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Yale 62

The Three Musketeers of Bassick High School, Room 10. Part II

By Lee V. Bakunin

The musketeers began to adjust, make new friends and explore Yale’s resources. A well-stocked library, dozens of organizations and extra-curricular activities, students from all over the United States and some foreign countries, and a variety of courses. Having been used to being somewhat big frogs in a small pond, they were just tadpoles in a large competitive ocean.

For all of its advantages, Yale had its disadvantages, too. All men, no women. So for dating, it would be young ladies from local New Haven high schools, Southern Connecticut State Teachers College or Albertus Magnus, a Catholic college. Otherwise weekend trips to one of the Ivy so-called “sister” schools – such as Smith, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke or Bryn Mawr – provided one had time, transportation and money, which none had within their limited budgets, crammed schedules and study requirements.

Developing efficient study habits was something they had to learn, as opposed to the prep school guys, who’d had four years of regimentation. Having been used to getting grades of 90 and 95 in high school, they had a come-uppance when they would receive quiz or test grades like 68, 72 and 79.

A disadvantage at college away from home can be an advantage in the long run: responsibility for one’s actions, conduct and personal needs. Laundry, food, sleep and hygiene were their responsibilities. No mommies to do laundry, darn socks or iron shirts. Responsible for buying your own toothpaste, soap and shaving cream as well as being on time for meals. Sleep too late on Sunday and miss breakfast! No room service or raiding the fridge. Choice is to wait for lunch or use some change from your limited funds for a snack. At times when a care package of goodies was received from home, that would be manna from heaven.

Here, we Bridgeport and Trumbull boys had an advantage, since our homes were only a short bus or train ride home. On those rare occasions when we were able, we’d bring our laundry and best manners in the hopes of bringing some homemade treats back to share. Fortunately, all of us had enjoyed great cooking at home. Lee’s mom made delicious chocolate chip cookies, brownies and sugar cookies. Mrs. Kish and Mrs. Schupbach had their favorite recipes. Tim and Richie, working in the dining halls, were also able to add to our larder with left-overs at times.

Each faced his own challenges. Neither Tim nor Lee smoked nor drank. Lee tasted one beer and maybe a small glass of sherry, which did nothing, and thought it was stupid. He bought one pack of cigarettes, smoked a few, disliked the taste and smell, so threw the pack away. If he needed a fix, burgers at the Yankee Doodle or White Castle were far more appealing. As for Richie, you’ll read more about his experiences in our next installment. As a Russian studies major and beginning to learn its culture and traditions, vodka and beer would offer temptations.

Yale today is far more global and diverse than it was 1958. Over 230 different student groups, from Native Americans to Transgenders to Tai Chi and Special Needs. There was recently an article that referred to Yale as the “Gay Ivy.” A far cry from where these three musketeers thought everyone was heterosexual.

All would later deal with the infamous draft board in Bridgeport, CT. It was rumored that the lady in charge of notices did not like college boys and would send the notice to report for duty within two weeks of graduation.

Can you guess what majors they would select? No, Lee from Russian heritage did not major in Russian. Richie, voted wittiest and cutest, did not become a Drama Major. Neither did he major in theology. Tim, who’d been selected to play in the Connecticut All State Orchestra and choir, was not a Music Major.

Richie majored in Russian studies and sang with the Russian Chorus – an upgrade from when he directed and led a chorus in the Bassick Green and White Revue parodying Yale’s rival, Harvard. That song, “Fight Fiercely Harvard,” written by Tom Lehrer about their prowess in football, had such memorable lines as “How we shall celebrate our victory; we shall invite the whole team up for tea!” Pure vintage Richie at his best.

In our freshman dorm, in our easy chair, he’d practice his vocabulary and tone. His fellow Musketeers learned some basic words as he’d greet them with dobroye utro! (dohb-ruh-ee oo-truh), Good Morning and Do svidaniya! (duh svee-dah-nee-ye), Goodbye (meaning “till the next meeting,” when leaving.

There were also a few times in Richie’s Russian learning curve when he attempted to imbibe like the Siberians in the winter. Richie with his love of the language, history and people, was merely acclimating himself for what would be his passionate future.

So totally taken was Richie with Russian Studies, Musketeer or should I now say Comrade, Dr. Richard Schupbach, following graduation with a B.A. from Yale in Russian Studies in 1962, received both an M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1964 and a Ph.D. in Slavic Linguistics in 1969 from UCLA.

He then went on to a distinguished career as a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford. Comparing his high school photograph with his professorial picture, you’d swear it was two different people, unless of course, Billy Crystal, whom the teenage Richie had resembled, had been given a Russian makeover for a feature film. He’s now retired as Professor Emeritus and now lives with his wife Viviane in Palo Alto, California. He also maintains a summer “dacha” in Tuscarora, Nevada.

Tim began his Freshman year thinking that he would major in Engineering, but his growing interest in the Social Sciences prompted him to eventually major in Sociology. Continuing with his music, he played trombone in the Yale Orchestra and the Yale Marching Band and was a member of the Yale University Chorus, which sang each Sunday morning in Yale’s Battell Chapel.

He recruited Lee to become one of the two non-playing members of the Marching Band – who, strapped front and back, carried Yale’s Big Bass Drum. His ploy was two free tickets for each home football game, including the “big game” with Harvard, travel with the band for away games and possibly learn to play something musically. What Lee didn’t know was that when he was not able to use his tickets, Tim could use them for his parents and/or two sisters, who were loyal fans and hardly ever missed a game. Not only was Tim a great musician, but he was also adept at finance, having a keen eye and ear for a bargain. Perfect credentials for banking law.

Lee started out as an English major, then switched to Political Science. He also switched residential colleges, from Trumbull in sophomore year to Silliman for junior and senior years. He continued as a non-playing member of the Yale Band and helped choreograph shows in his Senior Year. After graduation, he went to Ft. Devens for Army R.O.T.C. cadet camp. Injured two weeks before receiving his commission, he received an administrative discharge and re-classification to 1-Y status. He’d then face a succession of changes and challenges in graduate education, employment and lifestyle. Perfect grounding for the counseling he would do as a lawyer and a judge.

After Freshman year, having made new friends and beginning to feel their independence, it was time to branch out. Each went their separate ways to one of the ten residential colleges, Tim to Davenport, Richie to Calhoun and Lee to Trumbull for Sophomore Year, then to Silliman for Junior and Senior Years.

Stay tuned for another upcoming installment of our Three Musketeers. Did you miss Part I? Find it here.

We welcome your comments. Please make them below.

2 comments to The Three Musketeers, Part II

  • You left out another local source of female companionship, the then-Grace-New Haven, now Yale-New Haven School of Nursing, from which I recruited the compassionate woman who became my first wife and mother of my three children—two while at Yale.

  • Lee V Bakunin

    Hi Gary,
    Now you tell me. Hadn’t crossed my mind as I was very healthy and for some reason never visited Grace New Haven nor met any young ladies from the nursing school. How about writing an article detailing your experience and how you managed to graduate with being married and having two children as an undergrad.