The latest issue of Beloit College Magazine was terrific. I was pleased to see the article about Ray Metzker’53 and said to John (Mansen’51), “Here’s a photo of Joan Dvorak’53, the dancer.” I read on to see she was an “unknown” member of Orchesis. Now she can be known. We members of the class of ’53 have good memories. Keep up the interesting work!
Joyce Weiskopf Mansen’53
Your story about Beloit photographers was nice. As an ’89 grad, I was also one of Michael Simon’s last students at Beloit, and I have a large number of mounted black-and-white photos of my classmates at that time, capturing us eternally in our partying, ’80s youth. Michael was great. I wanted to point out that you missed Howard Korn’87, a professional photographer/artist who lives in Baltimore, Md. His work is beautiful, artistic, and very unique.
I was also co-editor-in-chief of the Round Table, where we had our very own darkroom with 24/7 access, so I got to use my fledgling photography skills in “my” newspaper. It was a ball. At that time, we were just starting to desktop publish on two newly donated (HUGE) Mac SE’s. We used Quark Express to do our layout, printed the pages in the middle of the night, pasted them up with an old-fashioned wax machine on a light table, and drove to Delavan to have them printed. Me and my co-editor, Kerri Arsenault’90, would then wait—exhausted (and mildly drunk sometimes) in a greasy spoon, drinking endless cups of worthless coffee, and beginning to doubt the wisdom of some of the rash things we had committed to print. Then we loaded the 2,000 copies into my little Mitsubishi Mirage and drove back to campus, where we would walk into Pearsons and watch in a daze as everyone picked up our rag and read it!
Mary V. White’89
Lake Forest Park, Wash.
Bravo for Alex Brower’s hitchhiking trip! When I was in high school and college I hitchhiked thousands of miles across the U.S., including a trip from Connecticut to Beloit for an on-campus interview in the spring of 1970. Like Alex, I met a lot of kind and interesting people while I hitchhiked. It’s nice to know that people who pick up hitchhikers today are just as kind and interesting as they were 40 years ago.
After reading the Last Word essay in our fall/winter issue (which focused on a trip Alex Brower’10 took across the country) Stephen Wingeier’78 wrote to Alex through the magazine’s editorial staff and sent him a book of his poetry about hitchhiking. They agreed we could share the letter with readers.
I was delighted to read of your hitchhiking exploits in my alumni magazine, of all places. But I’m writing to warn you: traveling by thumb can be habit-forming.
In the fall of 1974, my first trimester at Beloit, two female friends persuaded me to hitchhike with them to Connecticut during our mid-term study break. Then one by one, for different reasons, both decided not to go. But I still wanted to, so I talked a male buddy into coming along. We hitchhiked down Highway 51 for a stopover at his parents’ house in Normal, Ill., where they succeeded in talking him out of the trip. So I went alone, and from that point on I was hooked. At every break from classes for the next four years, I was gone, as far away as I could get.
When I graduated with my B.A. in English composition, my only post-graduate plan was the gleeful knowledge that I was no longer confined to a 10-day or two-week break. I spent most of the next 12 years on the road. The longest I held a job during that time was nine months. Almost every time I hit the road I was heading somewhere, usually for a specific event, but my overall goal was to keep my overhead down and my entanglements to a minimum. I traveled to peace rallies and protests, rainbow gatherings, family reunions, and one or two Grateful Dead shows, but getting there was always the highlight of the trip. Like you, I learned some of my most valuable lessons in life from total strangers who were kind enough to take a chance on me.
In 1990, on my third visit to a woman I’d met in Atlanta, I set my backpack down in a corner and simply never got around to leaving. When she suggested I might think about looking for a job, I took the first one I found, and still work there 20 years later. About a decade after the wedding my father offered to bankroll a book of my poetry—in his mind, a way to balance his gifts to my siblings who have kids. That was when I finally came to terms with the reality that I would probably never write another hitchhiking poem.
For me at least, the traveling lifestyle didn’t lend itself to writing sustained essays or stories. So during my years on the road, my primary literary output was poetry—much of it sparked by that odd combination of boredom and bliss in the intervals between rides. The book I put together was a collection of these poems called Crossing the Expressway: Poems from the Open Road. I consider it my spiritual testament as a writer. It begins with a short essay summarizing what I learned from my wanderings, and is illustrated with a variety of “found objects” I picked up on the shoulder of the highway. I am enclosing a copy for you, with my thanks, my congratulations, and a long nostalgic sigh.
p.s. If your wanderings ever bring you through Atlanta, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We have a foldout sofa ready for you.
(Steve writes under the pen name Stephen Wing)
Lucius Porter Remembered
I enjoyed “Missionaries, Beloit, and Asia” in the fall/winter 2009 issue. Lucius Porter was my grandfather’s brother. I adored him as a child and remember his visits to our house.
My wife, Ann Ratner’64, and I missed knowing Uncle Lucius when we were at Beloit, although Ann enjoyed a program which was set up in his name. His untimely death was a real loss to me.
In our family, Lucius seems to be a turning point where a whole line of ministerial ancestors shifted to being educators. Beginning with my mother and my wife’s mother, almost all of our generation and our children are educators with extensive international ties. Although perhaps not too removed from missionary work, Ann and I served in the Peace Corps in India.
My fondest recollection of Uncle Lucius was long after his death. I was a teacher in Burlington, Vt., and a Chinese student of mine asked if his grandfather could come to visit with him. Of course, I agreed. At the end of the school day, the grandfather, whose English was marginal, said to me, “I don’t suppose you know of Dr. Lucius Porter?”
He had been one of Dr. Porter’s students in Beijing just before the Japanese invasion. The grandfather had fled to Shanghai, and Lucius was captured by the Japanese. Many years later, while on a Fulbright Scholarship, I bicycled around Beijing University trying to get a sense of the place. Much had changed over the periods of successive revolutions of time and political affairs.
Edwards (Chip) Porter’64
North Hero, Vt.