|Osteogenesis Imperfecta - LIVING WITH BRITTLE BONES -
Audrey Ekdahl Davidson
Higher Education on Crutches
My cousin Jim Nyquist drove me to St. Paul where Bethel College was then located. It was a set of six rather stolid buildings set on a city block on Snelling Avenue, north of the state fair grounds. The oldest were the seminary building and the classroom building, neither in mint condition. Once I would be engaged in reading in a little study room in the latter when the door handle fell off, and there was nothing for me to do but to pound frantically on the door and cry out for help. My shouts were heard by the beloved German instructor, Miss Effie Nelson, who reinserted the door handle so that I could replace the inner knob and let myself out.
To my cousin I said, “This is going to open up a whole new world for me.” He maintained his reserved demeanor and did not seem particularly impressed with my effusiveness. But in a sense, in spite of the closemindedness that I encountered in some quarters at Bethel, it was there that I began my journey as an adult. I signed up for the usual freshman courses in English, history, German, and science, consisting of botany and zoology, though in neither of the latter did anyone dare to speak the word “evolution” out loud. And I am not sure that my history professor, Kenneth Norquist, quite understood the theological distinctions surrounding the Eucharist and similar issues as they impinged on events in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Otherwise, these courses were very respectable in the way they were taught, and I only wish that I would have practiced better study habits than the ones I brought from high school.
For my music study I was fortunate to be able to take piano lessons from C. Howard Smith, who also directed the college mixed chorus. He was new to the college that fall and brought with him a solid conservatory training. C. Howard was the music department. He would continue to teach at Bethel for the rest of his career. Along the way, in spite of a heavy work schedule, he eventually earned a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. His advisor was Johannes Riedel, who was also my dissertation advisor, and his topic was Scandinavian hymns. In revised form, his work was later published as an American Theological Library Association monograph. I was very touched when he wrote in my copy of his book “You have been a real inspiration for me to finish this book.” It seemed remarkable to me that so many years later the small freshman on crutches who studied with him could in turn be found inspiring by her former teacher. I probably did not do his teaching justice when at the end of the year, with a raging fever and a sore throat that might have been symptoms of infectious mononucleosis, I played Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre as if from a fog in my recital on the grand piano in the chapel in the seminary building.
Mrs. Sophus Larson, who was an excellent technician, had taught on her baby grand. It perhaps should have seemed like a come-down to have lessons on an upright piano, but C. Howard had arranged two uprights side by side in the tiny room on the third floor so that he could play along and demonstrate. Unfortunately, lessons were not nearly as frequent as in retrospect I would have liked, and voice lessons were not with him but with Mr. Edward Larson. In order to pay for my voice instruction, I accompanied his other students. One of these was reputed to be a lesbian, of whom in my ignorance I was afraid, but in bad weather once I was forced to take her arm to go back to my room in the residence hall. She and her roommate broke the rules by locking the door to their room, and of course rumors of their relationship generated a scandal among the students. We were all required to be in our rooms by 10:00 every night.
Most Bethel students were, of course, easily scandalized, and in such a small evangelical college there was bound to be considerable cattiness. One evening my best friends, Barbara Mullin, Kathleen Lewis, and Lois Mitchell, and I were invited by some of the other girls to their prayer meeting. The lights were turned down, and we kneeled. To my total surprise and absolute annoyance they prayed for forgiveness for talking about me and my friends. I fell back, landing on my posterior. My friends and I had laughed a great deal, and had been therefore the subject of their gossip. The men were just as bad. One day in the fall when I was passing by the football practice, crutching along with my books under my arm, my undies started dropping to the ground. On account of my poverty, I still often wore cast-offs. At last, after trying to maintain the undies in place without dropping my books, they fell down around my ankles. I was able to reach down to scoop them up, and to the football player who came over to help me I said, “My slip just came down.” Later in the women’s lavatory I overheard his girlfriend, Hazel, telling the story, along with his comment on it: “I don’t think it was her slip.” The gales of laughter stopped as I crutched in, and everyone became very quiet.
My other favorite teacher was John Purvis Woods, a Presby-terian minister and a part-time instructor at the college who had a reputation for being an exacting teacher. There were some readings assigned in his course, and included among these was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. But the main thrust was English composition, which he made interesting and exciting. I am not so sure that my class paper on George Bernard Shaw was exactly a masterpiece of writing, but it passed muster with him. At the end of the term, he saw me crutching along and came up to me, and said, “I’ve given one A” - then tapped me on the head with his grade-book, and added, “You’re it.”
As a choir director, C. Howard was also perfectionistic but in a kindly way. His repertoire for that year, I remember, included a composition by Samuel Wesley which was my first experience with fine Anglican church music, Johannes Brahms’ “How lovely is thy dwelling” from the German Requiem, Swedish music, and the obligatory, for Minnesota choirs, African-American spirituals. The choir tour took us all the way to Denver and environs, where we sang at probably every Swedish Baptist church in the region. We went by bus, and stayed in parishioner’s homes, where I was occasionally given special attention on account of my disability. On returning home in triumph I got myself mired in mud. Bob Stassen, also a choir member and the nephew of the progressive Republican governor of Minnesota, Harold Stassen, came to my rescue. Unknown to him, he had a long-time injury to his back, so that when he lifted me he heard a snap in his back which left him tilting to one side. The old injury was corrected, but one leg had become three inches shorter than the other, he later said.
My childhood friend Marilyn Bangston came to see me, and commented negatively on the five buildings on the block which, not counting the seminary, then made up the college. She was a student at St. Cloud State Teachers’ College and encouraged me to transfer since she thought I would find that school more congenial. In contrast to my high school in which I had felt quite comfortable, I had never been fully accepted at Bethel - and, to put it the other way around, I had also never quite accepted the atmosphere of piety that such close association with the seminary probably promoted. One student, who had helped me with my tray in the cafeteria, said to me after I had thanked him that I “would have a perfect body in heaven,” a remark that I thought was officious and an insult. Yet there was a sense of loss when I did go away to St. Cloud, especially since there was no one there who could match C. Howard. Though I have long ago left my Baptist roots behind, I still feel a loyalty to Bethel above the other institutions that I attended - except, of course, the University of Minnesota, which would grant me a doctorate in 1975.
So, with help from a Vocational Rehabilitation scholarship from the state of Minnesota, I went up by bus to St. Cloud in the fall of 1950, where I tried to enroll as a dual Music and English major. I remember that tuition was ninety dollars per year, plus $45 for music lessons. Harvey Waugh, a violinist who also had been given the task of conducting both the college orchestra and the choir, told me that I would have such a difficult time of it teaching music (for I would have to travel from one school to another in small towns where he assumed I would be employed) that I should plan on being an English teacher and take a music minor instead. Besides, he said, my scores in English were so high that the English department would not allow me to do otherwise, and further a double major would take too many years to complete. I had been able to put aside my crutches, but my walking was not particularly steady, so I acquiesced. I now regard this as a put-down on account of my disability. My major interest was always in music in spite of activities that I took on, such as writing for the College Chronicle, the weekly paper.
I should mention that it was when I was working on the Chronicle that I met my future husband. We had met but not talked until, when, while working on the paper in the shed-like World War II structure behind the old library which served as the editorial offices, we were overtaken by an early winter storm. Clifford escorted me home through the snow, which was already about six inches deep. He seemed very serious, and when he told me that he was thirty, I believed him. I think at the time he had just turned eighteen.
I roomed with Mrs. Hurley in a house immediately across from Stewart Hall, which housed many classrooms, rehearsal space, auditorium, and offices. She was, to say the least, stingy and crabby. When I whistled as I came down the stairs, she complained, and she made a point that toilet paper was to be used “for nothing else” than for what it was intended, for she resented the lipstick stains that she found on the paper scraps in the wastebasket. For each phone call one was supposed to put down a dime. But my roommates, Marcie Rinta and Marge Osaben, were congenial, and I found friends to go with me to attend cultural events, such as they were in St. Cloud. In addition to concerts, these included seeing Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, with Sergei Prokofiev’s music and its spectacular battle scenes, so different from the sanitized violence in the American cinema. Impressive as Nevsky was, its projection of violence could not fail to be a reminder of the conflict that had blossomed into a full-scale Cold War. The autumn saw General MacArthur’s march to the Yalu River that would precipitate the entry of China into the Korean War, and this would cast a cloud over the student body, from which the draft would snatch a young man now and then if he were not enrolled in enough classes or if his grade point average slumped. Instead of rebellion, as would be the case during the Vietnam War, students turned inward and conformed for the most part. Most of the professors were likewise cautious, since many around the country had lost their jobs when accused of being Reds or Pinks, the latter being Communist sympathizers. Even at the University of Minnesota Paul Robeson would be banned from singing, according to an official statement that was reported in the press, because allegedly his presentation would give no one a chance to refute the ideas expressed in his songs, most of them simply African-American spirituals.
St. Cloud, with its heavy concentration of conservative German Catholics, was a very strange community at that time and supportive of the Anti-Communist crusade as it was playing out in the efforts of the House Un-American Activities Committee and of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. I must admit that I hardly noticed. From time to time I attended the Swedish Baptist church across the Mississippi River from the campus and found it a source of both security and warmth. Yet I was already drifting away from radical sectarian religion in spite of my respect for much of what it stands. But I did, in spite of having many silly moments with my friends, take my music lessons seriously. Ruth Gant, my piano teacher, had studied with Rudolf Ganz in Chicago, and had therefore received first-class training. I was not as pleased with Helen Steen Huls, my voice teacher, whose ideas about voice production did me little good. She believed that the singing tone should come from the diaphragm, which to her meant that one should squeeze tone out of one like an accordion instead of allowing it to float freely. Others, who of course did not have my already constricted chest due to my OI, benefitted, and many were very devoted to her.
Miss Gant also taught music theory. I already had been given a good beginning in theory when I studied with Mrs. Sophus Larson, and now strove successfully to be the star student in the class. The class was taught in the music building, an old house next to the gymnasium that was mainly devoted to lessons. It was toward the end of the year, while laughing and joking with my fellow students as I was walking down stairs to theory class, that I fell down and broke both legs. Previously I had always been picked up and placed in a car to be taken to the hospital, so this was my first ride in an ambulance. Dr. Brigham, a skilled orthopedic surgeon, pinned my left leg and set the right femur. Many friends, including Clifford, came to see me in the hospital, but then I had to go home to my parents’ home in Willmar for convalescence. I would not return to college until I could walk again, in the fall of 1952. Learning to walk, as always, was a slow process and caused another year of delay in my education. But by then I had received money from my uncle Lew’s estate that allowed me to cover my own expenses, and enough additional money was promised by the executor, his nephew LeRoy, that I should have been able to finish my course of study. In the meantime, that additional money was invested in his turkey farm venture.
As an English major, I was required to take a course in World Literature, taught by a professor named Arthur Wormhoudt, who was without doubt the most controversial instructor on the campus. He had a Harvard Ph.D., and had worked with the psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler. Nowadays psychoanalysis is hardly news, but to the rather conservative students at St. Cloud Art’s method of close reading and interpretation raised lots of hackles. He had worked out his own system, which as my husband reminds me was organic rather than mechanical. The works that were required reading in the year-long course, extending over three quarters, comprised great literature of the West and some non-Western as well. Because he knew all the languages, except I think Chinese, he was a remarkable source of knowledge, though not particularly appreciated by most of the students. In the year I left St. Cloud, he would be under pressure from the college administration, then led by a rather tyrannical president known to have threatened his faculty in order to maintain smooth public relations. Of course it was a time when there was a tendency of the public to support repression. If reports are correct, the president treated the professors, most of them better educated than he, like hired help, and had even less respect for students. The better ones all vigorously defended Art in a meeting with the department chair, but I think the last literature course he was allowed to teach was during the spring term that also was my last at St. Cloud. Art, who eventually was to teach at a small Quaker college in Iowa, would actually make a life’s work of translating an immense quantity of Arabic poetry, beginning, I believe, with selections from the Diwan of the great poet known as al Mutanabbi. Once he gave us a large box of books at a time when we had little money to purchase anything ourselves. He has been our lifelong friend, though for many years at a distance. Only once did he and his wife Pearl, who was a voice teacher, stop at our house in Kalamazoo. We were happy to learn that their son Jody, whom we remember as a precocious pre-school child, had developed a serious interest in early music.
Of course I also continued studying music and singing with the mixed chorus. I do not remember Mr. Waugh as a bad musician, but his choice of music was designed to build up the kind of repertoire that one would need as a high school teacher. Then too I had to take an onerous number of required courses, including education classes. The music education classes were mediocre and ultimately not useful to me, and some of the others were definitely what we called “armpit” courses, respected by no one, and from the standpoint of my future development utterly worthless. There is a story that was passed around about someone listening under the transom (so this must refer to classroom buildings like Old Main, demolished before I arrived at St. Cloud) who heard an education professor patiently explaining: “There are three kinds of glee clubs: boys’ glee clubs, girls’ glee clubs, and mixed glee clubs.” Tests were often multiple choice or true and false, and of the type that had baffled me in my history class at Bethel. On the other hand, my competitive nature came to the fore in my music classes and private lessons. And I continued writing for the Chronicle, for which I produced a few feature columns, and in my first year back the co-editor was Clifford. We still have some of my columns, which in retrospect were mostly silly but nevertheless at the time regarded as delightful, I was told. As an example, on 11 November 1952, I wrote: “You’ve probably heard about the hermit who was arrested for speeding, but did you hear what the judge charged him with? Recluse driving.” Not very serious stuff, obviously. There was also an element of frivolity when I received a twenty-five dollar scholarship, a generous amount in those days, from a private donor. With the money I bought a concert dress for performance and also, I am afraid, a hat. The purchase of the hat still embarrasses me.
My roommate, at Shoemaker Hall, was Marianna Anderson, an art major, who was that kind of steady person whom one with a disability needs to have at hand. She was later to teach art in a suburban school system in the Minneapolis area until her retirement, and after both her parents died she continued to live in her parental home and to attend the same Lutheran church in St. Paul. In the summer of 1953, we went together along with my mother to visit my sister Ione in California. There was a scene on the way out when my mother caught Marianna and me playing cards with a Roman Catholic priest on the train - a double transgression, since she approved of neither cards nor the Roman Catholic Church. Ione and her husband had purchased a house at Dana Point, where Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years before the Mast, had loaded hides onto a ship. We also took a side trip, by bus, up to Bakersfield to see Marcie Rinta, now Swords, who had shared the trials of living at Mrs. Hurley’s and whose brother I had dated very briefly. In Bakersfield the temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the fall I took an interest in a literary magazine, nuance, that Clifford was editing, and was delighted when he would stop by Shoe Hall to talk. A coterie of more intellectual students had developed. In addition to Clifford, these included Betty Briggs, who would have a nervous breakdown that year, Bruce Bullard and Paul Bryan from my home town, Pat Goodhand, an art major, and Sam Wenstrom, who like me had a disfigured frame. I contributed a pair of short poems that echoed of T. S. Eliot, whose popularity was at its height then. Sam, however, was the one who created the cover for the spring issue, which caused all sorts of trouble because it was considered too risque (actually, it was quite staid) and caused the thunder of local zealots to come down on Clifford and the college, with the college president threatening the faculty to acquiesce in his suspension of the publication. Even the governor of the state, C. Elmer Anderson, denounced it, undoubtedly a political ploy to get re-elected, which he wasn’t. Afterward some of Clifford’s friends produced a small mimeographed publication called Fizzle, which was announced as claiming “complete independency from finance, jurisdiction, or otherwise harassing influences surrounding ordinary and mortal collegiate publications.” As a vehicle for satiric commentary on the nuance affair, it was, though amateurishly produced, an oblique attempt at vindicating what had been really quite a nice little student literary magazine. Fizzle never went on to a second issue. Fortunately, Clifford had already graduated when the storm broke, and I had left, not yet finished with my degree, to marry.
After the fall term of my final year at St. Cloud, my poverty and sadness over my father’s latest hospitalization led me to drop out for a term and to find work in Minneapolis at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, a church with eight thousand members who needed to be accommodated each Sunday. I was a research assistant to the Rev. Reuben Youngdahl, the brother of the then governor, though I am not sure how useful I was. But for me it was a good experience, and the Rev. Youngdahl was very comforting to me since my father was going through a mood swing that had necessitated institutionaliza-tion once more. I sang in the choir under a very good director, Edith Byquist Norberg, and was able to study voice with Eileen Bellino, the leader of the soprano section and the best vocal technician with whom I had yet studied. Clifford had offered to come to see me. On Christmas eve he sat with me when I had to answer the phone in the church office, and when we went over to a service (for there were many) he was careful to take a program to show his aunt, with whom he was staying. When Mrs. Norberg directed Brahms’ German Requiem, I sang in the choir and enjoyed her precision. And Clifford came back to visit several times through the end of January. We heard Walter Gieseking, the great German pianist, play a Debussy concert at Northrup auditorium. We left when he started to play Claire d’lune, since we knew that this would be his last encore. By this time it was obvious that we were very much attracted to each other. At first I lived in a small apartment near Lake Street, and we would go to a pub where we could talk long into the night. I still remember the man who stood up by the bar and proclaimed, “I am Timoshenko, the great Irish-Russian general.” He seemed, at least in my memory, always to be there. The Soviet general Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko was not, of course, Irish in any sense.
After I returned to St. Cloud for the spring term, Clifford and I were inseparable and took as many classes together as we could. One was St. Cloud’s only philosophy class (I know this is hard to believe), but to give the instructor, actually a well-educated clinical psychologist, credit, we received a good introductory survey of various schools of philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the early twentieth century. Neither one of us had any money beyond what was needed to complete the term. Somehow Clifford scraped up enough to pay for an engagement ring, which later we allowed the jewelry store to take back until we had paid for our gold wedding bands - and then later sold, which will tell you how poor we were in those days. We were married by my family’s minister in a small ceremony on 4 July 1954 at my sister Lorraine’s house in Litchfield, Minnesota. Betty Briggs played the piano, and the best man was Sam Wenstrom. Marianna Anderson was my maid of honor, and my niece Janet was of course the flower girl. I had made my own dress, and, aside from my sister’s contribution to the event, I think the total cost was thirty-five dollars. I was very happy to be marrying someone whom I admired so much. We rode to St. Paul with Clifford’s aunt and her stepdaughter and her husband, and of course thereafter would need to rely, as we had before, on public trans-portation, which was much better in those days than it is now. Clifford had a summer job at the municipal hospital and had a few days off only, but before long our time was spoiled by a recurrence of mononucleosis, from which several weeks were required before I felt fully well again.
Thus with my marriage the first phase of my higher education had come to an end, and without a diploma. In time, as we were living in St. Paul, I would take an evening course in the novel at the University of Minnesota while working at the state capitol for the department of public property. In those days there was no thought about security, and one could see the governor in the building from time to time. My job was very boring, though I was happy to have it and to be among pleasant co-workers. I had earlier been turned down for a job, on account of my disability, by Montgomery Ward, and I confess I wept. Other businesses were less open about their unwillingness to hire a person with my condition.
In the summer, I had enrolled for some non-credit organ lessons from Theodore Bergman at McPhail Conservatory, though I lacked an instrument on which to practice, and then later for several months I studied voice with Robert Holliday, who helped me immensely with repertoire. I was able to add to my knowledge and love of the German Lied, and he introduced me to the songs of Elizabethan lutenist school that were then available in the editions of Edmund Fellowes and to the songs of Charles Ives, who was then almost unknown. I was especially delighted by Ives’ “At the River,” which transformed an old gospel song into a modernist masterpiece, and John Dowland’s “In Darkness Let Me Dwell,” which might have been written when the composer was in residence at the court of the king of Denmark - and certainly was worthy of any king’s court. Mr. Holliday had a phenomenal sense of pitch, and was the best sight-reader I had yet met. It was said that he had no need of a tuning fork to tune up his choir at Hamline University, and that, as the saying is among musicians for such people, he could read flyspecks on the wall. He was obviously very pleased with me, and confided that, when he saw a lazy or incompetent student crossing the campus to his class, he wished that he or she would break a leg.
Good concerts were, in spite of our poverty, sometimes within our reach. We heard Elizabeth Schwarzkopf on her first American tour as well as the Minneapolis (now Minnesota) Symphony, but we missed Fischer Dieskau, who would also become a legendary singer. I longed for a piano, and was able to obtain one only in the spring when we moved from Holly Avenue to another apartment in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood. I was able to buy, for a very small sum, an old but very serviceable Knabe piano and to fit it into the tiny two-room apartment with shared bath. I could again practice my music. Clifford was very involved at first with his graduate studies at the University of Minnesota and then, when we were too short of money for him to continue in the spring, with substitute teaching. Things changed in May 1955, as I have explained above, when I fell on the sidewalk and was transported by a city ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital, where my right femur was set by Dr. Chatterton. For a time I would be returned to the small apartment in a body cast until I could be moved by being lifted into Everett and Arloueen Nyman’s large car, placed crosswise in the back seat, and driven the one hundred miles to my mother’s house, where we would stay for the summer.
In the fall, Clifford took a high school teaching job at Howard Lake, Minnesota, located on U.S. Highway 12 and about forty miles west of Minneapolis. I first borrowed a wheelchair, then learned to walk, somewhat unsteadily, on crutches again. The Presbyterians, whose church was accessible to me, invited me to sing in their choir, and I taught piano privately. I particularly enjoyed the company of the librarian, Herbert Rowe, and his wife Fran. Of Cornish descent from tin mining stock, he was a marvelous story teller, and I wish I could remember all the tales he told. Herb had joined the Navy before finishing high school by lying about his age, as many did during World War II, then after the war had gone through the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill all the way to his master’s degree in library science. I was inspired to return to the University, and the next summer both of us were off to the “U” again for a summer session - one of those pressurized five-and-one-half week sessions that I was myself later to teach as a visiting instructor there after I received my doctorate. With help from Clifford’s aunt Lena, we had been able to purchase a car, a 1953 Hillman Minx which we imagined would be cheaper to run than an American gas hog. Clifford and I had a class together, and I also enrolled in a course on John Milton, about whom I thought I should know something, if only whether it was true that he was a terrible misogynist. But my main effort went into piano, which I studied with Bernard Weiser, a distinguished concert pianist who had also been a regular with the Boston Pops for many years. I practiced as many hours at my Knabe as I could - more than the three hours a day that Mr. Weiser said Artur Rubinstein had suggested to him to be optimal.
My hopes of continuing my education would be put “on hold,” as the saying is, for nearly three years. My husband had only been able to receive a deferment for the last year on account of my health, and now, contrary to our hopes, his draft board decided in favor of conscription. After basic training, he was sent to the Granite City Engineer Depot where he became editor of the post newspaper and eventually would be promoted to corporal. We lived the whole time in a tiny and grubby apartment on the first floor of a small building back of a house in the steel town of Granite City, Illinois. The only good thing about the apartment was that there were no steps. The dust from the steel mills was black, and came in daily. At first we received only $145 per month on which to live, though after the first year of his tour of duty and Cliff’s promotion to the equivalent of corporal we were getting a princely $225, with enough to buy (on time payments) a Steinway upright piano, which had to be brought into the apartment through the window. Even though we still were not able to afford a telephone, I did manage to take some voice lessons with William Heyne in St. Louis across the Mississippi, but his ideas about vocal production were quite disappointing. I was still using crutches for walking any distance, and really could not venture out without help. The trips to my voice lessons were at times facilitated by Sally Krischke and Jane Smith, two warm-hearted young Southern women, also wives of draftees. Jane is now an ordained Episcopal priest at Asheville, North Carolina. I was not able to find employment as a church musician, in part I think because I lacked a college degree but also because of my handicap. At last I took on the task of organist at the post chapel, which was a temporary building outfitted with an electronic Wurlitzer organ, the worst “toaster” I have ever tried to play. I was too poor to buy music, so I wrote my own compositions based on traditional chorales and improvised until a colonel and his wife gave me money to take to the very good music shop in St. Louis, where I purchased some books of organ preludes. Twenty-five dollars would buy a pile of music in those days. Parking on the street outside the store was still five cents an hour.
The chaplain at the Depot was Philip Schroeder, who also was a professor at Concordia Seminary in the days before it was purged of all “liberal” (including all ecumenically-minded) faculty. He and his wife Hattie became our fast friends, and we were frequent visitors at their apartment in St. Louis. The Rev. Schroeder was, at a fairly advanced age, still working on his dissertation on Philipp Spener, the German pietist, and hence he had a great interest in the outpouring of chorales and hymns by such composers as Johann Crüger, whose music I found inspiring, as once it had been for Johann Sebastian Bach. He also introduced me to the seventeenth-century Norwegian Thomas Kingo, on whose hymn “On my heart Imprint Thine Image” I based one of my compositions. At Concordia, we met Walter Buszin, then one of the most respected musicians in the church music field, and Clifford was treated to a visit to the seminary library with its collection of very rare books. After leaving the army, we saw Phil only once again, when he read a paper, on Spener and medieval mysticism, at the third conference on medieval studies held at our university in 1966.
In May 1958 we moved back to Minnesota, temporarily to Clifford’s uncle Anton in St. Paul while Clifford took further classes at the University. We could live with him free, except that we had to take care of the food and cooking. He had been a machinist, and a very good one who had kept the street cars in the Twin Cities running until eventually they were all replaced with buses. His hearing had been impaired by the work, and this could lead to some confusion at times. For example, I temporarily took in a homeless kitten, and he said, “You shouldn’t take in a stray like that; it might have rabbis.” I tried in a loud voice to explain, in terms that he would understand, that “you mean rabies; a rabbi is a Jewish priest.” “It’s the same thing,” he said. Obviously he had not heard me at all. Then in the fall Clifford took a position teaching at the Atwater schools, within easy driving distance, even in Minnesota winters, from Willmar, where we rented a house on Olaf Street on the north side of town. We moved my piano and other furnishings from my parents’ house, and I began again to build up a piano practice. We even had interesting neighbors in Karl and Helen Thurn, who had written a book of local history together. And we started singing in the choir at Bethel Lutheran Church since I had been leaning toward Lutheranism with my organ repertoire and study of the music of Bach. Clifford also had a Lutheran back-ground. I also did some ghost writing for the pastor - something I now would not feel to be honest in spite of the fact that I helped him keep some commitments.
It was in this house, on one evening coming in out of the cold while Clifford parked the car in the garage, that I was careless and fell, with even more dire results than previously. Now I would need to be confined to a wheelchair, though when somewhat recovered, I could walk with assistance, sometimes with the additional help of crutches. My mother was again called on to help take care of me at her house. But Clifford’s decision to take the Atwater job turned out to be a mistake since the whole Atwater school system was in serious disarray. The superintendent was an alcoholic who would be fired a year or two later, and there was a very bad attitude among the students. Clifford told me that one of them, who thought classical music sounded all the same, asked if there was enough available to extend over a week of concerts. He should have said, “Yes, and enough for different repertoire every night for the rest of your life.” He and the school system came to a mutual agreement to release him from his contract so that he could return to his studies - and have the use of the medical facilities, including the university hospital, at the “U” - in the spring term. This was a good thing for me as well, since I would be able to take a class in Bach’s compositional style, offered in the evening by Paul Fetler, a fine composer whose work I respected very much. We were staying at uncle Anton’s again, where we would remain through the summer. Clifford had applied for a graduate assistantship for the fall, and was accepted at Wayne State University, which had been recommended to him by Betty Chmaj, a doctoral student we had met in 1956. She had studied and taught at Wayne State, and Clifford was told later that her letter of recommendation had made the difference in their evaluation of his application.
In the summer as we were preparing to leave Minnesota, I worked for a time as a rehearsal pianist in the Kugler ballet studio. The proprietor also possessed an amazing collection of old instruments, ranging from broken mandolins and Civil War period brass instruments to harmoniums with mouse-eaten bellows, even old mechanical phonographs. These were all placed helter-skelter in his private museum, if one could call it that. Nothing was restored so far as we could see, and many of the instruments were covered with dust. His ballet school was even more chaotic. Arrangements had been made for a fine ballet teacher to come in from Cairo, but in very short time she decided to return to Egypt. This left a male dancer, who really was quite good, as their principal teacher. As we sat with him over coffee in a nearby restaurant, he confessed that he was extremely worried about himself since he was losing track of time. When fairly soon after this he descended into a schizophrenic state, teaching had to stop for the rest of the summer so that the school could reorganize and new teachers could be hired.