My Schooling

Basically a history of when and where, with some notes on why


Fall 1941--Fall 1943, first, second, third grade, Canyon School, Redwood Canyon

A one room (plus stage for first-graders--I think there were six of us, the biggest class in school, probably) school in Redwood Canyon, where we lived in Contra Costa County, California. Miss Alice Forss taught all eight grades.

Fall 1943, third grade, Las Molinas Elementary(?) School, Las Molinas

My parents divorced. Mother got custody of little sister Jewel and baby brother David. Dad took me and younger brother Jacky. Dad joined Merchant Marine, foisted Jacky and me off on friends who had a farm in Las Molinas, northern California. They already had a son, J.C., younger than either of us. Jacky had started first grade before we left Canyon.

Fall 1943, third grade, Crockett Elementary School, Crockett

Someone (I strongly suspect it was one of our guardians) spilled the beans to our mother later that fall or winter that we weren't living with our father and she came and got us, taking us to Crockett (a horrible bus ride, if only because buses didn't have toilets in those days), where we entered Crockett Elementary. The landlords (my aunt Sis' former parents-in-law) had bent their own rules letting my mother live there with two tiny children, but one day they found out she had snuck a six-year-old and an eight-year-old in too. We had to leave. Cute girl named Kay in my third-grade class kept crying my last day in school there; I always liked to pretend I knew why.

Spring 1943--Fall 1945, third, fourth, fifth grade, Burkhalter Elementary, Oakland

Grandmother Mia gave up her apartment near Lake Merritt in Oakland and bought a place in East Oakland (2407 Shone Avenue, tel. Lockhaven 8-1049) so we would have a place to live, and Jacky and I started going to Burkhalter Elementary School, my fourth school in two-and-a-half years of going to school.

Spring 1946, fifth grade, Prichard Home Elementary School, Mobile

Mother had remarried, a Navy man named Homer Vaughan. I was about half way through the fifth grade at Burkhalter when he returned to civilian life, had me stop calling my mother "Bonnie" in favor of "Mother" (the change felt weird), and moved us all to Mobile, Alabama, where we lived in a suburban community, slightly subject to flooding, called Prichard Homes, and I did the second half of the fifth grade at Prichard Homes Elementary, the only school I've gone to where boys were expected not to wear shoes. They had started "fractions" at the beginning of the year; we hadn't in California, and I was a bit dense about them at first. But I wowed my classmates with what they thought was superior drawing talent. (I didn't know, myself at the time, that they were wrong.)

Fall 1946, sixth grade, Burkhalter Elementary, Oakland

Mother was unhappy with Alabama and persuaded Homer to take us back to California that summer. All four of us kids were back in Burkhalter. I was in the Low Sixth grade, for people who started school in the Fall semester. The sixth grade was big enough to be split into two classrooms, one which the Low and High Sixth graders shared, and one which the Low Sixth shared with fifth graders. I was in the latter, while most of my friends were in the former. I groused to my mother, who arranged to move me not only to the sixth-grade-only room, but to the High Sixth grade there. I was now one of the odd-semester pupils.

Spring 1947--Fall 1948, seventh and low-eighth grades, Frick Junior High School, Oakland

It was a fairly long bike ride--did I take the bus sometimes?

Spring 1949--Spring 1952, Lower Lake Union High School, Lower Lake

Meanwhile the rest of my family (Mother had divorced Homer and remarried my real father) had moved north to Lower Lake in Lake County late that fall, but left me to finish the first half half of the eighth grade (why?) before joining them. I joined them in Lower Lake Spring 1949. But there was a problem with school. All classes in Lake County schools began in the Fall; there were no odd-semesterers like I had become. I was given a choice--go into the eighth grade at the eight-grade elementary school, redoing the semester I had already done at that level, or skip the first year of high-school Freshman year. I still rather liked school but not enough to add an unnecessary semester, so I opted for high school. That decision would have a seemingly negative effect on my life later. I graduated from Lower Lake a month shy of my 17th birthday.

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College, etc.

First and Second college quarters, 1952-53, Freshman, California State Polytechnical College, San Luis Obispo

At the age of eleven or twelve, I had developed a great love of astronomy, and intended to make it my life's work. The University of California at Berkeley had an astronomy program, and I applied for admission to Berkeley. I was rejected on the grounds that I had missed the first semester of high-school freshman English. The requirement was three years, and I only had two-and-a-half. I elected then to attend Cal Poly until I could make up the deficit.

1954, 10-month Korean Language Course, Army Language School, Presidio of Monterey

Apparently one had to select a major already as a freshman at Cal Poly, so I went for the most interesting sounding one, Electronic Engineering. By the beginning of the second quarter I decided not to come back for a third--when you finally got through the registration line for a class, you found out your selected time was full and had to start over, and my classmates were almost all ex-servicemen, who were mature, and already had some background in electronics from work in the service. I decided I would join the Air Force, grow up, and become eligible for the G.I. Bill. My parents had broken up again, and I had been attending college on my share of welfare payments, plus what Mia sent me from time to time. By the end of basic training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, I found myself headed for possible language training, with a six-week preliminary intensive Russian course at Kelly AFB, still in San Antonio. I missed a chance to study Romanian at Cornell, in spite of being at the head of my class, because I liked to sit in the back of the room studying by myself to avoid hearing the stupid questions one of my classmates, a Major who wore white socks, kept asking ("Why does Russian do it so-and-so? German does it right, like so," e.g.). But I was still at the head of my class at the end of the six weeks, so had first choice of language. When I thought I was going to study Romanian, I lost all desire to continue learning Russian. There was one opening for Arabic, and I took it. But soon thereafter they had decided not to send anyone for Arabic; my second choice was for one of six spots in a 10-month intensive Korean program at ALS. Five of my classmates took the rest.

Fall 1957--Fall 1958, Freshman, Sophomore Oakland City College

By the time I got out of the Air Force, I had pretty much lost touch with, and my old enthusiasm for, astronomy. I thought maybe a degree in, say, civil engineering would be more practical, so I entered Oakland City College in the fall of 1957 with such a goal in mind. I skipped some of the preliminary math I probably needed, because I had done quite well in analytical geometry at Cal Poly. But the differential calculus professor at OCC kept mixing up his terminology, such as saying "subtract" when he meant "divide." It was annoying, and I think it confused me. I made it through his course, anyway. The integral calculus professor was much better in that respect, but the course was taught as one where you memorized formulas and developed experience to know which one would be appropriate in a given case. I wanted to understand the formulas so I could figure them out when I needed them. (Bad attitude, probably; I had similarly lost interest in chess when I found out good players knew certain sequences of moves, and even who they were named for, instead of figuring things out as they went along like I did. Of course, the result was that I was very often the victim of Fool's Mate.) I think I dropped the course. Somewhere along the way, my fellow students/friends were talking career, and one mentioned that only top-notch engineers ever did anything but look things up in tables. That was the end of my engineering plans, and that fall semester the end of 14 years of schooling (counting the two quarters at Cal Poly as half a year).

Spring 1958--Fall 1961, Junior and Senior years, University of California, Berkeley

What to do. I still had the GI Bill coming in, and I still wanted to be further educated, so I would transfer to UC a few blocks away in Berkeley. But how to get a degree in a total of four college years (I wasn't counting Army Language School of course), which I wanted, even if it should turn out that I would spend my life pumping gas in a service station or something. I needed to pick a major that wouldn't require two years of freshman and sophomore preparation. Well, I had studied Korean. And then I had been sent to Korea, and ordered not to use the language with the natives on the small island on which I was stationed. Out of frustration over that, I asked to be sent to Japan for a year instead of back to the States when my year in Korea was up, and I started studying Japanese by myself in all my spare time. With a solid background in Korean, Japanese is relatively easy. By the time I had finished that year in Japan, where I was allowed to try to speak to the natives to my heart's content, I knew quite a bit. I guessed it would probably make it possible to skip the most of the first two college years of Japanese if I decided to major in Oriental Languages, emphasis on Japanese. And indeed, it turned out to be far more than enough, when I took the easy fourth semester Japanese course, the last course of basic modern Japanese.

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On to Graduate School

Spring 1962--Fall 1969, graduate student, UC Berkeley

Summer 1962, summer session, Seton Hall University

And then something funny happened on my way to the BA in January 1961. I found out that there were things to think about--how had Japanese been, how had it gotten the way it was and the way it is, was it related to Korean, etc., etc., and I had what were so far as I knew original ideas on the matters. I failed to win a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to graduate school. I still turn a bit red when I remember replying to a question--would China would prove a danger to the United States in the future?--that politics was my AT-chill-eez heel (I guess I had never heard anyone say "Achilles" out loud). I had been accepted for graduate study at the Linguistics Department at Yale, but without special funding it was too far away, and I elected to stay at my State University. I did one valuable summer session in Japanese at Seton Hall University, where I learned the kind of Japanese I needed to understand the Japanese news broadcasts by a radio station in San Francisco, and I managed to impress the teacher enough that he remembered me when he had moved on to Indiana University and I sought a job there. Meanwhile it took four years to get my MA (I was told that I was one of the fast ones!). Just short of three years later I walked out of my pre-thesis Oral Exam session wondering if it would be even worth it to study another year or so and try again, but I was stunned to be told a few minutes later that I had passed. Apparently "I don't know" had been the right answer to many of those questions! I finished my dissertation on the job at IU two years later--I don't even remember whether it counted as December 1969 or January 1970 (an odd-semesterer to the bitter end, wasn't I).

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