Special Collections Oral History Program
Larry S. Richardson
Associate Professor Emeritus of Communication
Interviewer: Tamara Belts
Date of Interview: August 3, 2004
Location of Interview: College Hall, Western Washington University
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TB: Today is Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004 and I’m here with Dr. Larry Richardson, who’s Professor Emeritus of Communication. He has just signed the Informed Consent Agreement and we’re about to begin our oral history, and Dr. Richardson also is an alumni of Western, graduated, I believe in 1957 with a Bachelors of Education. I was going to start with how did you first choose to attend Western?
LR: I was in study hall at Edmonds High School one day and the library was next door, and I was scrounging through the library and came across a book called Going to College in Washington. They had a page for each college and university in the State. I discovered that Western was here and they had degrees in music education, which I was interested in. It looked like it would be way cheaper than the University of Washington because there was no tuition here, and I was a very poor young man. Then, little by little, various of our friends thought they’d come here. The principal of Edmonds High School, G. Mason Hall, was an alumnus of Western. He had high regard for it. Well, then it looked like his daughter might want to come here on an oboe scholarship and then my wife. They had the MENC Music Regional Convention on the campus and we came up for that. We brought our school orchestra to play and several of our musicians were in the All Northwest Orchestra or Band, and so a lot of us saw the campus that way. My girlfriend, Marilyn (who’s still my girlfriend), and Sandra Hall, the principal’s daughter, decided they’d be roomies up here. Then we came up and auditioned for music scholarships and we all got those, which meant we’d get free private instruction. Finances were tight, I think, for most of us and it just looked like a nice place, away from home, you know, the hundred miles away from Seattle, sort of thing. We all grew up in Edmonds and it wasn’t too big a town, so it looked about right and that’s how I did it.
TB: Oh, good. What were your dates of attendance at Western?
LR: Well, I think I came in ’54 and then, after we married, I kind of I hurried up. We went a couple summers to hurry and get out. Then I left on an Emergency Teaching Certificate with one quarter left to go; went out and taught the remainder of that year at Neah Bay. Then came back the following summer and got my BA, so, my departure was sort of ragged, my diploma came in the mail, and that was that.
TB: Where did you live when you were at Western?
LR: I started off in Men’s Residence Hall, fall quarter. My roommate was Doug Bridges, who is now retired. He ended up as librarian at the community college at Nanaimo. He was also an Edmonds graduate. We lived here together a year, I mean a quarter, and I was really stretched financially and, and I had some friends that were going to move into an apartment that was far cheaper, you do your own cooking and the like, so I moved out into that and that apartment over here was on High Street, right about where the bookstore sits now or right near there, and we lived there the remainder of my freshman year. Then my sophomore year I went down to the University of Washington. A couple of our High School teachers got a hold of me and my best friend (he was going to Whitman), and they said ‘Oh, you need to go to the big school if you’re going to get a real education.’ So we both went there, we both terribly missed our girlfriends, we both did not like the hassle and the impersonal treatment at the University of Washington, and we both came back then for our, in fact, I came back here Spring quarter of my sophomore year and then finished out here. Then, where did I live? Well, I brought up a guy from Seattle who hated UW too, Don West, and we lived together over on 21st Street. There’s a lot of parking lots over there now but we lived there. Then when Marilyn and I were married, my last year, my roommate’s moved out and Marilyn moved in with me, so that was great. When we came back in the summer, we lived over here. Oh, it would be about right in front of the music building, there was a sort of Spanish style apartment house there and we lived there that one summer.
TB: Who were your favorite or most influential teachers and why?
LR: Keith Murray was very influential in my life. Marilyn and I were both close to the Murray’s. I ended up giving his son percussion lessons and Jamie ended up as a professional drummer in a jazz group for a while. Let’s see, in the music department, I really admired Jerome Glass when he came here. He was a fine musician and an inspiration, and a good spirit especially among the instrumental music people. Frank D’Andrea was the department chair and conductor of the orchestra, I liked him a lot. Then both Marilyn and I were close to David Schaub. He was the organist and taught music theory. He used to put us through our paces at eight in the morning and so we liked him. We remained friends up until recently.
TB: Wow, I guess I’m surprised at that; music was your main course of study then?
LR: Well, yes. I was a music major and a speech minor. I joined the debate team right away. I had done debate in high school so I became involved in that and that became a minor for me. But the music major was my main interest. I was a percussionist and I played the tympani and the trap sets and the, anything, you know? I played in the orchestra and the band and the opera orchestra here, or the, you know, the shows that they did, and that sort of thing. Played jazz gigs around here. I’m still in touch with some of those old music warriors; they have get togethers and things. I missed a picnic a couple of weeks ago up at Startup with George Ulrich and Ken Copeland, Jerry Mogelson -- just a lot of people who were in music. We stay in touch. Joyce Wold, who was a big singing star of Western, is a very close friend of myself and my wife.
TB: What classes did you like best or learn the most from?
LR: I learned a lot in music, probably could have learned more. You know that eerie feeling; they say you don’t really learn to teach until you go out and start doing it. I had that -- now, what do I do, here -- here I was on an Indian reservation. The kids were really musically illiterate, they’d had horrible teachers out there, and I started from scratch. But I had good preparation on getting started, so I have to acknowledge that, and I had good preparations to go into better and better schools. I ended up conducting the band program at Edmonds Senior High School. I think I stayed there seven years and got along quite well, and that was a very demanding school district and a very demanding and competitive environment, and we did a lot of good things. So, I’d say the total department there was good. No real stars, they were good solid people and they had good character. They taught kind of by the book, but I learned a lot from that. Around the campus, another fellow [who] had a lot of influence on both Marilyn and me was Ralph Thompson in the [Education] Department. We liked him and he was a really solid thinker. Hmmm, who else? Well, Herb Taylor, we had him. When we decided to go to Neah Bay we thought we better learn something about Northwest Indians, so we took his course on Indians of the Northwest Coast and got some insight.
TB: What was Herb Taylor like as a teacher?
LB: Oh, he was flamboyant, had a lot of interesting details in his lectures, a little overbearing. This was an eight o’clock class in the summer and he said, “If you can’t be here on time, just don’t bother to come through the door. When I close the door the door is closed.”
One weekend we went over to see my mother, who was camped out east of the mountains. We drove all night, I kept falling asleep at the wheel, Marilyn was driving, trying to make this eight o’clock, and we got on to campus at ten after eight. We didn’t go to class. I kind of resented that that day, after we tried so hard and didn’t quite make it. He had quite a reputation around here. He was also an officer in the Air National Guard, of which I was a member, and so a lot of us who were undergraduates at Western in the Air National Guard would kind of watch his antics. He had a bit of the British -- strutting officer syndrome -- in his demeanor, so it was fun watching him play officer.
TB: What other extracurricular activities did you enjoy the most?
LB: Well, as I say, debating. We traveled some, nothing like the debate teams of today, but I remember going over to the Montana Tournament. Paul Herbold was really a train fanatic and he was our coach. We had to stop and see these gigantic steam trains which were sitting somewhere in Idaho waiting for other trains to come along that they could pull them up over the big grade. I guess they only used them for the big pulls. So, we had to climb all over those trains. We would go down to the Linfield Tournament and the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran; I think UW may have had a tournament. I enjoyed that traveling, that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed traveling with the band. We went on a tour every year. I enjoyed just being in the band, we did concerts, and the orchestra, and the musical shows were kind of fun because the whole department was in that and a lot of funny things [happened]. So I enjoyed that. I was involved in the USCF, which is now the Campus Christian Fellowship up here, and that was really getting started, at first, under the leadership of Reverend Alfred E. Dale, about the time we came. I was a President of that for one year and we were quite involved in get togethers and so on. It was the only main-line protestant organization on campus, so, I enjoyed that. Then we went to the Methodist Church with Reverend Clarence Forsberg who was very campus oriented. He saved two rows in front for college students and then he’d stay behind after the sermon and have a talk back, mostly just for the college students, and social functions, and he coordinated quite well with the USCF Foundation. They were in an old mansion down on Garden Street that was eventually torn down. In fact, it was that old mansion that led me, much later, to become the first president of the Faculty Club because I heard that it was slated for being torn down and I started agitating to save that building, I guess it had been designed after the home of some famous poet on the East Coast, and, and down it was going to come and, so I got involved. Well, I got to be President of the Faculty Club for about six years but the building went down anyway, so we ended up over here at the former President’s house instead, but that was a lot of fun.
TB: Any other outstanding memories of your college days?
LR: Oh, at Halloween, I got a job working for Dean Mac. A couple of Halloweens in a row, we would just patrol around campus and keep the younger kids stirred up and try to keep big insults from happening. That was kind of funny and kind of fun. Then I did get involved in student government, too. I was on the, what was called the Board of Control, and we had some very interesting goings on there. About the first black students that attended Western, came at the time that, you know, late fifties, and one was a star athlete named Willie Ball, and he is revered still on the campus and viewed as one of our important alumni. I remember him but there was another fellow here who came, and I don’t remember his name, but he came here from Nigeria, I believe. One night the police hauled him in and beat him up and said, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to be out of town by night fall?”
He said, “Sorry, I didn’t know that.”
Well, a little later they found out he was a student on campus and so they put his picture up in the police board room, down there, and said, “Don’t beat up this guy, anymore.”
So he had a special pass -- suggesting to a lot of us in the student council that other blacks did not have a special pass to be here after dark. Some of us started a bit of a protest. We passed a resolution in the Board of Control that we wanted the police chief to come up to the campus and apologize publicly. Well, about that, there was a ring of about three or four of us who were leading this agitation and, about a week later, Dean McDonald called us in and said, “You boys like going to school here?”
“Oh yes, we like Western.”
“You want to stay?”
“Well, I think we better resolve this situation with the chief of police.” He said, “I’ve called him up and he’s not willing to come up here on to the campus and eat crow over this. He’s very sorry for what happened and what he will do is, a delegation of you are invited to go down to his office, see him at city hall or wherever, and close the door and talk this over.”
We did, and that was the end of that incident, but, anyway, some of us had our first brush with the realities of the Civil Rights Movement at that time.
TB: Wow. I’ll switch over quick into how you happened to come to Western as a faculty member, but [first] how did you switch to speech as your profession from music?
LR: Well, even at Neah Bay, when I first started off, I rounded up about three or four Indian kids and we went out to some tournaments just because I said, “Look, I know how to do this and it’s fun.”
In fact, even today there are about three of them, all women, who’ve had very effective public lives and have said ‘that speaking kind of got my courage up.’ One of them lobbies for Native American tribes from all over the West and is a professional consultant. She said she kind of got her start in our little tiny debate team at Neah Bay. I always had that as kind of a side thing. When I went to Edmonds High School, they’d had a fine debating program and then it had gone dormant for a couple years because of personnel problems. A new principal came in and he put out the call that he’d like to have someone coach debate. I said I know how to do it, and so I did and, and jumped into it whole heartedly and we did very well, very excellent high school, so we had a good start. And so, there I was with a high school band, a stage band to keep going, small ensembles, pep bands at basketball and football games. We took the whole band out for football games and did big marching shows. I was active in a community symphony, the Cascade Symphony and the debate coach at Edmonds High School and an officer in the State Debating Association, and along came some grants from the Federal Government in advanced speech: NDEA grants. So I went off on one to Pullman and then a couple years went by and then they had another one for curriculum development in speech, again at Pullman, and I went there. By then, I knew they were starting a doctoral program and the Edmond School District had a sabbatical program for teachers and I was then eligible. I arranged it, [took] that institute and then stayed on. I had planned to stay one year and do some of the course work toward a doctorate. Well, once I was there, they were eager to get people through because it was a new program. They said, “Well, we’ll make you an instructor for another year and you stay and you can wrap it up,” and so I did.
Well, along the way, it was funny; I had always told people I’d probably just stay in Edmonds. I loved that school. I said, “If I ever left it would be to go to some small college that’s nice like Western Washington.” I’d name Western.
Well, the job at Western came open and I applied. The first time I applied, they said, “You’re not far enough along yet, towards your doctorate. We’re not too interested in you,” and so they hired someone.
Well, “someone” didn’t pan out and so a year later I was through with all of my course work and I applied again and they hired me. Then I left the Edmonds Schools and went full time [with speech]. I knew I couldn’t do anything with music, but I’ve played little bits since then. But, anyway, that’s how I made that switch. I just decided I had to get out of something; I was just doing too much and met myself coming around corners. We had three boys growing up and I wasn’t home very much. So, that’s how I made the switch.
TB: Ok, so when you first came to Western, I believe, in 1970, was that a tenured faculty position?
LR: It wasn’t clear. They hired three of us and by the end of the year the dean called and said, “You have to get rid of one of those three.”
We were all good friends, they’d hired one in each of the three areas: speech path., drama, and rhetoric and public address, and they’re kind of looking at each other like ‘whose gonna’ get the ax?’ Well, finally, a guy who’d gone away on sabbatical or was away studying, decided to keep on going, and he left and then that cleared it up. Then I went on to tenured track. I think they made us all assistant professors instead of lecturers and [that] kind of started the process.
TB: Ok, you came at a time of transition when Flora was president; they [had] just finished having (spring of 1969) all these student protests, so, what was the atmosphere on campus like when you came?
LR: It was quieting down. I know there were still students worried about being drafted. I remember one student; there was a Suzanne Radliff on the faculty and she would go on some debate trips as a judge. She really taught oral interpretation and theater but she had a knack for this stuff, so she would go along as a judge. I remember this conversation where this guy was saying, “Look, you just got to give me an A so I won’t get drafted.”
I remember her saying, “Look, you’re a smart fellow. If you get drafted, you’ll be smart enough to keep your head down and not get shot. If I give you a C, which is what you deserve, you get drafted, then you can be safe. On the other hand, if I give you A, then some other poor guy who isn’t nearly as smart as you is going to go out there, take in all of that gung ho stuff and go out and get himself shot. So, which is the better choice here?”
He finally agreed that he’d either have to earn his A or take his chances because she wasn’t going to fudge. I know there were issues like that around but they didn’t have any big demonstrations.
Of course, when we were in Pullman, finishing up, there was just one thing after another going there. They burned downed the stadium and they had to cancel commencement one year. In fact, they had to, no, they kept the commencement, they had to cut off classes two weeks earlier the year of Kent State. The students just rose up and the SDS just said anybody who tries to hold finals, we’ll disrupt the goings on so much that you won’t be able to complete them. I remember department chairs being called out. They had to stay in their buildings over night, many nights and just patrol because they were afraid of other arson over there.
We had a very dear friend from Seattle, who was brought over, (we had been friends way back in school), Warren Burton. [He] was a black man and worked for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and they had him over there as an advisor. He knew a lot of the black kids who were involved in a lot of protests and he was able to sit down with them and help to keep the lid on.
TB: So, what was the campus governance structure like when you came here?
LR: Well, they were just moving into the Faculty Senate. They had something a little less formalized; I think they had a Faculty Council. The whole Senate concept came along when Paul Olscamp came. I remember it because I was involved in the committee that controlled funding for activities because I had a vested interest as debate coach, that’s what they had was the advisors. Prior to that time it was all done very informally and casually and quite cooperatively and, I think, most people were pretty satisfied. I think the athletes always felt under funded and I think there was an implicit philosophy that we just didn’t emphasize athletics very much at that time. But, other than that, things went along well. But when Paul Olscamp came he kind of saw the place of the house as three parts: the faculty, the non-faculty staff, and the students, and so when they organized the senate and all of the subcommittees, they all had representation. It was all structured so that all three of those groups would be represented. I know the departmentally related activities committee became very dicey as a result of that, it all had to be done with students and we had to spend hours and hours kind of training the student. I’m sure it was valuable for them and they picked up a lot of knowledge, so, I suppose in the long run, this was a wise thing to do.
He’d come out of Canadian education where the students actually manage all of their activities. If they didn’t manage them, they didn’t happen, and that’s kind of the vision that he [had]. He said, “I don’t see why our debate team needs [the] faculty handling it.”
Well, debate in this country is much more on a business-like basis. When you go to a tournament you have to -- just like a football team showing up -- you’ve got to have a staff and pay your bills and so on and so forth. It’s pretty different from what that kind of simple good old day’s concept was. So, we had to work our way through that mine field but it worked out pretty well. But that was the big change in governance when Paul Olscamp came because they still have the Senate.
I know now that you’re on the verge of, with the faculty, of a union coming in. As a faculty member [and] later on while I was a department chair, I got involved in the lobbying in Olympia. I was on the Senate Committee that did that and became chairman and so I became the lobbyist to go down there. Then, as a result of that, I was elected by the people of the six state schools to be the chairman of the whole six school thing, and I did that, I think, for a two year term. Then, about the time I was to get out, something bad happened to the next guy coming up, he was from Central, and the president over there dumped on him and pulled his funding because they didn’t think we were all being cooperative enough with the administrative line. We were agitating for the right to have elections to collective bargaining that was one of several goals. I mean, we were supportive of better funding and supporting students and so on and so forth.
I know we got crossways with the administration on another issue which was having students on the Board of Directors. We simply on our state committee didn’t have a consensus and so our official position was no position, [we] just [abstained] when we got into that because no one was speaking for anyone else. Well, the administrators were very unhappy with that. They said, “Well, you’ve got to go one way or the other,” and we didn’t feel we could.
So, we got a little crossways with the administration during that time, but that was one of the earliest times. There were bills going there for collective bargaining but it ended up being vetoed by Booth Gardner, once it got onto his desk, I think. They were pretty far along, anyway. That was another kind of an adventure growing out of that governance thing.
I think over the years my opinion is that the senate became very much kind of -- to be very negative about it -- kind of a lap dog of the administration. There have been a few key, crucial issues where the Senate, in my opinion, rolled over when they should have barked, and they didn’t. I don’t think I’ll go into any more details unless you want to push that along.
Anyway, we got into the senate which, when things are working swimmingly, then things go swimmingly and when, when they’re not, the Senate structure is not a good mechanism for the faculty to really have a strong influence or strong enough. We’ve gradually seen the erosion of that faculty power. This is still, very much, a faculty run campus though, compared to other places. I know that’s where we’ve had problems with some of our presidents, they were totally unprepared for this much faculty involvement.
That’s funny because when I first came here, my committee chair at Washington State said, “Our understanding is the faculty is very involved in governance over there and they say it’s a black hole. If you get too involved in that before you get your publishing and your reputation up, you can get swimming around in that pool and start making enemies and get nowhere and get nothing published, a lot of people kind of failed in that way.”
So I had that warning when I came here. Unfortunately, I enjoyed politics a lot, so, you know, I did it anyway.
TB: Do you know how the Faculty Senate maybe could have been stronger? Not on any specific issue but just how could it have been stronger?
LR: Well, I think over the years, for one thing, key faculty became disillusioned, and so they didn’t run. It almost just became a way of getting your promotion sheet punched. There were a lot of younger people who didn’t really know Western in a way; they didn’t especially have a strong collegial, academic orientation. Some of them went in there, sort of, to pitch their own department, which is, you know, kind of like the U.S. House of Representatives; you go there and grab all you can for the State of Washington. But then when you get a national emergency, everyone needs to work together, and part of that working together, whether it’s the U.S. Congress or our senate here, would be standing up to the other force, which is the administration. So, I think it was a gradual erosion. I think it’s a cultural thing. I think more and more the young people just aren’t interested in running the university. I think they’re more and more oriented to just being in their department, get their papers, teach their courses and buy a house. I think maybe that day is over and it’s going away. I don’t know what the union’s arrival will do. It’s hard to guess. I know it’s very different [in] different places; there are a lot of, you know, horror stories out there about awful things that happen some places but there are also a lot of stories about things where it’s worked out beautifully and there’re no big problems.
TB: Did you start being the forensics coach right away when you came?
LR: That was my job, yes. They were looking for someone to handle the Forensic program, right. That was, oh, about a half time job for me and then I taught a couple courses. Then, I think my fifth year here, fourth or fifth year I was elected chair of the departments and then I had to balance teaching and chairing and being the director of Forensics.
TB: And you also started the summer program?
TB: When did you start that?
LR: Well, second or third year. I kind of got just a little idea; I became friends with a guy named Paul Winters who was a very beloved older, statesman coach from the University of Pacific, he was one of the great gurus of the West Coast. They had a big summer institute and he said, “This would be a great place to have a summer institute, why don’t you do one?”
Then I had him over here for a couple of summers to help kind of teach us what had to be done. He knew all the basic ingredients and said ‘do this and do that,’ so he helped me get started. Then I had a wonderful group of alumni who came. Well, some of them were students at the time. I think one of our best alumni ever was Michael Bartonen.
End of tape one side one
LR: [The] first year we offered the institute, we advertised it and we didn’t get enough takers so we had to call everyone up and cancel. Then, the next year it did take off, and so it grew little by little. I think it was the premier debate institute in the Pacific Northwest for several years. I had just a wonderful staff -- very loyal people. We staffed the institute with undergraduate debaters from throughout the Northwest and beyond. But we all had sort of a philosophy, you know, we didn’t teach try to teach the kids to be killer debaters or extremely aggressive or extreme behavior in high school debate. We tried to teach solid research skills and responsible research skills, a lot of kids who do debating get a lot of their material sort of from canned sources or from quick fix sources. Some institutes sort of specialize in getting the kids cranked up, sort of like working up a role in a play, and they pump them up with all this stuff and hope that they can make it through the year on it. Our goal was to get them a good start on doing their own work, the right way, and our kids usually did very well. They’d win the State Championship and so on because I think we’d set them off in a direction that then they could keep growing on. A lot of them stayed with it so that when we’d have our college tournaments it was like a reunion for these kids, all getting together. They were all friends from our Western institute. Gonzaga had one that was a close second and so between the two of us we pretty much had the territory covered. I think it did a lot of good. We got up as high as ninety kids doing this and tried to teach a lot of values as well as just tips and tricks, and I think it paid off.
TB: Well, good. There was a lot of changes in the speech department from when you came, by 1977-79 the catalog, at least, [lists the sections of the department] as Speech communication, Broadcast communication, Speech pathology and audiology. It looks like it’s a lot to manage in one department but [then] it starts splitting apart. Was that a real advantage or was that a real struggle because of funding to get everybody adequate funding?
LR: Oh, I think we all came away with kind of our share of the funding when it happened. I don’t think that was a big problem. Everyone had sort of independent sources or budgets that worked. It was part of a national trend. The same thing has happened all over the country. Nobody was going away mad, they thought more they were kind of staying with national trends. Speech pathology and audiology departments are much more linked with education and with psychology, so like when they have schools, they’ll have a school of behavioral sciences and a school of the arts and so on. We were just sort of in a meeting point of the arts, and humanities was pretty much where speech was, and moving much more deeply into the behavioral sciences. That was just happening while I was in graduates school in the 70’s, speech as behavior in communication, and communication theory was just emerging. Now it’s just blown full board to the extent that a few schools have tossed out the humanities influence -- the traditional rhetoric’s and the Aristotle and Plato and Saint Thomas -- behavioral science is in. That would be the extreme form. But in most speech/communications departments it’s still a blending of the behavioral and the humanistic study in one department. Now there’s a lot of anthropology, and using anthropological methods and tools and so on, kind of a cultural thing. We talk about intercultural communication now, courses in that and cross-cultural communication, etcetera.
TB: What about your linguists? You talked this before we were on tape, about you and broadcast and journalism, when you were all together for a while and then you split apart. Can you talk about why you first were put together and then how it split apart?
LR: Well, I know a little of the history. In about 1925, in the Big Ten, speech departments started up. One of the first things that happened is rhetoric sort of split because a lot of people considered rhetoric to be an issue of style. When people in English talked (at least when they did, I think they’ve come back more toward our direction now), they kind of pulled off. You know, if you take traditional Aristotle, you have five canons of rhetoric and they deal with research, they deal with presentation, and so on, there’s the five canons. Of those the people in English focus much more on style and somewhat on organization -- organizing a message -- and then kind of let the others go.
In the twenties the speech people really, and they were very Aristotelian, Ciceronian sort of people, they wanted to kind of revive the whole tradition of the holistic act of effective speech giving, really, more than total communication. They saw speech courses as a valuable aspect of a democratic education. They really jumped up, I mentioned in the Big Ten, because the Big Ten grew out of the land grant colleges, which were schools for the children of the farmers and the laborers and the businessmen who needed skills. If you grow up in a Harvard family, you grow up around people who speak well and who have a heavy value on that. Although Harvard had one of the first rhetoric departments, they did not have this universal kind of speech thing.
But throughout the Big Ten schools, the notion of a required speech course for all undergraduates really took hold and that jumped out to California and the West Coast, and that was the real under girding of speech. Then, forensics popped up about that time and debate as something for the more advanced students. But it was more of the same: learning to speak well. That developed and then theater programs had been around about the same time and they’d also been somewhat neglected by English departments because they were more active doing rather than reading about, and so they allied themselves with this movement in speech and it was seen as a continuum.
Some of the finest schools today -- I think of Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota -- those schools developed bigger and bigger and bigger faculty and then they began to go into more specializations, and so that’s how that happened. Then speech [pathology] showed up in the mid-West. A fellow by the name of [Charles] Van Riper at, I think, Michigan State really got things moving there, and so that allied itself.
We used to kid that the thing we all had in common -- well, that most disciplines had a human organ, like, you know, psychology would be the brain -- we had the larynx. That was our common bond, the larynx. But then as, you know, in the seventies, as these different areas started growing more and more and becoming more diversified than the splits came.
TB: Ok, you talked a little about Olscamp, how you felt he brought a lot of changes, got things more organized. What about when Ross came? Did you feel a lot of changes with Ross?
LR: Well, Bob Ross was a good guy. He was quite a blowhard, I think. Well, you got some buildings up. I think he did impress the legislature. Apparently, Paul Olscamp, you know, he was very well liked by the faculty here and so on. But like he had a brown canvas briefcase and apparently all the legislators ridiculed him because they all had black leather briefcases, and they were kind of where’s this guy from, you know?
Meanwhile, I’m sure, Bob Ross had a black leather briefcase and he did very well backslapping. He was just a good old boy, southern, I think he was out of Texas and then out of Arkansas. He got some buildings up and things. I don’t think he did much for the curriculum and I don’t think he did much to develop faculty.
The departments have developed themselves. You know, a real challenge to any department, not even just in education, [is], are you willing to hire people better than yourself? I think departments at Western have that willingness to go out and find the best people they can get. Plus, we have this wonderful environment going for us which means that people will come even for lower salary for the way of life around here. The departments have diligently gone out and done that.
I know Bob Ross and Pete Elich, the dean, were good fishing buddies, but really [a lot of that credit should go to] Elich’s leadership and that notion of getting good academic people. The leaders in the college of arts and science, I think, have been solid academic people and they got that message across to the dean who then got that across to others and by example did that. I think, the faculty, especially in the arts and sciences, is truly just far better than Western deserves (laughs), given our budgets and our place in the pecking order. We get people here who could choose between Western and a major university and that’s not recognized a lot.
Increasingly it is recognized but a lot of that credit, I think, goes to deans and department chairs more than to someone like Bob Ross. He did provide the support. He got some raises for us and that was good. In the big brush things [he was good]. He got some buildings for us. But in the fine tuning, it was the chair people and the deans that made the difference here.
TB: Well, can you talk a little bit more about that because you were department chair for like twenty years, I think?
LR: Mm-hmm, nineteen or twenty, yes.
TB: Most of your career.
LR: Yes, Dean Elich used to brag that he’d been a department chair longer than anyone. I said, “I think I have you beat here.”
“By golly, you do!” (laughs)
TB: Can you describe that a little bit more? I mean, is that a hard position to be in?
LR: Well, I fit it and it fit me in this department because it was small, we only had six or seven faculty. It was not the extreme strenuous work. I would not have stayed in it if, like in psychology I know, those chairs over there spent their whole summer doing personnel work, writing evaluations for several people going up for promotion and planning and so on. They just struggled with the job. The load here just wasn’t that onerous because we were dealing with, I think, six or seven full time and three or four more part-time, and they were quite stable. Also, it was a very harmonious department at the time I was here. I was not involved in fights and feuds and people getting bent out of shape. We didn’t have any pre-Madonnas around. They made it easy for me, I liked doing it and I think I did it pretty well.
I had wonderful administrative assistants: Betty Warren, when I came and then Gail Grafwallner were just very, very good. I know occasionally I’d go to a department chairs meeting and I’d get all huffy about something and I’d come back to my office after the meeting and I’d write some stinging memo to somebody, just blow off steam in this memo, I’d give it to Gail, ‘here, type this up!’ And so, about four days later she’d come in and sigh and say ‘well, I finally got that typed up but, you know, maybe you ought to reread that before you send it.’ So I would reread it, I’d say ‘Gail, yeah, you’re right. Throw it in the wastebasket!’ Sorry she had that work but she was a wonderful mentor and supporter, and same with Betty.
I wouldn’t have stayed if I’d just had routine, you know, average secretaries, but they knew what needed to be done and did it and they enjoyed being part of the team. I know Betty, especially, was around as we were building up the institute and she worked really hard at doing the registering and keeping track of all the little details and all that. It was extra work but she relished it because it was an adventure we were on, kind of together, and she had that feeling too: ‘oh, we’re successful,’ you know, so that was fun.
TB: Could you talk about the changes that happened in the process of hiring new faculty, and the tenure and promotion process?
LR: Well, there got to be quite a bit of money, I’m not sure when it really came in online, but also with Affirmative Action coming along, we were required to bring in lots of applicants and be very careful. When I was hired, I think, I kind of sent in some sort of an application and then they hired me.
TB: You didn’t actually physically come to campus to be interviewed?
LR: No, I did. I came here and spent a day.
TB: I know they would have known you a little bit before.
LR: Yes, a couple of them did. But it was fairly casual. In those days, before the seventies, I think a lot of department chairs would call out to schools they knew, like if they’d gone to someplace like Minnesota, because different departments would have a flavor of a Minnesota or that would be their input, or two or three schools. I know our speech path department was just Ohio State all the way; they just kept hiring each other as they came off the assembly line. Well, with the newer rules, you had to throw things wide open and I think you got a better cross-section.
One funny thing, one time, that happened is we had three applicants in for a position and the Affirmative action officer says ‘you know, you haven’t had a real minority person in this pool.’ I think we’d had an Asian or something but anyway, he says ‘you should have a black come out.’ So, we went back through the files and here was a guy who had been president of the Black Student Union and one thing after another in Civil Rights. We invited him out to give some guest lectures and stuff and he was white. We said ‘what, what’s the deal here,’ and he said ‘Well, I’ve always been involved with the Civil Rights and I thought this would, some of these memberships might spruce up my credentials a little.’ You weren’t aloud to send pictures in those days, so we were looking for a black guy and got this white guy instead. We didn’t hire him. I thought he was too cute by half, I could see him scheming around the department like that, you know? So, in a way the thing that makes you is the thing that breaks you but it was kind of a quirk of Affirmative Action, you know.
TB: There was a lot of building changes while you were here, can you comment on that?
LR: Oh, well, yes, the whole Southern campus just grew and grew and grew and that was amazing. There was one point at which someone got the idea that Fairhaven College ought to be closer to the center of campus, and someone said ‘well, let’s just stick them in College Hall,’ and I forget where they were going to send us, Mount Vernon or something. We started fighting that battle and I really worked hard on Larry DeLorme about it because I always thought this building, where it was located was very central to our discipline too. It was handy to plays and the library and all of that. But I remember just a lot of fretting and fussing over things like that. I know the Fairhaven people kept walking through here and kind of looking around at the offices and kind of picking out there spots and things, and that might have been cute for them. This department did not like moving out to the new Communication Building.
TB: Oh, really?
LR: Not at all. Well, we sent some nasty letters and things, and they finally said ‘shut up.’
TB: Wow, wasn’t it kind of designed with your department in mind?
TB: Oh, ok.
LR: No. I won’t go into the whole story, if you look at how the space is allocated, it’s just a continuation of the master plan of the College of Arts Sciences, which the deans assumed was going to be rolling along and that this was really not the concern of the president. It was a long-term plan and that was computer science and physics, and they have lots of space in there. President Morse had an assistant who had a good communication background and she also had to very quickly come up with an idea. Anyway, so they kind of tossed us in gratuitously and called it the Communication Building but the name is almost bigger than our space. You can see the nice big offices in here, this is nice. When they’re over there, they’re about half the size.
At one point somebody came through here and they were thinking that these offices are a third too large and they were going to maybe reconfigure the building just to comply with the State codes but the partitions between all of this are done with sort of a brick, it’s kind of a hollow core, honey comb brick, and anytime you smash any of it, it just flies to dust and it’s just a horrible, horrible mess. We got into it even when they put in these fire doors, they had to do some cutting, and the building just turned to white dust for a year or so. They didn’t do that, thank goodness.
TB: Let’s back up. We did talk about Ross. Do you have any thoughts about Mortimer?
LR: Yes, he was a good guy. I liked him. Some of the faculty didn’t. He had kind of a MBA mentality, I think, is what a lot of them accused him of. I think they knew he was on the make for a bigger school. He had a little list in his pocket of things he wanted to accomplish. He’d read, I guess, one of these books: “How to Succeed in Life”, or something and he’d get out his list every day and look at it. He had to get one thing done every day, moving toward his goals. He had these goals in his pocket. I knew about that so I thought it was cute.
But he did some quirky things. He was in part of a combine of about six people who had, I think they were out of Berkeley, they had kind of an institute for higher education, and these guys would hire each other to come in as consultants. Their main activity was going out -- this was during, there was a real depression on in higher ed., a lot of schools were really in the soup -- and they would go out and look these schools over and make recommendations to save their cookies. He started bringing these guys in and chairs would have to go on Saturday morning and listen to some guy give a speech, and one guy frankly says ‘I don’t know why I’m here. Your school is not in trouble; you’re getting along fine, and one thing I always suggest is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ But anyway, we had to listen to these guys and kind of process it.
See, it is true; each time we got a new president we got a new kind of planning process. I know when Olscamp came; he was part of a big inter-school combine where they were trying to use this uniform planning thing. Only a year or so after he’d gotten here a guy from Montana called me and says, ‘You have to do this too!’ ‘Yes.’ He says ‘Well, if you’ve already been doing it, send me some of your paper so I can get some ideas.’ So I sent him all of our long range plans and stuff and he says ‘oh, thanks a lot! I get it.’
That kind of thing goes through higher education in waves; different planning models and so on.
Getting back to Mortimer, he was very much into that kind of thing. I think he did good on developing long range plans, like for the growth of the campus. I begin to see the fruit of that now: the new roads coming in and things. I look at that and say ‘well, that’s pretty nice.’ I just went over to get a parking permit yesterday, and they’ve put that Campus Services building right on a very nice, very handy spot for anyone that needs to deal with it, it really makes sense. It always used to be a secret where you went to get your parking permit and now there it is, and they have a parking space and everything. So it’s a little rationality. They were going to put, right outside this building, some big turn around or something and that’s never come to pass but, anyway.
TB: Well, what about Morse, then?
LR: Oh, very negative feelings about her. She came, I think, out of an extremely authoritarian model and she expects to be authoritarian. I haven’t been around for all the details but I know the faculty is extremely dissatisfied. The only exception would be people who are eager for their careers. I think what you’re getting from faculty moving up into mid-range management are entrepreneurial types but this doesn’t need to be on this.
TB: Anything you don’t like you can take out.
LR: Yes, I think she’s done a miserable job.
TB: Ok. Before we get into what you’ve been doing since your retirement, do you have any other thoughts about anything that I haven’t covered or asked about?
LR: Well, one hurdle I never got over as chair is just getting a larger faculty, a larger footprint as a percentage of the total school. I think we’ve always been under- resourced in terms of what we could and ought to do. Public speaking is an option here. In a way, it’s a little easier to teach in the sense that only those who want it or are comfortable with it do it. The other options aren’t all that pleasant: an additional composition course gets you off the hook or, I think, foreign language, which is kind of a crazy choice. I think students should have both foreign language and speaking and logical thinking.
What happens is, I think, when they’ve written some of these curricula I think they’ve really sat with the California State curriculum, really, which has those areas covered and just kind of cram them together and say ‘well, you can either be a logical thinker or a good speaker or a better writer.’ You get your choice, at least, in the GURs. Well I think that this department should be large enough to give most students a speaking competency course of some kind. Now I know some faculty don’t like that because they get all these kids with stage fright and troubles and then they have to deal with trouble. So, it’s much more “happy face” if you just don’t do it. But, you know, when we get kids that can’t read we generally do something. It might be flunking them out but at least [we’ve done something].
Well, you know, as an old music major I was always appalled that they didn’t even absolutely require a music course for people who were going to teach in elementary school and then they say ‘teach your own music when you get out there.’ Well, they just don’t do anything and those kids don’t get any music. In a lot of cases, in the English curricula and language arts curricula of the high schools, when they have people who are just that limited, they just don’t do it. They’d say ‘well, let’s just read another novel, kids. We’ll do this instead,’ and I think that needs to change. I think our public school curricula need to be more specific, more detailed. I think maybe they’re heading there, there’s some tendency in that direction.
We have a huge English department here. I was always intrigued in English; they’d go out and say ‘oh, we’re just overwhelmed with composition. We need more help, we need more support,’ and so they’d (the administration) say ‘ok, we’ll give you two faculty,’ ‘fine.’ They’d go out and hire a poet and a linguist or something instead of building up their ability to teach basic composition. They’re off in all these other directions and no one ever called them on it. I know one guy got out of that department and he had some idea of coming over here at one point because of that. He said they’re just scamming the school.
Are you out of English?
LR: History, ok. It’s too bad. I think we should have half again more faculty and I always [thought that], this is from the year I came until now; it’s kind of been that way. Western is very resistive to change and of course the part that gets the real growth is the new areas, where you have to do something; computer science. I know there’s huge pressure on us from industry and in the public to have more computer science, more modern tech stuff that kind of comes out of the growth. The natural growth of the university seems to go into diversifying into those other areas rather than back filling in areas where you’re understaffed. I kind of think that’s what happed here because as a proportion of Western, the Speech Department has actually lost ground.
TB: What were the most significant changes that you saw over your time here?
LR: Well, becoming a serious university. I mean, when I was here, most people, as an undergraduate, wanted to be teachers and Western was well regarded as a teacher training school, graduates were in demand and had a good reputation. Then most of the other students were either just “going to college” because they wanted to go to college, a lot of them lived around here in the county and they did kind of a BA but they didn’t know why, because someone told them they needed a BA, and others used it as a community college. In fact, they had, when I started here a community college program that was linked up with the UW and you could do GURs here and then just transfer just as if you were at Everett. When I came here, there were just seven or eight community colleges in the state. Of course they had that big outburst of building one in almost every legislative district, a little later. Western has just grown into a much more high quality, nationally recognized school in the time that I was here. I like to think our debating made a little contribution there. We did have a national reputation at the time and they all knew we got invited to the “very best tournaments” and thinks like that. We were part of, not the super elite, we weren’t Harvard or North Carolina but we were in the group of very good state schools. There were maybe fifteen or twenty of those in the elite circle and maybe that many more little private colleges, that were kind of like William Jewell. Nobody knew about William Jewell except in forensics. They were very good at that, and we were kind of like that.
TB: What were you hopes when you came to Western and did you accomplish them?
LR: Well, just to be a successful professor and debate coach. Yes, I did, accomplish those.
TB: What are your favorite memories of Western?
LR: Many times I would go around, because I was really super poor, we had five kids, my father died, we were on Welfare, and I, for the first part, my high school experience saved me, I had high quality teachers where I went to, I went to Edmonds High School as well as later teaching there, and I had some of the WWII vet crowd, people who’d been shot at, and they valued education and I learned to value education in high school, and so when I came here, I would go out, even while I was chairing, I’d go to some meeting some place and then I’d take about a half hour and just walk around and, because I like beautiful nature: trees and grass and things, and I would walk around and say ‘I am so lucky that life just led me here.’ (laughs)
TB: That’s good. Did you feel that you were treated well as a faculty member?
TB: And who were your heroes on campus?
LR: Phil Montague, Pete Elich, George [Gerhold].
End of Tape One Side Two
LR: …trying to think of others. Bill Cole, who was the band director here, he came up from the UW. He was magnificent. It’s funny I don’t think I had any real heroes in speech here.
TB: Bill Cole or Phil Ager?
LR: Bill Cole.
LR: Phil brought him up…
TB: Oh, ok. Ok.
LR: Very small world. Phil and I were teaching together at Edmonds High, he had the choir, I had the band. He had had the band, he just had so much because he was assistant marching band director at the UW and he was just going nuts. So, I got the Edmonds High School band and Phil had the choral program. Then, one day he gets this call and the paradox, the reason they wanted him to come up here [was] because there were a whole bunch of old boys downtown that wanted a marching band, and he said he’d do it. I know the first thing [when] he came up here he set up a Band Day just like they did at UW. Our band came up to support him and the Mountlake band; about three of the bands that came up were Edmond School District bands. We did a show before school started in late September. But the marching band, it’s just not in the culture here and so, after about two years, he got out of that.
But meanwhile, Bill Cole’s daughter died in a horrible freeway accident right near where they lived on a 135th, north of the UW, and they were totally depressed. He and Nina, and Phil said ‘well, just come on up here and get out of that.’ Bill was not awfully well treated at the UW either because bands are not part of the elite conservatory environment, or it wasn’t then at the UW. He came up here and was tremendously successful. He was taking the stage bands back to Kennedy Center and concert bands were just magnificent. So, he was a hero from back to when I was a high school teacher. Well, I’m trying to think. I need to think some more but, clearly, Pete Elich was a model.
TB: What did you like about him or why?
LR: Integrity of view, wonderful counselor. He was one guy, when I was in a pickle of some kind; I’d call him up and say ‘what would you do?’ I used him just as a counselor. He’d say ‘well, duh-duh,’ you know, and give me some ideas or some background or ‘have you thought of this?’ He was a mentor for department chairs. I don’t know how many chairs used him as a mentor but he’d been there and done that in [psychology] for a long time.
The students I had here were just wonderful students, excellent. We were given an award two years ago at Pi Kappa Delta as having sent the most of our graduates, the biggest percentage or the biggest number, into debate coaching and speech teaching of any school in the country. That was true; I had about seven out there at one point teaching and coaching debate. I still have a lot who are still doing it, although a lot of them have kind of moved into things where, they’re not on the road all the time anymore.
TB: Who were the most influential campus leaders among the faculty?
LR: Well, ok, Elich, Gerhold, Tom Downing certainly, Montague, that’s about all I know. I was never in the Senate, so I don’t know what was going on there. But there was a lot of outside kibitzing because there was a lot of turn over and a lot of young people in the senate who didn’t really know the school that well. Those folks I see as real leaders. I was trying to think anybody else. Oh, who was the chair in chemistry, the skinny guy?
TB: Mark Wicholas?
LR: Yes, Mark Wicholas had a lot of influence. I never was close to him. I ate lunch with him and things but we weren’t buddies. But I think he had a lot to do with kind of keeping the place on an even keel again and getting good people.
I don’t see any of the people in the branch campuses as heroes. I can’t think [that] they’ve done an awful lot of good here. I think they’ve done a lot of good for some students. In fact, my son Mark graduated from Fairhaven and it was a good program for him. I know one time we had a vote, Dean Davis, well, he’s a hero, by far, yes, he was great for me.
That’s funny, I just didn’t mention him. He way up there in my development because that was my early years as a chair and he was a real coach and a real supporter. He was the guy behind starting the Faculty Club. He did it all by remote control but he got about five of us stoked up. I told you how I got involved, because I was always calling about this building and there were some other’s who had different angles on it, but he got us all together and we got it started. But, how did I get off? Anyway, Davis was certainly influential and again, he was a quality kind of guy and he was a good politician, of course, and kept things balanced.
The College of Arts and Sciences really took a touch to keep balanced. But the interesting thing is when they went to shut it down. I think people normally assume you won’t have the sciences and the humanities and the social sciences in the same unit because they’re supposed to be natural enemies. Yet, they all wanted to stick together. That’s one of the failings, as I see it, of President Morse -- they put it to a plebiscite, the people voted No, and they set it up anyway -- it’s that failure to listen to the faculty. There’s a lot of smart people on the faculty and a smart president will listen. I don’t think they’re gaining anything just making this like another cookie-cutter school.
TB: Is there anything else that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
LR: Nope, just most of my life has been wrapped up in Western, one way or another. Your undergraduate days are very formative and I spent them here and did a lot of fun things. My development as a person has been among these people and among these students and it’s been a great life.
TB: Was it ever awkward or was it just fun to come back having been a student here and then to be in the same department? Well did you take that many speech classes when you were here?
LR: I took probably three or four. Let’s see, I had one course from Sene Carlile. All teacher candidates had to take a sort of voice and diction and pronunciation [class], so I had that from Carlile. Then the public speaking and then the introduction to argumentation from Paul Herbold. I don’t think either Carlile or Herbold remembered having me in class. Paul was our debate coach but I’m not sure he remembered me on the debate team, which was funny. Well, I was never on the very top team but on the other hand, wherever we went, the team was about ten or so and he’d just take the whole team. It wasn’t like he had a couple stars that he’d send out to big elite tournaments. I did that when I was coaching; we’d send out just a two person team to go to Harvard, stuff like that. But we weren’t in that league at all when I was there. But these guys didn’t remember me, I don’t think, [well] Carlile did.
I think they agitated for a Western alum. But I was probably pretty right for the situation because they just had someone who didn’t do well, and so they’d been set back and they’d gotten, the person had cancelled the high school tournament and they’d gotten all kinds of flack from that which went to the administration as well, and they knew that I could run a tournament, I’d just been doing that in Pullman at the Grad School and they knew I could relate to high school coaches because I was one, so I was well suited for the moment.
TB: Then we like to catch up with people about [what they’ve been doing since] they retired, and so what have you been doing since you retired?
LR: Oh, just lots of traveling, lots of traveling -- ten, twelve, significant trips. We’ve gone to England about every three or four years. Had two nice trips to Scandinavia, nice tour through Eastern Europe, and gone to Mexico.
I started going to Mexico with the Foreign Language Program. I spent two different quarters in Morelia and so we go back there. We love Mexico. We go back and do the condo scene and we’re going down there in November, going to go down to Mazatlan. I don’t know why; I don’t golf, I don’t swim. I like to sit under a tree and read. But it’s fun down there. I like to eat and go to fiestas and try to brush up my Spanish. I like the people, the people of Mexico are just sweet and so we always have a good time in Mexico.
We just went to England this last spring. I’ve been on the travel committee of the retirement association, so I’ve organized several trips for WWURA and I organized one to Ireland. Well, Marilyn and I went on this tour through Ireland and we kind of fell on it by happenstance and I liked it. It was a bus tour and so I had thought this group would like it so I took them and we did that.
Just last fall we went down to LA and just stayed in a beach side motel for a week, and went out to fun stuff. We did something every day, you know, the LA Philharmonic one day and the Getty another day and that sort of thing. We took the train down and back. Some of them liked that and some didn’t but I warned them about what it would be.
What else have I organized? Oh, a trip to Alaska. We did the thing where we took a cruise ship up and then we got in with a local tour guy with a big van and he took us around, a loop up to Denali and around for a week. That was a lot of fun; everybody had a good time on that. What are some other trips? That’s about it.
Anyway, we’ve done a lot of traveling. Then at home we have an RV, a trailer. Just last week we went over and spent the week in Port Townsend at the jazz festival, so we do things like that locally. We spent a week up on the Nooksack, just up at Douglas Fir Campground, just sitting there in beautiful rainforest, hardly anyone there, and the river raging down and people coming down in their little kayaks. It’s funny because once before, we had stayed -- there’s a nice condo across the river, Snow Water -- and we stayed there with a RCI exchange and here we are spending twelve bucks a night on the other side and it was just as nice. It’s more fun in a way, we had our little camp fire and our hotdogs every night and our beer and watched the river and, and it was great. It’s not that different, so, we enjoy out trailer.
TB: Well, good. Any other thoughts or comments because you’ve stayed pretty connected with Western by being involved in the retirement association etcetera?
LR: Retirement association. Yes, I think people should. Of course, I think when people retire they make a big mistake just to start sitting on their butt. I’m busy with several things and this travel thing keeps me cranked up, it’s a good hobby, you know, the committee. I’ve gotten involved with NAMH, the National Association for Mental Health. I’m on the board of that. Things are pretty grim for NAMH right now because the Feds are cutting back funding for mental health, so, it’s hard times. We’re involved at church a lot, go to the Congregational Church and that’s a good operation. We go to a lot of music. We both love music and we drive to Seattle for the Symphony and listen to music up here. I like jazz, I like to go out and hear jazz when it’s good. So we stay active -- going to go see that Cole Porter movie this afternoon.
TB: Oh, ok.
LR: That’s nice when you’re retired too; you can just pop in and get the senior citizen rate at four o’clock. Then, you know, Bellingham Festival of Music is next week. We’ve picked out about four concerts from [what we’ve] see on that and so on.
LR: Yes, it’s a good life. And we have three sons and two grand daughters, so we love to go to San Francisco and see Corinna and now LA for Lillian, who’s just three months old. So, yes, it’s a good life.
TB: Anything else?
LR: That’s enough.
TB: Oh, great. Good. Well, thanks you very much.
END OF RECORDED INTERVIEW (tape two side one).