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Memories of Michigan

The Michigan Alumnus, April 1978, Page 15

In 1927, when I became a junior in the U-M Medical School, our classes changed to the University Hospital, adding several miles to my daily walk to and from my room in southern Ann Arbor. I enjoyed the walk, but needed the time for study, so I bought a small Boston bag, resembling a doctor's bag, and a pair of roller skates. Every day I would skate to within a block of the hospital, remove my skates, put them in the bag, and walk sedately into the hospital. Skating had be-come very popular on campus at that time — no cars!

Eugene C. Jacobs, '29med

Vero Beach, Fla.

One of my most cherished memories is my three years with the Michigan Opera in the pre-World War I days.

At that time, the Michigan Union was an old frame building, and the Michigan Opera was one of the money-raising projects for the new building. The Opera — play, music and lyrics — was written by students and was done by an all-male cast. Some of those football players with their large muscular legs didn't look like chorus girls, but we got by. It was quite a job dragging them out of the "saloons" next to the theatre in their girl outfits to get them onstage.

During Easter vacation, we went on tour in a special train with three Pullman sleepers, a dining car and two baggage cars. On one of the tours, we played the Academy of Music in Saginaw, Mi., and the next day it burned down completely. (We were never blamed.) We even played at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

The problems were numerous. There was an outbreak of scarlet fever. The musicians' union tried to make us join the state union, refusing to let our college orchestra play unless we paid for a complete union stand-by orchestra. Once we left Toledo on the train bound for Grand Rapids with two firemen manning the engine who had never been over the route before — and no engineer.

We raised $100,000 a year to build the new Union building. My days with the Opera ended in 1917 when I was general manager. I wonder how many alumni remember those three years. I'd like to hear from some of them.

Arthur A. Schupp, '17eng

Tucson, Ariz.

This winter has made very vivid a memory of my undergraduate days that I don't exactly cherish (as you suggest) but that has caused me some reflections.

I was an undergraduate from1927-1931, and, as I lived on Oak-land St., my daily path to the campus those four years took me through the Engineering Arch. It was an era of short skirts and silk stockings, and I never got sufficiently numb during my daily four blocks to the campus entrance to miss the icy blast through that wind tunnel. I used to watch the "eds" with flannel trousers (which could have covered any number of wool socks and even long Johns) and curse my fate.

I'm sure the wind blows just as hard as ever through the arch, but now everybody can wear pants. I mull regretfully over the remark, "Born 50 years too soon!"

Louise E. Rorabacher, '31

Sun City, Fla.

Here are two tales guaranteed to be of little (but with luck, some) interest to a university some 65 years older and ever so much grander than when I was there:

During my freshman year as an engineering student, a classmate invited me to study with him in a mathematics course. I felt honored, partly because I was from a small town and he was obviously from a much better family in a large Eastern city. On one particular evening when we were working together in his beautifully furnished room, he was quite distressed because of a blue book exam the next day. I tried my best to reassure him that he need not worry about it. The next morning, there was a front-page item in the Michigan Daily: "An Engineering Freshman Commits Suicide." I still wonder why.

Another memory . . . forge shop was a required course for all freshmen engineers. One bearded, apron-wearing professor was, I am sure, a relative of the mythical Vulcan. He knew quite well that pounding iron was considered a waste of time by an aspiring engineer. Because of this, he used a combination of expert knowledge and superb craftsmanship to create as much interest as possible in the course. On one occasion, after having ordered the class into a tight circle around his forge and anvil, he demonstrated the malleability of soft, cold iron by rapidly pounding a piece of the half-inch square rod out to a symmetrical point. Suddenly, the piece of iron flipped out of his tongs and landed on the floor at our feet. While we all stood and wondered how a blacksmith could be so clumsy, one of our classmates reached down quickly to pick up the iron — and dropped it with a squawk of pain. Our teacher then explained that iron gets hot when it is "worked." To quote von Goethe: A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one good action . . . accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects ..."

To give an idea of how times have changed since I graduated: In a discussion back in 1918, an instructor of aeronautical engineering remarked that there was not much interest in his course — but that he felt "there is a future in aviation."

Maynard G. Cosgrove 17eng

Cherry Hill, N.J.

Fifty years ago the winter this is written, the automobile had nearly obliterated the central campus, and President Clarence Cook Little was about to ban it altogether. I didn't own one, so I pondered how and where to go on the evening before the Saturday night fraternity party to which I had invited my Detroit school teacher weekend guest.

Inspiration: a cutter-ride! A livery stable somewhere north and west of Liberty and Maynard rented riding horses in the warmer months. And now that there was a hard snowpack several inches thick on the streets, you could have one of these same spirited animals hitched to a light sleigh. "What fun! Let's!" said my date. (At the time, I had never driven any horse under any conditions.)

Nevertheless, all began very well. Snugly lap-robed, we drove smartly out North U. and Washtenaw's fraternity row, then cut over to Packard — the center of which at that time carried the rails that bore the big red cars from Ypsilanti and points east. Having euphorically forgotten that fact of life, I turned briskly onto Packard about a hundred yards in front of an incoming limited with a single gigantic, glaring headlight. Spooked instantly to frenzy by this monster, our steed wheeled right, took the center of the road, and was off in a gallop with Cyclops in close pursuit, its motorman clanging his gong.

Since the distance between our runners did not match that between the rails, the cutter was dragged along, leaning perilously first to the right then to the left, as one runner or the other rode the snow pack while its mate was ice-rutted on a steel rail. As I gee-ed, haw-ed and sawed the reins like the heroes in early movies and 19th century novels, it was first one side high, then the other, rocking wildly.

"Always try to head a run away up a hill," I recalled that someone had said or written. At Hill St., both feet braced against the dashboard with my steed's hooves pounding on my soles, I managed a last heroic "Gee!" and got both runners off the rails and out of behemoth's path. The price was a capsized cutter, minus its shafts, which our late motive power trailed as he headed for the barn.

My date and I spilled out onto the icy pavement, she on top, holding me tightly. We were, literally, "thrown together." No bones were broken, and help came soon, but I never escaped that nice embrace.

Alfred C. Bowman, '26, '29law

Hermosa Beach, Calif.

As a graduate of Michigan I have so many beautiful memories of places, times, people and events. The one that brings Michigan closer to me never was part of the University proper — it was the old train station.

Like many others, I came by train from a small town, never having lived far from home. As we came in sight of Ann Arbor, there on a hill stood the stark white building, the new University Hospital. Seeing it frightened me; then we arrived at the train depot. There was no classmate to welcome me because, due to bad weather, I had left home a few days early, but that old depot seemed to know that many such as I came through its door. I sat on a hard seat and said to myself, "I've come this far, and this I must do." I completed my nurse's training at the University and loved every bit of Michigan then — and ever since.

I went back with my sons after the depot became a restaurant. It wasn't until a train blew its whistle as it went past that all the memories came flooding back.

Is there any other building at the University that saw so much loneliness, happiness, fear and sorrow When the year was finished, some would go out into the world with a diploma in their hands, others would be tearful because they didn't quite make it. All the hellos and goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. No one really did.

As I write this, I wonder how many Michigan alumni who used that depot are still around. That's a club all of its own!

Grace E. Meddick, '31nurs

Detroit, Mich.

In the early months of 1929, I was a freshman medical student. I was summoned to the dean's office one morning. There, to my bewilderment, I was accused of having received a traffic ticket while driving a car in town. The dean strongly hinted I would be asked to leave the University. (Student driving was strictly prohibited in those years, and was punishable by expulsion.)

After the initial shock wore off, I explained that I had never driven a car in Ann Arbor and there had to be some mistake. A few phone calls to the police cleared up the problem— someone else with the exact same first and last name as mine was the "culprit."

"You'd better use your middle name also, from now on," said the dean, unsmiling. "I don't have one," I replied. "Well," he said, patting a small bust of Teddy Roosevelt on his desk, "I've always liked the name Theodore."

And so I left Ann Arbor in 1932 with my M.D. degree as well as a middle name.

Albert T. Berg, '32med

Staten Island, N.Y.

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