Early Marriage | Part 26 of 26

by Elouise

Harvard Student Protests 1969

Harvard Student Protests 1969

It’s spring 1969. Sentiment against the war in Vietnam, plus a laundry list of other issues, finally hits the Harvard University campus. Student protests erupt, though not exuberantly or violently as on the West Coast. Government funding for overseas research in the humanities dries up, diverted to war efforts.

This means funding D hopes to get for graduate research in Japan has just disappeared. It also means his years of studying Japanese were probably in vain. He’s finished with coursework and exams, but his main professor and advisor is leaving for another university. What to do next?

As for me, life goes on. One thing about babies—No need to search for time-fillers. Since November 1968, I’ve been back at our church as organist and choir mistress (still love that title!). In fact, ever since I returned we’ve been planning a spring concert. At the choir’s insistent request.

I was skeptical at first—not about them, but about my ability to put together a program and direct the choir from the organ. But now, Christmas music finished, we’re getting psyched up. Loving it, and finding out how versatile we are—or not.

I have a brilliant idea, born of desperation and reality. I need a real, live choir director for this full-length program. I know one choir member who can do this in a heartbeat. But will he agree with me?

It took a bit of persuading, but eventually D saw the light and got on board with the program. After all, he’d taken choral conducting at the Bible College, and was in the touring choir for three years.

This was one of the most rewarding things I did as organist at our church. Lots of work, many practices later, and thanks to D coming in as conductor, we delivered a soul-satisfying program. Far beyond anything I thought we’d ever be able to do. One of those ‘now I can die and go to heaven’ occasions.

Well, I didn’t die. What happened next was totally unexpected. In late spring D received a surprise offer to teach in his major area—sociology of religion. The college was located in the Deep South. The very same Bible College from which he and I graduated, in 1963 and 1964.

D went for an interview and conversation with the new president. Would we be going back to the same Bible College we’d experienced in the early 60s? Yes and no. The new president had lived for years in Japan. He understood the culture of the Bible College, and hoped to introduce change.

  • Too many rules and Thou Shalt Nots
  • Too much anti-world sentiment and too little cross-cultural interest or engagement
  • Too much emphasis on grooming Southern white ladies and gentlemen and keeping the letter of the law
  • Too few of our black (‘colored’) brothers and sisters connected with the Bible College

Having D come to teach in sociology could be part of a change. It wouldn’t happen overnight, of course. These things take time.

It was difficult to imagine such a change. Would we be able to function as adults, without having our wings clipped?  At least we wouldn’t be living in the dormitories! We also didn’t want to live on campus in faculty housing. Would we still be able to go to movies? Dance if we wanted to? We had a thousand questions.

In the end, we decided to give it a try. Besides, Sister #3 (Diane) would be one of D’s students if we went back. We figured that if she could survive there, we could too. At least for several years.

The summer of 1969 was filled with heartwarming parties, dinners and picnics with our friends from the church and the university. Packing to move would be relatively easy. No need for furniture. The college president had arranged for us to rent a furnished house just a few miles off campus.

All we had to do was pack our suitcases, load up our trusty red VW squareback, and drive away! Oh, and make sure I didn’t get pregnant during August when we would have no health insurance.

Stay tuned for new series: Faculty Wife

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2015
Photo credit: nytimes.com