Yesterday I got to chatting with a newfound friend. I learned a bit about her – namely that she is a graduate student studying musicology, or what I call music anthropology, the music of different cultures. Fascinating. If I had the proverbial cat’s 9 lives, musicology is a subject I would like to study. According to my pocket edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, musicology is the study of history and forms of music. The memory that came to mind was one time a few years ago when I was browsing in the shop at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, I just happened to pick up a book on this subject. I was sorely tempted to buy it but passed it by – I could almost have bought out the whole shop, they had so many temptations. My mind also hit upon Yo Yo Ma and his recordings along the Silk Road. My friend is also a cello player so we chatted about Yo Yo Ma for a while. I wondered if I could possibly sit in on some of the courses she is doing over there at the University of Washington – just another idle thought.
All this leads me to recount how many years ago, in 1957/58 when I was approaching that long sought goal of graduating from college, I, like many others wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do in the years ahead. And again, like some others, I hit upon the idea of going to graduate school. I could have gone on with French, my college major, but somehow that path didn’t seem to lead to anything other than teaching and at that point in time I didn’t want to do that. And also, I had kind of had enough of French studies. So I chose geography, my minor at Middlebury. (Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont U.S.A.) I applied to three top graduate schools – my first choice was the University of Washington here in Seattle, 2nd choice the University of Wisconsin in Racine, and 3rd choice Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois.
I duly heard favorably from the University of Wisconsin and also Northwestern. But not a peep from the University of Washington. Hmm, what to do. Well, in the end I accepted the offer from Northwestern. It was quite attractive and I had swung around to the idea of liking the teaching fellowship which they were offering me. It was a good year at Northwestern, including the summer field course in Platteville Wisconsin. But the Midwest was not New England, nor was it the fabled West Coast. So after completing my Master’s there at Northwestern I wanted to find a job. My choices were Denver, San Francisco, or Seattle. But first, I went on a 2 month trip to Europe. Upon my return to the U.S., it was time to look for a job.
College friends were getting married in Evanston so since I hadn’t really settled down to look for a job yet, another friend and I decided to go to Chicago/Evanston for the wedding. We arrived, I looked up my old housemates of the previous year – they were about to depart on a roadtrip to the West Coast – they had room for one more passenger. Their departure was imminent. I decided to join them – felt badly about missing the wedding but there it was. I can still hear the bride’s mother expressing her surprise and dismay.
Off we went to Los Angeles, delivered the car, then I went north to San Francisco for a few days which turned into a camping trip up in the mountains with friends of friends. Then I had the bright idea that since I was on the West Coast I could keep going north and visit another college friend in Seattle. She had not gone to graduate school – no, she was a born teacher and had a job teaching 6th grade in an elementary school in West Seattle.
Since I was in Seattle, I decided to contact the head of the geography department at the University and try to find out whatever had happened to my application of a year previous. Somehow I got the impression that they had misplaced those carefully crafted forms. Well, that was water over the bridge. He inquired as to what I was doing now – looking for a job I replied – he said why don’t I try Puget Planners, an urban planning consulting firm. My specialty at Northwestern had been urban geography so that seemed a good lead – and it was – my first job as a graduate school graduate. I was told my salary could not exceed that of the office secretary even though I had a Master’s Degree. I was meek enough to accept that. Just glad to be offered a research job in what seemed an interesting environment.
The personal story continues but I’ll save that for another time. That was my first brush with the academic world of the University of Washington.
here are the 3 Middlebury friends in 2008, at our 50th reunion – Jan (me) on the left, Seattle teacher Rachel in the middle, and Evanston Ginny on the right. Rachel has been in Boulder Colorado for many years and she and her husband are planning a trip to Seattle in May. Ginny and husband John, over 50 years married, are in Southbury Connecticut.