Special Collections Oral History Program
James W. Scott
Professor Emeritus of Geography and Regional Planning
Interviewer: Tamara Belts
Date of Interview: August 1, 2003
Location of Interview: Interviewee's home, Aberdeen, Washington
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NOTE: There were some major technical difficulties which made portions of the tape impossible to transcribe. Dr. Scott graciously provided prepared text to add-in based on the list of questions that were originally asked. These insertions are labeled “Attachment One,” “Attachment Two,” and “Attachment Three.”
TB: Today is Friday, August 1st, and I’m down in Aberdeen with Dr. James W. Scott, who is a retired Professor Emeritus of Geography and Regional Planning from Western, and we’re hoping to gather his story. So, Dr. Scott, how did you first get to Western? And maybe you could describe how you were hired and how that whole hiring process worked at that time?
JS: All right, it was 1966, and I was at Indiana doing my Ph.D., and I applied to a variety of places: Columbia, I remember, Berkeley, Cincinnati. And my wife was then in England. She was at Indiana with me one year and then went to England with our daughter, and I phoned her and said, "These are the places that I’ve applied to."
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES – ATTACHMENT ONE INSERTED
"No" she said, "I don’t want to return to the Midwest, but the Pacific Northwest sounds good." And so I applied to Western, sending a letter of interest, a transcript and a couple of letters of recommendation. Not much more than a week later I was offered a tenure-track position. It was that quick! Presumably it was the transcript – straight A’s – and the two letters of recommendation from internationally known geographers: Norman J. G. Pounds and George H. T. Kimble.
When I arrived on campus in September 1966 I was, as most newcomers are, greatly impressed with Western’s wonderful setting overlooking Bellingham Bay. Old Main, the Wilson Library and Edens Hall were as they are today, except for the later wrap-around addition to the library. Red Square and most of the buildings around it – but not the fountain – were either completed or about to be completed, and the old Campus School was still occupied for, I think, its final year.
The Geography Department was not a large one with 8 or 9 members that year. Howard Critchfield was chairman. Two of the senior members, Bob Monahan and Elbert Miller were on sabbatical leave, Monahan in Finland and Miller in Central America. The other permanent members were Bob Teshera and Debnath Mookherjee. Frank Raney and I joined the department in 1966 on tenure-track appointments, while Don Vollbracht Southard Modry had temporary two-year appointments.
Soon thereafter the department was increased in size to, I think, twelve members, including one FTE that was a visiting lecturer position, and during the next few years we had visitors from Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, India and New Zealand. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to have these visiting geographers so widely traveled and experienced for one, two or three quarters, but alas! With cutbacks in faculty and staff in the early 1970s we lost this position and were never able to regain it.
During the years 1966 through 1970 I was busy teaching two courses a quarter in the department and also teaching one or two discussion sections in the Humanities Program, plus my dissertation work. It was difficult, as you might imagine to teach full-time, as well as finish my dissertation research and write my dissertation on a historical geographical topic. This was an analysis of The Mining and Smelting Industries of the British Isles, 1540-1640. None the less in December 1970 I successfully defended the dissertation and could relax somewhat – catch up on my general reading and think about what I should do with the dissertation – either prepare it for possible publication, or mine it for research papers. I decided upon the latter course, and in the next few years I prepared and presented five papers at various regional or national geography or history conferences. Four of these were eventually published.
END OF TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES AND ATTACHMENT ONE
TB: What about the Humanities Program?
JS: This was a three quarter sequence. We started with the ancient world and then came up to the modern. I did one section, sometimes two sections, each quarter of the year, and that carried on until in 1970 the General Studies Department was started. Then the administration proceeded to add people to the faculty of the General Studies Department, and the rest of us who used to be from mainly the social sciences and the humanities -- one or two from science, but mainly social science, humanities – dropped out, and the new department took over the whole program.
It was a good program, and it did bring faculty from many different departments together, because we would meet once a week and talk about issues that were going to be discussed in the lectures, which were given, I think, three times a week. Each student was in a section of twenty or twenty-five, and they would then discuss the various set books. Usually it was a case of seven or eight books. And, when I first started, they tended to be from the Great Books.
Now, in 1968, as you remember, we had Vietnam and we had people involved very actively. They were truly activists. [Robert L.] Carlton, I remember, was one. He was engaged full-time by the English department just to do humanities, and he was the spearhead, I think, of the activists, who wanted other ideas to be introduced, not just those of the Great Books. And so there was quite a lot of controversy then between the old-timers, like Mary Watrous, and the activists like Carlton.
By that time Larry DeLorme had become director of the General Studies Program, and in ’68, I was chair of the Book Selection Committee. Where in the past we had seven or eight books each quarter, I remember that year we had, particularly for the modern section, up to seventy or eighty books from which you had to choose five, six, or seven; each of the instructors who had the sections could choose which books they were going to use. People like Mary Watrous regarded this as absolutely chaotic, but it worked.
I remember it was good to be able to introduce some new authors, not just to deal with Aristotle and Shakespeare and the great thinkers, but to be able to introduce books by people like Paul Ehrlich, for example. His The Population Bomb. I remember using this the last year I taught in the Humanities Program.
It was a program which many people were very proud of and many people thought it worked very well, but others were highly critical of it, so there was seldom any consensus. It existed and, eventually of course, the General Studies Department came into being, and it was gradually changed over the years to what it is today -- General Studies became Liberal Studies.
TB: So it was sort of a team-taught?
JS: It was team-taught, yes. Now, there were a few people who did not do sections. They were generally senior people from various departments who gave lectures. R.D. Brown, for example, always gave lectures on Shakespeare as did Arthur Hicks. But Arthur Hicks also had sections, but I don’t think R.D. Brown ever did. Manford Vernon would give lectures on political topics, but also did sections. Then there were people like Don Eklund who was brought in to be essentially the history lecturer who could carry on through the year, giving the essentially historical background. Then the experts on philosophy or science or whatever would be brought in. To my mind, it worked quite well. I enjoyed my time in humanities. I’d been exposed to most of the ideas that I had to deal with in the sections, but I also was introduced to some new stuff, and, of course, in meeting with other faculty to talk about what we were doing you got to know people from other departments and experience other approaches to [teaching]. Yes, I think it was a positive thing.
TB: Was it probably just like a hundred students or two hundred students?
JS: Oh, no. I think by the time I finished in humanities -- that was probably 1970 or ’71, I was in there four or five years -- there must have been anything up to 1200 to 1400 students a quarter, which meant that you had to have something like twenty, twenty-five discussion sections. And there were sections also for honor students; I remember doing the honors section on at least one occasion. So I found it was an interesting program to be involved in.
TB: Do you remember any other special happenings or events when you first got here? I mean, I know that Hubert Humphrey came to visit.
JS: I do remember the Humphrey visit; he was a very interesting guy. He had to have Secret Service people, or what we assumed were Secret Service people, or FBI people and so on, all over the place. I didn’t hear him, but we did have other visitors to campus. I think Timothy Leary was one, and there were one or two other people of that sort who came. There was a poet who came who was notorious at the time, I can’t think of his name. I knew there were people, because I lived downtown at that time, who reacted strongly to the bringing in of these radicals because of the Vietnam era. It struck me, that the antagonism between town and gown was much more obvious then than it has become since. I think Jerry Flora did a lot to improve the relations, and Bill MacDonald, especially, because Bill was on the City Council a number of years. So things over the years did improve tremendously between the town and the university.
TB: That was kind of my next set of questions or second topic -- in 1967, Flora becomes interim [president], in 1968 he’s the regular president, there’s student unrest, the Viet Nam protest in ’69, there’s a lot of faculty unrest by ’71, RIF…
JS: Yes, right. Well, we did have all that. I think it was it ’69 that we had the black students take over Old Main, and they demanded two more faculty members. At that time, Jim Hitchman was the Dean of Students, and he, being an ex-Marine officer, felt that the troops should be called in and they should be evicted. Old Main was occupied and eventually it seemed to some of us that Jerry did sort of cave in and give them what they wanted, but two years later, of course, the College of Ethnic Studies disappeared.
We had few African Americans. I think when I arrived in ’66 (someone mentioned this later) there were only a couple of African Americans in Bellingham. There was one student and one faculty member in Economics, and that was about it. And, of course, there were Indians, Native Americans. There were very few Asian Americans or Hispanics. So to have a College of Ethnic Studies in Bellingham didn’t make a great deal of sense.
But, anyway, that led to a good deal of dissension between different factions on the campus. Some were supportive of Flora and the administration, and some, were very actively against it. I didn’t get involved particularly in that, but I was aware of what was going on. Then, of course, in 1970 or was it ’71; we got the economic recession. That was the time of the Boeing cutbacks, and the last person to leave town put out the lights sign on the freeway in Seattle.
Was Dan Evans still governor? I think he probably was. There was considerable cutback, and so we had the beginning of the endless series of RIF discussions. It seemed to go on and on and on: how many people should be in each department? how many people were essential and how many people were not essential, and so on and so forth. We had in the geography department gone up to, I think, twelve members, or thirteen; we had a visiting lectureship, so that we were able to bring in a person from, generally, overseas: Australia, South Africa, various places each year. We lost that position and we may have lost one other, but we were not the only department that was affected.
TB: But you don’t think there were any big scars that were left in Geography from that cut?
JS: Well, there were scars, I suppose. On my part, though, I realized this was part of the process of getting used to economic, political situations, and, while you would like to have retained the numbers you started with, or even expanded, you had to recognize that politically it was impossible. That continued through into the ‘80’s. I took over as chair of the department in ’74. I had two four-year terms: ’74-’82. So, during the years that I was chair we reduced the faculty, I think, to eight, maybe nine, and I felt we were more or less stable.
I’d like to have had the opportunity to hire new people, get rid of some of the people we had, but if you talk to any person who has been chair of any department, they’ll probably tell you the same. There were always people who, I felt, were not very productive and it would have been good to have been able to make changes, but the only people I appointed while I was chair were two persons to the map librarian position; in ’74 I appointed Dan Turbeville and in ’77 Janet Collins, who’s still there.
TB: Yes. Well, actually I’ll backtrack; the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies was established in ’71.
JS: ’71, yes.
Well, from the moment I arrived on the Western campus, I began looking at what was available in terms of material on the local region, and I discovered, that there was precious little. There were the two volumes of Roth’s, [History of] Whatcom County; there was Edson’s book, The Fourth Corner, and a few other local histories. But the campus had not really gotten terribly involved in this. Only Keith Murray was really involved in any local historical research. He’d done a number of fine things over the years. But, there’d been no collection of material.
So, in about 1970, there were a number of us who used to meet quite regularly, for coffee or drinks and parties. Larry DeLorme, Barry Gough, (who later went back to Canada, he was Canadian by birth, and a very considerable scholar), and Bill Bultmann, who was the chairman of the history department – of course he was later the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Acting Provost for awhile. It was in the spring of ’71, I think that we got together at Bill Bultmann’s place, drank a half gallon of wine, and talked about this and that, and thought it would be a good idea if we tried to put together something.
Larry DeLorme and I had thought of doing a survey of historical documents, in archives both private and public, and we put together our proposal which went into the Northwest Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. We got to the local board in Portland. Larry and I went down and met with the regional director, or whatever he was called but we didn’t get the grant! Thank goodness we didn’t, because it would have involved a great deal more than we had envisioned when we put our proposal together. In fact, it was later when I had become a member of the Washington State Historical Records Advisory Board, that the board submitted such a proposal to the NHPRC, the National Historical Records and Publications Commission. Grants of well over half a million dollars at the end, enabled the board to put together a two-volume work on the public and the private records of the state.
Out of that discussion of what could be done and what should be done, we decided that, in order to have some backing, we should have something in being like the Center. Well, DeLorme was running General Studies, Gough was very actively involved in publishing, and Bultmann was the chair of the department of History so they suggested I become the director if this was approved by the Board of Trustees. So I think it was in the fall of 1971, I don’t have the record actually but it could be checked, that I went to a Board of Trustees’ meeting and made the presentation, and we officially came in to being. Jerry Flora thought it was a great idea, but he said, "OK, I’m not giving you any money, though. If you have this Center, you’re going to have to bring the money in."
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During the next few years some important acquisitions were made, including the records of many local companies, such as the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railway; of some organizations, such as the YMCA and the Washington Good Roads Association; and historical and photographic collections of such local citizens as Galen Biery, Percival R. Jeffcott, Howard Buswell and Bruce Cheever. Initially these were housed in the basement of Wilson Library, although they were for the most part unsorted and not readily available to faculty or students. Then, in 1972 or 1973, I forget which, when Jerry Flora vacated the old President’s House and it was redesignated Canada House the Center acquired some suitable housing for its growing collections. A half-dozen or so years later, at the time of President Olscamp’s departure from campus, Canada House became the home also of the newly-established Faculty Club, and so the Center’s collections were transferred to the Commissary Building, utilizing some of the space given over to the Northwest Regional State Archives. There the Center remained until 1993 when the Goltz-Murray Archives Building was completed, and the Center and the University Records Center moved into the new building with the Northwest Regional State Archives.
Apart from its accessioning of significant archival collections, manuscripts, maps and photographs, the Center also organized and hosted a series of regional conferences on such topics as "Man, Government and Sea in Northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia"; "Oil in Washington Waters: Boon or Bane?"; "Fisheries in Puget Sound"; and "The Great Depression and Its Fifty-Year Shadow". These were largely underwritten by grants from the Washington Commission for the Humanities. Most of them were organized and directed by Dr. Manfred Vernon (Political Science) and myself. Don Alper (Political Science), Phyllis Bultmann (English) and Larry DeLorme (History) were each involved in at least one of the conferences.
A major activity of the Center was its publications, particularly its Occasional Papers series, twenty-four of which were published prior to my retirement in 1993. These included monographs such as Keith Murray’s Reindeer and Gold and Jim Hitchman’s Liberal Arts Colleges of Oregon and Washington; a couple of M.A. theses – Daniel Turbeville’s The Electric Railway Era in Northwest Washington, 1890-1930 and David Tremain’s Indian and Pioneer Settlement of the Nooksack Lowland to 1890; and the proceedings of the various conferences hosted by the Center on transportation, oil, fisheries, the Great Depression, etc. Another series started was Informational Papers which consisted of brief guides and preliminary inventories of various of the Center’s collections, such as those of Percival R. Jeffcott and Howard Boswell.
But by far the most ambitions publication of the Center was Washington: A Centennial Atlas, published in 1990 as Western’s contribution to the state’s centennial. For this I was the director and the sole author, aided by a research assistant John Newman and two cartographers, Colin Vasquez and Bruce Sarjeant, and in 1991 I received the Governor’s Writer’s Award for the atlas.
During the twenty-two years I served as director of the Center the collections were utilized by hundreds of students and a number of faculty, as well as researchers from off-campus. Monographs, theses, scores of term papers and even one or two books were the eventual outcome of their research efforts. And it should be noted that the availability of the materials was made possible by the efforts of more than fifty students – most of them graduate students, who sorted, arranged and inventoried the approximately one hundred collections we accessioned between 1971 and 1993. A published guide to these, prepared by Todd Welch, was completed in 1993.
Additional, more detailed information on the Center and its collections is provided by the article I wrote for the just published (2003) book WWU! As It Was prepared by Jerry Flora and his associates in the "Lunch Bunch".
One other undertaking of the Center I should mention is the Oral History Project begun in 1992 with funds proved by the Provost’s Office and the Western Foundation. Some two dozen or so faculty, most of them retired, were interviewed by me. A few other interviews were done by Don Eklund (History) and Todd Welch (Archives & Records Management Program). Only Eklund had any real training or experience in oral history, but after a few trial runs Todd and I quickly got "the hang of it". We had considerable success in persuading faculty to participate in this project and only one faculty member refused to cooperate unless he was given all questions ahead of time and then the right to change anything he wished when the tape was transcribed! During the next couple of years – 1994-95 – all the tapes were skillfully transcribed by Linda Thorstad (M.S. student in Geography) and Mary Miller (Administrative Secretary, Geography and Regional Planning)
END OF ATTACHMENT TWO
ATTACHMENT THREE INSERTED
TB: What about your years as chair of the department?
JS: As I noted earlier, I was chair of the department from 1974 to 1982. These were years of considerable difficulty and stress, due in large part to the statewide cutbacks necessitated in the early 1970s, following the almost carefree days of the early to mid-1960s when literally scores of new faculty were added and when most of the departments we now have on campus were brought into being. Instead of, say, a department of Social Studies, which encompassed so many disciplines, we got Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology. But by 1971 cutback rather than expansion became the order of the day at Western and elsewhere.
However it was during my years as chair that Western changed its name from Western Washington State College to Western Washington University. The name change of the state colleges – Central, Eastern and Western – was in keeping with what was going on in many other states at the time, such as Wisconsin and California. Paul Olscamp was the most active of the state college presidents seeking this change of name. He spent many days and weeks seeking this change, meeting with legislators in Olympia and their home districts. The change so far as I could judge at the time, only confirmed what many already knew: Western was already a university in everything but name. We had successful graduate programs and a faculty that was increasingly dedicated to meaningful academic research, as well as to excellent teaching. And I think that this was being recognized not only regionally but nationally, as various of Western’s faculty achieved national recognition. Paul Woodring was perhaps the outstanding example, but there were also people like Easterbrook in Geology, Murray in History, Critchfield in Geography, and a half dozen people in Psychology, such as Bob Meade, who were helping to establish Western’ reputation across the country.
Being myself dedicated to research as much as teaching, I was keen that my department measured up in both research and teaching.
END OF TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES AND ATTACHMENT THREE
TAPE ONE - SIDE TWO
JS: We had some pretty good researchers in the department, and some who did nothing at all. I tried to get people to cooperate, to try to undertake research on their own or with others. I was partially successful, I think, but, on the whole, I didn’t fully succeed. There were people who just resisted doing research. And this happened, I know -- talking to other chairs -- in other departments. Western had quite a lot of dead wood, and the dead wood has since largely disappeared.
TB: Did that create tension?
JS: It did.
TB: On campus.
JS: It did. I ran into that a few times. Initially, it was to all a great idea, but then they got to thinking about it, and it wasn’t such a great idea, and so there’d be a reaction to this. There were examples I can think of, of people who for years were teaching sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours a quarter -- they’d have four courses or something like that – yet had been able to produce. People like Keith Murray, Howard Critchfield, Howard Mitchell. They’d had very heavy loads and continued to do research, and so it seemed to me that, as our loads certainly declined, and we were averaging, what? Ten or eleven hours, that we should have been able to produce more than we did.
TB: You were very prolific. I’m still struck that you could be director of Pacific Northwest Studies, be department chair, and still have a prolific rate of publications, really.
JS: Well, not as much as I could have done by a long way. No, I felt that there were many things that I could have done which I didn’t do. I think that faculty have responsibilities as well as privilege, and it seemed to me that in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, you still had quite a lot of people who felt that, as they were faculty members, they were entitled to this and that, and their responsibility was of little significance to them, that they could do what they wanted. There may be still a residual of that, about faculty thinking that whatever they present is fine. I never really took that approach. I think if you’re going to present any course, that you have to have an outline and you need to follow that outline. You give it to the students -- this is what we’re going to do during the quarter. Many faculty however used the opportunity to espouse their favorite ideas, whether they were political or social or whatever, or to spend a great deal of time going over what they themselves had done in their own research, which, by that time, would be quite outdated.
I always remember one of my colleagues, Dick Smith, talking about a class he’d done when he was doing his Ph.D. at Wisconsin. It was taught by a visiting professor from the United Kingdom who was a very well-known researcher. He was supposed to be doing a course on the geography of Western Europe. Dick said they spent the whole semester on England; they never crossed the English Channel (laughter). It struck me that faculty who do that sort of thing should be disciplined in some way, but how do you do it? The dean can do so many things, the department chair can do so many things, but if the faculty member just decides he is going to do what he wants to do, it’s very difficult to do anything about it.
I remember when I took over as chair, a former student, who had been one of our first graduate students, phoned me the same day, saying, "Congratulations! And now have you fired so and so and so and so?" (Laughter)
I said, "Well, you know very well that I have no power to either appoint or dismiss."
There are things that you’d like to do but you can’t do.
TB: What about students? How did you see students change, or did you see students change and…?
JS: Well, during the Vietnam days, it seemed that students were very keen to stay in college so that they wouldn’t have to go, most of them, anyway. And so I think they were perhaps a little more conscientious than they became in the years following. One of the things I did notice especially -- because for twenty years I taught a course called "Research and Writing," and before I taught at the university, I was teaching in boarding school and teaching history and also English, and I’ve always insisted on a great deal of writing – [but] the majority of students are ill-prepared to do the writing which is needed. So, right from the start, I dismissed the idea of using any machine-graded, multiple guess (I insist on calling it that rather than multiple choice), true/false, and any such tests. I disregarded those totally. If you’re going to be part of higher education, then you need to be familiar with the language.
Over the years, my impression was that the standards dropped and dropped and dropped. One thing I did find was that when I had Canadian students -- and we had quite a few at Western, probably still do have -- they were better prepared than the American students to write because much more writing had been demanded of them, certainly in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, than was demanded of American students. I taught in a Canadian boarding school, in New Brunswick before I went back to the university to do my Ph.D, so I knew something about this. Canadian schools were expected to have students who would write a good deal and all exams were written exams. I would go in at the beginning of the quarter and make it quite clear that there were no multiple guess tests, that everything would be written. It might be a sentence, it might be a paragraph, or it might be a whole essay. And I didn’t give any clues to what the answers were; they had to provide the information, and that helped.
TB: Any thoughts about Ross, as the president, Ford as provost, their leadership style? You were then, by the time Ross came, you were no longer chair of your department. Did that…?
JS: No, Ross came in what, ’83?
JS: ’83, yes. I didn’t know him well, but, I did meet him, of course, as director of the Center. He came over to see what we were doing. He came to the department also on a couple of occasions, and then of course I got involved in the Centennial Atlas Project. He, in the mid-80’s, ’86, ’87, had quite a number of contacts with the community. He had dinners at his house, and he’d invite two or three faculty as well as people from downtown, and you talked afterwards, you sat around, talking about things you were doing. So, on a couple of occasions, at least a couple, I was up at the house talking about the atlas. It was he who decided we should go ahead with that and that it should be Western’s contribution to the Centennial. He helped provide some research money towards this, which I used for travel, to go around and collect materials and so on. The idea, had been in my mind in the 70’s, but it wasn’t until about 1982 or when I finished the chairmanship that I decided to go ahead with this. I remember going down with Barney Goltz and Bob Monahan to Olympia to meet with the then Land Commissioner whose name I can’t recall. His nephew was killed in the accident with Ross. He was Vice-President for Financial Affairs.
TB: Oh, Cole. Cole?
JS: Cole, yes, Burt Cole. And so it was his uncle Burt who was Land Commissioner.
TB: Oh, I didn’t know they were related.
JS: Yes, Burt Cole was his uncle. And I remember going to Cole’s office in Olympia and talking about this -- this was about ’84 -- and he thought it was a great idea. He said, "You know, we can do this in Olympia, but there would be such a squabble between the various departments, who should take control of this, so a university should go ahead."
And we thought, well, we were on to something. We’d get money. But, of course, that early, mid-80’s period was tough. Things have been [harder] since, for getting state money.
It was round about ’84, ’85, that I came across the series which Oklahoma University Press had started on state atlases, and I wrote to them and asked if would they be interested in one on Washington? They said they would. So, I spent ’85, ’86 putting this together. I had two graduate students who were the cartographers, and I got DeLorme to do some of the writing. I did about two-thirds; he did about one-third. Each map was accompanied by an essay.
That more-or-less out of the way, the state started organizing the Centennial Commission. Initially I was involved in that, and then it was reconstituted, and Ralph Munro and Jean Gardner became the co-chairs, but there were two or three academics who then became advisors, not members, and so I was then in the position to apply for a grant from the Centennial Commission, and in 1987 or was it ’88? Either ’87 or ’88, maybe the end of ’87, they decided to give us a grant of $25,000.
We were in business; I went ahead with the Centennial atlas. I planned it and did all the writing, but the cartography was done by professionals. I had a research assistant, Jack Newman, who’s been teaching in the English department this last year, and I had two cartographers Colin Vasquez and Bruce Sarjeant. The latter became the person who did about four-fifths of the atlas. He’s now the map librarian at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.
The atlas occupied much of my time, really. The 80’s were quite busy and very enjoyable. I think that faculty who are busy do get a lot more out of life than faculty that have very little to do. But that’s an observation which probably not everyone will agree with (laughter). I think faculty have lots of opportunities for relaxation, and to be busy doing academic work when you feel that things you’re doing are of some value, there’s a great satisfaction to that.
TB: What about Mortimer? Any thoughts on him and what was happening on campus or changing from a scholar president to a more administrative CEO kind of model…?
JS: Well, I want to say, Ross was not, so far as I know a scholar president. He was a good old Southern gentleman, while Mortimer was a professional administrator. Olscamp, who preceded Ross, on the other hand was a nationally recognized scholar.
I got on very well with Mortimer. Mortimer carried on doing some of the same sort of things that Ross had done. I was up at the president’s house a number of times, making presentations, and he had meetings also, lunches and so on in Old Main up in the…
JS: Yes, the solarium, I couldn’t think of it -- the solarium. I know that I made presentations on two or three occasions, when he’d have people up -- legislators, administrators, and others -- from Olympia. And so he was there until ’92 was it? ’91? ‘91
TB: Morse comes in…
JS: ’93. But he’d been already gone a year, Larry DeLorme was in charge for a while.
TB: It was probably ’92.
JS: ’92, then, yes. Yes, they were interesting, busy, productive years.
TB: What about in 1993, Geography, I look at it as being a little bit disbanded where it goes into Huxley – was that like a natural evolution or?
JS: I don’t think it was. I think this was in part the result of some of those people we had, the dead wood, that I talked about before, coinciding with a series of articles that had appeared, one particularly in the Chronicle of Higher Education regarding the University of Michigan and the elimination of a geography program. [Michael] Mischaikow had headed the commission on campus in the 80’s, proposing changes. Was it the mid 80’s or late 80’s? Whatever -- the late 80’s -- Pete Elich was [Arts and Sciences] dean. It looked, for a time, as if geography might be eliminated, but I think [James] Talbot was against that. I don’t know, but I think he was.
And so we began to have talks with Huxley. It seemed a very natural thing to have geography, which is one of these fields that spreads between different sciences and the humanities; it’s got a bit of all, to be involved in an Environmental Studies Program, and so eventually that was worked out. In my last year, we were part of Huxley, but I never got involved really in the Huxley program. By that time, I think things were still in the initial stages, and it was right after I left that things really materialized, and what emerged were two programs of Huxley: the Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Social Studies and Geography. [Debnath] Mookerjee and then John Miles were involved in this, and I think John is still involved in it. But essentially, I lost contact with the department. I have contact still with Monahan every so often. He’s been down here. And I usually have lunch once or twice a year with Critchfield. I’m very much in contact with Janet Collins, but otherwise being 200 miles away, it…
TB: Yes, yes.
JS: Makes a difference.
TB: OK, just kind of overall, do you have any thoughts on what you think were the big issues in campus politics, the development of the university, watersheds, thoughts…?
JS: Well, I think in the -- what is it now -- thirty-seven years since I arrived in Bellingham at Western, a lot of things have changed. The university has become much more a university, and a research institution. In ’66 it was still very much a school for teachers, little more than a normal school, but not much. The Education part has become less and less important than the academic part. Economics, some of the sciences, especially Geology and Psychology, have become very well-known, not just regionally, but nationally.
So, while it’s not become as some people thought that Western was going to become "Harvard on the Nooksack" (laughter), it has become a well-known institution. And the fact that it’s noted each year as being "a good buy," a fine place for undergraduate as well as graduate students. I think it has – as well as by developing certain things like the Center, and an archival program -- entered the main stream of the better American universities.
When I retired and was presented with a festschrift, the book of essays that Critchfield edited, Pacific Northwest: essays in honor of James W. Scott, at the party, which was down at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, I remember Jim Hitchman did one of the –"roasts". He made the point that the establishment of a Center, a place in which archival manuscripts and other materials could be held, put Western on the map, more than anything. Now, I think he was exaggerating, but major universities all have such, and it’s a very important part of their mission as centers of higher education. So you’ve got Special Collections, and the Center, and these go beyond the academic departments. They can cover, in fact, many of the departments in a way that the normal teaching does not.
I think the years have seen not only great changes, but great improvements, and of course, as a campus, from the point of view of its physical make-up, the buildings, the campus grounds, all have been undergoing constant improvement. One thing, of course, that happened, which has happened everywhere: as the campus has grown, the faculty numbers have gone up. Administration has gone up at a faster rate. I think this is true virtually everywhere. When I came, it was a very small administration, now there’s a very large administration, and I don’t think this is going to change (laughter).
TB: How about your retirement? What have you been doing since your retirement? I know you’ve stayed involved; you were at the Northwest Archivist Conference…
JS: Oh, yes, I continue to go to conferences. I belong to a number of historical and geographical and archival societies. I haven’t done a great deal in terms of presentations, but I have continued to publish from time to time, mainly reviews, book reviews and such things as updating encyclopedia articles which every so often need updating, Academic American, for example. This year, I wrote a small piece on the Center, which I sent to Jerry Flora for the program he’s working on now too, WWU: as it was, Western up to the 90’s, that is.
TB: Well, what about why did you retire to Aberdeen? Do you mind sharing that?
JS: Well, partly to get away from the I-5 corridor, but also to get away from the university for a time. At any rate, not to become one of these regular visitors, daily visitors, keeping an office, or trying to keep an office, and telling people about how it used to be, rather than letting them get on with things as they are. I didn’t want to repeat the long years of visits like Arthur Hicks, who was up on campus every day. There were others, as well. I think about Hicks because I saw him so frequently, wandering around campus. And I often thought, what on earth are the new members of his department thinking? I don’t think Arthur actually spent a lot of time telling people how things were, but there were others who certainly could waste a lot of time coming up and talking about the things as they used to be, and I didn’t want to be one of those. I came south to Aberdeen and I’ve done lots of gardening, lots of reading, a great deal of listening to music.
I not only have a large library, but a great collection of CD’s -- I’m getting on for about a thousand now. I remember the Festschrift party when Critchfield -- I didn’t know this book, The Pacific Northwest: essays in honor of me, was going to be given -- walked towards the piano and he said, "Now I’m going to play some Mozart." He opened the piano and pulled this out and then presented it.
Mozart is the composer that I spend a great deal of time with, and now I find that I have about a hundred and forty Mozart CD’s (laughter).
TB: So that Festschrift was a total surprise to you?
JS: It was a total surprise.
JS: I hadn’t a clue.
JS: Janet Collins was the person with another former student, Pat Grant who had conceived the idea of doing this festschrift, and they persuaded ‘Critch’ to edit it. About two months before, in May or April of ’93, she said, "Look, for your retirement (June the 18th, I think it was), I’m going to have a party at my house."
Well, she at that time had a duplex on Alabama Hill, not a very big house, so I thought, well, a small party. About two days before, she phoned and said, "Look Jim, we’re going to change this. There are more people going to come than I expected, so we’re going to meet down in the museum (and this still didn’t click.), in the Rotunda Room."
I thought, well ….
My wife knew all about this because Janet and Critch had come to find suitable photographs, and I think there are one or two in here. So, I didn’t -- as normally I would, -- go down to the party in shorts, I did have slacks on, but I didn’t have a coat or tie. I got down to the museum, and I thought, well, it’s a crowded place, but I know the museum is used for a variety of things. As I walked in, all sorts of people were there. There were about 150, 170 people there from Eastern Washington, from Portland, from Vancouver, and, [I thought] oh my god! But, even then I didn’t realize, I thought, you know, it was just a party. There was going to be champagne and all the rest, and, then of course there was this Festschrift, plus a couple of other things presented, including a plaque with this picture on it.
TB: Oh, OK.
JS: This is the "Lady Washington" that was built as Aberdeen’s contribution to the Washington State Centennial in 1989.
Anyway, its been a wonderful ten years really, apart from the fact that during that time my knees started getting worse and worse. I felt that started years ago when I was in the Andes in South America and dislocated a knee, which I ignored, because we were hundreds of miles from anywhere where I could have had anything done to it. Then, over the years, things deteriorated, and I ignored them, continued to garden, continued to kneel and do all the rest. Then, all of a sudden, I could hardly walk. At the end of 2001 I’d had one operation done, but it wasn’t a very successful one, and three months after that I had a repair done on the one and the other knee replaced at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle. So in the past year, I’ve been becoming more and more active and I’ve been doing a lot of gardening. Not as much traveling as I’d like, though my wife is going off to Europe in September, next month, and I will be here, but going off to Ashland and various places during the month. Ashland has been one of the places that I visit every year, every summer I go to see two or three or four plays. I’m doing it again this year with the graduate student who was my last graduate student in the Center, Todd Welsh, who is now in Special Collections at Northern Arizona State, in Flagstaff.
TB: Oh, OK.
JS: He was for quite a few years at the Oregon Historical Society.
TB: I didn’t realize he’d moved.
JS: You’ve met him of course. He was secretary of Northwest Archivists for many years, but he’s now in Northern Arizona. So, he’ll be here in the house the next month for a few days, and then we’re going to Ashland.
TB: Nice. My last question is just if there’s anything I haven’t asked that you would like to get on the record or whatever?
JS: I can’t think of anything. We’ve covered…
One thing perhaps I should mention is that when in the 1970’s, I started the Center, I also started working very closely with Ray McInnis. He and I did our Social Science Research Handbook. That was in the mid-70’s, and in the mid-80’s, Robin Winks of Yale, put together a series which was called History and Historiography, and one of the thirty-six volumes was our Social Science Research Handbook. When this was announced, Jim Hitchman phoned me and said, "I think this is hilarious. Here is Western represented in this series, Classics on History and Historiography, and neither of the authors are members of the history department!" (laughter).
TB: Good point, yes.
JS: Anyway, the period at Western and the period since have been very, very enjoyable. I’ve been very grateful, you know, for everything I’ve been able to do and been allowed to do because that’s also very important -- being allowed to do something good -- not just doing it.
TB: Well, thank you very much. It’s been great.
JS: Well, thank you for coming and giving me the opportunity to talk about a few things I’ve more or less enjoyed doing all of the time.