Oct 1, 2015

Fall 1945: enrolled in debate

“I had enjoyed debate in high school; where my coach was Ward Henderson, a forensics star at Southwestern in 1936.  Accordingly, I enrolled in debate at Southwestern in the fall of 1945.  Dr. Allen the debate coach, was the father of my best friend from grade school days.  I had often visited his home, but whenever I took classes from him at Southwestern, he always addressed me formally, as was the custom in those far-off times.  It was always ‘Miss Murray.’  Another student was Bob Hill, whom I had known in grade school.  His intellectual abilities were entirely inadequate to the demands of discussion and debate, or for that matter, the demands of college work at all.  But it kept him out of mischief, and I assume that his father paid the tuition.
“Our first discussion assignment was to be on the possible future of atomic energy (this was just after the atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan).  Dr. Allen insisted that we allow Bob to participate in the discussion.  There were to be no snickers, and no unkind remarks directed at Bob.  It became an intellectual challenge for us to say anything sensible in response to what Bob said.  It was a lesson to all of us to respect others regardless of their limitations.
“During that year, our participation in debates depended on Dr. Allen’s being able to get gas for his car.  We took as many as his car would hold to tournaments at McPherson and Bethany Colleges in Kansas.  We also took longer trips to Nebraska, to the Great Plains Tournament at Kearney; and to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  Theresa Knapp always sat in the front seat because she was subject to carsickness.  The rest of us crowded together in the back seat.  Highlights of the trips was a stop in Oxford Kansas for Dr. Allen’s favorite pies.”

--Excerpt from brief memoir by my mother, Ruth Murray Brown, written about 2001, about her participation in debate in college.

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