Jul 24

The 1944 Glomerata, part one

After several weeks away from this feature, we return to the dusty old pages of old yearbooks. Pretty pictures from the Plains, incoming.

That’s the 1944 edition of The Glomerata, the yearbook of my alma mater. I collect the yearbooks. For one, they look great. For another, it’s a unique, and contained, hobby. I like that it was a finite thing. The first Glom was published in 1897. (I don’t have that one, so if you run across it … ) and the last one I’ll collect was the 2016 book. There are 120 in between. (One year they published two books.) I now have 112 of them.

I’m sharing some of the interesting images here as I digitize them, you can find them all here.

While war was raging abroad, at home, on the college campuses, a different battle was being played out. Funding was always the question, always the fight. The University of Alabama was in a near-blood feud with Auburn, and the University of Montevallo. The legislature created the Alabama Educational Survey Commission to prepare recommendations for the 1945 legislative session. The people running the campus in Tuscaloosa sent a contemptuous report to that commission, which got Auburn president Luther N. Duncan’s attention. He said he’d never seen “a bolder, more deliberate, more vicious, or more deceptive document.” Duncan turned to his alumni base and said that if supporters of Auburn and Montevallo did not rise up to combat “this evil monster,” it would consume them “just like the doctrine of Hitler.”

It would be a mistake to think the tension between the two schools was about football.

And if the war rhetoric was overcooked between state-level officials, war was almost omnipresent for the people.

Just before school started, a young John Kennedy had his PT boat rammed and destroyed in the Pacific, the Allies conquered Sicily. In September, Dwight Eisenhower announced the surrender of Italy. That fall Americans were looking for places like Bougainville, Tawara and the Gilbert Islands. Stalin, Churchill and FDR met in Tehran that November. The following month, listeners heard Edward R. Murrow’s classic report, “Orchestrated Hell.”

At the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, The Great Depression ended, the Allied slog up against dug-in Germans through Italy dragged on. The Marshall Islands, Monte Cassino, Leipzig, the Mariana Islands began to enter into the newspapers in February. By mid-March, the war talk was about the bombing of Vienna, the Russian army reaching Romania and Germany occupying Hungary. In the spring of 1944, everything was still uncertain, and this is how some young people got up and went to school each day.

In 1944, the war shadowed everything, and its all over this yearbook, too, as we’ll see.

The book I have is signed Mrs. Joe H. Page. She, or someone else, helpfully told me where to find Joe’s photo. It’s in the Army’s Specialized Training Program. We’ll talk more about that program in a week or two, but the ASTP was prompted by General George C. Marshall’s recognizing that the U.S. Army had to overcome a shortage of soldiers trained in a variety of professional and technical capacities. Most of the people that went into ASTP were active duty soldiers, and they were enrolling for up to two years of engineering, languages, dentistry and more.

It took up 20 pages of this Glom, and there are 800 headshots of the people who made up this special category of the student body. Joe Page was one of those men.

Joe was born in 1924. At least one branch of his family could trace its lineage in Alabama back to territorial days. He died in 1980. His wife, Betty, lived until 2009. I looked in a few of the other books and I don’t see evidence that she attended Auburn. Her sister did. We’ll meet her in three or four weeks. But this is Joe, and this was his Glom. He and Betty had four children, all still living in Alabama.

The first full page sets the tone. It’s bright, and also subdued. It has playful graphics. And the future they saw was in science.

Then there are a handful of well done, double-truck photos, wide shots, atmospherics, silhouettes of people walking, and buildings. It comes with a ribbon of text that runs across the four pages. Here’s one half, just because the composition was promising.

The non-poem says:

Morning’s mists disappear into the early sun and day is launched in lonely splendor ….. to ripen, then, into a brazen noon — holding its bated breath under a heated sky … and chills into the long limpid shades of evening — to remain as a memory of our loveliest village.

I never know what these passages are meant to mean, or how they come to pass, and time has forgotten the unimportant conversations that came before them. Who supported the prose, and who groaned about it? Doesn’t matter. It’s surely meant to set a tone, that earnest tone we all had at 21.

Part of that passage, the brazen noon part, is over this photo. It’s another nice two-page spread of Ross Hall. It housed chemistry and became home to mechanical, chemical and aerospace engineering in the 1970s. I was always ambivalent about the building, but it’s a lovely composition. There are nine cars in the shot. And though the modern view has lovely landscaping, there are a lot more cars in view if you stand in that exact same spot today.

I wish we knew who these people were. Or where this was. We’ll have some open questions going forward. The 1944 Glomerata, at least in the early pages, is a bit spare in terms of cutlines. I also wonder if that hat was his. I wonder which of the two was more interested in this chat. And what was their relationship? And what did it become? and could either of them imagine we’d be contemplating this one moment, 80 years later?

That page was titled “diversion,” for some reason. The next page was “aversion.” I guess we disliked shop assignments and studying and what not.

All of that comes before the foreword, which reads:

We give you this Glomerata of 1944 as a record of some of your days at Auburn, with the hope that in future years you may open it to recapture in memory the spirit of the fun and the work you knew, and the friends you made and kept here in the “loveliest village.” In a warring world some things wave and fall, succumbing to the tide of change, but those days at Auburn will remain in your mind as a brilliant ray when the dull fog of strife is long forgotten. May this book serve to help keep that memory bright. This, then, is your Glomerata for nineteen hundred and fourty-four.

There was always the war. This is Lawrence Cottle and Gibbs Ashley, the presidents of the executive cabinet. This was an undergrad organization that programmed campus activities. They also assisted in the community drives for war bonds, the Red Cross and more.

Cottle was a senior, from Montgomery, studying veterinary medicine. He married a woman who, I think, was a sophomore in 1944. He would live to 86, having run a small animal clinic in Mobile. His wife, a teacher and a tapestry artist, died just a few months before he did, in 2010. They had three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Ashley was also a senior, from a small town in Florida that had less than 2,000 people in it when he went to school. He was also studying veterinary medicine. His wife died in 1975,they had two children and four grandchildren. His wife passed away in 1975. He remarried at some point, then retired from his own clinic. He volunteered with the Humane Society and kept playing golf. He passed away in 1991, just 67.

Do you ever see photos of people you don’t know and see people you do know in them? This is Audrey Wilson, president of the women’s student government association in 1944. She was a senior. She also wrote for the campus paper. She was studying home economics, and from Evergreen, a small town in south Alabama that had about 3,000 people living in it back then, and not many more in it today. But I see someone entirely more familiar. It’s startling.

Sometimes we just wind up with mysteries. I haven’t yet found anything else about her.

This is Fred Duggar, the editor of the Glomerata. The page he’s working on here is the first one we saw today. John Frederick Duggar, III, was a senior, an architecture major from the impossibly small Hope Hull, Alabama. Fred’s parents are both buried at Pine Hill, in Auburn, at my favorite cemetery. His grandfather, the namesake, is also buried there. That man was a professor of agriculture and director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. All told, the original John spent almost 50 years on campus.

Our guy, Fred, lived in Atlanta. He published an architectural book in the 1980s that is still a prominent seller in the genre, according to Amazon. He died in 2008 and is also buried at Pine Hill.

The Glomerata lists 16 people as staff, but says the book was produced in a continual “state of flux due to the war. The guy sitting in the left foreground is Frank Benning, a freshman from Atlanta, who was studying architecture. I assume their common studies will show their influence in some of the layout choices going forward. I believe he designed a movie theater outside of Atlanta. Not sure what else he did.

That guy, standing in the background? We’ll meet him next week.

That’s enough for now. The full collection will live in the Glomerata section, of course. You can see others, here. Or, to just see the beautiful covers, go here.

Jul 24

Happy Fourth

I am starting to feel better today, thanks for asking. Many of the key symptoms have disappeared. I think I hard-coughed all of them right out of my body this morning. It was a huge fit. More the beginning of a cold than the end, or so it felt. But I patiently sat my way into an afternoon without any other great big symptoms.

And so this afternoon I willed my way into the pool to see what would happen.

What happened was I struggled through 500 yards or so and then spent another several hundred yards wondering when I would find my rhythm. Somewhere along the way in a long swim I just slip into a nice (for me) pace that just sees the laps melt away. I haven’t charted this, but it seems like it should come at a fairly consistent time, right? Only I was somewhere around 1,200 yards today and still wondering when that would happen.

It did not happen.

But I did swim what was, on balance, a solid 1,800. And I didn’t feel the need to roll over and sleep the rest of the afternoon away. It felt like progress.

After which I finished reading John Barry’s Rising Tide, which was an incredible book about the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River.

How can something so devastating be all but forgotten just a century later? At a place called Mounds Landing, the levee gave way and “a wall of water three-quarters of a mile across and more than 100 feet high” came through the crevasse. Weeks later, engineers used a 100-foot line to find the bottom, but they failed. The river had gouged a 100-foot-deep channel half a mile wide for a mile inland.

No one could every wrap their arms around an official set of figures for the entirety of the massive watershed, but Barry has some data on the lower Mississippi, where the flood put as much as 30 feet of water over lands where 931,159 people lived. The whole of the country was only 120 million people at the time. Barry continues, “Twenty-seven thousand square miles were inundated, roughly equal to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont combined. (Months later) 1.5 million acres remained underwater. Not until mid-August, more than four months after the first break in a mainline Mississippi River levee, did all the water leave the land.”

The scale and scope is too big for a series of movies, and maybe that’s why it isn’t in the common zeitgeist. The rural nature of the landscape plays a part here, too. Could you imagine if this could have somehow happened on that scale on the east coast? There are certainly plenty of characters you could draw from. This book fixates on Hoover, of course, and on a few of the key locales. But, then, who would be the antagonists. Here’s one.

The good ol’ boy club of New Orleans would be another. Bankers, the New Orleans establishment and nothing but, and they wiped out two adjoining communities, having made desperate promises about it to save their city. New Orleans dynamited the levee that doomed St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. A day later, other upstream collapses proved New Orleans didn’t need the effort. And, of course, New Orleans civic leaders went out of their to deny the compensation promised to their neighbors. New Orleans’ old money would definitely be the bad guys. Alas, it set the stage for Huey Long. The flood — and Calvin Coolidge’s cold shoulder — returned Herbert Hoover to the national stage. The aftermath played a big role in the great migration, and all of it together was hugely influential of generations of what would come for the region.

The current plan for the river takes some of the old hypotheses and puts them together but, Barry finds some flaws in the mathematics. This isn’t an engineering book, though it does deal with some important issues in easily digestible ways. And, then, in 1973 …

It’s all folly — and we know it.

This evening we went to see the fireworks. (We missed them last year.) They were held at the county fairgrounds and we picked out a spot across a wide field from where they launched. We sat on the side of the road and thought of the past and the future. We were far enough away that it wasn’t noisy, and close enough that it was still pretty.

At home again, we lit sparklers in the backyard. Had a great time of it, too. There were at least three different kinds, because there’s no such thing as a supply chain shortage these days.

I’m trying to talk her into taking sparklers with her everywhere she goes.

It’s not a terribly difficult sell, frankly.

Jul 24

I don’t want to overstate it, but …

Slept in. Thought about taking a nap after that. Tomorrow I’m going to do some stuff, if for no other reason than the buzzards will be circling overhead, patiently waiting to see if there are any signs of life. Sitting still has been a good strategy, but it hasn’t restored my energy. I still don’t feel terrible. I just don’t feel … good? Normal? Right? Not ready for a rest at the slightest exertion? Last night I nodded off watching the Tour. This evening I had to work to stay awake during another stage.

So it’s been a lost week. Maybe two. Perhaps three. It’s a bit disappointing. Frustrating. Maybe that’s what this pseudo-sinusitis has been. It has been frustrating. Frustrating and persistent. Persistent in its frustration. Persistently frustrating. I’m just running out of patience in slogging my way through it.

At least I’m telling myself that it feels like tomorrow will be back to normal. I will manufacture, if necessary, some light at the other end of this tunnel.

It’s time once more for We Learn Wednesdays, where we discover the county’s historical markers via bike rides. This is the 39th installment, and the 71st marker in the We Learn Wednesdays series. We return once more to Fort Mott, which protected the river, and Philadelphia upstream, from invaders. We’ve been here for some time, as you might recall, but our time here is nearing an end.

In the last few weeks we checked out the old gun batteries and had a quick look at the observation towers that helped them in their work of defending the river and Philadelphia, beyond. Lately, we’ve looked at the parados and the moat that served as the fort’s rearguard. We saw the signs for the generator, plotting and switchboard rooms and we saw the battery commander’s station and, most recently, the peace magazine.

The park has a map to orient you to the fort’s layout.

The river is on the left side of this drawing. You can see the pier jutting out into the water. That’s the area we’re briefly visiting today. And we’ll see it from atop the earthworks that protected the battery placements

The construction of a fortification the size of Fort Mott required the delivery of a large amount of materials and equipment. The river provided an excellent “highway” and the government constructed a wharf to receive the construction materials. Equipment, materials, and supplies were unloaded at the wharf onto a rail line which was built from the wharf to the fortification site. Once the fort was completed, the rail line additionally served to transport ammunition and supplies to the various magazines. Eventually the rail line was extended through the parados to access the newly constructed Peace Magazine. The Army used teams of mules to pull large service carts along the rail line.

The bottom of the marker features a National Archives photo from February 1898, when the troops were unloading the 12-inch gun carriage that helped command the river.

The wharf juts out from a small river beach. On the other side is the walking trail. In between us and the wharf is a field full of mosquitos and other insects ready to take a bite out of you.

The fort’s job was to defend the waterway, and the Delaware River was also key to keeping Fort Mott supplied during its years of service. Most of the building materials, guns, and ammunition were delivered from here. The wharf also provided access to travel between Fort DuPont and Fort Delaware, the other two links in the river defense system. Fort Mott, and the others, were rendered obsolete when Fort Saulsbury, was ready for business downriver after World War I. Mott housed soldiers from 1897 to 1922. It became a state park in 1951.

If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Jul 24

What a big screen we have

Really, the only problem is that I’m tired. I’ve had a mild cause of symptoms of most everything that you’ll find listed with sinusitis. Oddly, each comes and goes. What troubled me last night was fine this morning. And something else comes along to be the day’s first mild ache or pain — always underlined with a cough, which is, usually, italicized by the gentlest sniffle I’ve ever encountered.

Always, when my sinus decide to bother me it’s days of not being able to breathe. This time, thankfully, that’s not been an issue, which is odd. And oddly welcome.

The biggest thing is just the fatigue. Nothing like a bit of seasonal doldrums in the middle of the summer.

The weather is nice. Nice and warm.

Meaning it was a good evening to try our new setup. Projector, screen, sports.

Just in time for the Tour, the Olympics and maybe some late night old movies, too.

Set up was easy. We’ll improve our storing technique in time.

Speaking of bike riding, here’s my little chart of miles through the first half of the year. Really flattened out the last two weeks, huh?

In the next few days I’ll have a lot of riding to do to make up for it, whatever that means.

Here’s a quick clip from our dive in Cozumel a couple of weeks ago. I’ve got five more clips to put here after this ray, which you can see up close. The trick is to be behind the group you’re diving with, watching which way the critter is going and take a good angle to arrive at the same place.


In our next video we’ll see a flounder! It’ll be great!

It is time to return to 2005 and the Re-Listening project. You’ll recall that I’ve been listening to all of my old CDs in the order of their acquisition. You get to read all about it, because I’m padding the site with some music and, usually, stir up a memory or two. Though there are no strong memories attached to these records, which were library pickups for me.

The first one was the BoDeans debut “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams,” which T-Bone Burnett produced. It was simple and big, the start of something big for the roots rockers from Wisconsin. Most of us learned about them from the later “Closer to Free” or “Good Things,” but this is where it started. And if you put this on, in 1986, it would have been a stylistic revelation.

The third track has always been one of my favorites. The interplay between Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas works so well. And it’d do so for a long time, until suddenly it didn’t.

One more quick one.

OK, one more and, remember, this is 1986.

And the good news is, there’s a sweaty bottle out there with your name on it. The BoDeans are touring the U.S. right now.

The next addition was also a library grab — probably I got it on the same day. It was Sister Hazel’s fifth album, “Lift,” from 2004. Consistent sound from the band, though I think I’d generally had my fill by then. I found a few tracks on here I liked, but mostly I was pleased it was a library find.

It’s like a small, smoky venue of nuevo Florida Keys, as heard in Gainseville, for the rest of us. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, if it is for you.

But for their terrific earlier success, they could be the best cover band in America.

And Sister Hazel is on tour right now, as well. And the next time I make you sit through my old music, we’ll be playing a few standards and classics.

Jul 24

Now my jaw hurts, or my ear, could be my face, also my lungs

It’s possible that, while I have felt largely fine — tired, stuffy, but fine — that I’ve been a bit farther beneath the weather than I realized. It’s possible that I’m falling apart as I write this. So, you know, standard issue cold. I’ll be fine tomorrow, or Thursday, or two Tuesdays from now. I’m only 10 days into feeling mostly OK and kinda unwell, after all. These things take time.

I don’t want to overstate it. It hasn’t been bad. The biggest thing is that I’ve done less the last few days than I should have. That’s pretty much it. Even still …

Sunday afternoon I got in a 1,650 yard swim, my longest since last September.

I even swam it at a reasonable pace, a mile in 40 minutes. I’ve just looked at two different charts on the world wide web, which is authoritative in every way, and they have each convinced me that this time is somewhere between novice and intermediate. I need to swim more.

Just as soon as my shoulders are rested.

That swim was probably fast because I had somewhere to be. Swim scared, swim with an appointment coming up fast, I say. It was a do-the-laps-run-through-the-shower sort of exercise. I had to get to the airport. I had to drive through this.

And then it was hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait. There’s a sign in the cell phone lot that says the maximum time allowed is 30 minutes, but I encourage the airport to take that up with the airline and mother nature. (They also have two vending machines full of drinks in the cell phone lot, which seems at odds with the parking limits.)

I stayed there for three hours. But the views, man!

My lovely bride wasn’t that far away. A few fences and rules about running around on the airport tarmac were all that kept us apart. And also the weather.

Ahe landed early, 5:45. She got off the plane at 9 p.m. And so I spent three-plus hours in the cell phone lot. This gave me plenty of time to go through the contents of my car — six pairs of sunglasses, four masks, two full-sized umbrellas, a giant fist full of napkins, four grocery store bags, a lint roller … and so on. Allowing me to bring a little more order that paired nicely with Saturday’s chore of vacuuming the trunk, which was a big effort, and probably a clue, in retrospect, of how the ol’ body is feeling. Anyway, Approaching 9:30 I finally got her in the car. And if the worst thing that happens when a loved one is flying almost a quarter of the way across the country and through bad weather is that you miss dinner, you take it.

Just think of how much I could have swam if I knew I had all of that extra time …

Today, we visited a local farm and picked up some vegetables. You get a custom box of fresh, locally grown produce every week. On the side, they’re selling corn for a dollar an ear.

If you ride around here enough a few ears of corn will just fall into your window. Save your dollars.

Our friend Stacey came over for a bike ride. It was a nice easy ride. We pedaled by the bike shop, where the local runners were getting ready to run. We went through town and back into the country side.

And then we found ourselves on a road with one small hill. Rather than grind it out, I wanted to get over the thing. Stacey interpreted this as an attack, it was not an attack, but so suddenly we were in an uphill sprint.

She is fast. It hurt. Breathing was a little bit harder after that. I spent the next several miles trying to recover from it. I think I am still trying to recover from it. See above.

We haven’t check in on the kitties in a few weeks. The cats know. And they are letting me know. You’ve all been missing out on the site’s most popular weekly feature, and for that I apologize.

Phoebe has moved to her summer afternoon napping tree. It’s a popular spot for the midday sun.

Recently, she re-discovered a basket she doesn’t get to enjoy all that often. It usually holds another basket, but now it’s a Phoebe spot.

Poseidon, meanwhile, is happily hanging out on the fridge. In between cabinet meetings, as you can see. He often spends dinner time — the cat’s me time, I’ve decided — in that cabinet behind him there. He’s ridiculous.

And there is, of course, always time for the tunnel. This may be his favorite spot, not counting someone’s lap, or being featured online.

So the cats, as you can see, are doing just fine. And they hope you’re off to a great start to your week, as well.