YAM Notes: November/December 2018

By Rich Banbury

Recently this column has mentioned numerous books authored and published by various members of our classmates.  One concept for this idea is the gaining number of those retired, now looking to fill up the average day, with the actuary looking over his shoulder.

Here are two new nonfiction books connected to Yale. First is Stones of Yale by Adam Van Doren, published by David R. Godine (2018). Having his doctorate from Columbia, Adam now is a Fellow at Davenport and a lecturer in art and architecture at Yale; he has also been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. For each chapter in this book, Van Doren critiques an individual edifice on campus, as well as a few off campus. The initial is the Elizabethan Club which he likes quite a bit, using the name of “the Lizzie.”  His host “assured me that in the summer the backyard would be filled with croquet players.” Van Doren was inspired by Vincent Scully, like so many of our class. He appreciates the artistic nature of rowing and in the book discusses the good Gilder boathouse as well as a visit to the Thames River in New London. There he focuses on the Yale/Harvard four-mile race which was once of national interest:  “In the fall of 1925, more than a hundred thousand people crowded the banks of the Thames. . . . In 1935 one of the cars would carry Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had come to watch his son Franklin Jr. compete for the Crimson. Rowing still has a good life.”  He remarks, however, that polo—“that genteel sport”—has waned.  For Van Doren, the Yale campus is like a small city, and he particular favors the Beinecke, inside and out. He generally loves the architecture of each of the colleges but takes a cold look at Stiles and Morse. He likes Timothy Dwight, smaller and more comfortable, and geographically the closest to Paris!   As an aside, each college chooses one outstanding senior for their class historian. Ned Cabot, a wonderful and admired classmate, was chosen by TD; we lost him on May 15, 2018.

The second nonfiction book is Sudden Sea, The Great Hurricane of 1938, by R. A. Scotti.  The author, a writer for the Providence Journal, grew up in Rhode Island hearing stories about the 1938 hurricane, which led her to research this book. In September of 1938, the National Weather Bureau office in Jacksonville, Florida, had predicted that this hurricane would slide up to the northeast, but the predictions were not coming in time. This disastrous storm was known to have had 682 fatalities.  On September 21, 1938, there was an autumnal equinox during which the sun and moon aligned with the earth, causing a double gravitational pull to produce the highest tides.

The great majority of the class of 1960 at Yale was born in 1938.  Out of about 1,000 enrolling, eight came from Rhode Island.  Those were Zach Allen, Norman Baker, Morton Cross, Allison (DurfDurfee, Andrew Erickson, David Shore, John Wedlock, and Bill Worth. John was born on April 9, 1938. His family discussed for decades the family stories about 1938 and the surprise Hurricane.  John’s grandfather lived at the Galilees, a village by the water. During the storm, the family lost a cottage, a cabin cruiser, and a Cadillac.

There are 30 photographs in the book, including one of Katharine Hepburn, who managed to get away from her home at Fenwick in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.  The book says that on that day she “played her best game of golf, shooting a hole-in-one on the ninth hole of the Fenwick Golf Course the morning of the hurricane.” Norman Baker, born February 19, 1938, adds this:  “I was only seven months old when the 1938 hurricane struck Rhode Island.  My family lived on the east side of Providence, which is on a hill overlooking the city. It avoided the flood damage that affected the business section of the city.  Years later, as I walked around downtown, I was astounded at the extent of the flooding that had occurred.  Markers on some of the buildings showed water levels of about six or seven feet in the streets closest to the Providence River.  I also remember the construction of the hurricane barrier across the mouth of the Providence River.  I am guessing that this occurred in the 1950s.”