55th Reunion of Harvard College Class of 1946
June 4 -- 7, 2001

Monday, June 4.
Luigi and I took an early afternoon flight to Boston's Logan Airport, and arrived in time to spend 45 minutes in traffic jams meandering toward Cambridge. Eventually we reached the Royal Sonesta Hotel there in time to change clothes and report to the registration desk where we got nice "H46" baseball caps and excellent quality folding umbrellas of appropriate design plus an envelope containing name tags, tickets, and instructions. Then we went to the welcoming cocktail party. Both there and at the following buffet supper, also in the hotel, we encountered scores of likeable strangers of our own age, many of whom I probably knew 55 years ago. I did meet Rod Nordell, the class webmaster, with whom I had briefly corresponded about the class website.

Tuesday, June 5.
At 8:30 we and most of the rest of the attendees boarded busses that took us to the Unitarian Meeting House in Harvard Square for the reunion memorial service. Arriving there well beforehand, we walked about for several minutes. Next to the church is a graveyard on the gate of which was a sign reading:
Old Burying Ground
burial place of early settlers, tory landowners and slaves, soldiers
presidents of Harvard and prominent men of Cambridge
The Service included a reading, "Living not Dying" read by Bill Dowling's widow, a responsive reading of the 23rd Psalm, a reading of the names of the 122 classmates whose deaths were reported since our 50th reunion, and a tolling of the church bell. I wondered if it would toll 122 times, but it quit after 54, leaving me wondering whom they decided not to toll the bell for. The final hymn was "O God Our Help in Ages Past." A few minutes after the end of the service I heard one classmate whistling a syncopated version of the tune.

Various options were then available to class members and their wives, including Boston Harbor and Charles River cruises, a visit to an art glass workshop, and a visit to the Big Dig. We who chose the last of these were first treated to a slide show with explanation in one of the church parlors. It was a very instructive presentation by one of the people in charge of public relations for the project; he was so enthusiastic that he took a lot longer than had been planned. He claimed, and the project's website proclaims, that the 14.1 billion dollar project is the "largest, most complex and most technically challenging highway project ever attempted in American History." Since it is located entirely in or near the City of Boston, I thought that the Alaska Highway was larger, but Bostonians think differently.

The project is immense. The purpose is to eliminate the awful traffic congestion that Boston suffers by straightening out the expressways and other roads and streets and putting them underground, among other things. The fact that Boston has been there for over 350 years enabled many generations to bury sewers, water lines, electric lines, and other utilities without regard to each other and without keeping records. Combining these into rational corridors and avoiding poking holes in the existing subway transit system, all while keeping the city functioning, helped add to the complexity of the project. It was compared to performing open heart surgery on a man while he is running in the Boston Marathon.

Before visiting the project our two busloads were taken to a headquarters building where we were handed hard hats and fluorescent vests. One part of the project that we visited is the new bridge across the Charles River that is said to be the largest cable-stayed bridge in the world. It is nearly done, except for surfacing and connecting to traffic arteries. The cables that hold up the bridge are connected to huge concrete A-frames that are surmounted by replicas of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Near the bridge is a large building that looks like an arena called the Fleet Center. I suppose that I had heard of the Fleet financial group, but what came to mind, for reasons I'll not mention, was the Fleet Kit. This is a plastic squeeze bottle with which one can give oneself an enema. I wondered that enough of these had been sold to enable the manufacturer to build such a large public facility. My speculation was overwhelmed when I saw some Fleet ATM machines.

Then we visited a subterranean site that was approaching completion enough so that we walked on concrete rather than mud. It was instructive to realize that this huge great hole was but a small part of the entire project.

By the time we were taken back to the hotel, it was after two o'clock in the afternoon. Luigi and I had lunch at 3:00 at Houlihans across the street from the Royal Sonesta, and enjoyed it. However the time available for a nap was slight, as busses picked us up at 5:00 to take us to the Prudential Center for cocktails (expensive cash bar) and a light buffet supper in a large room with a magnificent view of the Cities of Boston and Cambridge before Harvard Night at the Boston Pops.

Busses were available to take us there, but Luigi and I a few others chose to walk the short distance; we arrived at Symphony Hall as several busloads of youngsters celebrating their fiftieth reunion were delivered. We sat at a table assigned to our class with a retired theoretical physicist and his architect wife, and enjoyed their company. They were eating dessert as we arrived; we ordered a pitcher of lemonade. The program, conducted by Keith Lockhart, included a few short pieces followed by a brief movie celebrating the 100th year of Symphony Hall's operation, selections from West Side Story, selections of the works of Leroy Anderson, and the singing of "Fair Harvard" and "Radcliffe, We Rise to Greet Thee." After the intermission came a tribute to Richard Rodgers with the playing of five of his compositions.

Wednesday, June 6.
This was the day for symposiums. At 9:00 was a program of reminiscences of three medical school deans who were members of our class. Luigi and I missed this, and were later told that it was very good. At 10:00 Professor Kathleen Coleman (who had been a consultant for the movie Gladiator ) talked about violence in the Roman World, and Professor Thomas Forrest Kelly gave an enthusiastic illustrated lecture about Beethoven's not only composing the music for the Ninth Symphony, but also hiring the performers, printing the programs and hiring the hall and selling the tickets.

Lunch was on our own and we went to a restaurant across the street called "Papa Razzi" where classmate Donald Brown and his wife Patricia invited us to join them. He is a retired professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. They were very pleasant and interesting company.

In the afternoon we were taken to the Sackler Museum where we saw part of its magnificent collection of Islamic art and attended an illustrated lecture about a current exhibition of early 20th century photographs of life in Iran.

We were returned to the hotel at 5:00, with only half a hour to get ready for the bus to Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant on the Boston waterfront for a clambake. Our class had a large room with glass on two or three sides; lacking air conditioning, we found that we could open sliding glass doors to a pleasant breeze, alleviating the heat caused by the setting sun. Fortunately we were all provided with plastic lobster bibs before being served clam chowder, boiled lobster with melted butter, clams, mussels, shrimp, corn on the cob, and melon. We were entertained by Frank Hatch singing ditties composed by his father some years ago. They exhibited an attitude reminiscent of Tom Lehrer. I noticed Chuck Shaw struggling to work in dim light with his HP 200LX palmtop computer that is, on the outside, identical to one that I carry. I was also carrying a flashlight that I let him use. As the dinner ended, I saw and talked with Beverly Williams Morrison and her husband Archie, also a member of our class. Her mother was a friend of my mother at Smith (class of 1916) and I spent many happy hours at their West Newton home while I was at Harvard.

Thursday, June 7.
Commencement Day.

Luigi was not invited to this morning's ceremonies, but could watch them in comfort on the television if she wished. After waiting 15 minutes for the 8:30 bus to Harvard Yard, I opened and set up a portable stool that I'd received for Christmas but had not used previously. As I sat on it one of the three legs gave way and I would have fallen to the ground but two classmates grasped my arms and pulled me up. However, the stool served its purpose, as the bus then came immediately. Due to the late start and heavy traffic, we were too late to the Yard to reach our designated assembly point. Our tickets showed that we were to be seated in Section E3; by walking in the same direction as most other people, I and others from the bus found that section amidst thousands of folding chairs, set in rows, over a major part of Harvard Yard. All were facing a temporary stage on which sat important people. In time the Sherrif of Middlesex County rapped on the stage floor with his sword and announced, "The meeting will be in order."

There followed a prayer, an anthem, introductory remarks by the Provost, a Latin oration by a young woman of well-rehearsed oratorical style, a Senior English Address about achieving greatness, a Graduate English Address about honoring the past and transforming the future, and another anthem. President Rudenstine awarded 6,194 degrees (including 1,750 baccalaureates) en masse to groups who stood as their respective degrees were called. Each time he announced, "By virtue of the authority (granted to me)(delegated to me)(vested in me) I hereby welcome you to the ranks of (whatever) and declare that you are well qualified to (do whatever the particular group had been learning to do)."

Then came the awarding of eleven honorary degrees including an LLD to Robert Rubin, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, who was commended for his superb judgment in selecting his deputy (Lawrence Summers, President-elect of Harvard). There followed the Harvard Hymn (in Latin), a benediction by the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, the adjournment of the meeting by the Sheriff of Middlesex County, and a march by the University Band.

Cocktails were available in a room of Weld Hall set aside for the Class of 1946. Luigi and I both brought little Talk-About radios so that we could locate each other; I turned mine on after I got to the correct building. Her voice came in loud and clear, as she was in the room next to the hall I was standing in, and was looking at me. During the cocktails we had a pleasant conversation with Chuck and Jeannie Shaw, mostly about computers. Chuck and I remembered each other from crew, and his sister is a friend of ours in Chicago.

A picnic lunch (called "Tree Spread Luncheon in the Yard") was available under tents that covered most of the Yard that was not occupied by folding chairs. In time we found a tent assigned to our class. At each place at the table was a small crimson insulated pack (about the right size for a six-pack of cans plus a sandwich), in which a tasty picnic lunch was kept out of the heat and away from any wandering flies. A woman came around handing out semi-solid bars of ice cream. A tray on the table held many different pastries and cookies; most of the others at the table had enough will power to restrain their gluttony and leave lots for me.

When lunch was over there was a parade to the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association and a speech by Robert Rubin. There was also a 2:00 bus back to the hotel where one could take a nap. 54 years ago (due to WWII, I actually graduated in 1947) I failed to attend the corresponding affair and missed hearing the U.S. Secretary of State announce the creation of the Marshall Plan to revitalize the devastated countries of western Europe. Nevertheless, I chose in favor of the customary nap that I'd missed for three days. Whether Mr. Rubin's speech will direct the course of history, I may never know.

Manly W. Mumford