Today (September 29, 2017) marks the 50th anniversary of the first issue of Menno-Pause, an underground newspaper, at Goshen College, a Mennonite College in Indiana. It can fairly be said that my move to Canada in October 1968 as a draft dodger partially resulted from this publication, though the experience was shared with other students at Goshen College in September/October 1967. Menno-Pause was an experiment that lasted one month.
I hope regular readers of this Ontario Mennonite History blog will forgive this personal intrusion into the series. This account is primarily a re-issue of a post I made two years ago, with additional comments and photographs.
The five editors during our experiment included James S. “Jim” Wenger, a brilliant English major we all assumed would become a university professor. He was a voracious reader, a lover of ideas, as well as being a gifted pianist. Lowell Miller, a farm boy from Ohio, was another English major who enjoyed theological debate. In September 1967 Jim and Lowell roomed together at one end of Yoder Hall, the largest men’s dorm at the College.
Tom Harley was a political science major with an incisive wit, a love for both Joseph Haydn and the Beatles, and a passion for trout fishing. I was a political science major, a photographer, and a lover of urban blues. Some thought that I was also a faux rebel because I had been suspended from the college twice previously for illegally entering a campus building and for refusing to hand in attendance cards at thrice-weekly mandatory “convocations”/chapels. In fall 1967 Tom and I were roommates at the other end of Yoder Hall in Room 201, after Tom made a last-minute decision to live in the dorm instead of his home, which was in Goshen.
Verlin Miller, another English major with a rich curiosity for people and ideas, was a staff assistant on another floor in Yoder Hall.
The five editors were friends before Menno-Pause started. I had been the photographer for the Maple Leaf yearbook in 1966/67 when Jim was its editor. Tom and I were the only political science majors at the college, and had spent a lot of time with the College’s sole political science prof, Dan Leatherman. Verlin and I roomed together part of the summer of 1967 with a shared interest in blues and underground newspapers. Lowell Miller was the only editor I didn’t know before our adventure began.
We were all young, naive Mennonites from rural areas or small towns (except for Tom, who was just young and naive and came from a small city). We were part of a “publications Brüderhof” at the college, loosely connected to The Record (the official student newspaper), the Maple Leaf (the annual student yearbook), and Foolscap (the student literary publication). In September 1967 I was the photographer and Tom was a regular columnist for the Record, while Jim and Lowell also wrote for the Record.
Sue Clemmer, the Record editor, was part of the Brüderhof, as was Phyllis Detweiler, the Maple Leaf editor. Jim and Lowell were both on staff for Foolscap.
Jim Wenger was the intellectual leader of our little band. He had studied the growing phenomenon of underground newspapers in spring 1967 for the English department’s Communication and Society course. In this course he analyzed the East Village Other, a New York City alternative publication. He was a convinced adherent of the free speech movement, and wished for a living example at Goshen College. He also wanted to shake his “egghead” academic reputation because he had a near 4.0 grade average, except for lower marks in Physical Education (which sometimes earned him the nickname of “Volleyball”).
Jim and I, and possibly a few other Goshen students, were also adherents of the New Left movement through individual memberships in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). SDS’s philosophy was articulated in its Port Huron statement. It emphasized the buzzword “participatory democracy” (which stated students should truly participate in shaping their own education). SDS was extremely appealing to students restive about a college that they believed listened to its conservative Mennonite “constituency” more than it did to its students.
The summer of 1967 Verlin and I saw a modest underground newspaper published by two Mennonite Voluntary Service workers who lived in the south side of Chicago, Steve Stucky and Mark Wagler. We mused about the possibilities at the college, and took inspiration from their work.
In early September the five of us began to plan, mostly in Yoder 201, often against the backdrop of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” By September 10 we were serious about producing an underground paper. Tom came up with the name of the paper. We co-opted others to help. They included Carol Beechy (for a women’s perspective column), Doug Swartzendruber (designed the cover), Eric Yoder, and Bill Horrisberger. We delegated Jim and Lowell to give Record editor Sue Clemmer a “head’s up” that our alternative publication was coming.
Since our work on the paper was an open secret, four of us decided to sign the masthead of Menno-Pause issue #1. We encouraged Verlin to leave his name off the masthead, since he had an official role that might be jeopardized by a visible connection to the paper. For reasons I no longer explicitly recall, the individual articles were all unsigned, though it was probably to prevent one writer from being singled out for sanction because of a specific article.
Jim drafted our purpose statement: “The Menno-Pause is a gadfly (poking and prodding the GC sacred cows), a watchdog (checking and analysing disciplinary action), a critic (positive or negative analysis of GC education), an extended student opinion board-and general all-around crap.” We characterized ourselves as the “campus underground newspaper team.”
On the evening of September 28, Sue Clemmer provided us access to the English department’s stencil cutting and mimeograph machines. Verlin frantically typed the stencils. We had a blank space that needed filling, so we added a list of unacceptable words that been “deleted,” including shucks, goodness gracious, and fuck (37 times). Peg Mullet and Kathy Helmuth assisted us in printing the two-sheet, four page paper. Lenny Preheim agreed to circulate issues in the dining hall the next morning. He showed up late, so I gave away almost all of the 400 copies in less than 30 minutes in the breakfast lineup.
The reaction was mixed, but there were many requests for leftover copies. Critical comments suggested we had come closest to meeting the last phrase of our purpose statement (“general all-around crap”). Even our friends at the Record later editorialized: “Unfortunately, the first issue was cruder than it was funny.”
We delivered a personal copy to Dan Hess, the faculty adviser for student publications. (Dan Leatherman, our political science prof, was on leave, living in Chicago that year working on a PhD degree, and wasn’t available for counsel during these days.) Hess was soon asked if he could provide the administration a copy of our paper. By Saturday afternoon we had received our first letter to the editor–a critical analysis by Delmar Good, a young Economics professor, of Lowell Miller’s graph and analysis on “the decline and fall of the covering [prayer veil]” in the student yearbook over the years.
By Monday (October 2), it was clear that President Paul Mininger and other administrators were very unhappy. Dan Hess advised Jim Wenger, based on his earlier research, to gather a folder of articles that would provide background on the underground press movement for President Mininger. Hess also advised us to prepare a second issue as quickly as possible to provide a better example of our intent.
We thought this advice was good, and immediately began work on the next issue. There was one conflict within the editorial board. Should we pursue the use of “obscene” language? Tom said it was not crucial to the paper. Jim was not sure. I thought we should not go out of our way to use it, but that we should claim the right to use it as the situation demanded.
We finally decided to discuss the issue of obscene language in the second issue, and delegated the task for the primary article to Tom, since he would probably have the coolest head in writing it. Jim found a quote from Eberhard Kronhausen (who wrote learned books on pornography) that seemed to fit the front page nicely, and we also found a little piece by Episcopal rabble-rouser Malcolm Boyd that addressed the issue.
We also wanted to present something explicitly positive. So Jim wrote a short article about Prof. Mary Oyer, a real academic hero of Jim’s in the area of Fine Arts and Music. I opposed this, probably because she once publicly lectured me for falling asleep in her class, but was overruled by the other editors.
That Thursday we were pulled out of class for a meeting “in ten minutes” with President Mininger and Dean of Students Russ Liechty. They expressed concern about “the word on the back page,” the combination of letters in the name of our team, and the name of the paper. We talked about the nature of underground papers and satire, that this was a first effort. I defended our use of the language.
After the meeting with the four of us, Jim and I were kept for individual meetings with President Mininger and Dean Liechty. In my meeting they expressed great disappointment because of my earlier infractions at the college. I claimed that in my re-admission from a previous suspension I had specifically retained the right to speak to issues at the college. I suspect I was fairly defensive.
None of the rest of us editors knew that Jim Wenger was in the process of sorting out his sexual identity. That summer he had placed an personal ad in the Berkeley Barb soliciting a male partner. An alumnus of the college had seen the ad, and had sent a copy to the Goshen College administration. Despite this act, however, Jim was also then tentatively exploring a romantic relationship with a female member of our publications Brüderhof. I assume the administrators discussed the ad with Jim, though I don’t know that as a fact. I have searched for this ad in in the online archives of the Berkeley Barb and East Village Other (the paper he had studied in his research) on several occasions, but I’ve never been able to find the ad.
Our second issue came out on Monday, October 9. Copies created with a slightly more sophisticated process in downtown Goshen at a Mennonite agency, again were snapped up in short order. In the aftermath Jim and I were invited to participate in the campus church on the following Sunday to talk about dissent on Christian campuses.
As it happened, all the decisions we had made about content in issue #2 were used against us in the ensuing decisions. Even the article about Mary Oyer was interpreted as being destructive to the integrity of the college community.
Wednesday night, October 11, the four publicly-identified editors meet individually with the Faculty Discipline Committee. In my meeting President Mininger read a lengthy statement on the goals and purposes of Goshen College. I was then asked why I should be allowed to remain at Goshen College. I responded, likely with limited coherence, that I thought I could make a contribution to the life of the college. When asked if I had regrets, I said I regretted that we had failed to properly communicate our goals. The three other publicly identified editors had similar experiences.
A Presidential Forum for all students was announced for Thursday evening, October 12, in the church-chapel. The meeting was scheduled for 8:30 pm. Since a faculty meeting had gone on most of the day, we did not learn our personal fates until 7:30 that evening. It was harsher than we expected. All four public editors were suspended for the remainder of the academic year. We had speculated that I might be disciplined because of my prior “record” at the College. This disciplinary action changed all our lives in varying ways.
The administration asked us not to attend the Presidential Forum. For reasons I don’t recall, we agreed. At the forum a large majority of the students supported the suspension with a round of applause. Verlin, and other members of the publications Brüderhof in attendance at the meeting, were surprised by the intensity of the student support for the administration, and felt it was directed against them as well.
The next days found the four of us contacting family, sorting out logistics and making plans. Some of the editors had a debriefing at Dan Hess’ home. Sunday afternoon the editors were interviewed by Sue Clemmer as part of a two-page spread in the Record. After a “last [spaghetti] supper” prepared by Forreyce Lewis for the editors and their friends on Sunday night, the four of us left for Chicago.
Two things attracted us to Chicago. The Voluntary Service (VS) unit on Chicago’s south side housed Steve Stucky and Mark Wagler, the two guys, who had shown us an underground paper the previous summer, as well as Mark’s wife and infant son. Also, Dan Leatherman, our political science prof, lived with his family near the VS unit.
Tom and Lowell soon left Chicago and returned to their homes. Jim and I moved to the northern edge of Chicago and got jobs at the Evanston Hospital–Jim in the kitchen, I as a supply clerk in the general stores area. Jim was able to use his work to fulfill his alternative service obligation to the Selective Service System. He remained working in the hospital kitchen for the rest of his life. I worked at the hospital for about six months until I destroyed my draft card, returned it to my local draft board, and was dismissed from the hospital.
Sometime in late 1967 or early 1968 Jim confirmed his sexual orientation as a gay man, and came out to me and other close friends. Within a half a year or so he had begun a life-long committed relationship with Peter Johnsen. They shared almost 30 years together. Jim died May 31, 1997 after initially contracting non-HIV pneumonia, and finally succumbing from a superbug he caught while in the hospital.
During this tumultuous time in Chicago (1967/68), Jim and I were periodically visited by various friends from the Goshen publication Brüderhof. As my legal and living situation worsened, they expressed growing concern for my psychological well-being. One friend from the Brüderhof in particular, Sue Clemmer, persuaded me that Canada was a healthier alternative for me than prison. I left for Canada during the last week of October 1968. Our courtship deepened, and we were married in Canada on August 2, 1969.
People have asked if there was ever reconciliation with the administrative leaders at Goshen College. Tom returned to Goshen and Lowell ended up following another educational path; I finished my undergraduate degree in Canada.
Jim Wenger never returned to academia, and stopped playing the piano for almost 20 years. He eventually healed enough to begin to play the piano again in the late 1980s and to create tapes of his piano music for friends as Christmas presents. He began to perform as a piano soloist in the early 1990s, including at the Art Association of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, near his home community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Jim and Peter returned to the Goshen College for the first (and only?) time for a weekend in October 1993 as a guest of Dan and Joy Hess. Jim later described it as cathartic for himself–“many positive and negative memories flowed.” He also had what he described as a “joyful reunion” with Mary Oyer. In 1995, as recounted by Dan Hess, Jim had one meeting with then former President Mininger, though we don’t know what was said in that encounter.
I first encountered Paul Mininger after my suspension around 1980 in the home of Richard Detweiler, then pastor of the Souderton Mennonite Church. Mininger was the preacher at the Souderton Church one Sunday when Sue and I were visiting her family in Souderton. Richard Detweiler was Sue’s first cousin. Richard and his wife, Mary Jane, invited us to Sunday lunch and Richard forced me to sit next to Mininger at the dining room table. We had a cordial conversation.
Paul Mininger and I later had several longer conversations. In 1991 I made a presentation about my college and draft experience to a Mennonite Historical Society meeting at the Mennonite Church Assembly in Eugene, Oregon. Paul Mininger asked if I would mind if he came to the presentation. He exhibited a warmth in our conversations then that I had not experienced when a student. I felt we ended on good terms.
On reflection, the four of us were naive in estimating what a small Mennonite college, still shaking off the traditions of the 1950s and early 1960s, was capable of absorbing. The applause of the student body at our dismissal forced the editorial staff at the Record and the Maple Leaf to reassess whether their left-leaning “self-styled” elite was able to serve the full spectrum of the student community. They worked hard at it in the subsequent months.
Nonetheless I’ve always felt the college administration’s reaction was excessive, exhibiting greater fear of our power to disrupt the college community than was reality in 1967. In addition to the profanity, and the perceived attack on community, our loose association with SDS and Jim Wenger’s working out of his sexual orientation seemed to be held against us in formulating the level of discipline imposed on us.
For me, the events were life-changing as with the loss of my student deferment I launched into conflict with the U.S.’s Selective Service System. I also had to come to grips with my own response to Jim’s homosexuality at a time when I had not ever considered the issue. I refused induction in spring 1968 and went to Canada in October 1968. I worked as a grocery clerk and a computer programmer for several years, and completed my BA at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo in 1973. In that study I also came to embrace the Mennonite Church, and became passionately interested in its history. I worked in the library and archives at Conrad Grebel College from September 1974 to December 2008.
Over the years Menno-Pause made its way into the folklore of Goshen College’s history. However, I believe the only published reflections on this publication are in Susan Fisher Miller’s Culture for service: A history of Goshen College, 1894-1994, J. Daniel Hess’s memoir reflection, “Menno Pause Revisited” and two chapters in Sue Clemmer Steiner’s Flowing with the River: soundings from my life and ministry (2013).
In 2014 the surviving editors held a reunion at the home of Verlin and Elaine Miller. It was a time to laugh and remember; it was a time to mourn the loss of our friend, Jim Wenger.
After our reunion, Lowell Miller wrote the following limerick that he sent to each of us:
There once were four guys who wrote stuff
They were tired of flimflam and fluff
They twice went to press
But suffered redress
And were kicked out of school in a huff.
My own experience with the U.S. draft in 1967/1968 has appeared in Melissa Miller and Phil Shenk, The Path of Most Resistance: Stories of Mennonite Conscientious Objectors Who Did Not Cooperate with the Vietnam War Draft. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1982: 95–114 and Samuel J. Steiner, “Alternative Service or Alternative Resistance? A Vietnam War Draft Resister in Canada.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 25 (2007): 195–204. https://jms.uwinnipeg.ca/index.php/jms/article/viewFile/1234/1226. It has also been interpreted in a drama authored by Rebecca Steiner, Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft, and put on in fringe festivals across Canada in 2012, and at Goshen College in 2013 by Theatre of the Beat.
This reflection on Menno-Pause is enormously undergirded by three unpublished typescripts on the Menno-Pause event written in late 1967 and early 1968. These were by myself, Jim Wenger and Sue Clemmer. Copies of these reflections are available at the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College and in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario in Waterloo, Ontario.
|See also Reflections on Menno-Pause by Lowell Miller, Tom Harley, Verlin Miller and Sue Clemmer Steiner||See also Menno Pause Revisited by Dan Hess, first published in CMW Journal in 2009|
This extended blog, and the accompanying “Reflections” replace the blog that would normally be posted next Monday.