Friday, April 3, 2009

Happy Anniversary to the ASCSA Regular Member Class of 1959!

It was the year that the Twilight Series debuted on TV and Barbie’s face was first revealed to the public. Eisenhower was president. Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th States of the Union. Two monkeys went into space, managing safely to return to Earth. It was in July that Charles Ovnand and Dale Buis were the first Americans to be killed in the Vietnam ‘Conflict.’ The Dalai Lama fled Tibet on the same day that Busch Gardens opened its doors in Florida. On February 3rd, Buddy Holly died.

It was 1959. In the autumn of that year, a group of graduate students from all over the United States converged in Athens, Greece, arriving by plane and by boat. They came together in the suburb of Kolonaki, looking not much different than it does today (but without quite as much glamour). They met at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, an institution in the midst of a financial crisis, filled with an extraordinary number of driven individuals, and nevertheless possessed of a sense of immortality and tradition. Institutionally and personally the memories of World War II were strong; many of the members in 1959 had acted as Allied Intelligence officers because of their knowledge of the Greek countryside. There was more than one person at the School who could estimate troop numbers and lay explosives under bridges, or conversely, had spent time in Nazi concentration camps. Greece itself was still recovering from the shock of the Civil War, with military rule still clamping down whole regions of the country.

The students who arrived that autumn were the 1959-60 Regular Year Members. General consensus reveals that no year’s students are the same, some are less than stellar, less than pleasant, or the opposite entirely. The group’s measure seems to be determined by the luck of the draw. But no one denies that the ’59-’60 Members were anything less than extraordinary. It seems that altogether that year produced a very special batch of Regular Members, including none other than Ron Stroud, T. Leslie Shear, Jr. and his wife Ione Mylonas (as in daughter of George), William and Sandra Wyatt, Patricia Lawrence, Theodora Stillwell (later MacKay), Pierre MacKay, etc.

This year it is the 50th anniversary of that Regular Year, so I have decided to interview Pierre MacKay and Ron Stroud to find out what that year was like. I’ll be posting excerpts of Pierre’s interview over the next week or so, as I transcribe them. So stay tuned for a little ASCSA history.



Katie. What a wonderful posting and a great idea. ABSOLUTELY, you must definitely interview the Class of 1959. Talk to Natalia down at the Archives about an ASCSA oral history project. I've been planning to do some interviews myself, but I think it would be great if there was a central repository. Transcribing the recordings is by far the most time-consuming part, but very much worth it. Good Luck!!! Kostis Kourelis

Katie said...

Thanks for the comment! You're right, the transcribing is incredibly time consuming...the interview with Pierre was about an hour and a half and I have only transcribed about 30 minutes so far! I do think oral history projects have gotten much easier now that you can buy recorders that attach to i-Pods (which is what I have); I'll definitely talk to Natalia.