940's were not without their guts. Winslow remembers Music 1, which taught the recognition and appreciation of music, as "easy but fascinating."

Students enjoyed themselves as much as outside circumstances permitted. "We had an awfully good time...breaking parietal rules," recalls Place. "We had fun in Boston going to crazy places to learn about life."

After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Whiteside noted, student attitudes began to change. They began to concentrate on academics and socializing before the war claimed their futures. There was the need to "dot all the i's and cross all the t's before [we] leave this place never to return," says Whiteside.

But it is impossible to examine the lives of the members of the class of '43 without considering the war; the two will always be inextricably linked. The majority of the class invested themselves in the war effort, whether serving in the Army or Navy, or receiving medical training.

Many students were drafted or volunteered while those left behind debated the United States' role in the war and its policy toward Great Britain. "People spent a lot of time in bull sessions talking about intervention," says Whiteside. "It affected us so intimately." He says the majority of students favored doing everything necessary to defeat Hitler and that most would endorse all aid short of war.

ROTC's popularity was at its height, for it represented the ultimate desire to serve one's country. Sawhill says this desire reflected the overriding philanthropic philosophy of the time. "The whole program worked in those days...[Now] it's much more self than nation." The "pivot point," he says, was Vietnam.

Alumni agree that life was simpler in their day; there was less political activism and less competition for positions of rank and power. Occurrences of racism were negligible. "The same changes you notice in the rest of society have affected Harvard students...narcissism and almost neurotic idealism," says Whiteside. "There was far less social concern...political correctness was unthinkable...the politicals were a narrow cult, just as the jocks were."

Bloch agrees. "The pace was slower. Crime wasn't as rampant. There was relatively little racism that I noticed. What there was was a deep hatred of what Germany and Hitler were doing and what it was all about."

Perhaps Bloch best sums up the essence of the years during which the Class of '43 traversed the streets of Cambridge and the halls of Harvard.

"We were pretty serious about having a decent life and existence economically and educationally. I think that we had a lot of friendships built up and a lot of people getting together," he says. "To me it will never be quite the same. In many ways it's more modern and there are nicer facilities, but I always look back with longing at that time."Courtesy Harvard ArchivesPre-Pearl Harbor: Harvard students protest outside the office of Harvard President James Bryant Conant '14 against increased U.S. involvement in the war.

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