947 Saybrook

The words "no photo yet"Senior year, I was encouraged each time I walked into Dave Ryugo’s room in Saybrook College, because honesty is encouraging, and so is a sense of humor, albeit a dark one. Opposite the fireplace, above a battered couch, Dave and his roommates had painted one wall of their room with the message “Get Fucked For Your Country.” They had surrounded the message with psychedelic colors.

Unhappily, the message is as powerful and appropriate today as it was in 1969-’70. Then thousands of young men from this country were dying or being maimed and wounded in a war that has since been widely recognized as insane. It was perpetrated by old men who were dishonest or dumb or both.

Today young citizens of this country are fighting elsewhere in wars that will one day be recognized as insane. Like the war in Viet Nam, today’s wars are the result of the greed, political aspirations, and stupidity of old men who get to stay home.

In the case of each of the wars, an uncountable number of civilians – citizens of other nations -have died or have been wounded and frightened nearly to death. Many of those who have survived the bombing and the shelling and the missiles have turned on the country responsible for the destruction and death, thus making matters much worse for that country, which is the country referred to in the writing on the wall.

In a yearbook photo, the message on Dave Ryugo’s wall was altered. It read “Get Rocked For Your Country.” I felt that was a shame. The original message was powerful for its honesty, its dark humor, its justifiable profanity in the face of a much greater and more deadly obscenity, which was the war itself, and its message of resistance. I was encouraged each time I walked in the door and saw it.

– Bill Littlefield

The Bench

Bench in Silliman CourtyardLike many Yale students in Silliman, I retain considerable nostalgia for The Bench. I do not remember who articulated the suggestion that most any question was OK and a decline to discuss should be limited to a gentle: “No thanks.”

Like many of my era (and my father’s era at that other school), I learned as much from the interactive discovery with classmates as I did from formal education. This center of learning was chaotic, weather dependent, inefficient.

I believe there was some facilitation of the bench (like a talking stick a generation later) which gave us permission to talk with relative strangers, about more ideas than we would raise in the dining hall. It is probably not an accident that Silliman graduates disproportionately populated the Y70 blog a decade ago, and that more than a few of us have teak benches in our yards.

Bruce Parker

The Bench

The bench in Silliman courtyardThe Bench, like its occupants, was transient and moved all over the courtyard for no obvious reason, I recall only one of them there … placed in the middle of the courtyard next to a walk. There was a moment when one of us placed a piece of used carpet under The Bench and mounted a small window on stilts above it, turning Bench City into a basement apartment.

Howard Evert

Name at the foot of an altar

altar with inscribed dedication to Charles Alfred PillsburyI spent a lot of time in Battell Chapel. It is and remains a holy space. During our senior year, I was invited to serve as a Chapel Deacon. One Sunday morning, I brought the offering we had just collected to the altar to be blessed. As I was handing the offering plate to one of the chaplains, I looked down and saw these words: “In Memoriam, Charles Alfred Pillsbury, Class of 1939”. It took my breath away. I felt like I had wandered into a cemetery and found my name on a gravestone, except with the wrong date.

Later, I discovered that this war memorial had been dedicated on Sunday, October 5, 1947, the day I was born.

In 1989, I attended a memorial service for the deceased members of the Class of 1939. After the service, I had the opportunity to meet some of my uncle’s friends, two of whom had named sons after my uncle. Some of you may know them: Charles Pillsbury Coggeshall, Class of 1968, and Charles Pillsbury Resor, Class of 1969.

Charles Pillsbury

Silliman Courtyard, Bench Nation

Bench in Silliman CourtyardComing from a vanilla midwestern suburb, Yale and New Haven was a wonder. Fond memories of so many places and spaces: college roof tops, gargoyles, and cupolas, intensely quiet library reading rooms, Long Island shoreline ecology, darkened squash courts, and my runner up— the Silliman Commons. The worn, but vibrant Persian carpets, deep leather chairs, and high ceilings struck a deep resonance in me and anyone who has visited my home has seen how that still resonates. Nevertheless, it is the English teak benches in the Silliman courtyard where the Silliman Bench Nation of poets, writers, artists, mathematicians, physicists, psychologists, and other ne’er-do-wells met nightly in this outdoor salon to share and debate the great, the mundane, and the whimsical issues of that time in the fall and spring of our senior year that will always be a part of me and binds us still.

Bill Rossbach

 

The bench in Silliman courtyard

Bench in Silliman CourtyardI entered as a junior in the class of ’71 but within a few weeks was hanging out with what was mostly the class of ’70, better known as Bench City. Those folks made me feel like I “belonged” more than any time before – most were a reflection of Inky Clark’s priorities for admission – need blind, many from public schools from all over the country (including myself from Texas). There I learned more physics than in the classroom (never took it, though I was premed), philosophy (and how physics is very much like it), art, politics, music, sex and pot. And those folks have stayed close, which is why I’m officially affiliated with this class. Ask anyone what they were doing during the solar eclipse and most Bench City folks will tell you they were listening to the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” blasting from the cupola at Silliman. Quite a number of us have identical benches in our own back yards.

– Miriam Mills

The Silliman Bench

Bench in Silliman Courtyard1963 – 1970

On a cold evening in January 1969 I arrived back at Yale, sweaty and edgy from dexadrine and the drive from Oklahoma City where I was discharged from the Army. Offices were closed. My best bet was to ring the doorbell at the Silliman Master’s House. Annie Clark opened the door. She and Master Elias Clark had been memorably kind to me during my two and a half years at Yale 1963 to 1966. She remembered me! “I have no idea what room you will have, Dennis, so would you like to stay in the visitors’ guest suite tonight?” She handed me the keys.

In the morning I discovered that the bench had been liberated. No longer chained to a thick vine near Entry I, it was in the sunshine in the middle of the courtyard. I sat on it for the first time in three years, looked around and felt safe, and began to hope it wouldn’t be as bad as I expected.

I didn’t want to come back to Yale, but I had to. It was the only college I could get into.

Until two months earlier I was going to marry a long-term sweetheart, move to New Orleans, and attend LSU-NO. The Army was letting me out two months early to catch the Spring semester. She suddenly broke the engagement. I was devastated enough without the insult of being in New Orleans without her, or worse, staying in the Army until March. I scrambled to get into a college I liked better, but it was too late to get into University of Colorado, or Illinois (my home state), or the Chicago Circle Campus. It was too late everywhere except Yale where it took only one phone call to Dean Palmer. He remembered that I had “withdrawn in good standing” in spite of my academic troubles, and all I needed to come back was evidence of productive occupation while away. He was an old Navy man, and he proudly accepted my service in Viet Nam. “Can you be here by January 20th?” “Yes Sir.”

In 1963 Silliman freshmen lived in Durfee and ate in Commons, but we were allowed limited meals in the college dining room. I went to Silliman a lot and usually spent time on the bench. It was an escape from freshman life and a place to think about a future life, elsewhere. I sat there with the books I wasn’t reading. In cold months when the sun was shining I sat there instead of going to class. Nobody else ever sat on the bench.

It was great in 1969 that so many people stopped and chatted, curious to check out the new guy. I didn’t know they had been warned that I was from Army Intelligence and was probably a narc. I didn’t know I was confirming their suspicions when I kept asking where I could buy some marijuana. Eventually I scored, no one got busted, and I was accepted.

By Spring 1970 the bench was the center of life for friends in the class of 1970, and I loved having so many sit with me. They didn’t know it was my bench.

– Dennis McClure

 

The long bed

long bed in dorm roomOne of my earliest memories upon setting foot on campus was seeing our 6-foot 8-inch beds, those long wire-webbed frames on which no sheets and no blankets ever really fit and that everyone called racks. Even my Iowa public school education had informed me racks were medieval torture instruments. Failing the posture test did not improve my jittery conviction that measuring up in the months ahead was going to be brutal. Stretching my legs out in bed that first night where my toes could not find the reassurance of a bottom, Gulliver in Brobdingnag, I had the queasy sense that I was in for a perilous journey.

James Glickman

Silliman Courtyard in fog

Harkness Tower with the word "Sample" printed over itIt might have been fall, early November. It might have been spring. The leaves were thick, heavy, healthy. I might have been a sophomore. I might have been a junior. It was late; I had returned from Sterling studying. The Silliman courtyard was empty, silent–no music from rooms, no laughter, no movement, not even an opening door, a closing door, nothing but me and a deeply settling fog. I sat on the wooden bench we frequented–the epicenter of what we had dubbed Bench City. I placed my books beside me and folded my hands in my lap.

The settling fog settled lower, deeper, thicker and oh, so slowly. A big tree, a widespreading tree–it might have been an elm, it might have been in the northeast corner–had become so mist-surrounded it was near abstraction.

Me, the tree, the fog, the oddly blessed silence.

I thought: I’m sitting in an English garden.

I had never felt, to that moment, so removed from the bleachy suburb in which I grew up, never so delighted with this new world I had come to, never so reposed, and, somehow, worldly and wise and kind-feeling and warmly strange and attached and swirly with delight.

Bryan DiSalvatore

 

Vanderbilt Hall

Harkness Tower with the word "Sample" printed over itThe old iron gates were open from the street to the courtyard of Vanderbilt Hall. Three other young men and I had been assigned to suite number one, first entryway, first floor. The green Connecticut Limousine car discharged me by the gate. I was awed by the magnificent old building. The three-room suite, paneled in rich woodwork and featuring a large wood-burning fireplace, left me wondering how this Midwestern boy could have moved to the edge of joining the elite.

THE MOOSE -My roommates salvaged the mounted moose head from the attic of Peabody Museum and brought it to our suite in a taxi. I convinced the custodian to drive a spike into the mortar between the stone blocks of the wall so we could hang the heavy prize at an appropriate height.

Dan Bottoms