Most of the Carleton class of 1960 was born in or around 1938. When we were children mankind had not yet reached the moon, so we could legitimately talk about the “man in the moon” and a “moon made of green cheese”. We were born before TV. How could anybody properly grow up without TV? Demographers tell us that we were one of the smallest cohorts in the history of modern America. When we were born sensible parents just didn’t have children. It was the end of the depression and the beginning of the unrest in Europe that would become World War Two. Many of us still remember blackouts, war bonds and victory gardens. When we were seven Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and the war was finally over.
Since we were so few in number it is no wonder we had little trouble getting into elite colleges and finding good jobs when we finished. There was very little competition. Most of us, thanks to our birth date, also missed service in both the Korean war and the war in Vietnam.
The end of the war brought economic growth and good times. It also brought a climate of fear. Revolutionary movements were appearing all over the world. 1948 brought the Berlin blockade and, in 1949, the Chinese Communists took over China. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. We all knew that our enemies could drop the “big bomb” on us at any time, and we prepared for that moment, learning to “duck and cover” under our desks. A wave of hysteria swept the United States as our wise elders looked for a “communist conspiracy” under every rock and in every pumpkin patch. This culminated with the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1950 followed by the endless hearings led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954.
At Berkeley all the faculty and graduate students were required to sign a loyalty oath, and some refused and were fired. Ultimately all the faculty were rehired, but there was one casualty that many of our class knew very well, Mr. May – a gentle quiet mathematician who had been a graduate student at Berkeley from 1936–37 and 1939–41 and was purged, despite a stellar record serving in the second world war – he had earned a Purple Heart. He was finally awarded the PhD in 1946, but, although he had openly rejected his connections to the Communist Party, the right-wing continued to dog his steps. In 1946 Larry Gould rescued him and made a place for him at Carleton where he eventually became chairman of the department of mathematics and astronomy. In 1953 Mr. May was summoned to Washington to testify at the trial of Dr. Joseph Weinberg and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune demanded that he be fired from his position at Carleton. Carleton was riddled with reds, they said. With financial support from Larry Gould and several other prominent supporters of the college, Mr. May survived and had a distinguished career at the college, and, internationally, as a scholar. Nevertheless, as late as 1962 there were still negative mutterings in the press about Mr. May and his connection to the college.
But times were changing. When we started at Carleton the college probably had quotas, though they were never openly discussed. An African American was admitted every other year, first a man and then a woman. Only a limited number of Jews were admitted. By our senior year change was in the air and we were beginning to notice ethnic quotas and talk about them. In 1954 the Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” educational doctrine of the 1890s. In 1956, thanks to Rosa Parks, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and the year we graduated saw the first “lunch counter” sit-in. A new and important figure, Martin Luther King, had appeared on the political scene.
Meanwhile things were progressing at Carleton. In 1956 Carleton got a new library, celebrated by Archibald MacLeish and a stolen supermarket sign that appeared on the library’s façade early one morning. The women responsible have confessed to our committee. If you want to know who they are you will have to come to reunion.
That year Dr. Gould was in Antarctica; the net worth of the college was $11,400,000; alumni, parents and “others” gave the college $180,219.62; tuition was $800 and all other fees were $800.
During our years at Carleton, women were only beginning to awaken to the opportunities opening for them. World War II had brought women out of the home and into the work place, but their career options were still very limited. Despite Carleton’s liberal reputation old ideas about appropriate career choices and behavior for women remained. Some women in our class valiantly fought for equality, some of us were afraid to buck the system. Our class had 153 men and 148 women, but the administration felt that the social climate of the college was poor. Too many of the men refused to date and too many of the women were sitting alone in the dormitories on Saturday nights. As a result, as a part of Dr. Gould’s “Pursuit of Excellence” plan the college considered setting sex ratios for incoming classes at 65% men and 35% women. Educating men was a better investment, and those women who came to the college would have an easier time graduating and marrying a Carleton man! By 1959 the college had settled on a ratio of 55-60% men to 40-45% women. The class that entered that year had 225 men and 163 women.
Our freshman year women wore hats to chapel and the men wore ties to dinner. We said grace and sang to the housemother. We had hours. Women couldn’t wear slacks on upper campus (unless the temperature was below ten degrees) or smoke in public, yet we could do anything we wished in the arboretum, always remembering that an unexpected pregnancy or marriage meant instant expulsion. But things changed as we moved through our four years at Carleton. Clothing restrictions became more relaxed, even as our wardrobes became more varied. Dining began to be a coeducational activity, as did many of the other “men only” and “women only” activities on campus. We were no longer required to dance around a Maypole every spring, and we certainly all remember the big breakthrough — a woman could be in a man’s room on a Sunday afternoon as long as three feet remained on the floor.
In 1958 Myers and Musser Halls were dedicated and the student body gave Dr. Gould a golden shovel in honor of his successful $10,000,000 development program. The inclusive fee was raised from $1,700 to $1,900, and that included laundry fees for the men.
When we graduated in 1960 Dr. Gould announced his retirement. Perhaps we had worn him out with too much affection and adulation. That year the top salary paid to a Carleton professor was $13,000 per year, an entry-level faculty salary was $4500 — exactly what a new junior high school teacher was paid in California.
When we return to the campus today the changes are spectacular. There are new buildings everywhere, the faculty is far better integrated than in our day and the student body looks and feels very different from the Carleton that we knew. If you have not been back, plan to come to reunion and enjoy the flavor of today’s Carleton.
We plan to add to this history of the Class of ’60, but we need your help. Bob Copeland has been reading old Carletonians and chronicling the fortunes of the sports teams, but we need lots more perspective. Kathy Ringrose has been rummaging in the old minutes of the trustees’ meetings. We would appreciate some help with a couple of mysteries: Who stole the legs from the tables in the Gridley dining room and hid them in the arb for a couple of weeks, leaving all the Gridley women eating their meals sitting on the floor? What kind of music were you listening to when you were at Carleton? Were you aware of the important events going on beyond the college walls?
Please send your thoughts and comments to Kathy Horvat and they will become part of our class history.