Final Letter from Vermont: Charles Walker Scholarship Recipient Charlie Pritchard

by Charlie Pritchard

Final Report from my Year Abroad

Condensing my experience of America into one article, on the face of it, appeared rather straightforward, though it proved to be more complex a task than I first imagined. The heterogeneous sensations and personalities I have encountered only opened other passages for investigation which time prevented me from exploring.

The academic rigours of Middlebury, while at times overwhelming, nurtured a more focused work ethic, and the courses I have studied granted me invaluable skills of critical analysis in relation to contemporary politics within America and beyond. Alongside the literature of slavery and the fiction of the American South, I was able to study a diverse range of interests, from the mechanics of authoritarian regimes to the developments in post-revolutionary art in the Soviet Union, all of which tested my ability to evaluate ideological perspectives across the political spectrum.

 

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It takes a strong tolerance of sociality to adapt to the enclosed environment of the campus. At Middlebury, it often felt as though academic life was my life. The communal existence in the dining halls (and in my case, my dormitory, which was shared) while nurturing the social bonds between students can leave a yearning for privacy. It is only when I look back that I accept that the work achieved at Middlebury would not have been possible under a less restrained environment. With limited transport to the bright lights of Burlington, at times I was left itching for escape (there are only four buses every day that leave from Middlebury, two in the morning which leave at 6 and 7am, and two in the evening at 3 and 4pm). I certainly got the best out of Middlebury through integrating. The temptation to remain within the group with which I arrived was powerful, but it would have denied me the fascination of meeting others who can make the experience of the college worthwhile. I mostly mixed with American and other international students. By far the friendliest students on campus were those from the South (surprisingly, there was a considerable population of Alabamans) who would actively try and start conversation with me. Sometimes the conversations would run for over an hour when we all had work to be doing!

There are charms of Middlebury that I no doubt miss: the carillon playing in the chapel every Sunday, the low-key comedy improv shows, the once-in-a-blue-moon gigs in discreet corners of the campus. But the professors are what I will cherish most in hindsight. They exuded an enthusiasm for debate that I have never known during my first two years at UEA – they have furrowed the paths of new academic horizons which I hope will broaden when I return for my final year.

 

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If there were any hints of a silver lining amongst progressive movements on college campuses, then the Divestment movement on Middlebury, which finally won a popular vote by 80% divestment reveals how quickly it is materialising in Europe and across the pond. While it still awaits approval form the Board of Trustees, it represents a decisive victory for rapid reversal of the fossil fuel consensus within academia.

 

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Yet my time in West Virginia provided a much needed shift from the isolated prosperity of the Middlebury community in exposing me to another face of America plagued by misunderstanding from conservatives and liberals alike. The temperament of people from the South reminds me uncannily of people from the North of England: unpretentious, warm but with feisty determination. I often wondered how the trip would be received from other West Virginians, but their good nature is something to be reckoned with.

My final week in Chicago offered evidence that cultural exploration can be just as exhausting as studying. By the time I left the U.S. I felt drained mostly from looking at paintings and browsing bookshops more than anything else (even before my gruelling Chicago-L.A.-Seattle-Manchester connections). However, the things I remember most from the places I have travelled are not merely moments of aesthetic appreciation or intellectual enlightenment, but the people, since undiscovered places mean undiscovered identities. There are so many kind, fascinating and complex people to whom Trump does no justice as a representative. While it may be a while until another opportunity to discover the continent returns, I certainly wouldn’t rule out another visit.

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The Library’s Origin-1945 Appeal Leaflet and 13th June, 1963 Dedication

by Don Allen

On June 13th, 1963, fifty-five years ago today, the original 2nd Air Division Memorial Library was opened.

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The original Roll of Honor is carried from St. Peter Mancroft Church to the Memorial Room in Norwich Central Library, 13th June 1963

But the idea for the Library was nearly twenty-years older.

In 1945, the Second Air Division Memorial Library appeal leaflet was published. (To view the entire three page leaflet, visit our Digital Archives by clicking here).

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Signed by Maj. General W.E. Kepner, Commander of the Division, it declared that “The Flame Must Burn On!”.

How was this flame to burn however?  The solution was a “spiritually living” memorial:

In order to perpetuate their memory, we propose to erect a memorial to these honored dead — your Memorial to them. This Memorial must be a spiritually living thing. The deep and sacred feeling giving birth to this Memorial, their spirit of youth, hope, and desire for a world of decency, freedom, and peace must live on — must imbue this Memorial with that same sacred spirit dedicated to oncoming generations whose way of life they died to protect. This Memorial must be a haven wherein the flame of their principles must  burn brightly and eternally, wherein the  bewildered, stumbling footsteps of succeeding generations can be unerringly placed on the right paths…

For those who survive this conflict, this Memorial will be a source of pride and enjoyment for our accomplishments. It will be a place where we can bring our family and friends in years to come and relive these days of our years.

For those who have paid the supreme sacrifice, and for whom there can be no permanent resting place, such a Memorial to their families and friends will represent tangible living evidence of the heart-felt gratitude and love of their country and comrades with whom they lived and fought — for when the airfields are plowed up, and all vestiges of the chaos of war have disappeared in time, this will remain a perpetual tribute to their memory — to their faith in an ideal….

More than that however, it will be a memorial of living spiritual significance for, through the American Reference Library and the American Reading Room, it will bring a daily influence of American thought and ideals to the people of the Norwich community with whom we have been so closely associated during these difficult years

It was originally planned to take three years to build a separate building, however due to the post-war economic struggles and the need to re-build the war damaged nation this was put on hold, though never forgotten.

Finally, in 1963, the Memorial was completed as a separate room inside the then brand new Norwich Central Library, rather than as a separate building. Nearly two-hundred veterans returned for the dedication, including Gen. Kepner, seen below shaking hands with Mr. T.D. Copeman, Chairman of the Memorial Trust, upon arriving at Sculthorpe.

 

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A special message from President John F. Kennedy was read at the dedication, where he made sure to highlight the special connection between the US and the UK armed forces:

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Reprint of Kennedy letter

On the Occasion of the Dedication of this Memorial, I would like to join in paying tribute to the six thousand members of the Second Air Division who sacrificed their lives in the defence of free men everywhere.

These men and their companions in arms in the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Corps were given the hard task of risking the present for the future. They met the test. May their sacrifice continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship between our two nations, allies past and present, against tyranny. May it also inspire us to pursue with energy and patience the opportunities for securing peace with justice preserved for us by those whose memorial we dedicate today.

John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, June 13th, 1963

Some more pictures from that day:

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The Bishop of Norwich, Dr. Launcelot Fleming, dedicating the Roll of Honor with Gen. Kepner standing next to him.

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The Honorable G. Lewis Jones, representing the US Ambassador, speaking to the congregation.

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Family members searching the Roll of Honor

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Reception at Norwich Castle Museum

For fifty-five years the Library has been dedicated to the ideals outlined above by the men and women of the 2nd Air Division and Pres. Kennedy. Here’s looking forward to another fifty-five.

 

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Letters from Vermont #3: Charles Walker Scholarship Recipient Charlie Pritchard

by Charlie Pritchard

A Week in Chicago

While possessing a literary heritage that rivals the literary meccas of New York, Dublin and Paris, Chicago wears its talent with a modesty that makes it all the more charming. The city saw the blossoming of talents in the early twentieth century in Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Upton Sinclair, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway. In later years the University of Chicago became the breeding ground for postmodern literature with Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and Robert Coover with Gwendolyn Brooks, Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel crafting a new aesthetic for Chicago literature. Writers of Chicago are famed for a democratic openness imbued with social criticism of racial and economic oppression. Within this one-time industrial powerhouse of America, the cultural intersections of immigrants and African-Americans from the South in workplaces and in public daily life conceived a fertile space for writers to explore the complexity of their nation’s present. The embracing demeanour of Chicago’s writers can be equally found in its citizens. As one student aptly put it, ‘it has the hustle and bustle of New York, but the people are a lot nicer’.

But there is no shortage of literary sites in the city. Inconspicuously located on the second floor of a block on N. Michigan Avenue in the middle of the Loop, the American Writers Museum showcases the extensive timeline of local Chicago literature and its context within American literature as a whole. It only takes about half an hour’s walk around, and fully deserves a look for only $8. Even the more avid American literature scholar will find some surprises here amongst the array of material and knowledge, detailing the influences of individual authors (going as personal as drinking habits – for instance, that Ernest Hemingway’s favoured cocktail was not the mojito, but a dry martini).

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American Writers Museum

 

 

The Poetry Foundation, which was relocated in 2011 on the Near North Side, is open to the public and displays the legacy of Chicago’s Poetry magazine which has been running since 1912, and continues to ignite the fame of some of America’s leading poets. The building hosts regular exhibitions and holds a volume of up to 30,000 books of poetry. As long as this institution exists, the future of American poetry is in safe hands. The building also hosts workshops, discussion and reading events – which feature both rising stars and established names. I only wish I could have spent more time there.

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The Poetry Foundation

 

The Newberry Library across from Washington Park features an impressive selection within an equally impressive architectural design and has been famed for its creative writing workshops since the 1920s. It contains rare manuscripts and maps of the city’s history, but also features a well curated Center for American Indian Studies programs, with a considerable array of historical literature on Native cultures available for public perusal.

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 Newberry Library

 

However, in keeping with the spirit of the city, literary projects in Chicago are more often than not directed towards sociopolitical empowerment. The Westside Writing Project provides an outlet for the black communities within the West Side of Chicago to master the new digital media of journalism through podcasts and videos. Participants focus upon the social and economic concerns facing their neighbourhoods along with police brutality. Today, Chicago remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the realm of urban planning. The ‘white flight’ from the West Side during the 1950s left black residents to occupy substandard housing particularly around the East Garfield Park area and the Near West Side with the establishment of housing projects by the Chicago Housing Authority, where violent raids from police forces are still common occurrences. This project allows the practice not only of creativity but the critical engagement amongst the new generation of black Chicagoans.

 

And of course, a visit to a city famed for its literary heritage deserves a tour of its bookshops. I’ve noticed that second-hand bookstores in American cities generally tend to charge higher prices for their stock than in British bookshops. A fiction paperback will on average cost around $7-$8.50 (around £5.25 to £6.40, excluding tax). But in Chicago, exquisite bookshops abound in multitudes. On North Milwaukee Ave., one of the more hipsterish streets in Chicago, you will find Myopia Books. This bookstore contains a dizzying selection of fiction spanning across two floors. The third floor deals in sociology, philosophy, drama and theology, where you will hear intellectuals in intense discussions about semiotics and ontology. At the other end of the spectrum, you have Bookman’s Corner on North Clark Avenue up towards Lake View on the far North side, a small, unpretentious hovel whose owner prices books at a reasonable rate – you can find some rare gems on sociology, politics and poetry for around $2.

Powell’s is certainly the bookshop with the most eclectic range you’ll find in Chicago. For anyone especially interested in political and cultural theory as well as poetry, this is a place to check out (for any leftie, their designated Marxist section is well worth a look over).

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Myopic Books

 

 

Unabridged Books located in Logan Square houses a decent range of fiction, with an intriguing smattering of good selections at the back, which are priced a few dollars lower than the main stock. But a word of warning: the owner keeps a cheeky husky by the front window who nibbled at my provisions for the flight home. Rascal.

The city’s literary achievements by both writers and community organisers provide a fascinating glimpse into how Chicago will navigate its position at the crossroads of America. While gentrification gathers pace on the West Side, uncertainty prevails over the future of urban life for African-Americans, migrants and working class whites alike. Whether the future transpires as better or worse than our expectations, it is a city worth revisiting to examine the contemporary dilemmas of urban America. I certainly wouldn’t rule out returning.

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Memorial Day

By Danielle Prostrollo

This Monday, May 28th marks the 150th Memorial Day in America, a day that honors the sacrifices made by servicemen throughout our nation’s history. Across the globe the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) hold services to honor these brave men and women, including a moving service at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Madingley.

Last year Don and I had the privilege of attending the service in the beautiful sunshine which included a moving poppy drop which released thousands of tiny red poppy petals over the graves and Walls of the Missing. If you would like to read about the services and the cemetery, please visit our post here.

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The ABMC has put together a lovely history of Memorial Day and how it fits into American History.

 

And as always, the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library honors the memory of those 6,881 servicemen who gave their lives to protect ours.

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