Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 1, Page 24
Fall 1993
Tales told out of school

     A flood of fond memories returned to me when I opened the winter 1993
Messenger and saw the picture of the main campus (included in the story on
Marian Coffin's landscaping plan) dating from 1925. In early December 1944,
when I was 17 years old and a senior at Alexis I. du Pont High School in
Wilmington, Del., I received my orders to report to the Army Specialized
Training Reserve Program (ASTRP) at the University of Delaware.
     I was assigned to a room on the fourth floor of Harter Hall, appearing
as the higher of the two dormitories at the left of that picture, and I
could look out one of those bay windows.
     After being issued our uniforms and being fed, we were marched in the
December darkness to an auditorium in a building somewhere about the middle
of that picture to see a stage play.
     All told, I spent two, very wonderful, 12-week sessions at the
University studying a basic engineering course.
     Classes ran 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, with a half day on
Saturday and two hours enforced study every evening. We studied math,
physics, chemistry, English, history, geography, gym, military
discipline-approximately 22 credit hours. Saturdays were usually devoted to
marching around Newark playing at being soldiers.
     One evening when Lt. Trotter, our commanding officer-how he must have
cursed his fate to be mothering dozens of 17-year-olds instead of off
fighting Germans-was out until midnight, the two lower floors battled the
two upper floors in an enormous water fight in the stair wells. We used the
hand-pumped fire extinguishers, of which several were available on each
     The water literally cascaded down the steps at the front door shown in
the picture. Trotter must have had a real sense of humor because his only
comment at the following morning's formation was, "I hear that you guys had
a squirtin' good time last night."
     We were supposed to be fully uniformed at the flag-raising each
morning before we went back into the dorm to gather our books for class,
but it was painful to get up in those cold, early hours, and Trotter was
horrified to discover one morning that many of his "soldiers" who were
standing at attention wore only their skivvies or their nothings under
their heavy winter overcoats.
     I returned to the University in 1947. The campus was full of veterans
wearing either green Army field jackets or navy blue pea jackets. Many were
ex-pilots and many of these still flew with the local National Guard.
     The elms were fully leafed the day I walked along the path just out of
that picture on the right. I heard an enormous roar. I looked up through
the canopy of green.
     Barely 50 feet above the treetops was an AT-6 aircraft.
     The plane continued on down the Mall until he reached the library,
then up into the sky, and he was gone.
     Undoubtedly, it was one of the students, but I shall never know.
     I graduated in 1949 in engineering and spent my career with Boeing in
Seattle, where I lived on a houseboat for many years.
                                        -John M. Pursell, Delaware '49