Special Collections Oral History Program
Kamalla Rose Kaur (Whitley) [Allyn Elizabeth Blood]
Campus School, 1960-1967
Interviewer: Tamara Belts
Date of Interview: January 31 & February 6, 2007
Location of Interview: Special Collections, Western Washington University Libraries
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This interview was conducted with Kamalla Rose Kaur (Whitley) (formerly Allyn Elizabeth Blood) in two sessions, one taking place on January 31, 2007, the other on February 6, 2007, at the Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections, in Bellingham, Washington. The interviewer is Tamara Belts.
TB: I’m here with Kamalla Rose Kaur (Whitley), born Allyn Elizabeth Blood. She’s ready to do an oral history; she did sign our Informed Consent Agreement, and we are videotaping. We’re going to start off going through the Campus School questionnaire and hope that we get all of the good stories that you also shared in your story called “Making Guinea Pigs.” The first question is: How did you happen to attend the Campus School?
KRK: My father told me that on the day I was born that he went and signed me up for the waiting list. I imagine that that’s true. So, I was born to be part of the Campus School.
TB: Very good.
KRK: I was born in the hospital right down the hill here, St. Joseph’s, which was a block away from where our house was on Forest Street. So I was a “born on the hill, live on the hill” child. We had a whole community including, little neighborhood grocery stores, and dairy products delivered to the door. Bellingham didn’t have supermarkets yet. It was a Campus School village . . . professor’s village.
TB: Did anyone else in your family attend Campus School and what were their names?
KRK: Bruce Blood, my brother, is 4 years older, and he was ahead of me four years at Campus School.
TB: What were the years and grades of your attendance?
KRK: I attended from 1960 until it closed in 1966 or 1967 when I went into middle school as a sixth grader. I attended Campus School through fifth grade and then went to Fairhaven Middle School. That was the first year the junior highs had changed to middle schools.
TB: You probably did go through 1966 because in 1967, the last year, it only went up through the 4th grade.
KRK: Sounds right.
TB: Did your family pay any fees for your attendance at the Campus School?
KRK: I have no idea.
TB: How did you get to and from school?
KRK: I lived at 416 Forest Street across from the Spanish villa building where my godfather Herb Taylor and family lived. Next to that, the Floras lived in the big white house in the early years. Everybody later moved other places, except the Monahans still live on Garden Street directly above where I lived as a child.
All the neighborhood kids went to Campus School and a couple of them were not college professor’s children. We all went up via paths through people's yards. I can’t remember all the names now, but kids came up through someone's yard on State Street to the alley and then through the Yancos’ house, through our yard, up to the Monahans’ house to the stairs that were at Garden and Cedar Streets. There were a different set of stairs back then. As I recall, they went straight up, so it was quite a climb to school everyday.
I also often walked with my father. I usually would stay after school (the campus was our playground) until my dad was done for the day - he worked until 5:30pm or so - and we’d walk home for dinner together.
TB: What did you do for lunch?
KRK: I took a lunchbox or brown bag lunch. My mother would pack it each day and it was always the same for many years, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a piece of fruit, maybe chips, and milk.
TB: Oh excellent.
KRK: After WWII, Western hired lots of young professors, and it had an optimistic Camelot feeling back then. They all believed in liberal education - that if you gave everybody as broad, as expansive and as rich an education as possible, that no matter what the future held in store, we would have the ability to learn, and thus cope.
My dad, Don Blood, came to Western in 1950 after getting his PhD in Iowa.
My brother and I were both redheads and we had redhead personalities and my mother was very much the social redhead herself. She enjoyed the role of hostess and my brother and I were both outgoing. We were very close to all the adults around us as well as the kids.
TB: What was the campus like when you were a child?
KRK: There was no Red Square. That whole area was our playfield. Haggard Hall (the science building) and Carver Gym were newer buildings when I started Campus School. Carver Gym seemed wildly modern in architecture.
The playground was sexually segregated. The girls played on the blacktop close to the building. We played four-square, and tether ball and jump rope, while the boys played out on the field with balls. The girls wore dresses - often with those horrible scratchy net slips, and shiny shoes. “Playing” was out of the question because if you jumped or fell, your skirts would fly up and your underwear would show, and that was a big, big deal back then!
TB: What about your classmates?
KRK: We were basically the same 25 kids going through each grade together. We also socialized after school and on weekends. We were average children. Not all of us were brilliant and academic like so many of our parents were. However we were unusually enriched children.
TB: What about Campus School teachers?
KRK: Miss Nicol was the Kindergarten teacher. I remember going to the Campus School assemblies and school performances as a toddler. I went to see my older brother Bruce perform. Miss Nicol’s Kindergarten class did the scarf dance each year. Those 5 year olds ran around in a circle fluttering these big beautiful scarves. Thus I knew as a baby that, when I got to Kindergarten, Miss Nicol would be my teacher and I too would do the scarf dance. I was really excited about that part. I was going to get to perform the scarf dance, and since Miss Nicol lived in my neighborhood, I already knew and loved her.
When I got to Campus School I did get to perform the scarf dance and I also got to sing a lot too!
Miss Casanova, our first grade teacher, used a great big Dick and Jane book to teach us to read. “See Dick, see Dick run, go Dick!” That book was almost as tall as we were. My mother always told me that Miss Casanova was an excellent reading teacher. My mother was gifted at teaching people to read herself.
Despite this, I did not really learn how to read until fourth or fifth grade - learning disabilities. That got very difficult when they started doing reading groups, because the professors - our parents - were so competitive; you just did not want to be in the slug group, you wanted to be an eagle. So for those of us who were not learning how to read quickly, being in the slug group was socially horrible. Parents started worrying “Oh my God! One of my kids isn’t brilliant!” They were brilliant and they thought that being brilliant was important - so they were hoping their kids were brilliant as well. Back then educators didn’t know about all the different kinds of intelligence, but Western's education department and Campus School teachers were on the right track. I can see, in hindsight, they were working on developing all our various talents.
TB: It’s interesting that you say that you were having a difficult time learning to read. You would think that with all those student teachers to assist them, they would find a way to work with a student who maybe wasn’t . . .
KRK: I figured it out later with my second child, when she experienced the same thing: Age 8-9 she could stand up and read out loud, but she really wasn’t reading books… She and I weren't early “readers.” I wasn't up at night, with a flashlight under the covers, reading books, like my friends. I believe that this was simply because my parents and teachers were always pushing me into harder and harder material, instead of handing me a bunch of comic books. At puberty, I taught myself to read on romance novels. I hid them. Reading silly trash was taboo in my family, not because anybody was saying I couldn’t read anything, but my parents and brother thought romance novels, and romance novel readers, were stupid. I didn't want to be seen as being stupid.
Around the same age, astrology intrigued me, though there were few books available on that subject prior to the Sixties Rebellion. I remember being at the grocery store and seeing those little astrology magazines and I picked one up while my Mom wasn't looking. I knew it was taboo.
TB: Tell me about Kindergarten and first grade at Campus School:
KRK: Miss Nicol taught kindergarten and Miss Casanova taught first grade, and they were Campus School institutions. I think they were both excellent teachers, and of course they were the elders of the school.
TB: Did you pick that up when you were there?
KRK: Yes, they’d been there for years and the other teachers were younger and hadn't been there as long. Certainly, as a child, I was very aware of older teachers as distinct from younger teachers. Miss Casanova and Miss Nicol were in their fifties or sixties, while, Goldie Vitt, our amazing second grade teacher, was in her mid-thirties, maybe forty. She was at the height of her career, and she was a genius teacher. She opened up the whole universe for us - that is how I remember Mrs. Vitt; as the best teacher ever!
Mrs. Vitt taught second grade when “new math” was coming in. Due to my strange brain, I can’t do linear thinking that great, but I ended up being good at math. I entered Fairhaven Middle School with math aptitude, but within a year or two, I never did math again, or science. Because I couldn’t adapt to the way math and science were taught in the public schools—because I can’t do linear!
So how did I do math? I was taught “new math” as an experimental program in second grade, with Mrs. Vitt launching the curriculum. She was working with the education department, with everybody watching. This was a new program that would later enter the public schools.
First thing they taught us was set theory, and after that they taught us bases. I learned how to count in base twelve or seven as I was learning about base 10 - that is, learning how to count. I knew what binary was from the time I was a second grader.
Generally speaking, my Campus School teachers had the ability to let me get to the answer anyway I wanted to.
Imagine being a teacher at Campus School! They sure had a big audience. The student teachers were watching them. The education department was watching them. The college professors with children at Campus School were watching, and so were the professors who didn't have young children there, and the college students were intrigued by us too.
Mrs. Vitt was always teaching at several levels at the same time and she was such a good teacher at all those levels. Her student teachers were so jazzed by her and all sorts of people would come in just to watch her do her job. For instance, as I recall it, Mrs. Vitt read us Wrinkle in Time - a now classic kids’ sci-fi novel. In this book the characters experience time travel using a “wrinkle in time”. They bend space/time, make a loop, and travel across the top - thus saving both time and space. In the book this is known as a “Tesseract”.
Campus School has those ramps connecting the first and second floor at both ends of the building. The ramp goes up, and then it loops in a hairpin turn and continues up in the opposite direction. There’s this median strip, hand-bar section, in the center of the hairpin. Imagine starting on the second floor and coming down the ramp, except suddenly you simply leap over the median, directly from the top of the ramp, to the bottom of ramp below! The kid who did that stunt while our class was traveling down that ramp was asking to get in trouble! Except that as he was flying he declared at full voice, “I'm doing a Tesseract!” Mrs. Vitt was THRILLED. We all Tesseracted, I mean the whole class, and Mrs. Vitt was happy about that because we were engaged and learning and creative!
Teachers at Campus School were prepared. They had a beginning, middle and an end to their lessons. They also usually had a moral to the story, and for sure there was something they were trying to teach, every single class. They had people observing them, an adult as well as child audience. In a sense it was teaching theater.
Then in third grade they brought in Mrs. LaBounty. She was a horrible match for Campus School. She was brought in from Canada, for some reason, but she was just a straight normal teacher from “out there.” While in her third grade class, we had to walk everywhere in lines! I mean, come on, that’s pretty embarrassing. Nobody else on Campus walked in lines. We didn’t have to be militarized to do anything.
I had nightmares about this teacher because she was a whole new thing to me. She taught penmanship! We had to learn how to write cursive so Mrs. LaBounty bought these little pens from Canada that were bulbous down by the tip. You couldn’t buy them in the USA. My dog ate my pen. I had to get my dad to go into this class with me and explain to this woman that the dog really had eaten my pen. My parents didn’t like her either. I can now feel sorry for her because the 'parent-teacher' conferences with our academic parents must have been hell for her!
I had Mr. Mork in fourth grade and in hindsight he was a very, very good teacher and it was good to have a man teacher. He replaced Mr. Miller. My brother had Mr. Miller in fourth grade. Mr. Miller's class was known for being FUN. The kids loved him, but some of the parents wondered. It was in Mr. Miller's 4th grade that my brother Bruce threw a water balloon out of the second floor of Campus School and it just happened to hit a pregnant woman. Not hit her on her head, rather it exploded at her feet and got her all wet. “I didn’t know she was pregnant!” my brother assures me. Thus I was sad that I didn’t get to have Mr. Miller. Instead we got Mr. Mork, who was quiet. Oh well.
I have to mention Mr. Vike, our wonderful art teacher. Also Mr. Murphy, the fifth grade science teacher right at the end of Campus School. He had ears that stuck out, a big heart and he was a brilliant teacher. In fourth and fifth grades, we had a homeroom teacher for a couple of periods, and then we had classes with other teachers, just like high school. Mr. Murphy was my science teacher. I didn't have him for homeroom.
TB: Could you tell us the Mr. Murphy story about the guinea pigs?
KRK: One day, Mr. Murphy posted a recipe for guinea pig. As I remember it, he had it written on parchment - like an old alchemy potion. There were various minerals listed on the recipe in different amounts, but mostly water. He declared that he was going to make a guinea pig and he got us going.
Now we were in fifth grade and we were all pretty educated so we knew he was being silly. But then again, we were still kids and he got us going! He had his Bunsen burner ready and everything! We started believing that we could really make a guinea pig! Of course, in the end we all gathered around and stared at the foggy water and it was very disappointing! Then Mr. Murphy sat us down and asked, “Where do guinea pigs really come from?” [We answered,] “They come from guinea pig mommies.” I remember him delivering the final line of that day's lesson, “Yes, guinea pigs can only be created by a mother guinea pig, and a father guinea pig, and there’s nothing more magical than that! There’s nothing more miraculous than that!”
TB: Any Campus School activities you didn't enjoy?
KRK: Bombardment! In PE, we used to play Bombardment. That felt like institutionalized sexist child abuse to me. They threw those balls hard! They’d divide us up in that little gymnasium - half of us on one side, half of us on the other. Then you’re supposed to throw balls hard at each other - when you get hit, you are out of the game. Again the girls couldn’t wear pants and it hurt to get smacked on bare legs. I was scared to death of those games. All that stuff was really hard for me. I was clumsy and slow.
TB: Most of the people who have talked about Bombardment before have been people who loved it. So it’s good to hear someone else's perspective.
KRK: On the other hand, we went swimming! We had swimming lessons as part of our regular curriculum. I remember I hated the locker room and the ugly (I felt) swimsuits. I remember scooting from the shower with the unfluffy little towel and feeling really embarrassed that people (adults, college students and fellow students) were witnessing that. But the swimming was grand and then we had the afternoon off. Tuesday afternoon was a free day, as I recall.
TB: I’ve heard one other person mention that -- Short Tuesdays!
KRK: Short Tuesdays! Yes!
Campus School was so enriched! I remember being in fourth grade art class and the teacher announcing, “I’ve gotten hold of so-and-so in the art department. Come on, get your coats . . .” This happened often, “Grab your coats, we’re off!” So that day we walked over to the Art Building into a whole room full of potters' wheels! Then during summer session, my parents agreed to let me take a class in pottery held at the art department taught by a grad student or new professor. I really loved that.
Oh, and in regards to being a young artist, I also must mention Mrs. Hinds and music.
TB: Evelyn Hinds.
KRK: Evelyn Hinds taught music way before I arrived in 1960 at Campus School. She was certainly also my brother’s music teacher. Again, he is four years older. I believe she also taught classes of some sort in the music department. Her office was in the music building, I remember. And she would come over and teach the classes as a consultant teacher. Evelyn Hinds was a dramatic person. She was not afraid to walk into the room and burst into song. She played the autoharp. She had a lovely operatic voice.
Here’s a song that I learned from her: (Singing) “Listen to the bluebirds gaily sing/ happiness and joy to all they bring/ winter days are over for a year/ and the bluebirds tell us spring is here/ toorah loorah loorah loorah lay/ toorah loorah loorah loorah lay / toorah loorah loorah loorah lay / toorah loorah loorah loorah lay.”
My whole family was very musical. My brother Bruce had a great musical gift. The story goes that my brother was in first grade in Mrs. Hinds’ music class. She brought in a record player, and she had different classical LP’s with her. Her lesson plan was to have the first graders listen to various excerpts of classical music, and then share together how it made them FEEL, or describe the imaginary pictures the music was evoking. However, my brother started waving his hand as soon as Mrs. Hinds dropped the needle!
“Yes, Bruce?” Mrs. Hinds stopped the music to ask, “What do you want?” “That’s Mozart, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1st movement!” Bruce declared, happily figuring he had won the “Name That Tune” contest. Mrs. Hinds talked about that for years!
By the time my brother was six, my father had trained him. Bruce could recognize any Western composer, usually be able to name the piece, and the movement, and often the opus number. It was a game with them “Drop the Needle”.
Music was one of my favorite subjects. I consider myself a singer, a musician and I always have. My father was a statistician, but he taught high school before he got his PhD at University of Iowa, and he was the band leader and the music director. He had a minor in music, played piano and he wrote his own compositions.
I learned how to read music easily at age 3 or so. I told you, I was actually a late reader, but I was fluent in music by 3. I was trained up as the alto in the family, my brother sang tenor, my father was a baritone - he had traditionally been a tenor, but his voice was deepening with age - my mother had a lovely soprano voice. By the time I was five or six or seven, I not only knew how to read music and play the piano a bit, but my whole family could whip off major pieces: The “Messiah,” Bach string quartets, that sort of thing.
In the car we were always singing. We were singing all the time. We sang far more than we talked. We talked quite a bit, we argued quite a bit, but singing was the thing that mattered most. Music made all the fighting and talking livable.
Music was my father's religion. Specifically, Beethoven’s 7th and 9th Symphonies - but don't forget the 5th and the 6th - the Pastoral Symphony…god-stuff. He was an atheist/agnostic. Yet every Sunday, Dad would play Beethoven's 9th, often the 7th symphony as well.
Mother loved the opera. She expressed her emotions through the use of opera. When she was upset, enter Don Giovanni! This was a bit too intense for me. I didn't like opera, still don't. I also grew up to not like symphony orchestras as much as chamber music. I prefer non-Western music to Western music these days. My brother was tracking popular music as the Sixties came on, buying 45’s by the time he was in fourth grade. Thus my brother started to educate himself and me in pop music very early as well.
My brother was taught violin by Arthur Thal. I took piano lessons, and had less illustrious teachers. Mr. Thal was very short, and extremely Eastern European and Jewish. His whole house smelled delicious and different. I just loved it there. I got to sit through some of my brother’s violin lessons. I’m not quite sure why I ended up there, maybe it was a babysitting thing, but I remember sitting through them and being so impressed.
My brother had a wonderful talent. Mr. Thal was totally in love with my brother and probably my brother was one of his best students. Mr. Thal was very disappointed when my brother dropped violin and devoted himself to the guitar - the electric guitar. I don’t know Arthur Thal's background. I do not believe he had any connection to WWU other than the fact that he was a world class trainer of violinists.
When I grew up, I learned that music is something that many/most people do not experience the way we did. A lot of people don’t like music. They keep it in the background. They use it like TV. They don't need it. They can live and breathe without it.
There were so many musical and artistic and scientific opportunities for us at Campus School. The professors put on recitals and the college students too, of course. There were often great virtuosos of different types, visiting Western. Then the Sixties happened!
If you were a teacher at Campus School, you could always take a lazy day. You’d just trudge those kids over to the art gallery, or something. Or get some professor to show us how to wrap wire to make batteries, or whatever.
TB: Campus school children had the run of the campus?
KRK: Yes, we did, and some of us really took advantage of it! We would walk right into the professor’s (our dad's and “uncle's”) offices. I don’t remember ever not being welcome. The secretaries all knew me by name and let me right on through. Uncle Jerry (Flora) was head of the biology department before he became president. Uncle Herb (Taylor), my godfather, was dean of graduate studies and he’d treat me like any adult, except better. We’d visit and talk. I kept him up to date on all the neighborhood and childhood happenings. He was the best story teller!
All my father’s friends, my pseudo-uncles, held goals in common; like their belief in liberal education. They would have all taken a bullet for that. And I remember that they were all concerned that the campus should be beautiful - that the architecture should hang together. That was a problem with Carver Gym. It was a concern that it never would quite hang well with the other buildings. Everyone agreed that there should be quiet spots on campus where you could meditate and study - little gardens and grottos and sculptures. I remember the adults often discussing what the buildings looked like, and who the architects were.
The Viking Union was an interesting building when it got built. It looked so much like it was made with one of those panel and girder sets that my brother had - that 1962 look. I think they have the same furniture over there still. It was so sleek and modern-looking back then and it has lasted.
When I was in second grade, they started building the Humanities Building. Red Square happened in 1968 - later. To build the Humanities Building, they had to use a pile-driver to penetrate the Chuckanut mountain sandstone. For that whole year, these great big crane-like things kept pounding and pounding, right outside our classroom windows. It drove everyone wacko!
by Allyn Blood, 1962/1963
Please stop the Boom!
TB: That was excellent.
KRK: That was heartfelt.
The other poem I remember writing in second grade, was:
Pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie, when I eat pumpkin pie, I always think of you.
My mother claimed that I wrote that poem for her. I may have written it for her, or my grandmother. But actually I think Mrs. Vitt had a hatful of pieces of paper with words written on them. We had to pull out a word or concept and write a poem about it, and I got “pumpkin pie”.
Of course, I remember best the things that impressed me most. I remember art projects that I did. I especially remember that I would do a piece of art in class and I’d turn it in and it would disappear. Because I was in school, you’d turn things in, and the teachers would keep some things - and maybe you got it back at the end of the semester, or whatever. But more than once, I’d walk into the Campus School office, and suddenly see my art, matted and hanging on the wall! So I grew to believe that I had artistic abilities because of these little things.
I also particularly remember the day that Mrs. Vitt took us over to visit my dad in Old Main as a field trip. I got to school one day not knowing this was going to happen. My dad didn’t tell me, kept it a secret from me. My dad was the director of institutional research, in charge of Western's first IBM mainframe. He didn’t know anything about computers, nobody knew anything about computers, but he was a statistician so he got the job. The computer was programmed with cards. Dad sat our class down at the card punchers. He had gotten a list of all our names and birthdays. So he taught us how to make the cards, and he put the cards in the slot at the side of the huge machine, and the computer spewed out this long piece of paper that created a banner to hang in our classroom, “Mrs. Vitt’s Class” which had all our names on it. And the computer made a birthday card for the lucky kid who happened to have his birthday that day.
Before I was born, my parent's first house in Bellingham was right where Fairhaven College parking lot is now. That little valley where they built the Fairhaven complex was called Hidden Valley. My brother was a baby, and he has memories of his first years there. It was right next to a big farm, with cows and a Farmer White or something like that.
There is this story from those times about my brother getting lost and the police being called. Bruce had one of those little pedal fire engines and he simply “drove to work” one day. My mother lost him and called the police and it was all a hullabaloo. So there was my dad, finishing a class lecture, not yet aware that his son had gone missing, and in toddles my brother, age 3, to visit and upstage his papa.
I was born after my parents moved to Forest Street, right below Campus. It was a completely open neighborhood. We were always in and out of each other's homes. The parents all had different ways of calling the kids in from playing outside. My parents had a cowbell, and the Yancos had a whistle, and Uncle Herb would come out and holler like a seal! He had a booming voice and did a perfect sea lion imitation. My father and Herb would occasionally both perform their excellent seal lion act, baying at each other across Forest Street, flapping their flippers. Didn't embarrass me one bit either, in fact I miss the high levels of self-expression that were enjoyed by all back then. There were different patterns played on our family cowbell that meant different things. One pattern meant “Come home now!” and another meant “Hey kids everywhere! Come over for cookies and Kool-Aid!”
In my parents’ circle the children called the adults uncle and aunt. Certainly the Taylor and the Flora kids called my dad, Uncle Don and my mom, Aunt Pat. Any child was welcome to call them that. In my family we adopted most everyone! Uncle Paul Woodring, Uncle Barney Goltz . . . uncle everybody. Whether they remember being my uncle or not, that is how they were referred to in my world.
TB: Otherwise you probably would’ve had to call them by their formal title? You couldn’t call them by their first name, is that it?
KRK: Yes! Children did NOT call adults by their first names. For instance, we never used first names with our teachers. There are many parents of my friends who I did not know as well, or whom my parents did not socialize with as much, who I called Mrs. or Dr. To this day, it is hard for me to remember these people's first names and then even harder to remember to call these, now fellow adults, by their first names!
When the Sixties happened, we suddenly started calling the liberal adults by their first names. It was Peggy (Bishop) and Lois (Spratlen) and Rita and Bill (Sodt) - no aunt or uncle added.
I must add that Uncle Herb had this whole other name thing going! Everybody had “Bear” added to their names by Uncle Herb. There was Laura Bear, Carol Bear and so forth.
TB: Did he just have one daughter? He had four kids, didn’t he?
KRK: No, only two. My brother and I were raised with Laura Taylor and Bud came later. Bud was really fun for me because I could hold him and play with him - a baby! Laura was two years older than I, and one year younger than my brother.
We were raised together. For example, it was my dad who answered our questions about sex and reproduction. Had Laura and I asked Uncle Herb instead, he would have told us the answers we were seeking. Herb and my dad were such good friends that they completely adopted the other's kids. Of course, we lived across the street from each other. In hindsight, I think those two men understood that Laura would behave better for her Uncle Don and I would behave better for Uncle Herb and they used that fact to achieve their parenting goals! The only place they differed was on the subject of punishment. Uncle Herb was pro-spanking and my parents, not so much. I never got spanked by Uncle Herb.
TB: What about the Floras?
KRK: When I was a young kid, the Floras lived right across the street from us. Then they moved further down Forest Street. At some point they moved to the President's Mansion and the farm. I am fuzzy about whether they lived in the President's Mansion and the farm at the same time - or one place and then the other? They certainly were out on the farm by the late Sixties because Jerry tells the story about the Fairhaven College Outback and the pigs. Turns out the Fairhaven Outback didn’t have their pigs in pig sties that were up to code, so Jerry had to take the pigs out to his farm until they dealt with the problem.
TB: He was still president?
KRK: Yes, I think so. The Flora farm was a whole new exciting experience. There was horseback riding! And they had this barn, and they had this rope, they had this hay, and they had this loft, and you could swing! And you could fly into the hay! I don’t ever remembering saying a word to Rosemary and Jerry when I was on their farm. It was just like, “Hi!”, “Bye!” and head for the barn! It was the loveliest place. On a clear day, you can sit in their living room, and Mount Baker is sitting there with you. On cloudy days you would never know that a mountain is there. Sometimes it played hide and seek mysteriously for hours. Such a big beautiful mountain!
Aunt Rosemary (Flora) is a very educated, very confident person. She was another of my amazing pseudo-mothers. What a blessing! In hindsight, I see there was so much co-parenting. My parents didn’t care where I was as long as I was home in time for dinner, or called to say I was eating at someone else's house. Bellingham was very safe too and life was intensely educational.
Say a group of people got together to go to Larrabee State Park? At the beach, the parents would do the parent thing and the kids would do the kid thing, but then Jerry Flora would get bored with the adults and come and hang out with the kids. Suddenly you’re looking into tide pools with Jerry Flora! And he’s interested in how we think and what everybody’s seeing and he’s asking us questions and we are asking him questions. That was a little moment of fun for Uncle Jerry, he gets to be with his kids, and he gets to be with other people’s kids. But in hindsight, what a great gift to experience tide pools as a child with Jerry Flora!
Here is another example that I remember. I was at Francis and Henry Adams’ house on Lake Whatcom one day. I’m sitting under a hedge in their backyard. I’m literally under one of their bushes. It’s shady and it’s private and I’m in my own little world and I’m digging in the dirt. As I dig down I find a ring. It is cheap metal and glass, a Crackerjack treat. Still I'm excited to dig up this ring and I want to share my discovery. Uncle Henry is out on a chaise lounge in his backyard, with his cocktail and his cigar and he’s sunning. I run up and I show him the ring. He puts the chair up and he looks at this ring very carefully. Then he starts telling me about how I’ve found something from a hidden civilization that is underneath his property. He starts telling me about this world beneath us, and, of course, he’s actually teaching me a lot about archeologists and ancient civilizations. He’s making it all up, and I know he is making it up but he is opening up a wonderful new subject for me. After that I dug so many holes under that bush that they probably had to replace it. I was that kind of kid; you could always catch me up with a good tale.
I was a very well-tested child because my Dad, Dr. Don Blood, ran the Testing Center. Carol Diers tested me and my father tested me in front of their classrooms, and I know now it was partly because I had learning disabilities. I was quite smart, but again, I don’t do linear that swell.
There I was, always in social situations talking to brilliant professors and they’d be asking me what I was learning. They were curious because they had kids too and they were all teachers. “What are those Campus School teachers doing?”
In my case, these professors/parents would very quickly get to the edge of my elementary knowledge on any subject because, whew, these people were brilliant! All my favorite adults were absolutely brilliant professors, lecturers and teachers. They were passionate!
Not wishing to appear stupid, when I didn't know the correct answer, I would spin tall and silly tales - that was my coping thing - I was a little entertainer. And then I’d hear the stories come back. My mom would say, “Uncle Henry told everybody at the party about what you said to him!” Uncle Henry Adams: “So where is Bruce?” Me, age 5: “Oh he’s off barking with the dogs!”
Turns out that this was witty and amusing, but, of course, it was simply the way I perceived things. My senses are heightened and my brain runs in circles. I loved language and I would take words and use them actively and in creative combinations. I had this whole thing about words. Every word was a kinesthetic, lucidly experienced, “verb” for me. How wonderful that I could talk to these professors about that! I'd ask them “What are your favorite words? Mine are 'mayonnaise' and 'elbow.'”
We moved to 17th and Garden Street when I was nine. One of the people I'd see everyday was Dr. Hicks. Dr. Hicks was a marvelous person. He was a “beamer”, some people just beam. And of course, it was all a joke about how he could walk and read at the same time. He was really reading - Shakespeare and the like. It would appear as if he wasn’t looking at cars at all. Mr. Magoo on TV was similar but not as fun to watch as Dr. Hicks. I remember tagging along with him, asking him what he was reading - just loving being around him. I know he liked me too, and enjoyed those times.
I also remember when Carol Diers was working on armadillo research. She had an armadillo mother that was going to reject her babies; the parents were going to eat the babies again. Carol was trying to keep the armadillo litter alive so she took her armadillo babies home to her house which was on 21st Street at that time. Her dog had just birthed puppies and Carol put the armadillo babies in with those puppies and the dog accepted them! We all went to see that! What a strange sight!
Likewise, Uncle Herb (Taylor) back when he lived over on Key Street, (before the Taylors moved across the street from us on Forest, into the Spanish Villa) owned a Belgium hare named Alcibiades. The Key Street house had a little half bathroom on the back porch. I have this extremely early memory sitting in there on the throne, peeing, while Alcibiades hopped around the toilet. Alcibiades used to eat books. Bad bunny. I remember that. At one point, Uncle Herb had crocodile babies, or maybe they were alligators, in his bathtub. What a great universe we lived in!
Almost every family had a dog and there were no leash laws. Dogs had the run of the neighborhood, and the campus too in truth. When I was very small we had a huge boxer, unusually large, named Leo. Leo had his daily rounds. He visited the backdoors of the neighbors for a bit of communion and a treat. He was a noble, calm soul, who generated great respect.
The mothers trusted Leo. Forest Street had very little traffic. Leo would lie down across the middle of the street. This allowed the kids to play in the street. When a car was on its way, Leo would stand up, stretch and wander over to the relevant lane, and take his stance facing down the oncoming vehicle. This was our cue to get out of the street. When Leo was sure all the kids were safe, he'd let the car through. Then he'd settle back down to sleeping in the middle of the road and we'd go back to playing in the street.
Leo had a special thing for asparagus. My mother would lay cooked asparagus across Leo’s bowl of dog chow. Leo would carefully, with his big jowly lips, remove the asparagus one at a time and set them aside - all with great grace and appreciation. Then he would eat his chow. Then, for dessert, he would lie down and take one asparagus at a time between his floppy lips, and Leo would daintily sip it up. Leo died when I was 5 so these are very early memories. I remember seeing the Disney movie, Peter Pan, and relating to how the children's Nanny was a sheep hound.
The Taylors and the Bloods preferred classical names for our animals. The Taylors had a dog named Hadrian. For us there was, at different times, a Siegfried, a Marcus Aurelius, a Marcus Antonio, and a Caesar. Years later, I understood the twisted joke about the Taylor's white cat. She was always getting pregnant. They kept trying to get her spade but she would turn out to be pregnant again. Her name was Sappho.
TB: What did you do after school each day?
KRK: Many of us would stay on campus until dinnertime. Or we’d go to friends’ houses, and lots of times, we’d just hang out up on Sehome Hill. That’s where our fantasies played out, where we built our forts, and formed our clubs. We lived very close to nature. Our Moms would tend to kick us outside, of course, and we would head to the forest. Highland Drive was almost completely forested back then, except for the houses right on the street. The Harwoods and the Marshes lived on Highland Drive, right next door to each other. The Fleasons were up there too, and several other Campus school families. When the Broads came to town, Susan Broad lived up there. The Bishops lived up on that hill. Up on Highland Drive, we would head into the woods, because the woods were wonderful there. Ridgeway dorms didn’t exist yet.
In our neighborhood, we played at Cedar Street Park. Across the street from the park is the International House. This was another wonderful aspect of our neighborhood; the international students who were living at the International House. Of course, you can learn English by talking to children. I remember taking my job as tutor very seriously. I loved trying to communicate with people who were learning English. I loved looking at their pictures and seeing the things they brought from their home countries.
The barges and ships would come into Bellingham Bay and dock below State Street. There were ships from Japan. I don’t remember why they were here but the Japanese sailors would come up the hill to the International House, and to Cedar Street Park. When that happened, it was so much fun! We’d have these big baseball games. Usually, it was the Japanese crew against the whole neighborhood; Dads, a couple Moms, and kids.
Cedar Street is very steep. In the winter, when it snowed, Cedar Hill was our sled hill.
It was also neighborhood entertainment in the winter to watch cars attempt to go down Cedar Street Hill in the snow. That was a sled ride too. Cedar Street Hill could be dangerous. It was tempting to try to ride your bike down it. If you wiped out, then you'd end up at the end of the block, at the hospital again. Dr. Jim (Mason) would meet you there and stitch you up.
In the summer, the park recreation person would come to Cedar Street Park. This was the City of Bellingham providing art classes! Plaster of Paris was really a big thing in the early sixties in those art classes. They gave you these molds, then you poured the plaster in, and then the Indian chief face would pop out, and then you'd paint his face with poster paint. Or they had this colored plastic string stuff that we braided into key chains. Or we'd weave potholders out of these stretchy loops. Tacky!
I remember doing those sorts of projects at Cedar Street Park and thinking they were so stupid. At Campus School, I was given clay, or canvas and water colors or even oil paints – I was never given any sort of prefab “art”. We did silk screening in second grade, so you can imagine what I thought about cutting construction paper and sticking colored macaroni to it. I felt sorry for the children in the public schools because they were not allowed to do real art, just phony art.
TB: Please share about summers on Lake Whatcom and Lakewood.
KRK: Several of my parents’ friends lived full time or part time on Lake Whatcom, and then some summers my parents rented a place on the lake. They’d rent out our home on Forest Street to visiting faculty. It was great, but it could have some surprises, too.
One year, during the spring before we moved to the lake, the whole neighborhood gang of Campus School kids discovered peashooters. The shooters were simply big straws. But instead of using peas, we used popcorn. It hurt to get hit on bare skin!
Come summer, we moved to Lake Whatcom, and when we returned in September our yard was a field of 6 foot tall corn. The neighborhood was highly entertained. The renter hadn't mowed the yard, nor had they cleaned the house. I remember singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day! The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye!” Life was a musical for me.
Every summer we’d spend a great deal of time at Lakewood. What a great “perk” Lakewood is for WWU faculty! We could go sailing, or take out a canoe, or go rowing! And swimming...brrrrrrr! In the spring, I would start taking cold baths to prepare myself for Lake Whatcom. Gradually, I'd start putting more cold water in my bath, so I could swim come June. Lakewood is at the cold end of the lake, which is much deeper.
TB: Shadier, too.
KRK: Yes, but come August, shadier is great!
I was allowed to go barefoot when the temperature got to 65º in Bellingham. I remember learning how to read the thermometer very young. I had to wait until it was 65º. My parents would have probably preferred 70º, but 65º was good enough. Then I could go barefoot. This was HUGE for me. I hated shoes. Still do.
During the summers we were living on the lake, Western kept on impacting our lives. One summer, Uncle Jerry decided to put crawdad traps off the side of our dock. We were doing science experiments, bringing up crawdads, counting them. That kind of thing was always happening. Another example, Uncle Jerry has this big lion skin rug. I don’t know where he got it on his travels. It was a great huge skin of a lion with a stuffed head, mouth snarling. He still has it at his house. He showed it to my son. For some reason, Jerry lent my mother this skin, and it was in our living room, in front of the fireplace for several years.
Our living room also featured two of Dr. David Marsh’s paintings. One of them we had over our mantle and it was a lovely painting. One day my mother put a flower arrangement of forsythia up on the mantle beside the painting. David Marsh came in and saw his art, thus honored, and he was struck. He renamed it, “Painting with Forsythia”. It was always like that. I don’t know if my parents were gifted with the painting, or paid for his art - but it was a porous community.
We mustn't forget the picnics at Lakewood. We ate an immense amount of salmon. Huge salmon barbeques happened all during my youth. Pacific Northwesterners eat so much salmon. My brother won’t eat salmon. He ate so much salmon as a kid, he’s just got to the point where he’s not going to eat any more.
Women of Western
TB: What about the women of Western?
KRK: I read the book written by elder WWU professors, WWU! As It Was. and I think it often gives the impression that Western was about what happened in the smoking room and at those poker games. The book talks too much about what the patriarchs were competing about down through their careers. But that’s not what Western was like at all! Western was about the students and the student association and it was enriched beyond belief by the power and dedication of the Faculty Wives Club! Western was wonderful because of what was happening in the classrooms and the campus activities, not in the meeting rooms and cocktail parties.
Of course, when I was a child, Western was a patriarchy. My brother was very much initiated by the men: Henry Adams taught my brother how to sail - countless hours out on the lake, and Uncle Herb took him hiking for the first time.
There were practically no women professors back then. But all my Dad’s friends hired a bunch of women before they retired. They did that. If I had a hundred dollars for every woman professor I’ve met since I came back to town who tells me, “Herb Taylor hired me,” I’d be, well, richer. They had an agenda to hire women. But there were very few women professors at Western when I was a kid. Instead, there were the faculty wives, the moms. I would say that almost all of them were very intelligent women - oftentimes educated as well as their husbands, just not college professors. Some of our moms were probably college professor wannabes.
My mother was one of the first people in her family to go to college at all. As soon as she gave up teaching sixth graders as a career she just threw herself into “The Great Books Club” and taught adults ever after that. I got her to admit that she should have become a college professor. I think some of the other wives were also like that. All of them put immense energy into the quality of life at Western and they were competitive too, in their way.
My mother was a feminist and many of the other mothers were feminists, but everything was still all run by men. Roles were changing, but they hadn’t really changed yet. My brother fed the dog and mowed the lawn. Compared to my brother, I felt that I did an immense amount of domestic labor in our house. We were being trained to be good housewives AND intellectual career women at the same time! We were being trained to be super-women. My mother could not have conceived that I might simply grow up and be a career woman with a messy house. You can’t have a messy house, if you’re going to be a career woman - no, you have an immaculate house and you’re a career woman, and you’re also a chef and you dress well and are beautiful, published, socially adroit, and ... and... and...
Girls had more labor, and we had a lot more limitation. Again we had a dress code, we had to wear skirts. We had to wear petticoats, and the women wore girdles and other heavy “foundations”. The underwear was torture. This was the true reason for the Sixties Rebellion - freedom from bad underwear.
Can you imagine? Can you remember? All the women wore girdles, foundations were very important, and there were those horrid metal and rubber garters to hold your, forever running, nylons up! Back then, those were all very big parts of life and sleeping on curlers. OUCH. My brother didn't have to experience that hell, and I am glad for it. No child should have to sleep in those awful plastic curlers. It isn't humane, but back then, it was normal.
We had to learn how to do laundry. My mother didn’t have a dryer when I was a young child. She hung all clothes on lines in the basement in the dark months and outside during nice weather. My mother canned. Can you believe it? She was a career woman. She went back to teaching in 1962, and she still canned, and did all that stuff, and tried to teach me how to do all that stuff.
Mind you, my father was very progressive in the sense that he did at least half of the cleaning and cooking - often more. He was far ahead of his time, a feminist. Still, girls were stuck, while the boys could run around. When we’d go to a restaurant, my brother could ask to be excused so he could go wander around the restaurant or go outside. I wasn’t allowed to leave the table. It was all these little things that seem so silly now - we have lived through a big change.
TB: Can you talk a little about some of the professors’ wives in your neighborhood?
KRK: I had a thing for elders. As a little girl, I would happily go spend time with my next door neighbor, who was Mrs. Van Aver (Dr. Van Aver’s wife). She was somewhat housebound, a very quiet housewife who did needlepoint, but I spent an inordinate amount of time with her because she’d tell me stories.
TB: What kind of stories did Mrs. Van Aver tell you?
KRK: Sadly, I don’t really remember the specific stories. One thing I remember was that their son Phillip was a fabulous artist. He painted incredible miniatures that I would look into - you’d need a magnifying glass - and there was a whole universe in teeniest detail - full paintings. They were an inch or three in size, with a couple mattings and deep frames, so it was like looking at mysterious icons…very intense. Mrs. Van Aver was so proud of her son.
Dr. Van Aver was gruff, but good-hearted. The story is that he was out mowing his lawn, going back and forth, when my parents moved into the house next door. My brother was around four and he went right over there (right through the hedge) and started following behind Dr. Van Aver as he mowed the lines. When Dr. Van Avers finally stopped and turned, my brother simply stuck out his hand and said “Hi, I’m Bruce!” and they were friends for life.
My mother was very neighborly with Mrs. Van Aver. They shared recipes and canning tips and I was often sent over there with flowers. Mrs. Van Aver was a lovely gardener, but I think she was sickly. There was something…like it was harder for her to stand up and sit down and things. I think she had something going on with her health, but as a child I wasn't concerned and hardly noticed. She liked to show me how homemaking was done in previous eras. We'd look through vintage women's magazines together and have a great time. She even had a wringer washing machine that she still used to do her laundry.
My mother put Mrs. Van Aver through a terrible ordeal one day when I came home all happy with a HUGE bouquet of crocuses. In the Van Avers’ backyard, there were hundreds of crocuses each spring - they just came out of the grass. In our backyard we didn’t have these crocuses growing in our grass. They were beautiful, so I picked a bunch of them, and brought them home and gave them to my mother. Imagine my surprise when my mother announced, “Those are not your crocuses to give.” I had to go and knock on the Van Avers' door and blubber, “I’m sorry, I picked your crocuses!” and there was poor Mrs. Van Aver stammering, “Oh child, those silly old things, oh please you can . . .” We were both very upset. But of course she also knew that my mother was trying to train me not to go picking everybody’s flowers, and I needed to be trained about that in that neighborhood - because there were no property lines for cats, dogs or kids. I remember looking at Mrs. Van Aver, and I knew she wanted me to pick her crocuses. So I dried my tears and we got over it fast.
TB: Tell me a little about Barbara Daugert and your friend, Elizabeth Daugert.
KRK: Yes, thanks. Barbara, and then Elizabeth, both died so young of breast cancer.
There were three older boys - Larry’s the oldest and then Steve and Fred. Elizabeth came last. I believe Barbara was a trained educator, but I didn’t ever know anything about that. Barbara was a pseudo-mom of mine. I lived at the Daugerts’ house off and on for many years.
Elizabeth and I spent huge amounts of time discovering Western together. We would explore every building. We checked out every door on Campus, all the time. And of course, eventually we got into some great places! We made it up into the attic of Old Main; that was an adventure! There were no floorboards, so we were on the beams…it was dangerous, it was horrible, we could have fallen down the chute - there was a shaft up there and I got a little wobbly - nothing happened. It was scary and I felt over my head and I have stayed away from beam walking ever since! The other thing that Elizabeth and I used to do - which shocks me now - is sit for hours up on the roof of Old Main.
When I visit WWU today, when I look up through the mist and there’s Old Main, built up there on that hill, sitting high above campus, I remember climbing the fire escape that used to be on the front right corner of the building before the addition was built. When no one was looking we’d just pop up that fire escape. It was about six feet off the ground, but we’d climb the wall, and hoist ourselves up and climb the stairs to the top! Another boost up onto the slanted roof, a careful crawl up to the chimneys and we were safe and sound and at peace. I'd sing “Up on the Roof” to myself for hours there. There was always a song in my head when I was a kid, as now. Whenever I hear that song I think of being up on the roof of Old Main. I learned a great truth there, people rarely look up.
It was a different era. I mean that weird red industrial sculpture outside the PAC, the music building, had a swing on it when it got put in, and you were SUPPOSED to climb that piece of art. Even my son managed to climb it before it got firmly taboo to climb that thing. I let him too even though maybe I shouldn't have. I reminded myself, “Well, my brother climbed it. I climbed it”
From a modern parent’s point of view, climbing that ugly red sculpture seems terrible, but it wasn’t like that when we were kids. Doctor Jim used to say that it wasn’t spring until my brother had his first set of stitches. Doctor Jim was Evelyn Mason’s husband and he was the village doctor. He made house calls all the time. Most of us broke our arms, or broke a leg. We had measles, mumps, and chicken pox. (Kids don’t break bones much anymore. They wear out their wrists using computer mousse). We climbed trees. Oh my God, we climbed trees. You know, we were all climbers. I remember climbing library stacks…in this very building!
The science building, Haggard Hall, was a great place for Beth Daugert and me to explore. We got into great mischief, and we discovered marvelous friends too. I have published the story about how Elizabeth and I “discovered” Dr. David T. Mason one day. How is THAT for getting lucky?
We spent an inordinate amount of time in the bottom of Haggard Hall because they had a public display alcove you could go into - you hit the button and it had black lights shining on minerals - great colors. Taxidermy was big also. I remember Elizabeth and I once checked the door and got into where they were storing all the old mountain goats or whatever. I remember when Jerry Flora and students disemboweled a dead sea lion - bletch! When the Alaska earthquake happened - that was really big news! We were all visiting the seismograph in Haggard Hall after that happened.
Elizabeth and I knew everybody, or we thought we did. We thought we owned the place. Campus School kids were underfoot all the time. Many of us stayed after school on campus, and even after Campus School closed, I’d walk from Fairhaven Middle School to my house on Garden Street, and then I’d usually keep on walking up to Western.
The Daugerts were a big part of our yearly Christmas celebrations - they hosted a couple of yearly community activities at Christmas. Dr. Stan Daugert played piano and so we went over to the Daugerts each year for Christmas carol singing. I loved it! I remember sitting up beside Dr. Daugert on the piano bench for the whole thing, singing my heart out.
Also, every Christmas season, Barbara invited the mothers and the daughters over to her house to make Christmas decorations and crafts. She collected ribbons and Christmas stuff all year and she'd bring it all out, and we'd have incredible fun. Likewise my mother would often have all the kids over to make and decorate Christmas cookies.
TB: What about Carol Diers? She was an early woman hire.
KRK: Uncle Herb often told people that Carol was the smartest person he ever encountered in his classroom. She was his student first. That was the hugest compliment that Uncle Herb could ever give anyone. In their universe, being smart was the coolest thing.
I think Uncle Herb was very pro-women philosophically, and very alpha-male otherwise. As a student, Carol lived in the Taylor’s house and helped with the household. She was often our babysitter, but everyone respected her intellect and quiet wit. Then she went off to grad school and came back with a PhD and got hired. It was after Carol came back to Bellingham that Uncle Herb and Carol fell in love and then got married. Carol was/is not gamey at all. Beyond being a brilliant scientist, Carol was also an excellent photographer, artistic, and a great listener and counselor. Even though she was not a clinical psychologist, Carol was good therapy. She was good for Herb. They had a good life together.
TB: You didn’t really come in contact with her in Campus School?
KRK: No, she was more like family.
KRK: My mother and father were very, very dedicated to the civil-rights movement. My family grieved deeply when Martin Luther King was assassinated. As bad as the John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy assassinations were, the death of Martin Luther King trumped them. They weren’t happy over Malcolm's death either, but they didn’t understand Malcolm X as well, of course. My parents were liberal democrats - not radicals. The thing they most liked about the Kennedy brothers was that they believed the Kennedys were completely committed to fighting racial inequality. The Kennedys, in truth, were civil-rights heroes. Martin Luther King, however, was better yet.
John Kennedy was such a good public speaker that people had records of him. My parents, friends, kids too, would listen to his speeches on records. Also we had records of comedians who were politically progressive. .
TB: What was it like at Campus School the day of the Kennedy assassination?
KRK: They sent us home from school. They tried, I think, to contact our parents to inform them that we were being sent home. In my case, that was my dad because he was close, he was on campus. But I think Dad was in class so I went home by myself or with my brother. I remember being very, very upset, and my father told me that when he got home he found me crying. He said that I believed that the whole government had gone down, and he had to explain to me that there was a vice president, and who that was, and what happens in these cases. None of that was explained to us that day.
TB: So the school didn’t really use it as a teaching opportunity?
KRK: Not on the day it happened. I mean, it really put the whole nation into shock. So we were just sent home. I don’t remember ever being sent home from Campus School for any other emergency. Everybody was in shock. Our parents were in shock. It was a very big deal to the professors at Western who were Camelot. Kennedy was Camelot.
TB: So in a way, all the vibrant things that were happening at Western kind of coincided with the Kennedy Administration to make everybody feel like it was a whole new world and a whole new generation taking over.
KRK: Yes, I believe that was the case.
Kids who went to Campus School had a jump on the Sixties. We were really experiencing a lot of things early that influenced popular culture later, experiences that grew into the Sixties Rebellion. I have always thought that Fairhaven College was an extension of Campus School, they were just teaching a different age group. At Campus School they had given us a lot of freedom to design our own courses in some sense.
So how did the generation gap develop between my parents’ generation and our generation?
Hippies and Hippie Values
My brother and I started working hard to be authentic and spontaneous, where my mother was working hard to be more packaged in her approach to things, and that meant from the top of her hairdo right down to her pumps, you know. She was very much conscious that she was a role model for her sixth grade students and she dressed nicely - you know, Decorum Mom - where my brother and I were wishing to be free-spirited artists. Enter the Spratlens into my life!
The Spratlens came to WWU in the early Sixties. I didn't really know them until the Sixties rebellion happened, however. Lois Spratlen was the Sixties! She taught us all how to play guitar. Lois was a gifted folk singer, a fan of Joan Baez. She and Dr. Thad were ambassadors for the African-American race here in Bellingham. And they knew it, and they took it seriously, and they did it.
TB: Now your parents had been well-established before the Spratlens came—
I was nine when we moved to our house on Garden Street and they lived right down the street. I got adopted by Lois Spratlen - we all did, which was very nice. Pam Spratlen and I were best friends for several years during puberty, one of my serial monogamous best-friends - there was some overlap. I didn’t know anything about being Black when I met the Spratlens; I had just been trained that there was no difference.
But there IS a difference and I loved it! Lois's house was ALIVE. Her family was completely different from mine. Dr. Thaddeus was so big and he had big hands. I remember just being in awe of his hands, and actually touching his hands - wanting to be touching his hands and just thinking that he was such a marvelous person. Charisma -- Lois and Dr. Thad had “IT”. He and I didn’t say much, but I loved him…I mean the house was a zoo!
We’re talking Thad, Jr. and there was Peter Townsend, those were the two little boys, and then three older highly self expressive daughters - five kids! Whereas it was just my brother and me - and he was four years older, doing his own thing. Our house was very sophisticated and classy, and the Spratlens’ house was - WOW!!!!! Simply wonderful. Lois didn’t keep a messy house, but she didn’t keep a sanitized house like my mother did. She had no help! Life was different at my home. My mother hired somebody to help her with the housework, and my dad cooked and cleaned too.
I would get myself invited over to other people’s houses for dinner, and my mother was always encouraging me and my brother to bring our friends over to our house. But in truth our friends didn’t like coming to our house because we had formal sit down dinners every night of the week. My mother was an excellent cook, my dad was an excellent cook too, but they kept the old protocols. My brother or my father would seat me at the dining room table, and seat my mother, and other women. They would stand when my mother and I walked in through the door (or any other woman). My mother kept all that stuff happening. My father probably wouldn’t have cared, but it was important to my mother.
There was never a time where I didn’t know what all the forks or spoons were for. Because if we had salad, there was a salad fork, and there was a dessert fork too, because we had dessert. I set the table. I used to assure my intimidated friends, “It’s so easy, just work from the outside in, eat from the outside in.” I also knew what wine to serve with which meat - my mother would serve wine with every dinner and would have never served white wine with beef. Candles - full-out performance dinners, every single night.
My Mom worked. She was a passionate school teacher. Yet she kept an immaculate house. Back then it seemed like women had to be better than men at everything to gain any equal clout. Best to be beautiful and brilliant, and never let them see you sweat.
Thus I remember the shock I felt the first time I saw Lois ironing Patty’s hair in the Spratlen kitchen. “Holy moly, what’s this about?” Soon they would all sport “Afros”, thank god! I loved Afros! Being the kind of person I was, it was so great to be able to put my hands into black people’s hair. I had understanding and permission from Lois to explore and become part of her family. One day Lois put me in front of the mirror. I was eleven or twelve. I was self-conscious. My freckles stood out - they were darker on my face - our freckles fade as we get older. Thank goodness! Lois stood behind me, with her hands on my shoulders. Our eyes met in the mirror and she said, “You are half black and don’t you ever forget it.”
And I didn’t! That was my first experience being initiated - allowed into something that was completely separate from my mother’s and father's experience. Mind you, my mother was really happy that Pam and I were friends and that I was so welcome at the Spratlens. One of the best parties my Mom ever threw was for the neighborhood on Garden Street. She invited all these people that she didn’t know and that was the first time that she invited the Spratlens over. I think that she created that party to get the Spratlens over. She loved that party because it was surprising and different - a total success.
TB: What about your father and the Sixties?
KRK: When the Sixties started to happen, it was wonderful. I was still pretty young, eleven or twelve, and my father was very interested in music, and willing to take me and my brother to all the concerts. My brother, being older, cut loose from us to hang with his friends. Dad and I saw Simon and Garfunkel, the Youngbloods – I saw the Youngbloods many times - the Byrds, oh, and the Fifth Dimension! It’s was a wonderful concert - the Fifth Dimension comes out, and one of the women singers is so drunk that she staggers to the lip of the stage and barfs into the fans. Carver Gym - you don’t forget those kinds of things.
Later, I went to concerts at WWU with my friends. I remember Tower of Power, all sorts of African and world musicians - I wish I remembered all their names. Ravi Shankar! Taj Mahal! Taj Mahal stopped by Western and performed, several times, and made me a lifetime Taj Mahal fan. Jazz performers! Amazing classical musicians too, of course.
Oh, and I mustn't forget how my father took me as a very young child to see Eleanor Roosevelt here on campus. I remember that in the moment, I understood everything she was saying, but I don’t remember what she said. It was very inspiring. I’ve always remembered that I saw her before she died, here at Western.
Also, thrillingly, I got to meet Ralph Harris as a child! He was the first person from Australia I ever met. He was a semi-famous singer and is now a very well known TV performer in the UK. He also was an absolute look-alike to Jerry Flora. They met because they looked exactly like each other and they became friends. Ralph and his wife stayed for quite a spell in Bellingham. My parents really enjoyed Ralph, had him over for dinner. He had a wobble board! Remember “tie me kangaroo down, jack, tie me kangaroo down!” It’s the novelty song that made Ralph Harris famous. Remember the whom-pa whom-pa whommm-pa sound? That was made by a wobble board.
The Furthers Bus (Ken Kesey and Merry Pranksters) came to campus in 1967 and also the Jefferson Airplane performed here, but I don't remember those things clearly. Jerry Flora pulled the plug on the strobe light. It was a big deal at the time.
TB: What about sex and drugs in the Sixties?
KRK: I was in ninth grade or so when abortion became legal. I was not sexually active yet, but I remember what a huge relief that was. The fear of pregnancy was so intense for young women up until then. Around the same time, birth control became widely available. You could get birth control by 1968 without your parents’ permission in Bellingham, and what a freedom that was for humanity. The Sixties certainly included this new sexual freedom, but in many ways, the sexual revolution hit our parents’ generation a lot harder than it did us. They were adults and we were kids. We got the bad press. They were more discreet. And we were not discreet. That was one of the real big differences between the generations.
As soon as sex got safer, the divorce rates really started going up on campus. I don't know who was swinging. My parents were monogamous, so I’m not talking about them. I’m just saying in hindsight, I realize that the wild sexual freedom of the Sixties was happening in the older generation too. Again, they were adults, we were teenagers. Professors having affairs with students, and wife-swapping - these experiments were happening quite a lot in the late Sixties. Not just at WWU - everywhere. Seemingly the whole society had felt very restricted, and then it suddenly seemed a lot safer to experiment. Our generation, the Sixties Generation, gets the credit for all of the drugs and sex, but that isn't fair.
Drugs became much more available in the Sixties. I’m talking about pharmaceuticals, where the adults were taking tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and popping speed. Diet pills were common for women to use for a few years there. Then David Mason came to Western in 1966 and soon he was admitting that he had taken LSD - there was a whole article about it in the Western Front. All these things were really shocking and fascinating. I don’t know when marijuana came to town; it was available for me around 1967 or 1968.
So the generations were splitting along drug use lines. We liked different drugs. It was hard for the parents to impact the youth by saying in effect, “Don’t use those drugs! Use our drugs instead!” Alcohol was WAY overused by Frank Sinatra’s fans the world over. These same social realities existed at Western and in Bellingham. Alcoholism was a tremendous problem for several of our families.
TB: How about Campus School kids in the Sixties?
KRK: What happened in the Sixties to Campus School children was often hard. Few of us went the direction that our parents were hoping. I do know that if you’ve ever had any liberal education, it changes your whole life, whether you’ve had it in college, like at Fairhaven College, or whether you got it at Campus School. You’re never the same.
I was in sixth grade at Fairhaven Middle School the first time I was publicly accused of being a communist by a right-winger. My math teacher was a raving fascist who loved to be distracted from doing algebra problems. Any opportunity to debate, nay verbally abuse, hippies was great for him. Likewise my eighth grade homeroom teacher taught the Bible. “I am not a Communist! I’m a European Socialist!” I declared proudly. I thought they would understand, but actually, of course, my retort made it worse.
TB: What about the peace movement? Can you share about the Harris School, the UUs and the Bishops. Who were the UUs?
KRK: Unitarian Universals. Quite a number of professors were Unitarians. It was the home of a lot of anti-war activism.
The peace movement in Bellingham - and this could be said about the Underground Railroad, too - the peace movement in Bellingham that I knew was linked to: (1) Peggy and Dick Bishop, and other Unitarians like Frank and Liz Morrow; (2) Rev. Bill Sodt and Rita Sodt were fantastic leaders. Bill was the Lutheran Campus Minister and his wife, Rita Sodt, was an amazing, incredible, genius, radical, activist! She had a radio show at KUGS for years; (3) The Harris family. They are Quaker - also dedicated peace activists. The Harris Family ran an alternative school out of their home on 21st Street. Rosemary Harris started the weekly “Silent Vigil for Peace” down at the Federal Building.
The Unitarian church was at Gladstone and Franklin Street, in the York district, and it was really a center. They bought the church in 1966. It was an old relic even then and it isn’t very big inside. Peggy Bishop and others started Bellingham's first hip coffee shop there. They actually made espressos. They had folk singers, and the freaks and intellectuals gathered to debate and rap. It was hip.
I have been told that there was a church schism over the Underground Railroad. Some of the UU’s were sneaking draft dodgers and deserters into Canada during the Vietnam War. Unusual for schisms, the most liberal side won and stayed in the building and everybody else left. That had a lot to do with the Bishops, I imagine. Peggy Bishop was as close to being a Unitarian saint as the Unitarians get. She was, far as I could ever see, a completely selfless, social justice activist, and Dick and Peggy were part of the Underground Railroad for sure.
The Bishops arrived in 1966. In their kitchen they had two phones mounted. If the top one rang, you answered it, “Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, may I help you?” and if the bottom rang, you said, “This is the Bishop family”. I suppose I shouldn’t say they were the Unitarian church, but they were completely dedicated to it.
Dick Bishop told me that, from his perspective, the students of Western were generating the peace protests and that he and the Harris family, and the Sodts were simply helping and supporting them. I believe that is correct. Students everywhere were protesting and having sit-ins in the president's offices. Uncle Jerry often shares how much he authentically enjoyed having protestors in his office. With or without support from older folk, many students were dedicated to protesting the war and the draft. That said, these adults were tremendous mentors to the leftists students on campus. They were all very sane and intelligent people. They were all very productive. They were humbly and sincerely dedicated to human rights, and the political process. They modeled PEACEFUL activism. They preached against violence. They pushed us all to vote.
Dick Bishop was the hip new Sixties professor when he arrived at WWU. His son Thom and I were better than best friends, we were twin souls. Though I can't claim Thom all for my own - he had lots of best friends. Thom attended fifth grade at Campus School only - last fifth grade of Campus School. He was a grade behind me and when he went to Fairhaven Middle School, he was terribly, harassed, abused and attacked.
KRK: He was a hippie. The coach would publicly ridicule Thom. Every day, the coach would rip Thom's peace beads off of him by force in the locker room when Thom was dressing - with everyone watching. Every night, Thom would re-do a peace necklace readying him for the next day's ordeal. Thom developed psoriasis. He was a real scrawny, little kid - not football star potential. The coaches were sadistic and rightwing and homophobic. Campus School kids seemed like complete leftist, radical communists. Thom and I were particularly attacked because we actually were hippies.
Thom went to his dad, and Dick allowed Thom to go to the Harris School. I was jealous. I was not so lucky, but I hung around with the Harris family a lot. Their house had the biggest, bestest kitchen ever. I learned how to bake bread there and cook natural foods. Rosemary Harris needs a book of her own. She has so much character, she IS a character. She is short, Quaker and powerful - a talker. Dr. Harris is quiet with a profound twinkle in his eye. He is brilliant and kind - another “beamer”.
The Harris family had a parcel of kids, four or five of them. They were all great people. They introduced us to all sorts of good clean fun. For instance, they did folk dancing. Thom and I both really enjoyed that.
Rosemary Harris and Rita Sodt basically ran the local chapter for the United Nations together for years. They were unstoppable. Those two got more done in one week than most get done in a decade. What amazing women!
Speaking of Rita Sodt – her home, of course, was another very important Sixties hang out – there was the Campus Ministries and its extension, the Sodt family home on 14th Street.
The Campus Ministries was on Garden Street, close to my home on Forest Street. It was this great big, boxy, beautiful old Bellingham white mansion, right where the parking lot under the Viking Union is now. Rev. Bill Sodt was the Lutheran Campus Pastor and that building housed the Campus Peace Movement, a crisis hotline and all sorts of activities. It was a heartbreaker when Western decided to take down that building. They built the new campus ministry, and Bill was there until he retired.
Rev. Bill and Rita Sodt were major lifelong peace activists. I believe that Bill was the key person behind the Underground Railroad. But nobody knows. Still people I’ve talked to tend to assume that it was Rev. Bill Sodt who was the master connector to the rest of the Railroad. They would get called and told to expect a package. Then the person would arrive. Soon they would take a family trip up to Vancouver, go over the border and simply come back with one less person.
As the border got tighter, the Bellingham Unitarians started coordinating with the Unitarian church in Vancouver. They’d have picnics together at the Peace Arch Park. Everybody would arrive at the picnic, eat and play and then go home. The draft dodgers went home with the Canadians, of course.
Thom Bishop never told me that he was involved the Underground Railroad. I thought there was nothing we didn't share, but he never told me a thing about it. Rather, I learned what I know from Dick Bishop
Again the usual ploy in the Underground Railroad was to appear like a family going up to Vancouver for the day. Who noticed that the older brother “forgot” to come home? But what about African American draft dodgers? Bellingham had no black people except the Spratlens and the border wasn’t expecting to have that many African Americans going back and forth. It was feared that the border guards would ask more questions. (I do not know if the Spratlens were part of the Underground Railroad. We must ask them). So one day a black brother draft dodger and Thom went to Peace Arch Park and they started playing Frisbee. Thom threw the Frisbee, the black guys threw it back, and Tom threw the Frisbee, and back and forth - all the while working their way into the Canada side of the park. Finally Thom hauled off and threw that Frisbee as far as he could. And the guy went chasing after that Frisbee, never to return.
Dr. David T. Mason has told me that the Underground Railroad also had an unorganized side of it. Many draft dodgers and military deserters headed to Bellingham. Bellingham was smaller back then and pretty intimate so these young men stood out.. Many locals helped draft dodgers over the border without being part of any organized Underground Railroad.
TB: How often did the border stop people?
KRK: My experience all down through my whole life, especially these days, is that getting into Canada is pretty easy, getting back into the United States is a horrible drag.
I got stopped at the border quite a lot in the late Sixties. We were going over because the drinking age was lower in Canada. I would avoid getting strip searched on the way home because I could start naming names and back them off. My Mom was a school teacher and well known. Uncle Jerry was president of Western. One of the guys who moonlighted as a border guard was a coach at Sehome High School.
Once I was told to empty my pockets at the border as a teen. My mother had given me a “Contact” cold capsule - remember what they looked like? They were big honkin’ clear capsules that had all these colored little balls inside them. Very “far out” looking for sure! The guard panicked when he saw that - figured it was some weird psychotropic trip about to happen. “Look at this!” the guard shouted to his peers and they started running our way. “It’s a Contact cold capsule! My mother gave it to me! I have a cold!” I wailed. He was embarrassed. “Okay, you’re right; it has CONTACT written right on it.” I was lucky. Elizabeth Daugert was strip searched.... a couple times.
TB: They were looking for drugs then.
KRK: Yes, but it was also a “harass the hippies” thing. Meanwhile, the parents taking the draft dodgers into Canada did not get hassled because they looked nice and straight.
TB: Do you know anything more about the protests that went on in Bellingham?
KRK: Yes, middle school was a drag for me, so I would skip and go to every protest I could. I remember one at the Bellingham Library that overfilled the whole lawn area in back - right across to City Hall. It was before they built the present court house building.
Why I remember that protest in particular was because someone was up on the old courthouse roof, filming us. I remember that very distinctly. I understood, with a cold shiver, that the FBI or CIA or the men in black, were tracking us.
I vaguely recall a protest held on campus where the rumor got out that they were going to napalm a kitten. The Humane Society arrived, and the newspapers and I am pretty sure that it was Dr. Harris who spoke and assured everyone. “We don’t have any napalm, we don’t have a kitten. Yet if you are so upset about napalming a kitten, then I suggest that you need to think about whether it is ethical to napalm human beings.”
One protest shut down the freeway. I did not participate in the freeway sit-in, but that happened. There were a lot of different protests. There was also a lot of just hanging out in parks with the hippies and bubbles, wearing wild clothes.
Rosemary Harris started “the silent vigil for peace” held at the Federal Building downtown every Friday afternoon. It is still going strong.
TB: How did you hear about the protests?
KRK: I heard about them from the Harrises, from the Bishops - or I saw flyers on campus or heard about protests from college students, or by hanging out at “Atlantis” - Bellingham's first head-shop. It was across from the Leopold. Atlantis opened n 1967 or ’68 and it was the first hippie experience in Bellingham. I believe they sold records as well as pot paraphernalia, incense, hip literature and all sorts of poster art. They sold postcards that had Tibetan tankas on them. I’d never come in contact with sexual/sacred art before entering Atlantis. Atlantis was where we learned about what was happening in San Francisco. We learned from the comic books, posters, products, and books there.
TB: Tell me more about Thom Bishop. He died young.
KRK: Yes, Thom died at age 18 - an accident. .
The evening I first met Thom Bishop I was sitting out on my front steps wearing my Twiggy costume. I had short hair with little spit curls by my ears and the ratted poof at the crown. I was wearing a mini skirt, and go-go boots, a tight top, and I had the wide belt. I’m sitting there, bored, looking like Twiggy.
I looked up and there was this figure walking down the middle of 17th street, walking down the hill towards me. He had long hair - like the Beatles. He was wearing a Nehru jacket, love beads, and he had wire rim glasses. He looked like an elf.
At that age, it’s not common for a young man who doesn’t know you to come up and introduce himself. But Thom walked right up to our property line and said, “Hi. You want to go May Daying?”
What a good idea! In truth I’d been waiting to go May Daying my whole life! I was a grade ahead of Thom, but I followed Thom around everywhere from then on. He was an absolutely magical person. In hindsight, I highly suspect that Thom was gay. Certainly he and I were completely platonic throughout our teens - more like twins than anything else.
Thom was not age-ist at all. He would make friends with babies and old people and everyone in between. He had a way of meeting the coolest people.
TB: What did your parents think about your involvement with the Peace Movement?
KRK: My parents’ circle was liberal but not radical. Just because my mother didn't fully agree with Peggy Bishop's or Rita Sodt's politics, didn't mean she didn't respect them. Rita and my mother were both active in the League of Women Voters and the AAUW (American Association of University Women).
KRK: They respected each other from across the room. They were both women who got a lot done in committee - they were both good at organizing people, good at doing whatever project they were asked to do. The Bishops and the Sodts and the Spratlens and the Harris family were extremely ethical leaders - they didn’t misuse power or the sexual “freedom” of the era. They were very good role models - all of them had very strong families and I feel very blessed that they were here to guide us. My parents trusted them, too.
I think my parents had some room for us to be more radical in our politics than they were - partly because we were young. There is this old idea that you’re liberal when you’re young, and you get more conservative as you get older. Rita Sodt would sniff to hear me say that. And she'd be right. Were my parents alive today, in these times of Fatherland Security - I mean Homeland Security – they would be as radical in their politics as Rita was all the way along.
TB: Wow! Well, is there anything else we haven’t talked about that you would like to add?
KRK: [No, I don’t think so.]
TB: Okay, great, thank you very much.