YAM Notes: March/April 2012

Last call for the exciting Boston Mini Reunion, May 29-June 1. You received your written material in early January, and there’s an April 1 deadline. Direct last-minute questions to Barbara Burt, 203-432-8016 or barbara.burt@yale.edu. There’s also a signup form on the class website, which is reachable by Googling “Yale Class of 1959.”

The productivity of our writers increases with age, or so it appears from the most recent mailbag. There are four new books. One, foretold in an earlier column, is Dick Rhodes’s compelling story of how the temptress and actress Hedy Lamarr teamed with a composer named George Antheil to invent a remote-controlled torpedo during World War II. The Times reviewed the book twice in December. “The mind boggles for a moment,” says one review.” It’s to Mr. Rhodes’s credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible.” At 261` pages, the book is slimmer than Dick’s past works,  which include “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” which won him a Pulitzer in 1988.  It is also, as usual, immensely readable.

Heftier by far is  “A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1020-1950, published in December by the Yale University Press. This extraordinarily attractive book came to me courtesy of John Waddell, from whom I have not heard in years, and who has devoted the last quarter-century of his life (following a distinguished business career) to  collecting works of applied art reflecting modern American design.  John has donated some of these works to the gallery, and promised more. They are included among the 300 objects shown in the book — a collection of diverse objects  including ceramics, glassware, silver, metalwork, textiles and much else that, John says, that is “unsurpassed” in this country.

Two other literary offerings spring from a simple and laudable wish to make complicated stuff accessible to people like me.  One is Easy Economics, a 252-page plain-talking guide to basic economic questions (How does the Fed work,  why are the tools for ending recessions so clumsy?) written by Lee Smith. Drawing on Lee’s  20 years as a writer and editor at Fortune, the book was published by  Wiley in November and, from the looks of it, should serve as a great primer for people trying to distinguish economic  sense from campaign nonsense in this curious presidential year.

Our last entry comes, in a manner of speaking,  out of the blue. About five years ago, nearing 70, Packer Wilbur decided he wanted to learn how to fly. So he did. The result is “Captain Zulu’s Quick Reference for Pilots” (www.CaptainZulu.com),  designed for anyone interested in learning about what it takes to fly a small aircraft. The book reflects Packer’s personal experience and  also his feeling — as he surveyed the available flight training literature  — that  the world was much in need of an easy-to-understand summary of the basic knowledge needed to become a pilot.  Two promises: I will read the book. I’ll leave the flying to Packer.

From all this it is obvious that there is time enough to undertake new hobbies and follow old dreams. Nor has there been any decline in our collective curiosity. I offer as further proof my lifelong friend Sandy Wiener, who last summer joined a Yale service project in China, about four hours west of Shanghai, where he hooked up with his son Alex and 190 others in various useful and helpful tasks.  Sandy’s own assignment for 8 days was to teach small business skills to high school students, mostly women. Sandy then set sail for Mongolia, St Petersburg, the Baltics, and finally the Swiss Alps, bringing the number of countries he has set foot in to a tidy 105. He also finally got a respectable season (as did I) out of the Detroit Lions, after decades in the football wilderness.

Speaking of mini-reunions, Alex Boyle and Betty  organize their own — with Joe and Ann Koletsky and Phil and Unni  Kaltenbacher on Martha’s Vineyard, during the summer, and with Steve Cochran, Charles Nolan and Dil Cannon on one golf course or another, most recently at the Chevy Chase Club. All four played on the freshman golf team 56 years ago and — absent any evidence to the contrary — hit the ball as far as they ever did.

Lammie Williams, widow of our classmate Tom,  who died in 1998, kept in regular touch with our class until succumbing  to cancer in December. Among those attending her funeral in Rye were Fritz Bell, Lammie’s brother, Ed Greenberg, a Hotchkiss contemporary, and Tom’s three roommates—Doug Banker, Dick Lightfoot, and I.

One other sad note . Clem Barrere, ’60, reports that Ed Boone  passed away in Kyle, Texas in January after a long illness. Ed, who studied  botany at Yale, always wanted to raise pine trees and he did, opening a pine tree business in Arkansas in 1979 and moving  in retirement to Texas, where he was born.  He is survived by his wife, Sandy, and two children. Donations in his name may be made to the Michael  J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or the Alzheimer’s Association.

I have in hand a bunch of smaller items I’ll save for next time. On to the mini-reunion!