Date: Sat, 11 May 2002 00:26:10 -0400
Tay, I must take this opportunity to correct one mistake in your recounting of the infamous ammonium iodide incident: your partner in crime was not "Phil" but rather myself, otherwise known as Mau Mau or Mau to my friends. Note that there are no "Phil"s in our class. And it seems to me that the guest speaker was not Walter Lord (although he did attend the Evening Meeting more than once), but rather the headmaster of Exeter Academy, a staunch supporter of GDA, thereby making the faux pas even worse.
The mistake regarding the name is understandable. No one used my proper name during my five year tenure other than Peter Machinist. That is one of the reasons why I was the first to leap to my feet and applaud with every accolade this remarkable person won at graduation.
Boys are supposed to metamorphose to young men during boarding school. But when even the masters are so insensitive as to join in generalized abasement, breaking the cocoon is difficult. Only a close friendship with Richard Knight during freshman year at Colorado College would result in a restoration of confidence for this writer. Rick's smart as a whip, cynical, gifted athlete, ladies man, richer than stink. Why would he associate with Man Mau? We were close in college, then marriage and distance defeated contact. We met occasionally during the next ten years, then he left home. Bob James knows the story better than I, but it was only when I was scouting colleges in Cambridge for my youngest daughter in 1998 that his wife informed me that he had committed suicide some 13 (?) years before. (Tarbs, you have 1985; I don't know why I think it was a good few years later.)
With confidence comes libido: my pregnant bride and I crewed a schooner from Newport to St. Thomas leaving my best buddy to justify the elopement to dear old dad. This was between sophomore and junior year at college. After a stint in manufacturing management I joined the world's first true multinational, The Singer Sewing Machine Company, and went to their large factory complex in Brazil in the mid seventies. True to the expatriate life style, dad becomes immersed in work and local events, while mom is isolated by language and culture. We split amicably and our two daughters commuted between New England and Sao Paulo for the next fifteen years. My second wife and third daughter have dual citizenship.
At the end of the eighties, Singer dissected itself, and the school and social conditions became precarious in Brazil. We upped stakes and pursued the second of two shrimp farming projects in the Dominican Republic, living in Puerto Rico. Unlike the first endeavor which had closed the financing but couldn't wrest mangrove swamps from the hands of the landed gentry of the Northeast of Brazil, this second, lead by a consortium of Italians, had secured the land in the Dominican Republic, but couldn't convince the locals to accept Lira. So off we went to Miami. In 1992 we checked out: we bought a small bareboat charter company in Ft. Lauderdale. We sold a large charter company after seven delightful, exhausting years. One doesn't have to rich to be a sailor, but then Boston College doesn't care much for sailors. The educational requirements of #3 daughter put an abrupt end to what others viewed as retirement, and I find myself in Indiana trying to juxtapose waving corn tassels and white caps. But caring for RCA's businesses in Brazil gives me occasional respite from endless waves of grain.
I am still ambivalent about my attendance at the reunion. My memories of Governor Dummer are not pleasant. But the enthusiasm of those who have contributed thus far is infectious.
One last observation. Note the change of tense in the fourth paragraph above. Tom Mercer would give an instant zero for such composition. My eldest is 37 years old, and I still gently correct her English at the dinner table in front of her mother in law. NO mercy(er). Although I earned (deserved?) terrible grades at GDA, it offered the best preparatory education available. Remember the Monday morning vocabulary tests from Readers Digest? The foundation in English, history and math has served me well. And I cannot help but note by the quality of the writing of the other contributors that they too have benefited.
I'm glad you stepped forward, Paul! In my middle age, when I wrote that recount of an incident already twenty years dusty, I couldn't remember who my accomplice had been. Admittedly, using my author's license, I invented "Phil" to fill the gap. Memory is a subjective thing and allows history to be rewritable. In a box in my barn, though, is the actual paper note from Walter Lord that responds to the required apology to him, part of the punishment from Val Wilkie and Dave Wiliiams. Luckily both will be cherished guests at our reunion, and perhaps we can probe their subjective recollections. Likely our prank does not rate among the worst of their child management experiences through their tenure in authority. Likely, too, in today's zero-tolerance world, we'd have gone to jail. Explosives! Man, what were we thinking?--Tay Vaughan, May, 2002.