Where's the Fire?

Winter 2020

My mother, Lydia Cooper Lewis Rickman, Class of 1906, used to tell me that a student was expelled from the College “for putting out a fire in Trotter,” and that even in her day Trotter was considered “not fit for purpose.”

Fact or fiction?

—LUCY RICKMAN BARUCH ’42, Marlow, England


College Archivist David Obermayer did some digging and shares the following information:

There was a fire in Trotter Hall, then called the Science Hall, in 1905. Trotter Hall was originally built in 1881 and called the Science Hall since it housed the lecture and laboratory spaces for all of the sciences. In the early 1900s, the building was only 20 years old, but due to the ever-increasing interest in the sciences among the student body, the administration made plans to build a new chemistry building. When a fire broke out in one of the chemistry lecture halls in 1905, the plans were pushed up and the new chemistry building opened in 1906.


That’s OK Stuff

Winter 2020

New York Times obit of Samuel Hynes, a longtime professor at Swarthmore, reminded me of this regret: Students rarely know much about their professors, even at a relatively small college like Swarthmore.

I was lucky that Hynes taught me in 1951–1952; he was then figuring out how to teach, and I was figuring out how to study. I did not know he was a heroic fighter pilot who endured 78 missions during World War II. Obviously, I didn’t know he would go on to be a brilliant writer (Flights of PassageThe Soldiers’ Tale, etc). I went on to write nine books; I would have enjoyed knowing of his literary aspirations. Or knowing him.

I remember Hynes as a brilliant guy, a little gruff and remote. Reading his obit underscored this reality: I wish students could have more insight into the lives and interests of their professors. We students are strangers to them; it doesn’t need to be mutual.

By the way, when Hynes liked something I wrote, he would say something ebullient, like “That’s OK stuff.”

—PETER BART ’54, Palm Springs, Calif.


Missed Opportunity

Winter 2020

Reading Fred Pryor’s obit in the Washington Post brought back a great memory. When I was Swarthmore’s associate vice president for external affairs in the ’90s, I invited Fred and wife Zora to be the guest lecturers on an Alumni College Abroad trip to Germany. In East Berlin, I took a group to see I-forget-what. Fred was in charge of another group. Not until we reunited on our bus did I learn that he’d taken his group to the old Stasi headquarters to look at his files. What a missed opportunity for my group!



A Long, Graceful Ride

Winter 2020

I was happy to see the swing in the fall 2019 Quiz’more. This may be an item for a future quiz: Who put up the first swing, being on a huge tree on the front lawn below Clothier? From my limited knowledge, I believe it would be me.

I, living in Wharton, went to the hardware store in the Ville and bought 50 feet or more of strong, large-diameter rope, somehow built the seat, climbed the tree to tie the rope, and soon began to see many students enjoying the long, graceful ride.    

That was spring 1958. The swing was still being enjoyed when I returned as assistant dean of admissions in 1965–66.

However, perhaps there was an earlier swing, before my time. A quiz might ferret out an earlier swing raised by an earlier student.

Then the following question: How did the swing become a tradition, and who continued to maintain the swing? The College landscape crew?

—JOHN SCHUCHARDT ’61, Ipswich Mass.