Musings of a Social Soph
J.D.S's Skipped Diploma
The Ursinus Weekly
During his brief 1938 enrollment at Pennsylvania's Ursinus College, Salinger contributed a column in the student newspaper, The Ursinus Weekly, in which he wrote a number of glib and playful articles for the enjoyment of his classmates and as a way of sharpening his own skills. Provided here is each article written by Salinger categorized by date. The page begins with a samole of Salinger's previous writing: the 1936 Class Song for Valley Forge Military Academy, a song still sung there to this day. The page ends with a much later contribution: Salinger's emphatic 1959 editorial to the New York Post entitled "Man-Forsaken Men", a rebuke through which the author eloquently called attention to the socially-endorsed despondency of New York State inmates serving life terms without parole.
Dear Mother—You and your husband have failed to raise me properly. I can neither Begin the Beguin nor identify Joe Oglemurphey's torrid trumpet. In short, college life for me is not too peachy — Dolefully yours, Phoebe Phrosh.
Once there was a young man who was tired of trying to grow a moustache. This same young man did not want to go to work for his Daddykins—or any other unreasonable man. So the young man went back to college.
Baldwins, Hursts, Parrots, and Garths:—
Students who want good marks should not stare at professors' gold teeth.
It all links . . .
If Miss Alice Faye had sung one more chorus of “Now It Can Be Told,” this department fears she would have swallowed her lower lip.
An appalling thought . . .
For Hollywood's sake, it would be well for the authoress of “Gone With the Wind” to rewrite same, giving Miss Scarlett O'Hara either one slightly crossed eye, one bucked tooth, or one size-nine shoe.
Faith, Hope, and Watery Milk …
J. D. S.
Franklin :—I hate war. Eleanor hates war. James, Franklin, Elliot, and John hate war. War is hell! . . . How does that sound, Eleanor?
Eleanor : — I honestly don't know which one to go to. They would fall on the same afternoon. What would you do, Frank?
Sissie and Buzzie : — What should we do this morning? Practice rolling eggs on the lawn? — or make out Uncle Jimmy's income tax?
We are the kids of the White
I know you don't love me. You've returned the ring . . . . It was only your youth . . . Of course . . . Merely a fling. But if you must laugh — please, not so hearty. Control your candor. I'm still an interested party . . .
Question —I go with a boy who is so very confusing. Last Wednesday night I refused to kiss him good-night, and he became very angry. For nearly ten minutes he screamed at the top of his voice. Then suddenly he hit me full in the mouth with his fist. Yet, he says he loves me. What am I to think???
We fail to see why the leading part in “Boys Town” was given to Mickey Rooney instead of Don Ameche. Politics is forever rearing its ugly head.
Having bounced on the velvet seat of its pants all the way from Europe, Oscar Wilde is now in New York with Mr. Robert Morley purring very convincingly in the title role.
Also in Imperial City is Mr. Maurice Evans, spending five and a half hours nightly out-Hamleting Willie Shakespeare. (The original, full-length Hamlet.) In Philadelphia, the ever-brilliant Eva Le Gallienne huskys through Madame Carpet—a la forme Le Gallienne. You will find us, this Thanksgiving, munching our drumstick by footlight. . .
There are only sixty-nine more shopping-days. Do it early this year.
Vogue magazine is now conducting its fourth annual Prix De Paris contest, open to college seniors. The first prize is one year's employment with Vogue including six months in the New York office and six months in the Paris office.
Weaned on Broadway, John Garfield (now appearing in “Four Daughters”) smokes cigarettes out of the side of his mouth, puts his feet on pianos, and grips Sweet Young Things by their frail shoulders, much more convincingly, we think, than does even Don Ameche.
Ernest Hemingway has completed his first full-length play. We hope it is worthy of him. Ernest, we feel, has underworked and overdrooled ever since “The Sun Also Rises,” “The Killers,” and “Farewell To Arms.”
“Amphitryon ‘38”. The Lunts march on. Boy meets girl. Jupiter gets girl. The word the Greeks had for it is not very different from ours, but the Lunts juggle it around so cleverly that the illusion remains. This play we recommend oh-so-highly.
There is a gentleman on the air who promises to teach anyone with a dollar in his pocket how to play the piano by ear. Dying to be the life of some blond's party, we sent for the gentleman's course. In return for our hard-earned dollar, we received thousands of annoying little digits and integers which, we understand, are substitutes for musical notes. In short, we are still playing “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” with our same skinny index finger. Beware of a piano-playing baritone named LeRoy . .
For the sake of convenience, Doc may install a new slot-machine which automatically grabs your weekly check as you pass by. The ingenious gadgets slugs you at the same time, it is said.
I am disappointed in love. Life no longer holds any of its goodies for me. Nowadays I only talk to people to annoy them by staring at their moles or warts. I seldom go to the movies; and when I do, it is to chew hard candy, rattle my program, and jar feeble old ladies' hats. I find myself visiting people solely to scatter their talcum powder and laugh at the pictures in their family albums. I throw tomatoes at all small children resembling Shirley Temple. Every night at twelve o'clock I creep out of bed, tiptoe over to my roommate's bed, and proceed to jump up and down upon the defenseless fellow's stomach. I have also composed a little song:
“Insidious and hideous are I.
Bing MacMurray and Fred Crosby are mixed up in a little something about racetracks and horses, called “Sing You Sinners,” Taking part in the whole mess is a little boy-we didn't catch his face-who sings and plays the accordian rather well. Too, most of the music is good. But you don't have to see the picture.
“Shadow and Substance” and “Golden Boy” are Philadelphia bound. Both are worth seeing. ‘Shadow and Substance' concerns a young servant-maid-a touch of the ethereal side-who breathily, proudly, confesses to her skeptical master and priest that he is subject to visitations from St. Bridget. Much emoshunal konflik results. “Golden Boy” is about a young violinist-prize fighter who, not too fond of either pastime, stamps his foot upon our good earth and very convincingly declares himself a cynic. Francis Farmer surprised us with an excellent portrayal of the “wayward gal”. Francis, by the way, has everything Hedy Lamarr forgot to get.
All these years our mother has made us believe in Santa Claus. Now at last we know that Santa is Don Ameche in disguise . . .
Line them up against the wall . . . Piltdown, Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal . . . Line them up in a crooked row . . . Eenie meenie minie mo . . . Stuff your ears and lock the door . . . what'll it be for French 3-4? . . . Dr. Sibbald, je vous aime beaucoup . . . Yes, I do, and I do mean you . . . A falling body gathers no moss . . . or inertia is tossed for a loss . . . I've a date with Grendel's mater . . . results of which I'll tell you later . . . Toss the numbers in a bunch . . . X and Y are out to lunch . . .
The following books have been recommended to us very persuasively: “The Growth of European Civilization,” “Short French Review Grammar and Composition,” “The Literature of England,” “The Art of Description,” and “Man's Physical Universe.”
You tell us about them.
If by chance you should outlive this gorey week, you might take a look at “Boys Town.” Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney are as refreshing as the new Coca-Cola gals on Brad's wall. Again Spencer Tracy plays the part of a priest. Mickey Rooney is the reformable hoodlum. (The little guy has an uncanny knack for getting under the more calloused part of our skin.)
In one of our duller moments we walked into “Hold That Co-Ed” by mistake. We let go of the co-ed after an unreasonable half-hour. Joan Davis, princess of screwballism, and sometimes rather amusing, succeeds in being as funny as Uncle Herman's crutch. George Murphey sings and dances to music which might have been written by Uncle Herman's imbecile son. John Barrymore, as a goofy politician, stole the picture from beneath everybody's silly nose - and probably gave it back.
We refuse to make any remarks about Brother Ameche this week. We are about to leave for the week-end, and our young heart is filled with goodness, fraternity, and History 1-2.
Strong Cast Scores in Priestley's Sombre Post-War Drama
On the very bright evenings of November 11 and 12, the Curtain Club, under the direction and coaching of Dr. and Mrs. Reginald S. Sibbald, presented “Time and the Conways,” a three-act drama by J. B. Priestley, in the Thompson-Gay Gymnasium.
From curtain to curtain, the play maintained and very often uplifted Mr. Priestley's somewhat grim intentions. That dull, yawn-provoking note amateur actors so often strike was, without exception, never struck. The cast moved, declaimed, and emoted with that worthy gusto which leaves an audience continually receptive — and resentful of squeaky curtain pulleys and women's unremoved feather hats.
The scene of “Time and the Conways” is set in the suburban English home of the widowed Mrs. Conway and her brood of four daughters and two sons. In the first act, we see the Conways celebrating a birthday party. Giddy with youth, the Conways, as we first see them, are not too afraid of life.
In the second act (nineteen years later, Priestley time) the Conways are stripped of their spirit, their happiness, and their youth. Time, and the deficiencies of their individual and collective make-ups, have overtaken the Conways, leaving them distorted and twisted, with uncertain philosophy.
In Act Three we are turned back again to the continuation of the very same birthday party seen in Act One. This final act is Mr. Priestley's somewhat terse explanation of Act Two.
As Mrs. Conway, Dorothy Peoples ‘39, played a very difficult part with the most intelligent understanding. As Kay, Joan Maxwell ‘42, was extremely convincing, and quite aware of the danger of lending her role a pseudo-sophisticated touch.
Jean Patterson ‘42, playing Hazel, was most attractive, and carried her part quite adequately. Edna Hesketh ‘40, as Madge, defeated a tendency towards excessive harshness, and presented a strong, clear-cut characterization.
As Carol, the youngest of the Conway daughters, Marion Byron ‘42, was outstanding. She undoubtedly has theater in her blood. There was a breathless quality in her voice which, if regulated and controlled, may some day lead her to the professional footlights.
Alan, Nicholas Barry ‘41, was completely at ease. Obviously, he comprehended Mr. Priestley's endeavors in their entirety. His brother Robin was smoothly done by John Rauhauser ‘41.
Marthella Anderson ‘40, as Joan Helford, was splendid,—particularly in her performance of the second act.
As Gerald Thornton, Paul Wise ‘41, was satisfactorily pompous; and Albert Hill ‘40, playing Ernest Beavers, loaned flavor to a distasteful role.
At the Saturday night performance of this first Curtain Club presentation of the year, the auditorium-theater was filled to its capacity of three hundred and eighty. During intermissions, there was music from the College orchestra, directed by Dr. William F. Philip.
With the evidence already given of the dramatic talent within the Ursinus campus, there is sufficient reason to look forward eagerly to the next Curtain Club production.
“J. D. S's The Skipped Diploma,” The Ursinus Weekly , Monday, November 14, 1938.
Against my better judgment, I am applying for the position you advertised in Sunday's paper. It is my family's unanimous opinion that I am precisely the young man to fulfill the requirements desired. (Even at this very moment I can see my sister Bertha's mousey face gleaming in triumph. She knows full well that I would prefer to continue my research in the ectomology of the mussel.)
You seek a young man to do odd jobs about the estate of your summer home, and to drive you to work in the mornings.
I do not quite understand what you mean by the expression “odd jobs.” Surely manuel labor would not be necessitated. I have extremely weak arches. However, I am clever about the house. Never shall I forget the time there was an obstruction in my Aunt Phoebe's sink which prevented the exit of the waste water. It was I, dear Mr. Smith, who removed the obstacle.
Indubitably I am a superb driver. Fortunately, I have my license again. (I was in a slight accident several weeks ago in which my car collided with a rather large refrigerated truck. The truck driver was entirely at fault, but unfortunately, for me, the magistrate was a Democrat.)
I shall be happy to accept the open position. Of course, I assume that you rise at a reasonable hour. Owing to my arches, I have always required sixteen hours sleep.
“Room Service” is not the typical Marx Brothers' picture. There is something in this current film, totally un-Marxian, alled plot. We are not too sure that we like the change; despite the fact that the plot is a good one. The Marx Brothers are too able, too self-reliant, to stoop to convention. But “Room Service,” of course, is still worth seeing. Give the Marxes an inch and they will stretch it to Peru and back.
Charles Boyer, who hails from Deladier's corner of that mad continent, is now on the air. We fail to see why, but he is nevertheless. Boyer has a rich, liquid voice and a very cute French accent-but what more? His inflection of words is poor; reading from a fast-moving radio script is no boon to such a deficiency. Boyer's facial expressions are above the Hollywood average, but they are lost to radio, of course.
There is utter chaos on the third floor of Curtis Hall every weekday at 5:45 p. m. At said time, there is a very wee voice on the radio which squeaks: “Hey, fellas! It's the circus!” Promptly, the Curtis kiddies begin to shout with gusto for all their friends-whose names, apparently, are Stinky and Skinny.
It was all a mistake. They were alumni. They have never even been to Mars.
Dean's List : —A small restricted group of people who get eight hours sleep nightly.
“B” List : —Ditto in the negative.
Written Exam : —An unpleasant event which causes callous to form on the first joint of the middle finger. Invented by a group of people who most likely threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphey's chowder, and who probably are not even obliged to see their dentists twice a year.
Recreation Hall : — A place frequented by people who like to perspire freely and step on other people's feet. Upon leaving its premises nightly, one usually marks the passing of a Perkiomen Valley skunk who refused to die without the last laugh.
Sunday Night Supper : — A somewhat inauspicious occasion where one renews association with old friends and beans.
“John's” : — A small tea-room of Old English atmosphere whose patrons are mostly elderly ladies who knit their nephews sweaters which never fit.
After Hollywood has donned its thousands of wigs, costumes, and what-not to dance a multimillion dollar light fantastic, it too often puts its foot in its big mouth. Such is certainly not the case with “Marie Antoinette,” which is an extravaganza not to be missed. Norma Shearer, in the title role, achieves and retains a glorious pace. Assisting her, Robert Morley, John Barrymore, and Joseph Schildkraut lend that potent touch of three finished actors. At times, Tyrone Power knits his eyebrows rather effectively, thereby proving his existence. Throughout, the film moves rapidly and comprehensively. Those mob-scenes Hollywood so loves to over-do are pleasantly scarce. And not one female was directed to take a milk-bath.
There must be some truth in heredity. Yet there's no one like him on the family tree. What in the world can the matter be? How can my Junior have an average of “E”?
Clare Booth has penned her “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” with the same gusto evident in her success of a season ago, “The Women.” “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” is a clever bit of satire inspired by the Hollywood “Gone With The Wind” Patti-Cake Contest. Miss Booth selects a very appealing Southern belle to play the much ballyhooed leading role of “Velvet O'Toole,” and tosses the unfortunate wench into a very rough Hollywood sea. The Booth dialogue is fast, smooth, and sometimes quite potent.
“The Fabulous Invalid,” we thought, was not up to the Kaufman – Hart snuff. Though novel and engaging enough, it lacks that sparkle of their “You Can't Take It With You.” The legitimate theater itself, Hart and Kaufman point out, is the fabulous invalid. Whereupon with music and trumpets the audience is forced to trace the many totterings of the theater due to wars, depressions, and screeno nights. The play is fastmoving, and done with good music, but still we left the theater feeling flat.
Victor Moore, William Gaxton, and Sophie Tucker are all in a very musical Musical somewhat comical Comedy called “Leave It To Me!”. The show revolves about Victor Moore and his funny fat face. Moore plays the part of an ambassador to Russia who would much prefer to be back in Topeka, Kansas, with the sunflowers and Alf. William Gaxton, as an idea-a-minute newspaperman, helps his wish come true-much to the Sophie Tucker who, as Moore's ambitious spouse, has dreams of outdoing even Eleanor You-Know-Who. There are some well-excavated New Deal Party. The show is girly-girly; the coswell worth the trouble of bringing along your spectacles.
Eight O'clock Class : - Continued slumber without the formality of pyjamas.
Seniors Present Comedy, Ball As Final Social Contributions
On the evening of December tenth, the Senior Class, under the direction of Dr. and Mrs. Reginald S. Sibbald, offered “Lady Of Letters,” a three-act farce by Turner Bullock.
Though undoubtedly guilty of too few rehearsals, the players nevertheless made a courageous attempt at salvaging most of the somewhat feeble Bullock humor, and, according to the gusty and frequent laughs of the audience, successfully introduced some relative, or otherwise, personal allusions to our own college by way of make-up and delivery.
“Lady Of Letters” is set in the living-room of Professor Willifer's home in a small college town. Briefly, the plot is concerned with the professor's wife, Adelaide, a sweet and simple female, eighty percent idiot and twenty percent imbecile.
Adelaide, certain that she is destined for greater things than playing the mandolin with one finger, buys the unpublished manuscript of a young-and-starving author, and promptly has it published under her own name. Immediately, the unworthy Adelaide is hailed as a genius by all, save those intimates who know her and prefer to remain skeptical. Her husband, mother, and step-daughter are bewildered; the president of the college does not “feel equipped to handle genius”—until, however, certain pecuniary considerations are taken in behalf of the college.
Ultimately, details develop, in typical farce manner, bringing out the truth, and Adelaide is forced, temporarily, to suffer the results of her deception. But all ends well, entertainingly far from realism.
As the Gracie Allen-like Adelaide, Roberta Byron was without reproach, upholding her leading role throughout the play, and looking most attractive. As Professor Willifer, her disgusted and Adelaide-weary husband, Clifford Laudenslager proved that even an inexperienced actor may be adequate.
Mary Helen Stoudt filled the insignificant role of Daughter Susie to its scant capacity. As her abruptly-found heart and young-and-starving writer, Richard Mays, Raymond Harbaugh offered an intelligent performance.
As Adelaide's mother, Evelyn Cornish was splendid, lending perhaps the clearest-thinking interpretation of the play. As her colored maid, Henrietta, Mabel Ditter was sufficient. As Cornelia Lawrence, Lillian Bedner and her trick hat received the bulk of the first-act laughs.
The part of Mr. Creepmore, the registrar of the college, was humorously acted by William Wimer via a twitch in his nose and a frog in his throat. Kenneth Seagrave, as Dr. Newberry, the president of the college, delivered his few lines forcefully and impressively. Glenn Eshbach, in the role of publicity-agent Warren Ainsley, had a winning way with a telephone receiver, but failed to be cautious enough of his enunciation. This failing, however, was evident, if less intense, on the part of perhaps the entire cast.
Winifred Shaw, a literary critic, was a minute part, but well-played by Geraldine Yerger.
Between the acts there was music by the College orchestra under the direction of Dr. William F. Phillip.Jerome Salinger '41
“J. D. S's, The Skipped Diploma,” The Ursinus Weekly , Monday, December 12, 1938.
After swabbing his hairy overcoat several times across our face, a ruddy-faced gentleman (whom we shall refer to as Mr. X) sat down beside us on the Philadelphia – New York – bound train. Mr. X was particularly friendly, and in no time at all we were taken into the fold. The details of our short association are hereforth revealed,—whereby our many thousands of readers may have a clearer understanding of why darkies were born.
Mr. X: College feller?
Us: (cautiously) Yes.
Mr. X: Thought so. Heh! heh! Larry—that's my oldest boy—he goes to college too. Plays football. You play?
Mr. X: Well, I guess ya need a little weight. Heh! heh!
Us: Heh! heh! (At that point, Mr. X modestly informed me that his oldest boy, Larry, was not only an expert football player, but also an Assistant Scoutmaster, an old – lady – across – the – street-taker, and the indifferent object of Miss, Mrs., and Grandmother America's violent affections. In short, Larry has fallen heir to all the goodies beneath the X family tree.)
Mr. X: (after a bit, but with the same determination) Ya really wanna gain some weight though.
Us: (between gritted young, strong teeth) Can you suggest a plan? I refuse to eat breakfast foods.
Mr. X: (happily) Well, why don't ya drop my oldest boy, Larry, a line? He'll be able to tell ya.
Us: (momentarily struck with brilliance) You have been so kind that you don't deserve to be kept in the dark . . . The truth is, unfortunately, that for generations our family has suffered from beriberi.
Mr. X: (retreating slightly) Oh. (From this point on, the conversation became pleasantly sluggish, Mr. X being most considerate of our condition.
Our farewell at Pennsylvania Station was friendly, and with little ado Mr. X took leave of our skinny person.)