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Half-Century Annalist Letters

Class of 1903 Letter

Manley F. Allbright

Delivered: June 1953

The only presidential utterance of a half-century annalist that I can get my hands on was by the Right Reverend Bishop. I do not know how far I may depart from him to the colloquial. I must maintain the dignity of 1903. His theme was the College 50 years ago. I am told to report on our class through these 50 years. That will need plain speech. The General Alumni allow this period for our affairs. I doggedly insist that this is our day.

1903 was large as classes were going. We graduated 44 and have left 22 — 50 percent at the half-century. The other 17 were part-timers. Of these a few descended into other classes: we gave Carl Schermerhorn to be valedictorian of 1904. Three died before graduation. We who learned from Professor Terrett to remember “the manifold miseries of men” began with the loss of his son John before ever we knew him. Those who stuck it out with us the whole four years have been more long lived than the casuals, who are all gone now but Campbell Hodges of Utica. He took two fractures of the leg before he would quit our march and still helps our councils, the only living casual.

The first event in which all figured was on Halloween of Freshman year. Next morning we were called on the carpet for questioning. McCarthy demanded to know ifwe out last night. Allbright was first on the list. What a chance for immortality. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. But when the choice was speak up or be fired, he spoke up, and so did we all — guilty by association. The blow fell heaviest on Charlie Keith, that pleasant and innocuous student whose hard-earned scholarship was revocable, and on Albert Mills, who had second place. If only our association had been mature enough to act communist towards our brothers! Keith persisted to become valedictorian, but was one of our first to say the moral farewell. Mills had already set up his place in scholarship by propounding to Dr. North from prep-school the problem: How do we name our class officers in Greek? Mills fulfilled expectation by a distinguished career as educator in Tucson.

The Annalist must plead inadequacy. Those same archives, though faithfully perused, are skimpy relative to our class. And when personal letters were written to all and nearly all replied, our collective booms were not matched by our individual brags. Few would say what they desired to be remembered for. Their modesty is a new development since the old days. But the correspondence is like renewal of life to us who read it after long years out of the college orbit.

College educated used to be the logical completion of training. Now it is hard for a man to succeed his father in an eastern college because of the expense — and what hope has a daughter at Hamilton? Four sons only had 1903 contributes to Alma Mater: Crosby Tracy Smelzer, Jr., Class of 1930; DeLand Carmer, Class of 1931; and Frank Samuel Child III, Class of 1944. But no longer is college the only way to complete training. Many have been happy elsewhere. Hamilton never did attempt to indoctrinate in creed or trade nor to determine which way a man should go. It gave truth and life and motive rather than preparation for a career. Hamilton gave the hard luxury of a soul. That is the purpose of the liberal arts college.

But comes the day when practical direction must be given to life. We pioneered our ways in the light and impulses we had received. Now at the rendezvous of 50 years, what have we to render?

Something of every man’s career is in the record of our new Secretary. It is only the limits of this hour that prevent our signalizing each one. Now we can only lighten for you the high spots.

We may as well recognize at once, and glory in it, thae one name that puts us on the map. Say Elihu Root and anyone can place us. A heritage fell on one of our classmates not only of achievement, renown and estate, and thereby opportunity, but also of convincing endowments of personal capacity. Our Elihu has preferred quiet ways in a stormy day, and if his commissions were often secret, his modesty was their best custodian. His worst folly, he says, was a trip to Bermuda in a 25-foot boat, but he lived to navigate far larger ships. In France his commander caught him busy painting pictures. (Painting runs in his family.) Whether his fame as an artist is great in the Metropolis, who am I to say who am a Bostonian, by some held provincial, but by us, Providential. We can say, at least, that Root’s 50 years of law began at Harvard. Now every owner of telephone stock knows his picture. His marriage to President Stryker’s daughter and his  summer home on the Hill have given us a distinction.

Besides Root, our only other radical was Arthur Bullard, social worker and traveler, who under the name Albert Edwards wrote books friendly to Russia, but did not live to suffer his disappointments. Other lawyers we had aplenty: Willard Huff, County Judge and Surrogate at Waterloo; Frank Croft, who dared to practice law in his own home town, at Binghamton; Brick Laners, in whose patent office the atom bomb was almost proliferated. Maurice reports that though his head now shows a little of the peak, the color still holds; and since he went to Arizona, the gray squirrels are beginning to turn red. Theodore Burgess turned his super faculties to the service of the Erie R.R. and thereby became one of our most financially stable. Cleveland could not hold him, so he has gone to join Joe Hunter and George Miller in Florida; and he being alive still is our Salutatorian!

We should not go farther without reference to our leaders. It is a sad story: Davy Peet, Captain in many grid battles, was our popular President. He died early, leaving a wife and two sons to carry on. Our treasurer, Sylvester Lambert, died after his triumphs in the South Pacific. We came near to dissolution when we lost our secretary, Stuart Blakely. But we still have one officer, though he suffers severe infirmities, the vice president James S. Carmer. Jim was always our center of fun. His humor prevailed through many defeats, and his charming and affectionate communications have rebound our class together. His success in life is due to the can, the manufacturers of the American Can Co. One other officer has been appointed to collect our college dues: Class Agent John E. Becker. He has an encouraging influence, and our being so many here at the roundup today is partly the result of his skillful letters. Also he has built up our self esteem by making us tow the line several times. As he is a banker, so also is he a historian, and he has to our credit two published histories, one of his Waterloo, the other of his Masonic District. He is a great traveler and knows many lands in all directions. In Egypt he stood on the pyramid of Khufu and remarked dryly to Napoleon: "Fifty years of 1903 look down on your 40 centuries!"

Sadness tinges many of our Annals: Carroll Waddell went from us to Yale, hoping for larger opportunities in advertising, but fell victim to the Great Depression; Adrian Courtney had at one time a kingdom in real estate on Long Island, but now must be content with his six feet due east and west and six feet perpendicular; Ernest Durkee writes from New York Kennel Club that he has no family. We know that our once dependable pitcher has not gone to the dogs. He is still alive and pitching, but his is the loneliness of having lost an only son in the service and his wife still in her youth. As for the rest of us, the years were not spaced right to make us a war class, either of generals or of GIs; but our generation has seen plenty of the turmoil and struggle of these momentous years, and to this wear and tear a recent victim, Henry Maxwell, our scholarly arbor culturist of Geneva.

Our one architect, Tommy McLaughlin of Lima, Ohio, made his strike when at the track meet his brother was knocked out from the broad jump. Tommy, whose forté was sprints and hurdles, had never jumped but Uncle John said go in. As he came to the line, down ahead stood waiting his lady love, and he landed at her feet for a record of 20 feet three. Now they live on Shawnee Road, but it isn’t wigwams Tommy is building.

Karl Arthur is a publisher. He has buried himself in his Lewis Co. paper, but has little time to spend between the sheets. The punctilious and proportioned social recordings are edited by his daughter, but he must manage the turns and twists by which to keep out of jail and politics.

We must speak now of two more educators: Edward Perry the short stop was our least in physique, but experience in managing the periodicals enabled him to back up a classic protest, now in the College archives, against the slipshod business methods of college men. He instituted a reform that shows in all our publications.

Towering among this class of dignitaries stands our Edward Lomber. He had finished college without Greek and Latin, but, called to Canandaigua, was required to teach these subjects. He devoted a vacation to preparation and thus equipped, won and held his place as head of this prepatory school for a term of 47 years. Now, its loved and looked-up-to Principal Emeritus, he answers what he would like to be remembered by: (he says) Moulder of Men. He deserves the title. But be a little careful, Edward, how long you mould them!

Our class sent seven men into the Christian Ministry: Frank Putnam lived hardly long enough to graduate from Auburn Seminary. Harrison Foreman was a chaplain in France when Y-Man Allbright met him by chance. Now his son succeeds him in the priesthood. Manley Allbright and his father together fulfilled over 50 years of Hamilton standards in the Congregational Ministry in Boston. Lawrence Harkness, our southerner, left his preparation in law to preach the gospel. Albert Busch transformed his leadership in college pranks to service in the Church. Two attained to the Doctorate of Divinity: We who knew Elmer Stuart in the bookstore had him pegged for a business career, with three gold balls above his head. But when Elmer reached up, he touched the sky. It was Alfred University that realized the degree of his reach, but the Synod of New York chose him Moderator, and Auburn Seminary and Elmira College were glad of his direction. After a string of notable pastorates and term as clerk, stated or permanent in two Presbyteries, and four consecutive elections to General Assembly, he retired. It was Elmer’s wife that put the music strings into his grand frame. In October, 1938, he preached in College Chapel. The theme was “The Challenge of the Impossible.” The text was the words of Caleb: We are well able to overcome them — but the next day before Union thrashed us in football, so Elmer chose himself another sermon. Now whoever would know such a story save for the merry twinkle in the man of God? A bookstore must be a good observation post for human nature.

The other D.D. was bestowed by his own alma mater on Joel D. Hunter. It was a question  — what degree should be assigned to one who had yielded up the Reverend for Social Service? Through the two World Wars and the Great Depression he had directed the United Charities of mighty Chicago. Countless families looked to him as Father in God. A skyscraper in the loop was dedicated with his name. After retirement he still travels about the cities consulting for humanity. His degree was not for philosophy but for deeds. Well may we say his divinity was the agony, the practice of God. The Mayor said he was the city’s good conscience. Yet he is the same old Joe. And Hunter’s children follow him in special service, Harriet a physician married to a doctor, and David, with David Peet, Jr., in government work in Germany.

But despite our contributions to law and ministry and education and the modern arts, it is in medicine that 1903 will be remembered chiefly: Who would have thought Francis Barnes — easy-going old Pat — would have been energized to do such surgery in St. Louis? We could have forseen Fred Owens work in Utica, Frank Child’s at Port Fefferson, Paul Harper’s in Albany. But George Miller — what lead him to the cure of health resorts of the Adirondacks and the Beulah Lands of Florida?

We must confine the story to two eminent careers: The physician who is cited in the College Guide is Sylvester M. Lambert, leader of the world campaign to be rid of hookworm. In college Lambert was a lineman on the team; his line has gone out through all the earth! He used to watch through his squinty eyes the ravages among his classmates of the sleeping sickness. Ha! Here offered a career. He found it also among the Fiji Islanders and in many lands wherever the Rockefeller Foundation sent him. They had seen him play football and stand up to the professors and they knew he had the stuff to scale the mountains and tame the cannibals. He organized a team of fuzzie wuzzies. He allowed them their own hairdo and nether gear but uniformed them in blue shirts with buff facings and on the breast a great block H. They all thought it stood for Hookworm, but we know the true origin of that inspiration. So dressed they pushed from atoll to atoll, from island to continent until all prejudices were routed and cleanliness established. It was a triumph of thoroughness. He never left a worm unturned. By a rare combination of characters Dr. Lambert was able to tell his tale. His book is one of the cleverest. Its direct plunge unto the gist and its racy course through stirring actions is fascinating adventure and heartening to crusaders. In one class we have a hero of world achievement and also a master of letters.

Our Rock was set up at Binghamton. As Stuart Blakely was center of the football teams, so was he center of our class. He tried to serve as permanent secretary, filing us away among his cases and laboratory records, sending us class exordiums mixed with prescriptions, but, though the most methodical of men, he could not keep it up. His business was human beings, and they credit him with 5,000 babies in 40 years. It was his passion to provide for them the best, so he threw himself into the procurement and equipment for his group of cities a first class hospital and medical library. He attended not only his patients but all committees. Such labors must wear away even him. So we have had to give up our chief hope for today of meeting again with Blake.

But a worthy successor carries on for Dr. Blakely: Sons are not our only hope. His daughter, Mary Stuart, was never second in any class. She was tops even at Bryn Mawr, and so on to medical and foreign and special training. She married Dr. George Ross Fisher, and between them they keep hot the ways between Washington and Philadelphia. Nor have they forgotten: Dr. Blakely was for babies. They have George Ross Fisher Junior and another due in September.

We half are the lesser living; the greater half are dead. We are here to thank God for the deaths men can die. We shall not meet again in force on this Hill, but one by one we shall join our majority on the Higher Plane.

Occasionally two or three of us may loiter this way again. Let them quietly review our faithful record. And may our Hamilton keep her noble ways forever!