I had a cup of coffee with Student Religious Liberals (SRL), an organization I belonged to briefly in the mid-1960’s while attending Brandeis University.
“Cup of coffee” is baseball lingo for a short time spent by a minor league player at the major league level.
I joined SRL, the organization for Unitarian youth of college age, in the mid-1960‘s after “graduating” from Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), an autonomous, youth run organization in which I was very involved in in my high school years.
During orientation at Brandeis, I met Randy Becker, a fellow student, who went on to become a Unitarian minister and a professor at several theological schools.
Randy encouraged me to attend an SRL meeting one Sunday evening on the Brandeis campus.
I would say that there were between five and ten people at the meeting, which lasted an hour or two. After a while, someone entered the room unobtrusively and took a seat near the back of the room: an adult with a quiet demeanor and kindly face. He sat there in a scrunched position for the rest of the meeting but did not speak.
Someone finally realized that it was Abraham Maslow. As the meeting was ending, she said, “Professor Maslow, we are indeed honored by your presence. Thank you for attending. Would you like to say anything?”
“No,” he answered, “I was happy to be able to attend. It was very interesting. Thank you for having me.” His manner was totally unpretentious and self-effacing.
— Roger W. Smith
Addendum: Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), one of the founders of humanistic psychology, founded the psychology department at Brandeis University and taught there during the 1950’s and 60’s.
Some people I remember well who are mentioned in the fed newsletters are you (of course), George Kaldro, Phil Pierce, Dick Ryan, Steve Cooper, Cappy Pinderhughes, John Coffee, Melissa McQuillan, Dave Klotzle, Paul Klotzle, Bob Day, Dick Barnaby, Richard Derby, Chuck Forrester (President of continental LRY), Peter Baldwin (advisor from the UUA), Bruce Elwell, Rev. Jack Hammon, Russ Weisman, Eileen Day, Charlie McGlynn, Kathy Phair, Larry Jaffa, Gordon Hall, Larkie Colebrooke, Leon Hopper (executive director of LRY prior to Peter Baldwin), Bill Moors, Dick Hood, Cal Mosher, John Ertha, my brother Pete Smith, Rev. Kenneth Patton, and Chris Adler.
There were some other names which, when I saw them, reminded me of people I knew but had forgotten about: Martha Chickering, Herb Weeks, Chandler Newton, Rick Corley, Jane Urich, Lorna Laughland, Rev. Carl Scovel, Wally Fletcher, and Jean Nichols.
The May 1963 fed newsletter had a story based on a supposed popularity poll. The headline read, “ROGER SMITH VOTED MOST IMMORAL BOY IN FED!” John Coffee cooked this up and took great delight in his joke. The joke was that I was regarded as such a straight arrow. See:
The November 1963 fed newsletter contained a review of a made up book, Pest Control in the Pripit Marshes, signed “J.C.” I was at John [Coffee’s] apartment with other LRY’ers who were visiting when he wrote this piece. Maybe you remember this.
In another issue, there is a plug for the book Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman. I actually got to meet Goodman a few years later in New York when I was hired to house sit in his apartment for a few days and walk his dogs while he was traveling. I was performing alternative service as a CO then.
The following are comments of mine upon learning of the death of my longtime friend Ruth Wahtera, a native of Peabody, Massachusetts, who passed away on March 20, 2016:
In my opinion, Ruth was a very strong woman. Ahead of her time that way, but she didn’t seem to think about it. She had a quiet self-confidence, but was not overbearing. She just always seemed to be fully in command of her faculties, never lost her perspective and insight, had a great sense of humor, and could get to the bottom of things before you yourself could.
She did not take herself too seriously, yet at the same time she approached everything she did with great dedication and seriousness. She was very competent, inspired respect, yet at the same time she was approachable and friendly. She was easy to talk with, and you would always get an intelligent response. She was very mature for her age.
She was one year younger and behind me in school, but so smart, capable, mature, and level headed that I looked up to her.
We were fortunate to have been able to have resumed contact in recent years.
I first met Ruth, who was from Peabody, Massachusetts, in 1962 at a Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) conference on Star Island in the early 1960’s.
Ruth succeeded me as Chairman of the New England Regional Committee (NERC) of LRY during the 1964-65 academic year.
During the following year, she was President of Continental LRY.
Charles McGlynn has, sadly, been deceased for many years. According to my fellow LRY’er Dick Hood, he was “a victim of his bad habit of two packs of Herbert Tarreytons a day.”
Charlie McGlynn had a very good influence on me, Dick Hood, and countless New England members of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY).
I remember numerous outstanding advisors, ministers and lay persons, and it seems that only in retrospect can l begin to really appreciate what an important influence they had on us adolescents in LRY; how dediacated they were; and how well suited they were for their work as advisors, for which I believe they received very little by the way of rewards and — I would suspect in most cases — remuneration.
Charles McGlynn, Mrs. Eileeen Day, Rev. John Coffee, Rev. Carl Scovel, Rev. Jack Hammon, Rev. C. Leon Hopper, Jr., Rev. Bill Moors, John Eartha, Rev. Elmer Stelley, Rev. Bill DeWolfe, and Rev. Orloff Miller were among the advisors I personally knew the best and admired the most, but there were many others.
Charlie McGlynn, a lay advisor, was close to being the best, if not the best, advisor in New England, which was a center of LRY activity.
I first became aware of Charlie unexpectedly.
He was involved in a program to help prisoners reform, get out of jail, and adjust to life outside of prison. He came to a meeting of our local LRY group in Canton, Massachusetts in around 1962 for a lecture/presentation. With him and one other adult who I think was some sort of probation officer was a recently released prisoner named George. George was well dressed and groomed and his shoes were shined. He was articulate. I noticed that Charlie was supportive but not intrusive and that he was soft spoken.
Charlie was from Medfield, Massachusetts, where there was a strong and active Unitarian parish led by a dynamic, liberal minister, Bill Moors. Charlie worked for the Massachusetts bureau of motor vehicles in some capacity. He got involved with LRY and in 1963 was elected by the members of the New England Regional Committee (NERC) of LRY as an advisor.
His election, and that of his fellow advisor, Eileen Day, came at a time of great contention among various factions over issues concerning youth autonomy and what were regarded by some adults, a conservative faction of the Unitarian ministry and church membership, as transgressions of morals, either real or suspected, by LRY’ers.
Charlie was a voice of reason and sanity in the midst of these disputes. He leaned towards the liberal, rather permissive side, but he was not a zealot.
We LRY’ers used to sing an improvised refrain from an LRY song: “Oh, it’s Charles McGlynn who justifies the sin, in the halls of LRY!” We sang it all the way on a round trip bus ride to Continental Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina in the summer of 1964. Charlie found this amusing. The best way to put it is to say that he was bemused.
He went to the March on Washington and — afterward one evening when we were getting ready to bed down in our sleeping bags in a church hall during a NERC meeting — he told us how powerful Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech was, especially the peroration.
At that time, this was something new to me. I hadn’t read about the speech.
Charlie was very liberal on issues such as civil rights. Yet, despite his strong feelings, he never lost his equanimity or sense of humor. He told us a story once about a black acquaintance of his who was a graduate of Howard University. He said that when people asked his friend where he had gone to college, his friend would reply, “H—-ward,” deliberately slurring it, hoping his interlocutor might think it was HARVARD.
Kids were always eager to talk with Charlie during recesses, and he was always willing.
Charlie once told us a story from his World War II service. I don’t recall it precisely, but basically what occurred, according to Charlie, was that he was on guard or patrol duty with some other soldiers at night, and they observed a Japanese soldier walking close by, in their view, probably in an area where you could shoot at the enemy. He said they decided not to shoot and to act as if they hadn’t observed the Japanese soldier.
Charlie testified at a hearing of mine before my draft board in 1968 when I was applying for conscientious objector status, which was granted. He was very convincing. He spoke in his usual humble, soft spoken, sincere, and non-confrontational fashion.
I had a lot of trouble with cars back in those days. I had one particularly bad second hand car, a station wagon, for about two months which I bought in my senior year in college. It was a real lemon and was always leaking oil.
One Sunday, I was on Route 128 and, as usual, was having serious car problems. I had to pull over and was on the shoulder of the highway with the hood up.
Who should come along but Charlie McGlynn? He recognized me right away, pulled over, and helped me.
In August 1962, between my sophomore and junior years in high school, I was selected — I do not recall the reason for or process behind my selection — as a delegate to the International Religious Fellowship (IRF)-Student Religious Liberals (SRL) Conference at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, a week long conference. I may have been selected to attend by the Norfolk-Suffolk Federation of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), of which I was a member and by which I had just been chosen as a representative to the New England Regional Committee (NERC).
There were few other members of LRY in attendance. The conference was mostly for college students and slightly older people who were affiliated with the two organizations, namely, IRF and SRL.
I lived in Canton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The train trip to Springfield took around two hours. I took a train to get to the conference. It seemed like a big trip then, like going far away from home.
I was one of the youngest attendees. I felt a little strange at first, but I learned something valuable. I decided that I had no choice but to take the plunge and get to know people. It worked. I made some very good friends there. There was a fellow from Ghana, J. K. Ohene, a very nice man whom I befriended and who came to visit me in Canton during the 1962-1963 academic year. There was a Scotch guy named Frank. And, a German guy named Joe, who, in retrospect, I thought might have been gay. He was a very nice man.
It was an international conference, and many of the delegates were from abroad.
It was an invaluable experience for me. I was already a tolerant person and an internationalist by nature. (My mother had instilled these types of values in me.) But I learned a lot about relating to people, and I liked them so much. They fully reciprocated my friendship.
–– Roger W. Smith
Note: J. K. Ohene was author of Handle us with great care (Some religious questions answered) (Accra: The Ghana Society of Religious Liberals, 1965).
People I remember well from my Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) days in the early 1960s include the following:
Phil Pierce, Dick Ryan, Ellie Lou Rutledge, Steve Cooper, Cappy Pinderhughes, Rev. Rev. John M. Coffee, Jr., Melissa McQuillan, David Klotzle, Paul Klotzle, Bob Day, Ron Hildreth, Dick Barnaby, Richard Derby, Chuck Forrester (president of Continental LRY), Bill Sinkford (from Continental Conference, later President of the Unitarian Universalist Association), Ruth Wahtera, Dr. Peter A. Baldwin, Bruce Elwell, Carl Laws, The Rev. Dr. Carl Scovel, Rev. Jack Hammon, Dimity Hammon, Tom Linehan, Kathy Phair, Russ Weisman, Mrs. Eileen Day, Charlie McGlynn, Rev. Lawrence M. (Larry) Jaffa, Larkie Colebrooke, Paul Tinkham, Rev. C. Leon Hopper, Jr., Rev. William R. (Bill) Moors, John Ertha, Dick Hood, Jim Bogle, Cal Mosher, Sandi (Mosher) Olivio, Brad Coady, George Kaldro, Chris (Adler) Fernsler, Margaret Rich, Martha Chickering, Jane Uhrich, Rev. Elmer Stelley, Rev. William A. (Bill) DeWolfe, Kris Hanson, Stuart Hanson, John Fountain, William W. (Rusty) Park, Larry Ladd, Cindy Pratt, Lorna Laughland, Rev. Orloff W. Miller, Rev. Alexander (Scotty) Meek, Rev. Manuel R. (Dutch) Holland, “Moscow” Marx (from Star Island), Jon Palmer, Linda (Gulbrandsen) Goldsmith, Janice (Sanford) Brady, Carole Smith (from Continental Conference), Norm Helverson, Pam (Corley) Pierce, Alison (Titus) Ryan, Jean Nichols, Herb Weeks, Jane Garside, Peter Robash, Chandler Newton, Wally Fletcher, Ruth Clarke (from Continental Conference), Randy Becker