THE PERIOD of the 1920's was indeed a golden time in the history of Phillips Academy. The program for the School which had been initiated by Cecil Bancroft was now completed under Al Stearns, and the result was an institution that bore little resemblance to that of Eliphalet Pearson and the early principals. Pearson's program emphasized academic excellence, concentration on the classics, discipline through fear, dictatorship of the Principal, dependence on town families for student housing, concern for the education of indigent young men, and an overriding interest in the moral and religious life of the student. By 1920 things were very different. There was the same insistence on academic excellence, but the classics, though still required, were in competition with a broad range of courses in other subjects. And it would not be long before even the classics requirement was dropped. The disciplinary system was still based to a large extent on fear, but it was administered primarily by the Faculty rather than by the Principal alone. The undergraduates, furthermore, considered disciplinary problems pretty much as a game of cops and robbers, particularly with respect to the younger members of the Faculty. The Principal was no longer dictator. Starting under Dr. Bancroft, the Faculty had come to assume a larger and larger role in the policy-making function for the school, and Al Stearns had not tampered with this system. With the construction of Paul Revere Hall in 1929, the last undergraduates who had previously been housed in private families could now move into School dormitories, and Dr. Bancroft's dream was realized. A second part of the Pearson program remained unchanged---the interest in scholarship boys, and the program in this area was as strong as ever in the 1920's and had become a hallmark of an Andover education. Throughout Al Stearns' tenure as Principal,(1) he remained deeply concerned about the moral and religious education of the students. There was a semi-religious chapel service every weekday and two religious services on Sundays. But the tone was relaxed when compared to the harsh Calvinism of an earlier day. There was a lot of music, and the favorite preacher was William Lyon Phelps of Yale, who was not a clergyman and whose sermons would consist of three or four funny stories tied together with a moral. The morale of the School was high in the 1920's. There were certainly unhappy boys, those who resented not being chosen for membership in one of the School fraternities, for example, but School spirit, especially in support of athletic teams, was remarkably high. Some great teachers, many of whom had been hired by Dr. Bancroft, were in their prime and influenced boys in a way they would never forget. The excitement that accompanied the Cochran building program could not but foster pride in the School and convince the Andover community that the worth and prestige of the institution were increasing. Finally, in Al Stearns the undergraduates had a father figure who looked every inch the part and who seemed to personify what Andover was all about.
Phillips Academy entered the 1920's after a brief but exhilarating experience during World War I. As with earlier conflicts, World War I did not seriously disturb the life of the School, and the changes that did occur provided interesting varieties to the regimen of undergraduate existence. Late in 1914, after the struggle in Europe had been joined, Trustee Henry L. Stimson, fresh from his position as Secretary of War in President William Howard Taft's cabinet, suggested that training in rifle shooting be required of all Phillips Academy undergraduates.(2) Nothing as inclusive as that was ever introduced, but encouraged by a special visit of Stimson and General Leonard Wood, the Rifle Club was formed. At the start it was handicapped because it could not purchase rifles or find a suitable range, but eventually the Trustees built a range in the basement of Borden Gymnasium and some 140 boys took the training course.(3) In late 1914 the undergraduates, together with the Faculty and Trustees, contributed $750 toward the purchase of a Ford ambulance for use by the American Ambulance Hospital on the western front. In the early days of the war many Americans were raising money for this purpose. The following year the community was informed that the Andover ambulance was Number 127 and was operating in the area of St. Maurice. In 1916 the school received a long account of the activities of the driver of Number 127, and later that year a report that even though many ambulances had been destroyed, the Andover one was still going strong.(4) It is interesting to note that in the early years of the war both sides were represented in Andover news: early in 1915 it was reported that Herr Fritz Helimuth, formerly a Prussian Exchange teacher at Phillips Academy, had returned to the front after having been severely wounded. For his exploits he had been awarded the Iron Cross.(5) For reasons that are not immediately apparent, the Academy undergraduates sent a large number of neckties to the wounded in English hospitals and received a warm letter of thanks from the physician in charge.(6) All these activities were extracurricular, however, and had little effect on basic routine.
All of this changed when the United States entered the war in April 1917. Some undergraduates who were old enough immediately volunteered and left the Hill. Almost all of those who remained were soon enrolled in an ROTC program, designed to prepare them for military service should that become necessary. The program was compulsory for the two upper classes and for everyone over sixteen in the two lower classes, and optional for any others who could get their parents' permission. Major Robert Davy of the Canadian Army was in charge. Drill started on 29 October 1917, with 510 out of 570 boys enrolled. It required three hours a week, with the boys studying the School of the Soldier, the School of the Squad, and the School of the Company. Monty Peck of the Physical Education Department was Battalion Adjutant. In addition there was a voluntary officers' school on Tuesday and Friday nights, though it was reported that the "less proficient" had been dismissed from it. Wanting official recognition as an ROTC unit, Al Stearns and Major Davy went to Washington and saw Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. Baker said that they could not be official with a Canadian in charge, so a Major in Boston was put in theoretical command while Davy continued to do the work. The uniforms are described as barrack caps with the letters ROTC on them, high-collared jackets, and "spiral puttees." Apparently many of the boys wore these uniforms home at Christmas time. In addition there was a Battalion band of twenty-two instruments. Target practice was conducted in the basement of Pearson Hall, where a new range had been constructed. An editorial in the Phillips Bulletin spoke of the change on Andover Hill: "The boys, erect and khaki-clad, the flags flung out from windows along the street, the flare of bugles and the roll of drums were, throughout the spring time, outward and obvious signs of change."(7) The Bulletin's description of the ROTC program ended on a self-satisfied note: Phillips Academy had solved the problem of military training without disrupting the School; the boys were willing to sacrifice their teams in order to perfect the ROTC; and it was predicted that by spring the unit would be indeed a crack one.(8)
This was all very well, but the Bulletin description hardly coincides with undergraduate opinion. One alumnus correspondent writes of the ROTC program:
Those of us at Andover in '17 and '18 were victims of our preparedness rage. We were all put into olive drab, and drab and itchy it surely was. We were formed into companies and subjected to daily drilling. As if by magic, we found ourselves under the command of fellow students we had never heard of before who strutted around in Sam Brown belts and leather puttees while we wrestled with the infernal wrap around nonsense inherited from the British. A boy from Tennessee was head of the whole undergraduate business and as the companies were disbanded in '19 sank into oblivion where, so far as I know, he remains. The first year's training ended with a sham battle supervised by the school Medico Page who was known as "Paint it with Iodine" and who always wore bright yellow shoes and a blue suit which, with his short stature, dark black hair and black eyes, reminded one of a Mexican bandit. The battle was totally inconclusive and generally pronounced a crashing bore.(9)
Another alumnus correspondent agrees generally about the program but had a great time at another sham battle:
During 1917 and 1918 most of the students were in uniform as members of the Andover regiment. As I recall, the majority of the boys resented the military program and especially having to wear those uncomfortable, high collared uniforms and the wrap around puttees. Many a boy was late for chapel or class due to putting on those 3 foot long puttees. In April a sham battle was to be staged at Pomp's Pond. The regiment was divided into two units---the blues and the whites. Much planning and study had gone into this exercise; it was to be a battle of strategy, one unit trying to outmaneuver the other and the one capturing the most prisoners declared the winner. Some groups disregarded orders and made a game of cops and robbers of the military operation. They raced through the woods in all directions, out of touch with their command, and were soon in contact with the enemy. There was not supposed to be any physical contact; just the surrounding of a group meant surrender, but that was not the way some of the boys wanted to play. There was much rough and tumble hand to hand contact and the entire exercise developed into a gigantic wrestling match, fortunately without any serious casualty. One group had planned a surprise attack by using some six or seven canoes on the Shawsheen. When this unit rounded a bend in the river they were caught by a larger unit of the enemy which was supposed to mean surrender, but the boys weren't satisfied with that rule and proceeded to tip the canoes over with poles. In all, some twenty soldiers were dumped into the icy water, guns and all. Needless to say the staff officers were disgusted with the entire performance, but the rank and file of the regiment had one of their best fun days in uniform.
A secretary in the Alumni Office remembers a story from the military training days:
One amusing incident in connection with the Army Camp established on the Campus occurred when an employee of the engineering department, intent on pursuing the shortest path between the engineering office and an engineering problem in the general area of the Commons, was stopped at the entrance to the Campus by the guard on duty and asked for the password. Possibly a bit impatient with the whole idea of "playing soldier," no matter how commendable the purpose, the employee, who happened not to know the password of the day, kept on walking. At this effrontery, the guard, as he had been instructed, said, "Stop or I'll shoot." After a minute's consideration of the situation, the engineering employee remarked calmly, "Go ahead and shoot" and kept on walking. Obviously, military rules and regulations took a back seat to civilian expediency. No shots were fired.
An interesting sidelight in the history of Phillips Academy during the war years was Al Stearns's confrontation with Hearst newspapers. During the period before the entry of the United States into World War I, these newspapers had been printing articles and editorials which, if they were not pro-German, were certainly anti-British. Al was devoted to the cause of the Allies, and such writing he considered little short of treason. Accordingly, in chapel one morning he launched a scathing attack on the Hearst editorial policy and urged the undergraduates not to buy any more Hearst newspapers. Apparently his message came through loud and clear, for the sale of Hearst newspapers on the Hill dropped off to close to zero.
A few days later a representative of the circulation department of the Hearst newspapers in Boston called on Al. He explained that his job was to sell newspapers and suggested that Al's boycott was violating freedom of expression. Al insisted that he had not ordered any boy to stop buying the papers and that their decision to do so was their own. With the entry of the United States into the war, the Hearst policy shifted, and presumably the Andover boycott was relaxed.(10)
As 1918 wore on and it became clear that an Allied victory was only a matter of time, enthusiasm for the ROTC program dwindled, and at their meeting in December just after the Armistice, the Trustees voted that military training for Andover undergraduates should end.(11) It seems clear that such a program was not a wise one for secondary school students. Many undergraduates who were old enough volunteered for the armed services without any previous training. Furthermore, national leaders were urging secondary school students to remain in school and get a good academic training. When World War II came along, the School would develop a physical fitness program that was much better suited to the needs of the boys.
Whatever reservations one might have about military training, at least the end of the war was celebrated in style by the undergraduates. The first of the alumni correspondents cited above writes this description:
The real Armistice Day was something never to be forgotten. The Inn was in the process of extensive alterations and there reposed on the ground a large pile of window blinds. They formed the base of a tremendous bonfire that consumed about every loose object available. The bell of the old chapel was rung by Al Stearns and his son until they broke the rope, I am told. All this was in the morning and was followed by a torch light parade around town that or the next night.
The war over, Phillips Academy reconverted to a peacetime basis almost immediately and embarked on what was to be a golden decade. Then as always responsibility for the School was in the hands of the Board of Trustees. The creation of separate boards for the Academy and the Seminary at the time of the latter's transfer to Cambridge paid off handsomely in the work of the reconstituted Board. In terms of service it was an old Board---only the New York financier and friend of Thomas Cochran, George B. Case, had been elected after 1913. At the head as President was Alfred Ripley, a very careful and conservative Boston banker. Harvard was represented by two professors: James Hardy Ropes, a summa at Harvard and now Hollis Professor of Divinity, a man with a keen but often inflexible mind; and Clifford H. Moore, Professor of the Classics at Harvard. Henry L. Stimson had already had a distinguished career as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and as Secretary of War in Taft's cabinet. Before the decade was out he would be back in public service as Governor-General of the Philippines and then Hoover's Secretary of State. Elias B. Bishop was a justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts and the Board's authority on legal matters. All but Clifford Moore were Andover graduates, and Moore had taught at the School for a short time. In 1923 Thomas Cochran would be elected, and in 1926 Ernest Martin Hopkins, the President of Dartmouth and an old friend of Al Stearns. In 1929 Ripley resigned as President but not from the Board and was succeeded by James Hardy Ropes. In running the School the Board tended to follow the precedent of Uncle Sam Taylor's Board and let the Principal run the show. In an article on his relations with the Board, Al Stearns wrote:
It was Dr. Bancroft's aim to guide and restrain when necessary but generally to carry out the expressed opinion of his faculty in all large matters of school administration. And this has been the aim of his successor .... In his relation to the trustees the principal of today then is largely the mouthpiece of the faculty. By his position as a member of both bodies he is given a unique opportunity to state the viewpoints of both and to harmonize conflicting opinions. With the internal administration of school affairs the trustees have little concern, preferring to leave all matters relating to discipline, curriculum etc. to the faculty for decision. But in the broader policies of school development ... the trustees have wide authority and almost unlimited powers . . . . Some one man must be held responsible for carrying out the policies decided upon . . . . This responsibility is vested in the principal; and it is the function of the trustees to see that it is met, to supply needed backing if the occasion demands it, and to curb and restrain if the necessity for such action arises .... Having selected their helmsman, the trustees are not disposed to hamper him in the performance of his task. And they are free from serious anxiety as to the outcome, for if the course he steers is one of which they cannot approve, they have only to put another man in charge of the wheel.(12)
The Trustee Records of the 1920's do indeed indicate that they were willing to let Al Stearns run the School. A large part of the minutes of meetings deal with acknowledging gifts from Thomas Cochran and others, and most of the rest deal with routine matters. They voted $1000 to the Harvard Polio Commission for aid during a polio outbreak at Phillips Academy;(13) they passed a vote of thanks to the Cadillac Company of Lawrence for providing cars for the Sesquicentennial ;(14) and they voted Al Stearns a year off to work with Henry L. Stimson in the Philippines, a sabbatical that never came to pass.(15) The only interesting thing they did in the area of educational policy was to vote in favor of a five-year program with a separate lower school that was not to be in Andover but nearby.(16) One criterion of a successful administration is its willingness to let competent people alone so that they can do their jobs; judged by this standard the Andover Board in the 1920's gets high marks.
There is no question that Al Stearns ran the School in the 1920's. To be sure he had Lester Lynde to do a lot of the admissions work and Cecil (Pooby) Bancroft as registrar. To be sure there were regular Faculty meetings where important policy questions were often settled. But Al did not hesitate to step in and take over when occasion demanded. One of the attributes that humanized him for the boys in earlier years was his ability to coach and play baseball. He had to give this up in the 1920's and as a result he became a more austere, distant, and awe-inspiring figure for the undergraduates. He remained very conservative in his political and social outlook. He was outraged, for example, that anyone should suggest that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent.(17) And when President Coolidge came to Andover at the end of the decade, Al accorded him something very close to adoration. But he was unquestionably respected by the entire School community. Year after year the seniors voted him "Most Respected" in their yearbook. Here are some impressions of Al written by various alumni correspondents:
. . . to my mind, he was a terrifying creature and I think I would start shaking if he walked into my office right now. I do recall his praying morning after morning in Chapel for us to be forgiven for the base and sordid in our lives. [When I won a prize at commencement] 'eagle-beak Al' didn't know me although I had been on the hill for three years.
About Alfred E. Stearns---it was him I saw in my mind's eye when I visited Geneva... and went to Calvin's church.
Al Stearns towered above all of his contemporaries in the skill with which he developed character among his students. Al made perfectly clear the distinctions between black and white in such matters as honesty and integrity .... If ever a man taught and urged a boy to do the darndest he could with whatever talents he had available, it was Al Stearns. Moreover, if this boy did not dedicate his efforts to the best interest of everyone for whom he was responsible, he knew in advance that here or in some later world he would be called to account to Al Stearns for having failed to pay the price of the great privilege of having a superior education.
Alfred Stearns, Headmaster, was not a lesser god, but the Jupiter of this largely Latin pantheon. Tall and erect, he walked like a god among us, head back with high beaked nose and eagle's eyes, and full white hair with wind in its curl. I recognized his face at once, years later, when I saw Michel-Angelo's Moses in San Pietro Vinculi.
It was his school. He made all the decisions, hired and fired the faculty, and handled all student discipline .... when two prominent seniors had been fired for coming back from Boston to Sunday vespers 'with liquor on their breath', we rushed through our work [at the Commons] and ran all the way across campus to hear Stearns thunder his angry indignation. We were rewarded. He was a magnificent speaker, and when he was angry made the rafters ring. We trembled too, and resolved to sin no more.
I was scared stiff of all of them and particularly the Headmaster from whom I got the impression, despite his cordial manner, that he really had no understanding of boys like me. He seemed to be in a world apart .... He always greeted us affably but not by name, and I never thought he really knew one of us from Adam. Maybe this standoffishness is what inspired our fear and led us to strictly observe the rules and regulations.
Another virtue of Al Stearns: he emphasized the importance of the faculty. Everything was done in the name of the faculty. I know that he had almost dictatorial powers, but if he ever used them, he hid the occasions from the students. All questions were subject to faculty approval. The faculty, according to Al, ran the school.
Awed by the Dr. Arnold-ish Alfred E. Stearns---I don't suppose I ever dared exchange a word with him. He was really God. Nor did we ever question one of his rules or judgments .... One did not love him or hate him, or perhaps even fear him. He was simply the personification of cold authority. I can't remember enjoying one of his sermons, and I certainly haven't retained any of his wisdom, or to my knowledge, followed his moral or religious advice. I simply knew that he made the rules, and it would never have occurred to me to dispute them.
Stearns had one little weakness: he had a certain naivete about certain things that he should have understood. A story went around the campus in my day (true or apocryphal) about the four boys who had been caught gambling. Hauled before the Head, they were asked what game they had been playing. 'Only bridge,' one replied. 'And what were the stakes?' asked Stearns. 'Only half a cent' was the reply. 'Oh,' said Stearns, 'that's not much, is it?'
I suppose I got to know Al Stearns as well as anybody---I served as a counsellor at his camp at First Connecticut Lake one summer. I was in awe of him; his moral perfectionism image was hard to break through, and I never had any warm relationship with him . . . . I was no doubt wary and defensive in relating to him, because my supposed religious 'kick' was fairly hypocritical.
But few of us had the privilege of experiencing the warm, affectionate nature which was his when engaged in relaxing conversation with friends and with the lucky students who visited him on informal occasions. These occasions were infrequent because Al, I am sure, felt that his job demanded of him the lonely eminence of a ship captain who must make decisions which are often unpleasant if not hurtful to his associates, his subordinates and those otherwise in his charge.
Principal Alfred E. Stearns, magnificent Christian athlete, made an indelibly favorable impression on me at my first assembly in the Chapel and it became apparent that he was universally admired by the students. He was approachable, not a bit awesome, a fair and genuinely concerned leader. He was also baseball coach, which meant a lot to me. As a senior I was a rookie pitching aspirant, with sandlot experience in the outfield and none on the mound. Dr. Stearns indicated that he saw some potential in a strong arm and a good motion and though I did not earn a letter, I was indebted to him for the encouragement that led to a pitching role in college.
It was not until I was about to enter Yale that I had the good fortune to meet the real Al Stearns. I learned that I would be admitted to college on condition, so I returned to Andover for advice and Al Stearns happened to be the only one available at the time. To my surprise he greeted me warmly and took a personal interest in my problem. He said Amherst College would provide a worthwhile and happy experience for me. I unwittingly asked him where Amherst was. He then told me of his association with the college since boyhood. He even phoned Dean Esty to tell him I was on my way. [In later years] I shall always remember how pleased and proud he made me feel when I would meet him on the street and he might be with some one, he would turn and say 'meet one of my old boys' and give my name.
The man's voice was his greatest asset. Deep and sonorous, he spoke from the pulpit or the assembly and at a rally with an air of conviction that was comforting at times and contagious at others.
I was attending a private, snobbish school south of Boston. It was the time of the financial crash, and the following fall I would have attended the local high school. Not for me. I wrote for information on the various prominent private prep schools. I decided that Andover was the place for me. This was a ridiculous decision, as it was pointed out by my family who were in no position to pay for tuition. Also my academic record was miserable and my athletic ability nil. There were no alumni to recommend me either.
So what to do? I wrote a five-page personal letter to Dr. Stearns.
Not once did I mention any attribute that might have qualified me as a student at Andover. I went on and on in an exaggerated, flowery language how I had flunked four out of five courses, how I was the most unpopular boy in school, and there was no money to pay for my support, that I had never participated in any of the school's extra curricular activities. I recall exactly the end of the letter, 'If there is any further information you may need, I will be glad to supply the same.' And I added a P.S.---'I'll be working at the Atlantic and Pacific store this summer and will have saved $250 toward the tuition.'
I was trusting that Al Stearns would be curious at the comical absurdity of my letter. And he was! I received a formal letter to meet him in his office the following week. I recall so vividly my first impression of the man. As I entered his office, naturally I was nervous, but that was soon dispelled. Dr. Stearns' solemn countenance broke into a large grin, and when he told me that he had never received such a letter as mine in all his years of academic life, we were both laughing. He went on to say there was a scholarship for a student who showed marked improvement his first year, and he roared with laughter when he said it wouldn't be difficult for me to show improvement over my past record! ... As I left the office, I remember his exact words, 'Grow up!' and there was a warm smile upon his otherwise solemn face.
As can be seen by the above excerpts, Al Stearns was not an easy man to categorize. One's opinion of him would depend a great deal on chance and circumstance. Yet without doubt he was a dominant force in the school; Andover in the 1920's would not have been the same without him.
The Phillips Academy Faculty in the 1920's was a strong and colorful group of men. Some of the older ones who had been hired by Dr. Bancroft were then at the height of their powers, and there were able younger men to give balance to the whole. In 1926, for example, the Faculty consisted of forty-five instructors, which represented a ratio of one to fourteen boys. This ratio had not changed much over the past ten years, for as the School grew in size, so did the Faculty. Like the undergraduate body, the Faculty came from a wide variety of geographical backgrounds. The forty-five had among themselves graduated from twenty-three different colleges. Only a few had more than two representatives: Yale, 8; Harvard, 5; Amherst, 4; Brown, 3; and Dartmouth, 3. The rest ranged as far afield as the University of Aberdeen. At the head of the Faculty roster was Charles Henry Forbes, who had attained his position by acting as Principal while Al Stearns was on sabbatical in 1913-14. Charlie Forbes sat on Al Stearns's right hand during chapel services. "Pooby," Cecil's son, sat on his left. The three of them made an impressive triumvirate. It was Pooby Bancroft's job to read the daily notices, and since he was so naive that he would read almost anything, the undergraduates soon developed a game of seeing what they could get Pooby to read. On one occasion Pooby read an announcement that a very effeminate boy was going to give flying lessons to anyone interested. On another, it was announced that a boy who had been remarked rubbing up against his girl at a recent tea dance would give boxing lessons. But the classic notice came on Good Friday, when Pooby read out in all seriousness that Father O'Leary of St. Augustine's parish wished to announce a steak dinner in the parish house, to be followed by Confession. It was clear that even Al Stearns thought this was great. But Charlie Forbes had nothing to do with this nonsense and maintained an imperturbable calm throughout.
Charlie Forbes was certainly one of the great teachers of his day, and his course in Virgil's Aenead was a must for most Andover seniors in the 1920's. Although he demanded a precise rendering of the text from his students, his classes included as well short homilies on a wide variety of other subjects---descriptions of Rome, the necessity of having regular bowel movements, political events at home and abroad, the virtue of mental discipline, and the like. His mind was facile, and perhaps superficial at times. He knew a great deal of Latin but he never produced any scholarly writing. Claude Fuess has written of him:
Temperamentally he was a conservative, with a preference for traditions, established customs, and well-worn roads, yet occasionally he showed unaccountable flashes of liberalism. He disliked intensely all agitators, communists, "smart alecks," "flappers,' and Democrats, as well as bad manners, flashiness, irreverence, and the New Republic.(18)
Charlie used to write some verse, which his friends thought consistently bad. He loved puns, which often made his students wince. On the other hand he wrote some beautiful prayers for use in the chapel services. Because he and/or his wife had substantial independent means, the Forbeses' life style was unlike any other on the Hill. He was driven to classes by a chauffeur in a large black limousine. His home was a striking example of careless opulence. Friends fortunate enough to be invited to dinner could count on a Lucullan repast. After dinner Charlie might entertain the guests with his gift of mimicry or take them to his wood-working shop and show them the admirable pieces of furniture that he had made. Their means enabled the Forbeses to play Santa Claus to all the children of the community at Christmas time, and they performed countless acts of generosity throughout the year. Charlie loved golf and played regularly until, in his later years, he was slowed down by the gout. Toward the end of his career he was delighted when Amherst College awarded him an honorary degree. Here, then, was a charming, Pickwickian man, a gifted teacher, beloved by students and Faculty alike.(19)
One alumnus remembers Charlie as follows:
His full, florid face with bristling white eyebrows could be stamped on a Roman coin. While he wore well tailored English clothes, one remembers him in a flowing toga, like those on the statues pictured on his wall, for he inhabited Virgil's Rome as Zeus Benner did Pericles's Athens. All year we read the Aenead, nothing else. Written as a work of fiction, an epic poem to glorify the origins of what had become Imperial Rome, this had none of the ring of observed events we found in the Iliad. But it was a stirring tale, clothed in elegant language, and Forbes used it as a guide to Augustan Rome, bringing that world alive as no other Latin teacher had done .... Forbes was an urbane, witty man. His manner in the classroom was that of a gentleman entertaining us in his home. He was acting Headmaster that year ... so when my parents came to visit we had dinner at his house, a beautiful Colonial one, elegantly furnished. He took us down to the basement to show us his woodworking shop, where he made fine furniture. Without Forbes, Rome and its great language would have remained dead for us. The others who taught Latin did it as a drill, with one goal in mind, high marks on the College Boards.
Another remembers a different aspect of Charlie Forbes:
He was always driven to his class by a uniformed chauffeur in a large black car occupying the rear seat by himself. He usually allowed an insufficient margin of time and according to the traditions of the day, when the bell rang, students were permitted to leave without incurring a "cut." Several times as he came up the stairs about 30 seconds too late the entire class would hide in other empty classrooms and go down the other stairway.
Another former student remembers the charming way in which Charlie taught meter:
He was a man of profound learning from the universities of Italy and Germany .... But his learning was never stuffy or pedantic. I can see him at his desk, beaming at us from behind his round spectacles and strumming out the rhythm of the dactylic hexameter ending with phrases like:
"Johnny, don't do that.
Sister, be careful.
Mama, come home now."
He would call out: "Think of a lovely girl's name; it had a dactylic hexameter ending like this:
And a fourth:
I did not find Latin an easy subject under Charlie Forbes as I tried to trot my way through his classes. I would like to have the money I spent on trots as each time Charlie caught me using one in class he took it away from me.
Allen Rogers Benner of the Class of 1888, Professor of Greek, 1892-1938.
Another Titan among Andover teachers in the 1920's was Allen Rogers ("Zeus") Benner. He had graduated from Andover in 1888 and four years later won his A.B. from Harvard summa cum laude. Cecil Bancroft persuaded him to return to Phillips Academy after graduation, and he remained at the School until his retirement in 1938, first as Instructor in Greek and later as Professor of Greek on one of Thomas Cochran's foundations. In 1928 he received an honorary Master of Arts from Amherst College, and he authored several Greek texts as well as performing yeoman service as Secretary of his Harvard class. Zeus was very conservative politically, and one of his pet aversions in his later years was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One day in class a boy asked what a "talent" was worth. Zeus replied, "About $1000, that is before Mr. Roosevelt's administration. Heaven knows what it is worth now." On another occasion Zeus tried to mail a package on Washington's Birthday, a national holiday, found the post office closed, and stomped down the steps, his arms stuck out like paravanes muttering "That man Roosevelt." Supposedly because of an unhappy love affair, Zeus was very shy with women. On one occasion a mother was visiting her son in Andover Cottage, Zeus's dormitory, when there came a knock on the door. It proved to be Zeus, who asked the son, "Has Fred the janitor made your bed?" The boy replied that he had. "Well he hasn't made mine," said Zeus. The Mother, wishing to be helpful, said "Mr. Benner, would you like me to make your bed for you?" Zeus's expression was one of horror as he said, "Oooooh Nooo, Dear Lady, Oooooh Nooo." But these are minor sides to him when compared to his power in the classroom and his lifelong devotion to his beloved Greek. It was his misfortune to watch the number of students taking the subject gradually decline, first when it was no longer required, and later when it got squeezed out of the curriculum by other supposedly more modern courses. Throughout his career, though the numbers in his classes might decline, the boys who had him would never forget the experience. For him teaching was his whole life, and his students were his friends, as his successor wrote of him:
But his whole life was really the school. Not long after his retirement he told me that scarcely a night passed that he did not dream of Andover. He left behind him the only monument any teacher desires, an abiding memory in the hearts of his pupils of a great subject greatly taught, and of a friendship which outlasts time and death.(21)
A former student writes of Zeus:
Zeus Benner was a joy in every respect. Handsome and dignified, possessed of profound learning, he loved his Greek and he was zealous to impart that love and that learning to his students. Zeus expected much of us and was concerned that every one of his boys should do well. Therefore we generally were happy to oblige him and do the best we could. But occasionally we "goofed off," and were unprepared for the day's assignment. We therefore devised a lightning rod that was guaranteed to divert the Olympian wrath. Shortly after the class convened---and before our deficiences could be revealed---one of us would guilelessly ask Zeus to tell us something about Paris. Paris to Zeus was the very lowest rung on the ladder leading down to Hell. The question, therefore, was sure to evoke a sermon on the iniquities of the City of Light, its denizens, its works. It was always good for the balance of the hour.
The following presents a different aspect of Zeus:
One of my pleasantest recollections of Andover days is the close association that I had with "Zeus" Benner. I lived across the hail from him on the top floor of Andover Cottage. Early in the year I convinced him that he should have an automobile so he purchased a Studebaker coupe and I proceeded to teach him how to drive, which was really a terrifying experience. However "Zeus" had it set with Al Stearns that he could take me out of town any time he wanted to and the result was that we left Andover every Wednesday at twelve o'clock, went to Boston, where Zeus would purchase tickets for the third row center at the best musical comedy in town, and then after the show, Zeus would always take me to dinner in some very nice restaurant and then thank me most kindly when we got back to Andover for having gone with him.
Not all his students were enthusiastic about Zeus, however:
Zeus Benner was, I thought, an eccentric but fascinating person. But he did me, and others studying Greek, a great disservice. When he saw us wearying as we marched 16 parasangs a day to the next "beautiful city" in Xenophon's Chronicles, he would say that our struggles with grammar and endings would be over when we got to the Iliad. But alas, at the first lesson senior year he wanted to know the difference between the classical and ancient endings. This finished me. I quit and have regretted it ever since.
And this extraordinarily sensitive account of Zeus by Amory Bradford, '30:
At Andover Cottage I climbed to the third floor and knocked on the heavy oak door of Benner's room. A rich deep voice, appropriate to Zeus the Thunderer, boomed out: "Come in." I remember the room as filled with sunlight, but so are all my memories of him. Seated in his big Morris chair by the window, his powerful body and strong, lined face radiated a calmed energy.
After reading the note, he put it aside, and turned to me: "You're Bradford, aren't you?"
"I hear you are a very good student. Why aren't you taking Greek?"
Startled, I explained that I had added French this year as a fourth course and second language, thinking that a modern foreign language would be more useful to me, but that I was disappointed in the way Mr. Parmalee was teaching it.
"It's a complete waste of time for you," he said. "You should transfer to Greek right away."
"Can I do that?"
"Of course! Of course! I'll write a note which you can take back to the Office." He scratched one out. Taking it back, I felt a new excitement, full of expectation. This was soon fulfilled. Once the strange alphabet, with its sense of mystery, was learned, which took about two days, Greek proved to be an easy language, much easier than Latin. Its sentence structure, more like English, did not involve the gymnastics of rearranging subject and verb, and the vocabulary exercises seemed more direct and meaningful. Benner helped this by tracing many roots from Sanskrit through Greek, Latin, German, French, and English, giving us a sense of the evolution of this family of languages.
By the end of the first year we were marching across Asia Minor with Xenophon, parasang after parasang, and finally rejoicing in the cry "thalassa, O thalassa" when we reached the sea. It was a small class, of about a dozen, all eager students, since it was an elective course and Benner taught with infective enthusiasm. His stories of Fifth Century Athens, of Pericles, Alcibiades and Socrates, of the plays from Prometheus to the Frogs, of customs and manners, were told us as if he had been there---as indeed he had. In his visits to Athens over thirty years his vivid imagination, fired by constant reading, had recreated there the people, the buildings, the very mood and spirit, of the Fifth Century B.C. In the classroom he was usually on his feet, striding up and down in front of the class as he talked, or leaning on a tall pointer he carried like a billiard cue to listen to someone recite.
Over half the desks were empty, and we were allowed to scatter among them, which gave an informal feeling. As I recall, though it seems unlikely, we remained seated to recite. At any rate, the feeling was that of taking part in an even conversational exchange on an interesting subject, in contrast with the master-pupil discipline encountered in most other classes. When a student came unprepared, Zeus was not angry, but seemed hurt, as if a friend had let him down. Seldom were any unprepared, since all preferred to risk anger elsewhere ....
His need for companionship was filled by friendships with some of his students. During the fall and winter, I frequently went on long walks with him over the surrounding hills, sometimes with others, sometimes just the two of us. As we talked, a strong friendship formed. In the spring, on Sundays and free afternoons, we drove in his blue Nash coupe to the nearby town of Ballardvale, on the Shawsheen River, to canoe and swim.
That summer he invited me to spend the month of August with him on his island near Waldeboro, Maine, where his family had been early settlers. I took the train to Rockland, where he met me. We spent the night in the house where he had grown up, one of the fine mansions built on Waldeboro's main street when it was a major port for sailing ships .... The next day, as we drove down to the shore of the tidal river, the name Benner appeared on many of the rural mail boxes. We parked the car near a dock which had a large lobster pound. He bought three wriggly lobsters out of the cold water, and rowed us in his dory a half mile to his island, one of a dozen scattered at the mouth of the river. His rough cabin consisted of a kitchen and two bedrooms. We bathed in the sun, on the smooth warm rocks outside, lunching on sandwiches of sardines and cheese .... Each day began with a swim off the pier in the icy water, which Benner, better insulated and more used to it, could take longer than I. Then we read in the sun, and canoed among the islands, and walked on them. All were wild and uninhabited. Terns and gulls followed us. Loons played and laughed off shore. A bald eagle, perched on a high dead tree, would soar out and dive on the hard-working ospreys, stealing fish they dropped before it hit the water.
Most of all we talked. Not constantly, since each of us enjoyed the outdoor silence, but a lot. I realize now that Benner guided much of this talk on the pattern of the Socratic dialogue, asking me a question, commenting on the answer, suggesting alternatives, and getting me to comment on them in turn. I felt free with him to open up inner thoughts, far more than I could with my contemporaries. He revealed very little of his personal life. He did tell me that former students who had succeeded in business had given him tips on good investments, so that he had been able in the rising market---this was the 1920's---to run his meager savings up to over $100,000, and could afford to retire in about ten years, and live in Maine and travel, instead of teaching beyond the time when he could do it well, as he saw others doing. One of these businessmen came by one day in his big schooner. We sailed all day---my first time on the ocean---with him and his attractive family. I noticed that Benner, who with his students had the air of a rather eccentric scholar, when he talked with this man assumed the manner of a man of the world, knowledgeable about business and travel. For the first time I could imagine him moving at ease in a hotel in a big city, or on an ocean liner, enjoying himself in a way that my father, who was diffident about such things, never could.
He did tell me a lot about Andover over the years, drawing on his experience there to illustrate a point he was making, as he did also with stories from ancient Greece . . . . He had a poor opinion of most of the teachers, who made their subjects into a drill for high marks on the college boards. An exception was Charlie Forbes, who taught Latin as he did Greek, in the old classic tradition, as a study of a civilization for its own human values. He shared my growing distaste for the athletic, manly version of Christianity then in vogue at the school, which regarded all nonmarital forms of sex as sinful and ugly, to be put down by hard exercise and cold showers. It became apparent, though he did not proclaim it, that he had absorbed the pantheistic religion of ancient Greece, and at two levels: not just the sophisticated, more symbolic version of Fifth Century Athens, but the deeper Homeric one, when gods and goddesses did walk on earth, to make love and war with humans, and to enter other living things, animal, and plants.
In 1932, when the Great Depression was getting deep, I visited Benner in Andover. The stock market crash had wiped out most of his savings, and he seemed broken in spirit. He believed that a revolution was coming, and kept his big blue Nash, full of gasoline, standing outside Andover Cottage ready to drive to Maine when it did.
Archibald Freeman, Instructor in History, 1892-1937.
From a portrait by E. Weber-Fülop in the possession
of the Trustees of Phillips Academy.
Phillips Academy's great history teacher during the 1920's was Archibald Freeman, known to his students as "Bitch" Freeman. The origins of his nickname are obscure: one group claims that it represented his exacting demands in the classroom; another claims that it derives from the fact that he failed a boy with a 59 average. In any event he was a man who insisted on excellence with a vengeance; a boy who did well in his course not only knew a great deal of American history but could write it up effectively as well. For all his rigorousness as an instructor, he was voted Best Teacher eight years out of ten during the decade, while his American history course was voted the hardest for a similar eight years out of ten, dropping second to solid geometry on only two occasions.(22) There is something remarkable about the students' giving recognition to the difficulty of the course and the ability of the teacher at the same time. Freeman devised a system for the study of American history that involved the keeping of a notebook, wherein the student would take notes from a variety of different sources. The standard textbook, with its monotonous assignments of so many pages a clay, day after day, was not for him. He was determined to train his students in making judgments on various kinds of historical materials and not simply in memorizing and regurgitating factual data learned by rote. For all his success, as measured by senior polls, few of his former students have written about him. One of the best descriptions is from a boy who never had his course but who heard about it from his friends:
In the Upper Middle and Senior years, I had the privilege of living in Foxcroft Hall which was under the quiet but effective tutelage of Jimmy Graham and Archibald (Bitch) Freeman. It is one of the continuing regrets of my life that I had courses under neither one. I particularly regret my failure to sit under Bitch, for he enjoyed a reputation in the academic world of being one of the toughest but most stimulating teachers in the nation. He was called "Bitch" because he ran a taut ship in his American History classes; structured his course so that it would take brains and stamina to run; and he was less than lavish with "A's" and "B's". For example, the reading of an accepted text was not enough, should you be studying the Draft Riots in New York City in the early 1860's. No! No! You must read original sources A, B, C, and D, to the end that you might make an intelligent judgment regarding the actions of Ferdinando Wood, New York's Mayor. I knew Bitch only as a housemaster and he was the sort of man whose peace and quiet almost all of us thought it was sacrilegious to disturb.
But not all his pupils approved of his methods:
Freeman's American history was taught in so disciplinary and rigid a fashion that he almost killed my love of the subject. No doubt I learned a lot, but the method was revolting, and I believe unnecessarily so. Fear is a poor teaching tool.
Winfield Michael Sides, Instructor in Mathematics, 1919-1958.
When it came to Mathematics, Winfield M. (Mike) Sides was in a class by himself. There were several competent mathematicians on the Faculty at this time, but Mike's dynamic personality made him unforgettable. Here is how three former pupils remember him:
In recent years I have come to love the work of teaching, the meeting and clashing of minds in the classroom; and never far from my thoughts as I prepare for class or work in class is the lithe, crackling, passionate presence of Mike Sides. To be in class with Mike Sides was to sit tight, hold fast, and ride out a wild breathtaking storm of numbers that burst into the room with him and swirled to all corners as he moved quickly about, stabbing at the board, hurling questions, prodding for accuracy, pleading with us to stretch our minds. "Visualize! Visualize!" was the cry in this room. Never a slow moment was there, nor any let up in the electricity, but there was always kindness and patience, too, for the slow man earnestly struggling. And for all the hundreds he taught, for all the blinding storms of numbers, Mike Sides never lost track of an individual, and never once forgot an old boy---Mike Sides, surely one of the great teachers of all time.(23)
To see Mike Sides after an Algebra class, hair all tousled, sweat dripping from his face after driving us through a hard session of logical reasoning and mental calculation was to recognize that he had in fact been working a lot harder than we had.
Those who had the privilege of sitting at the feet of Mike Sides will never forget it. It is little to be wondered at that Mike's students had such extraordinary results on the College Boards. An average mark for all students over a 20 year span of 90 in Plane Geometry, 95 in Solid Geometry and Trig and 98 in Mechanical Drawing. He had a very lively mind and a very lively method of teaching. His favorite word was "visualize" and he drove students to see their mathematics problems and the steps of solution in the mind's eye. Of course the blackboard was necessary for the more complex problems, and it was one of his demonstrations on the blackboard that completely enchanted me and may very well have been the inspiration which sent some students on to the mastery of the deeper esoterica of mathematics. We had been working on "originals" in our Plane Geometry, and after sweating over a few thorny ones, we gave way to Mike, who posed us an original that was quite beyond the abilities of us pedestrian souls; so Mike began his analysis and demonstration. It was like a slow-motion picture of the flowering of a rose from the tight uncommunicative bud to its full blown glory. The problem was solved, and we sat in silent awe at the beauty of the performance.
These four great teachers taught by pedagogical ability, without resort to fear. Bitch Freeman's stern insistance on excellence may have frightened some, but the respect in which he was held as the best teacher in the School means that only a few were put off. The success of these four in maintaining friendly relations with their students does not mean, however, that there were not other members of the Faculty who took a very different course. The leaders of those who believed in terrorizing their students were Horace Poynter and George Hinman, both Latin teachers. There appeared to be two Horace Poynters. On the one hand was a man who was an acknowledged leader of the Faculty, a dear friend and staunch supporter of Jack Fuess, a host whose hospitality was legendary in the Andover community. On the other hand was Horace Poynter the terror of the classroom who seemed to have divested himself of all the friendly, generous qualities that characterized the rest of his life. A former pupil writes, "I would warrant that not a single member of a Horace Poynter class remembers those long, terrifying recitations with anything but revulsion . . . . I don't remember ever going to his class without shaking .... I still shudder when I think of that man." John Monro, '30, has these recollections of Horace Poynter:
I spent three years at Andover, and above all else I learned from Horace Poynter to be thorough, to get the lesson right and get it cold, and to take a daily drubbing in class as a matter of course. All primitive societies depend on a ceremony of ordeal as a way of shaping up the young bucks fast, and as preparation for the ruder parts of our own civilization for the past thirty years Horace Poynter's classroom had a certain merit. Twenty-five of us did Cicero with him daily at 8 o'clock. It was a rough way to start the day, but it had the immediate advantage of making the rest of every day seem easy. And it had the happily unforeseen long-run advantage of making a depression and war seem easy too. The subject matter was Latin but that was subordinate to the main thing, which was simply ordeal. The daily routine was uniform and merciless. Horace Poynter sat to one side, sharp pencil poised over his fine-squared grade book, and he called on us one after another in strict alphabetical order. When your name was sounded you stood up, struggled with your lot of translation, and braced yourself for iron questions .... If you missed something clean, the grade would be zero, as you could plainly see by watching the pencil top; and the question passed to the next man. If he missed, then the question started a murderous alphabetical round, giving all hands their fair chance at failure for the day .... How grateful we all were to the man who could stop Horace Poynter's steamrolling questions! There was no nonsense in this classroom about culture or the fun of learning; what mattered was getting the stuff right and getting it cold and standing up to take your dose when your name was called.(24)
Another story is of Horace Poynter the disciplinarian outside the classroom at a time much earlier in his career. A group of boys in his house had climbed out the second-floor window one evening and gone to Lawrence. On their return they managed to hoist one another back into the house---except for one boy, a track star. Just as he was being hauled up, Poynter appeared, at which point his two hoisters let go and dropped him into Poynter's arms. He managed to break loose and dashed off, with Poynter after him. They ran all over town before Poynter finally pooped out at the cemetery, and the boy was able to get back to his room. The next day he had Poynter in class and feared the worst, for he was unprepared. Strangely enough Poynter never called on him. After class Poynter asked to see the boy, who approached in fear and trembling. After letting him sweat for a few minutes, Poynter reached out his hand and said:
Shake. I did not think you could do it, as I was a two-miler on the Yale track team and I did not think there was a boy in school who could beat me.
Is that all, sir?
I did not call on you today because I knew you did not do your homework, but be sure that you are prepared tomorrow.
And the writer sums up his impressions of the man:
That was typical of Horace Poynter, who showed that in spite of being a strict disciplinarian, he was human and a good sport. I never heard anyone who studied Latin under him have anything but praise for him as a teacher and they said they learned more from him than from any other teacher.(25)
Another terror to many undergraduates was George Walker Hinman. He had graduated from Andover in 1894 and from Harvard in 1898, in both places making a name for himself as a scholar. He returned to Andover in 1907 and soon became a legend on campus. At some point in his career he had lost a leg, and wore a wooden one. Legend has it that one Christmas a group of his students sent him a present of a pair of garters, one of which had a thumbtack in it. Georgie was quite popular with the boys in his house during his early years. As time went on, however, his behavior became more and more eccentric. Here are some recollections of Georgie:
Hinman was my housemaster for almost the whole of my four years because I stayed in Abbot House for all of that time except for the first term of my junior year when I roomed alone. The initial terror of him as my first Latin teacher, who wrote across my first paper "your father would be ashamed of this paper" eventually gave way to warm friendship and great respect. Senior year I read Horace with him. Indeed all of the boys in his house admired his gruff manner because they knew he would be in their corner in any matter involving them with the authorities. One incident proves it. On a very cold winter night a car stalled in front of Abbott House and its occupants, somewhat the worse for wear, got out and began shadow boxing and making a tremendous racket. We were all watching them from our windows when Georgie stomped down the walk and told them to be quiet. They began to give him some lip, whereupon he turned around and called, "All right, boys." Immediately a torrent of pajama clad youths burst from the house and the occupants of the car beat a hasty retreat.
In the course of a year I got to know Georgie well and liked him. When he made his rounds at night for a bed check he would often stop for a friendly word and always showed a willingness to help any of us with our studies or school problems. He was very loyal to the boys who lived in Abbot House, as he was to the members of PBX fraternity, where he served as faculty advisor. His appearance was deplorable, especially his dress. He went about the house in shirt sleeves, an open vest, well spotted with gravy, and often his fly was undone. Some years out of Andover I returned to the school with a friend and as was our custom we dropped in for a visit with Georgie. Going up the walk to Abbot House, my friend said, 'I'll bet you a quarter Georgie's fly is open.' He was right and I paid the quarter.
The incident that I want to describe occurred one night late in the Winter Term. We were aroused from our studies by Georgie's thundering voice coming up the stair wells, shouting "House! House! all down to my office at once!" We all knew of his terrible temper and this time he was boiling over. It seems that when he was making the rounds he found one of the boys' room had been "stacked." The unfortunate occupant of the room was a student who had lost both his hands in an accident earlier in his life; furthermore, he had just that evening returned from a few days' confinement in the infirmary. Georgie demanded to know which one of us was responsible for this trick. Finally a boy confessed. Georgie immediately phoned the Headmaster telling him he had a disciplinary problem and asked permission to handle it in his own way. With Al Stearns's OK, Georgie announced that such a rotten trick called for physical punishment and that the boy would be blindfolded and beaten with a paddle by one of us---i.e. the boy who drew the slip of paper with the cross on it. Of course, I, being the smallest and youngest, drew the marked slip. However, with Georgie's assent, the slip was passed to the football captain, and the beating was severely administered in the presence of all. The guilty boy did not return to school for the Spring Term.
These first two passages describe Georgie fairly early in his career. As time wore on, he became more and more violent in class, and his temper became almost uncontrollable. Here is a description of him near the end of his career, by Amory Bradford, '30:
Georgie Hinman glowered at us over his desk, an ugly, disturbed face, with big, pock-marked nose, wide mouth with turned down corners and loose lower lip, dark-circled eyes with sadness in them, and high forehead. His ill fitting black suit was spotted with food, the vest, supporting a gold chain and Phi Beta Kappa key, often buttoned wrong, the shirt and tie crooked. His method was the deliberate use of terror. We were reading Caesar, and stood to recite. When a student made a mistake, Hinman would roar at him: "Sit down, you imbecile", or "Write it a hundred times on the blackboard", or "Go stand in the corner, you dunce." It was the tone, a mean one, in which these things were bellowed that hurt. Also the gestures that accompanied them. He would pound his fist on the desk, or slam open a drawer, take out a steel pen, and jab it into the desk top, leaving it quivering there as if it were in the body of his victim. We were seated alphabetically, which put me in the front row, but with three others ahead of me, who recited first, as we always went in alphabetical order. They often made mistakes, which gave me an advantage in taking the same line. With this, and hard work, I seldom made mistakes. When I did, he did not yell at me, but said wearily, "Sit down." . . . In spite of his ways, most students liked him, and enjoyed telling others about his latest antics. But a few were really upset. All worked hard, and our average on the College Boards was in the high eighties, one of the best in the school. I became friendly with Hinman, who could be agreeable out of class, and used to babysit with his children when he and his wife went out in the evening. But he treated his children the way he did his students, and it was not a happy family.
One of Georgie's favorite disciplinary measures was to throw students who had displeased him out of class, often adding one thousand demerits for good measure. One alumnus who did not have an eight o'clock class remembers clocking his roommate, who had Georgie at eight o'clock. The average time the roommate lasted with Georgie was twenty minutes, and the alumnus would see him walking back to the dormitory at 8:20. A few times he made it until 8:30. But never, the alumnus remembers, did he make it for a whole period. In the early 1930's various parents protested so vigorously about Georgie that he was removed as a classroom teacher and made a tutor, in the belief that a with a one-to-one relationship he might do better. Yet it must be admitted that, like most schoolboys who remember best the teachers who were holy terrors, the Andover graduates of this general era probably remember Georgie better than almost any other member of the Faculty.
Limitations of space preclude discussion of most of the other Faculty members, though a number will appear later in these pages. Generally speaking, the Faculty was conservative---educationally, politically, and socially. When it came to curriculum matters, there had been little change since the early 1900's. The so-called Classical course at the turn of the century put great emphasis on Latin, Greek, modern languages, English, and mathematics. There was one two-hour required course in natural sciences for the juniors---the equivalent of 9th graders---and it was possible to elect some history in the senior year; but the whole was language-oriented. The so-called Scientific Department required some work in history and the sciences, but it, too, insisted on a heavy dose of languages.(26) In the late 1920's little had changed. This was the heyday of John Dewey and progressive education, but there is no evidence that any of these educational reforms had any effect on Phillips Academy, aside from eliciting anguished cries of outrage from Al Stearns. Two changes had been introduced: Greek was no longer a required subject, much to Zeus Benner's dismay, and the distinction between the Classical and Scientific departments had been abolished, thus putting all the boys on an equal basis. The number of elective courses had been considerably broadened, but it was still possible to get an Andover diploma without having taken any course in either science or history. Yet the winds of change were beginning to reach even Andover Hill.
In 1929-30 a new course called "Science and Religion" and later "Religion and Modern Life" was introduced. It was to be offered for one hour a week for the last three years of a boy's course. The teacher was Alexander Buell Trowbridge, a former Rhodes scholar who had made a fine record with a course of this kind at the Hill School in Pennsylvania. Al Stearns was greatly taken with him and hoped he would enliven and modernize the religious program of the school. The only course offering in the field before then was in the Bible, taught by "Inchy" Spencer, a diminutive English teacher. Unfortunately, "Religion and Modern Life" never came off at Andover. For one thing, Buell Trowbridge expected all the upperclassmen to write theses, and this was rough for a one-hour course. He was also at times naive. He told his classes he was sure that many boys were having difficult sex problems and added that if they were shy about coming to see him, they should write him unsigned letters. This opportunity was too good to miss and writing letters about sex to Buell became a favorite indoor sport. On one occasion he announced that he simply must see the boy who had written him a letter signed "Desperate." The basic idea of the course-to bring religion up to date for the boys was admirable, but unfortunately, it never realized its objective. In 1933 would come a major curricular revision---the first since the days of Cecil Bancroft.
Politically, the Faculty was apparently strongly Republican. The only straw poll conducted during this period was done by the Phillipian in 1924. According to that poll 19 Faculty members were for Coolidge, 15 for Davis, and 1 for LaFollette (who could he have been?)(27) At first glance this result might seem to belie the Republican strength of the Faculty, but it must be remembered that John W. Davis was a very conservative figure, a Republican in all but name, and although there is no record available, the chances are that in 1928 (when Al Smith, a real Democrat, ran), the Faculty closed ranks behind Hoover. Social life was very formal. When a new man and his wife came to Andover, older Faculty members would first call and leave cards. Then the new couple would return the call and leave cards. Then, after an appropriate interval, the new couple would receive an invitation to dinner. This was always a black-tie affair, with a maid waiting on table. When it came time for the new couple to return the dinner invitation, it usually knocked the family food budget galley west for a week or two.(28) But this formality, inherited from the Theological Seminary, did not last the decade, and the depression killed whatever was left of it. A central place for Faculty socializing was the Faculty Club, previously the office of the Administration before it moved to Brechin Hall. Apparently this small building was used a great deal by most of the teachers. There was a pool table, card tables, a coffee mess, and, above all, a chance to smoke. Because the Faculty were not supposed to smoke in public, the Club filled a definite need. Generally speaking, the Faculty was a congenial hard-working group. Al Stearns's often impulsive way of hiring Faculty resulted in wide diversity.(29) To be sure, there were occasional feuds. Archie Freeman and Charlie Forbes had not spoken to each other for twenty-five years, for example. But for the most part it was a strong and dedicated group of men.
The Phillips Academy undergraduate body in the 1920's had not changed markedly from the period before the war. During the decade the student body continued to grow, from 582 in 1921 to 667 in 1930, but not until 1937 did the total pass the 700 mark.(30) The distribution of the students among the four classes did not change much either. In 1921 there were 172 seniors, 163 uppers, 143 lowers, and 104 juniors. Ten years later there were 193 seniors, 185 uppers, 170 lowers and 111 juniors. The proportions remained almost exactly the same; the differences in the figures represent the increase in the size of the School. The geographical distribution of the undergraduates also remained fairly stable during this period. In 1921, 1925, and 1931 the top five states represented were Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, although there was a slight variation in rank according to numbers. Massachusetts dominated throughout the period from 173 in 1921, 196 in 1925, and 168 in 1931. The five top states accounted for more than half the School in each of these three years. After the top five, representation scattered broadly. In 1921 36 states and 16 foreign countries were represented, the foreign students coming mainly from the Orient and South America. In 1925 38 states and 14 foreign countries were represented, while in 1931 it was 40 states and 9 foreign countries. When it came to college choices, it was clear that the tradition of going to Yale, established under Uncle Sam Taylor, was still strong. 65 out of a senior class of 161 went to New Haven in 1921, 74 out of 168 in 1925, and 89 out of 201 in 1931, this last figure approaching half the class. Harvard was next with 38, 31, and 29 in the three years studied, while Princeton enrolled 29, 30, and 11, this last figure marking a sharp drop in interest in Old Nassau. M.I.T. was the only other college to have matriculants in two-digit figures, with Amherst, Williams, Dartmouth, and Brown having each a handful. Compared to college admission records later in the century, the number of colleges selected by Andover graduates---and nongraduates as well---was relatively small. The careers chosen by the Phillips Academy graduates were for the most part fairly conventional. The Class of 1927, for example, produced 28 businessmen, 28 lawyers, 15 managers, 11 insurance salesmen, 10 bankers, 10 teachers, and 8 doctors. On the other hand, there were 8 in Civil Service, 8 newspapermen, 5 writers, 4 in the Foreign Service, 3 farmers, 2 publishers, 2 ministers, 2 architects, and 1 librarian---and, of course, many others who were single representatives of a variety of other occupations. The prevailing impression to be gained from these limited statistics is of a student society characterized by stability in mores, with a consensus on what was proper procedure for undergraduates, for college choice, and for later careers.(31)
One alumnus who calls himself "Phillips" describes student life in this period. When he came to Andover in the fall of 1929, he found that he had been assigned to Andover Cottage---one of the school's most modern dormitories in 1895. Out of respect for the architectural integrity of this structure, the School authorities had done nothing to change it since it had been built, aside from slapping a heavy coat of varnish on floors, woodwork, desks, and chairs every summer. This had the effect of permanently sealing into the wood all the ink blots, scars, initials, and doodles, and by 1929 the collection was impressive. The overwhelmingly dominant color of the rooms in Andover Cottage was brown---good taste, he says, prevents him from being more specific as to the exact shade---which produced a sombre Victorian atmosphere. In an effort to save space above ground, the shower room and toilets had been installed in the basement, which also served as a kind of social and athletic club, since it was far from the eye and ear of Zeus Benner, the Housemaster. Phillips spent many a happy time that fall swinging from the basement water pipes and trying to do belly grinds. He heard that in Bancroft Hall, where the plumbing was also in the basement, there was a practice of urinating out of the third-floor windows to avoid the long descent into Avernus, and that the Housemaster used to sit up late at night with his window open, waiting for the pitterpatter outside in hopes of catching the culprits; but there is no record of such goings-on in Andover Cottage, presumably because Zeus Benner was installed on the third floor himself.
When Phillips' alarm went off at 6:45 in the morning, he often didn't have to shut the windows, for the simple reason that they weren't open. If there was a wind outside, plenty of air came in through the loose-fitting window frames, and in the winter, when gales blew straight across from Mount Wachusett, the bedroom was no place for brass monkeys. Phillips did not eat at the Beanery but at Berry House, because he had been signed up by a friend of his on scholarship to fill up a table. Berry House was then presided over by Rocky Dake, recently married and still more recently a father. Rocky ran Berry House in a firm but good-humored way. Every now and then, when food was being tossed around, he would come over and tell us that our table was worse than the pig-sty on his family farm in New York state. Ruth Dake believed in giving her young son plenty of sunshine, and on warm days used to put the baby in its pen with no clothes on. It was reported that Mrs. Arthur Leonard, stopping to see the baby on one of these days, had stared fixedly at the naked child for a minute or so and then remarked, "Wouldn't you just know he's a boy?"
After breakfast came chapel, in the old church that Andover had acquired from the Theological Seminary. It was a gloomy structure, and Phillips felt that the fall-out from Calvinistic sermons of the past had not been entirely dissipated. After singing scales and going through other vocal gymnastics for that fierce lover-of-Bach Carl Friedrich Pfatteicher, Phillips had made the Choir and Glee Club, and since at morning chapel the Choir sat in the stalls at the front of the church, he had a ringside seat for the daily performance. On the platform sat that great triumvirate Al Stearns, Charlie Forbes, and Pooby Bancroft. Phillips could not imagine Andover without Al Stearns---without question one of the most powerful personalities he had ever known before or since. He reminded Phillips of a battle-scarred eagle. His glance scanned the assembly each morning like a radar device, unbelievably sensitive to any "bogey" of student misbehavior that might appear on his screen. Phillips would never forget how he prayed---eyes tight shut, reinforcing each plea to the Almighty with a short forward movement of his foot. Charlie Forbes, by contrast, lent an aura of Pickwickian geniality to the proceedings, as he twinkled benignly on the undergraduate body. And then there was Pooby, stumbling through the daily notices.
By some strange quirk of Freddie Boyce's scheduling procedure, Phillips found that he had no classes before ten o'clock on any day. Thus each morning, after chapel, he would trudge back to an empty Andover Cottage. It didn't stay empty long, however. By 8:15 the first refugees from Georgie Hinman's Latin class would come straggling in. In addition to the fugitives from Georgie Hinman, a regular morning visitor at Andover Cottage was Freddie Grant, the janitor. Freddie was a sprightly little grey-haired man with an unlimited fund of stories, most of them dirty. He also had a distinguished collection of old magazines of the Captain Billy's Whizbang variety, which he used to dole out to undergraduates who he thought could profit from reading them. What with Al Stearns's prayers and Freddie Grant's stories, Phillips usually felt well fortified to meet his first class of the day with Liz Parmalee in French 3 at 10:00.
Chapter Fourteen, continued
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