The Colgate Scene
Novermber 1998
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Letters
The Colgate Scene invites responsible letters, addressed to the editor, regarding any subject that may be considered of interest to the Colgate community. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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A good scout
. . . As someone who has recently taken the foolish step of agreeing to be a Scoutmaster for the first time, and more foolishly, for a new boy with a scout troop that has exactly zero scouts, I was surprised, thrilled and very proud to see a photo of John Cushman '63 in the latest issue of Scouting Magazine (Sept '98).

     John was one of eight scouting volunteers awarded the Silver Buffalo Award at the recent National Scouting Meeting in San Antonio. I am pleased to know John and his family personally from my days as the president of the Los Angeles Alumni Club in the early '80s. John has always been a huge behind-the-scenes (and sometimes in-front-of-the-scenes) force for positive things at Colgate. I still remember with sincere thanks those alumni gatherings that John hosted for us, whether it was a slide show for an intimate crowd of 50, or a visit from the Thirteen, John never said no, and his wife and family were incredibly supportive.

     On the occasion of your Silver Buffalo, a heartfelt congratulations and a sincere thank you! I hope that someday I may be able to achieve some portion of your success with regard to both scouting and support for Colgate!

MARC FERTIK '80
E. Brunswick, NJ


Fascinating and painful
. . . Wow! I just finished reading Mel Watkins' new book Dancing With Strangers. Reading his chapters on Colgate was fascinating and painful for me. It brought back a lot of memories and feelings I had pushed aside. His account of the initial weeks as a freshman are painfully familiar.

     Mel describes being "completely cut off, immersed in a foreign, white world," surrounded by alien attitudes and a strange culture. I, too, felt an outsider, coming to Colgate from Appalachia. In my little hometown of 1200, we literally were all white and Protestant. I reacted to this "foreign land" by keeping my nose in a book most of the time and being involved in very limited activities with only a few friends. So I experienced a different side of Colgate than Mel, from my own experience of being marginal and isolated. For example, I had not met any person of color until I came to Colgate and worked with George McClomb in the dish cleaning area of the Freshman Dining Room. Although I thought about Phi Tau, fraternity life was simply to foreign to my experience. I ended up at Dodge and never attended any of the Party Weekends.

     The fascination lies in the different side of Colgate that shows through Mel's experience. Racism at Colgate is something I never thought about, until reading his book. I recall hearing that Adam Clayton Powell Jr had attended Colgate but had heard nothing of his being ostracized by the white students. I also remember more than one upperclassman asking me if I was related to a Bill Ratliff who had dropped out a year or two before I arrived. The story I heard was that he was black and ended up leaving because everything he wanted to join, he immediately got invited to. That was so disconcerting to him that he ended up leaving, so the story went. I had chalked it up to reverse discrimination by bleeding-heart liberals, but now I wonder what really happened.

     Mel's interweaving of his life story with national events and the accelerating changes in our country around racial issues was eye opening. It makes me realize how insulated I was at Colgate; in that way, the campus was similar to my hometown. His describing going home and attempting to talk with his parents about college and about what he was learning reminded me of my own attempts at doing that.

     I recall the time that it became clear to me that I had to live in two different worlds and would not be able to integrate them. Roy Allen, one of my best buddies, came home with me the summer before our senior year, on our way to work in a mental hospital. His visit was the one bridge across the gap.

     I still feel embarrassed to remember an incident when my parents came for graduation. My dad came with me to Chaplain Bob Smith's house for a party. Champagne was broken out, but my dad would never think of drinking anything alcoholic; so the proceedings were held up while Posey scurried to find a soft drink for him and me. The gap was very wide.

BILL RATLIFF '62
Richmond, IN


World War II stories
. . . On the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II I anticipated that the Scene would remember and honor those loyal sons of Colgate who served and the many who sacrificed their lives so that future generations would be free. I had received in 1995 issues of The Cross and Crescent (Lambda Chi Alpha magazine), The Scroll (Phi Delta Theta magazine) and St. Olaf College Magazine, all of which had done just that.

     The veteran ranks are thinning. The obituary notices in the Scene for this generation remind us: "USMC WWII"; "Medical Corps 1942-46"; US Army 1942-45"; US Navy 1943-46." Last July Frank Farnsworth (I remember his classes well) wrote to your editor touching on the heroics of some of these men. Frank walked the Hill asking, "Whose woods are these?" I took that walk also, on Memorial Day but some 25 years after I graduated. Why? My son, Conrad '90, was my guide. He had bought white carnations in town and took me up to the cemetery above the campus to place them on the graves of those veterans from his fraternity honor roll.

     It's not too late to tell their stories. Just this year the Naval Institute Press published Sisterhood of Spies by Elizabeth P. McIntosh. A chapter is devoted to Ellery C. Huntington Jr., not All-America quarterback Huntington but Colonel Huntington of World War II OSS. You might start with that story and there must be plenty more.

DON THIEDE '52
Melville, NY


It's the Glee Club
. . . First, thanks to the September Scene for its complimentary and insightful review of the Pep Band's Turn Us Loose, one of the latest Colgate CDs (only $13 at the bookstore). Second, I want to give credit where it is especially due and perhaps sell a few more copies -- the archival "voices from the past" woven into the mix are the all-male University Glee Club of the very late '50s and not the Thirteen from that period.

     All the members of the current Thirteen and Swinging Gates are featured, now, singing together the great Colgate songs on the recording for the first time.

Richard Frank '57
Producer

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