MH'57 Class History

Mount Hermon 1957

(This was written for our 50th)

The time has come for looking back over our shoulders, Janus-like; it is the season for taking an inventory of the impressions which have been swept loosely, like leaves, into  four heaps representing thirty-six months at Mount Hermon.  In time, most of these leaves will be blown beyond memory, and only a single, fuzzy image sprinkled with fading silhouettes will remain…
One sunny autumn afternoon in 1953, some sixty young gentlemen arrived at Hermon with suitcases and trunks stuffed with new clothes….


So begins our original Class History, written by Mike Doudoroff in the spring of our senior year.  Rereading it brings those leaves back in focus for a nostalgic few moments, and periodically in what follows we will revisit additional passages from the original history to remind us of reality as we saw it then.

Fifty years later, we again find ourselves at a time to look back.  Only now we have so many more than thirty-six months to consider, and a very different lens through which to view our days on the Hill.

Before Freshman Year

What was the spirit of the times in 1953, before any of us came to the Mount Hermon School for Boys?  Let’s start just by looking at the covers of some issues of TIME.  In January, a very youthful Queen Elizabeth II graces the first cover; she is Woman of the Year.  Later that month, motherly Mamie Eisenhower beams at us; Ike has been inaugurated.  Most of his cabinet appears in the months that follow.  It is a veritable Year of the Woman, though, for one of them is female!  (Oveta Culp Hobby at Health, Education, and Welfare)  Stalin dies in March, and it’s not hard to see what held our attention in the months that follow.  Malenkov, Molotov, and Beria (“Enemy of the People”) follow in quick succession.  Allen Dulles (CIA), Konrad Adenauer (West Germany), Walter Ulbricht (East Germany), and Syngman Rhee (South Korea) appear later in the year.  For balance, Audrey Hepburn, Atomic Energy, Mickey Mantle, 3D Movies, and Rosemary Clooney all have their day, or week, on TIME’s cover. 
A real up-and-comer named Lyndon B. Johnson is drawn to our attention in July.  He seems eager to grasp the reins of power; 1963 and 1968 are far in the future.  Dr. Alfred Kinsey has released a major research report on sexuality.  This is coyly suggested on the magazine’s cover by two birds, one bee, and some pink roses, arranged around a picture of Kinsey.  (I am not making this up, as Dave Barry likes to say.) 

The country is getting used to the idea of living under the threat of nuclear annihilation on little or no notice.  Did your family have a fallout shelter?  The Cold War vs. the War on Terror—do we live, now, in better times?  “Compare and contrast,” as it might have been put it to us as an essay question on an hour test.

As the first of what will become the Class of 1957 packs those suitcases and trunks, TIME’s Contributing Editor Alvin Josephy returns from a coast-to-coast tour of America’s heartland.  He has gauged the temper of the times, and reports, “Even in the smallest towns and most isolated areas, the U.S. is wearing a very prosperous, middle-class suit of clothes, and an attitude of relaxation and confidence. People are not growing wealthy, but more of them than ever before are getting along, have money to spend, and are putting it to use getting satisfaction out of life. I found people with worries and concerns, but there are no great frustrations…, none of the strong pressures that make whole groups of citizens desperate and ready to turn to extreme thinking of one sort or another.”
Hindsight reveals a different story, but for now, Brown vs. Board of Education is still a year in the future.  Little Rock will not become the center of the nation’s attention until September 1957, three months after our graduation.

The war in Korea is winding down to its stalemated conclusion.  Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam are still called Indo-China and at least on the surface, are France’s problem.  Life is good…

Freshman Year

We signed things, opened things and mostly bought things.  We met people; we listened to people.  And we were on our own, adrift in a new universe and scared.  Faltering memory and a little vision-impairing moisture at the time cloud these earliest impressions. 
Six forty-five is an absurd hour for sentient beings to be sentient, and on that first morning in a strange bare room saturated with the cacophonous clanging of an obsolete air-raid alarm, more than one Unclassified Freshman experienced a curious tightening about the diaphragm and a growing desire for a return to the happy ways of home. 


But we weren’t at home, we were on Cottage Row, where everyone could keep an eye on us, and there was some new language to learn.  Never before had we been advised to refer to a toilet as a “dike.”  (It would turn out, in life after Mount Hermon, that references to “going to the dike” would almost invariably be misconstrued, and at latest in the first few weeks of college, we would abandon use of the term.)   We also would learn that when our Northfield counterparts referred to their “dummy” they were not talking about us, they were talking about their domestic work assignment.
“Starvation corner” referred to the four seats at the two ends of the rectangular tables for ten in West Hall.  No matter how early a freshman or sophomore turned up on the first day of new table seating assignments, he always seemed to end up sitting at the ends.  Mount Hermon assigned you a table; the juniors and seniors there assigned you a chair other than the supposedly favorable seats on the long sides.  Actually, since dishes were passed around the table, and waiters could and did bring seconds, everybody did get served, ultimately, despite the actions of some “vultures” (“vultches” for short) who pigged more than their share.  The verb for doing what vultures did was “to vultch,” as in “He vultched up all the potatoes before they got around to me!”

We avidly learned the “secret” nicknames of the faculty members: Twig, the Greene Machine, Friar, Ichabod, Snake, Homer Pigeon, the Fox, Pappy, Pop, the Bug, Doc, the Mighty Molecule, and more.  We laughed when The Hermonite walked a narrow line in its humor columns, in this connection.  (Mr. Rineer: “State the derivation of the word ‘auditorium.’  Student: “It’s from the Latin, sir, ‘audio’, I hear, and ‘taurus’, the bull.  Thus an auditorium is a place where…”  Mr. Rineer:  “That will do.”)
And speaking of Mr. Rineer, the varsity football team that first fall defeated the Harvard freshmen, 25-18.  We knew we were in a good place.  We stayed on campus for Thanksgiving—the first and last time that would happen to most of us, as a Thanksgiving recess would be instituted the following year.

How little we knew. Arthur Miller's The Crucible was running on Broadway.  The James Bond era began with Casino Royale.  The radio played How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.  We were allowed to see The Robe (edifying), but probably not Roman Holiday (vaguely risqué), and certainly not From Here to Eternity (mature audiences only).  And in impossibly distant Paris a French writer, Simone de Beauvoir, published The Second Sex, putting in motion a cultural tsunami that by the end of our college years would leave us battered on the beach, wondering what hit us. 

The year moved on, a succession of classes interspersed with “cool,” “fabulous,” and “sad” events.  The year passed in terms of J.L. games and study halls and work hours until next vacation…[and] ended in a flash of spring and song and blue booklets with red X’s. 

British meditations on evil appeared in print: The Lord of the Flies and The Lord of the Rings.  American movies did likewise, in different veins: On the Waterfront and Rear Window.  We tested the H-bomb and Dr. Salk initiated polio immunization, stark contrasts of death and life, fear and hope.  Oppenheimer was fired, but Bannister ran the four-minute mile.  It was better to be fast than smart.

Sophomore Year

A Sophomore is a delightfully uninhibited gentleman, a handsome, casual, clever, sophisticated brute.  Freshmen revere them, Juniors avoid them, Seniors ridicule them…  We definitely were Sophomores.  On a rainy Thursday we straggled back to Hermon, having successfully forgotten everything we had presumably learned the previous year.  We were now ready to start afresh: study Wednesday afternoons, forego Girl discussions during study hall, and make High Honors—well, Honors at least one marking period.  Besides this serious intent, we felt morally obliged to keep Overtoun’s annual rate of depreciation up to standard.  If our academic aspirations were unfulfilled, our destructive impulses were certainly gratified… In spite of us, it is still standing. 

And Overtoun is standing to this day, a boys’ dormitory just as it has been for over a century, despite our rough-housing up and down its halls in the fall of 1954.

Not so Silliman Laboratory, a victim of a disastrous fire in 1965 conducted under the supervision of the entire crowd at the Deerfield game.  It was a half-time show never to be surpassed.  At the end of the day, Mount Hermon had lost not only Silliman, but the football game, by a score of 20-14.
Long gone also is Recitation Hall.  Remember the stained glass windows on the third floor, reminders of the day early in the School’s history when the building housed not only the classrooms but also the chapel?  When constructed in 1884, it also was home to the gymnasium, science laboratory, library, and the administrative offices.  It housed, in short, most of the school.  For years, a plaque was all that remained.  But just in the past year, a more worthy successor has been found, as construction of the Rhodes Center for the Arts began on the site of Silliman and Recitation.  It will fill a gap in the campus both architectural and cultural.
We enjoyed the clean, spacious, well-lit locker rooms in the basement of the James Gymnasium (OK, I am making some of that up), and watched or played basketball games on the first floor, while erstwhile runners thumped around the oval track overhead.  Remember the banked turns in that cramped little space?  And the swimming pool, tiny by almost any standard for a school of Hermon’s size?  In another year we would watch the steel start to go up for what would become the Forslund Gymnasium just to the north of our gym, knowing we would never use it.  It still stands, of course, a monument to Axel, and to Intestinal Fortitude.  Who castigates the student body today, one wonders, when, on the march from the Chapel to West Hall, scoundrels lacking in I.F. dare to lob snowballs at the line ahead?

The sixty four-year students were joined by over 30 new class members, a few of the taller ones living in Crossley, but most joining the group in Overtoun.  One new boy’s mother, accustomed to the trusting atmosphere of the Northfield School for Girls, was appalled to learn that dormitory rooms at Mount Hermon had locks, and that boys were obliged to carry their room keys at all times.  “I am amazed that these boys would have enemies such that they would have to lock their doors!” she opined to the First Floor South Crossley floor prof.  “Well, Ma’am,” said Mr. Stenberg, “it’s not their enemies that they worry about—it’s their friends!”  

Near the end of September we pulled the Seniors through Shadow Lake.  In a show of egocentricity the ungrateful Junior Class claimed the victory for itself, and rather than stoop to argument we ceded the claim and the issue was forgotten.  Thanksgiving came, followed by snow for Vespers and vacation. 

Vacation!  It was a chance to escape the routine of classes, chapel, assembly, and study hall, and put aside the neckties and sport jackets at least as everyday garb.  It is amusing to look back at the dress code of our day at Mount Hermon in light of present practices.  Neckties were worn for chapel, assembly, and all meals except breakfast.  The rest of the time they were worn on the belt, at the ready.  For many of us today, neckties have become the exception rather than the rule.  We don’t wear them oftener than a few times per year, saving them for just the most august of occasions, rather than automatically donning them for every restaurant meal, church service, and business meeting as we did in the years following our Mount Hermon experience. 

Dress shirts then were automatically white.  Now we choose from a relative riot of colors, stripes, and plaids, perhaps substituting a tee or a turtleneck even on formal occasions.  Back then, the only variety came in terms of bow tie vs. regular tie, or French cuffs vs. button cuffs.  Arthur Cox occasionally tried to strike a new fashion note by wearing a pink shirt or by leaving the top two buttons of his shirt open, as opposed to everybody else’s one.  T.D. would always notice.  “Button up, Cox!” would be his opening words as he strode into the 5 PM session of English II.  He pestered him if he wore the pink shirt, too.  “Little girls’ color, Cox!  Hmmm?”  But he always did it with a twinkle in his eye.  You had the feeling he kind of admired Arthur for daring to be different, and he never told him he couldn’t wear it.  He just made him button it like the rest of us.

Then green May arrived with the dawning idea that Northfield girls were really awfully interesting. 

What little we knew about women we learned mostly from the movies, from Marty to The Seven-Year Itch (the latter definitely not shown at Camp Hall).  We were too busy reading to read Why Johnny Can't Read, and even if we had been assigned to read Lolita we would not have understood it. 
The MHS Handbook of our day states that boys are allowed without special permission to walk as far as the “bridgehead”—but no farther—in an easterly direction.  The Connecticut River was our limit.  Northfield girls were allowed to go as far south as The Logs, the little sandwich shop at the corner of Northfield’s Main Street and the road that led to Mount Hermon, Gill, and far-off Bernardston.  This left a distance of one or two miles which the joint authorities of the Schools evidently felt provided a buffer zone adequate to prevent uncontrolled contact between the two student bodies-- so to speak.
Today the old bridge is gone; the narrow road our buses took to Northfield so many times simply ends just before the riverbank.  Today’s traffic flies by on a wide modern road just to the south of the old bridgehead; one crosses the river so quickly that one can miss it.  And The Logs has long since been consigned to history as well.

Certainly in comparison to today’s teenagers, ours was a tame social life.  Sex, drugs, and alcohol were known in theory, particularly alcohol, but were actually indulged in relatively seldom, despite all the talk.  The penalty for involvement in any of the three while under Mount Hermon’s oversight was expulsion—instant and final.  For lesser transgressions, one was “campused”—required to stay on campus for a specific time period, with no permissions to go in to Greenfield, or home with one’s parents, or even to Northfield.  More serious infractions earned the perpetrator extra work time, often worked off in the barns.  Just short of capital punishment was the dreaded “6 and 24”—six weeks confined to campus and 24 hours of extra work, at the rate of four hours per week in addition to the normal ten that we all did.  People could and did survive this treatment, but they seldom had to repeat it.

Nowadays campusing is not employed, and expulsion is not quite so automatic, even for serious offenses.  There are still some actions that result in a sure and speedy exit, but for others one or two strikes may be allowed, depending on the nature of the infraction, the elapsed time between those strikes, and one’s behavior in the interim.

Final Fever reached its peak in June…...

We walked down to the gymnasium, full of trepidation, trying not to forget all the facts we’d crammed into our heads in preparation for each test.  Strange to be sitting at desks on the gym floor, as we waited for the signal to open the booklets and get started.  Proctors maintained suitably impassive and inscrutable miens.  We opened the test booklets.  Our hearts leapt as we spotted something that seemed familiar, maybe even known, and they sank as we came to questions in our weak areas.  When it was finally over, we plunged down the steps and out into the sunlight for the walk along past the track, Silliman, and Recitation, then up the hill to Crossley or West Hall, or perhaps we walked the shorter route to Overtoun.  We mulled over how we’d done.  It was considered appropriate to express to one’s walking companions loud and total dismay over the questions asked, as well as complete pessimism that one would score higher than 30%, even though one didn’t really believe that.  Somehow, some way, most of us made it through, and it was good preparation for college. 

Too good, in some cases.  We were so well-prepared for college that some of us found freshman year a breeze, and loafed while our public-school classmates sweat bullets, learning about life in the big time.  Their acclimatization seldom lasted long, and those of us who took it too easy at the start found themselves playing catch-up later on.

Junior Year

The following September we plunged back into the fray.  After swimming leisurely through Shadow Lake, just for fun, we dried ourselves off and sailed into our Junior Year.  The life of a Junior is a much more orderly, balanced proposition than the erratically fulminating pattern of the Underclassman.  It is a year of measured work and recreation, slight success and minor disappointment, comedy and some tragedy.  Being a Junior involves entrance into the upperclass social bracket and a sniff of Varsity athletics.  Also included are those countless late-lights, terrible tests, and the growing alarm that all the faculty in the Chapel balcony is concentrating its intense disapproval upon you, with your foot inadvertently jammed into the hymnal rack. 

Why would this fear of being observed by the faculty first materialize in Junior Year?  Recall how we were seated.  Seniors in front, juniors behind them, then sophomores and freshmen in back, under the balcony.  As juniors, we had worked our way far enough forward to be plainly observable from above. 

We came in through specific doors depending on our class, and we sat in our assigned spot in our assigned pew-- every time.  Attendance, after all, was being taken.  What an ordered existence we lived!  Compare that with the Schools’ approach in the intervening time, when not only your seat but Chapel itself became optional.  (I am not making that up, believe it or not.)  All part of the wave of radical change that broke over the Schools and the rest of the country in the 60’s and 70’s, as the assassinations, Viet Nam, Kent State, Nixon’s impeachment, and so much more came to pass.
From the perspective of today’s more liberated age, assigned seats and compulsory attendance seem militaristic, but back in our student time, it was just the way things were.  It lent a certain security, a routine that comforted the majority of us, and grated on just a few who were of a more independent bent.  And once in a while, when it went a step too far and caricatured itself, it provided some amusement.  Under the heading “Our Highly Efficient and Alert Monitor System”, The Hermonite once reported   “A day or so after Bill Hamilton gave the sermon in Wednesday night Chapel, he received a discipline notice for ‘absence from Chapel service.’ ” That’s what [he] got for not being in his assigned seat.

And speaking of militaristic, check out our hair styles in the Gateway pictures.  Strongly dominated by the WWII crew-cut ideal.  Remember Pete Skib, in the basement of Holbrook Hall?  Unless you went to the trouble of trekking into Greenfield and lining up for a haircut at a local barbershop, he was your one “choice.”  And choice was in short supply.  Remember his opening (and only) question, muttered in your ear as you settled into the chair: “How short you want your hair?”  Not “how?”—the question was “how short?”  Those who fell asleep or failed to give clear instructions got “Skibbed”, and it could take many weeks to return to a normal appearance.

Pete had been plying his trade in that little room for nearly 35 years by the time we appeared, and he’d seen a lot of life.  FDR was his hero, and many were regaled with political opinions of a distinctly liberal bent.  I must have appeared to him to be a hopeless case, because I think that the only words I ever heard him say, other than the initial question, were “thank you” (for the 50 cents) and “next!” 
Tipping?  Unheard of.  As were the hairstyles that would blossom in years to come even for those not directly involved in the war protest movement, Woodstock, and the like.  Hair to the shoulders, long sideburns or even mutton-chops, beards and moustaches—they all became common in the workplace.  The older men fumed over it, the younger men reveled in it, and we were kind of caught in the middle.  Some of us went one way, some the other.   “You can tell a man’s politics by the length of his sideburns,” grumbled one crew-cut veteran, and he wasn’t far wrong.  Eventually, things calmed down, but they would never return to the uniformity that reigned when we were at Mount Hermon.

By now we had lost a few of the early class members.  Whether on academic, or disciplinary, or family financial grounds, some faces were missing.  They were more than replaced by new ones, who jumped in as juniors, and we now numbered 150.

In most years there was an annual fund drive, led principally by Mr. McVeigh, to aid Le CollegeCevenol.  I was never quite clear on why this cause was picked as an exercise to acquaint us with philanthropy—how to ask, and how to give.  For some of us, it was the first time we had been asked for money; it would not be the last.  For others, it was the first time we had the experience of asking others for money in a good cause.  It all turned out to be good training for later life, particularly in a society where so much rests on the shoulders of volunteers, and on the good will of donors willing to put a portion of their disposable income in the hands of those with less.  The College Cevenol fund drive was put on hold, our junior year, as everyone directed attention to doing what could be done to aid the quietly courageous Todd Duncan and his distinguished family as they coped with the almost unimaginable setback posed by his wrestling injury.  And in a touching return of years of eastbound philanthropy, the students in France pitched in and took up a collection for Todd.
In 1956, the Andrea Doria sank, but My Fair Lady soared, and Elvis was everywhere: Don't Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes, and Hound Dog.  All the movies seemed to have numbers in their titles: The Seventh Seal, The Ten Commandments, and Around the World in 80 Days.  A young local politician published Profiles in Courage.  We did not read JFK, but dog-eared copies of Peyton Place went into clandestine circulation.

“Mount Hermon to go Coeducational!” screamed the banner headline of the April 18, 1956, issue of The Himoday, an irreverent spoof of the usually-serious Hermonite, and of Mount Hermon itself.  The story went on to say that all relationships with the Northfield School for Girls would be terminated.  How utterly, hilariously, far-fetched it all seemed!  Today it comes across as eerily prophetic.  Coeducation, of course, did come along 15 years later, as the Schools reorganized as a single entity, Northfield Mount Hermon, on the two campuses. 

Sporadic attempts thereafter on the part of the administration to meld the two alumni/ae classes of 1957 were resisted with implacable firmness both by us and by the members of our sister class at Northfield.  “We like each other well enough,” we told the Alumni/ae Office, “and we’ll happily plan reunion events together.  But we are ‘we’ and they are ‘they’; that was our experience back then, and that’s the way we want to keep it.”  This was accepted, albeit with a bit of head-shaking and eye rolling.  And so you see our separate class notes columns, to this day.

After more than three decades of bussing back and forth for classes and activities that could be, for any student, on either side of the river, the whole thing simply became unworkable.  Rather than revert to the previously successful model of two schools with close ties where it made sense and none where it didn’t, the Trustees voted early in 2004 to abandon most uses of the Northfield campus over time, and Northfield Mount Hermon started on a path toward what it is now, a single coeducational school on the Hermon campus, exactly as The Himoday had said 48 years before. 

A visit to the Northfield campus today is a strange experience for the returning alum.  All is in place, just as before.  The landscaping is nicely maintained, the buildings are all in order at least as to outward appearance, but the silence is spooky.  No students move from building to building, and a depressing quiet pervades, made more so by the fact that one knows that it is permanent.  How much all this hurts our Northfield counterparts can only be imagined by those who don’t have wives or sisters or friends with a Northfield diploma. 

As time goes on, the loss of Northfield will simply become a part of our history.  It is in many ways like losing a child, a sibling, a spouse, or a parent.  Life will never be the same without the departed.  It will go on, and it can even be good, but life will never be the same.  Neither we, nor our school, are immortal; we will all pass in time.  The question is, how well did we do, and how well did the School do, with the time and resources available to us during our respective existences?  “Come, Labor On!”

Senior Year

There is something deeply fascinating and soul-satisfying about a curling column of smoke, rising drowsily from a bit of dry leaf wrapped in paper.  The smoke’s slow dispersal into the atmosphere, slightly agitated and inadequately evacuated by a laboring fan, if studied with absorption, can lead to truly detached contemplation, if one is not asphyxiated first. 

Do you remember the Blue Cloud “Athletic Club” at Social Hall?  The School’s tacit encouragement, at least allowance, of smoking for seniors?  The pell-mell rush by us juniors, as soon as graduation was over in 1956, to get over there and light up, for now we were seniors?  And the significant number of the faculty that smoked?  This is one respect in which NMH is stricter than in our day.  The campus is now, as you might expect, a smoke-free environment.

A senior is the culmination incarnate of everything good a doubting world has to offer.  Physically mature, intellectually and emotionally advanced, the Senior is indeed the apex of the entire natural scheme.  Who but a Senior can cope with the manifold academic, athletic, social and extracurricular engagements of a busy weekend by ordering his time so correctly: date for swimming meet, dance in evening, choir, cloud, epistle to girl, English theme, probably won’t have a quiz in French…

The leaf-like impressions of our fourth year are still spread out in a clear, chronological line across our memories.  Our effortless victory in the Rope Pull, the Monadnock scramble, the bittersweet Deerfield Game and The Inspector General were the first colorful leaves to fall.

“The Monadnock scramble” refers to Mountain Day, a day off for seniors to go hiking in New Hampshire that was announced by the surprise appearance of Dr. Rubendall in West Hall in the course of breakfast one October day.  Those who had skipped studying and rested up the night before were relieved to find that they had guessed right.  Of course, those who erred in anticipating the great day were in trouble.  The Deerfield game was “bittersweet” because it ended in a tie-- as unsatisfactory as kissing your sister, some said.

Again we had been joined by some new class members, who would be with us but a single year.  Many, though not all, lived in Mr. Morrow’s Oak Knoll.  Many, though not all, seemed to display a special proclivity for athletics.  They were soon class members just like the rest of us, as we worked our way through senior year.
Our attention was riveted by the Suez Crisis and the pitifully brief Hungarian Revolution.  Before long what had been a news story from far away became much more real as we were joined by Zoltan Bary and Laszlo Molnar.  They rapidly improved their English and became part of our community-- with the help of Faz Babos.  It was pointed out, at the time, that Faz learned some new words in Hungarian, too.

We correctly predicted the outcome of the 1956 Presidential election in a Hermonite poll taken one October noontime in West Hall.  With both faculty and students voting, it was 491 for Ike vs. 79 for Adlai.  The stage had been set by an aggressively-worded plug for Ike by Mr. Jack Baldwin in the issue preceding the poll, which ran opposite a much more reasoned, refined and academic article in support of Stevenson by newly-minted Ph. D. Dr. Ich—um, Dr. Nathan Adams.  Would a Republican be as handily “elected” at Northfield Mount Hermon today, one wonders?
In another fall ritual, we expended thousands of calories to receive thousands in return, as we ran our last Pie Race.  At least, some of us ran our last one.  Others, including Dave Williams, Brad Cook, Jon Staley and Bruce Johnson, would return year after year to participate as alumni, even unto very recent times, being models of physical fitness as well as proud representatives of the Class of 1957.

There followed, in rapid order…

…Christmas Vespers and vacation, college applications, the CEEB’s, Founder’s Day, tea and rice and dancing under the August Moon and then The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.  After spring vacation the breathless months of vigilance at the Post Office, watching for any indication of what we would be doing for the next four years were interspersed with impressions of a Pogoish outlook, of sudden greenness, and of longer, happier days.  May brought Sacred Concert and of course, the Chat.

In our day, Sacred Concert was the hottest ticket around, and parents struggled to find ways to exceed their allotment so that Aunt Jane or Uncle Herman could attend along with them.  Loudspeakers carried the audio to those seated on the lawn outside the Auditorium.  But just twenty years after our time, the flame of Sacred Concert in fact flickered very low indeed, and at one point, with relatively low interest in choral singing, and corresponding low interest in attending, it seemed that the flame might go out for all time. 

Why the low interest in choir?  Someone who was a student in those days explains it this way.  “When there were two separate schools, one for boys and one for girls, choir was very popular because it was a sure way to meet and socialize with members of the opposite sex.  Once co-education was in place, this attraction faded.  There still were top-flight small choral groups, but the mass appeal was gone.”

Attendance at Sacred Concert was still compulsory, but student behavior was apparently less than stellar, because proctors were stationed throughout the aisles to maintain order.  (I am not making that up, either.)  In a letter published after the 1977 concert, a student termed Sacred Concert “outdated”, described the all-school choral selections “poorly and sparsely [sic] done”, and blamed brief and chaotic rehearsals for the poor performance.

What to do?  Someone had a brilliant idea:  Why not invite alumni and alumnae back to sing?  A trial balloon, a Reunion Sacred Concert that June, was a success.  So in early 1978, the invitations went out and the response was immediate and enthusiastic.  Sheet music was sent out to those who committed to study it in advance, and attend rehearsals on the Friday and Saturday before the Sunday concert.  At the first Saturday rehearsal, over 100 alumni/ae were massed in the Auditorium choir loft; while some of the student participants and the orchestra were on the stage below.  After some warm-ups, the director called for a first run-through of The Omnipotence.  Some of us were there.  It was worth the trip just to see the stunned reaction of the students as the opening lines of that venerable anthem (“Great is Jehovah, the Lord!”) truly shook the rafters of the Auditorium for the first time in years.  Sacred Concert was on the road to recovery.

What better film to mythologize our passage from the regimen of college prep to college
itself than The Bridge over the River Kwai?  A little schmaltz, Love Letters in the Sand,
to induce a moistened eye in the (alas! nevermore!) Chateau balcony shadows on Prom night?  While we busied ourselves with the details and rituals of closure, our youngest siblings and cousins were reading The Cat in the Hat, and the college seniors who would soon be our freshman English instructors were into On the Road as "beatniks" and "the Beat Generation" entered the national discourse.  Others started reading Atlas Shrugged, an oppositional bible of sorts for those who in our present time, fifty years later, find themselves substantially closer to the mainstream than they were in our day.

There is an air of finality about June.  As if denying the reality of impending partings, we wandered glibly through exams and pre-graduation rituals.  The last hand-wringing, the diploma-passing, the last look at Senior Rock resplendent with the freshly-cut “1957”, then the final glimpse of Crossley and the receding Gates tended to stimulate an unstoical emotion (!).

Could there be an unstoical emotion this June 2007 as we reenter through those same gates, still simply marked “Mount Hermon School”, and pass Crossley?   Like Overtoun, Crossley is still standing, but it differs in one key respect, as South Crossley is now a girls’ dorm, while North Crossley remains a male bastion.

The 1957—no longer freshly cut—is still there.  What an artifact of ancient times it must seem to today’s students!  Think what we would have thought of a “1907” had there been one carved on The Rock in our own day!  Worse, what would we have thought of a returning graduate from 1907, a person who would likely have been born before 1890?  Is it possible that we are old??  Or are we just older??? 

Still gazing backward, we see a school with a few more scars and grey heads than existed before us.  These we will justify…

As we take stock of what has become of us and what we have done to justify those scars, we may also wonder what has become of the “grey heads” we knew.  In 1982, we invited as many of our teachers as could make it back to come to our 25th Reunion.  Those who could attend were as pleased to be remembered as we were pleased to see them.  It was a heartwarming experience.
Now, 25 years later, most of “our” faculty have passed on, but a few hardy souls remain.  Mrs. Donovan resides in Amherst.  Jack Williams lives in New Hampshire, and received a visit from our classmates Bob Pease, Malcolm Peck, and Jon Staley in late winter 2006.  Sam Greene and his wife attended an NMH get-together hosted by Darrell and Judy Cooper in Maine in July 2005.

Our Class Advisor, Fred Torrey, deserves special mention.  An article about Mrs. Torrey appeared in The Keene Sentinel of March 23, 2002.  It focuses primarily on the transition she has experienced, and that in itself is a fascinating saga, but it also affords us a clear look back at the path Fred and Margot took after we departed.  Actually, they left too, ten years after we did, but not before Fred had become assistant headmaster of Mount Hermon. 

In 1967 he took on the headmaster position at the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut.  (Did the students there call him “Alpine Fred” behind his back, as we did?  Probably so, for it did not take him long to institute Mountain Day at Loomis Chaffee.  You can look it up. )  The times of change alluded to earlier beset the Torreys and Loomis Chaffee in the years that followed.  The students did what students did in those days.  Mrs. Torrey herself became involved in the women’s movement because the expected role of the headmaster’s wife seemed a questionable model for girls who were being encouraged to be independent.  The times were tumultuous, and the nine years at Loomis Chaffee were challenging and complex.

Somewhere along about 1976, the Torreys decided to step back from the tumult, and moved to Putney, Vermont, 25 miles up the river from Mount Hermon.  They started a business selling Danish cast iron stoves out of a barn on their property.  Fred later was recruited to another headmaster job at a day school in Thetford, Vermont, but they remained based in Putney.  Mrs. Torrey developed her own career as an artist and writer.  Under her direction the store gradually morphed into a craft gallery.

Fred took early retirement in 1990, the article reports, and unfortunately died quite suddenly of a brain tumor very shortly thereafter.  Mrs. Torrey has continued to pursue her interests, and to lead a very full and productive life indeed.  She closed the craft gallery (after 20 years) in order to be free to travel the world and participate more fully in the lives of her children and ten grandchildren.

We have spent an interesting four years on the Hill…  These memories, no matter how dim, will integrate with the totality of our existence.  Already maturing are the leaves that will fall next year…

How have the leaves fallen for us as we moved across the half century since Senior Rock in June 1957?  The youthful idealism we felt then has taken more realistic form for most of us, in some cases being replaced by outright disillusionment.  Most of us have a good deal less faith in the ability of big government and big industry to fulfill its promises and to deal with some issues very important to us.  We also have, pretty surely, a different view today of the respective roles of men and women.

The responses from class members that follow provide some insights into how the leaves fell—how we have handled the intervening years, and created our individual life stories.  Taken together, along with the shorter biographies of those who unfortunately are no longer in a position to write them, they form the variegated and distinguished history of the Class of 1957 of the Mount Hermon School for Boys