Interview with Lorraine Humer at her home in Carlisle Pennsylvania on June 7, 2002, with Heather Egan as a part of the Women in Cumberland County During World War II Oral History Project. Humer discusses attending Dickinson College during the war, her experiences in the Cadet Nurse Corps, and her familes experiences during the war including rationing.
Wall engaged on campus at Dickinson from 1966 to 1970. The campus was focused on the anti-war movement. The great march on the War College two weeks before Wall graduated in response to the Kent State incident. Everything bubbled up there in terms of the march. Students were always doing something which may not have had much impact on the rest of the campus. Any boycott was not student-wide. Dickinson has a campus was small and insulated. Joke that whatever was happening in the world happened at Dickinson and Carlisle two years later. Group of very engaged students protest wide who belonged to Students for a Democratic Society which had a chapter on campus. Those who were heavily involved were no more than 15% of the institution. Dickinson at the time was a very conservative institution by college standards. In the 1960s Greek life played a large role. Current affairs did not have the impact on Dickinson as they did in other places.
Change occurred during later years in 1969-1970. The War College protest was the first time the vast majority of the campus participated. College population was 1500 students and there were 2000 in the protest. Protest drew large number of students and others from outside the community. Individuals who travel around to flashpoints and try to stir things up. A lot of anger on campus at this time. Not a lot of protestors who were older than college age. Reason students focused on the protest movement rather than the race debate was due to the fact that the college had virtually no minority students in the 1960s. Could be in the teens. Black population was relatively small along with the rest of the town. Everything outside of the Carlisle Borough was rural including toward the Cumberland Valley on Route 11. Town insulated partly because the town did not have a large population. Almost no international students.
The relationship between the College and the community was focused on a socio-economic divide. The College attracted students primarily from a metropolitan area on the East Coast mainly New Jersey and Philadelphia as well as suburban Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Students who attended Dickinson had more of a cosmopolitan background and money. The divide was a socio-economic and cultural divide. When Wall first arrived on campus in 1966 he thought where have I come too. Because it was quite different then where he grown up in suburban Philadelphia. No computers or cell phones. Not allowed to have televisions in their rooms. Communal television in lounge. Could only have stereos and radios in room. Radio stations would go off at sundown. Before FM stations could barely get a signal from Harrisburg. Students had a tendency to look down on the town. Wall thought it was just a different society then what students were use to. Created disengagement. If students went downtown it was primarily for restaurants or to get a drink. Not to interact with the community. Carlisle residents looked at the students as rich snobs and so forth. Divide that was difficult to overcome.
1968 was a difficult year in a lot of ways with the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the death of Robert Kennedy. Detached response in an insular world that was mostly white in reacting to King’s death. Kennedy’s death had more of an impact because he represented a different track in American politics including getting out of the Vietnam War. Nixon ended up being elected and for most of the students Nixon’s election was a horrible outcome. Nixon’s policies created more and more unrest. By 1970, 40,000 troops were killed. Civil rights and Vietnam protests wrapped up together. Fairly large for Dickinson ROTC unit on campus.
Wall was battalion commander his senior year in 1969-1970. Active duty in the army 17 days after graduating. The anti-war movement began to pick up steam the further into Wall’s college career he went. Stopped wearing uniforms on campus. Weekly leadership laboratories which mainly involved field exercises. Mainly marching in Carlisle. Began to be disrupted as much as possible by students and protestors. Thought it was ironic that they were protesting their fellow students the most liberal approach to military service. Clashes with students were relatively peaceful. Students would stand in front of students and try to get them to break ranks as well as put flowers in their rifle barrels. Never any violence nor violence directed towards campus facilities. Heated discussions. March on the War College was a Dickinson type response. Marched out to the college and passed the entrance to the college and went to a vacant field past the entrance. As they came back there was a big circle of military people and students sitting in a group talking to each other. No tear gas or shouting and groups of soldiers. Not allowed to go on to the War College grounds. One of the few times people in Carlisle engaged with students.
Walking through the streets of Carlisle everyone was lined up watching the students. Every block some people would join in. Very few individuals yelling derogatory remarks. Students for a Democratic Society was radical for Dickinson. Not a large group on campus. Dickinson was not a place where a lot of excess was tolerated. Carlisle and the campus did not have the open rioting or confrontation that Wall was aware of while at school. ROTC confrontations began to happen in 1968. Relatively late. Sit-ins began to happen around this point. Students occupy buildings like Old West. Faculty involved. Liberal.
Would engage or join students in the protest. Occurred fairly often. Faculty a part of the protests in 1970. Faculty with tenure were out in front would make speeches. Some in humanities would use classroom as a forum for current event discussion. Not something that occurred all the time. Weeks would go by with nothing happening. Relationship with black students. Black student population measured in teens. Similar socio-economic background as rest of student body. Suburban background. Students felt like they got around well with black students but no awareness of what they went through. Isolation. No open inter-racial dating.
Fraternity attempted to pledge a black student. When national organization became aware that local chapter was attempting to pledge a black student it was implied that the fraternity would lose its relationship with the national organization. Created a schism within the house. Pledges had to be accepted unanimously. Students divided down the middle between those who did not want to loss national charter and those who threatened to leave if student was not accepted. Student decided not pursue membership with the house after he learned of the situation. Those who wanted him to be a member were upset that there was no vote. A lot of bad feelings that stayed on. Student went on to join another house. About half of the black students joined a fraternity.
Only time someone from the national organization attempted to intercede on a potential pledge. About 80% to 90% belonged to a fraternity when Wall was a freshman. By the time he left less than half belonged. Students who came in as freshman starting in 1968, 1969, 1970 were no longer interested in organizations. Dickinson struggled with getting the Greek organization situation on campus to a point where everyone was comfortable. ROTC had Black students. Generally five or six per year. Same students year to year.