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Yale 62

About My Arrest
By Bill Stork

I receive a number of e-newsletters, from SCMP, CNN, CNBC, WaPo, NYT, Reuters, BBC, the Guardian and others. As I distract myself from the current ravages of Covid here in Hong Kong, I enjoy the post-breakfast task of reading then ridding what has arrived in my InBox overnight.

Of all the newsletter that arrive, this is one of my two favorites! It is well-written, short and free. Topics are all New Haven-vicinity related, often involving nature walks, museum events, New Haven history, and what’s happening at Yale. There are usually illustrations. Sometimes the entire issue is a photographic portfolio by the editor who is a noted photographer. Each week the editor publishes “the coming week in New Haven” with a brief inviting descriptions of events, time and place, and fee (if any).

The Emerald Society contingent at the 2017 parade
[photo: Daily Nutmeg]

What captured my attention this recent time was the announcement that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade would be spending part of its time on Elm St., between the Old Campus and the Berkeley College cross-campus area.

While I do not know if this triggered any memories for you, it certainly did for me, taking me back to spring of 1959 of our freshman year. (Ed Note: See our video on the front page for other classmate recollections of these events.)

I lived in ‘dirty’ Durfee, the second entry from the Yale Station post office. In Durfee we had a ‘buttery,’ downstairs from the third and middle entryway, which had an exit to Elm Street, directly across from the Noah Porter gate. We often took that exit as a shortcut to get to Commons for our meals. For sure, crossing one-way Elm Street was a hazardous undertaking, but very few of ’62 used the crosswalks where there were signals. Those signals did reduce the flow of oncoming traffic, though. This Durfee buttery door was an exit, and not an entrance, so upon return Durfee residents would have to use the gate by the Yale Station entrance or the gate by Battell Chapel.

For me, AY1958-1959 was an ‘interesting’ year, and compounding the fact that I had selected or been shunted into the wrong courses, there was even more. My remembrances are dutifully recorded in what I titled “Journal of the Plagued Year,” a take-off on Daniel Defoe’s work from 1722. Unfortunately, this is in storage in one of our China properties, inaccessible now due to Covid, but there is much that I vividly remember!

It was not a totally bad year, as I had a good roommate that I had gotten to know better by inviting him to spend a week with my family at our summer beach rental in California before going to New Haven. At Yale, I had a good physics professor, I had a habit of pulling the highest card from the deck when our freshman counselor had a ticket for a bus to a mixer at nearby Seven Sisters colleges, and I had a fun girlfriend in Spring Glen (Hamden).

But things began to tighten up midyear. For semester exams in January, I found I was scheduled for four exams in the first three days of the first exam week and my fifth exam scheduled for the end of the second week. I mentioned this to my Durfee freshman counselor; he recommended seeing the dean. I did, and got one of the exams postponed until February. After exams, the second semester began, and soon I was in Yale New Haven Hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Then, after discharge, I was confined for a week to the Yale Infirmary, which put me farther behind in my studies.

As for that make-up exam that I was to take, my surgery rendered that moot, so it was again rescheduled, now to the last week of April. (Think about it: a January exam in April!) This added yet another entry to my ‘Plagued Year’ journal. But more was to come!

March had arrived, and with it a rise in tensions between students and New Haven’s finest over a number of incidents. After the 10pm Harkness Bells ended, a group started calling “More, more!” and then they went out to pelt passing cars with snowballs. The police were called; the campus guards locked all the Old Campus gates. Yet a bunch of students, mostly from Bingham and Vanderbilt Halls, found a way out and proceeded to raise the traditional ‘riot’ call of “To the Taft Hotel!” and onward they went.

This was Thursday night, and following the alleged police brutality from the arrests that evening, student unrest was brewing.

Saturday came, and with it the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one that had a contingent of police. Inflated estimates claimed that 1500 Yalies had converged to disrupt them, but most of the activity was from the windows of Berkeley and Calhoun, with some from students on the sidewalks on the Berkeley side of Elm Street and by Battell Chapel, armed with wastebaskets of snowballs. A 60-person riot squad arrived with billy clubs, black jacks, and a fire hose that was eventually turned on Calhoun to force Yalies to retreat from their windows. Many were dragged to paddy wagons, including women and a history professor, and even an undergraduate watching from the steps of Battell.

As for me, yes, I did have a window that opened onto Elm Street. But no, I did not participate, as I had already found out the hard way that throwing a snowball pulled on my appendix stitches or something down there. But I was curious as to what was going on and I used the Durfee buttery exit to get to Elm Street, wandering down toward Battell to join the group that was watching from the steps there. When the riot squad arrived, I was helpless in escaping, as that appendix surgery made it impossible to run. Yes, I was that ‘undergraduate watching from Battell’ that was tossed into the paddy wagon and taken off to New Haven jail.

Yale president A. Whitney Griswold was horrified and embarrassed, and tried to smooth things with the mayor.  To deal the now disastrous town-gown relations he signaled that he would crack down on the perpetrators. I was swept into that group by the sheer fact that I had been arrested, and indeed Freshman Dean DeVane did hand out very severe punishments, ones that added much to the accumulated ‘plagues’ in my journal.

We welcome your comments and recollections below.

5 comments to About My Arrest

  • Tom triplett

    Your memory is spot on. I threw snowballs at the Taft. Overcharged on a date weekend. And on st pats, the police injured some students. One of my roomies tried to shield a 6 year old girl from the onslaught. Got bashed on his head by baton wielding “peace officer”

  • Jack Merrick

    Wasn’t the Freshman dean’s name “Whitman”?

  • Jack Merrick

    I meant “Whiteman.”


    Jack, You are absolutely right! Unfortunately all my archives are in storage in China, currently inaccessible due to Covid; Than you for the corrections!

  • Jim Kelly

    I agree with the police overreaction. Can’t say I was totally surprised having been, what I have always assumed, the first of our class to be arrested. As Bill Stork noted, the way back to the Old Campus from Commons was thru the Noah Porter Gate in mid-block on Elm St. I tried this for the first time on our first full day of freshman year, after lunch, and was hit by a car as I ,mistakenly, made a hasty retreat from the center line when I saw a bunch of cars headed toward me from my right. It was a car coming from from the left that got me. Fortunately I stayed on my feet after I was hit and I think I only fell after I had slowed considerably. There were no injuries. I reassured the driver I was ok and went on. Later that day Campus Police came to my Durfee room and indicated I had to go the the City Police Dept where I was booked and charged with reckless use of the highway. Apparently NHPD were upset when reports of an accident came in of which they had heard nothing from university.