10 feet from history
Re JFK at the Union: I WAS ABOUT 10 FEET FROM PRESIDENT KENNEDY WHEN HE SPOKE ON THE UNION STEPS. IT WAS AN EXCITING MOMENT FOR ME AND EVERY TIME I AM IN ANN ARBOR I GO TO THE UNION STEPS AND THINK ABOUT THAT NIGHT.
- Barry Wood
- BA AND JD 1961
Re JFK at the Union: I was a freshman in the fall of 1960 and participated in Young Dems' canvassing for JFK in Ypsi in September and October. Therefore I was picked to be one of the "Kennedy Girls" to go to the airport to greet JFK when he arrived. We all wore special hats and sashes. We waited there for a long time for his plane to land, then were in a bus that took part in the motorcade as it went to AA. Paul Heil, the Young Dems president, had announced that JFK would speak (tho JFK hadn't planned to do so), which is why there were so many waiting at the Union. JFK was tired and upset about having to speak to the crowd, but indeed gave that inspiring address I was thrilled to hear despite the fact I expected to have many "late minutes" from my dorm (though later those were all excused).
A coda: in summer 2008 I was at a fundraiser for Obama at which the main speaker was Caroline Kennedy. When I met her at the reception preceding her brief talk, I told her I had been present at the Union, and she referred to that in her remarks.
- Mary Beth Norton
- BA 1964
Re JFK at the Union: I watched the debate in the Union, then joined the crowd later and waited for a couple of hours till Kennedy arrived. Around 3 am there were literally thousands of students packed in front of the Union.
The girls shrieked when Kennedy said "I came here tonight to go to bed" (some people claim he said "Going to bed with you all"). His speech was mesmerizing as was the whole event. We went home in an exuberant mood.
Incidentally, when Nixon arrived some days later at the station, barely a hundred people were reported to have shown up.
- Robert O. Kan
- Ph.D. 1961
Re JFK at the Union: I followed his advice: I went to bed. Then I went to teach in Europe for two years.
- Thomas Augustine Carr
- BA French/German 1963
JFK at the Union
I was one of the students who waited and waited to see JFK at the Union. I was standing in the street by the Union steps when his open top convertible came to a halt. I reached into the car, shook hands with him and Mrs. Kennedy--he was still wearing the blue dress shirt (TV lights)--and I wished him good luck in the election. He looked thin and tired. Senator Kennedy looked at me, smiled a little and said-"Thank you." Then he left the car and made the speech at the top of the steps. I was impressed.
- Gerald F. Rosenblatt
JFK's Peace Corps Speech
I too was at JFK's Peace Corps Speech while in undergrad at the "U." While I cherish freedom of expression, I was embarrassed when several students ran up and kicked the side of his limo when he drove away after the speech.
- Robert S. Sweet, MD
- MD 1965
Kennedy's Peace Corp Speech
Yes, I was in the Student Union crowd in the fall of 1960 when JFK arrived (late) and made his comments about the Peace Corp. No one has yet mentioned, however, the most prophetic words seen that night. Just as JFK began his speech, a bonfire was ignited across State Street illuminating a large sign which read "You Can't Lick Our Dick" (referring, of course, to JFK's opponent that year ... Richard Nixon). Little did we know that JFK would spend the next few years trying to convince his various lady friends to ignore the sentiments of that sign.
- James Long
- BS 1964
I remember the classical studies department and Gerda Seligson, a Caesar scholar among other talents. The whole department was an inspiration and a place of refuge from the crowded lecture sessions of other departments. Of course Prof. Fine of the history department was an exception to the stress of crowded lectures as he mesmerized all of us to standing room only crowds. There were no computers and the language lab was boring but the libraries were magnificent and my 4 years there were challenging and delightful. I too heard Kennedy propose the peace corps on the steps of the union. Those were the days of hope.
- Karen Bombaugh Shilling
- b.A. 1963
A Defining Moment
When I enrolled in the Law School there were only two of us from Oklahoma there, or so I thought. I enrolled in "income tax" as one of my first courses and met a professor that would become my mentor and advisor, L. Hart Wright!!! He became my best reference and through him I received offers from Wall Street and San Francisco firms. What does this have to do with Oklahoma? Professor Wright was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and was always quoting from his experiences growing up in Ninneco, Oklahoma. The last time I saw him he was walking past the Law Quad as proud as he could be holding his young daughter's hand (she came up to his knee). I have never forgotten that image. By the way you may have heard of that young daughter ROBIN WRIGHT!!
- John J. Livingston
- JD 1961
I was a student at the University of Michigan from 1952 to 1961.
It was Aug 19, 1971, Civil Service or the FBI have been investigating me. They ask people if I would make a good representative for the US to foreign nations. They interviewed people from the University, from the Church, from my neighbors. All this was for my trip to Guatemala in reference to my being a consultant to the Pan American Health organization. I thought at the time that it was wonderful that our government was so careful.
It was not until the late 1970's when I was visiting the University of Michigan doing some consulting work when I picked up a Michigan Daily while staying at the Michigan League and saw a three page article about three professors at Michigan who had lost their positions in about 1953 because they were communists or communist sympathizers. Reading this triggered a connection between my time at the University in 1953 and the events in 1971.
The connection in my mind was related to my being a Russian study major in 1953 at the University of Michigan and that I had joined the National Student Organization as part of my work with the student legislature at the University. I was investigating the Admission process at Michigan state and Wayne State and a fellow student suggested that I join the National Student Organization to aid in my visits. It turned out that the National Student Organization was considered a communist front organization and the period that I joined was during the McCarthy era.
- Richard Stanley Mackenzie
- DDS MS PhD 1960
Reading about the first Earth Day Celebration, I recall that my house-mate and I attended together. The turnout was far beyond expectations and to us sent a message of hope. There were also practical suggestions and we immediately took action - returning home to drive to Campus Corners to buy beer, only this time in returnable bottles.
- Michael N. Winn
- BA, MPP 1969
I knew John Sinclair
I was invited by Bob & Cindy Felong to the Free John Sinclair rally after cindy interviewed me for wearing a flag patch on my jeans. this was 1970 and I was sentenced to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag for 90 days before school in the morning. I went "Underground," as we called it then. I remember those days well. If anyone else does contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- terry val
Town To Gown
The history section of Michigan Today has asked for a memoir that will highlight the way things have changed on campus over the years, so hereâ€™s my contribution. I grew up in Ann Arbor, and because of the influence of my mother, it seems like I always knew that I was heading for the U of M. Ann Arbor was a smaller (and safer) town then. As a child, I had a lot of freedom to roam. By the age of 9 or 10, I was exploring the campus, sort of preparing myself.
I went into a lot of buildings, but the only place I ever remember getting kicked out of was the stadium. There was a caretaker who lived in a house right inside the fence on the Main St. side, where the press box is now, but he couldnâ€™t keep watch constantly, and the perimeter of the stadium was a great place for roller skating. I could go to the top of a ramp leading into the bleachers and come soaring down and around toward where Crisler Arena is now, away from the caretakers house, and have a great time until he finally saw me and came, shaking his fist, signaling time for me to head for an exit.
The father of one of my friends took tickets for football games, so we quickly learned that once kickâ€“off took place, the ticket takers headed in to watch the game, leaving the gates unattended. I always missed kick-off too, but it was years before I actually bought a ticket to attend a game! It seemed sort of wrong. After all those years of attending free I had gotten a feeling of entitlement!
When I reached high school age, the old Ann Arbor High School didnâ€™t have its own athletic field. High school football games were held at the U of M practice field, illustrating the connection between town and gown. I continued to explore campus, and discovered a variety of free or nearly free movies, and how to find out about them. My campus hobby was expanding. If I needed an incentive to explore, there was a somewhat morbid urban legend that existed among my high school peers, and may still exist today. It was about the existence of a two headed baby preserved in a jar in a lab somewhere on campus. Several people who I knew, but not well, insisted either that they had seen it themselves or personally knew someone who had. I dedicated myself to finding it, without success. However, many years later I got into a conversation with a teenager who told me, in fact, there really was a two headed baby preserved in a jar on campus. I asked if he had seen it himself. He said no, but several people he knew had either seen it themselves or were personally acquainted with someone who had!
Every teenager needs a hangout. The college students hung out at Drakeâ€™s Sandwich Shop on N. University. My friends hug out at the Betsy Ross Shop in Nickels Arcade. With an excess of nostalgia, I wonder if anyone has an old file photo of it. I could smoke freely there, when it was prohibited at school. Because the high school was right next to the Rackham Building, and because my best friend shared my co-ed dream, we used to go over to the Rackham study halls to do our homework, and talk about how we would pretend to be U students if approached by a guy. The study halls were very nicely furnished, with many art objects sitting around openly. It was inspiring to study in such elegant surroundings.
Time passed. Too much of it. I didnâ€™t go directly from high school to the University, but I did get there. I remember my jubilation when I got my letter of acceptance. I went walking across campus, looking up at the wonderful old buildings and thinking, "This is MINEâ€¦.finally, all MINE." And, while looking up, I ran smack dab into a blind man. Only in the movies! But, it was a humbling experience (and unfortunately not the last).
Those were the days before computers. Registration was in the old Waterman Gym that used to be sort of across the street from Hill Auditorium on N. U. The lines extended all the way across the Diag and around onto State St. People in line took orders and brought back take-out lunches for their friends and even for strangers, their instant friends. It was even worse once you got inside the gym, with lines snaking around and around, and little stations for various departments and courses. Woe to the student who had reached the point of absolutely needing a specific class!
During those undergrad years there was a lot of student unrest on campus. It was an exciting time to be a student, but it had its down side. All the art objects were removed from the Rackham study halls after some came up missing. Portable property had become free game. Sometimes classes were held in space volunteered by one of the students because there was a strike and we couldnâ€™t use our classroom. SNCC or some other similar organization sponsored a home tour to parallel the one held annually by the Ann Arbor Womenâ€™s City Club, only instead of showcasing the nicer homes, this was to showcase the poverty that was so carefully hidden from sight in Ann Arbor.
By the time I got to graduate school, the U of M had bought my old high school building and renamed it the Frieze Building. So, I had the odd experience of coming full circle, returning to the same classrooms I had been in as a teenager. But, because of the rebellious times, I could now smoke openly in the classrooms, whereas in high school I had to sneak to smoke in the girlâ€™s restrooms. Now, of course, even the Frieze Building is gone, but not my memories. I still live in Ann Arbor, so I can walk around campus and have layers of memories follow me around, enriching the moments, but hard to share with a companion who cannot see what I see, memory photos of all those other times.
- Sandra Samons
My years were in the early 60's and what a delight! I saw Kennedy give the Peace Corps speech and noted that Tobin's accounting missed the joy of it all. And I carried the School Flag at Commencement and read the Great Society Speech over LBJ's right shoulder. And Kelley Johnson recieved his honorary PhD. And I was Chairman of the A&D open house when we had Alan Kapro do a real "Happening" and that art movement later inspired the Blue Man Group. And it was great to See Segovia at the Rackham and Odetta as well. And yes there was the P-Bell and the dark beer and the Russian rye bread slathered with butter. And there Was Bob James playing the bottom side of the piano at a sleazy bar that later expanded and became a place to be at. And there was Harry Smith's brother, cleaning the windows at the Little Shop on a beautiful fall afternoon and listening to Brubeck's Take 5 and Blue Rhondo a la Turk. Or The beautiful older Lady in a black satin dress with full height lace up boots in her Detroit Electric on South U. That was a show stopper. And when Music School was embedded around the Nichols Arcade and you could hear musicians pricticing the piano and singing with the windows open. And the Wonderful Old West Engine with it's arch and the weathered placque of Professor Green with his Donkey saying "Young Man, when theory and practice don't jibe, use your horse sense." And then there was Tom Monahagn standing to the side of the drafting studio looking at us forlornly and then asking him how old he was and then running through the calculations with him and pointing out that he would be rather old when he graduated and went through his internship, and asking him what he did now and he said "Worked at Dominicks" and suggesting that he probably would make a lot more money selling pizza rather than architecture and some day he could hire us. And it came to pass. And there were the good professors and the bad professors and the Communist professors. And there were the sketch competitions where on one occasion to address the area in front of the main Library, I pointed out that it was our yard and needed little other than fine paving and some beautiful benches. And there was the wonderful work of William Muschenheim and working for Dave Osler, the contractor on the weekends, and at the Chinese restaurant for food and tips. And there was falling deeply in love on two separate occasions and being humiliatingly crushed by deceit. And there were the two Chinese Roommates, one from Mississippi and one from Hong Kong and the one from Hong Kong saying to the other, "Jesus H. Christ Paul, you are more Goddamn Chinese than I am!" And there was riding on the bridge in the Naval Architecture tow tank and meeting the NA model maker an seeing that wonderful program with my most dear friend. And there was auditing courses like Prof. Tonsor's modern intellectual history. Or Chuck Cares history of Landscape Architecture. And there was the stunningly beautiful apartment designed by Professor Joe Wehrer and Harold Borkin. Can you think of a better place to study? Not I.
- Lewis M. Dickens
In answer to Carol Carlson, John Kennedy was a candidate for President, running against Richard Nixon, when he made his peace corps proposal on the steps of the Michigan Union in 1960. I was standing on the low brick wall next to the sidewalk to the left of the steps, to get a better view. That was a thrill I will never forget!
- Jack Edmund Frost
- B.A., J.D.
I was the first in my family to attend college and Michigan was the only one considered by this "Detroiter".
One professor stood out above all others in my experience at Michigan and that was Elzada Clover, professor of Botany. I became acquainted with Dr. Clover by taking her Botany 2 course, which was a practical "hands-on" course taught at the old Botanic Gardens on Iroquois Avenue. Mostly aspiring teachers took this course since it gave practical experience in propagating and nurturing house plants. It also didn't hurt that most of these students were female!
One aspect of the course was Dr. Clover's film presentation of her trip down the Colorado River in 1938 (first woman to do so) in double ended plywood boats. Her exploration of the Havasupi Indians, cacti collecting, and perhaps even an adventure or two with peyote made quite an impression on these 1950's students. Ultimately, I became a teaching assistant in this class, worked part-time after school in the Gardens mixing soils, repotting plants, and watering on weekends.
All this led to a biology major, summer classes at the Biological Station on Douglas Lake, and a professional teaching career in biology and science in independent schools.
Elzada Clover's guidance, patience, and nurture helped bring this large and overwhelming college experience down to a manageable personal level for this young college student.
- Peter Wilson
- B.S., M.S.
Please forgive me for using this venue to inquire--wasn't J.F. Kennedy a sitting President when he 'helped launch' the Peace Corp. on the steps of the Union? --perhaps not.
- Carol Lee Carlson (Allen)
Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama
I just received the news that President Obama will deliver the Commencement address on May 1. I was so delighted I immediately tried (and failed ) to find a hotel room. I don't know who spoke when my baccalaureate was awarded in 1961; I didn't even think about attending. By 1964 when I had earned a master's degree it belatedly occurred to me that the occasion involved my parents and I asked if they would like to attend. We all enjoyed the day but I can't honestly say I focused on President Johnson's speech. It was only years later that I learned of its historical significance. In the last two and a half years I have been keenly aware of the historical significance of Barack Obama's candidacy and election to the Presidency and wholeheartedly supportive. I would be surprised if Pres. Obama does not allude to the great accomplishments President Johnson first named that day. I feel certain he will give a fine and thoughtful speech, that he will continue that great work and that the class of 2010 will look back with pride and gratitude that he spoke at their commencement.
- Ann Bristow
- A.B, A.M., A.M.L.S
I wrote the letter (with then husband Alan Guskin) that started the organizing on campus,later worked for P.C. in D.C., went to Thailand as PCV, then helped set up VISTA. I have spent my career working with cultural and linguistic issues in Education. The Tobin story is basically correct. I would like to write something for the 50th Anniversary issue that deals with the importance of the Peace Corps experience. I hope we can discuss this. Thanks
- judith guskin
- MA, Phd
Thank you so much for the pictures/captions about housing the GIs after WWII. My younger sister and I were residents of the family housing at Willow Village...the stove in one of the pics is as I remember it, ditto the back stairs leading to the kitchen and the fuel storage shed (I don't remember if it was coal or wood for the stove). There was a wall-mounted kerosene heater for the rest of the house. We had a real ICE BOX, and I was big enough to pull out the drip pan from underneath and empty the run-off daily. The kitchen sink was also a bathtub for the baby sister. The landscape with the drab one-story buildings in the background is also familiar...at that complex of buildings there were large pads and sidewalks of concrete which were perfect for roller-skating.
- Susan Cook
John Sinclair and John Lennon
I was a student at the University of Michigan starting in Sept 1971. I remember the Free John Sinclair Concert" like it was yesterday. The doors were suppose to open at 8:00pm but there was a delay and it was a freezing cold and rainy night. We were packed into the arena like sheep. I was pretty close to the stage, on the floor and the music went on forever and ever. The articles I have read online the do not include half the bands that were there. We were all very thirsty, it being so hot and crowded. Someone kept passing a jug of water around the arena. All I remember was that the jug never got to us. John Lennon came on very late but the concert was not over until past 6:00am the next morning. It was an experience I will never forget. Then the following April 1st was the 1st annual Ann Arbor Hash Bash, I was there too and for several years after that. My birthday happens to be April 1st and that's part of my story. Pink Floyd at Hill auditorium was another great story I'll tell at a later date.
I fondly remember all my days at U of M. My favorite professor was Prof. Bredvold in the English Department.
When I was there, the campus ended at 2006 Washtenaw, the ZBT house, and north campus was a gleam in someone's eye.
Visiting U of M a couple of years ago was a real eye opener. So many changes. So many things gone, such as the Pretzel Bell, where one could celebrate one's 21st birthday with a free pitcher of beer.
Am still in contact with two of my DPhiE sorority sisters (we were charter members when the sorority first was installed on campus in 1954). We meet twice a year and proudly wear our U of M shirts.
My daughter-in-law has recently graduated with a PhD from the Ross School of Business. So the tradition goes on.
- Myra Joseph Feit
Ability in Ann Arbor
When I came to Ann Arbor as a foreign student in the summer of 1988 I was determined to become a doctor. I had some credits transferred from the University of Lund in Sweden, where I had studied, and went to work taking classes in biology and chemistry. The group of faculty in organic chemistry inspired me to take more classes than required and all of a sudden I found myself enrolled in the C.U.G.S. masters program in medicinal chemistry. I still hadnâ€™t given up the thought of a career as a physician but research and science became more and more of an interest. I worked in the lab of Dr. Richard Lawton someone who, as it turns out, became a lifelong inspiration to me. His way of thinking about learning and science led me to consider the path of research as I dropped my original dream of practicing medicine. Then with a full scholarship I was able to do some extracurricular work in the student services answering the hotline geared towards students in crisis. With it came a package of group-therapy, lectures on eating-disorders and lots more. My focus started to shift again and I enrolled in some classes in child and developmental psychology. For personal reasons I left Ann Arbor and via a short detour in Arizona returned to Sweden. At home again, I enrolled at the University and am now a working child psychologist as well as a free-lance writer. With me from my years in Ann Arbor I have the gratitude for being given the opportunity to explore myself and my interests, and that I was able to, finally, find a sense of direction. Through the different paths my life has taken me I have carried with me the notion of the importance of learning and putting your mind to something as well as the self-confidence I gained through the careful and sensitive guidance by my mentor. As I progress in my life I become more and more aware of what as gift those years in Ann Arbor were and I know it might sound sentimental but I cherish the memories.
- Elinor Schad
- B.S, M.S.
From small town to U-M
I came to Michigan green as grass from a very small town (2,000) in an agricultural area of Ohio. I was a good student—valedictorian—but who wasn't? I was in awe of the University from the get go and in great fear of failure. I found, however, a nurturing level of learning that I had never experienced even in the smallness of my pre-college environment. Michigan became to me a goal which was difficult but attainable. I worked hard and it paid off with a BBA with distinction and law review. Ann Arbor still holds a very special place in my life and my memories. It is to me a cherished time.
- Robert B. Weaver
- BBA; JD
Missing Ann Arbor
I am heart broken. There are not many more words I could find to express what I feel right now. I am away from Ann Arbor, a place I fell in love with as an undergraduate student. It has been six months since I graduated and the word, 'nostalgia' has never made more sense to me. I ask myself from time to time, 'why do I miss Ann Arbor so much?' As simple as the question may seem, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why I miss the University so much. The reasons always seem to change, and right now I am feeling hungry and I dearly miss the food I ate at Ann Arbor. I loved the the pastas at Za's, the chicken burritos at Pancheros, the "Italian Nightclub" at JimmyJohns, the pho at Saigon Garden, the pad thai at No Thai, all of the PotBelly sandwiches, and even the dormitory food at West Quad. Food for thought?
An historic tour
Reprinted from the U-M Band Alumni Newsletter
THE FORGOTTEN BAND TOUR
Most U-M Band alums know about the wonderful tours that have been taken by our Symphony Band and Wind Ensemble through the years, but few know about the 1965 U of M Jazz Band Tour. One reason for its low exposure may well be that it only included 19 students and a single faculty member. Another reason is that, until then, the Jazz Band was not even considered part of the Music School â€“ no classes or credits granted. Yet, importantly, this was a groundbreaking event furthering the acceptance and eventual inclusion of jazz into the music curriculum.
It is difficult to find any written history of student-led jazz bands on campus prior to 1961 though there may have been some groups â€“ especially jazz combos. (And surely jazz music was facing an up-hill battle against those who considered it "music of the devil.")
In the winter of 1961 Oklahoma trombonist/arranger Bruce Fisher arrived on campus as a freshman in the Music School and organized a 17-piece jazz big band. Finding it impossible to obtain rehearsal space on campus, Fisher was forced to rent a room at the local YMCA for the band's weekly rehearsals. At the suggestion of faculty member Jerry Bilik (Fisher's mentor at the time), Bruce asked Dr. Revelli to be the Jazz Band's faculty adviser so that the U of M Student Government might officially recognize it and finally have access to "free" campus rehearsal facilities. Dr. Revelli was reluctant at first but after issuing some warnings regarding the "proven dangers of jazz music in society" he consented. Now the band was able to rehearse and perform annual concerts on campus though never in a School of Music building. It remained student-run until the early 70s when Carl Alexis became the very first faculty conductor, and "Jazz Band" officially appeared in the course catalog.
In March of 1963 we U of M Jazz Band members chipped in enough money to rent a bus to take us to the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in South Bend, Indiana. We were the only band there not accompanied by a faculty member. Nonetheless, we were received warmly and the band's pianist Mike Lang won the "outstanding instrumentalist award" just as U of M alum Bob James had done with his trio the previous year. Both men went on to extremely successful careers in the world of jazz. (Set aside a lot of time if you wish to google their accomplishments. On second thought, set aside a lot of time if you google many former U of M Jazz Band members from ALL eras!) Representatives from the US State Department who attended the festival were impressed with our performance and called Dr. Revelli a few months later with an offer to send the Jazz Band on a Cultural Presentation Tour to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. This was during the height of the Cold War, a time when the relationship between the USSR and USA was extremely contentious. We were to be young ambassadors spreading the good will of the US via America's indigenous art form, jazz, throughout an area of the world in which Communism was rapidly gaining a foothold. The invitation was accepted for what was to be a great honor indeed for those of us directly involved, as well as the University of Michigan.
At that point Dr. Revelli was quite supportive of our preparations and saw that we got some needed equipment. He even posed with us for some very flattering publicity shots. The first official School of Music-sponsored performance of the U of M Jazz Band occurred when we were granted an appearance at the 1964 Band-O-Rama Concert. Shortly before the start of the tour, the band was featured in its first ever full School of Music-sanctioned concert, which was held at Rackham Auditorium.
Prior to the Jazz Band's tour departure, many of the band parents asked the US State Department representatives as to the extent of anti-American feelings so seemingly prevalent in the countries to be visited. Was our personal safety to be an issue? Everyone was assured that "Uncle Sam has his finger on the pulse of Latin American politics."
The Jazz Band left Ann Arbor on January 23rd and returned almost 3 and a half months later on May 2nd. During this period we performed more than 100 concerts in 46 cities in 15 countries including Guatemala, British Honduras, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Surinam, British Guiana, Venezuela, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. The Jazz Band was made up of students from several different departments within the University. Approximately 10 students were members of the Symphony Band and two had also gone on the 1961 Russian Tour. Our faculty adviser was Richard Crawford who also served as the MC for all of the concerts. On one occasion, he skillfully substituted for the tenor sax player who had been hit with "yet another bout of Montezuma's Revenge."
Many of the places where we performed were far from glamorous, as our stated mission was to foster better relations with those people less familiar with "real" Americans. We were often sent to the interior of the country and entertained in the public squares, churches and schools of small cities and towns. On more than one occasion our minimal PA system temporarily blew out the electricity for a whole village, which, by the way, may have been welcome relief to a couple of the wide-eyed listeners who had never experienced the sonic power of a big jazz band.
In the larger cities, we did have several more formal performances including those in theaters and radio- television studios. A few of those audiences were surprisingly sophisticated for the 1960s. For example, we gave some concerts and clinics that were attended by several local musicians and "jazz club" members, and in Trinidad there was even an excellent jazz pianist who sat in with us.
Alas, there were also a few appearances where Communist sympathizers in the audience heckled and bombarded us with paper airplanes inscribed with "CUBA SI, YANKEES NO!" However, the response was mostly wonderful, even though many in our audiences were completely new to jazz. As for any political influence we "ambassadors" had during these travels, there were several "hot spots" where the active politicos warmed to us as we interacted with them before and after our concerts. Musically we covered a wide range of jazz styles including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Count Basie and Bill Holman among others. Our biggest "hits" overall may have been some of the more accessible numbers like Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," a small group Dixieland version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and our vocal/big band version of the (oh so new) Beatles tune "A Hard Day's Night." We also occasionally wowed them with some jazzy or rock and roll versions of their own country' hit songs or folk music, all quickly arranged by Bruce Fisher upon arrival in that particular country.
Toward the end of the tour there was a very dramatic and interesting change in our itinerary. Our last two scheduled countries were to be Haiti and Jamaica, however we were diverted instead to the Dominican Republic at the other end of the island of Hispaniola. We were told the US State Department had decided our presence in Haiti might be used for inappropriate political purposes by then Haitian dictator Papa Doc. We set up base in the capital city of Santo Domingo but after only three concerts there, on April 24th, the scheduled radio interview and concert for that evening were suddenly cancelled because of an ensuing revolution! So much for "the show must go on!" The rebels had taken over much of the city and as the fighting got close to our hotel we were hurriedly moved to another one just outside the city a mile or so up the road. The next morning we went to the roof to watch Dominican planes bomb and strafe the capital including our former hotel. Those next two days were full of consternation to say the least. The hotel staff totally abandoned and those of us with a stash of any food became very popular. (Food, in this case, meant candy bars from one of the last standing vending machines.) Our families at home were extremely worried as they followed the alarming news reports because all communication between us was impossible for three days.
At 5 am on April 27th the Jazz Band members, along with hundreds of other Americans including embassy staff, were told to wait on the lawn in front of the hotel in order to be evacuated by US Marines, who were ostensibly on the way. We were only allowed to bring as much as we could carry in one trip with two hands and of course this meant leaving a lot of our equipment behind. As the hours went by and the sun grew hotter in front of the hotel, a few of our guys took out their instruments and broke at least some of the tension by playing bossa novas while sitting on their suitcases. But then, as more warplanes zoomed overhead a rebel apparently attempted to hide in our midst and all kinds of shooting erupted around us. Everyone had heard the movie phrase "hit the dirt," and now we instinctively knew exactly what it meant. Those of us who had suitcases and large instruments and who had been cursing their bulkiness, were now glad to be hiding behind them. After about 45 minutes, the commotion subsided and everyone was elated to see US military trucks driving toward us. There was little hesitation in our boarding them for a welcomed ride to the seaport where, after yet another tension-filled 5 hours, we were finally evacuated by Navy ships overnight to a US base in Puerto Rico from which we belatedly flew to our last destination (Jamaica) the next day. An exhausted and emotionally drained band appeared in those final few concerts in Kingston and Montego Bay, but it sure was therapeutic to be playing music again!
A few days later the band let out an unrehearsed cheer the moment our plane touched down at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich. We were greeted by a host of reporters and TV cameras wanting the "real lowdown" regarding the Dominican revolution and our 100 days of Latin America experiences. What a ride!
It goes without saying that there is a special pride for every student who has been fortunate enough to have participated in any of the U of M Bands. And if you are one of those bandsmen lucky enough to have also gone on a major tour, well, here's betting it was one of the biggest highlights of your life. It surely was for us! And to all you students now enrolled in a jazz-related class, PLEASE KEEP THAT FLAME BURNING. It has not always been lit.
Submitted by Lanny Austin and Jose Mallare
The University of Michigan Jazz Band 1965 US State Department South American Tour Director: Bruce Fisher Saxophones: Tom Asboth, Jack Kripl, Jose Mallare, Tom Berryman, Lanny Austin Trumpets: Rob Roy McGregor, Ron Post, Larry Davidson, Doug Anderson Trombones: Dennis Garrels, Bill Benninghoff, Jeff Joseph Tuba: Brent Herhold Bass: John Miller Piano: Dave Lewitz Guitar: Carl Passal Drums: Wilbur England, Geoff Smith Faculty Representative: Richard Crawford
University of Michigan Jazz Band U of M Television Center, December 1964 US State Department Tour Statistics: Duration of Tour: 100 days, Jan. 23, 1965 to May 2, 1965 83 performances in theatres, plazas etc., with total attendance of 80,000 30 Radio/TV Broadcasts Total audience reached estimated at 2.2 million Travel: Air: 20,095 miles Travel Time: 42 days by air, 500 miles by sea (1 day), 1,000 miles by bus (16 days). Total Miles Traveled: 21,595 miles
- Lanny Austin
- BM, MM
Memories of Ann Arbor in the '40s
I came to Ann Arbor from Bridgeport, CT in September 1942 with $300 I had saved after high school for my college education. I lived at Michigan Cooperative House, then at 335 E. Ann St, where room and board was $4 a week and we had to work at the co-op 8 hours a week. My co-op job was dinner prep on Wednesdays, when the menu was always meatloaf. Because of WW II, women outnumbered men on campus. I was drafted after completing my second semester in May 1943 and served in the U.S. Army 78th Infantry Division as a private first class and was honorably discharged in March 1946. I returned to Ann Arbor and Michigan Cooperative House in September 1946 (Mich House moved to 315 N. State St. in 1947) and completed my studies in May 1949. The professors I remember most fondly were A. K. Stevens, professor of English and Phil Diamond, a professor of German. A. K. Stevens was a great friend of student co-ops and loaned money to the Inter-Cooperative Council which enabled us to buy the house at 816 S. Forest Ave. which was named after him and which was unfortunately destroyed by fire a few years ago. My co-op job when I returned to campus from my Army service was hauling trash to the then city dump on Pontiac Trail. I was elected president of the Inter-Cooperative Council around 1948â€”my campaign slogan was "From trash hauler to president." My co-op experience had without doubt the most formative and positive impact on my future and the friendships I formed in coops have survived for over 60 years (I am 85 years old). My wife, Lorraine, I met when she lived at Stevens Co-op House; we were married for 51 1/2 years. She died in March 2002.
- Sept. 1942 to May 1943 and
- Sept. 1946 to May 1949
- Graduated May 1949 B.A. in Psychology
- June 1943 to March 1946 drafted into US Army
- Robert L. Davis
- B.A. Psychology
Surviving my thesis
The Village Bell, The Pretzel Bell, The RFD Boys. These were the only things that got me through feeding computer cards at the computer center for my thesis. What joyful and spirited post football times.
- Taffy (Robin F) Stevens Lowery
My two favorite instructors were Professor Hornback—Short Story and Novel—and Professor Jenson—Survey of Western Plays. It was so good to be instructed by those who were world's foremost authorities in their fields.
- Solomon Espie
Two icons from U of M
Two icons I remember from Michigan; Dick Kimble and Barbour Gymnasium.
Dick Kimble, a world famous Olympic Diving Coach, also taught senior lifesaving in the 1970s. I remember the first day of class where he stated that anyone who could imitate the dive he was going to do, he would immediately give an "A" to and they would not need to attend another day of class for the semester with him. He "raised some eyebrows among us" and all "eyes" were fixed on him. He proceeded to bounce on the diving board, do a full back flip landing on the board, and then bouncing off the board again into a 1 and 1/2 front flip into the water hardly making a waive. Obviously, he had no takers and we all applauded him greatly. (No one reported him for this since we all inwardly agreed that for someone to be able to do that dive, one would have to know diving, swimming, and life saving and truly would not need the course work.) From that moment on we all listened well whenever he motioned to speak to us.I have always considered it to have been a privilege to have witnessed this and to have been one of his students.
Barbour Gymnasium (For slideshow click here): it was a sad day for me when this original building (kiddie corner from the Natural History Museum) was torn down. The final classes were taught and the buildings (Waterman and Barbour) were locked in December 1975. I had a double major of physical education and (just before it became part of the School of Music) dance. There were always struggles to share the building; physical education had the first floor and dance the second floor and both felt that the lounge/study area in the basement was for them exclusively. The physical education classes would finish early, thus they would lock the doors. All the girls knew to be upstairs on time since no one upstairs could hear you pounding on the doors. (It was a beautiful old building filled with wood floors, wood railings, 20 foot ceilings, awing 10-15 foot drafty windows, and pillars that were smaller in diameter than those in front of Angell Hall outside the building going up to the second floor windows.) Well, being a lightweight wrestler and male dancer made me a unique person for this. I never worried about being late. I would scale up the 30 foot pillars and swing in the window, more than a few times scaring the unsuspecting women dancers. It was never my goal to scare them, that was just an added bonus. In my defense, however, I did marry one of them the next year. We are still blessed to be married, 33 years later, but we still miss Barbour Gymnasium and treasure its memory greatly.
- Johnny Demsick
- B.S., M.A.