Delivered: June 4, 1960
It is a most intriguing mental assignment to be named for this paper and maybe my pals of 1910 will join me in realizing that we must finally be grown up. If you look again at the photograph as I did, of our graduating class, we had plenty of room to mature. Perhaps you will also join me in a “do you remember section.” thoughts developed from the half-century annalist’s letter read in 1910 and later in high spots of history during our own 50 years.
Let’s first go back to 1906 to 1910. There are 22 of us living out of our original class of 47, 16 out of 37 who graduated and six out of the 10 who were with us part of the time. We had seven who made Phi Beta Kappa, including out faithful class secretary, Art Evans. I’ve had the pleasure at many commencements of admiring the pep of the 50-year old boys and wondered if I’d make it.
Those were the good old days when we hauled our two-man sleds up the Hill. It’s a miracle we lost no one when going down around the curves and especially through the stone arbor. Sometimes we even slid clear across the Oriskany. Also we knew how to walk and not ride in those days — we had to. Can’t you remember coming back in later years and wondering about the old days when men were men? Remember seeing the old campus Ford car in winter going up the hill in reverse? Paint night was really rough but we retaliated the next year ass. None of you have admitted whether one of us put the cow and 50 chickens in Chapel on Halloween in 1907.
Prexy Stryker, Snitz, Bugs Morrill, Bill Squires, Bill Shep, Stink Saunders, Little Greek, Woodie, Davy and Cal Lewis just to name a few, did their best to educate and control us. In winter, we raided every possible woodpile to keep the fires going in Carnegie and South. We also survived the worst mumps epidemic in College history.
We had our troubles with Prexy, such as when we had to learn verbatim, “The Epistle of James.” It’s still possible Rex Titus prompted us, aided maybe by Jack Wheeler, but much to Prex’s amazement, we all passed. In spite of all the memories about Dr. Stryker, and we all have them, one must comment that he was a great man and a great Hamilton president.
Harry Dounce was always good for a laugh. His “We come to hang our banners” or should I say, “Bang our hangers,” is still one of the best Hamilton songs ever written. And the glee club trips with that still famous quartet of Hastings, Sarles, Gouge and Allen. Murray and others who helped me tremendously in putting together these memories, still remembers his problems arising from singing, “I remember meeting you” to the prettiest girl in the front row.
Those trips were lots of fun. Maybe you remember our concert at the Astor in New York, particularly when the Mandolin Club had assembled on a raised platform and the leader made his grand entry. He tripped and fell flat on his face, much to the hilarity of the audience.
Shall we mention our stalwart basketball player and Clark Prize Orator, Dein Sohn? I’ll bet Sid can still shoot a basket even though our class team never won a basketball game in four years. Playing on the College team though, Sid made history, when Hamilton beat Princeton, the top team of the year, playing against their star “Dutch” Veeder.
George Abbot went in for all the sports. Our class president Benn Barber covered the field, even though in those days the mustache was missing. My roommate Mundy Glover played in every football game without getting knocked out until the last Union game, which incidentally, we won. You remember too that Mundy was the first Hamilton man to lose his life in the war.
And we always had to associate with the Class of 1911 and the incorrigibles of the Class of 1912. The Class of 1913 looked very immature compared to us old men.
Remember Chief Mertz in Commons? When some of our gayest boys in senior year had some beer cooling in the College well and gave him a bottle, he poured it down without stopping and then remarked “I lov’ to see it coming to-vard me.” There are so many memories its hard to stop. Perhaps these thoughts will start up an endless chain as we get together.
One cannot end this part of the story without memories of our gone but not forgotten pals, such as Jack Baldwin, Hank Bristol, Jake Cross, Harry Dounce, Rus Engs, Jim Judson, Munch McAneny, just to name a few. Everyone has a special place in our memories.
While after 50 years we might question our always being dignified, we can be proud of the men of 1910 who have left a record of accomplishments in many fields of endeavor and in many parts of the country. Let’s join also in giving Hamilton credit for starting us off with a basic education and a good foundation from which we ventured 50 years ago into the cold, cold world.
I doubt if any of us heard John Sheppard of the Class of 1860 read his half-century annalist’s letter in June of 1910. In reading it this year, however, you find many similarities with our 50 years. Within a short time, graduates of the Class of 1860 were involved in the Civil War. They had just come through the panic of 1857 and after the Civil War, a chaotic economy crippled the country for years.
It is most interesting to look at some of the statistics. The United States then had a population of 31.5 million, in 1910 about 92 million, now over 175 million. Hamilton had 160 students in 1860, about 186 in 1910, now about 700.
Oil, as you know, was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859. Look at the industry today. Edison developed the first electric light in the 1870s; Alexander Graham Bell gave us the telephone about the same time; Marconi developed the wireless telegraph in the 1890s, and in that same period, the first horseless carriages were built, followed by the struggles of Langeley and finally by Wright Brothers with the airplane. The early 1890s also produced the first steel-constructed building.
But most impressive are the fact that aside from such things as the steamboat, railroads and telegraph, the cotton gin and sewing machine, it was the thinking and research of men like Edison, Bell, Marconi, the Wright Brothers and many others that laid the foundation for the tremendous progress in our 50 years.
The 1860s saw the beginning of the mechanical age — developing crude machines to do the work formerly done by hand. The use of power had begun.
You find the last half of their 50 years gave the great impetus to real thinking and research resulting in the startling development in ours. One feels very humble when trying to chronicle the events in our 50 years.
In 1910, we were the ones to accept as perfectly normal the really tremendous new developments that John Sheppard, his classmates of 1860 and our parents saw develop during their half-century.
We first had World War I, in which so many of us participated. Out of the tremendous experiences and expenditures for research during the war, many came back with new accomplishments. For example some became “ham” operators and it was all the craze to make crystal sets. It’s amazing to think broadcasting started only around 1920. The new age was under way.
Henry Ford’s mass production gave the automobile to the masses. We saw the struggle of many independents slowly develop into the giants of today and in the early period, the carriage and wagon manufacturers frantically trying to build cars.
Our age does not have to read about the crash in 1929 and the days of 1933. We lived it and some way managed to survive.
Then there was a man named Hitler who spark plugged World War II. That’s when our children got into it after we thought we had fought the war to end all wars.
Again the expenditures for research became colossal. Lifesaving drugs were developed and maybe we will all live a little longer because of the follow-through in the research.
We heard a new word — electronics. About that time, you may agree with me, our college studies left us cold in understanding anything except generalities.
Crowded into our time came the atom bomb and the hydrogen, jet aircraft, satellites, synthetics of all kinds, the amazing computer and all its relatives, new things seemingly without end.
As you look at our present day, even we in 1910 came into a rather simple world, not too far advanced over 1860. Imagine a World Series baseball game where everyone flocked to the depot or the newspaper windows where the telegrapher was getting the play-by-play news. The use of controlled and unlimited power to do specific tasks in 1960 is almost unbelievable compared to 1860.
Fortunately our grandchildren in the coming age will only have to study it in history. Let’s hope they will not blame our generation for all the things that complicate their life. We had two or three children, they blissfully have three, four or more — we were able to educate ours and they probably will too. It’s perhaps just as well that our age will retire from the picture soon.
In conclusion, let’s not forget Hamilton during our 50 years. When the need for a new gymnasium became apparent in the late 1930s, most of us answered the call for help. The result is with us still. But, most important, after rousing the alumni from, shall we say lethargy, were the developments stirring up interest and bringing new workers into the fold. We can all be proud of the Hamilton men who have contributed and still are contributing to this cause.
None of us want to see Hamilton among the largest colleges in the country, but we certainly want it to continue to be one of the best, it not the best, of the small liberal arts colleges.
We will soon celebrate our 150th year, the third half-century mark. That will mean another capital drive for the important improvements and additions to our endowment funds we need to keep Hamilton in its proper place and ready for the fourth 50 years.
Someone graduating tomorrow will write a similar half-century annalist’s letter in 2010. At the rate we are moving, even the top scientists must have a hard time keeping up with each other. These new alumni of the Class of 1960 no doubt accept as quite ordinary, just as we did 50 years ago, the perfectly astonishing life of today. They will all take part and do their share in the years to come.
Again perhaps my classmates of 1910 will join together, first in being thankful that we are here today and secondly in being willing to let the new generation take over while we comfortably watch from the sideline.
At Hamilton, Charles F. Hemenway was active in Psi Upsilon. Following graduation, he began a lifelong career in banking, including a term as chairman of the Illinois Company, Inc., in Chicago. Outside his professional life, he served as an alderman in Evanston and a trustee of the Evanston Schools. He belongs to the Bankers Club of New York, the University and Union League in Chicago and the Chicago Municipal Bond Club. Known as “Mr. Hamilton” in the Chicago area, he was a member of the Hamilton Alumni Council from 1940 to 1942, an alumni trustee from 1947 to 1953 and a charter trustee from 1955 to 1960.