On the Horizon

Bill Joy and I alternated jogging bundles of papers, one after another, for three hours two nights a week. At the end of each shift, I would trudge back to the ATO house with aching muscles, a sore back, and filthy with the grime of newsprint.


The press room gang at The News drank sturdy black coffee—a lot of it. On election night in early November, however, when the paper’s headline trumpeted FDR’s unprecedented, third-term presidential victory, somebody broke out the Blitz-Weinhard Beer.

In that 1940 election, the Democrats had nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt on a non-interventionist platform. Roosevelt had assured voters that American boys would not be sent into any foreign wars.

The Republicans nominated Wendell L. Willkie, a rumpled, broad-grinning dark horse from Indiana.

The Socialist Party nominated its ever-ready candidate, Norman Thomas. The Communist Party nominated a fading firebrand, Earl Browder, And on the popular Burns and Allen radio show, George Burns nominated wife Gracie Allen.

“Down with Common Sense. Vote for Gracie.”

As the candidate of “The Surprise Party,” she brought a bit of wit and humor to presidential politics that year. A farcical Friday night “Vote for Gracie” rally on the Oregon campus—a rally I had to miss—drew a mob of singing, chanting students. As I recall it, Indian Summer ran a little late that year.


We had a popular ATO men’s chorus for awhile, directed by “Ox” Wilson. We probably weren’t very good. But I do recall our pride in one thunderous performance of the Pilgrims’ Chorus from the Overture to Wagner’s majestic Tannhauser.


 The Battle of Britain continued to rage. Hitler hoped the Luftwaffe alone could bring Britain to her knees.

He was wrong.

Short on planes and pilots, the Royal Air Force put up a furious defense in the skies over Britain against daylight attacks by hordes of Messerschmitts and bombers. Goering pushed his Luftwaffe to the hilt, sending as many as a thousand planes a day on the attack. But a few hundred young RAF pilots, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes, tore apart the Luftwaffe, spoiling Hitler’s plans for invasion. This valiant RAF group included volunteers from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America.

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