From political beliefs to basketball glory, Jim Moore, BA/55, took attendees back 60 years with his speech at the Milestone Anniversary Brunch at Throwback 2015, painting with words a series of vignettes from a 1950s Carleton University (then known as Carleton College). He would go on to become a professor of political science at Loyola College (now Concordia University), but he fondly remembered playing back in the day for Carleton College’s not quite mighty varsity basketball squad, trekking down to Lisgar Collegiate to use their practice gym because there wasn’t one on campus. Here is his speech.
Carleton College in the early 1950s was an amazing place. It did not start well for me at Carleton. I registered initially in the Bachelor of Commerce program, but fortunately for me, the professor of accounting took me aside one day and said: “Moore, you may be talented at something, but it is certainly not this. My advice to you is to withdraw from this program and try something else.” I took his advice and transferred to the BA program with a major in political science and optional courses in philosophy, sociology, English and French.
It is one of the advantages of small colleges that conversations of this kind were possible and frequent. You got to know your professors and your fellow students. Carleton was a very small college. There were no more than a few hundred students in the college at that time. I have counted 96 graduates in my copy of Raven ’55. Twenty-four faculty members appear in two group photographs in the yearbook.
The administration of the college invested in inspirational professors. John Porter was one: thoughtful, profound. His great work, The Vertical Mosaic, was still in gestation. I was in one of his seminars with five other students, and we read the writings of Sigmund Freud, Erich Fromm and theorists of social and political power: Pareto, Mosca and Michels.
There was Hans Jonas in philosophy. He left Carleton in 1954 to join the staff of The New School for Social Research [in New York City], where he would be reunited with his old friend Hannah Arendt, the formidable political philosopher. Both had been students of Martin Heidegger in the 1920s. There was a symposium one evening at the home of a professor: it was sponsored by a gathering of students and professors called the Social Science Society. Hans Jonas interrupted a paper given by John Porter to ask him bluntly whether he distinguished between art and trash, to which Porter replied, “I would say only ‘There is that which I prefer.’ ”
One had the sense that one was in the presence of fine minds who were able to conduct their disagreements in civil, mutually respectful ways.
The professor who inspired me more than anyone was Paul Fox, who taught the history of political thought. He divided the class of 24 into two groups of 12, who met once a fortnight. We were expected to have written for each class a short paper on one of the texts of Plato, Aristotle, Locke or J.S. Mill. Paul had a gift for eliciting the character and mode of thought of each one of these authors and of each one of his students. I thought: this is what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I spoke to Paul about it one evening. He told me he would be leaving Carleton for the University of Toronto, and he invited me to join him as his teaching assistant. His class at the U of T numbered 200 students, which he divided into eight groups of 25 for seminars: he took 100 of the students, leaving the other 100 for me.
Paul was attempting to recreate the kind of education we had enjoyed at Carleton. This was made more challenging by the sheer number of students in Toronto. There were some remarkable students at Carleton in the ’50s: Robert McNeil, who later teamed with Jim Lehrer to form the McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, was one of them. There was Kennedy Wells, the first atheist I had ever encountered; he was also an anarchist in his politics.
There was Patricia Nicholl, a sensitive and popular woman; she had been head girl at Glebe, and she married the star of our basketball team, Syd Addelman. Carleton had a football team, a hockey team and a basketball team. I played on the basketball team. We were not a team comparable in any way to the recent teams from Carleton that have won national championships. We played in an era before the jumpshot was invented, if you can imagine such a time. Our strategy was to get the ball in to Syd Addelman, who could shoot hook shots with either hand. There was a small man on our team, Bill Harbach, whose particular talent was his ability to get the ball in to Syd. Harbach seemed to play the game below the knees of the opposing team: he rolled the ball to Syd.
And we had no gymnasium of our own. We practised in the gym of Lisgar Collegiate, and we played games in the gym of Fisher Park High School. We played in a city league against the Mormon Elders, among others. The Mormons all seemed to be seven feet tall and they forgave us each time we fouled them, which annoyed some of my teammates.
We also played in an interuniversity league that included teams from eastern Ontario and Quebec. And we took long trips every year to play St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Our coach was Norm Fenn, the director of athletics. I have always considered Norm a great man. When we went on long trips, it was an education in itself to listen to Norm.
He told us of his work with Gandhi at the time of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. It was a terrible time, requiring the displacement of millions of people. Norm, a big man of great strength, was a pacifist. He stood beside Gandhi on a platform with Jinnah, the charismatic leader of the Muslims.
There had been a massacre of Hindus in Calcutta, and there was great concern that the Hindus would take revenge. Gandhi embraced Jinnah as a brother to signal to the Hindus that they should prefer peace and love to retaliation and revenge.
There was another class at Carleton that has left me with wonderful memories. It was a course on English literature taught by Munro Beattie. We read novels by Thomas Hardy, Samuel Butler and D.H. Lawrence. We read the poetry of T.S. Eliot: “The Wasteland and Four Quartets.”
But some of the finest writers of English literature in the 20th century were Irish: James Joyce, Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats. We were asked to write a critical exegesis of a poem by Yeats. I chose “The Second Coming.” I should have chosen “The Song of Wandering Angus.” But I now recognize why I did not choose it: it is the fantasy of an older man. I am an older man now, and I often recite it to myself and sometimes to others:
I went into a hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head,
I cut and trimmed a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry by a thread;
And while white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
I laid the trout upon the floor
And went to blow the fire aflame,
When something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossoms in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hilly lands and hollow lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and time are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
This is William Butler Yeats. Isn’t it a pleasant fantasy?
When I was fortunate enough to be appointed a professor at Loyola College in Montreal, it reminded me of Carleton as I had known it. Loyola had a reputation for academic excellence. The classes were small enough to permit interaction with other students and with the professor.
Interdisciplinary courses emerged spontaneously, including social change and mediaeval thought. This is what is supposed to happen at small colleges. And it inspired some of us to persuade our colleagues to create small colleges within a university that now numbers more than 40,000 students.
It is not an accident that many of our best students—Rhodes Scholars, recipients of the Provost’s Medal for Academic Excellence—come from the colleges.
Thank you for allowing me to reminisce with you about Carleton College in the early 1950s. It was a memorable place and time.