Class of '41
A Sing Along for Dear Classmates:
These words and music appear on page 39 in Gustavus Adolphus Song Book (1924). This is a slim 59-page gray paperback containing school songs and old-time melodies. Price $1.00 plus postage.
"To one whose cheery smile and sunny disposition have inspired a song in the heart of many a student. To Dr. J. P.Uhler, our Grand Old Man, we dedicate this, the first song-book of Gustavus.”
I’m tempted to say “the first and only” songbook of Gustavus. It represents well the songs we sang 1937-41―not only to the Dr. Uhler of Uhler Hall (remember how we named that dorm?), but the Alma Mater, p. 9, words by John Helmer Olson, Tempo de marcia, music by A. W. Anderson. There is a song, p.15, called “Old Main,” too, by R. Lagerstrom.
I don’t recall singing “There are buildings on the hill, filled with memories to review, Call them whatsoe’er you will,―Large or small, or old or new, In importance though it rise or fall, yet Old Main’s the grandest to us all.” That was in 1924.
In 1937 to 1941 we regarded Old Main with the respect due a historic place. It was where my Dad, Emil Gustaf Swanson ’07, lived when he was studying for his Bachelor of Commerce degree, May MCMVII. He and the boys lugged kerosene up the long College Hill for their lamps in their Old Main rooms.
My college mates remember the first-floor ethics class taught by Edgar Carlson ’30 where my South Hall friend, Ruth Bostrom (Esbjornson), could take up the whole hour personally discussing some sticky point of view with the prof, releasing the rest of us from participation.
Remember, too, the Old Main interior steps―Oof!―the three flights up to Prof Evan Anderson’s extemporaneous speech class. I was reluctant and slow most days, but especially when I knew it would be my turn to be called on for a speech on a person in the news. Up the stairs, puff puff, settling in, called on first, subject Wallis Simpson. I spoke with frequent deep breaths and pounding heart. From the back of the room came Prof Evan’s voice, “Best use of the pause I’ve ever heard.” (I didn’t think he was even listening, just looking out the window at Old Gus.)
There were only two flights of stairs to biology class on the second floor, where Dr. Elson read his lecture out of our textbook, and I (like cartoonist, James Thurber) could see only my own eye in the microscope.
Now, Old Main under renovation is still a familiar sight, but stripped down to the basic construction of 1874-75, it is a wonder to behold. Steps, yes, but with all floors removed in the northwest corner to provide space for an elevator, bottom floor to top.
The bottom floor, still a half dozen steps down from the sidewalk, is where we waited in the Caf line (no chiseling). Inside, Ponnie Sellstrom would serve half portions of meat (if requested), and we could get two heels of bread for a penny. All was paid for by tickets from our meal books. We aimed to make a book last for three weeks―price $10 ($9.75 for cash). Even double desserts (chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream) once in a blue moon.
Maybe you can’t come now to observe the look of the stately presence, but Old Main will be open for visits at Commencement time.
Recently Chet and I were taken on a tour of Old Main by Warren Wunderlich, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. Warren carried the original drawings used by the builders in 1874-75. The drawings were variously labeled “For the Swede College” and for the “Swedish School in St. Peter.” We wore white hard hats, courtesy of Kraus-Anderson who have the Old Main contract and who are also constructing the new dormitory located west of the Science Hall and the Fine Arts buildings, Chet’s impressions follow:
Old Main Revisited
Several weeks ago Warren Wunderlich, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds at Gustavus, invited Marian and me to inspect Old Main where renovation of the interior has been underway since the beginning of February. We were joined by Art Glass ’43, who was a student here in the 1940s and who later became chairman of the biology department at Gustavus. So, we ventured into the building, which carries many memories for all of us.
I first became acquainted with Old Main in the fall of 1940 when I came to Gustavus to reintroduce geology into the curriculum. An occasional course had been taught here since 1888, but the subject had gone into a state of hibernation beginning in the mid 1930s. In 1940 Old Main was the abode of physics, biology and chemistry, Christianity and speech with the Cafeteria occupying the basement. There was not room for a geology department in Old Main, so I was exiled to the west basement of Uhler and found a home between a rundown recreation room and the College and Lutheran archives presided over by Dr. Joshua Larson. However, I spent part of my time on the second floor of Old Main where I presided over several general biology labs. I did not know much about biology, but my student assistant Chet Thiem did, and thanks to him my ignorance was decently clothed until I got the hang of things. Necessity made me a fast learner.
I also paid frequent visits to the Caf at the lower level. I remember the serving line toward the west end of the building and the dining room, which occupied the north side of the basement. Both of these areas became home to the geology department beginning in the fall of 1946. By then the food service had migrated to the lower level of Uhler beginning with the arrival of the V-12 boys in the summer of 1943. During this time geology disappeared from the curriculum, and I disappeared into the wartime petroleum program of the United States Geological Survey.
On my return, I found the geology collections and furniture scattered here and there and the program transferred to a portion of the former Caf in Old Main. I hauled my stuff over there in September 1946, and set up shop. We had only part of the basement at our disposal. The new home economics department had the rest, but we got along very well, being invited occasionally to share the experimental meals of the home-ec students. My office was at the west end of the former dining area, and the rest of about half of the dining room became my combination lecture room and lab. The hall largely became a thoroughfare and also housed museum cases. The west end was closed off and became storage and advanced lab space. I do not recall feeling deprived in these rather Spartan surroundings, although in retrospect I see that I and everyone else in the building were. Nevertheless, all of us in the sciences in Old Main were ecstatic when in December 1962 we departed to the opulent new digs in Nobel. As I recall it, Chaplain Elvee, in ecclesiastical garb, led the way.
Old Main has seen many tenant offices and departments since, including the chaplain’s office and the departments of mathematics, religion, psychology, classics and education. The admissions department was housed in the basement for a while, and more recently the audiovisual people. These are now involved in a diaspora, which is scheduled to come to an end when school opens this fall.
Our recent visit was an eye-opener. At the northwest corner of the interior all of the floors have been removed, and the space will be occupied by an elevator and stairway. In the middle of my former classroom-lab has been excavated, a large square depression – possibly a cistern. Little did the students in Geology 101 know they were sitting above a yawning chasm. I didn’t know it either. Elsewhere throughout the building latter-day inner walls have been torn away, revealing that the thick outer stone walls of Old Main shielded first an air space and then a brick inner wall. In the ceilings one can see rafters of two-by-eights, which held up the heavy flooring. In a couple of classrooms, blackboards were once devised by painting the walls, and on these are a few numbers and notations, records of past class sessions. On more recent walls are bits of graffiti left by the most recent generation of students.
No doubt Old Main will emerge from this renovation greatly improved as it did from an earlier face-lift in the 1920s. However, one comes away from Old Main with a great respect for the original builders and for those who have modified and improved the building since. And one can almost hear voices―the voices of the generations of teachers and students who taught, learned, and sometimes lived, within these venerable and enduring walls.
(End of Chet’s revisit)
My notes from the wonderful professional review with Supt. Wunderlich of the deconstruction work included the graffiti that campus personnel left for the ages:
A teacher’s purpose is not to create Students in his own image, but to Develop students who can create their Own image.
Are students now renovated too? Evelyn Young ’33, honorary chair for First Frost ~A Royal Affair, October 29, 2005, writes of students today: “Everybody tells me how much Gustavus has changed, to which I usually nod. But deep down I know it’s really the same. Because it’s the kids, their dreams and aspirations; it’s the profs, their intentions and inspirations, and it’s God’s spirit that pervades our generations and moves us all along. These are timeless.”
Another point of view from the Gustavian Weekly, March 18, 2005, in the column called “Get to know your fellow Gusties” Q. What are your plans for the future? A. “I want to run a marathon. I want to be a voice for a cautious cartoon character and produce an album for a rock band. I have a lot of countries I’d like to visit some day. Finally, I want to be 84 and a half years old and still be able to jam out at the nursing home.”
Jonas Magny was the first and only student when Eric Norelius began his school in Red Wing in the fall of 1862. Magny became an ordained pastor in the Augustana Synod. During the construction of Old Main, the money ran out, and Magny was called upon to rescue the operation. He responded by leaving his parish, and he spent two years in raising the funds, which made possible the completion of the building. In the process he contributed one-half of his own salary. His spirit has been kept alive by those modern Gusties who have given generously to underwrite the renovation, which began February 2005.
According to the Gustavus Honor Roll of Donors (June 1, 2003 – May 31, 2004) Gustavus alumni provide significant moral and financial support for Gustavus Adolphus College. For example, Class of ’41 – 32 donors with 66.7% participation. In the years 2002-03 there were 45 donors representing 81% of the class, and between May 31, 2004 and April 1, 2005, 64.6% of the Class have responded. Now we would like to help by asking for an additional gift toward the renovation. As in 1874-75 there is a shortfall. The Gustavus Fund closes May 31, 2005.
Remember the Remember song – (“Skies so heavenly blue―for you belong to GA College―and Gustavus belongs to you.”) So on this azure blue day in April we took an investigative walk in the Linnaeus Arboretum, Chet with his walking stick favorite spots to check. Any herbs up yet in the Thompson Herb Garden? Only chives and barely green. Where is new Prexy Jim Peterson’s ’64 tree in the Presidential Grove? We watched his small grandson water the tree at last year’s dedication. Are the crocuses planted at the Prairie Overlook by Don ’55 and Bev (Matson ’56) Gustafson up? No. Check again later.
Let’s find the bird-bath rock we selected for the Prairie Overlook when the boulders were sited in 1993. Enjoying the day’s glory were students sitting on boulders or lying on the ground, stretched full-length, studying. In fact, we found students in many other Arb locations, many sitting on the grass or on benches, busy with drawing boards and color pens, sketching scenes which appealed to them. It’s great to watch and talk and share their attraction and friendly interest. From the distant north we heard the rollicking sounds of a bagpipe played by a student standing near the pioneer cabin. West of the cabin the Swedish garden awaits the hand of Herb Chilstrom, first president of ELCA, who cultivates Mormor Clara’s Kitchen Garden planted with seeds from Sweden.
Just looking at the students enjoying the Prairie Overlook and Boulder Circle brings happy memories of the dedication day in October 1993. And finally, before our tired backs urged us home across the street, we could rest by the new waterfall and rock planting, finding a snowdrift in the pool.
We checked to see if the maple tree (replaced after the tornado) is still identified as a gift of the Class of 1941, dedicated at our class reunion in 1986. Which reminds me of the query of Clint Gass in his interesting life/story letter (February 2004), “I am looking forward to our 65th.” We have a photo of our group at our 60th Anniversary reunion. Can you find yourself?
New addresses to report:
Eunice Nordin Gordon writes from her lovely apartment at the Remington Club senior facility at 6925 Hierba Drive, Apt. 323, San Diego, CA 92128. “This has been a sad period for me. My sister, Verna, died on July 29, and my brother, Hartley ’44, died on October 4. I miss them greatly…I continue to “go through” pictures and papers (will it ever end?) and sorting out “stuff” from the past―nostalgic and heart-warming, most of it. I love the reminiscences. I keep busy with activities at the Remington Club and projects of reading, music and writing.”
Our thoughtful, wonderfully perceptive writer, Bob Esbjornson, is currently living at St. Peter Community Health Care Center, 618 West Broadway, St. Peter, MN 56082. Following back surgery on January 6, he is having physical and occupational therapy. We remember the closing words of his ritual of remembrance at the dedication of the Prairie Overlook in October 1993.
And so we dedicate this place with a prayer, that in some ways past our knowledge it may be a blessed place, stirring songs of awe and wonder in our hearts, that this place will be in some ways a healing place, amid the beauty of the prairie flowers, and the birds that sing, a place where the still, small voice of the eternal God may come and teach us to number our days, and to seek wisdom, combining truth and love. O God, our creator, loving us into being, make it so. Amen.
Paul Dacklin, Warner Robins, GA, died January 31, 2005. Burial will take place in Kasota on June 25. He was a very enthusiastic and generous member of the Class of ’41. His obituary follows.
Luverne Johnson Sellstrom, Willmar, MN, is also going through “stuff” finding many Johnson Christmas cards. “Do any of your kids or grandkids want them? I have to get rid of them, so this is on my list.”
Yes. We all are asking the same question. What do you do with “stuff” and we all have problems with memory. Professor Samuel Knight, whose class in geology I attended at the University of Wyoming, in his later years wrote this poem.
My memory isn’t what it used to be
Now that I’m crowding eighty-three.
Somewhere in my mental nest
Some neurons may have come to rest.
They may have lost their elasticity, or
They may have lost their electricity.
In any event my brain’s askew,
When recalling names of people I knew.
Their physical images are still there
Recalling their names is my despair.
Would that these neurons now at rest
Recharge their batteries and relieve my quest.
I ask the question: What else is there to talk about?
“Stuff” of course. For example. What shall I do with my 68-year collection of Class of ’41 letters and materials? Photos, letters, Gustavus memorabilia and records, events, persons, clippings?
By the way, I was pleased to meet freshman Annika Torkelson, granddaughter of our classmate, Florence Forsyth Torkelson, St. James, MN. She was introduced by our AV friend, Dennis Paschke ’73 at a concert held at Bjorling. I am glad she chose Gustavus over other colleges.
Marian Swanson Johnson
754 Valley View Road
St. Peter, Minnesota 56082
P.S. Biggest news of all. The arrival April 2 of our first great-grandchild, Evelyn Laura, 7 lb. 9 oz., daughter of grandson, Joey and Ellen Feldman, Golden Valley, MN.
The Gustavus Alumni Association has announced 2005 award recipients. The Greater Gustavus Award to George Torrey ’55 for his lifetime volunteer service and philanthropy to the College. Distinguished Alumni Citations to G. Barry Anderson ’76, Apple Valley, MN, associate justice, Minnesota Supreme Court; Deanna Nelson ’64, Cary, NC, president/founder, BioLink Life Sciences, Inc.; Rick Webb ’73, Edina, MN, owner of Ciao Bella, Zelo and Bacio Restaurants; and John Wirth ’75, Pacific Palisade, CA, writer/executive producer, Paramount Studios. First Decade Awards to Joe Gaugler ’95, Lexington, KY, assistant professor, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of Medicine; Debbie Lightly Mascaro ’95, Fargo, ND, research scientist, North Dakota State University Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
The Gustavus women’s hockey team finished third at the NCAA national championship after winning the MIAC title, the men’s basketball team won the MIAC regular season title and conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA national tournament, the men’s swimming and diving team won the MIAC title and placed seventh at the NCAA national tournament and had seven swimmers earn All-America honors and the women’s team had four swimmers earn All-America honors.
Bricks and mortar
Southwest Residence Hall is being constructed across the Campus Drive from the arboretum on the west side of the campus and is scheduled to be finished by June. The L-shaped facility is configured with apartments for four and six and will accommodate nearly 200 students. A hostel space for summer programs and confirmation retreat groups is included in the residence’s plans.
With the new Southwest Residence Hall coming on-line, the College will be taking down Wahlstrom Hall to make way for future residential construction. Crews will start the dismantling process in July with asbestos abatement, and the Kasota-stone residence hall will be razed in August. Alumni returning for reunion and commencement festivities on May 27–29 will be able to take a last tour through the building’s public areas, stairwells, and walk-through sections following a “decommissioning” ceremony to be held on Saturday morning, May 28.
Construction crews working on the renovation of Old Main discovered a cistern under the basement flooring in March. Gutting the interior has provided evidence of layers upon layers of remodeling done over the years, including an old stairwell in the middle of the building and what appears to be an attempt to raise the third-floor ceiling. The Old Main project, which includes the installation of an elevator in the northwest corner of the building, is scheduled to be completed in August.
The education and nursing departments have been relocated to the newly erected Mattson Hall, which is sited just west of the Schaefer Fine Arts Center and Prairie View Residence Hall, on the south side of the campus. These departments will remain there until a new social science center is built at some point in the future.
- Association of Congregations Meeting – April 23
- G.I.V.E. Community Service Day – April 30
- Class of 1955 and 50-Year Club Reunions – May 27 & 28
- Commencement – May 29
- Alumni Fund closes – May 31
- Reunions on Homecoming – October 7 & 8