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Yale 62

An Inconspicuous Subset, in France

By Philip Stewart

An inconspicuous subset of the Yale class of 1962 were the eleven juniors who spent the year 1960–1961 in France under the auspices of the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France, a venerable program about 90-strong that had begun at the University of Delaware in period between the two World Wars. These men were, if my archives are correct, David Arkush, Jeff Barnouw,1 Roger Craig, Edward Freeman, Joe Graham, Steve Hazlett, Bill Reilly, Tom Sherman, Robert A. Smith, Philip Stewart and Sam Waterston.

One interesting feature of this group was its diversity. Far from being characterized, as one might imagine, by French majors, they were remarkably diverse both in their fields of study (one, for example, majored in Southeast Asian Studies) and eventual profession: several were to became lawyers, at least three professors, and one an actor of some notoriety.

Three of those surviving (Stewart, Barnouw, and Waterston) met with others of their group for a pandemically deferred 60th reunion in Washington, D. C. last October 29 at the gracious invitation of David Rosenbloom (Princeton) and Carla Peterson (Yale PhD). Joan Hinde Stewart, Lynn Waterston, and Ann Craig (widow of Roger Craig and herself an alumna of that 1960-1961 cohort), were also in attendance. Bill Reilly and Tom Sherman, who had planned to come, had last-minute impediments.

What all these, from whatever college (Sweet Briar, Mount Holyoke, and Princeton also had notable contingents) had in common was an indelible memory of that year spent in a vibrant cultural atmosphere immersed in a still-postwar economic situation. We missed one of Yale’s best football seasons of all time and witnessed the 1960 presidential election from afar but saw up close the tensions of a fiercely divided France trying to find a way to end their war in Algeria; Algérie française was indeed detonating occasional plastic bombs in Paris itself.

To many, the experience had some bearing on their career choices, and almost all have returned repeatedly to France over the years, sometimes to visit with the very families that had hosted them or other friends they had made then. (In our own case, the pandemic had interrupted a sequence of at least fifty years, if memory serves, in which we had gone to France at least once, and we had just visited in September 2022 with lifelong friends from the family that had hosted Steve Hazlett and me in the 6e arrondissement.)

It was to experience what we all appreciate about all such reunions, namely the collapse of intervening time, a brief surge of nostalgia that is tonic to aging souls.

 

1Technically Jeff was shifted to the class of 1963, but he went to college with us.

 


An Inconspicuous Subset, in France (continued)

It didn’t take much prodding to get me to expand some on my earlier memo (above) about junior year in Paris.

Many of us had never before been outside North America. It was much too costly to fly so we were sent third class on the RMS Mauritania, which was nearing the end of its life after serving as a troop transport ship in WW II.

Going to France in 1960 was like taking a step back into the past, especially to our generation who thought the America of the ’50s was normal. The transition to Paris was eased by a few weeks in Tours, where we could bicycle around and make excursions to many of the Loire valley châteaux. The moat around the old Louvre had not been rediscovered and uncovered. There was no Montparnasse tower, not to be constructed for another decade. Occupied during the war, Paris had been spared bombing; but while there was no rubble, the French economy had not fully rebounded. All the historical buildings were blackened by centuries of wood and coal burning for heat. The streets were full of pre-war-era automobiles (the most notable throwback was the 2CV, the minimalist Citroën Deux Chevaux which was manufactured in updated versions for many years more). There were still warm feelings about the American armies that had helped liberate France in 1944, not to mention the Marshall plan which was such a boost to rebuilding her economy.

Lynn and Sam Waterston at the D.C. get-together in October 2022

While Camus and Gérard Philippe had recently died, the prestige of French literature and cinema was at a high crest; Sartre, Beauvoir, Malraux, Mauriac and the like were very prominent and were in the papers all the time.

We followed from afar the US election of 1960 with its narrow victory for Kennedy. In part because JFK was a decorated naval officer, and also because Jacqueline Kennedy had also spent a student year in Paris, the attractive presidential couple eagerly accepted de Gaulle’s invitation to visit Paris; it was the occasion of a sensationally hyped state visit. I and surely numerous other Yalies watched Kennedy and de Gaulle together descending the Champs Élysées in an open car.

The political scene that year was totally dominated by two major (and related) phenomena, Charles de Gaulle and the war in Algeria. De Gaulle had been returned to power in 1958 to resolve the ugly Algerian war, but the “patriotic” organizations of the right – Algérie Française and OAS (Organisation de l’armée secrète) – reacted violently once he decided that the liberation of Algeria was inevitable, and there were occasional terrorist acts that year in Paris. The generals’ attempted putsch in April 1961 saw a frightened Paris heavily armed overnight, suddenly threatened by its own army, a large portion of which was in Algeria.

I was lodged (along with Steve Hazlett) with a wonderful family on the left bank (they are still close friends) and could walk, somewhat bedazzled) to most of my classes; in any case the metro was never far away. Being impecunious, I ate in a nearby student cafeteria, which at least was cheap. More importantly, equally cheap tickets were often available to students in a wide range of performances, , and I took almost weekly advantage of that; while I was going to plays, Steve, whose interests lay elsewhere, was attending concerts.

 
Please comment below.

5 comments to An Inconspicuous Subset

  • Jay Hatch

    Great start Phil….I hope you will write/reflect/share a bit more about your experiences, observations and escapades durig that year.

  • I. Concur. Junior Year Abroad used to be much coveted, despite what you missed in New Haven. From today’s long view, how has it shaped the members of your group that you knew well then and have kept up with a bit? Is the concept still alive or was it a Big Postwar Idea that became less urgent or was succeded by other activities? I spent the summer after my junior year in high school with a German family and it developed a moderate interest in German news that still lingers, however slightly; the American Field Service organization that arranged my visit found a terrific Norwegian exchsnge student who became almost a member of our family for a decade or more after his year with us. One result: I and my sister later spent a few days with his Norwegian family on our later trips to Europe. At the very least I and all my sibs know where Norway is, though we no longer follow North European news.

    These amorphous changes are hard to document . If anyone knows of or has leads to outcomes research, I’d be interested.

    Chris Cory. Chris@christophercory.com

  • Bill Weber

    Phil’s story reminds me of the many trips my wife and I took whilst I was at Oxford. We could have breakfast, get in our car, drive to Dover and take the ferry to Calais and be in our hotel room by early afternoon. Besides the many trips we took all over France, some of the happiest memories are the inexpensive and uncrowded ventures. We could travel all day by car, stay in a hotel and spend about only $20 per day. Needless to say, our last trip in 1997, was more expensive and the crowds at Versailles and then Eiffel Tower were discouraging to say the least. In 1965, WWII had only been over for 20 years, the Normandy coast still had German fortifications in place and one entrance to a chateau still had signs at the entrance in German! A visit to the US cemetery at Belleau Wood was memorable in that the grounds were in perfect shape, being tended to by the French and the visitor book had inscriptions by French citizens saying “God Bless America”, remembering the sacrifices of those buried there from the events of the Normandy invasion by the allies. Belleau Wood was, in fact, the first big battle of the Americans in WWI. Great times and thanks, Phil, for helping me remember the good old days! Bill Weber

  • Philip Stewart

    Thanks for the feedback! To Christopher Cory’s point, I know of no research but have lots of anecdotal evidence from my own cohort, many of whom have maintained a sort of allegiance and often friendships in France. Today young people have many more opportunities to travel widely, and transportation is much cheaper. But Bill Webber is right to recall also that travel on the ground was much cheaper: we often used Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a day” and in some countries that was quite literally possible. You could also go almost anywhere without advance reservations, even places like Mont St Michel, which are so teeming now that they are almost impossible to visit. I went there one weekend with Bill Reilly and Roger Craig, who had a car. I also copped a DC-3 one weekend to London, picked up a ticket to Alec Guiness in “Ross” and saw the young queen pass in her carriage for the state opening of Parliament.

    Still, junior year programs remain a viable option, though not Sweet Briar’s: it used to be quasi-independent, but the college, which is on the ropes, stole the money last year and shut it down. My own university (Duke) has long had a joint program with Cornell and Emory and now Tulane, and there are quite a few others; Hamilton College, for instance, has had a program in Paris since 1957, and has others in Madrid and Beijing.

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