Tag Archives: Alan W. Smith

what sort of man was Dr. Colp?

 

I shared this whole letter from my mother to my father — a very long and loving letter, written when my parents were in middle age, seven years before my mother’s untimely death — with my therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr.

The salutation is so tender and touching, I said to him.

It brings tears to my eyes, he replied.

 

my parents, 1944

— posted in loving memory by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

my mental influences

 

I got a great education, almost entirely for free. Realizing this now, I consider myself very fortunate.

But I want to talk mostly about my parents — Alan W. and Elinor Handy Smith (how I miss them!) — and their influence on me. Again, I was very fortunate. How much so I have grown to appreciate over the years. Posthumously, as it were.

Intuition and critical thinking skills. The ability to do mental work requiring great effort. To pursue an area of study: languages or mathematics, for instance; the principles and rules of composition and rhetoric.

To persist in research. The laborious undertaking (only a practitioner can appreciate this) of translation.

Sculpting a piece of writing. Perfecting it and trying to ensure comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Intellectual colloquy. Listening ability. The ability to assimilate and weigh contrary opinions. (How much I have enjoyed this with cherished friends. Incalculable.)

So called emotional intelligence. And what my former therapist, Dr. Colp, called “rapid insight.” He complimented me, saying I had it.

These are gifts which I was bequeathed. This being the case, I made the best of them. I am proud of this and, like Walt Whitman, feel entitled to be “no more modest than immodest.”

My mother. She had a “preternatural” intuitive faculty. Great insight. Emotional sensitivity like that of Dr. Colp, the practitioner of medicine and man of science who was a deep thinker (and a writer as well as physician) with keen analytical abilities; and, at the same time, like my parents, the opposite of emotionally clueless. He never lost or left at the door his humanity.

I must have gotten my memory from my mother. She recalled emotionally significant situations, people, incidents in novelistic detail–minute detail. Something amusing or significant from her youth or young adulthood. Elementary school teachers. Relatives (aunts). Funny things they said or did. Wisdom from her father. Books she read and loved (from both childhood and later, e.g., Little Women, All the King’s Men), words and incidents. She would quote lines and passages from memory, as can I.

Humorous things she remembered and recounted. The oddities and peculiarities of a person. Related as might a Melville with his Bildad and Peleg and Peter Coffin of the Spouter-Inn.

My father. Blessed with native intelligence. A lover of learning, meaning, as was the case with me, intellectual immersion and challenge. For its own sake. (He would recount the sheer pleasure he took in certain school subjects and areas of study.) He was the first in his nuclear family to attend a four year college. Like me, valuing it mostly for intellectual enrichment, rather than regarding a degree as a steppingstone. (The same very true of my mother.)

Insight combined with intellect (rationality). (Thinking mostly of my father.)

My parents’ keen aesthetic sense. They both had it and transmitted this to me and my siblings, who all have it, in spades. This was perhaps the most important thing of all. My mother majored in Fine Arts in college, my father in Music.

Like Dr. Colp, who had every right to be presumptuous, my parents did not seem to care that much about degrees or credentials. Other than being proud, implicitly, of having graduated from prestigious schools. It was the same with me (insofar as regards how I valued having a degree).

The following is a final point or points which I believe are critical.

The abilities I acquired should not be taken for granted. As I have said, they were inherited. But they had to be developed.

Most people, I would guess, think college is everything. The school one attends, what one majors in. This is not quite true. For me, at least. I think also for my Dad (a Harvard graduate). It was quite interesting to see his high school transcript and to find about the languages he studied and how he excelled in math (as did I). He studied Latin and French! (And German in college.) I never knew it.

College (for me) was greatly enriching and intellectually broadening and stimulating, an intellectual finishing school. But high school–early adolescence– in contrast, was foundational, critical. Made all the difference. (A nod to Robert Frost.)

French. Latin. Le subjonctif. Declensions and conjugations.

Magna cum celeritate. Castra ponere. Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Corneille and Racine.

Algebra I and II. Theorems and proofs. Quadratic and simultaneous equations. Cartesian coordinates. Logarithms.

English class. Writing essays in first period. Like pulling teeth, as they say. Coming up with something to say. Trying not to make a fool of oneself.

Lucubration. Intellectual effort.

Workshops and discussion groups in my church youth group.

I have often thought of Samuel Johnson in this regard. Like me, he got an excellent primary school education. But you know what the most important period was? His adolescence. Not his year at Oxford. The influence of his cousin Cornelius Ford, whom he boarded with for a year or two beginning at age sixteen. See W. Jackson Bate’s magnificent biography of Johnson. With Ford’s example and from conversation with him came the brilliant Johnson– scholar, writer. and conversationalist — whom we meet in Boswell’s Life.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

Melville’s thoughts (mine)

 

To have known him, to have loved him
after loneness long;
And then to be estranged in life,
And neither in the wrong;
And now for death to set his seal—
Ease me, a little ease, my song!

– Herman Melville

Herman Melville was a man of deep insight and feeling. And yet it was difficult for him to get close to people.

I apply Melville’s words to me and my relationship with my father. Not exactly, but close enough.

I so wish I could talk with my father now.

Can anyone understand?

Written by me in P. J. Carney’s pub, while reading Wordsworth’s Prelude and reflecting upon each and every phrase.

 

– Roger W. Smith

 Sunday, October 23, 2022

his character

 

Taking the Staten Island Ferry this morning and enjoying the cool breezes and the City, I thought of my parents and when they took me to New York in the summer of 1953 (or was it ‘54?) when I was age seven.  We took the ferry to cool off.  Our hotel, in Times Square,  was four dollars,  I seem to recall.

Why did they take just me? I had a younger brother who was around three years old and an older brother who was around ten.

They may have thought I needed special attention.  I was,  deep down, unhappy and insecure.  I adored my mother and was needy of love and attention.  She gave it, but it did not seem like enough.  My father often seemed remote and distant.  I was afraid of him.  He was so imposing.

Then there was the time in 1969 when my parents, with my younger brother and sister, came to visit me in New York. I was doing CO  (conscientious objector) service. I was barely making enough to live on, but I had found an apartment.

took them to Wo Hop, 17 Mott  Street, in  Chinatown.  No frills. Cheap!  My coworkers on East 18th Street had introduced me to the  place. What became of them? Where are they now?

My father was delighted.

My father relished every such good moment in his life,  every day. People and quotidien experiences.

I miss him greatly.

A Dickens or Shakespeare would have appreciated him for what he was.  A sort of Sir John (aka Jack) Falstaff,  a Mr Micawber, a Simon Dedalus.  A man liked by all and unfairly maligned by a few narrow minded relatives  for faults real or imagined that most of us have and few like to admit.

 

— posted by Roger W.   Smith

   July 25, 2022

James Joyce on his father

 

James Joyce said of his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, “I got from him his portraits, a waistcoat, a good tenor voice, and an extravagant licentious disposition.” In Ulysses, Simon Dedalus is a version of the author’s father. While the fictional character is a bad provider for his family, leaving his daughters penniless, James Joyce also portrays Simon as witty and good company outside of his home, popular in bars and gifted with a wonderful tenor voice that soars in the novel’s “Sirens” episode. Of his father’s influence on the book, Joyce told a friend, “The humor of Ulysses is his; its people are his friends. The book is his spittin’ image.”’

— James Joyce exhibit, Morgan Library

 

I can relate to this portrayal.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

carpe diem

 

When my father would get into an argument with his second wife Jan — my stepmother — he would, as she told me, grit his teeth and say, “I’m not going to let it ruin my day.”

We (siblings and stepmother) had a surprise birthday party at my father’s home on Cape Cod on his 65th birthday.

At the end of the day, after the guests had left, he said to us that he almost didn’t want to go to bed. He didn’t want his wonderful day to be over.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

  June 2022

a memory

 

“Well,” his father said, “reckon I’ll hoist me a couple.”

They turned through the swinging doors into a blast of odor and sound. There was no music: only the density of bodies and of the smell of a market bar, of beer, whiskey and country bodies, salt and leather; no clamor, only the thick quietude of crumpled talk. Rufus stood looking at the light on a damp spittoon and he heard his father ask for whiskey, and knew he was looking up and down the bar for men he might know. But they seldom came from so far away as the Powell River Valley; and Rufus soon realized that his father had found, tonight, no one he knew. He looked up his father’s length and watched him bend backwards tossing one off in one jolt in a lordly manner, and a moment later heard him say to the man next him, “That’s my boy”; and felt a warmth of love. Next moment he felt his father’s hands under his armpits, and he was lifted, high, and seated on the bar, looking into a long row of huge bristling and bearded red faces. The eyes of the men nearest him were interested, and kind; some of them smiled; further away, the eyes were impersonal and questioning, but now even some of these began to smile. Somewhat timidly, but feeling assured that his father was proud of him and that he was liked, and liked these men, he smiled back; and suddenly many of the men laughed. He was disconcerted by their laughter and lost his smile a moment; then, realizing it was friendly, smiled again; and again they laughed. His father smiled at him. “That’s my boy,” he said warmly. “Six years old, and he can already read like I couldn’t read when I was twice his age.”

Rufus felt a sudden hollowness in his voice, and all along the bar, and in his own heart. But how does he fight, he thought. You don’t brag about smartness if your son is brave. He felt the anguish of shame, but his father did not seem to notice, except that as suddenly as he had lifted him up to the bar, he gently lifted him down again. “Reckon I’ll have another,” he said, and drank it more slowly; then, with a few good nights, they went out.

— James Agee, A Death in the Family

 

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I sent the following email to my brothers and my sister this afternoon:

to my siblings

I am in a favorite bar near Carnegie Hall. The waitresses are so nice to me.

A guy just walked in with a little kid under five. They are sitting in a booth right next to me.

It triggered a memory which made me feel very sentimental. I have not thought about it for years.

I wound up at a bar with Dad, probably in Cambridge, when I was around six or seven.

I sat on a barstool. Everyone — the bartender and everyone else — was so nice to me. They treated me like an honored guest.

The bartender gave me a bowl of potato chips …. how I enjoyed them!

I was bathed in warmth and kindness.

miss Dad terribly

ROGER

 

— posted  by Roger W. Smith

    July 31, 2021

 

Walden Pond, Concord, Mass., early 50’s. My father, me, and my two brothers. I am the furthest to the left.

a witness at the Nurernberg trials

 

Bunky Morrison letter 2-17-1946

Posted here is a letter to my father Alan W. Smith (“Smitty”)  and my mother, Elinor Handy Smith, from my father’s good friend “Bunky” Morrison, dated February 17, 1946.

My father served in the U.S. Army from April 1942 until January 1946 with the rank of First Lieutenant. Both my father and his friend Bunky (who was from Boston) lived in Massachusetts. My father served in Panama.

Also posted here below is a photo of my father with his Army buddies taken in New York City in September 1942. Bunky Morrison is the furthest to the right; to his left is my father.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   June 2021

 

Photo taken in New York City, September 1942. “Bunky” Morrison to far right. Alan W. Smith on his left.

Broadway musicals

 

 

The great era of Broadway musicals, in my humble opinion, was the 1940s and 50s. Today’s hits are poor successors.

This music is in my and my siblings’ blood. My father was involved in such shows and music as a conductor and orchestra member in summer stock and theatrical group productions. The music was constantly playing in our house on LPs and on the piano — by my parents, my older brother, and my father; and I attended rehearsals over which my father presided as musical director.

My older brother would sit down at the piano — I always liked the way he played, with feeling and taste — and play a piece such as “My Time of Day” from Guys and Dolls. And I would develop an appreciation for the song.

My father was amused by the character in Guys and Dolls Nicely-Nicely Johnson and by the opening “Whadaya Talk Whadaya Talk Whadaya Talk” sequence in The Music Man, which I saw performed at the Carousel Theatre in Framingham, Massachusetts with my father in the orchestra. My father found it amusing that in Camelot, which I also saw at the Carousel Theatre with my father performing, Merlin doesn’t age, he “youth-eths.” My mother loved the song “Come to Me, Bend Me” from Brigadoon.

My father said that he considered My Fair Lady to be a perfect work. He pointed out that the song “Good Night My Someone” from The Music Man was the same melody as “Seventy Six Trombones” with only the tempo changed.

I have posted a few of my all-time favorite songs here. Many of them, upon repeated hearings,  produce a lump in my throat. The good taste and musicality of the songs and the performances are notable. And the performers and their voices are marvelous.

My favorite songs (musical with songs)? It’s a tough call. I would say The King and I. Carousel a close second.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2021

thoughts about Hiroshima

 

‘He was an American child in Hiroshima on the day the atomic bomb was dropped’

 

Re:

“He was an American child in Hiroshima on the day the atomic bomb dropped”

by Ted Gup

The Washington Post

August 4, 2020

 

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Roger Smith email to Ella Rutledge, August 5, 2020

Ella —

This story greatly affected me.

My father, a WWII veteran, bought the rationale for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don’t hold that against him; such views were widely shared. But as an adolescent — or around that age — when I heard this, I didn’t agree. Over the years, the conviction that the bombing was wrong and totally unjustified has become stronger. It was strengthened by a reading of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” I think in my late teens.

Am I right that there has been no other use of an atomic or nuclear bomb by any nation ever?

It was Truman’s new toy; we couldn’t resist using it. He was foolish enough to brag about us having it to Stalin at Potsdam.

Why is Truman regarded as an outstanding president? The former haberdasher’s moral compass was out of order.

Roger

 

Ella Rutledge email to Roger Smith, August 5, 2020

Roger,

Thanks for sending the link to the article about Kakita. I was glad to read it. I had not known about Americans in Hiroshima when it was bombed. What a story! When I lived in Japan, I did not visit Hiroshima, but I saw an exhibit at my local library of essays or letters written by school children about their experience. It was heartbreaking.

I sympathize with your views on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The often-heard “excuse” is that by killing all those Japanese civilians, it saved millions of more deaths from the war. My view is, if it was necessary to frighten the Japanese into submission and admitting defeat, why didn’t they drop the bomb on some unoccupied island in the Pacific? Or just into the ocean? I wonder if the people involved in the bomb’s development just got carried away and allowed their eagerness to see how it worked blind them to the reality of what they were doing. After, horrified by what they had done, they made up the story about sparing millions of lives.

To my knowledge, no other use of the bomb has been made since then.

Is today the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing?

Ella

 

Roger Smith email to Ella Rutledge, August 5, 2020

Ella —

The anniversary is tomorrow apparently

From Wikipedia:

The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, with the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only uses of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

You wrote: “I sympathize with your views on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The often-heard “excuse” is that by killing all those Japanese civilians, it saved millions of more deaths from the war. My view is, if it was necessary to frighten the Japanese into submission and admitting defeat, why didn’t they drop the bomb on some unoccupied island in the Pacific? Or just into the ocean? I wonder if the people involved in the bomb’s development just got carried away and allowed their eagerness to see how it worked blind them to the reality of what they were doing. After, horrified by what they had done, they made up the story about sparing millions of lives.

This is right on.

Roger

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  August 6, 2020

 

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Addendum:

“The Soviets believed that President Harry S. Truman had dropped atomic bombs on Japan to “show who was boss,” as the Soviet Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov later put it. The bombs, he stated in his memoir, “Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics,” were “not aimed at Japan but rather at the Soviet Union.”

— “Long After the Bomb, Its Story Finds a New Audience: ‘Hiroshima,’ one of the first accounts of the devastation in Japan, was read nearly everywhere in the world except Russia. Nearly 75 years later, that is changing.” By Lesley M. M. Blume and Anastasiya Osipova, The New York Times, October 12, 2020

ROGER W. SMITH: I think this is true.