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LOOKING BACK AT SIXTY:
Recollections of Lawrence Clark Powell,
Librarian, Teacher, and Writer
Interviev;ed by James V. Mink
Completed under the auspices
Oral History ProgX'am
University of California
Copyright © 197 3
The Regents of the University of California
This manuscript is hereby made available for research
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publication, are reserved to the
University Library of the University of California at
Los Angeles. Mo part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the
University Librarian of the University of California
at Los Angeles.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Interview History xxix
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (April 30, 1970) 1
Early years, Washington, D.C. — Family move
to California, 1911 — Settling in South
Pasadena — Childliood and youth — Traveling in
Southern California — Early education —
Friendship with Ward Ritchie — Cass family —
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (April 30, 1970) 28
Travels — Trip to Nev; York State — First job,
selling papers — Soda jerk at Taylor's
Drugstore--Magazines and newspapers
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (August 11, I969). ... 37
Occidental College — Remsen Bird — Benjamin
Stelter — C.P. Maclntyre — First meeting with
Louis Epstein — Librarians at Occidental —
Ward Ritchie and book collecting — Introduction
to works of Robinson Jeffers — Robert Glass
Cleland--Fraternity pranks — Fraternity brothers
— Bob Donaldson — Close friends
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (August 11, I969). ... 63
Around-the-world trip — First memories of
Europe--V/orking as musician upon return —
Recollections of Occidental College — Summer
experiences — Meeting Fay Shoemaker — The Bell
f amily--Mother ' s Influence
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (August I8, I969). . . . 8I
Activities at Occidental--Debate and public
speaking — Clyde Brown — Ritchie and printing —
The Abbey — Job at Vrom.an's — Interest in
Robinson Jeffers — Influence of Gordon Newell
— Jeffers' poetry — Meeting with John Steinbeck
— Study in Dijon — "Last fling" in Paris —
Dijon: the Fishers — Faculty of the university
— Learning French — Life in a pension — Doctoral
program — Dissertation on Jeffers — Doctoral
examination — Mother's visit--Al Fisher--
Publishing of the dissertation--Sources on
Jef fers--Correspondence with Jeffers — Return
to California, visit to Carmel and the
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (August 26, I969). • • .135
Return to Southern Calif ornia--Marriage to
Pay Shoemaker--Living in South Laguna —
Primavera Press — Influence of Jake Zeitlin
— Working at Zeitlin' s — Zeitlin and Primavera
Press — Robert Cov;an — Bishop William Stevens —
Bookselling at Zeitlin' s — Move to Los Angeles
Public Library — Library school at Berkeley--
Working at UC Press — Library school faculty —
Return to LAPL — First position at UCLA, 1938
— Goodwin — Poor quality of collection--
Memorials for Goodwin
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (September 8, I969). . • 192
Virginia Trout — Job at UCLA in acquisitions —
Offers of other jobs — Gift sollcltatlon--
UCLA faculty — Ma j 1 Ewing — Library exhibits —
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (September 8, I969) • • -221
Jens Nyholm — Visit with Robert Gordon Sproul
— Opportunities with other libraries — Interview
at Northwestern — Offer to be Read Librarian at
UCLA--Appointment as Librat^lan of the Clark
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (September 15, 1969)- • • 239
Cora Sanders — Clark Library--Increasing use
of the Clark — Faculty support — Layout of the
Clark — Collections — Staff — H. Richard Archer
— Harding collection — Local printers —
Becoming University Librarian — Sproul and
UCLA — Neal Harlov/, assistant librarian —
Other llbrarlans--Goodwln In later years
— Staff changes as University Librarian
— Closing collection gaps
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (October 21, I969). . . .286
Loyalty oath controversy--John Caughey —
Charles Mowat — Edward Dickson — Dickson and
the School of Library Service — Hole art
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (October 21, I969). • • 312
Carrie Jacobs Bond acquisition — Refusal of
the Arensberg art collection — Controversy
over the Hole Collection — Clarence Dykstra
— Bullock's seeks to buy the Janss Triangle
— Opposed by the university — Pressure from
Dickson and Alphonzo Bell — UCLA gets the
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (November 11, I969). • 331
Ten-cent notebook — Plans for the library —
Library Committee — Bringing in Neal Harlow
— Harold Leupp — Library Councll--Buying
pollcles--Plans for the Clark — Appointment
of Robert Vesper — Heads' meetings
Lawrence Clark Powell of South Pasadena
Aside from my brothers, I have known Lawrence Clark
Powell longer than any person now alive. When I first
knew him some sixty-odd years ago, however, he was
generally known In the byv/ays and lanes of South Pasadena,
California, as Lawrence Chase Powell. Children's natural
inclination is to pounce on any active name, and young
Larry Powell resented being "chaste," even at that early
age. He adopted his mother's maiden name Clark, re-
taining his original Initials LCP.
My first recollection of him was in the sandpile
outside of the kindergarten of the Marengo Avenue School
In South Pasadena. He was then a rather formidable
creature, somewhat larger than most of us, pudgy and
aggressive. He v/as the tyrant of our teeter-totter and
the admitted ruler of our small world.
We went through grammar school together, vjith Miss
Harter in the second grade. Miss Crabtree in the third
and Miss Cllne in the sixth, among those teachers I
remember best. They taught us well to read and write
and sing and draw, especially Miss Crabtree, though she
would never allow me to sing in her class--relegatlng me
to be a listener. Only years later did I realize why.
Miss Crabtree was a mannish, provocative teacher who
could appeal especially to small boys by stimulating
their imaginations and activities. Her vivid pre-
sentation encouraged intellectual curiosity and left
with us many remnants of folklore. I well remember
much of her sage advice which has helped to preserve me
these many years. Whenever I now encounter a shark in
my twenty-by-thirty-foot pool I remember her know-
ledgeable advice to bash it on the nose and then watch
it retreat intimidated. And I will never eat a banana
without removing those untidy little strings lest they
build up a poison in me.
But her habit of introducing odd and often ir-
relevant bits of information led some of us in her
class to explore for more. This brought us to the little
Carnegie Library, far across town on El Centre Street.
Here we discovered the world of books and a far v/ider
horizon. I doubt if there are many nine-year-old boys,
nowadays, with television and women's lib enlightening
them, who would possibly think they could glean all of
the viisdom of the world. Back in 1915? we believed
that it was all contained in the books in our South
Pasadena Library, and since we were competitive kids
we began to read and read and read, expecting to even-
tually encompass all known knowledge.
The Powells lived at that time on Camden Court,
which must have been a good mile and a half from the
library. Larry would pedal his bicycle, v/ith a wire
basket hanging from the handlebars, over Oak Street, on
which in those days of early ecological appreciation were
preserved the grand old trees which happened to be in
the roadway. He'd wind around them to Fair Oaks Avenue,
a wide double street with the tracks of the Pacific
Electric Pasadena Short Line raised between the twin
roadways. It was uphill from there to El Centro Avenue--
a builder of many muscles.
A block above El Centro was Mission Street, the
business hub of South Pasadena. Appel's Variety Store
was there, the Live Hardware and Merritt's Stationery,
where we had to come for school pads and pencils. But
most of us headed for the small hut that precariously
tottered on the southeast corner of Mission and Fair Oaks,
on the edge of a deep excavation dug for a building
planned years before and for some reason abandoned.
During the rainy season it became a beautiful lake of
mud in which v/e could paddle a raft made of the discarded
lumber, but our primary Interest was in Merrlman's candy
counter v;here for a few pennies, or a nickel, we could
gather a bulging bag of licorice whips, chocolate
cigarettes, candy bananas, jelly beans and jaw breakers.
Across the street there usually was a dilapidated
street car drowsing at the terminus of its tedious
Journey from Watts. Of all of the Pacific Electric lines,
this was the most derided and broken down. Only the
oldest and ready-to-be-discarded equipment was allotted
to this line. No one from Watts ever came to South
Pasadena and no one from South Pasadena ever went to
Watts, but several times a day a car would poke down
Mission Street, stopping at almost every corner, past
the Cawston Ostrich Farm, across the Arroyo Seco into
Garvanza and Highland Park from where it meandered
through an unknown wilderness (at least to us) until it
arrived hours later at its destination in Watts. It
was always a source of embarrassment to us young "South
Podunks . "
The library was a half-dozen blocks v/est of this
heart of our town, across from the El Centro Grammar
School, a bitter rival for those of us v;ho attended the
Marengo Avenue School. Miss Nellie Keith reigned over
the library for what seemed a hundred years and I can
hardly believe that she still isn't hovering behind
the desk there. She was stout and grey-haired, even in
our youthful days, and remained so indefinitely. She
early began to enjoy Powell's ravenous appetite for books
and carefully overlooked his habit of filling his basket
on each visit with many more books than were usually
That year, in our third grade, a new boy arrived
from Canada. His father was the Baptist minister in
South Pasadena. He became as avid for reading as
Powell. My earliest recollection of him was seeing him
v/ith a stack of books, which he had just gathered from
the library. V/e sat on the steps at Marengo, and, in
curiosity, I checked them to find what he was interested
in. He was amiable, smart, tall, thin, and not as
eager for playground activities as most of us. William
A. Jackson had great intellectual and social ambition.
He soon left the rest of us behind, skipping, I believe
it was the fifth grade, and then again from the seventh
directly into high school. Eventually he was two years
ahead of Powell and myself. His brilliance almost
destroyed an older brother, Robert, who suddenly found
himself floundering in a class behind his younger sibling.
Despite his youth. Bill Jackson had maturity. He be-
came student body president of South Pasadena High School,
and several years before the Huntington Library was
opened to the public he began to haunt it and became a
captivated bibliophile. After a year's hesitation, he
enrolled in Williams College in Massachusetts, primarily
because of the Chapin Library there with its fine col-
lection of rare books.
Years later. In the summer of 19^0, when Bill
Jackson was already the director of the Houghton Library
at Harvard University, we lunched together with Larry
Powell at UCLA, visited Paul Jordan-Smith to see his
Burton collection and then hopped from the Brovm Derby
in Hollywood for cocktails to Lav/ry ' s on La Cienega
for dinner, where we sat reminiscing with several bottles
of wine until midnight.
In many ways, the story of his involvement in the
world of books from our initial introduction to them
in the third grade is as interesting as Powell's. When
Bill Jackson left South Pasadena for Williams College,
his preacher father strapped himself to buy his son a
wardrobe to take to college with him. When Bill arrived
at Williams, he was immediately conscious that his funny
western clothes were not being worn in the "Little Ivy
League." He v;ent to the dean and applied for a loan of
$500 with which he bought more appropriate clothing.
As v;e sipped on our v/ine that evening he mentioned
that he had promised his father on leaving for college
that he v/ouldn't drink until he was twenty-two. As a
non-drinker in his fraternity house of Alpha Delta Phi,
he was able to observe the effects of drinking cheap
prohibition bootleg v/hiskey on his fraternity brothers.
Once he was able to drink, he resolved that he would
never have anything but the best. He was granted a
Rhodes scholarship, but never used it. Aboard the
ship on which he went to England, he met a well-to-do girl
from Hawaii. Instead of going on to Oxford, he married
her. He pursued books and became preeeminent both as a
librarian and a scholar in the field of bibliography.
That evening almost altered the career of Lawrence Powell
as, when we were finishing our last bottle, Jackson
began to consider the possibility of luring Pov/ell back
V/ith the third, fourth and fifth grades behind us,
we became enchanted with Indian life and lore. Reading
the books of James Willard Schultz and Ernest Thompscn
Seton's Little Savages stimulated our imaginations, and
we made the groves and wilderness areas of the south-
eastern part of South Pasadena into our own hunting and
stalking preserve. Our two closest friends in those
days v;ere Roger Weldon and Pat Kelley, who were also
loyal members of our tribe.
The area in v;hich we lived was still primarily
orange groves with only a sprinkling of homes built
among the trees. Oranges were both our food and am-
munition. Prom v/here I lived on lower Fletcher Avenue
it was about a three-quarter mile walk to school, a
part of It through the groves where we'd always peel a
couple of oranges as we wandered schoolward and later
homeward. Most of Fletcher was still a big grove, and
here we'd gather from time to time to fight it out v/ith
some other gang or group. We could dart around the trees,
hide and stalk our enemy with an always ample supply of
ammunition to pelt them. When the oranges were small
and green, they vjere particularly lethal. For some
reason it never occurred to us that these were not our
oranges — it alv/ays seemed to us to be part of our
The San Pasqual River at that time trickled down
from Pasadena through our territory. It follov;ed the
gulley east of Raymond Hill, down what is nov/ Stratford
Avenue and then between Marengo and Milan where beyond
Huntington Drive it became a deep gorge on one side of
the old Southern Pacific Railroad track. Eventually it
became lost to us in the wilderness of Alhambra. When
I first attended Marengo School, the gulley still
existed on the backside of the schoolyard and had to
be traversed each morning, since we arrived through the
groves on the backside. In rainy v/eather it v/as rather
hazardous but ordinarily it was Just another interesting
episode in our dally trip. We had created numerous
shoe slides down the precipitous banks, which were often
good for several rides before we would clamber up the
far bank into the schoolyard.
Eventually a six-foot drain replaced it dovm as
far as Oak Street, and Stratford Avenue covered it.
Below Oak, however, it was an open concrete flume as
far as Huntington Drive where it remained in its natural
state. The Powells eventually moved to a rambling house,
surrounded by many large oak trees, on Marengo Avenue.
Their property backed up on the drain or "sankey" as
it was always knovm to us. How our particular little
stream could have adopted and perverted this Mexican
v;ord zanja , or irrigation ditch, v;ill probably remain
unknown. The "sankey" became part of our domain. V/e
could still walk up in the dark, covered part to Pasa-
dena, I imagine, though we usually came up through one
of the street drains farther up Stratford. Traveling
south was more pleasant. There was a big drop below
Huntington Drive and a pool v/here we could gather
polliwogs and frogs. The Rust Nursery had several acres
on the west bank where they grev; a profusion of trees
and plants. It was a primeval forest for our Indian
The country east of South Pasadena was then mostly
groves and pastures with a few large estates. The
Valentine, Urmston and Murray boys vjere brought to
school by their chauffeurs and we'd occasionally bicycle
out to their ample acres to play, but the best times
were when v;e'd ride out to the Chapman ranch. Dick
Chapman lived in South Pasadena and went to school with
us, but his grandfather still operated a ranch on the
east side of Pasadena. In the summertime when the water-
melons were ripe we'd ride out there, go into the fields
and gather a couple of dozen and take them to the
reservoir into which gushed a volume of clear, cold
water. We'd put the melons under this flow to cool.
And then we'd strip and swim until we were tired. By
then the melons were delightfully cold and we'd break
them open eating only the seedless hearts. When full
we'd have a battle v/ith the rest until we were exhausted
and bespattered. Another swim v;ould clean us up and
prepare us for the ride home. Summer was seemingly
endless joy but v;hen schooltime came again v^e greeted
In our final year at Marengo, we had become the
top dogs and were undoubtedly obnoxious little kids. I
remember our eighth-grade teacher, whom we must have
aggravated beyond her endurance, telling us that she
couldn't vjait until we went into high school and got
We v/ere busy kids, learning to dance at the Women's
Club House on Wednesday evenings, practicing football
on the dirt fields of the neighborhood , carrying home
enough of it to create parental disapproval. We were also
creative and somehow managed to start a school publication
It all started when 1 pecked out on my older brother's
typewriter a page or two of gossip and jokes v;hlch was
circulated around the eighth grade. It created enough
interest for us to contemplate a regular publication.
We talked to the local Abbott Printing Company and Mr.
Abbott was willing to take a chance on us. We induced a
number of local stores to take ads at twenty-five cents
an issue and brought out a single-page issue which we
sold on the schoolyard for five cents a copy. It v;as
a complete success. We called it The Marengo Literary
Leader . Pat Kelley and I v/ere the editors, but it was
Powell's contribution that made it the great literary
success it became. He v/as then avidly reading Sax
Rohmer's Fu Manchu books and his serial. The Purple
Dragon , could have come directly out of Rohmer.
This started out as a private enterprise and was
beginning to be financially quite successful for us, but
we evidently became a bit too bold and when we light-
heartedly commented about one of the teachers, the
publication was lifted from our control and became the
official school paper. While our names remained on the
masthead, we lost interest and were no longer Involved.
But high school was imminent and the contemplation of
it offered a more interesting challenge.
We managed the graduation from grammar school to
high school with no more than the usual traumatic ex-
periences. Nowadays there is not quite as abrupt a
cleavage as there was in those days between the eighth
grade and high school. We came out of grammar school
still wearing knee breeches and only gradually acquired
long trousers, which we could wear on special occasions
until our boyhood wardrobe wore out. Hazing was then
part of the ritual attending matriculation and it could
be quite frightening to a green and trembling freshman.
In retrospect it sometimes had a humorous side. I
remember all the freshmen being herded into one of the
tennis courts and being required to take off their
shoes. These were gathered and taken to the stage
of the Assembly Hall where with the rest of the student
body assembled the frosh were led in to unscramble the
pile and find their ovm footwear again.
Powell's progress through high school was interesting
He was yell leader from his freshman year on and for
some odd reason was on the typing team during his
junior year. For the most part, until his senior year,
he enjoyed himself. His father, G. Harold Powell, was
general manager of the California Fruit Growers Ex-
change, known as Sunklst. He was being proposed as a
candidate for United States Senator at a banquet at
the old Maryland Hotel In Pasadena where he died of a
heart attack In February 1922. I came to live with the
Powells In their Marengo Avenue house a year or so
later. My most distinct memory of Larry In the time
immediately after his father's death is of a tiny fellow
wildly driving his father's huge red Marmon automobile.
His eyes barely caught the lower edge of the windshield,
and as a driver he was hardly noticeable, with his head
just protruding from the driver's seat.
My fam.ily had m.oved to Los Angeles, but since I
wished to finish school at South Pasadena I lived at the
Powell home for my senior year. It was a mutually pro-
ductive one. Powell was the "personality kid," full of
pep and enthusiasm that attracted friends. He played
the saxophone as well as the piano and he on the sax,
Alonzo Cass on the drums and Malcolm Arnold playing
piano formed "The Boneyard Trio," which was the popular
and only dance band in South Pasadena at the time.
Although fraternities were Illegal in California
high schools, they still flourished. Alpha Gamma Rho
had been founded in 1909 at South Pasadena High, and it
attracted as members most of the athletes and student
leaders. Since Its early years, the fraternity had a
cabin nestled in the oaks by the stream that then gurgled
down the Arroyo Seco. Keeping it in good condition gave
the group a purpose and it kept the alumni Interested.
It v;as a closely-knit organization and built long-
abiding friendships. Powell's and mine were about the
closest and most enduring, though Alonzo Cass, Pat Kelley
and Dutch Groenewegen have remained through the years
intimate and helpful associates.
Powell's extroversion and predilection for play
were hardly conducive to good grades, and he hardly
cared, though his mother was determined that he attend
college and graduate school. To Powell learning came
easily. He read rapidly and avidly, but had little
interest in normal classwork v.'hich his grades reflected.
I was more plodding and thorough, and during our senior
year, living together, some of my habits prevailed and
for the first time he made the Honor Society. This,
hov7ever, v;as not enough to qualify him for college, and
despite the fact that colleges then v/ere eager for
tuition-paying students, Pov;ell couldn't get an acceptable
recommendation from Principal John Alman to compensate
for his early bad grades. I remember his mother making
a final gallant plea v/hlch effectively broke the resistance
of old man Alman, and Larry v;as given a qualified
recommendation to Occidental College. Poor John Alman
was tragically shot before he could appreciate the
wisdom of his decision.
Powell carried v;ith him to Occidental the qualities
attributed to him In the 192'l Copa de Pro , the high
school annual — "The Personification of pep, the Essence
of argumentation and the Embodiment of energy."
In college we continued our close association,
Joined by Groenewegen, and became knovm as the "Thi'ee
Musketeers." We all lived at our homes in South Pasadena
and drove to school together each day in a blue Nash
roadster that I had inherited from an older brother. We
took the same courses and since I was the only one of
the trio who really studied it was incumbent upon me to
tutor them as we drove to school. Powell's ability to
read, and recall precisely, amazed me even in those days.
I remember in freshman English, v/hen we were studying
Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native , how Povjell in ^
the first classroom session after v/e'd received our
copies of the book, sitting in the back of the room,
oblivious to Professor Thompson's introduction, read
the whole book during the hour. While the rest of us
plodded through a chapter a session, Larry never looked at
it again but could recall and elucidate on any incident
in the book with more clarity and perspicacity than most
of us who had carefully studied only the specified chap-
ter the night before.
Here again we mutually joined a fraternity. It
was then called "Owl and Key," formed in 19OO by the boys
living in the home of the father of Robert Glass Cleland,
the historian and longtime professor at Occidental. Late:
it became a chapter of the national fraternity of Phi
Larry distinguished himself in many ways at Oc-
cidental. In the fraternity of which he was president
in his senior year, his early reputation was based upon
his musical ability. He could sit at the piano and
thump out all the current tunes with most of the brothers
hovering around and humming snatches. It became a
singing fraternity with one member, Ross Park, ending
up with Fred Waring 's Pennsylvanians . Larry's saxophone
would also rend the night air and he soon was part of
a dance orchestra. During his sophomore year he skipped
out and played aboard the steamship. President Harrison ,
as it toured around the world. He had never debated
before, but vjith his natural aptitude for v/ords , v;hen our
former high school friend and debater, Glen Lembke,
called on him at the last minute to fill in for another
contestant, Larry acceded and helped win a debate for
Occidental, if not brilliantly, at least unexpectedly.
In high school, he played the lead in the senior
class play. Booth Tarkington' s Seventeen and at Occidental
he had several roles in the Occidental Players and was
a most enthusiastic member of the Rally Committee v/hich
that year enlived the pre-game gatherings and estranged
some of the faculty and the more conservative students.
I am afraid that the trio of Powell, Ritchie and
Gordon Newell, who replaced "musketeer" Groenewegen after
he transferred to Stanford, bothered and worried Dean
Cleland and President Remsen Bird more than we knew. Our
activities and escapades in college at least brought us
to the attention of the authorities and while they were
somewhat horrified at the time, they later became close
friends. President Bird, some ten years after his retire-
ment, returned to the campus officially for the first
time and addressed the student body in the assembly. He
said to them, "I have watched many young people attending
this college and 1 must admit that the three who in
their college- days seemed most destined for failure
because of their antics and attitude were Lawrence Clark
Powell, V/ard Ritchie and Gordon Newell. It is impossible
for me to explain how and why, but today in the world of
literature and art they have become the most successful
in my estimation of Occidental graduates."
I graduated in 1928 and after a brief fling at law.
at the University of Southern California, I decided
that books were to be my career. Powell, because of
his year on the sea, was not to be graduated until 1929.
I studied the rudiments of printing at Frank Wiggins
Trade School and with Larry rented one of the hillside
studios that Clyde Browne had built above his printing
shop in the Abbey of San Encino in what he called
"Garvanza Olde Towne . " In this studio I set type and
printed some booklets, most notably one by Robinson
Jeffers called Stars , and Larry, I suspect, made love.
Before he had graduated I got myself a job at
Vroman's Book Store in Pasadena at $80 a month. The
hours were from seven in the morning until six at night,
six days a week except that on Saturdays we stayed until
nine. I started in the basement, unpacking, sorting
the books and arranging them on the shelves. They came
from the publishers in great wooden cases. Upstairs,
Leslie Hood, Herb Squire and Dave Jamison, v;ho had
ordered the books from the publishers and were both
acquainted with the titles and eager to sell them, would
continuously call down to ask if such and such book was
in. It was a computer situation with perhaps a thousand
new books coming in a day with one being expected to
remember all of them. I was happy when Powell finally
graduated from Occidental in June of 1929, and I was
able to recommend him for a job at Vroman ' s . He was
accepted and I was elevated to the sales floor and he
took over the basement chore.
I am afraid that his heart was never in it. Above
the book warehouse on Colorado Street was a music store.
When too many huge crates of books stacked up Larry
would say "to hell with it" and creep up the stairs to
play the piano or hear a record. This, of course, created
havoc in the bookstore.
Crates arrived in abundance every day and were
slid dovm the ramp into the basement. They had to be
unpacked and distributed immediately. Under Larry's
officiation they began to stack up out into the courtyard.
If the rains came there were a lot of stacked books.
Leslie Hood, who was a meticulous bookman with an un-
matched memory for bibliographic detail, v/ould come dovm
into the cellar when things got too fouled up and would
spend a day showing Larry hov; to organize and arrange
his little kingdom. Unfortunately with each of these
crises, and they seemed to come quite often. Hood suggested
a nev; method and arrangement, which only confused Pov/ell
and led him more often to the music store upstairs.
When Christmas Eve came and the season's mad and
hectic rush v;as over^ the employees of Vroman' s had their
own Christmas party. We were all given little gifts
and Christmas Day off. Powell's present included a
notice that he needn't return to work. However, many
years later when Vroman's wished to have a history of
their venerable bookshop they called upon their most il-
lustrious alumnus to write it, and Lawrence Clark Powell
The Powells still lived in South Pasadena, though
they had left the spacious home on Marengo Avenue for
a modest hillside abode on the west side of town. Ger-
trude Powell's ambition to have a scholarly son prevailed,
and Larry v;ent back to Occidental for graduate work.
I had continued printing at Clyde Browne's press on
weekends and in pursuing my interest in printing I took
leave of Vroman's in May of 1930 and v;ent to France,
hoping to work v/ith the artist-printer Francois-Louis
Schmied, which I was able to do. Larry's mother was
still insistent that he get a doctor's degree; and since
I was in France, Fay, his girl and eventual wife, was
in Europe, and a friend from college, Mary Frances
Kennedy , and her husband Alfred Young Fisher were at-
tending the university at Dijon, he decided to come to
We met in Paris. It was hot and sticky that August.
V7e stayed at the small Hotel Galilee, right behind the
Cafe Flore near the Boulevard Salnt-Germaln-des-Prls .
It v/as a fairly quiet area at that time, not the turbulent
place It Is today. Llpp ' s Alsatian brasserie v;as across
the street where we would eat sauerbraten and sausage
and drink huge steins of beer. The Deux Magots was
at the corner of Rue Bonaparte across from the Eglise
de Saint-German-des-Pres . This was a quiet, literary
area at that time, away from the boisterous, noisy
Montparnasse where we'd occasionally go, with Powell
often quite belligerently taking on a half-dozen French-
men while I would hurriedly round up an equal number of
Americans to protect him.
After a month in Paris together, Larry left to
study for his doctor's degree at the University of Dijon.
His thesis v;as on the California poet, Robinson Jeffers,
also a graduate of Occidental College. The next year
his m.other came to live v;ith him in Dijon and this
severed his last connection with South Pasadena. He
received his doctor's degree from the university and
his thesis was later published under the title of
Robinson Jeffers , the Man and his Work .
His subsequent career as bookseller, librarian of
the University of California at Los Angeles, dean of
the Library School there and author of more than a dozen
books is amply recorded in his autobiography. Fortune
and Friendship . My recollections here merely amplify
those of the boyhood days we spent together in South
INTERVIEWER: James V. Mink, University Archivist &
Director, Oral History Program, UCLA. B.A. and M.A.,
History, UCLA; B.L.S., Librarlanship , University of
California, Berkeley; Certificate in Archival
Administration and Preservation, American University,
TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:
Place : Lav/rence Clark Powell's office, Powell Library,
Dates : August 4, 1969-June 6, 1970. [August 4 (re-
recorded April 30, 1970), 11, I8, 26; September 8, 15;
October 21; November 11, 19; December 1, 1969;
February 17, 24; March 10; April 23; June 5, 25, 1970.]
Time of day , length of sessions , and total number of
recordTnf: hour s : The interviewing sessions took place
in the midmorning, and each session lasted approximately
two hours. A total of sixteen hours were recorded.
Persons present during interview : Powell and Mink.
CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:
Following the publication of Lawrence C. Powell's
autobiography ,' Fortune and Friendship , 1968, he was
asked by the Interviewer to participate in a series of
tape-recorded interviews designed to supplemenf^areas
covered in his published work and also to record
aspects of his career which were not documented. The
interviewing sessions followed a chronological pattern
and dealt in particular detail with his career as
University Librarian at UCLA and other University
Editing was done by Winston V/utkee , Assistant Editor,
UCLA Oral History Program. The verbatim transcript
was checked against the original tape recordings and
edited for punctuation, paragraphing, correct spelling,
and verification of proper and place names. The final
manuscript remains in the same order as the original
taped material. Words and phrases Inserted by the
editor have been bracketed.
Lawrence C. Pov;ell reviewed and approved the manuscript.
He made minor corrections and deletions and supplied
spelling of names that had not been verified previously,
The index was compiled by Joel Gardner, Editor, Oral
History Program. The introduction v/as contributed by
Ward Ritchie, lifelong friend of the respondent. The
manuscript was reviewed by Bernard Galm, Senior
Editor. The Program's staff prepared the other matter.
The original tape recordings and edited transcript of
the interview are in the University Archives and are
available under the regulations governing the use of
noncurrent records of the University.
Additional sources concerning Powell's life and his
career at UCLA will be found in his personal papers
(Collection 229) and in the Pov;ell family papers
(Collection 230). The University Archives contain, in
Record Group B l8, series 9, official records relating
to his tenure as University Librarian.
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE
APRIL 30 J igrj^o*
MINK: To begin, just for the record, I think you ought
to put the date of your birth on the tape.
POWELL: Well, all right, I was born--I think I remember
the date--September 3> 1906, in Garfield Memorial Hospi-
tal [Washington, D.C.]. And everything I have read in
my mother's journals and notes, and everything she told
me, was that I was a kind of a puny accident that came
along, because she had had the two boys, Clark and George,
in 1900 and I9OI, and five years later I came along.
MINK: You weren't a planned child?
POWELL: I don't think I was a planned child, and she was
run-down in health and my father was away from home a
great deal. I think I was born in September, and he left
very soon thereafter on his field trip to California. No,
that was during the years before. We all went four months
after I was born--the first time that he had taken the
whole family to his winter work in Riverside. So I made
my first transcontinental crossing then in December, 1905.
MINK: And of course you were totally oblivious. [laughter]
POWELL: I was oblivious but apparently not silent. My
*Tape I is a re-recording of subject material from the
first interview session (August 4, 1959) •
mother said I cried all the way across. I was not in
good health the first two years of my life, she said.
And I had what's called a diverticulum. What is that?
Some strangulation of the navel cord? I had to have an
operation on what's called the belly button. It's been
great ever since, I assure you. I'm not like Lyndon
Johnson--! won't show you my scar. My mother nursed
me assiduously those first two years, and I think I owe
my life to her, really, for what she did to keep me go-
ing. I was puny and I was the runt of the family, be-
cause I never grew over 5 '6", never weighed more than
145 pounds in my life. I don't weigh that now, but I
say this because I think it has some psychological im-
portance. You've read studies of how little men think
and act big to offset their own physical diminutiveness.
I've read this was true of Napoleon and Caesar and Beetho-
MINK: How about Barry Goldwater?
POWELL: Barry Goldwater--he ' s not a runt!
MINK: He's a pretty good size.
POWELL: He's a pretty good-sized guy. He's perhaps a
runt politically, but physically he's quite a man. VJell,
I probably attach too much importance to this. I think
our essential character and nature is what it is, regard-
less of our physical package. I was born aggressive and
persistent, and this would have operated even if I'd been
6'6". I'd have been harder to handle if I'd been that large.
I don't remember Washington, D.C., really, other
than that old story of being awakened in the night in 1910
and carried to the front window in my mother's arms to see
Halley's Comet. In April, 1910. It was making its seventy-
fifth-year return. You remember, Mark Twain had been born
when Halley's Comet was in the sky, and all his life he said,
"I'm going to die when Halley's Comet returns." And he did;
he died in April, 1910 at age seventy-five when Halley's
Comet had reached its — what's it called — perihelion?
POWELL: I remember vividly seeing the tail of the comet.
MINK: Surely you expect to see another one.
POWELL: Well, that isn't so far off is it? I'm sixty-
four this year.
MINK: Just another ten years or so.
POWELL: It's a date. I also remember the swallow's nest
in the big wall at the foot of our steps. Then there's
the story when about I96A we went back and visited the
Castagnas in Baltimore. We all drove down to Washington,
and I kept telling them that if the house is still there,
there'll be a swallow's nest in the drain hole at the
bottom of the wall. They all laughed. Sure enough, we
found 1867 Park Roadj where we had lived across from Rock
Creek Park; and, sure enough, the steps are there, the
house is there, and the retaining wall and the drainpipe
hole at the bottom of the steps are still there sixty-
years later. We photographed it; Ed took our picture
MINK: Were the swallows' nests there?
POWELL: No nests in it; but this was in autumn. This
was at Thanksgiving, and the swallows had flown away, of
The third memory then is of President Roosevelt.
POWELL: Teddy Roosevelt riding by. Was he president
then--1906 to I910? He went riding by on his white horse,
Sunday morning, down Park Road to the park and waving
to the children and people who stood on the terraces.
I remember that. Those are my only memories of Washing-
ton. We moved out finally in 19II to California. I
never went back to Washington until 19'4-6 after the war,
when on my first trip as Librarian I went into VJashington.
I stayed in the old New Willard Hotel, and I went over
to the Department of Agriculture to see the bronze plaque
that had been put up to my father's memory. It was a sen-
timental return. I went back two or three times to the
Library of Congress and so on. But essentially I'm a
Callfornian and a South Pasadenan, because there I grev;
up and there my friendships and my proclivities were all
formed and developed.
MINK: Larry, when you came from Washington, you settled
immediately in South Pasadena?
POWELL: No, we settled in Los Angeles. We went to an
apartment hotel at the top of the Angel's Flight, called
the Cumberland Hotel.
MINK: I don't suppose that's there anymore.
POWELL: No, I don't think so. Bunker Hill is pretty
MINK: What were your first memories of Los Angeles in
POWELL: I have none. I have none at all, unless it's
of the Angel's Flight, and those are probably later ones,
because I used to go in and ride it. I remember the
nickel round-trip that you could take on it.
We weren't sure where we would settle. I remember
my folks looked in Hollywood and in Pasadena. And it was
fortuitous, really, that we settled in South Pasadena.
The reason was that our next-door neighbor in Washington--
their brother--owned two houses in South Pasadena. He
lived in one and v/anted to sell the other or rent it. I
can't remember which. But in the beginning v;e v;ent then
to South Pasadena to one of those two houses cvmed by
the Ashleys. And it was simply that that led us there.
MINK: It seems to me that this is true of many people.
My family and all of our friends came here gradually, one
because the other was there or lived there.
POWELL: This is I'm sure an ancient thing in migrations:
the families and the friendships and the connections lead,
because it's a very difficult thing for strangers to go
into a community and decide where to settle. My father
knew that he wanted to be within commuting distance of
his work. With the Pacific Electric, it was not a problem
MINK: I think the Pacific Electric in South Pasadena had
the ideal commuting program. There wasn't, it seems to
me, in that little settlement there, more than a six-block
walk to the car. It wasn't that big then.
POWELL: From anywhere, you see, and there was a choice
of lines, Jim. At Oneonta Junction the Short Line turned
north and went to Pasadena. The Oak Knoll went out Hunt-
ington Drive and then came up through what is now San
Marino. But you could take any of the other fast cars
out that were going on through to Sierra Madre, Glendora,
Azusa, Monrovia; all came out Huntington Drive. They
Were limited cars, but they would stop at Oneonta, and so
you could get off at Oneonta Junction and v;alk to your
home. Sure, it was a marvelous network. I loved the big
Red Cars. You remember them.
POVJELL: I knew the conductors^, and we had scrip books
and half -fare for kids. I loved going into the city. I
did this regularly as a kid. I was a junior member of
the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and I would go in Tuesday
afternoon (when the plunge and the handball court and so
on were open to the boys) and on Saturday morning, those
two times. I went in all through the years and learned
wrestling and boxing and handball and calisthenics, swim-
ming. I loved that big building there.
MINK: Is this something your parents encouraged you to
do or is this something you Just did on your own?
POWELL: No, they encouraged me, I suppose, to take out
this membership and to develop myself physically.
I don't remember first settling in South Pasadena,
Jim, until I got into school. Well, I guess I got in
right away to kindergarten at Marengo Avenue School. I
had those wonderful nine years in Marengo and then the
four years in high school. I made friendships--particu-
larly of Harry Ward Ritchie--that last to this day. It
was a wonderful town to grow up in because there was no
stratification of society, really. It was pretty homo-
geneous and free. You could move around in the community,
and it was very permissive, in a good sense.
MINK: You could also know people all over town.
POWELL: You knew people. You had friendships in the
different parts of town^, and even in different schools.
There were the three grammar schools. Of course, there
was a bit of social grading: Marengo was the richer
people. El Centre the poorer, and Lincoln Park then was
for the minorities.
MINK: And later Las Flores, where I went, was fairly-
POWELL: That was upper class.
MINK: That was pretty upper class, like Marengo.
POWELL: Because it was east of Fair Oaks Avenue. That
was the dividing line, and of course Huntington Drive
was the dividing line south. Alhambra started south of
Huntington Drive, and east of Garfield Avenue was what
became San Marino.
MINK: Well, another thing--you know, in the business
of talking about the proverbial railroad tracks ("on the
other side of the tracks" being the lower-class community),
I wonder if this didn't really apply in some cases to
South Pasadena with the Santa Fe line that ran up the
other side of Fair Oaks.
POWELL: It ran the other side of Fair Oaks. It came
across the Arroyo Seco at Mission Street and, well, Jim,
I always thought of the other side of the Santa Fe tracks
not as South Pasadena but as Los Angeles. It was another
MINK: At that point there was no Highland Park per se.
POWELL: Well, yes, I think there was; it was called Gar-
POWELL: Yes. The place of the bean people. (Everett
Moore would know about this. He grew up over there.)
The Arroyo was an attractive place, and of course the
Monterey Hills were our wilderness.
MINK: Well, for me it was the Raymond Hill.
POWELL: The Raymond Hill was a very exciting place, too.
I had a great friendship there with the family of the
head gardener, George Groenewegen, who came out here
and planted and tended all of UCLA's trees in the begin-
ning. He was in charge of all the planting here. Re-
member George? Well, they had come to South Pasadena when
I was a kid, he and his two sons and two daughters and a
wife, from Holland by way of Texas; and I formed a friend-
ship with Cornelius, the younger son. We were together
a great deal through grammar and high school, and we went
to Occidental. And when the father was running the Ray-
mond gardens and all--he was in charge of everything--we
used to go up to the big barn where they kept the horses
and play there. And on the golf links, of course, we used
to steal golf balls like mad, push them down gopher holes
and then dig them out later. But it was quite a hill.
Of course, the old hotel at the top was a romantic place.
MINK: VJhen you were growing up in South Pasadena, the
Raymond Hotel was still open during the season.
POWELL: During the season.
MINK: There were guests.
POWELL: During the winter. But was it closed when you
MINK: Well, by the time I came along, of course, my youth
in South Pasadena was the depression period, and the ho-
tel was closed down. Finally, when I was still there, it
was torn down. I remember its being torn down and the
great auction of all of the interior furnishings and every-
thing that was held when it was taken over by the Security
Bank. And we used this as a great playground, and we
weren't thrown off, of course, because the hotel was al-
ready in the hands of the receivers. We had this area,
and we flew kites. It was a great kite-flying area.
POWELL: Yes. That would have been another romantic time.
Of course, I enjoyed it in the late twenties, off-season,
because we could take girls up to the top and park and
neck. It was a great rendezvous, a romantic rendezvous
at the top of the hill. You had this beautiful view over
the valley. Our other necking ground was in the Oneonta
or Monterey Hills. Those were more removed. You could
do a little more intensive or in-depth lovemaking up in
the Oneonta Hills, because on the Raymond Hill sometimes
the city cops would cruise by.
My good fortune was knowing all the city cops. They
knew I was a nice, clean young man [laughter], and I had
no problem there. I knew the police force early on be-
cause I used to get into scrapes, and the neighbors were
always blowing the whistle on me for raiding their fruit
trees and stealing their drying salted almonds in the
backyard. We raised a lot of hell as kids' gangs. I had
my gang. ¥e played games, all kinds of gang games, Run-
Sheep-Run, and Ditch. During World War I, we organized
a little home corps of soldiers and drilled and made drums
of five-gallon gasoline cans. Oh, it made a hell of a
lot of noise. The neighbors would always call the cops--
"Quiet these boys down." I remember my mother said, "Oh,
he's being patriotic; let him make a lot of noise. After
all, he isn't shooting off guns."
My mother was permissive in one sense, and yet I had
a certain limitation of discipline around my life. If
1 transgressed too severely I was punished, had to stay
in at night, allov/ance was suspended, and I was sent to
my room. My mother used to spank me sometimes. Her
favorite method v;as to have me hold out my hand, palm up.
and she would give It to me with a ruler. I made the
mistake once of turning my hand over, and she caught me
on the knuckles. I thought this wasn't fair. [laughter]
But she was a good mother. My father was good to me be-
cause he was rarely home. He traveled a great deal in
his work for the Sunkist people.
MINK: In his travels, were Sundays ever a time when he
would take you out to drive, take you to Riverside or
out through the valleys?
POWELL: Constantly. Whenever he was home, Sunday was
the day for driving. We had these new cars in the teens,
Franklin air-cooled cars, and then Marmons . He was a
great driver, loved to drive, taught me to drive at about
twelve. I had my first driver's license at fourteen. We
visited lots of the growing and packing areas this way
when I was a boy. He'd call on the prominent growers,
or he'd go to meetings, and often Sundays at churches.
I had this wonderful early vision of Southern Cali-
fornia from a fruitraan's point of view, the groves of the
Santa Clara Valley--Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru, and then
the whole wonderful Corona-Redlands-Riverside area. My
father had holdings in San Dimas and in Corona that we
held right up through the Depression--lemons. It was
the sale of some of that lemon-grove stock at Corona that
helped me get through school and helped me get to Europe.
My mother and father were happy in one sense. They
weren't deeply in love^ I think. The great romantic period
ended after ten years or so^ and it was a working marriage
of kindness to each other and consideration for the three
boys. I always had the feeling that home v/as serene.
They weren't given to quarreling. They were kind parents,
and I really loved them. And of course now that they're
both dead--my father for a half century, my mother twelve
or thirteen years--I have great nostalgic feelings for
what they did for me to set me up in a world of culture
and education and form my values early.
MINK: What were the things that you remember in your ear-
lier youth--grammar school and junior high and high--that
your mother did to try to introduce you children to cul-
POWELL: Well, books, I suppose. Books and music. The
house was full of books, and we had a piano and we had
piano lessons. Vie had the early phonograph, and my chore
was to play concerts on it for my parents when they were
home in the evening. I learned music early. We took a
lot of this for granted, Jim. It wasn't any conscious pro-
gram of culture or education. This was just a way of life
my parents were [instilling].
MINK: Can you remember when your parents [bought] --or did
they ever buy a radio?
POWELL: No. The first radio I ever saw v/as at my uncle's
in Berkeley^, ray Uncle Harold Clark, when I was working up
there one summer in 1923 • He had a peanut set. I used to
listen to the Fairmont Hotel's dance music broadcast, with
a peanut set and earphones. We didn't have a radio until
1929, I guess, when we moved over to Bonita Drive in the
Oneonta Hills. My mother -and I bought a big Victor radio-
phonograph combination. That was the first one we had.
That was real late.
I think that in grammar school the [best] teachers
I had [were] Miss Crabtree, particularly, in the third
grade and Miss Ballard, the Quaker principal at Marengo
School. All through the grades I had good teachers, and
I learned a lot in grammar school. In high school, my
first three years, I didn't have what I regard as good
teachers, and I was in conflict a good deal v;ith the tea-
cher of mathematics. Miss Meek; the teacher of biology.
Miss Bickford; and the teacher of French, Miss Price. I
rebelled against their strictness and their system of mem-
orizing and repeating back things. I'd been given a much
freer education in grammar school, and I wanted this to
continue, and when it didn't, I rebelled.
I remember once in Miss Meek's class in algebra or
■ geometry I was impudent or insolent or out of line, and
she said, "Go to the office." I got up and left the room.
slammed the door, and the v/hole plate-glass frame of the
door fell in with an enormous crash. I didn't go to the
office, I hightailed it for home as fast as I could. My
mother said, "What now? What have you done now?" I said,
"Oh, I slammed the door and the glass fell in." She said,
"Let's go back together." So she got me reinstated. It
was helpful, of course, to have my mother on the school
board. [laughter] And my father was an important person,
and George Bush, the superintendent of schools, knew this;
so I had protection on a high level.
MINK: Do you think the teachers looked upon you as that
"rich man's brat?" [laughter]
POWELL: Probably. I was probably heartily disliked by
MINK: Also, do you think that maybe you took a little
more liberty with the teachers because you felt that your
position was reinforced by your [parents].
POWELL: No, I don't think I was that sophisticated, Jim.
I don't think I ever thought this through.
MINK: Sometimes they say kids are smart. They get this
early through intuition.
POWELL: I don't think I was that smart, Jim. I think I
was just operating on a series of violent reflexes. I was
either for or against.
MINK: There was no gray. [laughter] It was either black
POWELL: That's right. But the great positive year came
in my senior year in high school v/hen I had tv;o wonderful
teachers--well, several^ but two I rememher--Mlss Lora B.
Evans in English and journalism and Mr. H. L. Wilson in
history. These were more college-type teachers. They
left a lot to the students. Ritchie and I were in these
MINK: Did you do a lot of studying together?
POWELL: We did a lot of reading, and that senior year in
high school Ritchie was living with us, because his father
had moved away. His parents had moved from South Pasadena
over to the city, and he boarded with us.
MINK: So he could finish at South Pasadena?
POWELL: Yes. We were together constantly--classes, nights
We even shared the same girl at one time! [laughter]
MINK: That doesn't sound too good. [laughter]
POWELL: Well, she was very accommodating and versatile.
But we were always together. And he v/as smarter than I.
He was more of a student. He had a better mind than I
have--he still has. I had, I think, better judgment of
people and a quicker instinct and more of an intuitive
flair, but Ritchie had the better mind. I think I learned
a lot from him. He was editor of the yearbook and of the
newspaper, and I worked for him on these staffs, and I
learned something about v/ritlng. Of course^ earlier than
that, in grammar school, v/ith Pat Kelley, the three of us
had founded the Marengo Literary Leader, a weekly literary
newspaper. That was my first writing.
And I flourished in my senior year. I got all ones
(or A's) and ended up in a blaze of glory. I v;as a member
of the honor society and everything else. I had my dance
orchestra then with Alonzo Cass and Malcolm Archbald. Cass
was the son of the head of the telephone company, and
•Archbald was the son of a federal judge.
MINK: It seems that at the last [August 4, I969] inter-
view you spoke about Cass and the wardrobe that all of
the children in the Cass family had.
POWELL: Oh, the Cass boys were fabulous. There were
eight or nine of them and two girls. They had the huge
house at Fair Oaks and Oak, a great two-story, old-fash-
ioned redwood house, and tennis court, and tangerine and
loquat trees. All the things for a good life were right
there--billiard table--and one great common v^ardrobe for
all the boys. They were not too far apart in age. There
were either eight or nine. And they had no individual
clothes. They shared common suits, shirts, shoes, under-
wear, ties, and handkerchiefs. Everything was in an enor-
mous wardrobe. The laundryman would come and gather up
everything and come back with fresh things, and v^hen they
got up in the morning, the Cass boys simply v/ent to the
wardrobe and grabbed the first thing they sav/ and put it
on. Well, not only did the Cass boys share it, but we,
the friends of the Cass boys, could come in and take any-
thing we wanted. If we wanted to dress up a little and
weren't home, we'd go into the Cass wardrobe.
MINK: What if you came home with their clothes? What
would your mother say?
POWELL: Well, she'd say, "Well, these are the Cass' laun-
dry marks, so you'll have to send them back." My mother
straightened it out. They went on--all the Casses went
on. Another interesting thing: as I said, A. B. Cass,
Sr. was head of the telephone company; so they had a pri-
vate line on which you could call toll-free anywhere in
the United States. We didn't know anybody to call any-
where in the United States, but we did a lot of local
calling on it. I even remember their telephone number,
Jim. It was 35553. It was a cancrizan, wasn't it, that
went backward and forward. Our own number vms 35991. They
put the Elliot prefix on that when you came along. Remem-
ber Elliot numbers? Well, at any rate, the Cass' was a
great headquarters for us. The Cass boys v/ere captains
of the football team.
Alonzo, who was our contemporary (Ritchie's and mine),
was a remarkable boy, really--green eyes, red hair. He v;as
the trap drummer In our orchestra. He went on to Stanford,
became a leader up there, and he went on through Stanford
Medical School, and became a noted pediatrician here in
Los Angeles. He died just a year ago v/hen vje were in Europe,
and Ritchie spoke at his f neral. He said there were more
Casses at that funeral "than you could shake a stick at."
They came out of the counties all over the Southwest, two
hundred or three hundred Casses turned up for Alonzo's
Well, 1 mention him at length because he became a
crucial person in my life during the Depression. He lent
us that $1,000, no strings attached, pay-back-when-you-can,
that enabled Fay and me to leave Jake's and go up to li-
brary school. It was Alonzo who did that. I took my time
in repaying it--thirty years later! I'm glad I paid him
back before he died.
MINK: I think you told in the last [August 4, I969] inter-
view about how he came to your house in Palms, wasn't it?
POWELL: No, we lived over on Lakeshore Drive in Edendale
at that time.
MINK: Oh, you were in the kitchen with him.
POWELL: We were in the kitchen drinking v;ine, I remember.
We really celebrated. It was a great thing in 1935 to have
$1,000 appear. You remember, Jim, money was scarce. It
was a windfall. Heaven-sent.
MINK: My father's salary was in the two-decimal bracket,
under $100 a month.
POV/ETX: VJell, I don't know how my father would have fared
in the Depression (of course, he died in 1922), but in the
teens we were rich because his salary then was $25,000
MINK: That's a very fabulous salary for that time.
POWELL: It's a huge salary. The Sunkist people appre-
ciated him. He earned it. He was great for them. We
had lots of money. I didn't have it personally. I had
a small allowance--fifty cents a week. That's all I had,
and then later I began to earn money as a musician.
MINK: Before you earned money as a musician, what kind
of things did you do as a child to earn money? Did you
go out and pick oranges?
POWELL: No, I went out and gathered gunny sacks and
bottles in the alleys.
MINK: And newspapers?
POWELL: I sold newspapers. We could turn in beer bottles,
ajiy kind of deposit bottle. Gunny sacks were a nickel
apiece. We used to scavenge the alleys with a little
cart we pulled, and then we saved this up in the garage,
and then the rag-bottle-sack man came around with his
wagon and horse and bought these things from us. We used
to make a dollar or so when that happened. I must say.
Jim, in high school I also earned money in a more naughty
[way], by shooting craps. We had quite a gambling circle
at South Pasadena High School.
MINK: Did they clamp down on you?
POWELL: No, we never did it on campus. VJe left campus.
We went to the place we called Crap Valleyo
MINK: Crap Valley. [laughter]
POWELL: You know where it was. It was just east of the
Raymond Hill on the grounds of the Marengo Water Company.
There was a well there that supplied water and a pump-
house, and there was a kind of a creek and jungle to the
east of the Raymond Hill. Right now the Pasadena Freeway
bends around and goes through there. But it was remote
MINK: Was it east of Fair Oaks?
POWELL: Much east of Fair Oaks. It was east of the Las
Flores Adobe. The adobe was there then. And why we
went there was for two reasons: it was remote; and then
one of the reservoirs had a great concrete square plat-
form over it, which was a marvelous place to shoot craps
on. So you could throw the dice and a lot of people could
gather around this rectangle, and we shot craps after
school. I was lucky. I used to make a bit of money.
What did I do v;ith the money? I suppose I bought candy
at Merriman's stand at Fair Oaks and Mission Street. At
Al Merriman's stand you could buy penny candy. I also
■bought a light for my bicycle, a new pump, a horn, a
siren that you'd pull with a string. It v;ent on the
front tire and sounded like a police siren. I spent
money for things like that. It wasn't big living, and
I didn't have the feeling that I was a rich kid. We
didn't live ostentatiously. We lived comfortably with
a certain amount of quiet elegance.
MINK: Do you think that the people that lived up be-
tween Pasadena and South Pasadena east of Fair Oaks in
that lower Orange Grove area were wealthier than you
were, or did you think about it?
POWELL: I never thought comparatively, Jim. It's curi-
ous. I never thought comparatively of wealth.
MINK: Our family did because we weren't as wealthy.
POWELL: And I never thought of race. I never knew what
a Jew was until I went to Europe.
MINK: Do you think it was the Quaker background in your
family that caused racial discrimination never to be
brought up as a topic of conversation at home?
POWELL: I think it had something to do v/ith this. My
parents were simple. We had great friendships with the
Japanese help. VJe had a Japanese maid, a Japanese gard-
ener. And on Bank Street, our first home, I lived across
the street from Rust's Nursery, and I had many friends
among the Japanese gardeners. I loved to play there, and
I had an early facility for friendship. If people liked
you they let you do things, and I liked to play with my
gang in the nursery. And if they hadn't liked me they'd
have driven us out. But the thing was not to destroy any-
thing, to play carefully; but, my God, I loved that nur-
sery, the smell of wet earth and plants growing.
MINK: I had an experience like that, too, when we lived
on Brent Street, hacked right up to the nursery there that
faced on to Fair Oaks on the west side.
POWELL: Brent Nursery?
MINK: There were a lot of nurseries around in South
POWELL: That's right. Rust's was the most famous. E.
0. Rust was a pioneer, one of the founders of the Pasa-
dena Public Library, I think, with Abbott Kinney. And
he was something of an antiquarian. I didn't know any of
this at the time. I just remember him as an old man with
a beard and a limp, who walked with one short leg.
My friend across in the nursery there, the head
gardener, v/as Gay Sugimoto. I remember that he would
come over Sundays dressed in his good clothes, and he'd
have lunch with uso My father was very democratic, and
he was much interested in horticulture. Sugimoto was
the Japanese foreman, who apparently knew a lot about
Our cook then was a Lithuanian woman, Marie Elk,
and we had many friends then of the Lithuanian colony
who used to come and call on her.
MINK: Where was the Lithuanian colony, generally speak-
POWELL: I don't know, Jim. They must have come out of
the woodwork. I don't know where they were.
MINK: There wasn't a group together.
POWELL: No, but they would come Sundays. I remember
they would be wearing, not a native costume, but with a
scarf or something that identified them as Slavs. Mrs.
Elk was a very large, strong, powerful Slavic v;oman
and was very good to me. We went to a concert. I remem-
ber something I wrote about. She went with me to hear
Rachmaninoff play. It was a great early concert that
I've never forgotten.
No, I didn't have any status complex at all. I
mentioned the rich Cass family, but I also had a great
friendship with a poor family, the Fugits. Mr. Fugit
was a brakeman on the railway with the Southern Pacific,
I think, and he was home occasionally . There were almost
as many Fugit boys as there were Cass boys; but they
were poor. They lived on Oxley Street, right where that
little line of the Southern Pacific ran up through the
city--not the Santa Fe, but that one track that goes
right up through.
MINK: It came up by Garfield Park and vient up over
POWELL: That's right. That was the Southern Pacific
spur that came up from Shorb up to where there was a
Southern Pacific station in Pasadena. It was a feeder
line to the main line, and they kept it for years to
retain their franchise.
MINK: And they ran a freight every day.
POWELL: They ran a freight every day, exactly. So
the Fugits lived right on the railroad track there.
Oh, there were all kinds of Fugits--Harry, and two twins
with lovely names, Rollo and Ralph, and an older boy's
name was a marvelous name. Laurel Fugit. (Now was the
father a Latinist or the mother a Latinist? ) Laurel
Fugit. Isn't that a marvelous name? I've often wondered-
I don't know what nationality they were. What would
they be, Jim?
MINK: Sounds English, possibly. I don't know.
POWELL: Well, they were poor as anything; but, my God,
they were good people. And I was welcome in and out of
their home--Mrs. Fugit was a doll--and the house v;as
very bare. They were poor but proud. They were very
active in sports and everything we did.
Then there was still a third family--a large farnily--
the McEniry family. They lived up on Stratford, I think.
And there were masses of them. There was little Tommy
and there was Kerwin and there v;as Jimmy and there was
Bob and Julia and Mary, and they were poor Irish Catho-
lics, very active in everything in the community, in ath-
letics, in church, and so forth. Friendships operative
then in the community regardless of wealth or position.
MINK: Did you know the Bilheimer family at all?
POWELL: I knew Ruth Billhelmer and Steven Bilheimer.
Steve is president of the chamber of commerce now. Yes,
I knew Ruth Billhelmer. She went to Occidental.
MINK: Did you know the Hoppings--the Hopping family that
had the foundry up in Pasadena? They lived in South
POWELL: No, I didn't know the Hoppings. Oh, I could go
through my high school annuals, or even grammar school
ones and point out [others]. And that's why I want to
write this boy a book that I have here in notes, which
I'm not looking at, and try to bring some kind of a
social milieu picture out of this, because it was an
interesting community that hadn't stratified. At least,
I wasn't aware of any stratification.
We have got different insights into this, Jim, in
our papers here. My mother's journals, which she kept
all through these years^ would give the parents' in-
sights into society and the family. My brother Clark--
we have only part of his journals here, tut I think
those that he kept in the teens, when he was sixteen or
seventeen, are here in the collection. And then my
father' s--I've just been reading his early letters back
from California to my mother when he'd come out alone
in 1904 and I905 • He wrote some very interesting let-
ters on what Southern California was like at that per-
iod. It was, as you know, totally different from what
it is now. It was pastoral. Tourists and agriculture
were the things. There was no industry to speak of.
The automobile v/as just coming in. It was a wonderful
time to grow up, I think, and I'd like to try to get
the real essence, the juice of it, if I can, not in
these oral remarks which are too random and don't build
to any points, but I think in writing I could put to-
gether a book. And I carry these two pages of notes
with me now everywhere I go, because I never know when
the book is going to spring loose and I'll start writing,
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TOO
APRIL 30, 1970^-
MINK: You were going to talk about the beaches and
the mountains and some of your experiences as a [youn-
ger man] .
POWELL: We were fortunate in having a vacation cabin
up in Big Santa Anita Canyon, and that meant a great
deal to all of us, my father and my brothers and I. We
were up there a good deal; and then on wonderful sum-
mer vacations, every summer for a month or two, we
either went to Balboa and rented a cottage, or to Big
Bear Lake. Those are some of the great memories I have
of my father--f ishing with him, or catching bait and
selling sand crabs to him, or trawling for trout in
Big Bear Lake, or going out for skipjack and albacore
MINK: Do you remember your first trip to Catalina Island?
POWELL: Oh, I didn't go over there until late.
MINK: Not as a boy?
POWELL: No. I went over there when I was in college,
I think, one summer, to try to get a job. No, I haven't
got any memories of Catalina.
MINK: Do you have any memories of the harbor? As a
*Tape I is a re-recording of subject material from the
first interviev; session (August 4, I909) •
child I was terrifically interested in the harbor, and
my father used to take me to the harbor.
POWELL: I never saw the harbor, Jim, until I worked
on the Yale in 1928 and shipped out of San Pedro.
MINK: You mean you lived in South Pasadena and you
never went down to the San Pedro Harbor?
POWELL: No, I want to Balboa and to Newport. Our orien-
tation was to there. I had one great summer East when
I was about twelve. My mother and I went back to her
girlhood scenes outside of Buffalo. She'd moved as a
girl from Cornwall-on-Hudson to Buffalo. Her father
was a lawyer and had gone up to Buffalo to practice.
There was a family farm at Collins, twenty miles from
Buffalo, and it was still there, and we went back one
summer. It was my first grown-up (at this age of twelve)
experience of a summer in the East, of trees and fields
and all the rich lushness of a summer countryside in
New York State.
I had a great time that summer on the farm. I
learned some of the facts of life, I think, from the far-
mer's boys and girls. It was a key summer, I think, in
my growing up. I remember also going into the nearest
town, which was Gowanda--all those Indian names--and
going to a music store and buying sheet music. I was
interested then in popular music and was beginning to
play popular music on the piano. My brother had already
begun to teach me the saxophone.
Other memories I have that I haven't spoken of is
the work I did. You asked how I earned money. I said
I got allowance, I scavenged bottles and sackS;, I made
some money shooting craps; but I had two jobs as a boy.
One was selling newspapers at Oneonta Junction. I got
a roll of twelve Evening Heralds at about four o'clock
every afternoon, and I vfould go up, and they would toss
them (rolled up) off the car. I would ujiroll them and
sell them. It would take me an hour or so. Lord, I
think of the pitiful amount I must have made--maybe
ten cents or twelve cents--maybe a penny a paper. No,
I couldn't have made that much, because the paper sold
for a penny.
MINK: Yes. You must have had more than twelve, Larry.
POV/ELL: Well, I must have, but I didn't have a big roll,
I remember. The high point of that, of course, was once
when I sold a paper to a man on a departing streetcar.
He leaned out of the window and handed me v;hat he thought
was a penny; and, lo and behold, it was a five-dollar
gold piece. I must say, Jim, I ran after the car, but
it outdistanced me. It left me behind. Here I v;as v;ith
this marvelous five-dollar gold piece. Do you remember
gold pieces? They had a two and a half-dollar piece.
a five-, a ten-, and a twenty-dollar piece. It was
MINK: What did you do with that $5.00?
POWELL: I probably bought books with it, Jim. I like
to think that I was serious and motivated early. [laugh-
ter] I don't remember what I did with it. I had lots
of toys that I played with, a steam engine, and actually
a steam engine that fired up and made steam and ran, and
then I had an electric train, and I had a magic lantern.
I used to give shows to the neighborhood kids with a
sheet for a screen, showing postcards that my father
had sent home from his foreign trips, charge two pins
or a penny for admission--all these simple sort of things,
Do children do them anymore?
MINK: I wonder if they do. Did you put on plays? I
bet you did.
POWELL: We did a play at Camden Court there in the park-
way; Pat Kelley and I put on one. It was a kind of an
MINK: Did you write them as well?
POWELL: We wrote it and directed it and charged ad-
mission. It was kind of a Schehera zade . I don't re-
member any details of it other than the pretty little
girl we dressed in mosquito netting and called her an
Arabian dancer. She caught cold and had to go to bed
for a week.
MINK: You mean you just had her in mosquito netting?
POWELL: That's all, yes. She was a little kid of
about seven. She was a slave girl. You knov;, these
were innocent times. I wasn't a dirty little boy.
MINK: You didn't play hospital.
POWELL: Well, I showed them mine, and they showed me
theirs, some of those little games. [laughter] But
it was an essentially innocent childhood. VJe had play
with each other. The little kids used to play v/ith
each other. Hell, I was certainly involved in this in
a normal way, and it wasn't until later though that I
learned it was much more fun to play with little girls.
They weren't little anymore. I was grovm up more when
that delight came into my life.
The other job I had was at Taylor's Drugstore jerk-
MINK: Where was Taylor's located?
POWELL: Taylor's was at Huntington Drive and Fletcher.
MINK: That's getting down toward Los Angeles.
POWELL: It's a part of Huntington Drive which is not
MINK: By that time did you have a car that you could
go to the job in, or did you walk down?
POWELL: No, I walked over from Camden Court, or v;ent
by bicycle. I was a great bicycle rider.
MINK: Kids didn't hitchhike then, did they? There was
no such thing as hitching a ride. I mean with the thumb
up, you ki^iov;.
POWELL: Very little of it. I remember one time Pat
Kelley and I--I don't know how we did--got a ride back
from Huntington Gardens to South Pasadena, and were
picked up by a dashing man in a great open roadster;
and, lo and behold, it was the movie actor Jack Holt
who played in Westerns. We recognized him because we
were great movie fans around age twelve, and he said
he'd send us an autographed picture of himself, and he
I jerked sodas there and ran deliveries, bicycled
deliveries, and it was quite a rendezvous place because
they had a good magazine stand. My favorite magazines
then, as I remember, were Detective Story magazine,
which printed the Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer stories, serials ;
Adventure, which was printing Harold Lamb; Blue Book ;
All Story; Ainsley ; The Red Book --a lot of those pulps
that we collected here years later in Special Collections.
I could read them free in the drugstore on the magazine
MINK: So that was one of the fringe benefits of the job.
POWELL: Fringe benefit. Exactly. And then being
able to jerk my ov;n soda now and then.
MINK: V/ould you say that they did a pretty good busi-
ness in this store?
POWELL: It was a very prosperous business. It was the
only drugstore in South Pasadena south of Monterey Road.
MINK: Did you get the job through your friendship with
people your own age in the family?
POWELL: I don't remember. I probably v/ent in and said^
"I want a job," and they knew that my father and mother
were good customers.
MINK: Generally speaking, what was the opinion of the
Foothill Review among the people in the town at that
time? Do you remember people talking about it?
POWELL: There wasn't any Foothill Review then. It
was called the Record .
MINK: It was called the Record , the South Pasadena
Record . Later it became the Foothill Review, I think.
POWELL: Oh, we read it for society news, I think. I
know I got my brother Clark awfully mad at me once.
He was at Cal in agriculture, and he used to bring home
foreign students on vacations or v;-eekends, and one in
particular named Ahmed K. Ghamrawy was very highly con-
nected in Egypt, v/e learned. His father v/as minister
of agriculture, and he was wealthy , and he brought us
presents. I remember when I graduated from high school
in 1924 J Ghamrawy gave me a camera^ which I'm still us-
ing. It was an Eastman folding Kodak.
Well, at any rate, I was impressed by his Egyptian
connections and I wrote a kind of a phony society note
and sent it into the Record . They printed it, about
"Prince Ahmed Ghamrawy from the Egyptian dynasty visit-
ing the Pov;ells. He will return soon to Egypt to his
houseboat on the Nile." It was a crazy sort of thing,
and the damned paper printed it. My brother Clark was
absolutely furious with me.
That was another time he said to my mother, "If
you don't do something about that boy, he's going to
end up in San Quentin." And of course I did, forty
years later. I was on the governor's commission on
prisons and institutional libraries. We visited San
Quentin on an inspection tour that year. John Henderson
was on the committee, I remember, and I thought of my
brother's prognostication. There I was behind bars.
I went to San Quentin another time earlier. I
was interested in prison libraries when I was working
here at UCLA in 1938 or 1939^ and I v;ent up and visited
the San Quentin library, intending to v/rite an article
about it, and it was so bad--this was before Warden
Duffy, I think, had reformed the prison. It v/as a
tatterdemalion collection of public library discards.
They had no librarian other than a "lifer" v;ho v/as in
charge of it, and what he wanted to shov; me was the
electric chair, or was it the hangman' s? --v;hatever
they were doing then in 1938. It was before the gas
MINK: Electric chair.
POWELL: But it was so bad that I never wrote the ar-
ticle » It was horribly depressing.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE
AUGUST 11, 1969
MINK: In [Robert G.] Cleland's history of Occidental
College, I noticed that he speaks about this decade in
which you attended Occidental, beginning what September
of. . .?
MINK: Yes, September of 1924, as a decade when the
college came of age. Would you say from your experien-
ces there that that's true, really?
POWELL: Well, I think it made great strides under
Remsen Bird is what he meant . I think that was attri-
buted to Bird, who was certainly Presbyterian-trained.
He was a doctor of divinity, but he was also reaching
out more and more into the community and bringing Occi-
dental into the cultural stream. Before his time, under
whomever it was--John Willis Baer— -it had been really
a parochial school and integrated only with the religious
community. But Dr. Bird kept growing culturally, and
inevitably the college grew with him. I don't think
Dr. Cleland had much to do with this. He didn't start
growing until after he left Occidental and went to the
Huntington; then he broke through and entered the main-
stream of western civilization.
But, Jim, I don't kj-iow. I was an undergraduate
and I wasn't av/are of any of this at the time. I was
simply doing my thing, you see, as an undergraduate. I
wasn't aware of the role of the college one way or ano-
ther, except when it repressed me, when it cracked down
on me for being a little too adventurous, too bold, too
MINK: Yet, didn't Bird, in a way, through his addres-
ses to the student body through the chapel sessions try
to convey to the student body that this was so, and the
reaching out into the community, the Occidental family,
the whole bit?
POWELL: I don't remember. He probably did; but it
didn't impress me at the time. I was impervious to
moral uplift or cultural uplift. I wasn't awake really
in those early years. I was just a green kid from South
Pasadena, and the growth I experienced came through my
classes with Stelter and Maclntyre, Fred Bird in po-
litical science, George Day in sociology--these [men]
had nothing to do with religion. These were all agnos-
tic professors I'm sure. Well, George Day wasn't.
George Day was a Christian, but he was a radical Chris-
tian, remember. He led early parties into the Soviet
Union, and he encouraged the most outspoken discussion
in class. Did you have Fred Bird in political science?
Frederick Lucian Bird was a marvelous lecturer and a
crltiquer of reputilicanism, I remember. He was outspoken.
He wasn't a socialist; he was critical always of the sta-
tus quo. And he taught us to examine the status quo,
politically, always. I found him a very exciting pro-
fessor. Cleland wasn't; Cleland was dull In his English
MINK: That's what you said in your book.
MINK: But I didn't find him dull.
POWELL: Well, he was beginning to grow when you came
along. You came along ten years after me, didn't you?
POWELL: Well, you see. Sure, Cleland was being swept
into the stream then. When I had him in 1924, and I
think I had English history all my sophomore year, may-
be 1925, he completely plodded through a textbook. I
don't remember which book it was, but it was dull, and
I had come full of hope of majoring in history. My
first year I had had Dean Irene Meyers, the dean of
women, in medieval history, and it was hopeless. Most
of it she spent in disciplining the girls on the front
row who v/ore too much lipstick or who rolled their socks.
She was brutal really, dismissed girls, sent them from
class, and was a tyrant. Was she still there when you
came--dean of women? Well, these two courses in history—
Meyers, medieval; Cleland, English--killed me off for
MINK: It really turned you off on history.
POWELL: They turned me off, and Maclntyre and Stelter
turned me on. They were great teachers. Did you have
either of them?
POWELL: Mac had gone. Stelter had retired?
MINK: He had retired. What did Stelter look like?
POWELL: Stelter looked like a shot-putter--a great
big Hercules. He was blond and must have weighed two
hundred pounds, 6 '2" or 3", and had a great bull head and
neck. He was just a powerful fellow who used to sit
at his desk, and every now and then he would stretch
and the whole desk would go up and down where his knees
moved it. He was a very impressive figure in class, and
he taught the course on Robert Browning, and he put
everything into it. He taught it like a shot-putter;
he really made it alive and electric. I think someone
who carried on his tradition that I think of whenever
I've seen him on television is Frank Baxter of USC;
they look much alike, and they have some of the same
magnetism in teaching.
MINK: Larry, Ritchie said that Stelter never forgot
anything, and in a v/ay this was a great thing for him
as a teacher, but it was a shame for his creative genius.
What do you think he meant by this statement?
POWELL: Well, he had total recall of literature, that's
all. He memorized everything, and he had an apt quo-
tation and an illustration from literature for every-
thing that was happening. He read the newspaper every
morning, and then he came to class and related it to
the stream of English literature. He brought poetic
commentary on everything that was happening in the world,
and he made literature part of life. This is why he
was an important teacher--he didn't teach literature
historically; he taught it as a living thing.
MINK: Not in a vacuum, in other words.
POWELL: No, not in a vacuum, right in the world. And
of course he was always ridiculing and teasing Presby-
MINK: This made you happy?
POWELL: Oh, it made me happy because I was courting
a Presbyterian girl then, Florence MacLaughlin, from
Glendale, and she was very orthodox. Her father was
an orthodox physician and she was an orthodox Presby-
terian, and Stelter knew this. She was a top student;
she was Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, I think. He
was always needling her and teasing her.
MINK: How v\rould he do this?
POWELL: Oh, he would pick out comments in Brovming that
were critical of orthodox religion, and he v/ould read
these and say, "You see what the master says." He'd
tease her that v;ay. And she'd get awfully mad at him,
hut she was a lady. She never broke out until after
class; then she'd go up and just light into him. I loved
all this, because I was courting her on the side, you see,
and Stelter was helping me.
MINK: But to come back to the statement that Ritchie
made, do you think that Stelter had creative writing
POWELL: I never saw any instance of it. He didn't
publish anything. As far as I know, the only thing he
ever published was his doctoral dissertation, his con-
cordance to Browning, which he and Lane Cooper did at
Cornells He was like our Majl Ewing here at UCLA. He
taught and flourished; it wasn't publish or perish, it
was teach and flourish. He was a great teacher, and it
would have been very sinful if he had been expected to
publish. He was creative in a teaching sense, which I
think in college is just as important as publishing--even
more important, I think!
MINK: Well, certainly Ritchie speaks of Mr. Stelter as
being one person v;ho influenced him, the other being, of
course, Maclntyre. He has quite a bit to say about Maclntyre,
and I wonder if you would begin by telling me what you
think Maclntyre looked like.
POWELL: Well, he looked like a sort of a junior Mephis-
topheles. He really was a wicked-looking man. He was
tall and gaunt. He was as tall as Stelter, but he v/as
very thin. He was built like a stork. He had v/icked
eyes that drooped at the corners and a very thin mouth
and almost a hatchet face. And he was constantly on the
move. He never sat still. Stelter came in the class,
sat at his desk, and he never left it. He didn't ges-
ture; he stretched now and then as I said. Maclntyre
came into class, and he moved along the blackboard con-
stantly, slouched along the blackboard. He was a great
blackboard chalk- talker, and he had his own shorthand,
which was a combination of Greek letters and his own
English shorthand, and he illustrated everything with
quick symbols on the board. He diagrammed the poetry
and literature with all kinds of little hieroglyphic
caricatures. He was a v;onderful chalk-teacher.
MINK: Could you understand what he was saying?
POWELL: Not in the beginning, no. We were completely
baffled by him.
MINK: Well, how did you learn? Would he explain, or
was he impatient with a person?
POWELL: Oh, he was terribly impatient. He slaughtered
you if you showed your Ignorance. I don't knov/; v/e
learned to be crafty. We learned to take him as he
was. I suppose it took some time; but in the beginning
it was the most exciting and fantastic sort of teaching
we'd ever experienced. But we knew that something was
happening. Anyway, he illustrated things from life,
but generally from his own life. He made himself out
to be a kind of a Don Juan and was always insinuating
that he was debauching a different Presbyterian girl
every night, that they used to queue up and apply for
debauchery. [laughter] Oh, he was wicked.
MINK: They were knocking at his door.
PO'kiJELL: Knocking at his door, and I guess it was partly
true. He lived out at La Crescenta about fourteen miles
from the college, which he said was a safe distance. I
think he was wicked. I don't think he was bragging. I
think he was a real operator.
MINK: Well, if these Presbyterian girls were going up
to his house, even being very orthodox during the day,
I can imagine how you might be turned off by the hypo-
critical kind of atmosphere that existed.
POWELL: Well, 1 suppose it was true of all of America
at the time. There was a secret life. Now the sexual
act is more open. I think it's healthier, but it's damn
certain it isn't as exciting.
MINK: You used to go with Ritchie to visit Maclntyre.
Was this at his invitation, or did you just decide to
go up there and see him?
POWELL: Oh, v/e probably did once and he told us, "Don't
ever do that again. You let me know v/hen you're coming."
And we went after that by invitation.
MINK: Ritchie points out that occasionally you'd go
up there, maybe on a Saturday, and you'd knock on the
door and there wouldn't be any answer and you'd know
that Maclntyre was inside.
POWELL: I don't remember instances such as that, but
I do know that he was leading a very active life off
campus and making wine in Prohibition. He had his own
grapes. Well, his house was on the edge of a vineyard,
and he used to buy grapes from the Italian farmer, and
he made his own wine and made his own beer. We drank .
a little; we never drank very much. We weren't drinkers
in those days. But it was exciting and wicked, of course,
to go up there to this professor and have beer and wine
and cheese and rye bread and poetry. He loved cats;
he always had a houseful of cats--beautiful things that
he brought back from Europe when he was at Marburg. He
wasn't a typical American at all.
One course he taught was in comparative literature,
and it was Greek and Roman and Egyptian even. He brought
us out into a much wider stream of literature. Stelter
had been purely English lit and Mac was world lit, and
this was why he was terribly important to us. It v;as
he and Stelter who both encouraged me--and Ritchie, too--
to go abroad. He was disappointed, though, that I didn't
go to Germany. He thought it was a great betrayal of
him that I went to a French university. "Damn frogs,"
he says, "frog women '11 pox you. The German women are
much cleaner." [laughter] Apparently he'd been poxed.
MINK: About his influence on getting you interested in
books, do you really think in looking back that he really
had much influence on you?
POWELL: Oh enormous, Jim, enormous influence. Yes,
he encouraged us to collect books, to buy our own books,
not depend on the library, and to build our own library.
He posted reading lists, I remember, that were very
exciting, unorthodox kinds of reading lists. He would
post them in the library, needling the library generally.
"You won't find any of these books in this library," he
said, "but go out and find them." And he sent us first
to Louis Epstein, a bookseller on Ninth Street, who be-
came one of the great commercial booksellers of Southern
California. Louie in those years had a little hole-in-
the-v;all shop, and he specialized in literature, and Mac
always sent his students to Louie.
MINK: What did Louie look like?
POWELL: Well, Louie looked something like Mac. He was
tall, thin, stork-like, not wicked though. He was, I
think, probably an orthodox Jew. He was a very moral
man, and he still is. Louie's been a great and good in-
fluence here, as you kvnow, in Southern California. But
he was a great kind friend to young college kids that
were looking for out-of-print books. "Oh, you come from
Maclntyre? Good, I've got a little shelf of things that
he wants you to have." And Louie would help us. That
was my first introduction to the antiquarian booktrade.
MINK: I can see. Was he generous with you in the amount
that he charged you?
POWELL: Oh, very. Yes. He wasn't greedy. He was like
Jake. We met Jake Zeitlin a little later. Jake hadn't
come to Los Angeles that early, but Jake was generous
in the same way. They were interested in people far
more than in buying and selling and a quick profit. They
were interested in people, yes. Well, this was Mac's
contribution I think to us. He shoehorned us into the
book world as nobody else did.
MINK: You know, you mentioned the library. I believe
it was around 1925 that Elizabeth McCloy was appointed
acting librarian at Occidental, and you said that Maclntyre
was needling the library and the librarian.
PO/JELL: Yes, she came actually, Jim, in 1924; she came
in September V7hen v;e did. She was appointed then, and
she succeeded Dr. [George F. ] Cook, v/ho was professor
of classics and was still there as librarian emeritus,
a little old faded, weatherbeaten, wrinkled old man
with a skullcap. He used to sit there at a desk, and
God knows what he was doing- -probably annotating Horace--
but he was there quiet and remote. Really, I should have
come to know him; he must have been a terribly interest-
ing man. I came to knov; his son Laurence Cook who was
at the college later as alumni secretary. But Dr. Cook,
I suppose, had been the first librarian. Did he go back
to the beginning of the academy and the college?
MINK: I'm not certain.
POWELL: Must have been.
MINK: What did you think of Elizabeth McCloy?
POWELL: I didn't have any impression of her at the
time. I didn't come to know her.
MINK: What did she look like? Can you remember?
POVffiLL: VJell, yes, she was a mouse. She v;as a librari-
anous mouse. [laughter] Terribly mousy. She was a
little Scotch woman. She was born, 1 think, in St.
Andrews, Scotland--Elizabeth McCloy. And she was very
precise and punctilious and proper and ladylike, and
yet when I came to know her later, she had a sense of
humor. She had a spark in her, and she did the best she
could on what the college did for her, which was damn
little. They didn't support the library as many colleges
did in those times. It eked along on a limited budget.
I came to know her later when I worked for Jake and was
selling books. Then I used to go out and sell books to
Miss McCloy, and she encouraged me, and Stelter did»
But this is getting ahead of myself. I went into li-
brary work, and she said, "Yes, by all means," and Stelter
said the same thing. They were great encouragers fif-
teen years later.,
MINK: Well, I don't suppose maybe at the point you were
a student, but later in your contact with her, would you
say that she was depressed by the fact that she had so
little and that there was so little support.
POWELL: I don't think she was depressed. I think she
was naturally unimaginative » I don't think she had any
large sights. I wouldn't compare her, for example, to
Dorothy Drake, the librarian of Scripps College, who is
not a mouse and is imaginative; and if she didn't have
enough she darn well went out and got it. But Miss
McCloy, as a conservative little Scotch woman. Just
didn't operate this way. She did the best she could.
But I don't suppose an imaginative person would have
lasted there„ You see, Maclntyre only lasted four years.
and then only because Stelter gave him protection. If
he hadn't had Stelter to protect him, he wouldn't have
lasted a year pirobahlyo
MINK: Did you have any run-ins with the lihrarian?
POWELL: No, I don't think so. I didn't use the library
MINK: You would have thought that an English major would
POWELL: Well, I was getting my own books.
POWELL: And Maclntyre encouraged us, but Ritchie even
more. Ritchie was a great book collector from the very
beginning. He was buying books o He had apparently more
allowance than I hado
MINK: Was his family wealthier than yours?
POWELL: Well, noo I think we were about in the same
bracket, but I think I was- -what was I doing with my
money? --probably spending it on girls. And Ritchie
wasn't. He was spending his on books. I think it was
probably our different tastes, and then of course I used
Ritchie's books a lot. We were very close, and he was
very generous. I was in his home a great deal in South
Pasadena, and his room upstairs was just loaded with
books. He was buying constantly, putting everything
he could, I think, into books. Interesting enough.
most of those books have found their way back to Occi-
dental. He's been giving thetn to the college over the
years 5 and so have I.
MINK: I think Ritchie has pointed out in his interview
that he attributes his big awakening and interest in
book collecting to Maclntyre.
POWELL: VJell, I'm glad that we're in agreement, because
I feel the same between Maclntyre and Ritchie. It v/as
Ritchie's copies of Robinson Jeffers that I first read.
The college library wouldn't have had them then. They
wouldn't recognize Jeffers as an alumnus in those years.
MINK: This brings up a kind of an interesting point.
You had mentioned Cleland in your book and made reference
to his orthodox Presbyterianism in connection with one
run-in you had with him. I would like you to describe
this in a little more detail in a minute. But I think
also you mentioned that when you proposed to do your
dissertation on Jeffers, Cleland was turned off by the
idea because he felt that Jeffers was unorthodox, that
he was, in fact, an atheist. How do you account then
for the fact that in Cleland 's history of Occidental
College he included two poems by Jeffers in the appen-
dix. These two poems which he included were "Shine
Republic" and "The Rock and the Hawk."
POWELL: Well, Jim, I take some of the credit for
MINK: This was 1937, hy the way, when it was published.
POWELL: Actually, I'd done my work and it had come out
and it had been i^ecognized. You see, Cleland didn't
discourage me when I proposed this; I didn't even pro-
pose it to him. I was working on him [Jeffers] in France
and I v/rote to Cleland about 1931 or so for a reminis-
cence of Jeffers, and he sent me a good one which I used.
But he said at the end, "I recognize Jeffers' genius,
but I would to God he had put it to better use."
MINK: Well, that's what you were quoting in your auto-
biography then. You didn't really have a face-to-face
discussion with Cleland, then.
POWELL: No, this was by mail, and of course I didn't
use that in my dissertation. That wasn't for publica-
tion. I used his other tribute, which was good. Well,
all right, my dissertation was published, and then Ritchie
published an edition of the book. When I came back to
this country in 193^, Dr. Bird gave a reception (for
Ritchie and me) at which Dr. Cleland was present, and it
was the first public college recognition of Jeffers.
This was in 193^ when the Primavera Press edition of
my book had come out. Cleland began to realize that
Jeffers was an important literary figure, and naturally
he sought in his work poems that weren't unorthodox and
that he could accept. And I think that "Shine Republic"
and "Rock and Hawk" are examples of Jeffers' stoicism
and pessimism that Cleland found acceptable. I think
Ritchie and I^ and Stelte'r, of course, who originally
put me on to working on Jeffers, should have some credit
for having moved Cleland along, and Cleland was a big
enough man to grow.
MINK: It's interesting, ^arry, that in the book I found
no explanation of why these poems appear there, really.
POWELL: No. I can't account for this; this was in that
1937 history of Occidental College?
POWELL: I don't know; maybe he thought he'd better do
this, and maybe Dr. Bird said maybe you'd better put
something in on Robinson Jeffers. I don't know the
story. You really ought to go up and interview Dr. Bird
in Carmel, There you'd get a marvelous tape, because
he has a marvelous recall. He's in his eighties now,
but he's still very much alive. Fay and I visited him
just last September.
MINK: Well, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves,
but I thought that was an interesting point.
MINK: Now, describe Dr. Cleland. What did he look like
when you first encountered him in that English history
class? Was he a young man?
POWELL: No, I don't suppose so. He was probably in early
middle age. He was very homely. He had a kind of a Nean-
derthal underslung jaw, and very bad skin. I think he had
some kind of a skin eruption that mottled his complexion,
and he was an ugly son of a bitch. He really V7as! [laugh-
ter] God, Fay couldn't stand him; she thought he was a
terribly ugly and unattractive man. And he was always
taking this fatherly interest in her, you see, and try-
ing to guide her along the path. She didn't like him
MINK: Do you suppose that Fay's aunt and uncle may have
prevailed on Robert Glass Cleland to do this?
POWELL: No, I don't think so. I think he took it on
himself. They left her quite free. But I think it was
his feeling that he owed this to the chairman of the
board of trustees to look after his niece.
MINK: Because Occidental v/as [being helped by the Bells].
POWELL: They were receiving benefits certainly from the
Bells all that time, and Cleland and Alphonzo Bell, Sr.
were good friends. They played tennis and they fished
and they were socially compatible. No, Cleland was Just
doing v^'hat he regarded as his duty, and he had good rea-
son to because I was a potential wicked influence.
MINK: Let's get a little more about that v/icked deed
that you did.
POWELL: Which one?
MINK: You were brought up on the carpet because you
taunted the Sigmas.
POWELL: Well, that was just one of those examples of
youthful exuberance. It was pledge day, I think, and
we'd swept the campus and taken about fourteen pledges,
and most of them away from the Sigmas. They were across
the street from us there at Campus Road and Alumnio
MINK: Kappa Sigma.
POWELL: Yes, they became Kappa Sigma. Ironically enough,
that was my father's and my brothers' fraternity; they
all three were Kappa Sigmas. My father was a grand presi-
dent of Kappa Sigma at one time,
MINK: Were the Sigmas the athletes at Oxy at that time?
POWELL: No, the Apes were, the ATOs, the Apes. We were
Owls and Apes in those, the two locals. No, the Sigmas
were the goody-goody Christers, [laughter] Anyway, it
was pledge night, and when I came back--I'd been out
playing at a dance--and I came in there about midnight,
the boys were feeling no pain, and I just happened to
have a five-gallon jug of wine in the trunk of my car,
and I brought it in.
MINK: Where 'd you get all that wine in Prohibition days?
POWELL: Cucamonga, out at the winery. VJe used to go
out to Cucamonga, and there was a little Italian out
there that you bought it from.
MINK: Was it Illegal to sell it?
POVJELL: YeSj sure, it was bootleg. Or we would go down
to Alpine Street off North Broadway, and there was an
Italian there that sold us this awful stuff. Cucamonga
was better; it really was good red wine. At any rate,
they all drank a bit of this wine, including myself.
MINK: Five gallons?
POWELL: Five gallons, and most of the football team was
there. We had a lot of football players in the house
that year. Glen Rozelle and Jack Schurch and Launce
Millar; and, Christ, they were big as a house, enormous
guys. Finally we surged out of the house and across
the street and began to heave dead cats through the
Sigma windows and say, "Come out and fight, you yellow
bastards o" The Sigmas, of course, did nothing of the
kind. They sat tight, and so there was a general in-
sulting uproar, and I suppose some Sigma got on the phone
to Dean Cleland as dean of men and said, "Look, we're
being assaulted by the Owls, and they're being led by
their president, Larry Powell."
Well, my God, I was on the carpet the next morning,
nine o'clock in Cleland 's office. He v;as dean of men
then; he wasn't dean of the college, he v;as dean of men.
And he just said, "I want you to give me the names of
all the members of the fraternity that were involved."
And I said, "Well, no, I really can't do that. I'm
not an informer for your office." He said, "Well, I
expect you to resign; this is disgraceful; this whole
episode is a disgrace to the college, and I expect you
to resign as president of the house." (He was a member
of the fraternity, too; so he had [force]. He was an
old Owl and Key. )
I said, "Well, I'll do that if the chapter wants
me to, but I'm beholden to them, sir, not to the school
in this matter, and if they ask for my resignation, I'll
give it to them, but I won't give it to you." God, he
turned purple, and he was ugly to start with. When he
got mad, he was uglier, livid with rage. This was at
the football season; this was in the autumn. We were
coming up to the big game, and I was anxious to keep
the team intact „ So I said, "Look, I'll take the rap
and let's forget the other boys, it's all my fault."
Well, everybody clammed up, and when the house learned
that I was fronting for them, they said, "No, you won't
resign; you'll stay in. We need you as our fall guy."
So I didn't resign; they insisted that I not, and
I took the blame. It wasn't a terribly noble thing to
do. There I was. Cleland suspended me from campus for
a week, I guess. So I just stayed down at the fraternity
house, and the boys brought me assignments, and I kept
current in the work. Of course. Fay came down to see
me. We went out for a ride and I weathered it. It was
no great scandal, because nothing really happened. It
was just a general rout of the Sigmas and we were re-
joicing. I think the Sigmas were a little unhappy about
the whole thing. ^They thought the whole fraternity should
have been suspended, you see, and their pledges should
have been given to them. That's all, Jim. It was a
typical coonskin coat prank of the twenties.
MINK: I noticed on the roster of the senior Phi Gams
in that year that there were so many. I thought I'd
just jot them down and perhaps you could, for purposes
of the record, discuss some of these people briefly. Per-
haps you can say whether you think they were significant
or not. Maybe they came to nothing or maybe they had
an important influence on you, or maybe they've had an
important influence on the community » Bob Donaldson,
POWELL: Bob Donaldson and I roomed together in the fra-
ternity house, I think, my senior year. He went on and
worked for the Com.raittee on Economic Development. He
became their field man and was very important in the
forties in establishing CED programs on American college
and university campuses and did a lot of work traveling.
I used to see them in New York^ he and Carolina, his
MINK: So you came full circle with him?
POWELL: Yes, we saw each other in the forties a good
deal. He unfortunately fell ill, and the last five or
ten years even, he's been semi-invalid, I think, in
Pasadena. He may have had a stroke. I see him at
Alumni Day, but he is very withdrawn, and not at all
well; but he did well. 1 remember him chiefly, Jim,
because we were the same size and we shared a wardrobe.
MINK: I think you mentioned this in your autobiography.
POWELL: Yes, we had a common wardrobe; v/e could wear
each other's shirts and suits. That gave us double
sartorial splendor, you see.
MINK: So it was like the family you were mentioning at
our last interview.
POWELL: The Casses, yes, with the big com.munal wardrobe.
MINK: What about Jim Campbell?
POWELL: Jim Campbell became a high school teacher in
Glendale, period; that's all I know about himo
MINK: And v;hat about Clifford Harao
POVJELL: Cliff Ham v/as a New England boy, and as I un-
derstand it he went back to the family fortune in Connec-
ticut and has been living on it ever since. Ham was an
incorrigible bummer of cigarettes. He never would buy
a cigarette, and he always lived off the others. I re-
member about the close of the school year, v;e decided
to reward Clifford Ham; so he was seized upon by those
he had bummed cigarettes from and tubbed. Do you know
what "tubbing" is?
POWELL: He was tubbed, and when he came out of the tub,
dripping wet, he was handed one cigarette. And that's
the way we revenged ourselves on Ham. He was a charming
MINK: What about Don Imler?
POWELL: Imler became a captain of detectives with the
Sheriff's Department here. I think he is captain of
detectives in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,
Every now and then I get a message from him. We've
never seen each other in all these years. Every now
and then somebody comes along. Of course, if I was ever
stopped by a county sheriff, I would say, "Oh, yes.
Captain Imler o . ."
MINK: [laughter] You haven't had a chance?
POWELL: No, I haven't had the chance yet.
MINK: What about Thomas Capstick?
POWELL: He was a New Jersey boy who, like Ham, v/ent
back and lived off the munificence of his family. I
don't know what became of Capstick. VJe pledged him
actually because he had an attractive Chrysler roadster,
and we thought we needed a good-looking car parked out
in front of the house, so we pledged Tom Capstick and
said, "Look, Tom, all you have to do for the fraternity
is leave your car out front to give us tone."
MINK: [laughter] What about Berl Goodheart?
POWELL: Well, Goodheart — we've kept in touch. He was
captain of the track team, a great 830 man and miler,
and a very attractive boy. He was from Sausalito. He
came down from the north and went into the fire insurance
business, and he's still in it . He's got a big agency
over in Inglewood, I think, and every now and then he'll
call up and we'll have a little chat. He's a very sweet
guy, and he's never set the world on fire. You're not
supposed to if you're a fire insurance agent, Jim, but
MINK: And what about Sidney Edmundson?
POWELL: Sid Edmundson, now there's an interesting chap.
He was from down Compton way.
POWELL: The last I heard of him--and I saw him here
on campus about ten or fifteen years ago--he was the
secretary or manager of the fisherman's union of San
Pedro. He got into union work and v;as representing the
big canners and fishery workers' union, and he was here
for the Institute of Industrial Relations. And we looked
at each other and both scratched our heads in disbelief.
He'd become a union agent and I'd become a librarian,
but we shook hands and agreed that we'd done all right.
He and I used to play tennis together. We were tennis
MINK: All in all, I would say that you probably had
them all beat as far as the good life and success was
POWELL: Well, superficially maybe, Jim; I don't know.
What you need to make you happy--some people don't need
as much as I've had. They're happier on less, and can
you say that they're less happy? No, I don't think so.
That's the class of 1929- Of course, I regarded myself
also as a member of the class of I928, because I started
in 1924, and should have graduated in I928, but I took
that year out to travel. So, I've kept in touch also
with 1928, which was Ritchie's class, Gordon Newell' s.
And in some ways I feel closer to those people I started
with and particularly to Ritchie and Newell.
POWELL: We are closer now I think forty-five years later
than we were at the time.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO
AUGUST 11, 1969
MINK: Nov;, you've been mentioning on the other side of
the tape that you really identified more with the class
of 1928, and with Newell and Ritchie, than you did with
the twenty-niners. Nov;, that brings me to ask you about
that year that you took off; you explained it in your
autobiography as to why and how it came about. There
was one statement that you made that I found difficult
to understand: you said that you were not introspective
and that all these places and the sights and sounds that
you saw made no impression on you. I just can't believe
that, you know, a person at nineteen with the opportunity
to make an around-the-world trip, which is really v;hat
your mother wanted you to do.
POWELL: Yes, yes.
MINK: It was what Maclntyre wanted you to do?
POVJELL: I probably was too extreme in that statement.
What I meant is that it didn't impress me as much as it
would have if I'd have done it ten years later--that is,
when I went to Europe later in 1930. Everything meant
much more to me. I'd come more awake; I guess this is
inevitable. I was just not as sensitive to things at
nineteen. Still, they did impress me, and I have memories
of all twenty-six ports, particularly the crew on the ship.
MINK: Well, why don't you try to recall if you can for
a few minutes about that, because really you dismissed
this with three lines in your autobiography. I don't
think that that's enough. I mean, that may be reasonable
in a short autobiography that you were trying to write.
On the other hand, if you could do it now on the record • • • •
POWELL: Well, I did a foreword to one of Jack Reynolds'
catalogs once which was a bit about that around-the-world
trip, and about some of the reading I did. The people
that I remember from that trip were some of the crev;.
For example, the refrigeration engineer was a German.
MINK: Can you remember his name?
POWELL: His name was Ernie.
POWELL: I don't know his last name; it was just Ernie.
And he was reading Jean-Christophe , of all things, and he
used to come up from the engine room, dripping with oil
and grease, and swab himself off and settle down in his
bunk and read Romain Rolland's Jean-Christophe o And we
talked about reading and literature, sitting out on the
hatch in the tropical sunsets. I remember him very well.
I remember the radio operator. I don't remember his
name other than "Sparks." All radio operators were called
"Sparks." I used to go up into the radio shack, and we
used to talk. I don't rememlDer what we talked about^ but
I had good sessions with this guy. He was a philosophi-
cal and thoughtful man.
Another great friend on the ship was the barber. He
was, I suppose,, a German Jew and was very shrev;d. He
was running a trading business all the time. He ran a
shop in his barber shop, and in the foreign ports he'd
buy works of art and things and sell them. So he said,
"Any souvenirs and things you want on shore, my boy, you
just give me your commission and I'll get them for you."
And he did^ he bought things. My aunt and uncle and my
mother gave me a little money to spend for them. I put
it in the hands of the barber, and he bought me crystal
and cloisonne. He was very shrewd, and I believe he was
honest. He probably made a profit on me. But I liked
to go and sit with him in the barber shop.
We ate together--the barber, the stewards and the
musicians all ate at an early table in first class be-
cause the musicians had to be ready for the passenger
serving. We played, you see; so we ate early. But I
got to know the barber through this, and I don't remem-
ber his name even. V/ell, these musicians themselves,
the chaps I went with, I wasn't close to. It was a
MINK: You'd never known any of them before you went on
POWELL: Not really, no. We knew each other casually in
South Pasadena, but I never had played with them and I
never played with them again. It was a put- together-band
for this occasion.
I think I remember Honolulu, for example, coming
in there. The first sight of a tropical island was ter-
ribly thrilling, and I've been back two or three times
through the Island. When we went ashore, we'd go to the
leading hotel there. The Dollar Steamship Lines ship or-
chestra always had an engagement with the leading hotel
because they were an American band that was desirable.
So we played when we were ashore there at the Moana, which
is still an old stylish hotel at Waikiki. Probably it's
doomed now by high-rise. It was a very beautiful, old
wooden building, and two or three years ago. Fay and I
spent Christmas in Honolulu, and I went back to the Moana,
sat there and listened to the orchestra play, and I thought,
"Jesus, the wheel's really come around." And all the
smells and sights came back. That was a poor statement
in the autobiography. Of course I was impressed by this;
I foreshortened it all there, ridiculously. I could go
through all the ports on the trip.
I think the tremendous im.pact was Europe. Genoa and
Naples and Marseille, the first ports there in Mediterranean
MINK: Well, if you landed there today, you knov; and I
know what the first things you'd do would be. Did you
think about doing some of the things then that you would
do now? I suppose not.
POV/ELL: Well, the first thing we did in Marseille, v;e
made for a barber shop. [laughter] We had the works;
the franc had just been devalued and we had tremendous
treatment in the barbershop. Then we made for a side-
walk cafe, and then we went out to the Chateau d ' If where
Dumas [pere] had written The Man in the Iron Mask, and
we went up Notre Dame du Mont, the cathedral. We did
orthodox tourist things as kids, but it was terribly
exciting to hear a foreign language, to hear French spo-
Genoa was so beautiful, the arcades, and the tre-
mendous meals of pasta, and the colors, the colored
stuccos and all. These were all exciting to an American
from the Far VJ'est--to see the old world for the first
time. Sure, I was impressionable. Don't believe a word
about what I said in the autobiograhy, it just ain't true,
MINK: You think that your decision to go back to France
later was in any way dependent on this sojourn?
POWELL: Subconsciously, perhaps, I felt at home there.
I think Ritchie influenced me, because he planned to go
there^, and then M. F. K. Fisher and Al Fisher, who were
in residence in Dijon, influenced me. They said it's
cheap to live here and there's a good liberal professor;
you can work on a contemporary figure in the department.
That was probably the strongest factor.
MINK: But when you were in Marseille in 1925, you'd
never heard of Robinson Jeffers.
POWELL: No, I don't think so. I probably heard about
Jeffers that year I came back as a sophomore at Oxy and
was in Stelter's class. You see, his first commercial
volume was published in 1925 ^ Roan Stallion . That's
right, I wouldn't have heard about him, no, not until
MINK: Well, were there any of the other ports that
particularly impressed you?
POWELL: Boston. We came into Boston in January in the
dead of winter, and it was terribly cold. VJe went over
to Harvard, I remember, because the former president of
the Owl and Key House, the Phi Gam house at Occidental,
was a graduate student in business at Harvard, Jack Cos-
grove. And we went over and looked him up and called
on him. That was my first visit to Harvard, first view
of the Widener. I can remember its pillars--! don't re-
member its books, but I remember the great pillars--
walking up the stairs into the Widener. Like going into
a church. I thought about this a lot last summer when
I was teaching at Simmons. They did a little oral his-
tory tape on me there at New England, the editor of the
Bay State Lihrarian .
MINK: Here I thought you were a virgin,
POWELL: No, sir, I've been had by Ken Kister. Didn't
you ever see that in the Bay State Librarian? They did
an interview based on this book; it was only a couple of
hours. It was a good one; I'll show it to you.
MINK: Then did you come by train back across the country?
POWELL: No, we went on to Cuba, Havana, Panama, through
the canal--completely around the world. And I was in
New York for a week. The Dollar Line's Harrison was in
port. That was the day I visited my father's sister.
Mabel Satterlee, and my Grandpa and Grandma Powell.
MINK: Is this the first time you were there?
POWELL: It was the first time I'd been in New York, I
guess. Maybe I was there as a child, but I didn't remem-
ber it. However, we went to musical comedies, and I was
entertained there by my relatives. But it was cold as
hell and I didn't like it--too cold! I didn't want to
write about it; I cut that all off in the book because
you see it would have opened a whole area that probably
should be written about in another context, that youthful
trip aroand the world.
MIM: Well, in what context would you v/rite it? How
would you cast it?
POWELL: Well, I don't know, Jim. When I come to it,
I'll lenow. I don't know how I'd do it, but I'd like
to do it in an expansive way, maybe a first trip to
Europe and then returns to Europe, and write a kind of
a European saga. But it didn't fit in the book I was
writing. That autobiography is more a librarian's career
kind of thing, and it didn't seem to fit.
MINK: Well, when you got back, it was in the early
POWELL: The spring of I926 .
MINK: And you went right back in school?
POWELL: No, I was working as a musician all that spring
POWELL: Up at Big Bear, mostly Big Bear Lake at various
camps up there, with a different orchestrao I think it
was largely a Pomona College group.
MINK: How did you get connections for jobs with these
orchestras? Did everybody just know everybody else?
POWELL: Everybody knew. It was a netv/ork. You had a
card file, really, of tenor sax players, alto sax players,
trap drummers, pianists.
MINK: I see.
POWELL: We did a lot of sv;itching around iDetv/een Pomona,
Oxy, and UCLA.
MINK: What on earth ever made you decide to take up the
POWELL: My brother George was a saxophone player.
MINK: Did you like the way it sounded?
POWELL: Yes. I liked the way it sounded. I liked the
way he played it. He was good. He played at Stanford a
lot and in hands, and he taught me. I never took a les-
son, I learned on his and I bought my own. I ended up
with four or five, I guess. Lord, it took a pickup truck
to carry all my instruments. It was imitative, following
in my brother's footsteps. We were very close as young
ones, my brother George and I. He was a natural playboy.
MINK: And you thought you wanted to be like him.
POWELL: Yes. I wanted to be like him, and I started out
that way, but I didn't stay with ito I was more serious.
I don't know why; I branched off, I suppose, because I
had this friend Ritchie and I had these good teachers.
If he'd had this same experience of going to Occidental
and having these teachers maybe he would have. I very
nearly went to Stanford. VJhen I got back in that spring
he wanted me to come up. He was working in San Francisco
for Dean VJitter, I think, and he v/as living dovm the
peninsula at the Kappa Sigma house and playing in orchestras
So I applied and was admitted to Stanford, and then my
Uncle Harold, who was still in [the] Link Belt [Company],
wanted me to come to Berkeley. So I was subsequently brain-
washed by him, and I applied to Berkeley. I very nearly
went to these two northern schools, and then at the last
minute I said, "No, I'm going back to Oxy."
MINK: Have you ever regretted that you couldn't have
said that you were a graduate of Stanford or Berkeley?
POWELL: No, by God, no! I am very happy in the whole
Occidental experience and in my relationship v/ith the
college since. I think it did an enormous lot for me,
Jim, and I am grateful and loyal, and I like the way
the college has gone, you see, under Bird, under Art[hur
G.] Coons, under Dick Gilman. I think the college has
gone farther and farther into the mainstream. I'm proud
of it — aren't you, as an Oxy alumnus?
MINK: I'm not an Oxy alumnus.
POWELL: What do you mean you're not an Oxy alumnus?
MINK: I graduated from UCLA.
POWELL: You went your first two years?
POWELL: I see.
MINK: V.'hat about Morgan Odell? Was he around when you
POV/ELL: I think he v;as an instructor starting out. In
MINK: Yes; the man impressed me very much v/hen I was
POWELL: No, I never had any classes from him; but Merritt
More was an instructor.
MINK: Was Robert Freeman instructing there when you were
POWELL: No, he was just a name as a Presbyterian minis-
ter in Pasadena. Merritt Moore was a young professor of
philosophy that I enjoyed. He's Everett Moore's cousin,
incidentally. I took philosophy from him in my senior
year, I guess.
MINK: What about John Willis Baer? What did he look
POWELL: Oh, I don't think I have any memories of him,
Jim. I've seen pictures of him, but I don't remember
ever seeing him, unless he was a chapel speaker. No,
I don't rememher him at all.
MINK: And then Fred McLain would have been coming along
POWELL: Fred McLain v/as the young assistant controller.
MINK: You probably didn't have anything to do with him.
POWELL: No, I didn't; I came to know him later, as an
alumnus. There was Lowell Chawner, the registrar.
MINK: Florence Brady became the registrar about the time
that you were going.
POTOLL: She was assistant, yes, and she succeeded Lov/ell
Chawner, who was professor of economics. But the only
contact I had with the registrar's office later was send-
ing for my grades and getting Jeffers' transcript of
record. I did all these things from France.
You know, if my father had lived, I think I v/ould
have probably gone to Cornell. I would have follov/ed in
my parents' footsteps and gone East.
MINK: Your mother never urged you to go to Cornell?
POWELL: No, I don't think she urged ms to do anything
like that. I felt that I should stay close to home. My
brothers had gone and my father was dead and my mother
was alone, and there was the opportunity to be with
Ritchie--to go to college together and live at home with
my mother. All these things conspired to keep me there,
and not reluctantly at all. I was entirely reconciled
to all of this.
MINK: Can you describe for a minute some of your ex-
periences during the summer? Now one summer you worked
up on the ranch up north, near San Quentin.
POWELL: No, it was in Kern County. The Di Giorgio
Ranch. Well, that was as a high school boy, really.
Those were summers between my junior-senior high school
and betv;een my senior-freshman year, I guess. My brother
Clark was up there as the Mexican foreman, and I v;ent
up and worked as a roustabout on the Di Giorgio Ranch.
My Godj, I can still smell the sweat.
MINK: Could you remember about the general labor situa-
tion up there at that time? Did you know the discontent
that always seemed to foment in that area around laborers?
POWELL: Well, I wasn't aware of it, and the laborers
were mostly braceros . My brother was Mexican foreman;
he spoke Spanish, and he had charge of all the Mexican
crew., But they were a gay bunch. They were right up;
they didn't speak any English, and I wasn't aware of any
We lived rough. It was a sweaty, hot, wonderful
life. I suppose the IWW's were moving in, but I was
too young to be aware of it. We were protected as kids
from social troubles; we were insulated by our youth and
were able to be free and happy. That's why it's such a
wonderful nostalgic time of life; we were without respon-
sibility, without any social awareness; we were just
young animals. I was one.
MINK: Well, I know that in your autobiography you describe
a meeting of a Miss Shoemaker, who subsequently became
your wife. But maybe you could describe in a little more
detail how you first met her. When v;as the first time
you ever sav; her?
POVJELL: On campus, I think, running betv/een classes,
wearing a short red coat and her hair streaming out be-
hind her, running like mad. I guess she v;as late for
class--she alv/ays was.
MINK: Did she notice you first, or did you notice her
POWELL: No, she didn't notice me; hut she knew who I
was. She had her cap set for me, she told me later.
MINK: Do you believe that?
POWELL: Yes J I believe that, because I'd played at a
dance at Marlborough School where she was a senior,
and she knew who I was. Then when she was going over
to Occidental as a freshman (and it was my senior year),
she was talking with her cousin, Minnewa Bell, who was
at Oxy then, too, and they were talking about dates they
were going to have. Fay told me she'd said to her cousin
Minnewa, "Well, you can have whoever you want, but I'm
going to go with the president of the Phi Gam house."
I met her formally then, I guess, through Willy Goodheart,
who knew her through her brother Norman, who was a fresh-
man at the same time. He took me up to the dormitory
where she livedo It was actually Orr Hall. It was a
new dorm, wasn't it?
POWELL: Very elegant and attractive place.
MINK: Did the guys make fun about it the way that v/e
POWELL: Yes, "Whore" Hall. [laughter] "It v/as good to
have a whore hall on campus, have them all grouped to-
gether! " And then of course the one they built the next
year, we made fun of because it was called "Turdman."
Whore and Turdman. So I met Fay up at the dorm, I guess,
the first time when I was summoned up there to make a
bid on playing for a dormitory dance. I guess she was
on the social committee. We had this confrontation, and
I got rid of her brother and Goodheart somehow, I guess,
and said to Fay, "Let's go for a ride." So we went out
for a long ride.
MINK: I think you said in your autobiography that it
was full of non sequiturs.
POWELL: That's right. She was a very difficult girl.
She didn't want to be questioned, and if you asked her
a question, she made an irrelevant reply. She was very
independent and skittish and a wild and untamed creature;
but still she had all the social graces when she chose
to exercise them. But she was a very difficult kid;
she was only seventeen then. And I was, I guess, twenty-
one., But she took me home then. She used to go home
weekends to Bel-Air, the Bell house, and I met Mr. and
MINK: Can you describe what Mr. Bell looked like?
POWELL: Oh, he was a very handsome man, Jim. He was
very fine- looking man, with a large head and very fine
Roman features, a Roman nose, and always elegant and
courtly and gentle. He was a very attractive man, and
of course Mrs. Bell was equally attractive as a woman.
She was very dark, Spanish looking. They v/ere an elegant
pair, very gracious, and they lived without any osten-
tation. They really had a big house, of course. Capo
de Monte was a big place, and they had a staff. But
they were comfortable people. They lived with their
affluence very comfortably, generously, and I liked to
go up there because of the swimming pool and the tennis
court and the big grand piano, which I used to play.
The wheel came around of course years later when all the
Bell family came apart and the houses were all sold and
the grand piano v;as given to us by Mrs. Bell in later
years--a beautiful ebony Steinway. But I used to play,
and Mrs. Bell liked music. She still does, bless her.
She's still living--ninety-three this summer--in a re-
tirement home in Culver City, and we go to see her. She
phones us, and we still have after these forty and more
years pleasant family social contacts.
Oh, it was a lovely home there, Jim, that Capo de
Monte--land3caping and all the trees and the beautiful
view out over the plain. It was a lovely place to go,
a lovely place to court a girl. Tennis and swimming,
music, the beach nearby. We were very fortunate, I think,
in this kind of a beginning. VJe didn't knov; how far we
had to go and what we had to suffer, really, before V7e
finally came together. We didn't know and that was a
blessingo But, Lord, we were happy as kids, wonderfully
MINK: So you'd go over there just about every weekend?
POWELL: Yes, other times she would stay on campus because
of social events at the dormitory or in the gymnasium.
I was busy as a musician, but we found time to do things.
We used to go to Balboa to the big Bell house on the bay
front. We used to go down there unchaperoned; but we
weren't wicked or wild kids. She didn't drink or smoke,
and I did very little of either. We lived a very simple,
sweet kind of a kid life. At least, this is the way I
MINK: What did your mother think about it?
POWELL: My mother was tolerant. She didn't think I
should marry, not only not Fay, she didn't think I should
marry anyone. She thought I should not marry young. I
don't think she was possessive, but she'd seen some
problems that had occurred to my brother Clark who married
at eighteen. I guess she didn't want to see that happen
MINK: By this time Clark was gone.
POWELL: Clark was gone off to South Africa. But every-
thing came around, and my mother became a very good mother-
MINK: What do you mean "everything came around." Were
POWELL: Well, the Depression and the economic uncertain-
ties and all of the problems of getting established, and
my mother's suffering, losing her money in the crash.
They were difficult times, and they brought us closer--all
of us, I thlnk--and we all came together closer as a
MINK: This is one of the things that I was curious about o
You used to write to your mother, and it was "Dear Mother,"
and all of a sudden it became "Dear Gert."
MINK: Whatever made you decide to call her that?
POWELL: I don't know how it started. I think it was
when I grew up and I felt more co-equal with her as a man
and a woman, and not as a son-mother. I don't know how
it happened, Jim, but from college age on, I suppose, I
was calling her "Gertie."
MINK: She didn't object to this.
POWELL: Oh, she liked it, and to the boys she was "Grandma
Gertie." I don't knov; hov/ it originated, but there it was.
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE
AUGUST 18, 1969
MINK: This morning, before we leave the Occidental period,
I wonder if you could comment some on your participation
in drama and music at Occidental.
POWELL: Well, they both came out of my high school ex-
perience, of course. I'd been in dramatics at South Pasa-
dena, and when I went to Occidental, I tried out I think
for what they called the Occidental Players. I was fur-
ther taken by the drama coach. Miss Joyce Turner, who
was a graduate of UCLA, and this was her first job I
think, coaching drama at Oxy. She was a beauty--young
and vivacious, dynamic--and a very strict disciplinarian,
no nonsense; she wasn't giddy or flighty. She was a
damn good, driving, drama coach., And she liked me and I
liked her, and we did three or four plays together, I
think, right up through my junior year. I played the
young ingenue roles, of course--that ' s all I was good
for--but I enjoyed it immensely. It gave me an opportunity
to show off, which is what I always wanted to do.
At the same time, I participated in debating. I was
on the debating squad, I think, with Kenneth Holland who
became president of the International Educational Union,
or whatever it is, Kenny Holland. And in music, I had
my own outside orchestra and I also got together an inside
orchestra, which Included Kenneth Holland and a chap
named Cline, Benny Nehls, v;ho became manager of the tele-
phone company; and we played for rallies and gymnasium
dances and campus activities. So I was leading an on-
campus and off-campus musical life. I never thought of
the stage as a career. I wasn't good enough. In music
I could have had a career as a dance musician, but it
ceased to satisfy me in my various needs, so that tailed
off. But that's really all it was, Jim.
MINK: Let's see, about that time, Fred Lindsay would
have been coming in^
POWELL: Fred Lindsay was the voice and speech coach.
MINK: Did you know him?
POWELL: I knew him. He was my debating coach. I de-
bated with him. We became good friends « He was a dis-
passionate friend to me, because he actually flunked me
in my senior year in a course in public speaking, I think.
I got so wrapped up in courting Fay in that year, that
I neglected my studies except those for Stelter and George
Day in sociology = I found the way Lindsay v;as teaching
public speaking to be very dry and boring.
MINK: Could you tell me a little about that? How did
he go about teaching public speaking?
POWELL: He did it, and then he said, "Do it the way I
do it." That is, he would speak a passage and then say
imitate me. And I didn't think this was the way to do
it. I think he didn't recognize individual abilities
and talents enough. He intended to standardize it. I
liked him more on the outside. I thought in the class-
room he was rather pedantic, and I suppose in my inimi-
table humble way, I told him so. He says, "All right,
an F for you." And so I dropped the course, and he
MINK: I suppose at that time they didn't have recording
POWELL: No, nothing. You heard him ! He was your echo.
MINK: I take it you didn't for instance have to prepare
a speech and have it recorded so that you could listen
POWELL: No, they didn't have anything like that, Jim.
These were the primitive days, pre-electronic days. I'd
like to go back to them myself; then we wouldn't have
this nonsense that we're doing noWo [laughter]
MINK: I wonder if you could say just a little more
than you did in your autobiography about Clyde Browne
and about the studio and your experiences there.
POWELL: Well, I went to the studio first when I was a
reporter on The Occidental , the newspaper. I v;as assis-
tant sports editor, hah!
MIl\fK: Is that the first time you ever met Clyde Browne?
POWELL: I met Clyde Browne v;hen I went over to read
proof or to take over copy. I was a runner, I guess,
for the editor. I can't remember who the editor was.
I think it was [J.] Phil Ellsworth, who became the grad-
uate manager, the track man. I met Clyde then, and I
was in and out of the Abbey San Encino. I was printing
for the college yearbook and magazine then. In my senior
year we had a comic magazine called the Tawn y Cat , and
I think Charlie Plummer was the editor, and I was a staff
writer. I think one issue was suppressed by the college.
POWELL: Well, I think we had a naked something on the
cover o I've never looked at those again, I remember I
did a review of moving pictures for one issue. It was the
first year of the talkies; I thought this was a terrible
new trendo I did some book reviews. I don't want to
confuse this with the Sabre Tooth , which was a literary
magazine. And I did book reviev;s and poetry in it. I
remember I reviewed Maclntyre's book which Ritchie and
I published that year.
MINK: Did you work v;ith Ritchie at all at the Abbey in
setting up type?
POVJELL: No, I never set type in my life. I didn't be-
lieve in getting inky fingers. ^
MINK: So you weren't at all interested in what he was
doing in that area.
POWELL: Not technically, no; I was interested in v;hat he
was doing in a literary sense and in a publishing sense.
But for typography as such, I never cared and 1 never
have. 1 don't know anything about setting type. I don't
have a mechanical gift. Ritchie had a great mechanical
gift for working with material, but this didn't make us
any less close, because we had all these other bonds.
MINK: Well, I know Ritchie pointed out that he set up
in type a poem by Robinson Jeffers. I think it was the
first thing he did.
POWELL: Well, not quite; it was one--"Stars" it was called,
MINK: He pointed out that he had a great deal of trouble
with it, and after he sent a copy to Remsen Bird and
Cleland, it turned out that there were a lot of errors
POWELL: There were about seven misspellings in two sonnets
Every time we'd look at it we'd find another one.
MINK: Didn't you ever help him with the proof?
POWELL: Well, I tried; God damn it all, don't blame that
on me! He never showed it to me until he had it finished.
This was a kind of a surprise, I think, and then I really
blew up when I saw all these misspellings. Ritchie still
can't spell. He's a lousy speller, and he's issuing books
today that somehow get through with horrible misspellings.
He's a genius certainly, but a hell of a speller.
We shared that studio for the simple reason that
neither of us could afford the rent. VJe had to divide
the rent. I think it was $15.00 a month. We each paid
$7.50. It was a place to keep our hooks and a jug of
wine, and while he was working at the press downstairs,
I used to read and write and play music on a little phono-
graph. Fay and I used to go there and read and have a
picnic supper, and I would go down and practice on the
pipe organ in the chapel. I took lessons, I remember,
on the organ from--oh dear, what was her name? --Edna
something; she lived in Highland Park and taught the
pipe organ. I took a weekly lesson from her, and I paid
fifty cents an hour to Clyde Browne to practice on the
pipe organ for the use of the electricity and the instru-
It was a very nostalgic time, Jim, with the press
grinding away, and when the press was going the whole
damned Abbey shook. Then I'd get up on the big pipes
on the organ, and it v^ould shake the Abbey even more.
Ritchie every now and then would turn off the press and
come up and say, "For Christ's sake, stop that noise, I
can't hear the press." [laughter] And I'd say to him,
"VJell, God damn it, Ritchie, turn off the press. I've
got a priority here; this is a chapel, a religious place.
Don't make so much racket!" So we had a very good time,
really, between us.
MINK: During this period, Ritchie, as you had indicated
in your autobiography, was promoted at Vroman's and you
came in and took his job. That would have been in the
fall of 1929.
POWELL: After I graduated in the fall of 1929-
MINK: I wonder if you could describe in just a little
more detail v/hat went on there, what your work was and
how it. . .
POWELL: How it came to end?
MINK: How it came to the end.
POWELL: How I had a severance notice. Well, Jim, I
took the job because it promised a continuing association
with Ritchie. We simply liked to do things together. This
meant we'd ride to and from v;ork together, and it led me
a little deeper into the book world that Maclntyre and
Stelter and Ritchie had inducted me into--and, of course,
my parents. The whole trend was toward a bookish life,
I can see now. And 1 thought, "My God, I'll be down in
the shipping department of Vroman's where all the new books
come in; I can read. Employees get a twenty percent dis-
count on purchases; I can add to my library. I'll be able
to drive the delivery truck." It seemed to me an ideal
And it would have been if it hadn't been for the
manager, Leslie Hood, a little wiry gamecock of a son of
a bitch. He really was. He was highly organized. He
could carry the whole book stock in his mind. He was a
bear for procedure. He didn't need any computers of any
devices in his time. Old Leslie Hood had it all in his
head. He had ulcers. He was a very sick man, I realized
later, and harrassed and fidgety.
He gave me a brief training of how to unpack books
and arrange them on the great table in the order of the
invoice, not check them off the invoice until they're all
in invoice order. Well, I wasn't very systematic; I used
to open the case and take out the first book and then look
for it on the invoice. It of course slowed up the work,
but I simply worked that way. And he didn't want me to;
so we clashed.
The volume kept increasing as Thanksgiving and Christ-
mas neared, and the books just poured down that chute from
the back alley. I was swamped, and they piled up all
over the cellar and Hood would come down and rage at me.
I got so I liked to be outside of the store on deliveries,
our over-town days twice a week. Ward and I went in the
big Dodge truck, anything to get away from Hood, to get
him off my neck. In the meantime the books piled up, and
he used to come down and light into them and in half an
hour he could do work that took me a day. He was good
and I v/asn ' t .
And then there was the incident of delivering Lady
Chatterly ' s Lover and parking on El Molino under the cam-
phor trees and reading it and forgetting to deliver it.
The man who ordered it kept phoning, "Where is my book?"
I got back to the store at closing time and Hood just
looked at me and said, "You're a fine delivery boy, you
are." And I knew that my goose was cooked. At any rate,
after Christmas, I got my notice. It all turned out for
the best, Jim, because I went back to college then, for a
graduate spring semester at Occidental, and this meant
that I could be close to Fay.
MINK: Is that really why you went, or did you really want
to go? Had you really thought about taking a master's at
POWELL: Yes, it was to get a teaching certificate. Mac
and Stelter said you'd better get a teacher's certificate
so you can get a job in a high school or junior college.
MINK: Did you think you wanted to teach?
POWELL: Well, it seemed to me the thing to do. I appar-
ently wasn't fitted for business and I wasn't a writer
then that could earn a living. It seemed to me a v;ay out
or a way in. And to get a teaching credential, you had
to take the required courses in education. That's vihere
I ran into trouble. James Sinclair and Martin Stormzand.
I had courses from them--Sinclair in Introduction to Edu-
cation and Stormzand in Educational Statistics. Oh, that
was a fiasco, really. First of all, I didn't care for
education, and second, I had no gift for statistics.
MINK: What did you think of them as teachers?
POWELL: Oh, they were routine. They were interesting
men, but they were routine educational pedagogues, I
guess. And in Sinclair's course, I think we had to visit
a kindergarten and evaluate the teaching methods. I
thought this was the end. What the hell was I doing
evaluating kindergarten teaching.
I went to Stelter and he said, "A bunch of nonsense,
Powell. Why don't you drop it?" And at the same time I
was taking his seminar in Poetics, I guess, and loving it,
and so I dropped Stormzand and Sinclair. I didn't flunk.
I took withdrawals, and concentrated then on Stelter' s
seminar and I did very well indeed in it» I got top grade
from him, and at the same time I was reading Jeffers and
coming closer, you see, because in Stelter' s Poetics we
were studying Aristotle and the theory of poetry. And
all of this tied in beautifully with what I was to do
later on Jeffers.
MINK: Well, Larry, at this point, in reading Jeffers, I
was wondering: I think that you had said in your
autobiography that Ritchie actually introduced you to
Jeffers. But I'm wondering if it wasn't really Gordon
Newell, inadvertently, that did it, because Newell had
fallen in love and wanted to give a volume to his young
sweetheart. Ritchie recommended Edwin A. Robinson's
poetry and suggested that Newell buy a volume of it, but
by mistake he bought a volume of Jeffers. Ritchie took
the volume and started to read it, and then he handed
it to you.
POWELL: I don't remember it that way, but if Ritchie says
it, it's gospel. It could well have been; it was all
sort of intertied. I just don't remember, Jim. That's
MINK: It was Roan Stallion .
POWELL: Yes, Roan Stallion , Tamar, and Other Poems .
MINK: V/as that the first of his poetry that you ever
POWELL: Yes, Ritchie's copy; and of course at the same
time, Stelter once asked in class did anyone know who
Robinson Jeffers is. I said, "Oh yes, that's the m.an who
wrote a poem about a woman who fell in love with a horse."
And of course the seminar laughed and Stelter slapped me
on the wrist, but he said, "Did you know, Powell, that
he's a graduate of this college?" "Well," I said, "No,"
He said, "Yes, he's the class of I905 . Why don't you
go over to the registrar's office sometime and look up
his transcript or record. Do me a paper on it." V/ell^
I don't think I actually did a paper, but I did look up
and verify this. I went to see Lowell Chavmer and Miss
Brady, and in the library I think I looked up some of
his things he'd written for undergraduate magazines.
So the lines were coming together, you see, from
Stelter, from Ritchie, from Newell, all drawing together
with me caught in the middle. It seemed inevitable that
I'd end up working on Jeffers. The big push came after
graduation when I went up and visited Newell at Carmel,
spent a week with him. I can't remember if he'd married--
no, he wasn't married then, he was still courting Gloria
Stuart. She became the actress. (Incidentally Jim, she
lives over here in the Village now, next door to my late
uncle's duplex--right next door.) Gloria Sheekman, her
name is now.
MINK: Well, what did Newell really think of Jeffers at
this point? Or did he think anything of him?
POWELL: I don't know. I don't remember. But he was
trying to impress his girl, Gloria, who v;as quite liter-
ary. She wrote poetry. I've got some of her unpublished
poems here in my files, as a matter of fact. I think he
was Just trying to please her in the literary sense.
MINK: VJell, when you v^ent to visit Nev;ell, I think that
you said in your autobiography, and just a minute ago,
that this was what sort of crystallized it. By this time
was Newell pretty hung up on Jeffers.
POWELL: Yes, he was. He was caretaker in Carmel of a
model golf course, a miniature golf course. It opened
only I think in the late afternoon and early evening, and
he had all the rest of the time free. He v;as living in
a little cottage in the pinev/ood, and he was a sculptor
then. He already was. I don't know how he got started
being a sculptor, but there he was. The job he was work-
ing on was a redwood beam for the dining room of Stelter
on Escarpa Drive across from the college. This was a
commission Stelter had given him. You see, Stelter was
always trying to help us, and he said to Newell, "Carve
me a beam and I'll pay you for it." (Newell, inciden-
tally, had carved me a pair of bookends at that time,
which I have. He did me a bookplate. He was an artist.)
So Newell and I spent a lot of time together in that
week. After he got off the golf course, we used to walk
around Carmel. That was the summer of 1929* The Jeffers
were in Ireland, and the house and tov;er v;ere deserted,
and we walked down there. A new book of Jeffers had come
out, called Cawdor and Other Poems , and I read the whole
darn thing aloud to Nev/ell evenings V7hile he was carving.
Then in the morning we drove dovm the coast. That
was my first experience dovm the coast road. It went
down then as far as Pfeiffer's Point, out of Big Sur
Canyon, and up over the point and then it became a wagon
trail. Nev;ell and I drove down there, and there was a
wrecked steamer, I remember, off Point Sur. Newell said,
"Look, we'll swim out to it and lay salvage claim to it."
I said, "Newell, you do it." I'll be your representative
on shore. [laughter] But Newell put one foot in the
water and thought better, because you know the water along
that coast is icy the year round.
Well, this was all tremendously exciting and forma-
tive and critical, because I said, "Well, Lord, this is
a poet that can be read in depth; it can be related to
this landscape." And I determined then and there that
if I went on for graduate work, this was what I was going
to write about.
MINK: Well, would you agree with Ward's statement that
probably Jeffers more than anyone else influenced your
life and his?
POWELL: As a writer, yes; as teachers, Stelter and Mac;
as friends, Gordon; and certainly as women, my mother and
Fay. Those are the influences you see that were all
MniK: Well, what about the poetry of Jeffers. V/hat is
it about the poetry of Jeffers that turned you on and
turned Ritchie on?
POWELL: Oh, I don't know, Jim. Frost said something about
it. He said, "When you find the poetry that turns you on,
you feel as though the top of your head had come off."
It's some kind of a kinetic experience; it thrills you.
It was both the form and the content and the relationship
to a landscape--I think, and maybe that latter most of
all--the sense of place that you always feel when you go
to Big Sur, even today, that, my God, here's the inevi-
table spokesman for this coast--the granite, the hills,
everything about it--here is the inevitable expression of
it. It was one of those mysterious catalytic coalescences,
not at all reasonable, but a very deep and instinctive
thing and has endured, because I feel this way forty years
MINK: You say at the same time, or within a very short
time after that, that your meeting with [John] Steinbeck
and Steinbeck's work was in a v/ay influenced by the same
kind of coast area.
POWELL: Yes, yes, the same area, inland a bit, of course,
as I've written. Steinbeck was the poet of the land over
the Santa Lucias and the Salinas Valley and the San Joa-
quin. Yes, that happened certainly. As I v;rote in a
Westv/ays chapter last winter, my introduction to Steinbeck
was by Paul Jordan- Smith. He came into Jake's shop once
about 193'^j and he says, "Powell, you like Jeffers, don't
you?" "Yes J sir." (Jordan sort of reviev;ed my Jeffers
wonderfully well in the Los Angeles Times \rhen the Prima-
vera edition came out in 193^0 He said, "V/ell, you'll
like this," and he handed me a copy of Steinbeck's To a
God Unknown. He said, "Here's the prose laureate of that
region, just as Jeffers is the poetical laureate." And
he was right. I read To a God Unknown, and that led right
on into all of Steinbeck's work. Then he v/as absolutely
unknown, except to a few discerning critics like P. J.
Smith. I'm glad to hear you're going to tape him, be-
cause I think more than any other literary figure in this
community, Paul Jordan -Smith has had the influence on
all of us. He's a very great man and. Lord, get him
while he's still able to talk, Jim.
MINK: Ritchie spoke about William Van Wyck, who was
more or less a dilettante and wrote a book about Jeffers.
Did you meet him?
POWELL: I met Bill Van Wyck years later, I think, or
maybe it was in Paris. He was living in Paris. I think
Maclntyre sent Ritchie and me to him, and I think we all
met at a cafe. Of course, the little book on Jeffers
came years later, way into the thirties.
Incidentally, it's a very beautiful little book,
because it's the first book on which Alvin Lustig, the
type designer, worked. This was a landmark book, really,
and Ritchie discerned this kid Lustig, v;ho's dead now un-
fortunately, and had him decorate this little book. Lus-
tig also did the Huxley's Words and Their Meaning and
then Fisher's The Ghost in the Underblows , then became
designer for New Directions and for Yale. He had a tre-
mendous career, and died young. But it was Bill Van Wyck's
little book on Jeffers that launched him.
MINK: Well, could it have been that Van Wyck was struck
by the fact that here was a young American in a French
university writing a doctoral dissertation about an
American poet, Jeffers. Did you discuss this with him?
POWELL: No, I don't think I discussed it with him.
MINK: Maybe Ritchie did.
POWELL: Ritchie might have. I'll tell you one person
I did discuss it with in Paris. It was the head of the
American University Union, or whatever it was called there
on the Boulevard St. Germain. This was Horatio S. Krans.
He had done his doctoral dissertation at Columbia in I910
or so on Yeats, He was, I guess, a Quaker, and my Aunt
Mabel had sent me to him v;hen she learned that I was to
go down to a provincial university^ So in the summer of
I93O5 I checked in with Dr. Krans at the student union,
and I really was told off by him. He said, "Powell, don't
leave Paris. Don't go into the provinces; that's the end.
There's no Intellectual life outside of Paris on this
street and the Boulevard St. Michel." He said, "if you're
going to study in France, go to the Sorhonne. For God's
sake, don't go to Dijon. In the second place," he said,
"you're wasting your time to work on a contemporary poet.
It isn't possible to come to a judgment v;hile a writer's
still writing." I said to myself, "Hey, bud, hov; about
your dissertation on Yeats?" [laughter] He was very much
alive in I910, but I didn't say anything about that. But
I didn't listen to him; I didn't pay any attention to ei-
ther of his advices. I went to Dijon and I worked on
Jeffers, and I never saw Dr. Krans again,
MINK: Well, of course, your decision to go to Dijon v/as
more or less influenced by Mary Frances Fisher.
POWELL: M. F. K. Fisher and Al Fisher.
MINK: This was because of the fact that there at Dijon
was a Frenchman teaching English who understood and appre-
ciated American literature.
POWELL: Yes, he was liberal and permissive. The Fishers
were there, and the cost of living was very cheap. These
were factors--certainly the strong factor. Another v/as
that after a month in Paris with Ritchie, and a couple of
weeks with Fay before she went back to America, I realized
that it v/ould be very difficult for me to settle dovm and
study in Paris. There was just too much doing. There
were too many cultural distractions, and my best bet
would be a kind of a self-imposed exile in a quieter
town. I had the wit enough, thank God, to realize this.
I never would have made it in Paris.
MINK: Well, weren't there two students there in Paris
that you met while you and Ritchie were there, from
POWELL: Whatever Ritchie said is a bloody lie. [laugh-
ter] I hereby categorically deny it. I don't know what
he said, but it's a lie.
MINK: Well, weren't there two young girls?
POWELL: Jim, Paris is made up of young girls!
MINK: They were from Occidental College and had come
over and you saw quite a bit of them, you and Ritchie
POWELL: No, no. Categorical denial. No. Ritchie may
have. Ritchie probably had a dozen girls, but I was,
remember, going into exile as a recluse, an ascetic,
a devoted scholaro
MINK: I see.
POWELL: Interest in girls, nonsense!
MINK: We'll let that gOo [laughter]
POWELL: You tried, Jim- -by God, you've tried. I'll
have to read what Ritchie said.
MINK: You said that after a month in Paris you decided
that Dijon v/as really where you wanted to go?
POWELL: Yes. Well, I knew it in the beginning, really.
I was just having my last fling in Paris. Ritchie was
writing poetry--to these girls! --and I v;as vjriting my
first novel about music and jazz. I used to go to the
Luxembourg Gardens and rent a chair--one of those iron
chairs that you rent from the custodian, the old harpie.
I'd sit there and write. Ritchie would be v/riting and
we'd read to each other in the evening.
MINK: This novel and some of the earlier things that
you did don't show up in your collection. What happened
POWELL: Hah! Right here in these files.
MINK: You kept this material; you just have never turned
it over to the Library.
POWELL: Some I destroyed that was hopeless, and a couple
later versions I think are still there in the files.
I'll turn it all over eventually because it's interest-
ing practice work. I kept trying over and over; I must
have written it three or four times over the next two
or three years. It was good apprentice work, and it
was getting stuff out of my system.
MINK: You said you wrote about the jazz age?
POWELL: Yes. Well, one is called Jazz Band . It's
thinly disguised autobiography, dance musicians of the
twenties. I didn't do a Dorothy Baker Young Man With a
Horn , nothing as good as that; but I think it might be
interesting in a period sense, eventually, shov;ing some
of the folkways of college dance musicians.
MINK: Well, when you got to Dijon, I think that you de-
scribed quite well in your autobiography what went on
there. I was wondering one thing--maybe two, one at a
time: you said that the Fishers were the only Americans
in Dijon, did you have any worries about going to a French
university where you would be the only American? Do you
feel you were accepted?
POWELL: Oh, I suppose I had some qualms, but they were
not very deep. Remember, I was very young, and you don't
worry when you're young. You have great resilience and
confidence, and doubts haven't eaten away at you yet,
and I just felt full of confidence. I took the summer
courses for foreigners. Then there were a great many
foreigners there, you see; there were Czechs and there
were Egyptians and there were Germans and Poles and some
Africans. The courses v;ere specially to help you learn
French and an introduction to French culture and litera-
ture. And I faithfully attended those courses, I suppose,
during all of latter August and September. The term
didn't start until October fifteenth. So I had six weeks
at least of five, six, seven hours a day of these courses
for foreigners. And this was my indoctrination. I'd
seen Dr. [Georges] Connes and told him v;hat I wanted to
do. He said, "VJell, go home and v/rite me a precis of
what you want to do." And I took about six v/eeks to do
that and then got his OK to go ahead. But It was a rash
thing to do. If I hadn't been young and lgnorant--Yeats
says J "Young, we loved each other and V7ere ignorant."
But I had the luck, the fortune, and the friendship, you
see. Fisher had gone on and broken the way for me and
was an enormous help. He was the next great influence
in my life, Jim, because he taught me to organize my
thoughts, to outline my work, and to proceed with clarity,
And of course I was in the ideal environment in which to
do this, because this is the whole French way.
But Fisher was very patient with me, and I tried
ideas on him. V/e talked and we were together hours. He
was working on Shakespeare, doing his dissertation, and
I volunteered to be his typist. I typed his v/hole disser-
tation twice--An Introduction to Shakespearean Comedy .
And I saw him through, was at his soutenance . We were
very close; we were as close in Dijon as Ritchie and I
had been in California. And of course Ritchie was still
in Paris that year, and he used to come dovm sometimes
for weekends and we'd have reunions.
MINK: VJell, after you'd been there about six months or
so, did you have the same feeling, or do you think Dr.
Krans was right, or was he wrong [about life In the pro-
POWELL: Well, I thought he was wrong, completely wrong.
I think this was so because my teacher Connes and the
faculty there--Plerre Trahard, the dean, and Charles
Lambert In classics, and Jardelller in current affairs,
and Gaston Roupnel in folklore. Mademoiselle Bianchis
in comparative literature--were all exciting people and
lecturers. It was small, Jim. You see, it wasn't like
the Sorbonne with 30,000 students.
MINK: Well, it would have been more like Occidental,
POWELL: It was more like a college, because the univer-
sity was divided into faculties; they were all separate.
The faculty of Science, of Law, and of Letters were all
in three different places, and I had to do only with Let-
ters. The student body there must have been well under
a thousand. There were fewer than a thousand--oh, there
must have been three or four hundred in Letters. It
was a very good environment.
MINK: You didn't speak much in your autobiography about
the other students. Was it sort of Just you and Fisher
and his wife and Ritchie? What about other students?
POWELL: No, I didn't make any strong friendships. I
had some acquaintances with the student body, with French
and with some of the foreign students. We met at the
students' club, but I v/as withdrawn in a sense. I had
been a great mixer at Occidental, and I found that that
dissipated my energy and thinned out my work. I was
really changed, because at Dijon I was single-minded
and concentrating on this work I wanted to do on Jeffers
and on learning French, and I just didn't have the con-
tacts. No, I didn't write about them because I really
didn't have them in any deep sense.
My best French friend, of course--and I did write
about him in the book--was Jean Matruchot, the professor
of English in the Lycee Carnot, the boys' high school.
That's the school that Henry Miller wrote about in Tropic
of Cancer , you see. Matruchot and I formed a very deep
and wonderful friendship. I think 1 told in the book,
when he first saw me, it gave him a great start, because
I was the spitting image of his brother. He was a young
sculptor, an apprentice of Rodin, who had been lost in
World War I, and 1 with my beard and my dark complexion,
you know, Matruchot said, "My God, it's my brother!" And
he was drawn to me instantly; a man twenty years older
than I, I guess, a bachelor, a misanthrope, a very dour
and ponderous man superficially, but with a very tender
side and with a vast knowledge of our literature. So he
would hear me endlessly on Jeffers and on concepts in
Jeffers. We met tv;ice a v;eek for two and a half years.
In one meeting we spoke in English and then the second
meeting in the week we spoke in French. This was to help
him with his English^ although he didn't need my help,
really. He liked to learn American idioms from me, but
it was an enormous help to me in learning French. We
translated many passages of Jeffers into French. That's
the way to learn English, certainly, to translate passages
into another language, then you learn what it means in
English. Well, he was my best French friend.
Connes, my professor, I had no personal relationship
with; you don't have that in France. You have a strictly
student-teacher relationship. I never saw him outside
of his office and in a classroom until I'd finished my
degree, and then he gave us a celebration and a supper.
Then after that, in all these years, until now, we've
been close personal friends. A very great man in my life
certainly is Georges Conneso
MINK: I was wondering: you grew a beard and donned cor-
POWELL: I went native.
MINK: You went native. Why did you do that, really?
POWELL: VJell, the reason I grev; the beard v;as that in
the pension my room was on the third floor, no running
water and no hot water in the house, except downstairs
in the kitchen, and you can imagine what shaving would
he in the morning with cold water in winter, or a vmlk
down three flights to the kitchen and bring up a pot of
hot water. I said, "To hell with it. I won't shave;
I'll let it grow." It was simply that. It wasn't the
Bohemian, and it certainly wasn't artiness. It v/asn't
any striving for effect. It was just because, damn it
all, I didn't have any running hot water to shave with,
and I have a stiff beard. And the corduroys, well,
they're practical clothes, Jim. You don't have to press
them, and a dark worker's corduroy doesn't show spots.
You don't have to fold it up at night, you just stand
it in the corner. I had a beautiful blue corduroy suit
made for twelve dollars. I was just realistic and I merged
with the population. I didn't want to be outstanding.
I didn't want to be the show-off and the extrovert that
I'd been at Occidental. You see, it was a revulsion
against this whole role; it was another life, and this
is the way I lived it.
MINK: Do you think that the necessity of learning the
language, of being able to manipulate your academic life
in this language, made you more attentive to the lectures?
POWELL: Oh, very much so. Yes, very much so. You hung
on every word and you sought to penetrate the meaning.
The big breakthrough came, Jim, not in class but in
the movies. I v;ent many nights to the movies, and they
were the talkies, remember. They'd come in then; and I
went to the French moving picture theater and listened
to the sound tracks--the Actualite (the newsreel) . I
remember Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (Les Lumieres de
la Ville ) . I went five times to that wonderful picture.
And one night I didn't understand what the sound track
was, and then the next night by magic it all came clear.
And I think this is an experience in learning a foreign
language. You come up to a point of total breakthrough
and then it all makes sense. Well, this was my experience
in French, and after that, and to this day, I can under-
stand a rapidly spoken and a complex French. The only
trouble I would have would be when the dialect or patois
or argot with unknown words is used. But it was a great
joy v/hen I realized that I knev/ what they v/ere saying
and that I could say it back.
MINK: Well then do you feel that at the point that this
happened, maybe that your work in school began to improve?
POWELL: Oh, definitely. Then I got my confidence, you
see, and I could face my final examinations with equani-
MINK: How soon did this occur? ^
POWELL: Six months after I reached Dijon I probably
attained comprehension, yes, and then I had another two
years, nearly, to live in this milieu. It v/as probably
six months, probably by Christmastime. But, mind you,
I was living in a pension with the Fishers in v^hich we
didn't speak English » All the language at table was
French; the people of the pension , the owners, didn't
speak English. This was the advantage. The Fishers
and I, when we were together privately, spoke English
of course; but when we were with the others we all spoke
MINK: You all ate together.
POWELL: We ate together in a common dining room v;ith
MINK: How was the food?
POWELL: Oh, my God, how was the food? Jim, it was
heavenly! Madame Rigoulot (she became Madame Bonamour
later) was a great cook, and the husband was a great
cook of omelets o He always did the omelet. And the
food just floated through the air. You reached up in
the air and drew it down--marvelous food. And you want
to know what we paid for that pension , room and board,
three meals a day, not including laundry? V/e paid thirty
francs a day which, with the franc at 4 cents, was $1.20
a day, for complete room and board. Laundry then would
run about a dollar a month, and Madame v;ould do our
shirts and socks and things. It was incredibly cheap.
MINK: I'm interested in just what you had to eat? I
think that it would be good to have some sort of descrip-
tion of what provincial cooking is like.
POWELL: Well, you'd go down for breakfast at any hour.
The French don't have formal breakfast, you know. They
would put out rolls and jam and butter on the table and
milk. I would have a simple breakfast, then. Any time
you arose in the morning you could go to the little din-
ing room for that. Then lunch at tv;elve thirty and
dinner I suppose at six thirty or seven were full courses,
but boarding-house style, with everything put on the
table, and you helped yourself. But it would include
soup--always a soup--and then a salad, and then meat or
fish or fowl or poultry, and dessert, and always wine
with the meals, and then coffee afterwards out in the
patio, in the courtyard, if you wished it. But there
was lots to eat, Jim, lots to eat. And alv/ays on special
occasions, birthdays or Christmas, there v/ould be abso-
These people that were keeping the pension were not
ordinary people. They'd fallen on evil times. They
were doing this to make ends meet. The madame was the
daughter of a confiseur, or a candy-maker, from Montbeliard,
which is over in Franche Comte, near Switzerland, at
Belfort, and she brought a large dowry to the marriage.
Her husband had been the Peugeot garageman of Dijon,
the agent; but he was a drinker and he'd gone through
her dowry and was a pretty rough individual--Monsieur
Rigoulot--and he was a woman chaser. They had three
children, and life was pretty hard for Madame, v;ho was
having to keep the pension . She and her daughter would
do a lot of the housework, and the dowry was gone. She
still had fine linens and silver; so we had wonderful
sheets and pillowcases and towels and service at the
table, but they needed the money from the pension people.
There were the Fishers, and occasionally there 'd be
another foreign student or two. But it was a wonderful
abundant household in spite of hard times. They didn't
stint us, and I was fortunate, really, being cared for
that way by this family.
MINK: Larry, we know what life is like in the univer-
sity here, but did you find it somewhat different in
the way that classes are conducted and in what you're
expected to do?
MINK: Your examinations, for instance, and your assign-
ments, how do they differ?
POWELL: Oh, it's very permissive. There aren't speci-
fic assignments o You have a general area to cover. I
wasn't enrolled in classes as such. I simply would be
held accountable at the time of my final examinations
for certain subjects in Anglo-American literature. So
I took any courses that I could take that would help
throw light on this and that would improve m.y knowledge
of French, but you weren't in actual course enrollment
as a doctoral candidate.
MINK: In other words, you just went and paid a sum of
money and went to school.
POWELL: That's right. And I was a graduate student, you
see, which is much more permissive. There aren't the
units and the credits to get through as there are here
in that program that I was in. But the day of reckoning
comes, of course, when you have your final oral examina-
tions. Then if you've paid attention and if you've had
courses or lectures from faculty that are on your examin-
ing committee, you have an insight into their mind. But
you don't know who's going to be on your examining committee;
so you go across the curriculum as widely as you can,
sampling different professors. This is the v;ay it was.
MINK: There v;ould be no grades at the end of the term
or anything like that?
POWELL: No, nothing like that in the doctoral program.
No, it was utterly different from the American v/ay--your
dissertation and your defense of it and your subsidiary
theses. I had two subsidiary theses, one on Shelley
and Byron and the use of incest in their poetry, which
tied in with Jeffers' treatment of incest, and then my
other subsidiary thesis was the Pacific Coast in Whit-
MINK: Yes, you've mentioned this. Is there a deadline
on the subsidiary theses?
POWELL: You're subject to examination on them at the
same time that you're examined on your printed thesis,
but you select them early.
MINK: When do you hand them in? At the same time you
hand in your main thesis?
POWELL: You don't; they aren't written. They're oral.
You're not required to hand in subsidiary theses; you're
simply required to defend them orally at the time of
your examination. But you notify your professor what
you've chosen, and you get his advice on choosing them--
this was Connes and I worked this out--things that would
relate to my main thesis, you see, the theme of incest
and then the theme of the Pacific Coast.
MINK: Well, why does the theme of incest relate to
POWELL: Well, he treated this in "Tamar" and in an
early poem called "Rosalind and Helen." He had been
influenced by Shelley's Cenci and Byron's Manfred or
whatever it was. Byron^ of course;, not only v;rote about
incest, but he was said to have practiced it with his
half-sister. In the Bible, too^ you see the theme of
"Tamar." All these things Jeffers had been Influenced
by, so the point was to try to pin down these influences,
I actually wrote out in French two statements of my sub-
MINK: Did you hand those in to Connes?
POWELL: Tentatively he approved them, and then at the
final examination I read them two subsidiary statements--
a precis of what I had done--and then waited for ques-
tions and discussion. Although I wasn't required to
turn them in, I had them prepared in French, This was,
I think, Connes' advice and Fisher's advice--not to
leave it all just to oral chance, but to have them be-
fore me. I have those somewhere here in my papers.
MINK: Was this perfectly acceptable that you do this?
POWELL: Oh, yes.
MINK: Is it customary, or was this exceptional?
POWELL: I don't remember. But you can have all your
notes, anything you want in front of you.
MINK: At any time during the exam?
POWELL: Yes, at any time. Oh, yes, sure. I was for-
tunate of course in having Georges Connes as my maitre.
He wanted me to pass, of course. It's the same here.
MINK: YeSj sure.
POWELL: You have a protector in a sense if it gets
rough, and he advised me in the beginning. He said,
"Now let the chief examiner talk; don't interrupt him."
The chief examiner was a Monsieur Cestre, who was head
of American literature in the Sorbonne, Charles Cestre.
He was a famous man in American studies in France, be-
cause he was old (he must have been seventy), and he'd
held the chair for forty years. He wrote an occasional
column in the New York Times Book Reviev/. He'd written
a book in English on E. A. Robinson, which I had of
course. He had made his start, incidentally, in the
high school, Lycee Carnot, where Matruchot taught. He
was a Burgundian, and his first teaching had been in
Dijon; so in a sense this was a homecoming for him.
Cestre came down. You see, in a doctoral dissertation
examination, they bring from any one of the sixteen
French universities the person best qualified to head
MINK: Too bad they don't do that here.
POV/ELL: Yes. And this was, you see, the top man in
American studies in France. He came down and headed
the jury. Connes said, "Let him talk; don't interrupt
him." So naturally when Cestre had the word, his first
remarks were how good it was to be back in Dijon, and
he began to reminisce of Dijon in the I89OS. And no-
body said a word. Then he gradually picked me up in
his sights and brought his guns to bear on me. And I
MINK: What did he ask you?
POWELL: Well, he said, "Now, Monsieur Pov/ell, it's very
interesting what you've written about the Carmel coast.
Of course, it's not foreign to me," he said, "I remember
my summers, teaching at Stanford, during v/hich I went
down on that coast." And he said, "It seems to me,
sir, that you've not paid enough attention to the ef-
fect of fog in Jeffers' poetry." [laughter] He said,
"I remember the sea fogs at Carmel. They came in and
they stayed in; they never receded. I never saw any-
thing but fog there. Don't you think, sir, that the
weather had something to do with Jeffers' pessimism
and made this man morbid."
And, my God, he launched into a whole speech about
how weather affects poetry. And I said, "Of course,
you're absolutely right." (" Vousavez bien raison .")
I encouraged him, and, my God, he gave us a dissertation
on weather. He went back to [Robert Louis] Stevenson,
of course, on the sea fogs, how they came in over Sil-
verado, up in the Napa Valley, and he ranged up and down
California. He wanted to show off his knowledge of
California; and. Lord, I let him! But I think the
wicked one on the jury was. . .
MINK: There's always one, isn't there?
POWELL: Yes. It was the dean, Pierre Trahard . He was
the dean of the Faculty of Letters. _I1 etait bien
mechant. He was a man who looked like a fox. He had
a fox face--a red face, long nose, bristling mustache--
and he was a purist. I'd been to his lectures on what
he called "La sensibilite f rancaise au dix-septieme
Siecle ." He was a great one on the seventeenth century--
on Racine, Moliere, and Corneille. I'd been to those
lectures. He was also a great one on the French Sym-
bolists. I'd followed him closely. He was a purist.
He had no truck with slang or with any corruption of
the language, and I could see the expression on Pierre
Trahard 's face when he heard me speak French. It was
like a man passing a peach pit. [laughter] His face
screwed up; and, God, I could see the pain in it, and
he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, it's the best
the boy can do apparently. We'll have to put up with it."
I was fluent, but I had an American accent, and this
pained Trahard. So he bore in on me, I think, a little
on the subsidiary thesis. He said, "You haven't paid
enough attention, sir, to the Bible and examples of
Incest in the Bible." He said, "What are they? Can
you enumerate them?" Monsieur Connes interrupted and
saidj "My dear colleague, I don't think this is rele-
vantj is it? The subsidiary thesis is Byron and Shelley
and incest, not the Bible." Trahard says, "Now wait
a minute. . ." I just kept quiet, and the two of them,
you see, got going at each other, Connes trying to get
him off me because Trahard was trying to open up a
whole new area.
MINK: Who won? I guess Connes did.
POWELL: Well, Connes said, "No, sir, I cannot allow
this. This is a departure and I think it's entirely
unreasonable. Monsieur le Doyen, to expect of my candi-
date." I said, "If you will allow me. . ." Connes says,
"Nonsense; quiet. Let me settle this." [laughter] And
God there was all this wonderful conflict on the jury,
you see, and then Cestre said, "Now, now, gentlemen."
He said, "My boys, let me have the word again. I want
to go back to this matter of fog." [laughter] God, the
audience of course was loving it.
MINK: They don't say anything.
POWELL: Oh, no.
MINK: It's absolutely quiet?
POWELL: Absolutely quiet. A roomful. It's a little — what
they call a petit amphitheatre, the small assembly room.
MINK: Where do they seat you?
POWELL: Well, you sit like this at a table on the
floor facing the jury, v/hich is on a raised platform.
MINK: You have your back to the audience.
POWELL: Back to the audience. You're dov/n there, a
poor isolated little bastard, and the jury of four are
seated up there. You look up at them, and they look
out at the audience. Jesus, it's like a trial.
MINK: But of course you'd been to Fisher's before.
POWELL: I'd been to Fisher's. I had observed it.
MINK: How did he make out?
POWELL: Oh, he did very well. He had Connes protect-
ing him, and then as chief advisor he had the head of
English studies in the Sorbonne, Emile Legouis, a great
authority on Wordsworth. And Legouis, incidentally, was
Connes' father-in-law (Connes had married his daughter
when he had been at the Sorbonne); so this was a family
affair. Legouis then must have been seventy-five, a
very distinguished man and a great authority, too, on
Shakespeare. That was a very interesting examination,
because Fisher was loaded with knowledge of Shakespeare
and Connes had written a book on Shakespeare and Legouis;
and, my God, they really took off. They dominated the
whole discussion. The rest of the jury v;as wiped out.
I'd seen all this happen.
MINK: Fisher didn't get much of a chance to say anything
POWELL: Well, he said just enough at the right times,
but he let Legouis do most of the talking. That's the
secret, of course, Jim, in any examination; it's true
here in doctoral examinations that I've been through.
MINK: Many that we know about in the history department
are very similar.
POWELL: I've sat on some of those committees with John
Caughey and with Frank Klingberg once.
MINK: Later, we'll want to talk about them.
POWELL: That's getting ahead, isn't it?
MINK: Your mother had come and the Fishers had departed.
POWELL: They were in Strasbourg.
MINK: So Fisher didn't see your exam.
POWELL: No, he was in Strasbourg, I think.
MINK: When your mother came to take up cooking for you,
there's something that I was curious about. She apparent-
ly later became interested in writing about this experience,
Was this her own idea, or did you encourage her in it?
POWELL: I encouraged her later. She kept a diary all
through this, and back in the United States in the De-
pression, when she was feeling blue and cut off and would
have liked to gone back to Europe, I suggested that she
occupy her time with writing up her journals.
MINK: Sort of a vicarious kind of thing.
POWELL: Yes, that's right--reliving it that way. That's
how she did it. Yes, I encouraged her very strongly and
offered to type it all up for her. Of course, I started
and I never finished it and then It got sidetracked and
put away, and I didn't find it until after she died.
MINK: And then you did have it printed o
POWELL: I had it printed, and I always regret that I
didn't do this in her lifetime, although she might not
have agreed. Incidentally, Jim, it has been a very
successful hook. It's been read a great deal by people
here and there that have written me. I put some in li-
braries and gave many away, and it's been a book that's
made a good impression, because it's a very sweet quiet
book. The title was mine-- The Quiet Side of Europe , a
good Quaker title,
MINK: Also meaning, though, life in the provinces,
in the quieter area?
POWELL: Yes, that's right. Yes, sure, a double meaning.
MINK: During that time, she did all your cooking.
POWELL: We took over the Fishers' apartment, v^hich had
a little kitchenette. The pension was closed actually
MINK: Had they just gone broke?
POWELL: No, they moved in with her parents, who had
come to Dijon then, the old mother and father who still
had some money. I think she was in the process of di-
vorcing her husband, and the pension quarters they just
rented. The other rooms were rented, and my mother and
I rented the Fishers' top-floor apartment, which had
this little kitchenette, as I say. There v/as running
water; but by that time I didn't intend to shave, so
I just let the beard grow.
MINK: What did your mother think when she saw you with
a beard? Of course, she knew you had it, I'm sure.
POWELL: I think she was a little conventional about
it. She preferred a clean-shaven face, but she never
MINK: Then to write your dissertation, I believe you
said you went to the Riviera.
POWELL: Part of that spring of 1932, I guess, my mother
went over to London to be with my brother Clark, who
was up on sick leave from South Africa.
MINK: Had this been after Clark's accident?
POWELL: No, before. You see, he didn't die until I938.
This was well before, but he had a sabbatical, or I
think he had some kind of sick leave, too, and he came
up to England o So my mother went over to visit with
him. The Fishers had left Strasbourg and gone down to
this fishing port and said, "Come on down." So I was
down there about six weeks.
MINK: You said that by this time Al Fisher had grown
more Introspective; what did you mean by that?
POWELL: Wellj he was^, I think, reluctant to go back
to the United States is what it was. He was brooding
over that. The Depression was really deep, and he
didn't see any job. He liked France very much. He
liked the way of life. He's stopped writing the long
poem "The Ghost" and was writing novels. I think he
wanted to stay on and make his life in France, but he
couldn't see it clear. I think he was very unhappy
MINK: How was he getting along financially, anyway?
POWELL: Well, they weren't doing very well; I think
her parents were sending them some money, and maybe
his mother (his father had died)o But I realized that's
why he was unhappy.
MINK: Well, they were subsequently divorced, and I
had wondered if this was leading up to that and if they
were having marital problems?
POWELL: It could have been, but it wasn't obvious.
They were still apparently happy. This came later in
the thirties when they v/ere living at Laguna.
MINK: Did you actually do some of the writing of your
dissertation while you were down there?
POWELL: Oh, yes. I wrote every morning on it. I had
a little summer house there next to the pension with a
workroom. I was working on the first draft, a marve-
lous work period, and then in the afternoons, I'd walk
on the beach or in the hills and go into Nice on the bus.
MINK: Well, all told, how long do you think it took
you to write it--six months, a year?
POWELL: I think probably nine months. I probably started
in January of 1932 and was working right up to October.
MINK: Well, it seemed to me to be such a short book.
It didn't seem to me it would have taken you so long.
Was writing hard for you at this point?
POWELL: What do you mean a short book, Jim, for Christ's
MINK: It's not as large as your autobiography, for
POWELL: Yes, it was. [tape recorder turned off]
MINK: The point here is that the book is really (now
that we turned the tape off and looked at it closely)
packed. Is that it?
POI-JELL: Well, it's concise. It's not padded. It's a
concise introduction to the poetry--what his poetry con-
sisted of, what his sources were, what his practices
were, his vocabulary, his philosophy, a criticism of
it. It's a concise introduction, boiled down. I suppose
one point was that I had to pay for the printing of a
dissertation, and costs were such--oh. Lord, but it v:as
MINK: Was this a sine qua non of getting the degree?
You had to have a printed book?
MINK: Packaged to deliver?
POWELL: Yes, you had to furnish eighty copies to the
university for distribution to French universities and
foreign exchanges. Incidentally, that's a sore point,
because the University of California, Berkeley, was on
their exchange list to receive French doctoral disser-
tations. When I became a library school student later
at Berkeley, I tried to find that dissertation that they
had received, and they couldn't find it.
MINK: It was probably bogged down in the works someplace,
POWELL: I suppose. But you furnished eighty copies, and
I had it printed there at the same print shop that had
been owned by Darantiere, who had printed Joyce's Ulysses
and Hemingway. Darantiere had left and it was owned by
Bernigaud and Privat, but it was the same shop.
MINK: This was in Paris.
POWELL: No, Dijon. Rue Bossuet.
MINK: How come you didn't have it printed by Ritchie's. ,
POWELL: [F. L. ] Schmied?
MINK: Schmled, yes.
POWELL: Oh, he was a fancy printer.
MINK: He would charge you too much.
POWELL: Oh, he wouldn't have done it. [laughter] He
was a deluxe art printer. No, this was a working French
provincial print shop. And I liked to think that it
was out of this shop that Ulysses came and Hemingv^ay's
first book, and I was a little follow-up. They didn't
speak English. The monotype operator (it was set in
monotype) knew no English, and sometimes the proofs
were a bit sticky. But I'd typed it myself; it was
pretty good copy. I loved going there to the print
shop--the clanking of the linotype and the monotype--
picking up the galleys, going and sitting on my ass at
a cafe and reading proof, drinking a Vin blanc-cassis,
the Dijon cocktail of white wine and cassis. Those were
my drinking days then; I could take a bit of alcohol.
It was a good life, Jim, there in Dijon--quiet, unin-
terrupted, no distractions.
MINK: Did Connes advise you in this, or did he leave
this entirely up to you? Just say, "Monsieur Powell,
you must have your dissertation printed up."
P0V7ELL: That's right. He said, "if you v;ant advice,
come and I'll talk with you, but this is your show."
You outlined and you submitted trial sections. I gave
him some vrork in progress at different times. He said,
"Go ahead, go ahead; you're doing all right."
MINK: Well, here it's a little different, isn't it?
Your thesis is typed up and then it's sent to the v/hole
committee who reads it, and you don't have the go-ahead
signal until then. What about there?
POWELL: Well, if you're admitted to candidacy and you
submit specimens of your work, you're assumed to be com-
MINK: Well, when are you admitted to candidacy?
POWELL: Whenever your professor decides that you are.
MINK: Well, how did Connes decide that you were? Did
he talk to you?
POWELL: Well, yes.
MINK: Did he ask you questions?
POWELL: He approved a precis or outline or whatever,
and you get an advancement to candidacy at some certain
point. God, I don't remember when it was, Jim. But he
says yes, go ahead. The time will be set up, and roughly
it'll be in the autumn of 1932. But they don't tell you
until about a week before.
MINK: Probably just as well.
POVffiLL: Oh, it's just as well. My God, it's just as
well! You'd suffer agonies because it ' s a rather fright-
ening thing if you have any weakjness, or if you haven't
done your work. There you are, before a jury, not your
peers but your superiors, and with an audience in back
of you. You can be made a monkey of, and they do it,
Jim. My God, they do it. They slaughter some of them.
They absolutely slaughter them and wipe them out. So
it's playing for keeps. The secret is to be prepared,
to know your subject, to have absolute depth knov^ledge
of what you're presenting, and I had this, by God. I'd
had it, Christ, I'd lived with Jeffers. I'd just satu-
MINK: Not physically, though?
POWELL: Not physically. I never met him. I had his
work in my mind, backward and forward and related; and
I'd sweated over it and annotated it and distilled it
in this book, and I was prepared.
MINK: Well, now, for the sources, aside from the work
of Jeffers himself, what else did you use? Commentaries
on his work?
POl'ffiLL: There weren't many, but I had the ones that
there were: George Sterling's book, Louis Adamic's
book, and periodical writings; reviews by Mark Van Doren
and Babette Deutsch and James Rorty. I had copies and
I read all the magazine reviews. You see, I could go
up to Paris to the American Library in Paris.
MINK: The Dijon library, I take it, was not very helpful.
POWELL: NO; not at all, only for encyclopedias or
reference works, and any reading on classical themes--
incest and that sort of thing. But I had my own Oxford
text of Shelley and of Byron. I had works of Nietzsche
and works on science--Eddington and Jeans--that I thought
had influenced Jeffers' cosmic views. I had Aristotle
on Poetics . I have a list here of books that I owned.
It's interesting, I came across it the other day in my
file. [tape recorder turned off]
MINK: Meanwhile, you were corresponding v;ith Jeffers;
so I suppose that the correspondence in a sense was
what you might call primary research material.
POWELL: Oh, it was wonderful. I had two or three letters
from him, and a number from Una, and they've been printed
in the Johns Hopkins' volume of his letters that came
out last year [I908] .
MINK: I was wondering what Connes might have thought
about this kind of source material? You know, you're
writing a book on a poet, and he's commenting on what
you're v^riting. How valid is this for an appraisal of
his work, because you're commenting on a self-appraisal.
See what I mean?
POWELL: Well, I don't know what's wrong v;ith that, Jim.
That's what it is, sure; you take it for v/hat it is.
It's not definitive. It's simply tentative. I v/rote
questions to him and he responded, particularly about
influences--Freudj Nietzsche, the Bihle.
MINK: VJhat he thought had influenced him?
POWELL: Yes. And his letters to me--I gave everything
to Occidental. Incidentally, all my notes on my dis-
sertation and on Jeffers are at Oxy; they aren't here.
I put them over there because all my Jeffers' stuff is
over there. There's a box a foot high, really, of my
working notes <, My copies of his books that are anno-
tated I've kept because I want eventually to do a final
book on him, and I suppose those would go to Occidental.
Isn't that right? Most of my collection is here at
UCLA, but the Jeffers' things, it seems to me, belong
MINK: I think so.
POWELL: V/ell, he wrote me finally, "When you come back
to the United States, if you're ever up this way, come
and see us." And that's why I did.
MINK: I wonder if you would talk about that first visit
for a fev/ minutes.
POWELL: Oh, it was really a wonderful sort of a frost-
ing on the cake at the end, to go there v;ith the v/ork
done, and to meet him finally and to discover what a
sweet v/onderful guy he was.
MINK: You had sent him a copy of the book?
POWELL: I think so, yes.
mink:: So he had read it by the time you met him?
POWELL: Well, I doubt that he had read it, Jim. He
didn't read things about himself, really. I think Una
read it; but I'm sure he didn't.
POWELL: No, he didn't read stuff about him. He may
have looked at it, but he said that to read what's
written about him interferes with his work, and he
just didn't try to do it. He depended on Una. Then
the twelve years he lived after she died, he just
didn't pay any attention. He didn't ansv;er letters and
let everything slide.
But it was a marvelous thing to come back to Carmel
in, I guess, the autumn of 1933. I was broke; I'd
hitchhiked across from New York. Well, I'd ridden
the train to Chicago and stayed with Merritt Moore, who
had been my philosophy professor at Occidental (he was then
teaching philosophy at the University of Chicago) . I
stayed with him. We went to the World's Fair there in
Chicago. I remember we saw Sally Rand, the fan dancer,
[laughter] Then by some connection, I got a ride from
Chicago to Berkeley v/ith a Pomona College student who
was coming back to school in a Ford V-8 roadster, and
he really drove like a maniac. We made it across hightail.
and he dropped me off in Berkeley. I slept on the sofa
in my Aunt Marian's apartment, and then I caught the
Greyhound bus down to Carmel. I arrived there in the
late morning, dumped out on .the street. Newell wasn't
there then, but he had referred me to a Helen Haight,
who lived down near the point where Jeffers lived, v;ith
a Norwegian carpenter named Helmut Deetjen, and she
would put me up and give me a bed for fifty cents a
day or something.
So there I was on the main street in Carmel with
two suitcases, a briefcase and a typewriter, and no
transportation. The chief of police came along in a
prowl car and I looked suspicious 1 guess. He said,
"What are you doing?" I said, "Well, I want to get
to Miss Haight's." "Well," he said, "jump in; I'll
take you." This was a wonderful welcome, really. The
chief of police [laughter] took all my bags and drove
me down. This wasn't police brutality, this was police
gentility; and I stayed then, boarded as it were, with
Helen Haight and Helmut Deetjen for a week.
I knew that Jeffers had a sign on his gate, "No
Visitors Until After 4 PM," and I had a date set up for
my first visit; but God I couldn't wait until four, I
turned up at three, and Una Jeffers chewed me out. She
said, "I knov/ you've come a long way and you're eager
to meet the poet, but can't you read?" [laughter] And
she said, "Besides, I'm not dressed." She had on an
old grey housedress, and her braided hair hung down
(she hadn't put It up); and that's what she was mad
about, really, that I'd caught her before she v;as ready.
But she said, "Come on In."
And then I met Robin, and he filled the room, really,
Jim, with his presence. There he was, and you were aware
of him. He was very handsome and quiet and a relaxed
man, but absolutely at ease and not embarrassed at all.
He just wanted to talk about friends and his student
years in Switzerland at Laussane, Zurich, and he got
to reminiscing of what it had been like to live there.
He wanted to know what Dijon was like, and had I been
to Switzerland. We talked about everything but his
poetry. He didn't want to talk about his poetry, but
I asked him about his reading. (I wrote it all up,
Jim, in that chapter in the American edition of my book.
There is an Introductory chapter which appeared first
in Westways. It was my first contribution to Westways ,
193'^* The whole story's there of what we talked about.)
I went back every day for a week; they were very kind
and we drove down the coast, he and Una and I. I was
working on another edition of the map that Ritchie drew
eventually, and we'd stop everywhere. He'd say, "VJell,
I thought of this place as the setting." And he would
comment and I would ask him, "Where did you place this
action?" "Well," he said, "it was a bit of a composite
of these canyons." And it was a helluva good topogra-
phical and poetical tour of the coast.
MINK: How far down the coast did you actually go?
POWELL: We went down to Pfeiffer's Point.
MINK: That's as far as you could go?
POWELL: The road was under construction, the big road.
It wasn't open until 1938, I guess, through to San
Simeon; but we went clear on down, I think, to where
it was barricaded. It was very foggy one day that we
went down; we couldn't see a damn thing. But, of course,
it gave us a great opportunity to talk. He was a very
kind and gentle man.
MINK: Did you say anything to him about the episode in
your final examination of the fog?
POWELL: I think we probably talked about that. He was
terribly amused. "Oh," he said, "no, my pessimism, if
that's what you want to call it, is probably inherited.
It's from a long line of Presbyterian clergymen." [laugh-
ter] And he had a sense of humor; he could turn a joke.
But he said, "No, actually, I love the dark v;eather; I
do my best and I write well when it's socked in." Of
course, I feel the same way, Jim. I like the foggy
mornings up the coast. I do my best work v;hen I can't
see anything but the pencil and paper in front of me.
Oh, that was really a great reward. Probably the cli-
max of all my academic work was to go there and spend
those days with Jeffers, and then to go back and put
the final notes together and get the American edition
of my book. I sent a draft of that chapter about Jeffers
to Una, and she tore hell out of it.
MINK: She did?
POWELL: Yes, she annotated it and scratched it through
and sent it back, "You can't say this! Why do you say
MINK: Did she like you?
POWELL: Yes, she liked me. She was critical though.
She was defending him and protecting him and always
on the defensive. She liked me, sure; v/e were friends
right up to the end. She wrote me an enormous number
of letters. They're all over at Oxy. I accepted a
number of her criticisms , of course, and I didn't print
what she said not to; that annotated chapter is over
at Occidental in the archives. Somebody ought to publish
it sometime--"Una on Powell on Robin." [laughter]
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO
AUGUST 26, 1969
MINK: To begin this morning, would you talk a little
bit about the Primavera Press and the people who were
involved with its establishment, including, of course,
POWELL: Well, I came later; I wasn't an establisher.
MINK: Yes. [laughter]
POWELL: Well, I came back to Southern California in
1933* I met Fay again and we were married as soon as
it was possible. My hope v;as to make a living by writ-
ing, editing--free-lance, or any kind of writing. I
would have taken a teaching job, but there weren't any.
I talked with Stelter at Occidental right away. He
wanted me to come into the English department there,
but there wasn't any job of course. This was a deep
MINK: Well, even if there had been, do you think you
might have encountered some opposition from Robert Glass
POWELL: I don't know; that's possible. But Dr. Bird
was on top then. He was the very strong man at the
college, and he was very much taken with my work on
Jeffers. He gave a reception for us, and Ritchie was
there and Cleland was there. It was at the Birds' home,
and we really started to make it up then. No, I don't
think I would, Jim. I think it would have v/orked out,
particularly in view of the fact that I vjas married to
Fay and that her uncle was still chairman of the board
of trustees. Cleland recognized then that that was it.
But the opposition would probably have come from Fay.
She didn't want to go back to the college. She didn't
want to be in the shadow of her aunt and uncle. And
she didn't think it was right for us to go back there,
and I think she would have objected to this--wisely,
too, as I see it now.
MINK: I suppose it would have meant for her the role
of a faculty wife and all that goes with that.
POWELL: Yes. She didn't want that. She married me,
I think, for the Bohemian that I was, in the good sense
of the word, and she wanted a free life, not structured
in society and things that her aunt v;ould have wished
MINK: Before we get to the present, while \ie are talking
about Fay, I hadn't realized that she had been married
before. Was your meeting with her then accidental, or
did you purposely seek her out?
POWELL: Oh, Jim, I don't think I want to get into the
details of this. Let's say it was an inevitable meeting.
and we realized that we were meant to live together and
work together. And I still think it was right that we
had the separation and the experience that befell both
of us. It made us better prepared to marry.
Well, at any rate, I had a little v/indfall then--
oh, something connected with the family--from either my
brother or my mother, it was about $200, and with the
chapter on Jeffers that I'd sold to Westways to Phil
Hanna, we had about $250 capital., So we went to Three
Arches, which is now South Laguna, and v;e rented a fur-
nished cottage for three months for the grand total of
$45--$15 a month, furnished--and we set up housekeeping
there, and I was writing. I was writing a number of
things, travel pieces and starting a book on D. H.
Lawrence, revising the book on Jeffers, getting it ready
for American printing. I'd applied for a Guggenheim
Fellowship, and we had plans to go back to Europe.
MII^TK: You haven't made it clear, have you, just exactly
how it was that you became interested in D. H. Lawrence.
When did this interest first occur?
POWELL: I think it was at college through reading. I
think Dr. [Henry G.] Bieler--and I ' ve never talked about
him; I should because he was a great factor in my life,
and still is--I think it was in his waiting room that
I picked up copies of The Rainbow and Sons and Lovers ,
but it might have been in reading for Percy Houston or
one of the teachers at Oxy. At any rate, I found him
very sympathetic in his essays, his travel pieces, his
novels. Back in England on my way home, I met some of
his circle, although (he'd been dead since 1930) I never
met him. At any rate, there we were at Laguna, and the
Fishers v/ere living there then, Al and M. F. K. Fisher.
MINK: Would you think that in any v;ay, in this writing
that you were doing at that time, that you were influenced
by or trying to emulate what D. H. Lawrence had done?
POWELL: Not consciously. Possibly unconsciously. I
was still working on the novel about the musical days,
the third draft, and it kept getting a little better,
but still not good enough. I'd sent out a lot of pieces
to Eastern magazines--travel pieces.
MINK: You were discouraged, I suppose, during the De-
pression. Rejection slips were standard.
MINK: Were many people writing then?
POWELL: I was too young to be discouraged, Jim. I didn't
know what discouragement was. Youth has resilience,
blindness, all the marvelous built-in protections that
come with youth. We didn't even know what the Depression
was, except v;e didn't have any money; but then you had
other things. We made it on the very margin, but v;e were
happy then. We were preparing a Jeffers book, as I
said, for publication by Primavera Press, v;hich then
was under Zeitlin, Ritchie, Carey McV/illiams, and Phil
Towns end Hanna.
MINK: How had they all happened to get together?
POWELL: Around Jake's shop. Jake was a great catalyst.
And it was a little shop then at 705 1/2 West Sixth
Street, just west of Hope. It was a great meeting place,
and Ritchie and I'd go in there when we v/orked for Vro-
man's in 1929» That's when we first met Jake. We used
to rendezvous there. Jake was an exotic, fascinating
character, generous and interested in all kinds of
cultural things that were going on, and he had imported
books, one of the few bookshops in town that stocked
Oxford University Press books, Faber & Faber's books.
At any rate, Jake had the idea of a regional press.
I don't know where he got it. You'll have to find that
out from Jake. And Hanna was also interested, because
Westv/ays was then very much of a regional historical
magazine. Carey McWilliams, who was a young lawyer
with Black, Hammack and McWilliams, was interested in
literature. He had v;ritten his book on Ambrose Bierce,
which came out in 1929jj and he was working on a book
on Yeats. It was before McWilliams became interested
in labor and its problems; the Depression brought that
about. He was a man of purely belles lettres at that
timej and Ritchie was valuable to them all because he
was the printer; he was starting with his shop.
MINK: Could you describe Carey McVJilliams as you knew
him then? VJhat did he look like?
POWELL: He looked like a college professor. He was
a big chap with horn-rimmed glasses, and he was neat
and precise, very much of a lawyer, not a Bohemian--not
a literary figure at all--but a real crackling sharp
mind and a tremendous flair for research. He could
have had a great literary career if he'd chosen.
MINK: What about Hanna, what did he look like?
POWELL: Well, Hanna, of course, had been stricken down
very early by some spinal ailment, and he had very
acute spinal arthritis. He walked almost doubled over;
he was far more stooped than I am. He was way over to
the ground. But, my God, he was a handsome man, a
Roman head, a Roman nose, the patrician of the highest
sort, an expert on food and wines and Spanish language
and literature and Western topography.
MINK: How was it that he came to be associated with
the Automobile Club of Southern California?
POWELL: Well, he succeeded Bill Henry, I guess. Bill
Henry, the sportswriter, was the editor of Touring Topics
and I think Hanna was a young public relations journalist.
got on the staff, and just stayed on and viorked up.
MINK: He probably must have had the job that Bill Nev;bro
had, being in charge of the public relations department
POWELL: He did; he was public relations director and
editor of Touring Topics . Newbro succeeded him, I guess,
in the public relations end. Well, at any rate, here
they were gathered around, and Jake knew I was back,
and Ritchie knew we were running out of money; and,
lo and behold, Jake needed a typist-secretary-flunky,
and Ritchie knew, furthermore, that I had worked in the
early 1920s in my teens for my uncle in San Francisco
as a stenographer at Link Belt [Company] .
MINK: You worked there in the summers.
POWELL: I worked there summers, and I was an expert
typist through South Pasadena High School commercial
MINK: Did you like working up there?
POWELL: In San Francisco?
POWELL: Oh, yes, I had a helluva good time. I lived
in Berkeley with my uncle and commuted on the Key System,
and it was a very beautiful experience riding the ferry-
boat, going to the B & G Sandwich Shop for lunch, and
then sitting in the lobby of the Palace Hotel. I v/as
there when Harding died, 1922, I guess. Yes, that vms
my first taste of San Francisco, and I loved it.
But Jake needed a typist, a flunky. I needed money
We v/ere running out. Ritchie was the go-between. I
came up once I remember for an interview with Jake. We
sat on a bench in the Public Library park to get out of
the shop, right around the corner. We talked about wha
I could do. He was impressed also with my doctor's de-
gree. He thought this would be a nice addition to his
MINK: Prestige element?
POWELL: Yes; prestige item for Jake, who's always felt
his lack of formal education, and he liked people around
him who have it.
MINK: I sensed that.
POWELL: It was an inferiority complex, if you will,
and Ritchie and Hanna and I, all of us, enhanced Jake--
gave him more security, which is good. I'm not criti-
cizing; I'm just stating it. So, lo and behold, down
at Three Arches one day when v;e were down to the last
nickel, we got a telegram from Jake: "Telephone me
collect." I think Ritchie was there at the house having
dinner v/ith Fay and me at the time, and I went out and
phoned, and it was Jake saying, "Come to work Monday."
I said, "Well, I don't v/ant a full-time job. I want to
be a writer." He said, "Good^ I can't pay a full-time
salary; work half time."
MINK: Presently, how much was he making on the shop,
or was he just making it?
POWELL: I don't know. I think Jake was profiting then.
I think he was having a very good period, even in the
MINK: Was he always very closemouthed about his finan-
POWELL: Yes. He didn't share the Information, but he
was paying alimony to at least one wife. He was married
to Gina then and they were living well. Not Jake as
much as Gina--I think she was a rather a. . .not a
spendthrift, but she liked good living. So the living
was taken out of the shop primarily by Jake, and then
what was left over, his employees got.
MINK: You described him in your autobiography as a
"more than exotic character." What did you mean by that
POWELL: Well, I meant he was a man of character and
of humaneness; he was interested in people and in fur-
thering people's careers and talents and building a
cultural center in the city. He v/as very exotic, cer-
tainly; but he was also a man of great character and
genuine philanthropic cultural drive. He helped Paul
Landacre. He helped Ritchie, of course; he gave Ritchie
job after job to do printing.
MINK: How did he help Landacre?
POMELL: He showed his work; he showed the woodcuts,
had exhibits, and sold them.
MINK: In his shop?
POWELL: In his shop. You see, it was a little art
gallery as well as a bookshop. That's hov7 we got Rock-
well Kent to illustrate my book when it came out. He
had a little show in Jake's shop, and Jake said, "I'm
publishing a book on Jeffers. Will you do chapter ini-
tials?" We all met at Ritchie's press, and that's how
it came about.
MINK: It would be well at this point to describe Rock-
well Kent, what he looked like.
POWELL: He was a little guy, bald as an egg. He didn't
look like an artist; he looked like an outdoorsman or
maybe an ice skater or a trapper. He wore rugged out-
door-type clothes. He wasn't a typical artist. But he
was very sharp. Well, artists rarely look like artists--
that is, the real ones.
MINK: Was this venture in woodcuts for the Jeffers' book
your sole contact with Kent, or did you have others?
POWELL: I had others later, because we had exhibits of
Kent's work in the shop, and I corresponded with him for
Jake, and I sold his books, pushed his books, and sent
them back to him for autographing; but it was my chief
contact with him. Well, at any rate, Jim, I went to
work then in June or July, 193'^^ for Jake, half time,
which was from nine o'clock in the morning until one
in the afternoon.
MINK: You were commuting from the beach?
POWELL: No, we moved up. We had to move to town then.
Lord, we went out in the Edendale district. I think
it was either Ritchie or Gordon Newell who found us a
house at 2306 Loma Vista Place, which is off Alessandro
Street. And it was across the canyon from Jake. Jake
lived over on Echo Park Hill. We were on Loma Vista
Hill. It was quite a colony. Landacre lived on the
Echo Park side, and Newell' s studio was in that area,
and Ritchie's press; there was kind of a colony there.
It now borders Silver Lake. I was going to do a piece
on it for VJestways once, a kind of a literary map of
this downtown art colony. I don't know why I didn't
MINK: Who else was living in that area besides you
POWELL: That's all I can think of at the moment, Jim.
There must have been others--! know there were others--
I had a list of them somewhere that I was going to go
around and interview and talk to. Anyway , rents were
cheap. We paid, I told you, $15 for the furnished house
in Laguna, but for the house on Loma Vista Place, $10
a month. The little house was owned by the Bank of
America. Why? Foreclosure! My God, they ovmed half
the city, and they wanted people in their houses; so
they would rent them cheap, semifurnished. And we
scrounged other things of our own. My mother came back
from Europe. We settled her up on the top of Loma Vista
Hill, and she lived there for many years . This was a
good arrangement with Jake. It gave us $30 a month,
which we could live on--$TO rent and then $20 for the
And I did everything. I typed, I delivered, I
drove his little Ford delivery car, I dressed windows--
I was a factotum. And I was learning all the time
because Jake wanted us to read; he encouraged us. It
was everything that Vroman's wasn't. You see, there
was no such thing as getting sacked for reading on com-
pany time. Jake wanted everyone around his place to
read and to learn and to pool their knowledge, and it
was really a wonderful climate.
VJell, the Primavera Press came on, and I came clo-
ser to it because, you see, the books were largely printed
at Ritchie's press and stocked there and shipped from
there. Orders didn't go from the bookshop^ although
that was the address of Primavera Press. The real cen-
ter of the press v/as at Ritchie's press on Griffith
Park Boulevard. Fay and I found ourselves in charge
of shipping. We used to go over in the evenings to
Ritchie's press with the orders that had come in during
the day to Jake's shop and hill and wrap and get them
ready for the express pickup or take them to the post
office. And Ritchie said, "Well, gosh, we ought to pay
you for doing this, Larry. I'll take it up with the
board of directors."
MINX: That being McWilllams, Hanna, and. . .
POWELL: . . .and Jake and Ward; so he did. And, lo
and behold, we were added to the payroll at $7.50 a
month. That brought our income up to $37.50. I kept
working at this and doing their correspondence, and they
finally voted me in as a director. In lieu of more
salary, I was rated director. There was another chap
who was in the press that we haven't mentioned that I
mentioned earlier. It was Jim Groenewegen, the big
MINK: How did he get in there?
POWELL: VJell, he was with Arthur Andersen, a certified
public accounting firm downtown; he was vrorking at that,
graduated from Stanford, and v;e decided that the press
needed an accountant. So, Jim Groenewegen, through his
friendship with VJard and Jake and me, took that on as
almost a volunteer thing. He audited and kept the books.
So he was brought in, I think, and made a director, al-
though I don't think his name ever appeared on the let-
terhead. But C. E. Groenewegen was our fiscal authority.
He went later with Federal Housing or whatever, and he's
still with them.
MINK: Let me get this straight, Larry. This Primavera
Press really then became Anderson, Ritchie and Simon?
POWELL: No, it was a publishing device; it wasn't a
printing outfit. It was just a publishing device, and
Ritchie at the same time was printing books for other
publishers, or designing, and gradually for himself . The
Ward Ritchie Press really succeeded the Primavera Press.
MINK: Yes. Then were you really a director for the
Ward Ritchie Press or an investor from the very outset?
POWELL: No, not until 1966 . I was close to it and
just a colleague and proofreader and a "pickerupper"
of scraps off the floor, all of which are at the Clark
Library now in my Ritchie collection. But I never had
a share in the press until I took some of Caroline An-
derson's stock in 1966. No, the Primavera Press, I guess,
just faded out in the thirties, ran out of manuscripts
perhaps. Carey McWilliams became more and more interested
in the migratory labor problems. He became Commissioner
of Housing under Governor Olson, and he split off, even-
tually went East, you remember as editor of the Nation .
MINK: He still is.
POWELL: Still is. And Jake went through fiscal diffi-
culties, a couple of bankruptcies.
MINK: How did this happen? Of course, Jake will pro-
bably describe this, but how do you feel? What was the
main contributing factor?
POWELL: Well, the main contributing factor was that he
didn't pay his bills. He bought and didn't pay, and he
owed very large sums. This wasn't dishonesty on his
part. It was just that he didn't have any money. He
spent it for more materials where he had to pay locally.
But his creditors that were out or town, who couldn't
come in and knock on the door--I'ra thinking of the English
dealers, Maggs, Robinson, Pickering and Chatto--those
were his big creditors. They finally lowered the boom
on him, and he went through bankruptcy at least twice.
MINK: VJould you say this was more due to his acquisi-
tive nature, just the desire of seeing and handling
these nice books, or was it more due to the fact that
he wanted to build up the stock and expand his business?
Do you see what I mean?
POVJELL: Yes, I don't know, Jim. I think Jake v/ould
have to answer that; what his driving force was. He
never really got solvent and made a go of it until he
married Josephine, his Dutch farmgirl wife, who took
hold of the business fiscally and insisted that he he
current. Jake is really heroic in surviving these vicis-
situdes. He always landed on his feet, and he kept his
friends even among his creditors, and certainly of us who
went through it all with him. I used to get tired of
writing letters to creditors, stalling them off. My
God, I typed scores of letters. And Jake would try to
pay, but of course he had salaries to meet, and sometimes
we went without pay. Oh, hut Jim, the contacts, the
friendships I made there--I brought this out in my book--
the people I met there were absolutely crucial in my
subsequent career, like Elmer Belt.
MINK: I think, too, it would be good to describe the
appearance of Robert Cowan, although we have a portrait
of him, but his personality, as much as you could.
POWELL: He used to come in the shop Saturday afternoons,
I guess. Everyone had a fixed time for coming in. Paul
Jordan-Smith always came in on Wednesday, after he "put
the Sunday paper to bed." He would walk up Sixth Street
doing the bookshops, and end at Jake's. He would come
in talking and he stayed talking and he vralked out talk-
ing. He was a marvelous talker. And Cov:an would come
in Saturday afternoon. Now theoretically I worked half
time, but I'd get interested, and I'd get talking, and
I rarely got away. And Saturdays I would often be there
for a long time, meeting the people and talking with the
people. Everett Moore used to come in v;hen he was teach-
ing at Webb School; that's where I saw Everett again
after we'd known each other at college.
Cowan was a real sartorial, elegant person. He
dressed beautifully, always with matching colors, and
his goatee always beautifully trimmed. Hell, why shouldn't
he. He was on a $l,000-a-month salary in the Depression;
he was a rich man. Anyone who had any kind of money at
all in the Depression, you see, could live like a prince.
So Cowan lived like one and showed it. He would come
in with his Havana cigars and flick the ashes on the
carpet, and I would go around afterwards and either
grind them in or sweep them up, I can't remember which.
And he'd be talking with Jake; they were working on deals.
They were working on one deal, I remember--the Lieuten-
ant Archibald Gillespie papers.
MINK: How much can you tell me about that?
POWELL: Jim, I can't tell you anything, except that I
typed up descriptions, and they were selling them to
Bancroft, v;eren't they?
MINK: Didn't Cowan and Zeitlin make a trip up to
Sacramento? Cowan had to leave and Jake was to be the
front man .
POVJELL: Yes, that may have heen after I left the shop,
but it was cooking, certainly. Jake, you see, was always
cooking dishes and getting things ready, and it was al-
ways a wonderful air of bibliographical intrigue in the
shop that I loved. I was really privy to it because I
MINK: Didn't Jake subsequently sell these manuscripts
to the husband of Catherine Coffin Phillips as a Christ-
POWELL: Mrs. Lee Phillips. Yes, and then what happened
to them? Did she give them to the Bancroft Library or
POWELL: We have them here?
POWELL: That's right. That's all coming clear now.
And of course Mrs. Richard Dakin was an angel for that.
MINK: Did she come into the store?
POWELL: She used to come in. I don't remember her well,
but I knew her later. She came in--oh, everybody came
MINK: Did Henry VJagner come in?
POVJELL: Oh, Wagner was in the shop. I remember once.
my God, Jake said, "Look, here we have a Spanish derretero
(a sailing guide) to the V/est Coast; I don't know v/hat it
is, and it's a difficult manuscript and all. Hightail
it out to Henry Wagner and ask him if he will give us a
quick description of it."
So I got in Jake's old 1931 Ford roadster and v;ent
barreling out to San Marino, Winston Avenue, and called
on Henry Wagner. I think it' was the first time I'd met
him. And he said right away, "Look, what's the pitch.
What do you want out of me? What's Jake up to? Do you
want me to buy this? So I'm not buying; take it back."
And I said, "No, sir, Jake would like your opinion of
it: is it genuine? Is it valuable? What is it?" Wagner
said, "Oh, he wants to use me, does he?" And old Wagner
was salty as hell. He says, "Well, goddamn it, he
ought to pay me for this." I don't know how I got around
it. I soft-soaped a little. I said, "Well, you are the
authority. Everything ends up here. We need your help."
So I didn't leave, and he finally got interested and
looked at it, and I took notes on what he said about it,
wrote them down hastily, and then hightailed it back to
Jake, typed them up, bucked it into Jake, and then Jake
offered it, I think, probably to [Herbert E.] Bolton.
MINK: At the Bancroft?
POWELL: Yes; I think it may be up there now. That's
the kind of thing we v/ere always doing, picking brains.
MINK: Whose other brains did you pick?
POWELL: Well, Elmer Belt, certainly, on anything that
related to Leonardo (he had started his collection then).
On the history of medicine — Nathan Van Patten, the li-
brarian at Stanford University, who was a steady custo-
merj Dr. Le Roy Crummer of Kansas City; and Dr. Harvey
Gushing, great brain surgeon from Boston, who was a cus-
tomer of Jake's. Jake then had a growing interest in
science which now, of course, is overriding; but he was
developing literary, historical, and scientific interests.
They were all going forward together, and that's why
Jake was unusual. He had a wide capacity for learning.
He should have been a scholarly rabbi and a teacher,
you see. He was a natural in that area.
Another great friend I had then was Bishop Stevens,
the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, V/illiam Bertrand
Stevens, who I came to know because he was a college
fraternity brother. He'd been a member of Phi Gamma Delta
at Columbia, as I remember, and he used to come to the
chapter house at Occidental and give us spiritual gui-
dance, I suppose. At any rate, he used to come in Jake's
and buy books, and he took a fondness to me for some
reason, Jim. I guess he read my book on Jeffers and was
interested in literature. I remember we used to go across
the street to the Dairy Lunch and sit on a stool at the
counter and have a glass of milk and a carrot salad.
There was the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, with his
great big ass perched on the stool, and I sitting there,
and we had a helluva good time. He was a wonderful, big,
burly, lovely man.
MINK: Would you categorize him as an intellectual?
POWELL: No, he wasn't an intellectual; he was a social-
religious figure that was intrigued by this literary
milieu. I think he liked the rub-off. He wasn't an in-
tellectual but he was a learned man.
MINK: Was he a promoter of converts to the faith?
POWELL: No, not at all, no. We never talked religion,
really. I remember my friend Newell, who had separated
from Gloria Stuart, was teaching sculpture at Chouinard.
He had a beautiful young Russian woman pupil, and he
fell in love with her. They wanted to get married, and
we thought we'd have a wedding at the Ritchie Press.
The Russian girl wanted some kind of a religious wedding;
she didn't want a civil wedding. She wanted a minister
to marry them. So, hell, I called up Bishop Stevens,
because you know, we were all members of Phi Gamma Delta,
and I said, "Gordon and Ward are here and we all want
a marriage at the press." And he wanted to know a little
about the groom and bride. Gordon had been divorced.
and he said, "Well, this really isn't quite comme _11
faut, but I'm fond of you boys." So he got in his little
car and came tooling out, and we had the marriage there
at the press, v;ith the press still going, I think; and
Bishop Stevens married them. Then we had a little snack
lunch. Fay was there, of course, and Ritchie's wife,
Janet Hathaway Smith. It was a very wonderful milieu
that we were operating in. Of course I romanticized it
and I think back on it with nostalgia.
MINK: Back to Robert Ernest Cowan: I understood that
he was a little bit grabby in the store--that is to say,
he would follow people around to see what they were look-
ing at, and then if it was something he wanted, he would
grab it out of their hands. Is there any truth in this?
POWELL: I didn't see it happen, but I've heard that he
was. He was always a bookseller. He'd been a bookseller
when Will Clark hired him as a librarian, and he was al-
ways ready to buy and sell. And he was aggressive, cer-
MINK: Well, his final bibliography, published by Nash,
was done in 1933- That would have been several years
POVJELL: Just a year before I was there.
MINK: Were you familiar with him? I suppose you were,
working with him. Did you discuss it with him?
POWELL: Yes, we had a copy, and Jake v;as always turning
up things not in Cov;an and then challenging him- -"Why
didn't you include this?" It's an imperfect bibliogra-
phy because basically it's a bibliography of Cowan's
collection. He didn't attempt, unwisely, to [do a com-
prehensive bibliography] .
MINK: How did Cowan defend himself in this?
POWELL: Oh, I don't think he would; I think he would
ignore you. He wouldn't stoop to argue over this; he'd
say, "Well, take it or leave it. It's a beautiful book
MINK: Was he disposed to continue to acquire things
not in his bibliography, or had he stopped collecting
by this time?
POWELL: No, he was collecting all the time. He was
buying; Jake was selling. He ran an account constantly
at Jake's, and I think at Dawson's.
MINK: Did his son accompany him into the store?
POWELL: I never met his son until later, the young
Bob; no, I don't think so.
MINK: It would be your opinion, then, that young Bob's
interest in Californiana was acquired later, after
the senior Cowan's death?
POVJELL: It v;as scraps and leavings, you see, up in
the attic, the things that really should have come to
us at UCLA in the purchase of the Cov;an collection. In
a sense, we were had, Jim. Mr. [John E.] Goodwin didn't
really go after this thing aggressively; he should have
gone after Cowan and gotten the things that Cowan was
holding back. He thought he was buying the whole collec-
tion, but he sure as hell didn't. Cowan held out a num-
ber of things.
MINK: On the question of Jake, I've heard it said that
in Myron Brinig's The Flutter of an Eyelid , Jake appears
as a character. Is this true?
POWELL: Oh, yes, definitely; and Jake took action and
had the first issue suppressed. There's a first issue
that was withdrawn when Jake threatened libel, and it
was revised, then, and issued. Farrar and Rinehart, I
guess, published it. I don't remember who Jake's attor-
ney was, probably Homer Crotty or Will Clary. Those were
the two best lawyer customers that Jake had.
MINK: Well this suggests, doesn't it, that Jake was
involved in a lot of hanky-panky.
POWELL: Well, I don't know. This v;as Brinig's view of
it, and you ought to hear Jake on Brinig, because he
believed that Brinig libelled him--that is, he didn't
tell the truth. He made a gross exaggeration of things
that he had observed. He'd been a hanger-on. Jake's
story was that Brinig was a hanger-on, picking up literary
copy, and then he exploited it. But I wouldn't pass on
the veracity of it all.
MINK: Did you know Brinig personally?
MINK: Never met him?
POWELL: No, I never met him. I don't think he ever
dared show up in Jake's shop. When was the book published^
MINK: Somewhere in there.
POVJELL: Right in there^ yes. I think we have a first
issue here. I collected it and put it in Special Collec-
MINK: Wellj one of the things that you bring out in
your autobiography is the fact that you were working^
dressing windows and doing all of this--a factotum--
and then all of a sudden you went on to outside work,
totally. Did you and Jake disagree? What happened?
POWELL: What do you mean, "went on to outside work?"
MINK: You describe the fact that you were assigned to
outside selling exclusively.
POVJELL: Ah, yes. Well, the whole of Jake's drive was
that as he was sinking deeper into the slough of debt,
was to increase sales. He had to bring in more sales
volume, and he wanted everyone in the shop to be a sales-
man. VJe had a daily sales sheet that the bookkeeper
produced every morning, showing the previous day's sales:
who had made them; the gross profit and the net profit
on everything. There was a running balance, and Jake's,
of course, always led the rest by an enormous amount.
It was a one-man business as far as sales went.
Jake would try to give us jobs. I remember he gave
me a couple of opportunities that I carried off. One
was to sell the proof copy of the Constitution of the
Confederate States of America . This was a nice item
that had come in, and I was attempting to sell it to
the Daughters of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia,
and I think I did, finally, for $500. I was then on
a fifty percent of the gross profit. That is, if he bought
It for $200, and we sold it for $500, there was a $300
gross profit, of which I got $150. The temptation in
this kind of a sale was always to raise the sale price,
to make as large a margin as possible.
MINK: Would Jake set the price, or would he leave It
to you to set it?
POWELL: I think we would do it together.
I had another good deal. I can't remember from
where — I think a dealer in Rutherford, New Jersey, had
advertised manuscripts of Thomas Wolfe. I'd read Look
Homeward , Angel and was quite steamed up, and I wrote
and got these manuscripts on consignment. It included
an early notebook draft of Look Homeward, Angel , and I
think I sold this eventually to Harvard. I think it's
in the Harvard College Library collection of Wolfe.
One other thing--a marvelous event--someone pulled
up in front of the shop in an old sedan and honked the
horn like mad. Jake said, "Go out and see v;hat they
want." So I go out on Sixth Street, and it was some
old character. He says, "I got a whole carton of old
pamphlets in here; what '11 you give me for 'em?" VJell,
I jumped over in the back seat and fished around in there;
and, by God, there must have been 300 or 400 libretti of
nineteenth-century English operas, what they call bur-
lettas--little burlesque operas that were popular in the
nineteenth century. There was a whole carton of them,
and I rushed back into the shop and I said, "Well, it
looks good; it's a great lot of nineteenth century opera
libretti, and burlettas. What '11 I give for 'em?" Jake
said, "Oh, give him ten dollars." So I go tearing back
out to the car and I said to him, "We can pay ten dollars."
And he said, "No, I want more than that." I said, "How
much?" Well, he said, "Fifteen dollars." So I rushed
back into Jake and I said, "It's worth fifteen dollars."
He says, "Take the money out of the cash drawer." I go
tearing out with fifteen dollars and paid for it and
rushed in with the stuff.
We emptied the whole damn carton out on the floor,
Jake and I on our hands and knees, poring through it.
"Well," he says, "this is a natural. You get the sale
now. I think you can sell this right av/ay to Stanford
University. They're collecting this kind of thing; I
know from Nathan Van Patten." Well, I did. I sold it
for $500 to Stanford University. So I had 50 percent
of the gross profit between a fifteen-dollar purchase.
I had 50 percent of $485. It's that kind of thing that
makes the book-trade exciting, of course. You never
know who's going to drive up and honk the horn.
Well, Jake finally said, "Look, I used to call on
the studios and on collectors and all with my book bag."
(And that's the way Jake started, as a peddler in the
1920s in Los Angeles.) He said, "I can't get around
this way. You go out, Larry. You take the bag and go
out. Here's a list of people to call on." Jules Furth-
man at MGM. . .
MINK: I wonder why he decided all of a sudden that he'd
done it, now you should do it?
POWELL: Well, Jim, people came into the shop and they
wanted to see Jake; he found he had to be there more and
more. He was pinned down; he couldn't be out. In the
early days, he didn't have a shop when he v/as peddling;
he v/as vrorking out of his home. So he got me out, and
I didn't like it.
MINK: Vmat didn't you like about it?
POWELL: Wellj I didn't like to have to wait on people
and just sit on my ass in a waiting room maybe for an
hour or two. I didn't like it; it offended my person-
MINK: Damaging to your ego?
POWELL: Damaging to my ego, yes, that's right. I
wanted to be welcomed, I wanted to be treated as a co-
equal, not as a goddamned peddler. I don't know, maybe
it was in his blood, that he had a certain Jewish tradi-
tion of selling that I just didn't have.
MINK: You didn't think you were a good salesman?
POWELL: Well, I was if I was properly received. Elmer
Belt, across the street in the Pacific Mutual Building--
he and Dr. Donald Charnock had this clinic together.
MINK: If you want to call it that.
POWELL: Yes, that's where they treated doses of clap,
[laughter] But they were primarily book collectors and
then doctors; so any time Larry Powell came in with a
book bag--the old patient lay there waiting--and they
said, "What are you bringing us?" Elmer was marvelous.
So was Don Charnock, bless him. He died last year. I
loved going over there.
Another chap I liked to call on was Grant Dahlstrom,
who was working then for Young and McAllister; he was
their designer. I used to take him around the Limited
Editions Club books and books on typography. He was a
very sweet and wonderful guy. Delmer Daves, the film
director J was another. I used to sell to Paul Landacre.
He was beginning to make a bit of money and would buy
I told the story, I think, of once going out to MGM
and being made to wait by Jules Furthman, v/ho was one
of their top screen writers. I had this first edition
of Shropshire Lad , and it was $225 or $250. And Furthman
wanted to chisel me out of a sales tax. Sales tax had
come in then. So I picked the book up and started out.
Christ, he followed me out to the parking lot. He says,
"No, I'll pay it; come on back." Oh, I came to know
Furthman later, and he gave us a number of things here,
MINK: Yes, he did.
POWELL: For Special Collections.
MINK: He's a generous donor.
POWELL: Yes. And, of course, the things Belt did for
us eventually came out of those first contacts that I
made through Jake. Also, my friendship with Paul Jordan-
Smith. It was a very decisive, key time.
Well, at any rate, I got more and more fed up with
the outside selling.
MINK: VJell, you say in your autobiography that. . .
POWELL: Well, if I say it, it's true!
MINK: You said that you were unhappy about the idea of
having to deal in the kind of living that involved buy-
ing and selling; but what really you were unhappy about
was that you didn't like the kind of relationship that
you might be thrown into in this kind of a thing.
POWELL: Yes, that's part of it.
MINK: In other words, I think maybe you're saying that
you didn't have as thick a skin as is necessary to be a
POWELL: That's probably true. I always wanted people
to have what they needed, and if some poor bastard came
in and really coveted something on our shelf and couldn't
afford it, I was always inclined to mark it down.
MINK: I suppose Jake didn't care for that?
POWELL: He said, "You can't remain solvent if you do
this, Larry. You can't give this stuff away." And we
were incompatible in that sense. So it was inevitable,
I guess, that I point toward library work.
MINK: And I suppose that this really came, as you said,
in the person of Mr. Read.
POVJELL: Albert Read v;as the first one that said, "You
ought to be buying, not selling, and you come with me,"
and he grabbed me and took me right through the door
from the Order Department of the Public Library to Miss
Warren's office (they connected with a door), and then
she charmed me.
MINK: Was that the first time you ever met Althea [Hes-
POWELL: Yes, I think so. When did I do the Lawrence
exhibit? Oh, that was 1937 j at the Public Library; yes,
that was the first time I met her. Albert Read took me
in, and I went on, then, for advice, to see Stelter.
We were still close. Fay and I used to go over and see
them; he and Mrs. Stelter were very kind to us. I re-
member he got me one lecture on Jeffers to a women's club
in Highland Park. It paid $7.50 for an hour's lecture.
He was always trying to help us get established. He said,
"Yes, sure, there's a great field for male librarians.
I think it's a great idea. Go over and talk to Miss
McCloy in the Occidental College Library and see what
she thinks." And Miss McCloy was encouraging. She said,
"Yes, this is a good idea; get your degree." She said,
"You have to get a library degree; Miss Warren is right."
So those two people advised me. Fay teased me, of course,
but she really was [for it].
MINK: Was her feeling that it wasn't a masculine thing
POV/ELL: Well, she'd had a bad time at the College Library.
The assistant librarian at Occidental was a mousy little
woman named Miss Fales; she was employed because she v;as
the sister-in-law of Dan Hammack^ one of the trustees--
it was a kind of little sinecure. She had given Fay a
bad time because Fay laughed aloud in the library and
hadn't paid her library fines or something. Fay just
had no use at all for librarians^ and she recalled that
image, you see, whereas I saw the image of Althea Warren,
She was very vivacious, and yea-saying, a wonderful,
So we began thinking, you see, and corresponding,
then, with [Sidney] Mitchell at Berkeley for the cata-
log and all. But the money was a problem until Alonzo
Cass came to the rescue that one night we had dinner.
He was a member of the South Pasadena Casses. He was
a young intern or resident physician at Hollywood Hos-
pital then. He said, "I'm coming into a legacy in April,
and would $1000 help?" "Good Lord," I said, "sure."
So he said, "There it is." And it came.
MINK: That's when you threw the glass of wine against
POWELL: Oh, God, yes. We started all over again. Cass
Was a wonderful high-spirited guy. He died just last
year. Ritchie spoke at his funeral. It happened when
we were in England, otherwise I would have been there,
and I wanted to speak, too, because I loved the guy.
Very generous^, wonderful man. Then, of course, v;hen v;e
finally went up to Berkeley, bless her, Mrs. Bell helped
us, too, with an allowance, as did my Uncle Harold. I
remember we found a flat in Berkeley that was $37.50 a
month--a furnished flat. I said, "All we can pay is
$30 a month," and Uncle Harold said, "I'll pay the $7.50."
We had help, sure, and then I worked.
MINK: You worked at the [University of California] press.
I was wondering if you could tell me during that year
in library school, when you were working with the press,
some of the people that you became associated with?
POWELL: Sam Farquhar was really the only one and Hazel
Niehaus who has just retired, I think.
MINK: Is that the first time you met Sam Farquhar?
POWELL: No, Sam, you see, came out of Jake's shop, be-
cause he was a great crony and customer of Jake's.
MINK: That's how you got the job then at the press.
POWELL: Yes, exactly, and also how I came to call on
Bolton. Jake said, "Look, you're going to library school^
you represent me. I'll send materials up and you show
them to Bolton. I'll pay you a commission." And I said,
"No, I don't think I want to do this. I'll go and talk
to Bolton about anything that you write me about, but
I'm not going to peddle stuff to him." At any rate, I
went in to see Bolton. Of course, by that time Bolton
was turned on, and never turned off. You never could
get a v;ord in; he was just talking all the time.
MINK: Did he have his map up on the board v;ith his pins
POWELL: Where his boys were?
POWELL: Well, I think so; but I don't remember it clear-
ly. But he was a dynamic, dominant sort of figure. The
other man that I enjoyed on the faculty there was T. K.
Whipple in American literature. I had that funny ex-
perience of auditing his seminar, and he thought I was
an FBI agent.
MINK: Beyond that, did you get acquainted with him af-
ter you told him that you were just a library school
POWELL: Not outside of class, but I sometimes went
to his seminar. And he spoke well of my book on Jeffers.
The other faculty member I had contact with was
the young instructor in German. You see, I took German
through the whole year because I'd never had it as a
language, and Mitchell said, "You have to have German."
So I took it for credit all through that year. What
was his name? Melz, I think, and he came and taught
here one summer session at UCLA. I knew him later.
So I had a full year, Jim, between the curriculum, the
German, and auditing Miss [Edith] Coulter's seminar
MINK: I see I've written dovm a question here.
POWELL: Yes J better get it in.
MINK: What is it about the Berkeley library school
anyway? Why is it so bad? Did you find it that way
when you were there?
MINK: Well, let me put it another way, were you dis-
POWELL: No, I wasn't disillusioned, because I didn't
expect anything. I had no idea of what to expect. I
had never been conditioned to expect anything.
MINK: Well, what would be your assessment of that year
as far as contributing to your overall knowledge of li-
POWELL: Well, it was a good introduction, Jim. It
taught me the field of personalities, the pioneers of
librarianship, an overview of the literature. The great
lack in the year, of course, was Mitchell's absence. He
was on sabbatical; he was at Yale a good deal of the
time, and Miss Delia Sisler was in charge.
MINK: She was acting dean?
POVffiLL: She v/as acting dean or director. She v/as small
caliber, let's face it, and she was really hostile toward
men. There 'd been some duds going through--there' d been
some good ones, too: Ed Castagna had gone through and
Ed Coraan and John Henderson. But there 'd been some duds,
and Mitchell was tending to admit them whether or not
they were good, just to have men in the profession, and
Miss Coulter and Miss Sisler were against this. So in
Mitchell's absence, they, in a sense, ganged up on me,
who was the oldest man in the class. They just resented
men coming in and picking off juicy jobs.
MINK: Then there was a controversy about that, just as
there was a controversy later on in the School of Li-
brarianship. Why has the Berkeley school always been
so controversial? Why have they had all this trouble?
POWELL: I don't know, Jim. Mitchell could have exer-
cised stronger leadership, I think, but what weakened
his leadership in this field was his increasing interest
in horticulture. He gave so much of his time to horti-
culture, not to librarianship. He was editor of the
California Horticultural Society quarterly or bulletin.
He was breeding, and he was a great man in that field.
But inevitably, he left a number of things in librarian-
ship to these two women. Coulter and Sisler.
MINK: VJell, besides them, who else was there on the
POWELL: Well, there was May Dexter Henshaw, v;ho came
down from the state library and lectured on state library
law; and there was in Mitchell's absence that year, and
who was ray saviour, really, was Katherine Anderson who
came down from the library association of Portland and
taught Mitchell's courses. She and I hit it off. And
there was a wonderful secretary of the school, Karen
Loynd, a Scandinavian woman who did for the school what
Flo Williams has done for ours. She was a sort of consoler
of bruised students.
MINK: Picker-up of the pieces.
POWELL: Picker-up of the pieces; that's right. [laugh-
ter] At any rate, I think that was part of the trouble.
MINK: Well, did you sense a decided antagonism in these
people against Mitchell?
POWELL: No, not a decided antagonism.
MINK: Not an outward antagonism.
POWELL: No, but I sensed a latent resentment of a lot
of Mitchell's ideas. And then there was the conflict
between the library school and the library.
MINK: That was raging early then?
POWELL: It was strong, because, well, I don't know the
whole background of it; but [Harold] Leupp v/as there
then and Peyton Hurt was his associate librarian, who
had no use for the library school. Miss Coulter, you
see, had been chief reference librarian, and a lot of
the library staff still would come and cry on her shoul-
der. Leupp wasn't a strong leader. There was too much--
oh, what shall I say--intrigue and crosscurrents and
strife between the factions there.
MINK: I've often heard it said by students at the Berke-
ley school that the great highlight of their year there,
and one of the redeeming features of it, v;as the course
in reference which Miss Coulter gave.
POVffiLL: I think that's true.
MINK: Yet, you're rather disparaging of her, I think,
in your book. You just sort of dismiss her.
POWELL: Yes, I know it; I didn't do justice to her in
the book, and I tried to right that in this Coulter
lecture that I gave--did you hear that? --the Coulter
lecture I gave a year ago at San Diego. That's in press
now. Grant Dahlstrom is printing it for CLA [California
Library Association], and it should be out this fall.
I want you to read it, because I try to make up for
this. Well, you see, I should have treated her more
fully in the book. I had these ambivalent feelings about
POWELL: VJell, they came later because of her attitude
toward UCLA. She had no use for UCLA — it was upstart;
it was going to take away their advantages at Berkeley;
it was going to undercut them.
MINK: Was this in the formation of the library school
h3re, that this came out; or was this before that?
POWELL: Even earlier. And another thing: she thought
I should work at the Huntington Library, and I think
she even maybe took a step or two to see that I might
have a job there, a bibliographical job.
MINK: You didn't want to work at the Huntington?
POWELL: No, I didn't want to work there.
POWELL: Well, I wanted to work for UCLA, Jim.
MINK: Well, say, if you'd been offered a job at the
Huntington, before you came to UCLA, would you have
POWELL: No, I don't think so. I wanted to be more in
the midst of things. I thought it was too much of a re-
treat, as it was in the 1930s. It was a very remote
place. It hadn't been opened up.
MINK: By the same token, wasn't the job you were offered
at Scripps in the same category?
POWELL: No, I don't think so; it was less so. It was
a college after all, Jim, with students; Huntington Li-
brary had no students.
MINK: Well, then the thing you really were interested
in was working v;ith people?
POWELL: With people and working at UCLA; I wanted to
work here. I just knew It from the time I v/alked in
this building in 1935. I noted in my journal at the
time: This is the place . It was one of those deep,
instinctive pieces of prescience. I knew this was the
place I should work, and I applied for a job here when
I was still in library school. I wrote to Mr. Goodwin.
MINK: Did you get an answer?
POWELL: No, I never got an answer.
MINK: Was he inclined not to answer his mail?
POWELL: Yes, he was careless about his mail. It piled
up on his desk; I remember when I was applying at the
library school, you see, for admission in the spring
of 1936, Mitchell said, "Write to Goodwin and go out
and see him for an interview." Well, I wrote and I
never had any reply. So I wrote to Mitchell and I said,
"Well, he doesn't answer me; what '11 I do?" And Mitchell
said, "Write again." So I did; I wrote again, and I
got a reply right back, because Mitchell had called him
up, I know, and needled him.
But when I did go to see Mr. Goodwin, he was very
kind, and that was the first time I came in this build-
ing. That was in the spring of 193^, I guess. I just
knew that this was the place, but I wasn't sure that
I'd get the chance; I wanted the chance, but I said.
"It's fifty-fifty whether I get it or not,"
No, I didn't want to work at the Hu-ntington; so
when I told Miss Coulter that I v/anted to work at UCLA^,
she said, "Oh, you mean the Clark Library?" "No," I
said, "I mean the main campus. I want to work out there
with the growing library." She said, "Oh, it wouldn't
interest you; they don't have any books." "Oh," I said,
"then I'll get them some." I said, "I'm interested in
order work and acquisitions work; that's the job I want."
She said, "Well, if there is a vacancy in the acquisi-
tions department" (and I think the grapevine had told
her that John Lund would probably leave eventually)
"you'd be overqualified for it; you wouldn't be happy
in it." Well, it was true: I was overqualified, and in
a sense I was unhappy in it, but still I took it.
So we had had antagonism between us, I think, and
we made it up a bit in 1938, 1939, 19^0, and 19^1. She
came down a summer or two and taught here. You see,
Mitchell wanted a statewide school. He was giving these
summer sessions at UCLA, two summers of v;hich equaled
the first semester at Cal. You didn't take those; you
came later. Well, '." any rate. Miss Coulter came down
and taught, and we h?.d her to tea v/ith us. Fay and I
did. I used to go see her every time I v/ent to Berkeley,
which was many times, on work I was doing, and we alvjays
talked of the work I was doing, but never of UCLA. I
realized I shouldn't bring this up. That v;ent on until
I became Librarian here, and then our friendship lapsed.
I suppose she thought I'd sold out to the enemy. [laugh-
MINK: Well, did you feel the same way about her reference
course that so many of the graduates have spoken about?
Did you have the feeling that it was a great course?
POWELL: It was a good course. She taught it with a
great deal of wit and sparkle, and we certainly kept
awake. But as I told in my Coulter lecture, I didn't
approve altogether of her methodology. There was too
much emphasis on Mudge ' s Guide to Reference Books , a
rather cut-and-dried procedure; and we differed some-
times over that. You'll have to read my Coulter lec-
ture, Jim, and then we can talk about it sometime. But
ultimately we were reconciled, and the last time I saw
her was a very sweet occasion. She was certainly the
outstanding teacher of the school--she and Mitchell.
Miss Sisler, no; she was old-fashioned pedagogue,
and yet there was a wonderful side to her.
Do you know the story of her legacy to Helen Hen-
drick? Mrs. Hendrick was in the acquisitions depart-
ment with me here at UCLA: we were colleagues there for
five or six years with [Seymour] Lubetzky. And when
Miss Sisler came down and taught in the summer session
here^ about 1939 or 19''i-0, she fell ill. Mrs. Hendrick
was kind to her and helped her up and dovm the stairs.
Jo[hanna] Tallman was her catalog assistant that summer.
Anyway, Miss Hendrick was very good to her. Ten years
later, when Miss Sisler died, lo and behold, there was
a legacy in her will of $5,000 to Mrs. Hendrick: "For
your kindness to me one painful summer. Take this money
for a trip around the world. I remember you spoke of
your desire to do that." This was a rather wonderful
thing of Sisler to do. So, my judgment of her certainly
is biased, as it is of all people.
MINK: I think our judgment of the library school facul-
ty is inclined to be biased because of the position we
see them from.
POWELL: That's right; they're much better than we give
them credit for.
MINK: Well, would you describe in a little detail your
work at Los Angeles Public Library after you were hired
there--people you met and the trouble you got into, if
you got into any.
POWELL: I never got in any trouble, Jim^. I was a cer-
tificated librarian then; I was clean. [laughter] I
was in acquisitions and the order departm.ent primarily,
but I was also on call for branch library relief. Somebody
fell ill, and I was on a temporary civil service appoint-
ment, and I went out to San Pedro, to Van Nuys, to Uni-
versity branch, which was across from USC, to Eagle
Rock--for a day just at each. Of course I had to get
out there on my ovm; they didn't pay travel, and I was
at $125 a month.
MINK: You would he in public service work?
POWELL: That's right, on desk work; but my chief work
was in acquisitions, and I was listing and v/orking over
gift collections that were coming to the public library.
Mr. Read knew I'd had bookstore experience in evaluating.
He said, "Sort out the sheep from the goats, and any-
thing you think should be put through, put it through.
The rest put in this room, here, and we'll have booksellers
come in," So I did a lot of that work for Albert Read
and his assistant, Elsie Truesdale, who succeeded him
as head of order department, and Miss Warren and Ann
Lydendecker, head of science and industry. I came to
Oh, my God, Jim, I forgot to say my very first
job there in the public library was in the teachers'
and children's room with Rosemary Livsey who was head
of that. Ruth Hudson was my superior; and Rosalie Higgs,
who is working upstairs in the library school now as
librarian, was in that department. Those were friendships.
particularly with Rosemary Livsey, that lasted all through
our careers. We've hoth retired nov;.
But it was an exciting place to he because of Miss
Warren. She would come charging in and out of most any
department saying, "Hello and greetings." I guess I
learned from her the advantages and the desirability of
getting around, getting out of the office. She was very
much aware of her staff.
MINK: That and the fact that Goodwin himself never did.
POWELL: No, he didn't do it; it wasn't his nature to
do. It would have been wrong for him to try to do it;
it wouldn't have rung true. What you must do is to learn
who you are and be true to who you are, and Goodwin cer-
tainly was true to his own nature and was a very kind man
in his way; but it certainly wasn't my way.
MINK: Larry, did you know at the time that you worked
in the public library that discontent with the city ad-
ministration about what the library was getting in the
way of support and so on [was going on]?
POWELL: No, I was insulated from that, you see, down at
the bottom of the totem pole, and I wasn't aware of
this. I was aware of the awkwardness of the building,
which has come out now of course in an enormous contro-
versy » It's a very difficult building to v/ork in.
MINK: More difficulty than this building--the Pov;ell
POWELL: Yes, much more; it's a bigger building, and
there's less articulation between the floors and the
departments. You sure as hell could get lost there.
And it's like working in a mausoleum or a great big
Egyptian tomb. I think it's a lousy building; I don't
think it's an architectural monument at all, and I don't
think it should be torn down. First of all, it ' d cost
too much dynamite to blast it; it should be used as a
gallery or an archives or a museum. But as a public
library, it ' s a flop.
Well, let me say this: Miss Warren hired me on
tolerance only. She said, "You don't belong here; you
belong in a university library field." And she said,
"I'll give you the job as long as I can, but you're going
to get in the other field." She said, "Let's look at
the university and college libraries in Southern Cali-
fornia, at the age of their incumbent librarians, and you
can see that you have a good future here somewhere." She
was very realistic. We looked over USC and Claremont
and UCLA and Occidental and Redlands and Whittier.
It was sometime in that year that I did exhibits
for her, one of D. H» Lawrence's manuscripts and one of
my Steinbeck collection. The public library issued my
catalog of the Lawrence manuscripts which I'd done for
Jake when I got out of library school. Elmer Beit and
Susannah Dakln paid for itj Ritchie printed it, and
[Aldous] Huxley wrote the introduction. And vfe opened
the exhibition with a public meeting at which Huxley
spoke, and I introduced him.
MINK: How did you first become acquainted with Aldous
POWELL: Through the catalog.
MINK: Through Jake?
POWELL: Yes, through Jake. Jake had brought Huxley to
Southern California to work in films; because Jake was
the entrepreneur and sold Huxley, I think, to MGM, or
somewhere, as a scenario writer. Jake had sold Huxley's
books--all the modern firsts of the English authors Jake
knew. But this was bold of Miss Warren, you see, to do
Steinbeck or to do D. H. Lawrence, to do these exhibits.
MINK: Was there any concern about security at that time
in the exhibits?
POWELL: No, I don't think so.
MINK: The thought of exhibiting D. H. Lawrence manu-
scripts in the public library bothered me.
POWELL: I don't think anybody really cared. There wasn't
the attention paid to him then or to valuable manuscripts.
MINK: One other question about the library dovm there:
you said that you worked with the gifts, and I v;ondered
if you could assess the quality of gifts that the library
was getting then. Were they rich gifts?
POWELL: No, low.
MINK: Low quality?
POWELL: Yes, low quality; a lot of stuff came in from
residents--"Come and clean out our attic."
MINK: Did you ever get in on any of these attic clean-
POWELL: I went up on Bunker Hill to a couple of them.
Albert Read sent me up; I picked up stuff, but it was
junk. There was never anything; there were no treasures.
Read, you see, was an old bookseller; that's why he'd
been sympathetic to me. He'd been with Fowler Brothers.
POWELL: When he retired there, then he went to work at
the public library. And of course after he retired from
the public library, he went to Dawson's, and he finished
his career again as a bookseller. I used to go in then
as Librarian of UCLA and buy books from Albert Read, We
often talked of how our roles were being reversed. He
was a very sweet guy, wonderful little chipmunk of a
MINK: VJell, I'm beginning, I think, to understand the
statement that you made in your autobiography about your
decision that you were going to be the Librarian at UCLA
the first time you walked in the building.
POWELL: It wasn't a decision, Jim; it was an instinctive
feeling that I would like to be.
MINK: Well, I thought that this was a little bit "pre-
sumptuous" perhaps, but I see that if you sat and talked
with Miss Warren about coming into a place where the li-
brarian soon would be retiring. . .
POWELL: Oh, but I had the feeling even before I knew her.
I had the feeling, you see, when I came out to be inter-
viewed by Mr„ Goodwin. That was before I met Miss Warren,
No, that didn't have anything to do with her in the be-
ginning. It was just what I felt. It wasn't presump-
tion; it was a deep feeling that this was where I belonged.
And I hoped that I might have a chance. I didn't say,
"I'm going to take this place over, goddamn it." No,
that would have been presumptuous. No, I just said,
"Jesus, this is it." That's what the old Mormon felt when
he came over the Wasatch Mountains. Brigham Young said,
"This is the place."
MINK: When you came to work then in February of 1938,
where was it in this building that you worked first?
POWELL: In acquisitions.
MINK: The acquisitions department.
POVffiLL: Yes, which v;as then on the main floor, back of
the Librarian's office. It's v;here the College Library
has space now. There was the Librarian's office and
the acquisitions and then the bibliography room and then
the catalog department; v;e were in tandem. And I had a
desk there--John J. Lund's desk. Remember, he had a
Ph.D. in Germanic languages and taught Swedish, and was
junior librarian. He had been here a year. He and [Gus-
tave 0.] Arlt had published this very critical article
in the Library Journal , and Goodwin encouraged him [Lund]
to leave, and he went to Duke. Well, that was the vacan-
cy that Mitchell saw coming up.
MINK: Well, what was it that Gustave Arlt published in
the Library Journal ?
POWELL: It was an article on university libraries. It
wasn't specifically on this one, but it was on the way a
university library ideally should be organized and run.
Lund collaborated with him, and Goodwin took it as what
it was--a critique of the UCLA library--and he was mad
as hell about it.
MINK: Did he call Lund on the carpet and chev/ him out?
POWELL: Probably. I don't know actually that he did.
MINK: This was before you arrived.
POWELL: Yes, before I arrived; it v;as in 1937.
MINK: Did Goodwin ever speak about this to you?
POWELL: No, Goodv/in never spoke to me, period! We
never talked about things except some of the exhibitions
I was doing. And then about a couple of the unhappy ex-
periences we had over the Upton Sinclair possibility and
over the Western Worker. I told those tv;o stories in the
MINK: Yes. I've wondered if the notes that Goodwin left--
that Fanny Coldren Goodwin brought to the library later,
little jottings and ref lections--say something about Good-
win's personality. There are so many comments about being
on the downhill side of life, the sunset side of life.
Would you think that he might have been a disillusioned
person, or do you think by nature he was a retiring in-
POWELL: I think both by nature, and the two things that
hit him (that I escaped as my careers opened up) v;ere
the Depression and World War II. Those V7ere two body
blows. They meant cutback of budget, of service, of the
building program. I think these were the things, Jim.
These were very bad blows in a career that in the be-
ginning promised great expansion. He didn't get the money
to buy things^ He couldn't complete the building.
MINK: I know there was one particular note which in a
way is ironic--the fight that he had with President Sproul
about where the Cowan collection was to be placed, in
the Clark Library or here. Did you have any knowledge
of that? Did he ever speak of that to you?
POWELL: No^ not at all. We never spoke of it, and it
was a mistake, of course, to disperse the collection.
MINK: If it had been placed in the Clark Library, it
would have been kept together, undoubtedly.
POWELL: Yes, but there wasn't the reference material
to supplement it. It would have been in a vacuum. It
belonged here, and it belonged in a special collections.
But he wasn't ready for it, you see; he wasn't ready for
any of these special things that were coming.
MINK: Was it that he wasn't ready for it, or that he
saw the budgetary message on the wall?
POWELL: Both, I suppose; but he didn't believe in special
collections and rare books. He believed the Huntington
and the Clark should do these things, and that he should
run an across-the-board university library. The only
place for segregating and safeguarding here were tvjo cages
in the stacks--one on the fifth and fourth level, I guess,
and one up on the seventh.
MINK: He also had a safe in his office, too, didn't he,
where he kept things?
POWELL: No, no. Miss Bryan did at the loan desk. She
had a locked cabinet. She kept the sex books there. I
don't know v;hat else.
But it was awful, really, the things that happened
to materials in the Fiske collection and manuscript volumes
of Fiske. The first edition of Bernal Diaz ' s True His -
tory of the Conquest v;as stamped, perforated, pocketed
and run through to the stacks. It's a book of great
value, both for itself and the fact that it was Fiske 's
copy. I found it badly mutilated. And then, of course,
the WPA project was just butchering hell out of the pam-
phlets and other things. No, Goodwin wasn't ready for
this, and none of his staff were. There was no one on
the staff that had the least feeling for the book as
something that should be cared for.
I found for example in the reserve book room- -even
under Deborah King, v;ho was a good librarian, but she
couldn't care less about the format of a boGk--a beauti-
ful Grabhorn Press edition of Tivo Years Before t;he Mast ,
brought dovm from the stacks to the reserve book room
and worn out, when there V7ere texts available. You could
go to a bookstore and buy a reprint of it; that's all
the reserve book room needed. But to take a Grabhorn
edition--it v;as this insensitivity that bugged me, and
of course bugged collectors and many people. Jake I
k.nov; was unhappy, Randolph Adams came--they all thought
it was a kind of a butcher shop. Nobody gave a darrui.
I gave a damn, but I was keeping pretty quiet about it.
I realized I vfould get farther if 1 didn't say too much,
just go ahead and do what I could quietly.
And they did encourage me. Goodwin said, "Well,
what should we do about these pamphlets?" And I said,
"Well, we'll make boxes, slipcases, or folding cases."
Of course he immediately responded to any artifact or
craft problem. When I got the Nash books from William
Randolph Hearst, that was amusing because Goodwin said,
"Oh, you couldn't write Mr. Hearst." I said, "May I?"
And he said, "Oh, go ahead, but you won't get an answer."
Good God, the two books came back, the biography of
Hearst's mother and father. I took them into Mr. Goodwin.
I kept my big mouth shut. He sort of grinned. He said,
"Well, look, the covers are warping; I can fix that."
He tucked the books under his arm and went trotting down
to the elevator, down to the receiving room. I'm tagging
along behind (he had a workbench down there), and right
away he designed these boxes that they're still in, aren't
POWELL: They are plywood v;ith strings that keep their
bindings from warping.
Oh, he designed a lot of things. He did the return
chute at the loan desk. Goodwin designed that and had
the carpenters build it. Remember, he couldn't get
money for card trays in the bibliography room, so he made
those out of towel cartons. They were cardboard trays.
Jim, of heavy cardboard, folded In the form of a tray
and with a wooden handle. Goodwin designed and had them
made out of discarded heavy cartons that the paper tov/els
for the restrooms came in. Well, this was creative li-
brarianship in the Depression. He made do.
And, Jim, we must get this Linda West biography
finished, because full justice must be done to this man.
I haven't done it, certainly. I've seen it through my
own eyes and made myself out the tin Jesus, which isn't
true. He built this buildingo And when it was named
for me, I had this terrible feeling that we were over-
looking the old man; and I tried in my time--Fanny Alice
[Goodwin] asked me to see if I could get it named for
Goodwin, and I tried. Max Dunn, Westergaard and I recom-
mended this to the regents, but Sproul turned it down.
POWELL: Well, he wrote and said that our policy is
against naming a general service building for anyone j and
it was true at that time. I took this to Mrs. Goodwin.
MINK: Well, they had named the Doe Library for Doe.
POWELL: He gave it.
MINK: He gave it.
POWELL: Yes, and he paid for it. At any rate, I took
Sproul 's letter to Mrs. Goodv;in and I said, "Look, can't
we have a plaque or something to him?" She says, "No,
it's all or none." Of course, she blamed me for this,
and when I retired and Bob Vosper came, she v;ent to
Vosper apparently and Bob tried to have it named for
Goodwin. And it was turned down again, Vosper told me.
It was turned down twice.
MINK: By this time, Kerr would have been president.
POWELL: Yes, but it was turned dovm twice, and then
it was named for me. Well, I, of course, had the relief
carving of him done, which I thought was the wise thing
to do in the beginning. I had David Kindersley make
that marble likeness.
MINK: This was after Mrs. Goodwin's death.
POWELL: Oh yes. This couldn't have happened in her
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE
SEPTEMBER 8, I969
POWELL: I didn't come here with the determination that
I was going to be the Librarian; I realized that it was
a very risky thing and a lot would depend on what I did
in the next half a dozen years.
MINK: Did you ever have any doubts about your ability
to do the work?
POWELL: Oh, no, I never had the slightest doubt at all
about my ability; I was completely protected by a kind
of blind faith in myself. It was a kind of blind faith
in myself that is both good and ba,d. What it does is to
protect one against self-doubt. Self-doubt is a terribly
weakening thing. And an absence of self-doubt, of course,
makes one often insufferable and overbearing and impossible,
and that's why people tend to take an extreme view toward
me; they either like me very much or not at all, you see.
And I'm reconciled to this, because this is my nature.
MINK: When you came in, your immediate supervisor was
MINK: Just an interesting question here: did Goodv/in
take you around and introduce you to her first, or did
he just go and say to Virginia, "I hired this man." Did
she have any say in your hiring?
POWELL: I don't know, Jim; I really don't knov/. I
don't remember exactly, but I rather think that he v^as
courteous and punctilious. I think he v/ould certainly
have walked me through and introduced me, and maybe at
the time he was interviewing, but I don't think so. I
think he and Mitchell made up their mind that they v/ere
going to hire me, and he told her. I don't think she
participated in the decisions before they were made.
But certainly once I came to work, he treated me cour-
teously and introduced me to her, and then I didn't see
him again for a long time.
MINK: Well, what was your first opinion of her?
POWELL: Well, she was a cool number; she was a very
attractive young woman, very cool and self-possessed
MINK: What did she look like?
POWELL: Well, she was sort of a sandy blonde, and she
dressed beautifully. She spent a lot of money on her
clothes. She was very well groomed and precise. I
didn't care for her rather thin lips. She was the thin-
lipped type of female, that you can tell a great deal
about. She was not voluptuous or seductive in any vray:
she was a good little business woman and a tremendous
asset to Goodv;in. She was orderly.
MINK: That's what they needed then, I suppose.
POWELL: They needed that. She was really the secretary
to the Library Committee. She did all the paperwork for
the Library Committee, and there was more red tape in pur-
chasing then. In other words, the committee approval
had to be got, secured, obtained, for purchases over "x"
dollars, and she'd present offers to the committee. She
didn't attend committee meetings, but she fed everything
in. Goodwin attended and took the minutes.
What I learned from her, Jim, was one very interest-
ing thing--to never go home at night until the top of my
desk was clear. She worked that wayj she came to work
in the morning, got her work out of her drawer or her
files, and worked hard on it all day, and by the time
she was through at 4:30 (when we used to quit), the top
of her desk would be absolutely clear, except for her
pencils and her clocko She didn't say to me, "Do this,"
but I observed that this was a good working system and
I used to follow that. I learned that from her.
And she taught me bibliographical checking. You
had to initial your cards, your initials up in the top
left-hand corner, and there are still some in the v/ants
file I think with the V. T. or P., and she taught me
precision in bibliographical checking. I really didn't
learn this in library school. And she taught m.e hovi to
go to bibliographical sources. VJe had a good collection
in the bibliography room, and she wasn't intimidated by
me and my advanced degrees. She schooled me, corrected
me when I was wrong, and I took it from her.
MINK: What was her education, qualifications, and ex-
POWELL: I think none other than a Berkeley B.A. and a
Berkeley Library School degree, and came right to work
here as a girl of twenty or twenty-one. It'd been en-
tirely here under Goodwin. But that was good training
because this was his prime. Those were the twenties and
early thirties; he was in his prime then, and she learned
everything, I'm sure, from him. She was a good super-
visor in that she laid out the work--that is, we'd check
in at her desk in the morning, and she'd give us the
batches of cards we were to check, the departmental re-
quests for books. I always did the French, and I did the
Latin and Greek and Italian and Spanish. I did the Ro-
mance languages . Elsa Leocker, the German girl that was
here, did the Germanic languages.
Between us and Miss McCleary (there were the three
of us checking) we did the continuations. Those came in
on trucks, and we accessioned continuations and gifts.
So we had the two jobs: one, of checking the current
orders; and two, carding up and checking the continuations
There was no serials department then, you see; all con-
tinuations came into the Acquisitions Department. And
we carded; in other words, we had a typewriter and a
table and a desk, and we divided our time between typing.
And she said, "Don't spend all your time doing one thing;
break your work." So I checked for a couple of hours
at the public catalog on current orders, and then I'd
go back to my desk and card.
Well, I was carding Cowan and I was carding the
Harding Unionist collection, and I helped card some of
the Germanic collections when Elsa Leocker was swamped.
The Burdach-Bremer-Dahlerup and, oh, all kinds of gift
collections were coming in. You remember, Berkeley was
very good to us. For example, James Westfall Thorapson--
duplicates for the Thompson and the Morrison collection
of the Morrison Reading Room at Cal. They had a great
deal of the duplicates of it in storage, up on the mez-
zanine level, and those were all bucked to us. The big
crush came, Jim, toward the end of the fiscal year when
Goodwin and Trout wanted to build up the statistics for
MINK: That sounds familiar.
POWELL: [laughter] Still goes on? Well, Christ, the
trucks would pour into the Acquisitions Department, and
Miss Trout said, "Can't we get one more truck through?"
And we'd go crazy the last few weeks of June.
POWELL: Accessioning. Beefing up the old statistics!
This was important, and of course I encouraged. . .what
the hell's that squeaking?
MINK: That's the tape recorder.
POWELL: Oh, that's just the tape. I wouldn't want the
transcriber to think this was Powell wheezing. [laughter]
There are different ways I came to know the faculty; you
asked about how I came to know the faculty.
MINK: In retrospect, in that period, when you were reach-
ing out. . .
MINK: . . .1 gather you were trying to get out of doing
the kind of routine work that you were doing in the Ac-
quisitions Department, that you were more interested in,
oh, for example, exhibits and that sort of thing; did she
resent this fact?
POWELL: Yes, yes, surely. I was resented by all of the
older women. Every young man who came was. John Lund
before me had felt this and had left, and everybody had
their eye on Mr. Goodwin who was aging and on the young
men who were coming along. And there was a tension al-
ways. I don't think it's quite right to say I wanted to
get out of this work, because this v;asn't true in the
beginning. I was terribly happy in the routine v/ork.
I really felt that I was in a green pasture when I came
to work here in 1938, because I hadn't held a job that
was on appointment and that paid. You see, I'd been all
through the Depression, all these years, and I'd never
had a steady job, really.
MINK: Did you feel that there was some amount of pres-
tige connected with being a member of the university staff?
POWELL: Yes, of course, I did; it was a fine place to
be. I was proud of it, and the campus v;as a proud place.
The library was large and impressive and professional;
the basic collection was good. So in the first couple
of years, I was Immersed in it and happy. Well, then,
opportunities started to come right av7ay. I hadn't been
here more than a few months when I was approached by MGM
studios to be their research librarian at $50 a week.
MINK: You were on like a moonlight job?
POWELL: No, it was a full-time job.
MINK: Pull time?
POWELL: Yes, a full-tim.e job; that's the job I guess
Elliott Morgan has now„ V/ell, at any rate, I went over
for an interview. This came about through Stelter. One
of Stelter's (and Occidental's) old students--his name
was Chick--was a producer at MGM in charge of the library.
So I had that in. They offered me $55 a v;eek, but no
contract. VJell, I went to see Mr. Goodv/in, and he
said, "Well, I can't promise you anything; you haven't
been here long enough for me to know your v7ork. I would
think you'd better stay here and grow with the place."
He encouraged me to stay.
MINK: But he didn't offer you any more salary?
POWELL : No .
MINK: After all, this was the Depression still.
POWELL: That's right.
MINK: By the time you'd come the salaries had heen re-
stored that were cut.
POWELL: Yes, they'd been restored, but still they didn't
amount to anything.
Well, then another offer that came soon was from
Knox College. Merritt Moore who had been a philosophy
professor at Occidental was at Knox, and he v;anted me
to come back there. It was a half-time appointment, a
half-time assistant librarian and a half-time professor
of something--English, I suppose. I met with the presi-
dent. Carter Davidson, dovm at the Biltmore, and I said
I wasn't interested, really, in going to a split appoint-
ment. If he could offer me the assistant librarianship
full time, v;ith the opportunity of succeeding the li-
brarian in another year, I would come. The salary that
he offered me for the split appointment was $2,400 a year.
which was about $800 more than I was making at UCLA.
So that joh didn't pan out.
MINK: Of course, you told Goodwin about the job.
POWELL: I told Goodwin about this, and then Macalester
College in St. Paul, Minnesota approached me.
MINK: What did Goodwin say about the BInox job?
POWELL: Well, again he said, "It's up to you, Powell,
but it's better to stay in one place a little longer."
And he was right, of course; it was too soon to leave.
He said, "You must stay somewhere until you make a record."
He encouraged me in that sense, not with promotion in
mind, but just to stay.
MINK: You said something about Macalester?
POWELL: There was aji offer from Macalester; then a
fourth came from the Beverly Hills Public Library, to go
over there as a kind of an assistant librarian.
MINK: Who was the librarian?
POWELL: Oh, it wasn't Lura Wallace; it was Lura Wallace's
predecessor [Mary Boynton] . At any rate, these things
kept coming along.
MINK: Did you keep all these in a file the way many
POWELL: The file's right here in back of me. It's some-
thing I've never turned over; but I've got a folder there
on employment opportunities.
MINK: Correspondence on that.
POWELL: Yes, correspondence. It's all documented, and
this will come to Special Collections eventually, of
course, with all my papers.
MINK: Well, what isn't documented, of course, is your
opinions about these things.
POWELL: Well, these were good; these kept me stirred up
and gave me a feeling that I was in the stream, and that
if I didn't make it here I'd make it somewhere else.
MINK: So that built your confidence then^
POWELL: Yes, that's right. Other people wanted me;
therefore, sure, my confidence was built up.
MINK: Another question, too, while we're still talking
about these early years: you were mentioning a minute
ago how the Faculty Library Committee had so much more
say [on purchases]. How did you feel about what they
were acquiring? Did you resent in any way the way it
was being built up through the Library Committee?
POWELL: No I didn't, because they were doing some great
things. The bulk of the money, Jim, was going for sets.
And this was proper. They were buying; they were put-
ting, I would think, the bulk of the budget into sub-
scriptions, current subscriptions, and into back files
of sets. And they were buying excellent things--from
Gottschalk, from Stechert, from Harrassowitz, and from
all the dealers. International dealers v/ere offering
sets. I recognized this as a basic acquisitions policy.
Now, I had a great time, because Mrs. Trout encour-
aged me to make recommendations for bibliographical items,
monographs, current and retrospective. And I was con-
currently checking wants as I was doing the faculty cards.
In other words, I had two projects going, and I was mak-
ing want slips as I went along and filing them with her.
And I will say that she never turned down a thing. The
six years I worked for her she filed every recommendation
I made, and I must have added thousands of bibliographi-
cal items--bibliographies, bibliographical v;orks of vari-
ous kinds in Letters and Arts and Social Sciences, We
were very poor in all these fields.
MINK: I wondered about gifts. Were you able in this
time, and did you purposefully, if so, encourage people
or solicit on behalf of the library for gifts?
POWELL: Only in the cases when I showed exhibits. That
led into some gift solicitation. Oh, I told you the
story the other day about the Hearst books, that I wrote
to Hearst. I must have written to a lot of people from
the acquisitions department, requesting. I used to fol-
low the "P. W." below the line, things that v;ere free.
We had a request postcard v;e'd send out. "Will you favor
us?" And it was signed by the Librarian, per L.C.P.
And I did soliciting around the country, and they en-
couraged me to do this.
MINK: Did Goodwin solicit gifts? I mean, did he go
outside the library; did he make any purposeful solici-
POWELL: I don't think so.
MINK: Was Lindley Bynum then the man?
MINK: He wasn't yet appointed.
POWELL: Lindley came about 1941 or 1942.
MINK: Yes, and you hadn't yet been appointed.
POWELL: Not yet.
MINK: So there really was no one here at that time who
was working on gifts.
POWELL: No. There wasn't a gifts librarian then. Wasn't
Wilbur [Smith] the first appointment to that?
MINK: I think Neal Harlow.
POWELL: Neal Harlow was in Gifts and Exchanges. Well,
exchanges were handled by little Catherine Phillips, and
Neal came in and widened us a bit. We ought to come to
MINK: We will.
POWELL: Damn it all, Jim, I want to talk about the
MINK: All right. Talk about your first faculty contacts
in the library. How do you first meet them? By meeting
them at the catalog?
POWELL: Partly, but the very first came through the
poet, C. F. Maclntyre, who had been fired from here.
The year he was fired, in 1938, he transferred to Berke-
ley, and he got a Guggenheim Fellowship. That all
happened at the same time. Before he left, when I was
at library school and he was still on the faculty here,
he'd written Mr. Goodwin and said, "You'd better hire
Larry Powell." In other words, Mac was in there pitch-
ing for me. Well, this was a kind of a questionable
reference. [laughter] Mac was on his way out, but Mac
had a very loyal following here in the faculty, notably
Fred Carey in classics; Majl Ewing in English; Bill
Buell, in English; and I guess that was about it. [laugh-
ter] Oh, Ernest Carroll Moore was fond of Mac.
MINK: That's strange, isn't it?
POWELL: Well, he recognized his scholarship; Mac was
a scholar and Ernest Carroll Moore recognized this. Well,
at any rate, Majl Ewing was one of the very first that
came to see me, and he said, "I heard about you from
Mac." Majl was an instructor then. And he was to give
a summer course in twentieth-centuiy literature for
the first time. It had never been given in the English
department. And he came in to the department absolutely
indignant and said, "There are no books." And he went
storming up to Mrs. Trout and to Mr. Goodwin. They
didn't have Hemingway or Joyce or D. H. Lawrence. A
lot of these things were lacking. And Majl could be
quite impressive when he was riled.
MINK: I kvnow.
POWELL: They placated him with, I think, a $500 grant.
MINK: Where did they get it?
POWELL: Well, out of the Librarian's Fund.
MINK: The Librarian's Fund, I see.
POWELL: They gave five hundred extra dollars to use for
his materials for his summer course, and I did the card-
ing up for this. Majl gave me some rough notes, and I
did the cards and spent it all.
MINK: Did you suggest books? Did he have a list?
POWELL: I suggested some, but he was on top; he knew
what he wanted. And then another key person came. I did
the same thing for him; that was Dixon Wecter who came
from Colorado as a full professor at age thirty-two to
teach American lit. And he came in the department and
threw up his hands and said, "My God, there 're no books."
So they gave him money.
MINK: Do you remember how much they gave him?
POWELL: Oh, they gave him probably $500; that was the
old standard amount. [laughter] Goodwin kept $500 gold
bars in his desk and he handed those out. Wecter v;ould
do anything but work bibliographically. He was a born
person to get other people to do the bibliographical
work. Ewing was different; Ewing did a lot of it him-
self; and it was Ewing as the departmental chairman for
books who did a lot to build up the library. Well, the
word got around that there was a young man in the Ac-
quisitions Department--it was called Accessions Depart-
ment then, remember--vmo v;as interested in books. And
the word spread and I got to know gradually more and more
of the faculty, the young ones particularly, although
through my work in exhibits I came to know Joseph Lockey
and Waldemar Westergaard; and then Frank Klingberg in
history discovered me. I guess it was through work I
was doing in accessioning a collection of English histori-
cal materials, and Clinton Howard probably told Klingberg
about me, and Klingberg said, "Will you come and talk
to my seminar about the holdings of the library in his-
tory?" So I did that twice a year, I guess. Klingberg
used to meet downstairs here in this building. (He had
Helen Livingston as his secretary.) I sat in with that
seminar; Sam McCulloch was a member of it. Oh, there
were a lot of the first early Ph. D.'s here in history.
Well, it was this kind of recognition; and then of course
the Fiske project that Lockey blessed, and the research
committee gave me the travel money to go to Boston,
against Goodv;in's advice. That was a key paper, I think,
in what I did here, that paper on John Fiske.
MINK: On the Fiske collection, there is one anecdote
I'm sure you're familiar with which maybe you would com-
ment on. In Moore's book, 1 Helped Make a University ,
Moore pointed out that he had gone to the California
Club, in the washroom of the California Club he encoun-
tered Colonel Seeley Mudd, and he spoke to him of the
collection and the money came in that way to buy it.
Is this true?
POWELL: I'm sure it is; it's characteristic of Ernest
Carroll Moore « He and Rufus von KleinSmld operated in
the same v;ay, off campus and downtown; they used their
contacts--the California Club, the University Club, and
Dawson's Bookshop. This, of course, is what Goodwin
should have been doing.
MLMK: Moore was doing it for him.
POWELL: I suppose. But most of those early collections,
the big collections that came, were the faculty's or
Moore's or regents' work. Goodwin's great contribution
was, I think, first of all the building, the basic biblio-
graphic collection, and then the sets program. The Cowan
[collection], you see, didn't come through Goodwin; it
came, really, through Ernest Dawson who recommended it.
Wellj the exhibits came about because nobody else wanted
to do them.
MINK: Were you asked to do them, or did you go and say,
"I'll do them?"
POWELL: I don't remember, Jim. Maybe I volunteered. I
think I came to work and saw empty cases standing in the
MINK: Nothing in them at all?
POWELL: Nothing in them; and I probably said something
to Mr. Goodwin, "Well, who does the exhibits?" And he
said, "Well, we can't seem to get anybody to do them;
would you like to?" Oh, I think he saw in my letter of
application that I'd done exhibits at the [Los Angeles]
MINK: Oh, yes, you did.
POWELL: I think that's how it came about, and he asked
me, "Would you take this on?" And I said, "Yes." Then
of course Mrs. Trout was very unhappy about this, because
it cut into my work; so she really begrudged me any time
to do it, and in order to have a better atmosphere I would
come in on Saturday afternoons, and Sundays even, and
put the exhibits in. I really did them on my own time.
MINK: And you v/ould type the captions?
POWELL: I would type the captions; I did all the work.
This made me enormous friendships among the faculty.
Well, I did one when Lockey's book on Pan- Americanism
came out. I did an exhibit on poetry v/hen MacLeish
was Charter Day speaker. One on Rilke, Yeats, and
MacLeish. He came over to see it. We did the Hersholt
collection of Hans Christian Andersen, v;hich was Wes-
tergaard's delight. And I did one on the moderns when
Ewing was giving the summer course. I did an exhibit
on Hemingv^ay and Joyce and Lawrence that enchanted, of
all persons, Jens Nyholm, the head cataloger. He really
hadn't known me before that. He said, "My God, you're
interested in all these things?" And he was very ex-
cited; he translated some of these moderns into Danish.
He was a great friend to me and Seymour Lubetzky in those
MINK: Nyholm was also a good friend of Westergaard' s
POWELL: Yes, he was indeed, and Westy in a way would
have liked to have seen Nyholm become the head librarian.
MINK: Was it really through Nyholm that you got to know
POWELL: No, it was through Jean Hersholt. I met Hersholt
at Jake's, you see.
MINK: I see.
POVJELL: I knew he had this Hans Christian Andersen
collectiono And when I was given exhibits to do, I
found there were so few collections in the library that
were exhibltable j the fine books had been chewed up^,
stamped, and perforated. I deliberately went outside,
then, and made these borrov/ings.
MINK: Oh, you would borrow books.
POWELL: Oh, hell, I borrowed Hersholt's; I borrowed
Ned Metcalfe's T. E. Lawrence collection and R. F.
Burton, and Elmer Belt's Leonardo da Vinci.
MINK: This is interesting; did you ever get turned down?
POWELL: No, I never got turned down because I never
asked anybody that I figured would turn me down. [laugh-
ter] In other words, I prepared the ground.
MINK: I suppose these people, private collectors,
would be flattered to be asked to exhibit their collec-
tions in the library.
POWELL: Of course they were. That's right, and I didn't
make any bones about that we would like to see them
come closer to the library. And of course in Belt's
case this is what happened. Tv/enty years later the whole
Vinci collection came to us. In the beginning it was
just the facsimile of the Codice Atlantico . I carried
the whole goddamn thing out in the back seat of my
little Studebaker sedan, and the car was right down on
the axle. [laughter] My God, this was heavy, and Belt
was delighted. Well, these were contacts, you see.
that came out of the early bookshop days.
MINK: Larry, were you given any money for your exhibits?
POWELL: No, I wasn't given any money.
MINK: I mean for paper; did they give you anything to
do it with?
POWELL: I'll tell you what happened: First of all, the
exhibit cases that were empty, Goodwin had bought; they
were Weber showcase and fixture cases that he'd gotten
at a sale.
MINK: Were they really more for department stores?
POWELL: They were jewelry cases!
MINK: These are the old cases that are still up in the
POWELL: Yes. They had three shelves in them so when
you put books on the top shelf, you couldn't see the
bottom shelves. I knew very well what I v^as doing. So
I said to Mr. Goodwin, "These cases need a little car-
pentry and redesigning. We need to tilt the top shelf
and we need to take the two bottom shelves and combine
them with a little guard in the middle so books won't
slide down, and make one big bottom shelf tilted and one
top shelf." "Well," he said, " that is a challenge."
Right away he started redesigning them. He called
the head carpenter, Clarence Brown, and Brov/n came up.
And Goodwin said, "Look, now you do this and this,"
and he was very clever and quick with a penciled sketch.
By God, those cases were out the same day, down to the
carpenter shop. They were redesigned and brought up,
and Goodwin was pleased as punch.
And I said, "It really isn't proper to put typed
headings when we have a distinguished collection. We
ought to have some printed placards that identify the
collection. Can't we have the University Press do this."
And he said, "Well, I think so; just send it into me
and I'll send it up to Berkeley." So Mr. Goodwin got
all my printing done for me. Yes, he backed me, and
I always went to him. Of course this probably didn't
make Mrs. Trout happy, but she didn't have any interest
or any sense about these things. He was the one.
MINK: Did she think it was sort of useless? Fool's
POWELL: That's right. It cut into my time, and it was
unnecessary foolishness. But before I was through, I
did fifty exhibits.
MINK: We have a record of those in those volumes, show-
ing the exhibits as well as the publicity.
POVreLL: That's right--the scrapbooks. And then I think
there are my working notes that I kept on all the exhi-
bits. It was a deliberate thing I did to make myself
useful and advance myself, but it also was a natural
thing. It was something I liked doing. It wasn't just
sheer ambition manifesting itself. It was something I
got a helluva lot of fun out of. Now I think the work
that's done in exhibits in the library by Marian Engelke
and Roberta Nixon and the others is wonderfully sophis-
ticated and advanced, but it comes out of a tradition
that we had here of displaying what we had and what we
MINK: Well, as long as we're on the subject, after you
became University Librarian, the work of exhibits sort
of fell to Everett Moore, really.
POWELL: I made an exhibits committee and made him chair-
man, and then it was up to him. The problem always, of
course, was to get someone to take the time, because
it took time. We had a number of committees and people--
Bill Bellin, remember, did tremendous things for exhibits,
and his art work.
MINK: Whenever we've had people on the staff who've
had an artistic inclination, I think that they have
POWELL: That's right; the tradition is very much alive,
and of course they're infinitely better now than any-
thing I ever did. But, damn it all, I laid the founda-
tion for it and made it something. I did a piece in the
UCLA magazine you remember on the exhibits. There were
pictures and an article by Johnny Jackson.
There's something I regret: I didn't give credit
enough to the alumni In writing that book--the Alumni
Library Committee that I formed--Johnny Jackson, Hansena
Frederlckson, Ann Sumner, Barbara Lloyd, Teresa Long,
and Margaret Duguld Michel. I had them meet here quar-
terly or so and take an Interest In the library. I
wrote for the magazine^ I talked to Bruin Clubs; I be-
came a life member of the Alumni Association. And I
was pulling them toward the eventual founding of the
Friends of the Library, which came about years later.
MINK: Well, Larry, it was through the exhibits, then,
that you made the faculty contacts, partially. What
was your next move?
POWELL: Well, to publications, I suppose. I think it
was Ewlng who said to me, "You've done a book on Robin-
son Jeffers and you've done a book on D. H. Lawrence's
manuscripts, and these are well and good, and as a tea-
cher of modern literature I appreciate them., but you
ought to do something more orthodox in research and
publish something." And I think the Flske paper came
out of this suggestion, which was an orthodox biblio-
MIKK: Could you get very turned on about Flske?
POVffiLL: Oh, I did before I was through.
MINK: Well, did the subject suggest itself to you, or
was the subject suggested to you?
POWELL: I suppose looking through the locked cage on
the fourth level, I saw some of the Fiske scrapbooks and
photograph albums and materials that had been shut up
and became interested in him.
MINK: Well, you accessioned the Fiske collection?
POWELL: No, it was done in the twenties.
MINK: Oh, that's right; it was an earlier gift.
POWELL: I suppose it came about just through my seeing
MINK: But weren't you responsible for getting back some
of the materials that had found their way into the
POWELL: Yes, that's right. And we bought more material;
we bought some Fiske manuscripts from dealers.
MINK: I see.
POWELL: But the most substantial research work I did
was on [Charles Edward] Pickett- - Philosopher Pickett .
That came about simply through my work on the Cowan
collection, I saw in the Cowan collection bibliography
his note on Pickett. It Intrigued me. I handled a fev;
of the Pickett pamphlets; I read them. It interested
me and I just [kept going] „
MINK: Did you ever go to talk to Cowan about it?
POWELL: Sure, I went to talk to Covjan, and he said,
"Well, let me go upstairs," and he v;ent up to his attic.
He came down with these letters of Pickett to Kern and
William Heath Davis. They'd heen in the Davis papers.
MINK: Well, why didn't they come in 193o?
POWELL: Because he didn't sell any manuscripts then.
He sold some manuscripts, but he held out a whole swatch
of them, don't you remember? --that v;e bought from the
son in 1944 or 1945 for $6,000.
MINK: Oh, that's earlier then.
POWELL: That v/as a sticky thing, because Goodwin thought
he was getting everything Cowan had. But Cowan didn't
part with these, and these included the Pickett letters,
and they're now here. Well, at any rate. Cowan let me
print those. I went to Bancroft--not in the Bancroft,
it was in the University Library at Cal--and I found in
the Collis P, Huntington collection half a dozen pamph-
lets. (Collis Po Huntington bought them from Cowan in
1895.) This gave me a bit of disillusionment in Cowan,
because I found in Cowan's own 1895 collection at Cal
many items that he hadn't put in his bibliography. I
realized then that the Cowan bibliography is very large-
ly a checklist of his collection that he had in 1930.
MINK: As it existed at the time.
POVJELL: That's right. And he'd overlooked or forgotten
or ignored earlier material. First of all, I thought
I'd do a paper for the Pacific Historical Review on
Pickett. It kept grov;ing, and I realized that I had
enough material for a monograph, for a small book. So
I took my vacation in 1939^ as I remember, and went to
Berkeley (it may have been 1940) and I bunked with Jens
Nyholm, who had moved up then as assistant librarian.
I worked in the Bancroft and in the main library and
did my work on Pickett, and then I went to the Califor-
nia State Library. The whole project--the research and
the writing of it and everything--I did in about eight
or nine months; it was a real push.
MINK: You must have worked steadily.
POWELL: Yes, steadily — a crash program. And I had a
book manuscript and we were going to publish it here
through Wctrd Ritchie. Majl Ewing said, "Nothing doing.
You send this to the University Press; it should have
the University Press imprint on it." So I did, and it
was approved by the committee. The chairman of the
Publication Committee was Gustave Arlt. I remember he
called me and said, "It's been approved." I found later
that the outside reader (they always send a manuscript
to an outside reader) was Charlie Camp. He told me
years later, "I read your goddamn manuscript, Powell.
I told them to publish it." [laughter] Remem.ber, he
came and talked at our one-millionth volume dedication--
Cheyenne Dawson. That's v;hen Charlie Camp told me, and
I shook his hand and I said, "Thanks, Charlie. You did
me a good turn." Well, they accepted it, but it was
three years before they published it. It was the old
lag there, and it was 19^2 before it came out. Well,
the thing that Goodwin did to help me--by God, the more
I think of it, the more kindly I feel tov^ard him--I told
him that we had half a dozen of the Pickett pamphlets
here in Cowan, but there were as many more again in
Bancroft and State, and I said, "We ought to add those
in photostats. Would the Library pay for this?" He
said, "I think it would." And he did; he bought the
photostats for my use, and then I added them. They must
be in Special Collections.
POWELL: One of them, of course, is a unique pamphlet.
It's Pickett's pamphlet on Fremont--a campaign pamphlet,
anti-Fremont. The only copy located was in the Cali-
fornia State Library. We photostated that. And in all
my subsequent work on Pickett ajid the correspondence
and reviews and all, no other copy ever turned up. It
is apparently unique. And I must say, although I did
a quick job on Pickett, it's a definitive job. Nothing
that's turned up in the twenty-five years since then
changes it in any way. A fev; more citations to him and
some more of his published letters in the press have
turned up, but no more manuscript material. So it was
done and it was well received and it led to friendship
with Pacific Historical Review , which was edited then
by Louis Koontz.
MINK: Louis Knott Koontz.
POWELL: Koontz suggested this article that I did for
them in 1942 on "Resources of Western Libraries for Re-
search in History," which was my first survey type of
article. I corresponded with about fifty Western li-
MINK: Did you go to visit any of them at that time?
POWELL: I visited the local ones, and Berkeley of course,
and I visited everything in Southern California. I
published that; and it's a good article as far as it
Then another friend I made in history was your
former mentor, John Walton Caughey. This came through
reviewing what I was doing for the Los Angeles Times .
I did quite a lot for Paul Jordan-Smith in those years.
He sent me Caughey' s one-volume History of California ,
19^0, and I gave it a good reviev;.
MINK: This is the one that's used as a text here?
POWELL: Yes. I gave it a good reviev;, because it is
a good 'book. John Caughey v;as teaching in the summer at
Albuquerque, New Mexico^ and in my copy of Caughey 's
book up there on the shelf there is inserted a letter
from John, from Albuquerque, thanking me. Someone had
sent him this clipping, and that led to friendship v/ith
John and La Ree Caughey. Caughey, of course, was bitter
about the dispersal of the Cowan library.
MINK: Oh, he was?
MINK: He felt it should have been kept in one place?
POWELL: Yes, and he said so in his biography of Ban-
croft, I think. "The wanton dispersal" he called it.
I used to say to John, "Well, it wasn't v;anton; it was
dispersed according to the Library of Congress classi-
fication." "Well," he said, "you know what I mean."
So all these threads, you see, were tying me closer to
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE WO
SEPTEMBER 8, I969
POWELL: Well, Jens Nyholm, the head cataloger, the
"Great Dane, "--I may have spoken earlier of how he wanted
to recruit either Luhetzky or me from acquisitions into
catalog, and Lubetzky went.
POWELL: All right; a year or so later, Harold Leupp
reached out and plucked Jens Nyholm out of the cataloger
joh and made him assistant librarian at Gal; that's when
Peyton Hurt had left and gone down to Williams College
Library; that left a big vacancy.
MINK: Poor Nyholm having to go and work for Mr. Leupp--
he was a difficult man I am told.
POWELL: That's right. So Jens went up as assistant
librarian in charge of technical processes. Now he was
on top of cataloging, but he didn't know a goddamn thing
about acquisitions work. So we had lunch together when
he was about ready to move north. And he said, "Powell,
you come with me and you'll be head of the Order Depart-
ment at Calo Mr. Bumstead is retiring." (Frank Bumstead
was head of the department.) And he said, "I'll make
you head of the department at x dollars." I don't remem-
ber what the department head then got. I think the
minimum department head's salary was $2,700, and I was
still at $1,800 or whatever it was; I went up $10 a
month every year, from .$1,500 to $1,900 before I left.
This was, as I see it, a kind of a major decision. And
if it had been just to work with Jens Nyholm I think I
might have considered, but there was the vision of Harold
Leupp. [laughter] I'd seen him when I was a library
school student, and he was pretty grim. He was a tyrant,
and I'd heard about him from Mitchell, and his reputation
had permeated the library. He was a martinet.
POWELL: He advised everyone how to dress and how to
behave, and he was just a tough cookie. So I said, "No.
The person to get is Frank Lundy," who was head cata-
loger then at the Clark. He'd had acquisitions experience
at Arizona, and sure enough that happened. Nyhclm took
Lundy up as head of the Order Department at Gal. Well,
this was of course good for my cause because it elimina-
ted two men in one stroke from the hierarchy at UCLA.
I didn't deliberately think of this; but it's what hap-
If Jens Nyholm had stayed as head cataloger of
UCLA, he v;ould have been successor to Goodwin. There's
no doubt about it. Westergaard, v:ith his strength, would
have thrown it behind Nyholm as a Pan- Scandinavian, and
he would have been in. Certainly he had seniority, he
had more experience, he had administrative experience,
he had everything. I didn't have any. He v;ould have
had faculty support, but Nyholm apparently didn't have
this feeling that UCLA was lihe place for him, and he v/as
enchanted by the San Francisco Bay region. And it was
a quick advancement, because nobody knev; v;hen Goodvfin
was going to retire. The war was deferring this. So
Nyholm went. I must speak perhaps of a confrontation
I had with Mr. Goodwin.
MINK: Well, you had a number of them.
POWELL: Yes, well, when I turned down a couple of these
earlier jobs, I said to him, "Well, you're encouraging
me to stay." I think when the Macalester College thing
came along, he said, "You'll eventually be a contender
for my position." He was not reluctant to speak of this,
and I said to him, I think, "Well, I really should have
some intermediate experience, [laughter] I'm at the
bottom and I've been here four or five years now, and
I'm still at the bottom." Finally, I think, when I told
Mr. Goodwin that I was turning down Nyholm' s offer and
I was going to stay, I said, "Well, nothing's really
happening to me here. I'm still at the bottom of the
heap." He said, "Well, Pov^ell, the women won't stand
for your being promoted over them." Gee, I was mad I
MINK: I don't blame you.
POWELL: No, I was mad. And he turned his back on me
and went and looked out the window. And I said, "Well. . ."
MINK: Probably he was as upset about it as you were.
POWELL: Yes, he was; he was caught, you see.
MINK: But you couldn't see that then?
POWELL: No, I couldn't see that he was embarrassed.
But he knew the faculty was building up support back of
me, that Lockey and Westy and Klingberg and Hussey and
Caughey had all spoken about me to him--and Fred Carey.
I said, "Well, Mr. Goodwin, I feel I've got to go and
tell my troubles to President Sproul." I said, "I think
you've let me down." He said, "Well, feel free to," and
that was all. So I went to see Bob Sproul; it was the
first time I'd met him, I guess.
MINK: Did you go to see him here when he was on campus?
POWELL: It was here, because he was running both cam-
puses then. There was no provost then; this was before
MINK: So you would have gone to see him in his office
there in front of the College Library^
POWELL: It was over in the new Ad Building.
MINK: At this time he was in the new Administration
Building and had a office there.
POVJELL: Well, I called Hansena [Frederickson] , of course;
and she knew who I was because of the UCLA Alumni Maga -
zine article I did. She said, "Yes, I can get you an
appointment with Mr. Sproul." So I saw Sproul.
MINK: This was the first time you ever met him.
POWELL: I guess so. That must have been about 19'^3«
And he said, "Well, you seem to be upset, Powell. What's
the matter?" I said, "I've just gotten screwed." [laugh-
MINK: You put it that way?
POWELL: No. I said, "l just had a dirty deal." He
says, "Well, tell me about it." I says, "Well, Mr. Good-
win encouraged me to stay here and turn dovm other jobs,
but he won't promote me." He told me once I'd be a pos-
sible successor to him, but he doesn't do anything for
me." He said, "That's Goodwin's business , not mine.
What do you want of me?" I said, "Well, would you regard
me, sir, as a candidate for Mr. Goodwin's position even-
tually?" And he looked at me and he said, "Yes, I would."
And by God, he wouldn't say anything more. He wouldn't
do anything more. I was quiet, and then he laughed, a
great big belly laugh, and I knew that was m.y cue to
get out. I said, "Thank you, Mr. President." I got out.
MINK: That v;as a short interview.
POWELL: Yes, it v/as a short interviev/; but at least he
didn't say, "VJell, Pov;ell, you'd better get the hell out
of here." He was Interested in me. He knew v;ho I v;as;
he'd heard about me from the faculty, I know. This v/as
his way of encouraging me. "Yes," he says, "you'll be
MINK: You couldn't do that these days, could you?
POVffiLL : No .
MINK: The university was much smaller.
POWELL: Smaller and run much more in a tight, short
chain of command.
MINK: Sproul didn't say anything to you about v/hy you
didn't go and see Ernest Carroll Moore.
POWELL:" Oh, he was out.
MINK: That's right he was out, excuse me.
POWELL: Yes, Hedrick, you see, had been provost.
MINK: At this time the university would have been run
by the committee--the Second Committee.
POWELL: Yes, with Sproul visiting the campus. That was
probably in 19-^3 • Then all kinds of offers began to
whiz. I was seeing quite a bit of Henry Wagner, and he
was looking for [someone] « They were looking for a suc-
cessor to Lav;rence Wroth at the [John] Carter Brown
[Library]. Randolph Adams had become interested in me.
I'd done those papers--oh, I didn't mention that--I'd
done tv;o papers on the problem of rare books in the library,
They were read: one to the College and University Section
of ALA and one to the Southern California Conference of
College and University Librarians at Redlands. Both had
been published: one in the Library Journal , one in Col -
lege and Research Libraries j volume I, no. 1, 1939^ I
guess. And these had given me some national contacts,
particularly with Bill Jackson and Randolph Adams. Adams
had come out to see me through Jake Zeitlin, and we'd
gone to see Mr. Goodwin, and Adams had said, "Let Powell
have a free hand here with rare books."
Mitchell all this time had me typed, you see, as a
rare books librarian. He didn't think of me as an adminis-
trator at all. We had very little contact for several
years. In fact, we had no contact.
There was a chance to go to the Library Company of
Philadelphia; Adams was stirring these things up. I had
other possibilities of going to libraries in the East;
and then the Harvard one that I wrote about was put off
by the war. Bill Jackson wanted me to come there.
MINK: As a what?
POWELL: As head of Order Department for the Harvard Uni-
versity Library. Philadelphia and Providence and then
the Clark was coming vacant, and there was a committee
on the Clark Library made up of Westergaard, Louis Wright,
and Sigurd Hustvedt. They met and met and met, and nothing
happened. Hustvedt was trying to put in his man from
Philadelphia, and the other two on the committee were
blocking him. So Westergaard said, "VJell, there's a
place for you, Powell, over, at the Clark Library, but
Just be patient; we'll bring it off." He thought of me
as going there, and I kjriow he was thinking of Nyholm
coming back then as University Librarian, and then he
could control him through their common knowledge of Scan-
dinavian languages. [laughter]
MINK: Do you look upon Westergaard as an empire-builder?
POWELL: Westergaard was probably the most single impor-
tant powerful faculty member here in those years. Sproul
told me this.
MINK: Do you think Westergaard did this purposefully,
or did the mantle more or less fall to him?
POWELL: Both. He was a very good politician. He was a
very genial and sophisticated man. He was a scholar. He
was a good seminar teacher. I know he brought people to
his home, to his big library there, and he was active in
all the key committees--research, budget, the committee
on committees. And I know Sproul told me this. His
appointment as chairman of the committee to select the
University Librarian bore it out. Sproul said, "This
is a key man."
The other key man, a little more junior, was Gustave
Arlt. Those v;ere two men that Sproul regarded as the m.ost
able on this campus. They weren't political; they v;ere
free of political leanings^ I mean, in the sense of party
politics. They v;ere true university men.
MINK: You were talking about the Clark Library committee,
and you had said that Westergaard asked you simply to be
patient. Meanwhile, you spent sometime in Westergaard 's
home, didn't you?
POWELL: Oh, that was later. That was in 1945 or 1945.
MINK: After you'd been appointed.
POWELL: Yes. We leased his home for a year while he was
in Denmark as our cultural attache. No, the whole thing
came about through Bill Jackson. Edward Hooker, the
Dryden scholar, who was on sabbatical at Harvard, and
Leon Howard, professor of American literature at North-
western, v;ho was at Harvard, they all had dinner one
evening at Bill Jackson' s apartment. Leon Howard said to
them, "I'm chairman of a faculty committee at Northwestern
to bring a successor to Theodore W. Koch who is retiring.
Who's a good man?" Jackson and Hooker both said, "Larry
Powell." Hooker knew me here through English department
contacts. Northwestern had also, through Leon Howard,
approached Randolph Adams, and he said, "Larry Pov/ell."
They had approached Louis Wright and offered him the job
(Louis Wright was then research man at the Huntington),
and Louis had turned it down, saying, "Larry Pov;ell." So
from all these sources the word came in to Northwestern^
"Get Larry Powell." Well^ it was in about July 1943,
that the telegram came in from Homer Vanderblue, dean of
the College of Commerce at Northwestern and chairman of
their committee to select a librarian. Vanderblue said,
"Will you come back for an intervievj?" VJell, that was
the big decision then, and I realized that I had no fu-
ture with Goodwin at UCLA.
MINK: So did you go in and see Goodwin?
POVJELL : No „
POWELL: No, I didn't even go see him. I talked with
MINK: In other words, I take it then that after he turned
his back to the window you just figured you were going
to get nowhere with him^ so you didn't have anything
more to do with him.
POWELL: That's right. Well, he said as much. He said,
"The women won't stand for this; take your case to Sproul.
I'm through with you."
MINK: Did he actually say that?
POWELL: Noo He wouldn't ever say anything like that.
But this was clear, that there was absolutely no hope.
VJell, Fay was a very strong factor in this. She said,
"You've taken enough you-know-what from him, and you
either go back and take this job or resign. But you're
through at UCLA." And I said, "Yes, I knov; it." So,
through Charlie Adams of the Santa Fe, I got a reserva-
tion back to Chicago on the Super Chief.
MINK: How had you gotten to know Charlie Adams?
POWELL: Through the Zamorano Club. In 19^0, I joined
the Zamorano Club through V/ard Ritchie's recommendation.
MINK: Ward Ritchie was in, and he wanted to get you in?
POWELL: Yes, I've been active in the Zamorano Club since
1940. There again this brought me close to the leading
bookmen of the region.
MINK: Did you feel at that time that joining the Zamo-
rano Club would help your career here, or didn't you
think a thing about it?
POWELL: Oh, no; naturally, this was obvious. You didn't
think about it; it was just obvious that it would, be-
cause it put you in contact with all the local biblio-
philes. Yes, sure, all these things are obvious things.
You don't even think about them, you just do them because
they're the obvious moves to make. It wasn't the sole
reason I joined the Zamorano Club; it was because these
were my friends, this v/as a community that I v;as [familiar
MINK: Well, I know you always felt that people on the
University Library staff here during the years you were
Librarian should join because it does.
POWELL: Yes, that's right. It's a key. So, as I took
the train from Union Station to Chicago, I dropped my
resignation in the mailbox.
MINK: Oh really?
POWELL: Yes, to Mr. Goodwin. "Dear Mr. Goodwin, I re-
sign, I quit, je quit." [laughter] I didn't give any
reason; I just said, "This is July. I will take my va-
cation in August, and would you terminate me September
1." I went off very light-hearted on the Super Chief
and had blueberries and cream for dinner. I got along
just fine at Northwestern. Vanderblue was very kind to
me, and I met v;ith the acting librarian, a woman who was
holding the front.
MINK: She was not a contender, I take it?
POWELL: No, she was an older woman; she'd been Koch's
assistant librarian. And she said, "We need you here;
I hope you'll come." I spent the day v/ith them and with
the staff and with the faculty and with President [Frank-
lyn D. ] Snyder.
MINK: Did you not like the idea of living in the Midv/est?
POWELL: That didn't bother me. Fay was born there,
and we could have made out there. Evanston, [Illinois]
was attractive; the Deering Library v/as very attractive.
The librarian's office had a fireplace in it. [laughter]
And looked out on the lake. So I came back, then, with-
out an offer in writing, but Snyder said, "Well, I'll
present this to the trustees, and I'm sure v/e want you.
Will you come?" And I said, "Well, I have to see Presi-
dent Sproul first. I want to tell him what I've done."
So when I got back, I called Hansena, and she said, "VJell,
Dr. Sproul' s in Berkeley; you'll have to go up there and
see him." I said, "I'm willing to; I'll go up there and
see him." She gave me an appointment about a week hence.
MINK: Did you tell her all the time what you were doing?
POWELL: I don't know if I did; I don't remember. I
suppose I talked to Hansena. People did talk to her,
POWELL: This helped. She liked to know what was up.
MINK: This was her job, after all--to keep her finger
on the pulse of the university here.
POWELL: Yes, that's right. And she inspired confidence.
She is a wonderful gal. So when I went to Berkeley, then,
to see Sproul a week or so later, he said, "My God, all
hell's broken loose. All the faculty at UCLA are writing
me angry letters-- 'Powell' s resigned; why have you let
this happen?'" He said, "I haven't had such a snowstorm
of letters since we fired Eric Beecroft." [laughter] I
said, "Good. That's great." He says, "Well, you've got
an offer to go back to Northwestern." "Yes, sir." He
said, "Do you want to go?" I said^ "V/ell, I'd like to
stay at UCLA. I'd like to come back to UCLA." And he
said J "But not as junior librarian?" I said, "No, sir.
Nor as senior librarian." He says, "You want to come
back as head librarian." "Yes, sir."
MINK: As a matter of fact that's what he said?
POWELL: Yes. I said, "That's right." "Well," he said,
"you've got an awful lot of support, Powell." "Good,"
I said, "the faculty know v;hat they want. It's their
job; I hope you'll listen to them." He said, "Well, I
always do. I'd like to take this under advisement; I'd
like to have a committee of the faculty, a formal com-
mittee appointed to make a search."
MINK: Well, had Goodwin already indicated he was going
to resign by this time?
POWELL : No .
MINK: I mean retire.
POWELL: Yes, in probably another year.
MINK: I mean, he had served notice then to Sproul that
he was going to retire. I wouldn't think Sproul would
appoint a committee, would he?
POWELL: Well, Goodwin was already over retirement, you
MINK: Oh, I see.
POVJELL: He'd been called back because of the war, and it
was just a matter of another year. I'm sure it was un-
MINK: He must have been around sixty-seven then.
POWELL: Yes. So Sproul said, "How long have I?" "VJell,"
I said, "the Northwestern trustees are meeting in another
three weeks, and I told them I'd give them my answer then."
He said, "Good. Three weeks it is." So I came back to
Los Angeles, and my contact then was through Lindley
MINK: He had already been hired then by President Sproul?
POWELL: Yes, he'd been hired, and we were good friends.
We'd come together.
MINK: He had become disenchanted with the Huntington?
MINK: How had that come about?
POWELL: Well, I suppose the same problems that he had
when he came here. He hated like hell to make a report
in writing. He hated like hell to do anything formal,
and they'd pressed him to make formal reports of his ac-
tivities, and he said, "To hell with it." So they let
MINK: They really let him go; he didn't resign?
POWELL: No, he didn't resign. And Sproul jumped in and
MINK: On the condition he wouldn't have to make any form.al
POWELL: Probably. At any rate, "Pinky" and I had be-
come acquainted clear back in the thirties through my
work on Jeffers. Lindley was quite an aficionado of
MINK: And yet, I suppose, too, at that time he was a
member of the Zamorano Club, finally.
POWELL: Yes, I guess he was. I knew him in several as-
pects, and he told me, "Well, Larry, I once thought I
would succeed Goodwin and become University Librarian."
He said, "I realize there's too much work involved. I
think you'd better do it." He was joking and he said,
"Now I'm on the committee; Mr. Sproul's appointed me to
MINK: Was he the outside man?
POWELL: He was Sproul's man on the committee. He wasn't
MINK: Well, he'd be outside the faculty.
POWELL: That's right; he was Sproul's representative
on the committee. The others were Hustvedt, Westergaard,
Huberty, Barja and U. S. Grant. And I've told the story
in my book of how they met and how finally Hustvedt was
outsmarted by We sty and Powell. And that's how it came.
Franklyn Snyder of Northwestern was giving me trouble
because he wanted a decision out of me, and I was holding
off to get Sproul's v;ord; so for a time I didn't have
MINK: V7ell, this committee then was the committee that
was to find a new University Librarian.
MINK: But six months before that, before you became
Librarian, you were appointed Librarian of the Clark.
POWELL: Well, the committee recommended only the uni-
versity librarianship. So I went to Sproul after this
recommendation had been made, and he said, "Well, I have
two jobs that I can offer you. The Clark committee has
met for a year now and hasn't come up with a recommenda-
tion, so I'm going to act for them. I'm fed up with their
delay and I'm ready to offer you that position January
1; or the university librarianship, July 1, 1944. Which
one would interest you?" And that's when I said, "Both."
I said, "Put them together." "Oh," he said, "that is an
idea." And I explained to him the advantages of coordina-
tion and elimination of duplication. I said, "They need
to be coordinated by a single person." And he saw it
immediately and he said, "All right. I have the power
to do this now. Let's talk about salary." So I agreed
to start January 1 at the Clark as the Director for $4,000
a year and July 1 as University Librarian and Director
of the Clark at $6,000., So that was the way it was
Then I told Franklyn Snyder of Northv/estern that
I'd accepted the UCLA job. He said, "Have you got any
recommendations?" And I said, "Yes, Jens Nyholm, the
'Great Dane' at Berkeley, would be an excellent person."
And Snyder made a note of this, and Nyholm got the job
and held it for twenty years. So I was able to pay my
little debt to Nyholm of his friendship and interest in
me by swinging that job to him.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE
SEPTEMBER 15, I969
MINK: Larry, what was Cora Sanders like?
POWELL: She was a lady.
MINK: In a real sense.
POWELL: Yes, in a deep sense she v/as elegant and well-
bred, kind, discreet, was a wonderful person for VJill[iarn]
Clark, I know. You see, she was a kind of a social front
for him. She gave the library that kind of tone and
quality that no one else could have given it.
MINK: Do you think that he was a homosexual?
POWELL: Well, I don't know, Jim; I never knew him.
MINK: You never met him?
POWELL: No, I never met him.
MINK: Well, you know this book that came out.
POWELL: Yes, Mangam's book.
MINK: Mangam's book. The Clarks , an American Phenomenon ,
and the story about the fact that he was advised by his
attorneys to give the library to the university.
POWELL: Yes, Ed Stressing.
MINK: This was in order to whitewash what v/as going on
in his backyard.
POWELL: Well, this was probably true. He suffered tv7o
losses--two wives died, one of cancer, one in childbirth--
and then his only son was killed in a plane accident.
And after all these things, I think he turned to drink
and to young men. But I don't think in the beginning he
was; I think he was a perfectly normal man that tragedy
and too much money drove in this direction. But I don't
know anything about that other than hearsay. And of
course Miss Sanders was a model of discretion; she never
gossiped about Will Clark.
MINK: Did she ever mention this?
POWELL: No, oh no, and I would never mention it of
MINK: I see.
POWELL: You were very careful of what you talked about
with Cora Sanders, because she was fiercely loyal to
MINK: VJhen did you first meet her?
POWELL: I first met her in I938 or 1939 when I first
came to work at UCLA. Jens Nyholm, who was the head cata-
loger, had never been to the Clark.
MINK: He'd been here and he'd never been to the Clark?
POWELL: Well, he'd been here a year or two and had
never yet gone. And I hadn't been, so he said, "Let's
go over." So Mr. Goodwin gave us the afternoon off and
we went over to the Clark. I think our names are probably
In the guest register there; you can pin it down. Miss
Sanders greeted us and gave us a tour of the library.
Now that was the first time I met her.
MINK: You knew the Clark existed even before you came
to work, didn't you?
POWELL: Yes, I knew of it through Jake and the shop and
Cowan, you see.
MINK: Of course.
POVJELL: The librarian, Mr. Cowan, used to come in Jake's,
and I knew about it. But I didn't know about it as
Ritchie did; Ward was over there way back in the 1930s.
He took printing over to Mr. Cowan and to Mr. Clark.
His name and Gordon Newell' s are in the guest book way
back about 1934. But, you see, in my work here from 1938
to 1943 in the Acquisitions Department, I did the biblio-
graphical checking for Clark orders. All the cards for
Clark purchases came to the order department and I was
the checker for them. So, I knew the Clark's intake over
MINK: Were you Impressed?
POVJELL: I was impressed because the book selection was
done by two people: Cora Sanders and Sigurd Hustvedt.
Hustvedt was on the Clark committee, and he and Miss
Sanders were the chief book orderers. They did marve-
lously well in building up Restoration drama, in building
up all the minor figures of the age of Dryden.
MINK: Were they, at that time, giving attention to Wilde,
too; were they building the Oscar Wilde collection?
POWELL: Yes, but not as actively as I did later. No,
they were concentrating on Dryden because of Hustvedt's
interest. And I think Miss Sanders felt that they had
enough of Oscar Wilde, and maybe his and Clark's interests
were a little too compatible. So when I became director
of the Clark, we concentrated on Oscar, filling in gaps,
translations particularly into foreign languages, and
original material. So by the time I became director
of the Clark, January 1, 19^^^ I knew the library's hold-
ings, particularly in recent years. I knew the book-
dealers, of course, from way back, and I knew sources.
I was in a good position to carry on this fine program.
MINK: I suspect the guest book would tell us; but what
are your recollections of the people who were coming then
to use the resources of the Clark? Were there distinguished
POWELL: No, there weren't any; there wasn't anyone com-
MINK: It wasn't well used.
POWELL: No, it wasn't. Miss Sanders, you see, didn't
encourage its use any more than Clark had--that is, they
were friendly if someone came, but they never sought
people to come. In the ten years she was curator ( 193-4--
1944) J she still regarded it in the sense that it was
Mr. Clark's private library. And she had a running feud,
and properly so, with Grounds and Buildings, particular-
ly with Mr. [A. E.] Davie, "Deacon" Davie--remember him?
POWELL: He was the superintendent of Grounds and Build-
ings, a rough, hard-shelled construction-foreman type,
and he wanted to treat the Clark as another piece of
Grounds and Buildings. She said it cannot be treated
this way; it has to be treated with care and with ele-
gance. So she virtually barred the doors to him and
appealed to President Sproul to keep this roughneck out.
Well, they would tear up the plumbing, they would tear
up the brickwork, they would do all kinds of crude things;
and she fought against this. And she was right, Jim;
she was right.
MINK: So then early in 1937 Ralph Cornell came as con-
sulting landscape architect, and he v;as anything but
POWELL: They completed the landscaping of the grounds
that hadn't been finished. He laid out a plan, and they
spent quite a lot of money on this., Unfortunately, all
the coast live oaks that he put in the four corners of
the big lawn eventually died. VJe had to replace those;
Cornell and I worked together when I became the direc-
tor. We put a whole new planting scheme in there v/hich
is operating now. But we owe Miss Sanders and President
Sproul the credit for holding the line for ten years on
the Clark, to keep it from being pulled apart, bulldozed
under. Everybody in the community wanted a piece of it,
you see. The faculty was pulling and hauling on it; they
wanted to make it a typographical museum, they wanted
to make it an Americana collection, and Sproul just sat
on it for ten years.
MINK: What did Davie want to do with it?
POWELL: Well, he didn't want to do anything other than,
when something went wrong, he wanted to send a crew over
and do a crude repair job. He didn't realize that it had
to be maintained on a different scale than campus main-
tenance. That was the crux of the matter. In other
words, the marble in the entryway was flaking, it had
to be treated, and he said, "Oh, we'll just bring a
spray gun over there and shellac it." And Miss Sanders
said, "You v;ill not." So she did nothing. And when I
came, I looked i^nto the m.atter and got an expert on marble
to come. He said it must be treated with a thin kind of
rubber glaze to prevent it from temperature change. In
other words, we brought in specialists; we didn't depend
on Grounds and Buildings. So she was an invaluable per-
son, Jim, for those ten years. Anything could have
happened to the place without her discreet and firm cura-
torship; and in this President Sproul backed her up. He
was a great strength, as he was, indeed, later to me.
MINK: And you say no one was using the Clark Library;
is this why the Clark Fellowship was established?
POWELL: Yes, one reason. You see, when I came in in
19'^'4-, I had a whole notebook full of ideas, things that
needed to be done. From talking v/ith members of the
English department, chiefly Edward Hooker, the BryJen
man, and with Regent Dickson, and with I don't know who
else, I had ideas of what should be done. I was able
when I negotiated the position with Sproul to mention
some of these, and he said, "Well, I want you to meet
with the committee on the Clark Library and then later
with the Southern Committee of the Board of Regents and
outline these things that you want to do. They included
a fellowship; an annual open house, called Founder's Day;
a publication, the first ten-year report; and an accelera-
ted buying program.
MINK: Well, I suppose the idea behind all this vras to
make the university community, as well as the community
at large, more aware of the Clark Library. Is that what
you had In mind?
POWELL: That's what I had in mind, and Edv;ard Hooker
wrote me, or he may have viritten it to the president
who gave it to me, what he called a "modest memorandum"
on the Clark Library, which urged that v;e undertake buy-
ing not of high spots or expensive first editions, but
of the minutia of the period, the bread and butter books;
this was Edward's idea, and I took that over.
MINK: These wouldn't be rare books then?
POWELL: Not rare books, they would be early books; they
would be seventeenth century books.
MINK: I see.
POWELL: But all of that I call the mulch of the period,
you see, the ground strata in which literature grew.
And as a result I began to concentrate more on the chea-
per material--sermons, pamphlets, and theological works,
culminating in the year I spent in England, 1950-1951.
During that year, we bought thousands of books.
POV/ELL: Well, Edward Hooker deserves a great deal of
the credit for this. But of course he v;anted this mater-
ial for the edition of Dryden; they needed it. The Clark
had the high points of literature, but it didn't have
the ground v/orks, and we bought a lot of reference books
and a lot of common books of the seventeenth century to
try to make it more useful to scholars. One reason
scholars didn't come to use it was the books weren't
there--that iSj the vrorking books of the period--history,
philosophy, and travel.
MINK: At this point were there any people in the history
department or the English department that were holding
seminars at the Clark?
POWELL: No, I don't think so. The first seminars that
I recall being held there were--now wait a minute, Hust-
vedt may have. And Hooker may have. That was before
I came. After I came, I began to encourage this more,
and Clinton Howard was one of the most active users.
He'd have a class over there every week for years.
Clinton was one of the first of the faculty to seize upon
the Clark as a laboratory for students.
MINK: Yes, you were close to Clinton because Clinton was
one of those that was always coming into the library.
POWELL: He and Charlie Mowat . They were inseparable;
they'd been Rhodes scholars together, or Clinton was
tne Rhodes scholar, I guess.
MINPv: Was Clinton instrumental in bringing Mowat here?
POWELL: I doubt it. He was too young; he didn't have
enough influence. It was probably Klingberg with his
interest in Anglo-American humanitarianism.. Well, another
thing, Clinton lived in Beverly Glen. We v/ere neigh-
bors in the Glen, and we used to see them there. Well,
at any rate, a lot of the people who came into the li-
brary, of the few who came, were visitors.
MINK: Periodically, you mean?
POWELL: Yes, well, not entirely--but people sent by
Regent Dickson, by Ernest Carroll Moore. Both of them
used to come and bring visitors. It was the thing to
do (now we have Disneyland). But they used to bring dis-
tinguished visitors. Sproul did, too. A lot of the time
of the staff was spent up in showing visitors through,
rather than users of the library. This gradually changed.
MINK: When you became librarian of the Clark, was it
physically inside about as it is now? Was that basement
room there, for example, being used for a reference li-
POWELL: Miss Sanders had done that. They installed what
is said to be the first fluorescent lighting in a public
building in Los Angeles in that reading room in the raid-
1930s o The reference collection was downstairs in that
storage basement. I rearranged the drawing room. I hung
more pictures. VJe developed some exhibit cabinets and
storage cabinets, but basically the library is as it was
in Clark's time.
MINK: Was the idea of having the reference room downstairs
to keep people out of the nicer shov/ part of the li-
POWELL: No, not necessarily; it was to provide work
tables. You couldn't put work tables up in tne drawing
room; there just wasn't room for them. It was really
a matter of common sense, developing an area where you
could have work room and staff room, all the processing,
I used to consult with the architect, Robert Far-
quhar who was still living then. He used to come by
and we'd talk about it. People were pressing me to use
the drawing room more, not as a reading room, but just
as a meeting place, talking and so forth. Farquhar
said, "Well, that's fine; but please don't change it
architecturally." He said, "it's a beautiful room.
Please leave it the way it is." And of course we have
left it. He was sweet; the old gentleman used to come
by and he said, "Well, of all the buildings I've designed,
this is still my favorite <> This is the only time in my
architectural career that I was given an unlimited com-
mission. Clark said, 'Build me an elegant building and
damn the cost. ' "
MINK: Well, most of the materials that v^ent into the
Clark were imported.
POWELL: Imported and handmade^ that's right. It cost
Just short of a million dollars in the mid-twenties.
And of course it could never be built again.
MINK: Wellj did you have ideas about hov; to use the
POWELL: VJellj I wanted to use it for music and lectures
and evenings. For example, I held a meeting of the
Zamorano Club there in the early 1940s. It's a beauti-
ful room at night. We had some discussion meetings up
there; we had seminars, of course, in the rare book
rooms upstairs. But I gradually introduced more and more
use of the drawing room, and this has been carried out,
of course, in the seminars that we've held, these invi-
tational seminars. We had folding chairs that could
be brought in. But what I was trying to keep it from,
and Sproul helped me in this, was its unlimited use by
the community as a meeting place--that is, the Native
Daughters of the Golden West and the church groups, and
anybody that wanted to come in and just have a place
to meet, we were opposed to this.
MINK: Did you have many requests?
POV/ELL: V/e had a lot of requests.
MINK: That presented a hard problem, I imagine.
POVJELL: I know it did; it was a problem of public rela-
tions. Sproul and I agreed that we would encourage use
that was related to the library and its collections and
its use, and not make it just a meeting room. And v;e
decided to do the Founder's Day, to have one great big
smashing elegant open house, once a year, rather than
a series of open houses. That's how we did that.
MINK: Now, the Founder's Day was commemorating what?
POWELL: It was in honor of Will Clark, and we tried to
hold it on the date that we received--well, it was the
date of his death, I think, June l4, 193'^* We used to
hold it in mid-June in honor of Clark. He left the li-
brary in honor of his father, but we made the Founder's
Day in honor of him; I worked programs out with Theatre
Arts, with Music, with Ralph Freud and with Walter Rub-
samen--those were my henchmen--and we did some elegant
things: Dryden's All For Love and Oscar's Importance
of Being Earnest . And in 19'4-9j) remember, v;e did A Live
Woman in the Mines , Alonzo Delano's wonderful play.
POWELL: We did Patience , Gilbert and Sullivan's satire
on Oscar. I loved working with Ralph Freud, who was a
great theater man, and with Walter and Robert Nelson in
the music department; they were seventeenth century buffs
We had some great times there--Alumni Day, Founder's Day--
helping each other.
MINK: What was Alumni Day?
POWELL: Well, we held it together v;ith Founder's Day,
and we had 2,000 people there one year.
MINK: VJell, what do you mean by Alumni Day?
POWELL: Well, I don't know, Jim, except that alumni
were encouraged to come, a homecoming.
MINK: Oh, you mean alumni of UCLA.
MINK: What about Goodwin, did he ever manifest any in-
terest in the Clark at all?
POWELL: Well, you mean before ray time?
MINK: Well, after you'd come there to work, if you can
POWELL : No .
MINK: Did he ever go down there?
POWELL: As far as I know, he never came there again. It
was a strange place to him, and he was out of place at
the Clark. He didn't understand it. He didn't have any
feeling for special collections or rare books or special
problems of research materials. He was embarrassed by it,
Jim, really. And that's why he never developed a firm
policy for it; he didn't know.
MINK: VJell, we know for a fact that when the Cowan col-
lection vms purchased in 1935--the books--Sproul was un-
der pressure to put them in the Clark, and Goodwin opposed
POWELL: Wellj I think he knew that it was a seventeenth-
century library primarily, and that it was an anachronism
to put Western Americana there.
MINK: The Montana collection, which V7as Western Ameri-
cana in a sense, was there how?
POI'ffiLL: It was an accident, really; Cowan bought it.
MINK: He did? I thought it probably belonged to Clark.
POWELL: No. Clark had no interest in it; he had no in-
terest in his native state, really. He left them nothing.
Cowan was a dealer before he became Clark's librarian,
and he never stopped being a bookseller. He was buying
and selling all the time on the side, and Charlie Kessler
of Montana had this collection for sale, as I understand
it, and Cowan bought it as a good buy. He thought it
would honor Clark, and there it was. We haven't trans-
ferred it--have we?--it's still at the Clark„ But it
wasn't Clark's, it was really Cowan's hobby. Clark wasn't
interested in the West. His interest was in drama and
MINK: Well, when you came to work at the Clark as the
librarian, Cora Sanders had retired; you were really re-
POWELL: We overlapped a week or two. She stayed on, or
I came early. I guess I came early in December at her
MINK: You really weren't to come until the first of
POWELL: Yes. But she said come over a week or two
early and I'll work V7lth you every day, or maybe it was
the last week in December and the first week in January.
Anyway, she made every effort to turn over things to
me. The only bad thing she did, Jim--and I don't know
this; I'm told this by the staff that was there--she
went through the files during her last month and de-
stroyed everything that she thought was irrelevant.
MINK: She was her own records manager,
POWELL: Yes, she was her own records manager, and she
apparently destroyed a great deal of interesting material.
MINK: Well, Larry, the same accusation has been made
POVreLL: Hah, against me? Good God!
MINK: Yes, by of all people, Alice Humiston.
POWELL: What did she say?
MINK: She said that when you became University Librarian,
which would have been six months later, that they didn't
know what you were doing. You were in the office there
and they knew that cardboard box after cardboard box
of correspondence came out of the office and went onto
the trash heap.
POWELL: Oh, no, that isn't true, Jim!
MINK: Why don't you set the record straight then?
POWELL: No, it isn't true. I think Miss Bradstreet
would be the one to verify this.
MINK: I think this v/as in relation to our discussions
that we had about the history of the library--Alice Humi-
ston and I, you know, worked very closely on this.
POWELL: Well of course it was my idea that she do it;
I put her to work on this because she had to have some-
thing to occupy her.
MINK: Well, this wasn't true then.
POWELL: No, it wasn't true. We found very little in
the way of records in the office. Mr. Goodwin had not
kept records in depth. I don't know what he had removed.
I think he removed his personal papers, that came back
to us later from his widow. But I spent--and Miss Brad-
street would verify this--the first several weeks going
through the files. And the chief value of the files was
the personnel records (he had kept these; he hadn't al-
tered any of these, and I read through them all), and the
files on the Library Committee, and certain correspondence
files. But as far as I remember. . . Lord, that would
be against all my nature to destroy any records. I wish
there 'd been more of them! But let me ask this: what
is in the archives for the Goodwin years? What did I
MINK: That would bear out what you said; there's very
little. The question of course is why, and now you've
cleared this up. I hope you don't mind that I've brought
POWELL: Of course not.
MINK: We have to understand why things are the way they
POWELL: That's right; no, I'm not sensitive. I'm slight-
ly indignant. There must have been some basis for Miss
Humiston's remarks because she wasn't a dreamer.
POWELL: Brady would probably [know]; I'll ask her
when I lunch with her this noon. What we probably threw
out was closets full of furniture and equipment catalogs.
This was never one of his great interests, and one of the
great problems of opening this library was to equip it.
As I remember, he kept every dealer's catalog clear back
to the 1920s, and there was a closet full of this mis-
cellaneous out-of-date equipment material. It must have
been that, and that kind of housecleaning that we did;
but anything related to the operation, administration,
and history of the library, good Lord, we pounced on,
and I read them and we segregated them.
MINK: Well, v;hen you came to the Clark after that tv;o-
week interlude with Cora Sanders, v/ho were the other
members of the staff there at that time?
POWELL: Well, Mate McCurdy was the head cataloger and
Mary Louise McVicker was her assistant cataloger. In
other words, there were two catalogers, and their typist
was Theresa Forbes.
MINK: And that was the staff?
POWELL: No, there was Mrs. Davis.
MINK: Oh, Boffie.
POWELL: Yes, who was the reference and order librarian.
That was the staff. Then there was Bill McKeown who
was the custodian.
MINK: He was in no sense then a book restorer.
POWELL: No, but Miss Sanders was encouraging him. She
was the one that deserves credit for encouraging him
to go to night school. She knew some of the books needed
attention and some cloth cases needed to be made, and
because she had an interest in handicraft, she encouraged
Bill McKeown to do this on his own time.
MINK: Where 'd he go, Frank Wiggins Trade School?
POV/ELL: He went to Frank Wiggins or one of the night
high schools in Inglewood where he lived. I just pushed
this a little farther and gradually made him--I realized
that it wasn't a full-time custodial job, that he was
not goofing off, but he had a lot of free time.
MINK: Well, why would they need a custodian if they
had the Buildings and Grounds Department?
POWELL: V/ell, Buildings and Grounds never cleaned the
building; they came over on special repair jobs. McKeown
was in charge of dusting and sweeping and window washing,
that kind of thing, that Mylan does now. So I gradually
got Bill McKeown to do more of this, and it led even-
tually to establishing the shop out in the carriage
house. We made that the bindery for about ten years;
then he worked on backlog. Eventually he was full-time
binding, and we had a replacement custodian.
MINK: I never thought that he was very imaginative in
his repair work.
POWELL: He wasn't at all; he was a routine, and he had
to be watched very closely or he'd be downright destruc-
tiveo He didn't appreciate original condition, but we
were very careful with him„ VJell, now, the staff, you
mentioned--Bill Conway was a member of the staff on
war leave. He was in the army in Europe, and I corres-
ponded with him as soon as I became director. He wrote
me and said he was coming back, would there still be a
place for him. And I said, "indeed there will. There'll
be a place for you, and you'll get your salary increases
that you would have gotten if you'd been here." He came
back; and then we were overloaded v/ith catalogers. I
think we transferred Mary Louise McVicker out. She
didn't have the seniority. Mate McCurdy stayed, and she
ana Bill were there for a time.
MINK: Mary Louise came back to UCLA?
POWELL: Yes. Eventually Mate McCurdy came back here
when Bill Conway came, and then Archer. You see, I
brought [H. Richard] Archer in on July 1, 19'4-4.
MINK: Where did you dig him up?
POWELL: Well, I dug Archer up off Sixth Street. He'd
been at the College Book Company up from Jake's when
I was at Jake's, and we knew each other as fellow book-
sellers. He'd gone back to library school, following
my example, the same way Everett Moore did. He was
then at Cal finishing; he had to go back and get his
A. B„ He did two years for his A. B., and then he did
three years during the early 19-^03, working part time
in the student bookstore at Cal. And I needed a bookman.
I needed somebody with book knowledge and an interest in
printing and bibliography and book knowledge, and he
developed this very strongly at Cal. In the library
school he was the president of the Book Arts Club. He
seemed to be just the person I needed.
MINK: Did you tell him that if he came to work there
he would have to get his Ph.D.?
POWELL: He was working on it. I guess I got him from
Chicago, actually. He had finished at Berkeley and had
gone to Chicago and was working on his Ph.D., and our
agreement was that he would complete this.
MII^: Did the Clark committee feel that there should
be someone with a Ph.D. there?
POWELL: Yes. I think the feeling of Hooker and Hustvedt
was that there should be someone with research experience
in addition to myself.
MINK: Well, now there's something I can't understand
here. I assume that your idea was ultimately that
Archer would take over the Clark Library and be the di-
rector, and yet you had argued with Sproul that. . .
POWELL: No, Jim, that was never my understanding. I
wasn't going to be superceded by Archer or by anyone.
As long as I was there I was going to be director. Where
did you get that idea?
MINK: Well, then why would it be necessary that there
be two with a Ph.D.? Why would Archer have to have a
POWELL: He would be the one that would be working daily
with scholars. You see, I was there once a week, and I
think they wanted someone in the situation. . .
MINK: Right there.
POWELL: Yes, right there. I didn't train him to succeed
rae--my God, no!
MINK: Well, were you satisfied with Archer's perfor-
POWELL: I was in the beginning, yes; he was eminently
satisfactory in the beginning, because he established a
number of the routines there in processing, in biblio-
graphical checking, in buying, and in catalog searching.
He was a wonderful catalog searcher and orderer, and he
brought an interest in the graphic arts and printing that
had been one of Clark's major interests, but which none
of the English department had ever shown or have shown.
MINK: While we're talking about this five-year period
up to the time that you went to Britain, is it true that
when you went to England in 1950-1951 you came back and
found that he'd spent the entire Clark budget on graphic
POWELL: No, no! Jim, that isn't true.
MINK: We're exploding a lot of myths today o
POWELL: Yes. No, he hadn't had any money to spend that
year, really; the money was all placed at my disposal.
I spent it in England, and I spent some of it on graphic
arts. But, no. Archer never did that. He had his hands
full checking lists and offers that I sent back. And I
bought I don't know how many--I must have spent up to
$50,000 that year. I overspent. Sproul covered this
and gave me more money.
MINK: You were spending it on what you called the "mulch."
POWELL: That's right. The Harmsworth books of theology,
and all kinds of seventeenth-century material; but I
did start the Eric Gill collection that year. I bought
some original Gill' s--blocks and books.
MINK: Were you Interested in Gill, or what made you
think that this was something that ought to be at the
POWELL: Well, first of all, we started collecting Golden
Cockerel Press seventeenth-century reprints. They'd
done some seventeenth-century texts in modern, and we
saw Gill's work illustrating some of these books. I
don't know, Jim; I think it was just my flair and feel-
ing which Archer supported.
MINK: Was he interested in Gill?
POWELL: He was interested. He was a very able and good
assistant in those first years. We had an excellent
working relationship. And of course the planning of the
first underground annex was carried on in those years
after he came, because he sav; right away that v;e needed
more space. Bill Jackson had come out as a consultant.
Informally, and advised us to go underground, and the
year I was in Britain, Archer and Mrs. Davis and Mrs.
McCurdy--if she was still there then--had the respon-
sibility for building this. Construction work was car-
ried out while I was abroad. What else do we want to
MINK: I wonder if you would say something about the
Harding collection, which came I think about that time
in 1950--isn't that right?
MINK: The pamphlets..
POWELL: Oh, yes; no, those came earlier.
POWELL: Those came in the early 1940s when I was still
out here at UCLA.
MINK: Oh, is that when that began?
POWELL: I can't remember who was responsible for that
purchase; it was some professor that was abroad who wrote
to Goodwin and said Unionist Library was bombed out or
had to be moved and Harding, the bookseller, had the
responsibility for selling it. It was not only pamphlets,
but it was bound books, thousands of them; and we bought
the thing for some ridiculous sura.
MINK: That would be a matter of records.
POVJELL: It v/as some ridiculous sum. It was delivered
and it was covered with soot and dirt. I accessioned
it out here, but that came much before the Clark period.
MINK: Hov; did the faculty buy the idea of graphic arts
at the Clark? VJere you criticized for this?
POWELL: Not to my face. I was probably criticized for
everything behind my back. This is always the way.
MINK: Yes. [laughter]
POWELL: But I have a thick back and I never paid any
attention. I went ahead and did what I thought was pro-
per. I was following Clark's interest in this; he'd
been tremendously interested as one of the patrons of
John Henry Nash and as a collector of Kelmscott and Doves.
And I concentrated, of course, on local Southern Cali-
fornia printing. I was the first librarian, I think,
here, that developed a strong regional collection of
printers. And to spark this I gave the library my own
Ward Ritchie collection, which is now priceless and ir-
replaceable because it has all of the so-called Ritchie
incunabula--everything that he did when he was learning
to print that I collected.
MINK: V/ell, I was thinking particularly of the Ritchie
collection, that perhaps some of the faculty might have
felt that this was sort of perpetrating the buddy system?
POVfELL: Well, sure, but he was also a great printer.
MINK: But I wonder at that time whether he v;as recognized
POWELL: Wellj no, great printers rarely are in their
time, when they're actually producing. It's posterity
that hails them. But I knew Ritchie was good and was
important, was a leading figure here in graphic arts,
as he has panned out to be of course. The buddy system
meant that I had this marvelous opportunity to collect
his fugitive material, which otherwise would have been
lost--the pamphlets and the very early, privately prin-
ted books. And of course I gave these to the Clark Li-
brary, and Ritchie continued the gifts; he has never
cost the library anything.
Most of the local printers' materials were dona-
tions. So we spent very little, actually, on local. Saul
Marks, Will Cheney, Grant Dahlstrom, Richard Hoffman,
Gordon Holmquist and Merle Armitage--that v/hole collec-
tion was a gift. The money we spent was on completing
earlier collections--Golden Cockerel and Nonesuch. I
never collected Grabhorn Press because the Huntington
was so strong, but we were given many Grabhorn imprints.
We have the Indianapolis Grabhorn imprints because Charlie
Rush, v;hen he retired at University of North Carolina,
knew that I was interested in printing. And v;hen I v;as
visiting him at Chapel Kill, he said, "Wouldn't you like
these." He had been the librarian of the Indianapolis
Public Library when the Grabhorns were there. And he
gave us these priceless Indianapolis Grabhorns. So 1
did a lot of receipting for gifts in those early years.
MINK: There had been, I assume very little in the way
of gifts to the Clark in this period?
POWELL: Little or none.
MINK: Or is the area so offbeat that as far as what
the resources of private collections would be in Southern
California would be limited?
POWELL: Very limited. That's right.
MINK: Well, you started at the Clark on the first of
January of 19^^, and you started as University Librarian
on the first of July of 19^4. Here you were working at
the Clark, going there every day, and all of a sudden
you had this much bigger responsibility and you couldn't
go down there, how did you feel about that?
POWELL: Well, I don't think that troubled me particu-
larly. I had Archer coming and Mrs. Davis had been there
and Mrs. McCurdy, and they were very capable of carrying
on, indeed as Mrs. Davis has proved to be all these years,
Weil, Conway must have come back about that time in 19'^5j
maybe six months later. And I went once a week. I v/ent
over traditionally on Wednesdays, went to the Zaraorano
Club lunch, visited the bookstores. I felt it was a
natural step to take and that I could handle both jobs.
MINK: Well^ actually, I suppose that this job as Uni-
versity Librarian at that point wasn't the job that it
POWELL: No, the library was much smaller. The v/ar was
not yet over, and the campus population v;as down, and
it was more like a large college library. The staff was
small. I was young, Jim, and I had all kinds of energy
and ideas, and I wasn't troubled by the split assignment
at all. In fact, I thought this was great o
MINK: Well, now the staff here--what did you think about
them? Was there anybody in particular you thought ought
to go, or did you think that generally it was a pretty
POWELL: Well, I respected the staff. I'd known themj
I'd been one of them for five years, whatever it was.
But the one I thought should have gone--v;ho has gone--
was Mrs. Trout. She transferred to San Diego to the
Navy Electronics Library to finish out her twenty years
service; then she could retire. And that left this open-
ing that I filled with Bob Vosper. Miss Bradstreet, Mr.
Goodwin's secretary, had come over to see me at the Clark.
MINK: Oh, she was Mr. Goodwin's secretary?
POWELL: She had been for six months only.
MINK: But you hired her.
POWELL: No, no.
POWELL: Miss Coldren had hired her; she was the assis-
tant in the Reference Department, the clerical assistant,
and then she transferred to Mr. Goodwin's office. And
she was half time his secretary and half time Mrs. Trout's
accountant for keeping the book fund straight. In fact,
there 'd never been a full-time position in the Librarian's
office. There 'd been a split appointment with Order De-
partment and Librarian's office. And I told Miss Brad-
street when she came over for interview--and this inter-
view was arranged by an invaluable person to me. It
was Mildred Foreman, the personnel officer. She and I'd
been classmates at Occidental. (Here was the buddy sys-
tem again, Jim.) We knew each other well, and Miss Fore-
man kept sending me tips that Miss Bradstreet would be
the ideal person and wanted to work for me and would I
interview her. And then she came over to see me. In-
cidentally, she came to be interviewed on the same day
that Bob Vosper came down from Stanford.
POWELL: That was an interesting conjunction, the three
of us that day in the spring of 19'^4. So I told Miss
Bradstreet I wanted her full time as my secretary. I
needed a full-time secretary, and moreover, I thought
we'd need student help for her. I saw the office expanding.
and this pleased her. And of course Vosper then would
have a secretary full time of his own. This pleased
him; neither of us wanted to share a person. We saw
that it would be impossible with the load v;e v/ould have.
MINK: This brings up a question: you were telling me
last week about going to see Sproul, saying, "I'll take
this Northwestern appointment unless you do something for
me," In accepting the appointment and combining the
two into one job. . .
POWELL: All right, Jim, you're sneaking up on me now.
MINK: Did you make any demands on him as far as extra
personnel was concerned?
POWELL: Oh, I'm sure I did; I'm sure I said that I would
need them. Yes, I did. I said I would need to expand
this half-time position to full time. He said, "Well,
we'll work this out; this '11 work out." I didn't make
any enormous demands on him; I told him I was going to
replace Mrs. Trout. But Sproul wasn't interested in the
details of thiSo He knew that I would need a little more
help, and he said sure and I had no problem there.
MINK: Now sort of a general university question: could
you tell me, if you can, did you sense what his attitude
toward UCLA was at that time? Do you think he thought
it was just still a boondocks type operation?
POWELL: No, I don't think he did, and I never had the
feeling that he was looking down his nose at this cam-
MINK: Too many people have, you know.
POWELL: I don't think that's right; I think he wanted
the place to grow. Well, I know he did, because he gave
me the support that I needed to make the library grow.
He never boggled at this, or said, "Look, Berkeley's
going to have the big cut, and you'll take what's left."
No, I had the feeling always in dealing with Sproul that
he was statewide In his vision.
I apologized I think, one of the times I went in
and said I wanted some more money for something. He
said, "Don't apologize, Larry. If you don't ask for
it, who will?" He said, "I employed you to tell me what
you need. If you can justify it and make a good case,
I'll give it to you. But," he said, "make damn sure
you make a good case. I won't give you a blank check."
So everything I asked for I prepared carefully; he
taught me to document whatever I wanted. And I suppose
I overdocumented. I used to come in with masses of paper
and stuff. He said, "Well, you say it's good; is it a
good buy? Will this enrich the library?" "Yes, sir."
"All right, here's the money." He was very good to me
MINK: Did he ever turn you dovm?
POWELL: No J he never turned me down. He stalled some-
times. He took longer than I liked him to, "but he never
turned me down.
MINK: Would you say that he was an easy man to reach?
POWELL: He was for me, because Hansena liked me appar-
ently. Miss Frederickson always helped me as did Miss
Robb, his secretary at Berkeley.
MINK: Well, would you say that things piled up on his
desk, oh, for months, and you didn't get any action on
POWELL: I'm sure this is true of some departments; hut
I don't believe I found this true. I think that I got
action from him. The only delay that I remember, really,
that annoyed me and kept me hung up was when we asked
that Neal Harlow be raised from head of Special Collec-
tions to assistant librarian.
MINK: Would that be the first assistant librarian that
POWELL: No, it was the second; Vosper was the first.
I needed this other one, and Sproul didn't reply to me.
And it came up to 1950 or 1951. We were opening and
dedicating Special Collections with those speakers and
others that were here, and I wanted to announce that day
that Neal Harlow would be assistant librarian and Andy
Horn would be head of Special Collections. And I didn't
have any reply. Sproul had told me orally on a visit
to Berkeley that this would be OK, but I didn't have the
paperwork on It.
MINK: Would this have been a regental appointment?
Would he have had to take this to the regents?
POWELL: I suppose so. But I didn't have the paper on
It and I was reluctant, and I called Miss Robb at Berke-
ley and I said, "The president told me this was OK, but
I haven't had the transfer of funds form approval."
She said, "Well, he's got It with him and he's on vaca-
tion." I said, "Well, where Is he?" She said, "He's
at Echo Lake" (up by Lake Tahoe, where he has his cabin).
And I said, "Well, I've got to reach him, because I must
announce this now and I must have his final approval
before I do." She said, "Well, you call him at your
peril, but here's his number." So I telephoned him at
Echo Lake and got him out of the hammock. "Larry, haven't
you gotten that notice?" He said, "I told them to put
it through two weeks ago! Of course," he said, "I ap-
proved It. Go ahead, yes, announce It." He said, "You'll
have the paperwork on It." Bang! He hung up! And so
I did; that was enough for me. But I was alv/ays very
nervous when I didn't have approval In v/rltlng of any-
thing. But he never went back on his v;ord and he had
a memory as long as a horse, or Is it an elephant.
MINK: Well, one other question here: you told me in
1961. . .
POWELL: You've got a memory like an elephant!
MINK: . . .when you were turning over records to the
University Archives, the records of your administra-
tion. . o
POWELL: You mean everything I hadn't burned?
MINK: . . .you told me that Goodwin didn't speak to
you for six months after you were appointed as the Uni-
POWELL: Oh, six months--probably longer than that. I
don't remember when it was that we made it up.
MINK: Well, what was the hang-up?
POWELL: Well, he didn't approve of my appointment.
POWELL: Well, I was an upstart. I'd had no experience.
I suppose that was the excuse. But it was less personal
than professional. I think he thought, and probably he
was right, that I was totally inexperienced administra-
tively. It was a risky appointment, and it was more or
less done over his head. This is, the faculty committee
had not consulted him.
MINK: Did he want to name his successor?
POWELL: No, he'd had this tragedy, you see; he never
took any steps to name anyone. He'd had Jens Nyholm
here, and he could have made Nyholm the assistant li-
brarian, and it would have assured his succession to
Goodwin, inevitably. That's why Jens left and went to
Berkeley, because Goodwin wouldn't promote him from head
cataloger to assistant librarian.
MINK: Had Nyholm worked on Goodv/in to try to get him
to do it?
POWELL: He asked him. Before he left, he said, "Is
there a future for me here as assistant librarian?" Good-
win said, "Well, I don't see it." Nyholm said, "Well,
I'm leaving." It was, I think, an inability to face the
fact that he had to be succeeded and to take the neces-
sary step. He had worked so long with this group of
women--Miss Coldren, Mrs. Trout, and Miss Bryan--that
was his administrative hierarchy, and he couldn't en-
vision changing it. And I think it was that which kept
him from it.
MINK: Well, certainly Miss Coldren was a capable person.
MINK: She was a fine reference librarian, I suppose.
POWELL: She was tops.
MINK: Ultimately she married Goodv/in.
MINK: Would you consider Elizabeth Bryan as a good
POWELL: No, I don't think so; I think the place outgrev;
her. She may have been in the beginning, but it became
too much for her. She became more crotchety and more
prejudiced, and she favored people and she was not an
objective administrator. Miss Coldren was infinitely
MINK: And yet Miss Bryan was head of the circulation
department in a far more distinguished library than UCLA,
POWELL: Urbana, yes. Well, maybe this was her prime.
Maybe those were her best years. I don't know. But be-
tween the two of them. Miss Coldren was by far the bet-
ter; and the staff she built, of course, was a testimony
MINK: Tell me, who would you say for examples were good
selections on the part of Fanny Coldren?
POWELL: Well, Hilda Gray was certainly tops and Gladys
Coryell. Ardis Lodge, Esther Euler.
MINK: All those people viere employed by her.
POWELL: That's right.
MINK: Some of them of course while you were here.
POV/ELL: No, I think they were all here before I came.
MINK: They were all here in 1938.
POWELL: Yes^ they'd all come in the early thirties.
MINK: I see.
POWELL: And in the Catalog Department there was Sadie
McMurry; she was head classifier.
MINK: Yes, except that she wouldn't have a responsibility
for hiring people in the Catalog Department.
POWELL: No, that's rights Philip Goulding hired her; and
he was apparently an outstanding person. Goodv^in, I be-
lieve, had brought him from the Huntington Library.
MINK: You didn't know Philip Goulding?
POWELL: No, he died while I was in library school; he
died in I936 or 1937, but he built up that staff of Sadie
McMurry, who was a very bright person; Alice Humiston,
who was certainly good in her time. But we didn't fin-
ish on Goodwin, how we made up our differences.
MINK: Yes, well, go ahead.
POWELL: Well, it came about I think through Sydney Mit-
MINK: Was Mitchell aware of this?
POWELL: Yes, of course; he knew it from me and he knew
it from Goodwin. He was friend to us both. He was Good-
win's oldest friend, actually. They went to library
MINK: Well, then you're making your assumption, basing
it on what Goodwin told Mitchell, that it was more
profession, really, than It was personal.
POWELL: Well, I don't know, Jim. I don't knov; v/hether
Mitchell ever said this. I think this was just my as-
sumption. I think it all came about this way: I had
arranged through Dr. Bird of Occidental to give Sydney
Mitchell an honorary doctorate. This was my finagling.
MINK: At Oxy?
POWELL: At Oxy. When Mitchell v/as retiring, or near
that time, he and Mrs. Mitchell had come down. We put
them up in the motel over at Beverly Glen and VJilshire,
and I think I gave a luncheon in his honor. Sproul at-
tended, Westergaard, Jean Hersholt--and at Mitchell's
suggestion I asked Mro Goodwin. And Mitchell said, "He
certainly won't turn you down when I'm the guest of honor."
So I asked Mr. Goodwin if he would come to this lunch
which I gave in Westwood, and he did; he accepted. He
was gentle and friendly; and we smiled at each other
and shook hands and sat at the table. Sproul was genial,
and Mitchell was animated, and Jean Hersholt told wonder-
ful stories. I don't know v;ho else was there; maybe Bob
Vosper was there, because I tried to include him in all
the things that I did. This must have been in 19'^5 or
19^6. We were then building the east v/ing of the library.
It was partly built, and I said to Mr. Goodv/in, "Would
you like to see the east wing?" And he said, "I'd love
to." So as I remember J we came back to campus together,
and we walked through the unfinished east wing in v/hich
we are novi sitting. Every square foot of it v;e covered,
and he was full of great interest.
MINK: This would be his bag.
POWELL: That's right; this was his bag. And I think
I might have asked Neal Harlow to join us, v;ho was in
charge of the building construction. We walked through
it; I remember the plaster was wet and some fell on Mr.
Goodwin's forehead, and I took my handkerchief and wiped
the wet plaster off his dome. [laughter] So Goodwin,
you see, was in his element; he was very pleased. He
said, "Yes, this is good; this is the way I foresaw it."
I saw him one other time. That was when he and Fanny
Alice announced their engagement.
MINK: Fanny Alice Coldren?
POWELL: YeSo Fay and I were then living in Westergaard ' s
house, while he was in Denmark. Fay and I gave a recep-
tion to the library staff and faculty in honor of them.
They were either newly married to going to be married.
We had a beautiful corsage for Fanny Alice, and a bou-
tonniere for Mr. Goodwin » And we had a lot of his facul-
ty friends there--Burton Varney and Frank Klingberg from
across the street--and it was a very happy occasion as
I remember it.
MINK: Now this would have been after the luncheon.
POWELL: Yes, this v/as after the luncheon. Then they
were married^ and I don't know how much longer Mr. Good-
MINK: Not much.
POWELL: No. And the next time I saw him, I guess, it
was at the funeral for him over here at Kingsley and
Gates o But I'm awfully glad, Jim, that v;e had this re-
conciliation. I guess Miss Bradstreet was terribly pleased,
and Hilda Gray, and the old-timers. Everybody was happy.
He realized by then that the library wasn't going to
hell and damnation, that I hadn't fired anyone.
MINK: Well, were these his fears, do you think?
POWELL: Oh, I'm sure that the whole staff felt that
there was going to be a shake-up, and Powell's going to
take vengeance on some people who didn't bear the guns
MINK: Well, Larry, you know you gave us that impression
when Mr. Vosper came. [laughter]
POWELL: I gave the impression that what would happen?
MINK: Well, that things might be different.
POWELL: When he came, he came in 19^-^.
MINK: No, when he became University Librarian.
POWELL: Oh, you mean he gave that impression,
MINK: No, you gave me that impression.
POWELL: Did I?
POWELL: Well, it wasn't true was it?
POWELL: No, he kept them, and he's kept now most of
the team that we had.
MINK: I think the only people that he eliminated were
Bradstreet and Rosenberg.
POWELL: Yes, well that was proper too, I think.
POWELL: Well, they were of special use in relationship
to me and you couldn't transfer that very personal rela-
tionship, personal-professional, that operated between
us. And of course I wanted Betty. Well now, he didn't
turn her out; I took Betty into the library school.
MINK: You wanted her?
POWELL: Yes, and she worked for him part time. Of course,
Brady left out and out. Well, this is always a shaky
period--isn' t it?--in a change of administration.
MINK: It's a transition.
POWELL: Yes, a transition; there's gossip, there's ru-
mor, and it's a shaky time.
MINK: So I can imagine that the staff probably felt this
way about Goodwin.
POWELL: They were loyal to him and they had no reason
to be loyal to me. I had to win their loyalty.
MINK: Exactly what was it about Miss Bryan that ulti-
mately ledj, speaking about loyalty, to her having to
choose between retirement and becoming librarian of the
University Elementary School? She's dead nov;.
POWELL: She's dead, bless her. We were incompatible,
you see, because in my years here as a junior librarian,
she sensed--she had women's prescience--that 1 was going
to rise up here, and she didn't want this to happen. I
don't know what she wanted to happen. But at any rate,
she was nervous. And Deborah King's star was rising.
She was head of the Reserve Book Room. And I found
that all the general assistance funds--student wages
and all--were administered by Miss Bryan.
MINK: That's a very strange way of doing things, isn't
POWELL: Well, it was a working thing between her and
Goodwin. It worked for them, but I thought all the
general assistance money should be operated out of the
Librarian's office; because the way it was the other
department heads complained to me that Miss Bryan was
taking it alio In other words. Catalog and Reference,
Miss Coldren was unhappy about this. Vosper said, "Look,
I haven't any student money. It's all going to Miss
Bryan." I said, "Of course it's going there; she
administers it." So I simply said to Kiss Bradstreet,
"Look, we're going to take this over and administer it."
And Miss Bryan fought like a steer--no, not a steer,
a heifer-- [laughter] against this, naturally. This
was cutting down on her empire, and I think that's v/here
she began to buck and resist.
And I didn't approve of some of her staff. There
was Helene O'Brien, remember? She was the blonde v/ith
the hair piled on top of her head. She was classified
as a librarian, senior grade, and as far as I could make
out, she did absolutely nothing. She was a real goofer-
offer. I think I suggested to Miss Bryan that she be
transferred or counseled out, and Miss Bryan opposed
thiSo But I found that there was great slack of adminis-
tration within her department, which was verified by
things that were reported to me. Oh, I wanted monthly
reports from department heads, and Miss Bryan didn't
want to make one. So it was a series of things; and I
felt we were going to have to replace her and promote
the most efficient person that I saw in the circulation
field--that was Deborah King--to be head of the depart-
MINK: Did you talk to Debbie about this in advance?
POWELL: I don't remember, Jim. I suppose I did. I sup-
pose I felt her out: did she want to do this? would she
take it over?
MINK: Of course she did.
POWELL: Yes. She wrote me a whole series of memos
when I was working at the Clark that six months, and
they must be in the archives. I don't think I ever
destroyed them. Debbie wrote me typical memos from
King. Remember how she used to pound them out on the
typewriter--of her plan for enlarging the library, that
is, the physical enlargement of the library and all
kinds of ideas she had for extension., I listened; I
received them and listened to her because she'd been
here from the beginning. She had a good head. And of
course she and Neal Harlow planned the building expan-
sion together. Those two were in charge of it. So I
suppose I simply told Miss Bryan, "Here it is; I'm going
to relieve you as head of this department, because I
think that it's too big for you now, and I don't feel
you have proper control over your employees or the use
of them. You can either retire or take this lesser de-
manding job in the UES." Then of course all hell broke
loose. She appealed this and went to Mrs. Sproul and to
faculty v;omen, and she did all kinds of things to block
this. But I cleared it with Sproul beforehand. (I guess
Sproul or Dykstra. Dykstra was probably here by then.)
Anyway, I had clearance all the way.
MINK: Dyke was here Toy then.
POWELL: Dyke was here. We ought to talk about him,
Jim. He and I had gotten along very well. But that
was really the most unpleasant top-level experience I
had in all my years here.
MINK: Let's talk about something more interesting.
When you came, where did you think the big gaps were
in collections as you had seen them? You certainly v/ere
at a good vantage point to look at the collection, be-
ing in the Order Department. What did you think as
University Librarian you would want to build?
POWELL: I don't know; there were gaps everywhere, Jim.
The sets--the want list that Goodwin and Trout had pre-
pared--our learned society publications was far from
completed; I thought that must be continued. The British
Empire collection, the Pacific, the folklore (Wayland
Hand was coming on). I think Vesper's earlier reports,
his early acquisitive notes, would indicate the things
that we were concentrating on.
MINK: Those were the things you were concentrating on,
what about the things that were not here, but should have
POWELL: Oh, gosh, I don't kjnow, Jim. History of science,
American lit, certainly, bibliography. Jim, I'd have
to go back in my memory on that. It seemed to bust out
in everything. We needed everything and more of every-
thing--Continental publications, the wartime gaps we
had to fill, you see--the money that Sproul gave me for
TAPE mJMBER: V, SIDE TWO
OCTOBER 21, 1969
MINK: Well, Larry, you probably have heard that recent-
ly John and La Ree Caughey formed a foundation--the John
and La Ree Caughey Found at ion --and have given the li-
brary $5000 for the collection of material on the loyal-
ty oath. I think I mentioned this to you some time past,
and at that time you gave me orally some of your recol-
lections of your involvement with the loyalty oath. I
wonder if now you would try to summarize some of the
things in which you were involved at that time.
POWELL: Yes, I became involved by a direct approach
to me from Regent Dickson. He called me at home one
Sunday and said, "Larry, I'm getting a group of faculty
together who are going to take a page advertisement in
the Los Angeles Times in support of the regents' posi-
tion on the loyalty oath, and I'd like to include your
name . "
Well, this put me in a difficult position, because
I was opposed to this special oath, and yet I was a
friend and in a sense a proteg^ofMr. Dickson. Well I
hemmed and hawed for a m.oment, and he pressed hard and
he said, "VJell, you'd better knov: that it's going to
go hard with those who don't sign." And then he said.
"I think you have a responsibility as an administrator
of the library not to take any position v;hich v/ill jeo-
pardize the recommendation in your budget."
MINK: You might say that was a little blackmail.
POWELL: Yes. Well, that was politics, and Mr. Dickson
understood them. He brought pressure v/here he thought
he could get results. I said, "Well, I'd rather not
do this. My private feelings are that we don't need a
special oath; we already have an oath to support the
Constitution as state employees; we don't need a special
oath for the university. And I don't want to take a
position in this as an administrator; I want my staff
to feel that I'm not coercing them one way or the other."
"Well," he said, "I'm warning you." I gathered my for-
ces and said, "Well, I just can't do it." "Very well,"
As I remember the chronology, Jim, I called a staff
meeting that week, I think, after that Sunday, and it was
over here in the Physics Building; do you remember that
by any chance?
MINK: I wasn't here at that point.
POWELL: Nineteen fifty, I guess.
POWELL: We had a staff meeting. I can't remember who
spoke at it, but I think some member of the faculty that
I Invited to speak. It may have been John Caughey.
MINK: The record will show.
POWELL: Yes, the record v;ill show that. There was
some kind of a meeting, and I don't know if I told them
of the pressure on me by Mr. Dickson--! don't think I
did--but I said that my position was difficult because
I didn't want to jeopardize the library program by tak-
ing a militant stand. My main concern was the expan-
sion of the library. Therefore, what I was going to do
personally, I was going to sign the special oath and
accompany that with a letter to the regents that I was
signing it under protest. I wanted to go on record; I
was going to, in other words, walk the fence. But I
told the staff, as I recall, that "you're free to do
whatever you have to do in your own intellectual hones-
ty, and I don't expect any of you to take one position
or another; you're absolutely free." But I said, "Those
of you who don't wish to sign the oath and won't sign
it at all, I'll protect your position as long as I can.
I'll attempt to keep you on the payroll by one means
or another up to the last ditch; so go ahead and do
what you have to do."
MINK: Larry, I suppose the record will also indicate
that there was one that I know of, and there may have
been others, who did not sign. Edwin Carpenter for
one did not.
POWELL: Ed Carpenter, that's right.
MINK: Do you have any comment to make about this?
POWELL: Well, I think it was a tragedy to lose Ed Car-
penter because he's one of the best Calif orniana biblio-
graphers that we have.
MINK: Did you have occasion to discuss this with him
POWELL: I don't remember; I just don't remember. Ed
would of course. Ed would not only kjnow the time and
the place but what necktie we were wearing, what we had
for lunch, and if he had one or two bowel movements--
the crazy bastard and his journal that ne keeps! You
say the record will show--I don't know what record there
is of that staff meeting. We didn't have one.
MINK: No, I mean the record would show who didn't sign
and who did sign.
POWELL: Yes, that's right. I just don't know what hap-
MINK: There were no other members of the staff who did
POWELL: No, I don't think so.
MINK: You don't know, actually.
POWELL: I think they all went along. And I don't know
how many of them did as I did--signed under protest. But
I think a great number of them did. V/ell, the conclu-
sion of this is that Mr. Dickson did not press against
me in the library because I didn't lend my name. And
incidentally, the ad did appear. You may remember it;
and among the signers certainly was Dean [L. Dale] Coff-
man of the Law School, and I think maybe Charles Titus
of Political Science. 1 don't know who else. I don't
remember whether Gustave Arlt did or not. He was very
close to Dickson; he may well have lent his name. Arlt
could move about among principles rather nimbly for the
certain time. Dickson did not penalize us, me or the
library, for my stand in refusing to lend my name to
the ad. He never referred to it again and our relation-
ships were increasingly cordial from then on. In other
words, he respected my position. He wasn't a complete
politician; he also had integrity. Well, I suppose I
was a damn fool to do this, but I tried to effect a
compromise between Dickson and John Caughey.
MINK: You did?
POWELL: Yes. I didn't realize hov; strong Caughey' s
principles were. Mr. Dickson suggested that the three
of us meet and try to work out some kind of a compromise
position that v/ould satisfy John's principles and also
let Mr. Dickson have his v/ay. I think I suggested this
to John and he blew up, naturally. He refused absolutely
to have any part of it.
MINK: You didn't meet > In other words.
POWELL: No, John wouldn't do It. I can't remember the
compromise I had, but It may have been a signature un-
der protest, or some kind of a device.
MINK: Do you feel that on the other hand, v/lth Caughey,
your position was less strong after that as opposed to
Dickson, where it remained strong?
POWELL: Yes, I do Indeed. I think first of all that
John, and particularly La Ree, never forgave me--not
for that specifically, but for my friendship with Mr.
Dickson. We had a brannigan about this at the Caughey
home one night. Along about 1953 or 195'4-, after the
Communist incident in my career, we were having dinner
at the Caugheys, and La Ree opened up on Mr. Dickson.
MINK: And you felt constrained to defend him?
POWELL: Well, I defended him in a personal sense, in
that I pointed out Mr. Dickson's sense of loyalty as he
had exhibited it in my case, the minute this came up; and
no one was more anti-communistic than Dickson. He came
immediately out to campus and to my office and assured
me of his support, and furthermore, as Sproul told me,
that in a meeting of the Board of Regents, when Governor
Knight said, "Let's get rid of that Communist librarian
at UCLA," Mr. Dickson said, "I'll have you knovi, sir.
Dr. Powell is known to me personally and professionally,
and I vouch for his antecedents and character and loyal-
ty. Does the governor wish to say anything more on this?"
And Sproul said the governor dropped it.
POWELL: Well, I said to the Caugheys, "This is an exam-
ple of what I owe Mr. Dickson, because if Dickson had
turned on me at that time, I would have probably been
Well, the Caugheys said, "Well, you can't place
personalities above principle." And they were right,
and I was right; these were the two great conflicts
that developed. I think I have more ways of working
with personalities and ability to operate with person-
alities and to alter and compromise but not sacrifice
principle, but to adjust to a specific pragmatic situa-
tion, than the Caugheys did. On the other hand, they
had the higher and more honorable position of principle
than any of us; so in a sense both of us were right,
and it also made it impossible for us to continue our
MINK: I have another observation to make on this, knov/-
ing Caughey as I do, which I wonder if you really would
not agree with me upon. It seemed to me, from my own
experiences with Caughey in the academic side of things
when I was working as a graduate student under him,
that he had many students, and all of them were very
interested in the library and working in the library
and using the library material. Then after I graduated
in 19'^9 and didn't come back here until 1952, it seemed
to me that on the other side of the fence there was a
slackening off of the use of principally the Cowan col-
lection by Caughey's students and perhaps even a slack-
ening off of the number of students he had, and further-
more, a lack of interest demonstrated by him in the li-
brary. He very seldom came into the library. Would
you agree with this observation?
POWELL: Oh, yes, absolutely.
MINK: You think it has anything to do with this?
POWELL: Well, I think it has to do with the fact that
he established his priority as such; it's this whole
field of liberties and intellectual freedom so that li-
berty became top priority with him. And it was almost
an obsession and something had to give. As I saw John
Caughey, he was a loner in a sense. He was out to do
his own work, and incidentally he trained students. But
his primary interest was in his ovm work and in his own
development, and if students could contribute to this,
he was all for them.
He did nothing to aid me in this developm.ent of
the library, nothing at all. I could not interest him
in field work or in acquisitions, or in support. He
was busy doing his own work. I never criticized him,
I never reproached him, and I don't mean to nov;. This
simply was his nature, and what we have is his printed
record: he did his work. The students he did train
are remembered: Glenn Dumke, Bingham, Andrew Rolle,
and some of the others.
I've just finished a chapter of Charles Lummis'
Land of Sunshine , and I had occasion to read Ed Bingham's
dissertation. I think I was on his committee originally,
and it's a first-rate job. It's a damn good disserta-
tion. I'm saying in my chapter that it was good be-
cause it was done under Caughey who was a literary sty-
list. He set standards of style that were rather un-
usual. So my admiration and affection for John Caughey
are unimpaired. I think I could criticize this situa-
tion, but it doesn't alter the feeling that I have, that
we all owe him a great deal for the stand he took--an
unpopular one, and one that involved him in great per-
POWELL: Yes, you knov; that better than I do, because
you v/ere a little closer to him.
MINK: Do you feel that following that--we won't call
it confrontation--let ' s call It a discussion with La
Ree^ probably principally j, that he did not approach
you or try to interest you in civil liberties, or did
POWELL: No, he never did. I was a member of ACLU for
years, and I think probably before John Caughey. Our
contacts since then have been desultory, chiefly at the
Faculty Center. I don't know that he ever reviewed
anything that I did in the Pacific Hi storical Review.
He never showed any interest in my development as a
writer after the book on Pickett. He helped with that^
he read the manuscript and he supported that, but that
was way back, you see, in 1939 and 19^0.
MINK: That's one of your first books.
POWELL: Yes, and also it coincided with a very strong
review I wrote of John's 19-^0 California in the Los An -
geles Times. The book's up there on ray shelf. In Octo-
ber 19'^05 John Caughey wrote: "To Lawrence Clark Powell,
reviewer par excellence, and to Fay Powell with the best
of good wishes, October 19'4-0." And he wrote me from
Albuquerque, July 19'^0:
Yesterday v/as a red-letter day. Fortun-
ately I opened your letter on the v;ay home and
read your glowing reviev/. Im.mediately there-
after. La Ree sequestered it and I've been able
to get only occasional glimpses, though at tim.es
I hear a sentence read aloud. You have only
a faint notion of how pleased we are. I hope
that all the good things you said are so. No
question about your sincerity; that has a most
genuine ring. But are you blessed v;ith judg-
ment infallible. As a connoisseur of reviews,
may I add with utter Impartiality, that you
did an excellent job of catching the spirit of
my book and of pointing out the features that
I had tried to give it. Many thanks.
A few days earlier a most laudatory note
arrived from Father Dunne of San Francisco Uni-
versity. Commended by churchman and heretic,
I feel doubly set up. In the course of reading
the page proof, I realized that it was probab-
ly Pickett that I was quoting. Three things
deterred me from inserting any comment: I was
not sure; it would have necessitated a footnote;
and the discovery was really yours.
The reprint of your most interesting item
in the Flumgudgeon Gazette arrived safely.
Should have acknov;ledgea it, but I'm taking a
vacation here from the social amenities. It
has been hot here, but I've been busy on the
campus, and we have been chasing Indians and
scenery so feverishly that there has not been
much chance to fret about it. Have a carefree
month in the Rockies and leave a few peaks un-
climbed. Come September, we must get together.
With our best regards, John Caughey.
MINK: Larry, could you put into the record the date
of your review in the Los Angeles Times, if it is on
POWELL: It must have been in September or October of
MINK: I'm sure that maybe there's a copy in your col-
lection; it's possible. Well, I suspect probably this
business of the oath was in a way a difficult time for
POWELL: I'm sorry, Jim, to interrupt you; August 4, 19^0.
POWELL: Here's another clipping, Los Angeles Times,
August 4, 19^0.
MINK: Did you feel that John gained friends and he lost
POWELL: It was a divisive time and it also was an ad-
hesive time; it brought people together and it separated
people. Dickson and I, you see, were more political,
compromising types and though I didn't support him, he
didn't use this against me. He was able to go and re-
sume our friendship and we became closer and closer as
the years passed.
MINK: Of the other non-signers, two people come to
mind: Charlie Mowat and Paul Proehl. I didn't know he
was not a non-signer until recently.
POWELL: No, I never knew that.
MINK: What about Mowat? Did you have any opportunity
to discuss with him?
POWELL: Well, Mowat was a much more relaxed type, and
I saw him in Chicago after he went there. I had lunch
with him in 1951 when I was driving west from Nev; York.
And then v;e ' ve seen him twice in England, in Wales at
Bangor, just this year or so ago. And he was a much
more reconciled person. Besides he was glad In a way
to go back to his native Island. And It had no effect
on our friendship. I will say that Caughey supported
me In 19'^3. He wrote a very strong letter to Sproul
on my behalf when I was up for consideration as librar-
MINK: You can talk about Dickson and maybe begin by
trying to recall your first meeting with Dickson and
your first impressions of him.
POWELL: Well, I met him as a boy, but I have no memories,
because he was in our home and we may have been in his.
He and my father were associated.
MINK: Of course.
POWELL: Back in the wartime, when my father was with
the Food Administration in Washington and living In the
Mayflower Hotel and Mr. Dickson was back there on some
wartime mlssion--both he and Mrs. Dickson--in the hot
summer of Washington, my father arranged for ice-cold
Sunkist oranges to be delivered to Mr. Dickson's room
MINK: Oh boy!
POWELL: Dickson never stopped talking about that up
to the day of his death. He could still get that v/ide
grin on his face and say: "l never forgot that; it
saved my life. It got me through the hot 'iashington
summer; what your father did for me with those chilled
My first memory of re-meeting him was in the early
1940s when the Clark Library was being pulled hither
and yon by different factions who wanted to use it for
their purposes, and Mr. Dickson had an idea that it should
be a typographical museum. They should set up Frederick
Goudy there as the typographical director and be made
a typographical center. Regent Frederick Roman wanted
to take it over as a center for his educational forum.
And they were pulling and hauling on the Board of Regents,
these two. The committee to select a director, as I
said earlier I think, was composed of Louis VJright,
Waldemar Westergaard and Sigurd Hustvedt. The word got
to me--this was in 194l, 1942, or 1943 I guess--that I
was under consideration as director. I think V/ester-
gaard called me up once and said, "Mr. Dickson would
like you to meet with him and Regent Roman at Mr. Dick-
son's home some evening and hear your ideas on the Clark
Library." So I went to their home, and I realized then
as I sized them up that Dickson was much the stronger
of the two, and what he really wanted me to do was to
agree with him against Roman's idea, which I v;as able
to do without any sacrifice of principle, because I
thought Roman was a nut. He was a nut, and v;e have to
blame him on none other than our friend Elmer Belt.
It was Elmer Belt that persuaded Governor Olson to ap-
point this nut, Frederick Roman, to the Board of Re-
gents. Did you know him, Jim?
MINK: No, I didn't. •
POWELL: He was nutty. He was an eccentric; he was in
the old-time Southern Californian tradition of a nutty
MINK: Like an Upton Sinclair.
POWELL: Without Sinclair's intellect. He was a gas
bag, great gas bag, and he had this forum made up of
silly men and women whom he swayed with his eccentric
ideas of mass education. He was anti-liquor, anti-to-
bacco, and anti-everything else. Dickson saw right
through, and he said that evening, "Well, Regent Roman,
don't you realize that if we made the Clark Library the
headquarters for your educational forum, we'd be in di-
rect competition with our University Extension." Regent
Roman said, "I hadn't thought of that." Mr. Dickson
said, "Now, Powell, shall we go on to other matters?"
[laughter] And Roman was through then, and he sputtered
a little, but Dickson checkmated him. Roman vient so
far as to buy a home near the Clark Library on Gramercy,
and they moved in there and were closing in on the Clark
Library. VJell, Dickson was very pleased then when I
said, "V/ell, I don't think that the Clark should be a
typographical museum^ but v/e certainly should develop
typography there in the light of Mr. Clark's interests."
Although the appointment didn't come through then until
I made the arrangements with Sproul a year or so later,
I think I had Dickson's support on the Clark Library from
MINK: He pulled in his horns on Goudy?
POWELL: Yes. He realized that it wouldn't have facul-
ty support; it wasn't a broad enough program. It was
one aspect of Clark's interests, and I said the library
should reflect all of Mr. Clark's interests: literary,
historical, aesthetic, and typographic.
Then the next time I saw Mr. Dickson, I think, was
after I had been appointed University Librarian. No,
I think in my six months at the Clark, he came by sev-
eral times, bringing visitors. He liked to show it
off. We had a meeting at the Clark in that spring when
I was director of Clark but not yet University Librarian.
There was a meeting of the Southern Committee of the
Regents. I think I mentioned in my autobiography that
we met there to consider the program that I had presented
to Sproul . The Committee on Southern California con-
sisted of Edwin Pauley and Dickson; and I think they
squeezed Roman off of it. So he wasn't there. I don't
know if Ed Carter was a regent then. At any rate, the
two kingpins were Dickson and Pauley, and they were
both, of course, old family friends. And the regents'
committee meeting in the book room there to hear my
program lasted about a half an hour. Then Mr. Dickson
said, "Well, shall we go in the drawing room for some
refreshments?" And they were ready. So v;e did; and
it was really a social gathering. In other words, I
had the confidence of these two men and Sproul, and
they were green lights.
The next time I saw Mr. Dickson was about twenty
minutes after I entered my office on July 1, 19-^4, and
there he was at the door. He said, "Powell, when are
you going to open that school of the library?" Well,
he meant a school for training librarians, and this
had been a bee in his bonnet since 1930.
MINK: That's a strange thing, isn't it? Or is it?
I don't know. Why was Dickson so interested in the
training of librarians?
POWELL: Oh, I'll tell you, Jim; it's very simple. He
was on the Los Angeles City Library Commission at that
time, and so was Rufus von KlelnSmld of USC.
MINK: Another windbag.
POWELL: USC had a library school, and the appoint-
ments that kept coming up for ratification by the Los
Angeles City Board of Commissioners of the Public Li-
brary were invariably graduates of USC Library School.
And this galled Dickson. He couldn't stand it! He
Just couldn't stand it! And the graduates of education
that were becoming superintendents of schools around
Southern California. In other words, he couldn't stand
this rivalry with USCj that they were winning. So he
wanted the professional schools to come into UCLA to
take over these fields, and the school of the library
was one of them.
Now in 1930, Mr. Everett Perry, the city librarian,
when they discontinued the Los Angeles school, wrote to
Sproul, and it came to the regents, asking UCLA to
take over the Los Angeles Public Library School, and
Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Mitchell killed it.
POWELL: They said, "We aren't ready for it."
MINK: They said, not Sproul?
POWELL: They advised Sproul. Sproul sought advice,
you see. He did this constantly, in my experience with
him. He always sought advice before he made decisions.
First of all Mitchell said, "Well, we're going into
the depression, and we're having trouble placing grad-
uates from Berkeley." Goodwin said, "We have to build
a library first." So these two people were opposed for
different reasons, both of which in my opinion were
valid: it would have aborted; it would have been a
poor school. Well, nothing took it over then^, until
use did in 1936.
MZWK: It v;ould occur to me that maybe Goodv/in would
have wanted the school just to increase his own impor-
tance, and that he was forced to go along with Mitchell
because Mitchell had been more or less responsible--you
know, not responsible for putting him here, but because
he was a good friend of Mitchell's.
POWELL: That's right. I don't think Goodwin was that
self-seeking, Jim. I don't think he wanted to increase
his own importance. I think he was selfless, really.
MIIniK: Was he?
POWELL: He was admirable in a way that some of us are
not. He put the library's welfare always ahead of every-
thing else, and I believe he thought he would weaken
the library further. Also, he would have listened to
Mitchell. Mitchell really called the shots. Mitchell
was the stronger intellectually of the two.
MINK: Well, Dickson had long been a regent before
Goodwin's appointment as librarian in 1923-
POWELL: Ten years earlier.
MINK: Did you ever hear Dickson comment about Goodwin?
POWELL: No. Dickson never spoke in personalities.
really. He didn't gossip; he didn't criticize; he
went after what he wanted, focused and zeroed in on
what he wanted. "Mr. Dickson, give me time," I said,
"I can't open a school of the library at this point.
I've got to establish some kind of a library program.
We're in the doldrums because of the war and staff de-
moralization. There's no classification or pay plan."
I said, "Give me time." "V/ell," he said, "all right,
but I expect you to do this." And I said, "I will."
Let's see, it took me sixteen years. But I was right--
it needed time, and as a result we were ready when we
MINK: Would it have come faster if Dickson had not died?
POWELL: He died in 1956?
POWELL: Oh, I don't know; it was all snarled up then
in the Master Plan. It was a very tricky thing. I kept
budgeting for it, and it got as far as the chancellor
or provost on this campus and then always died off in
Berkeley, from about 1954 or 1955 until I96O. It wasn't
until the Tom Dabagh Report that the pressure from SLAG
and PLEASG and SLA broke the logjam. And of course
Dickson was then five years dead. He never lived to
MINK: To go on with Mr. Dickson, when was the next time
that you had occasion to see him?
POWELL: I think when we were getting workings going
for the east wing^ along in 19^5 or 1946. I was up in
the old office upstairs and Mr. Dickson dropped in, I
don't know, for one reason or another, often to show
off the building and the big reading room. He'd come
in and say hello to me and he'd have visitors with
him. I remember when he came into my office once, he
drew me over in the corner and whispered, "Powell, I
have to take a leak. Where's the nearest men's room?
Don't you have one here?" I said, "No, sir. We'll have
to go upstairs." "Well," he said, "get me up there."
[laughter] So I took him by the arm and we went hust-
ling off around the rabbit warren of runways, you know,
where the office was hidden, on to the upper floor, and
he relieved his bladder. Well, when we came to remodel
and put the Librarian's office downstairs, remember, in
Ernest Carroll Moore's old office, and I suggested to
Carl McElvey, the supervising architect, that we have
a toilet and washroom there in connection with the ad-
ministrative office, he said, "Why that'll never get by.
That's nonsense." He said, "We have to use the public
facilities." I said, "Carl, you put this in; put in a
good one, and it'll get by the Board of Regents. You
bet it will." And I told him the story how Mr. Dickson
had to take a leak and had to be hustled all over the
place and nearly wet his pants. Carl came hack later
and said, "You're absolutely right. This came up to
the Southern Committee of the Regents and Mr. Dickson
saw this and said, 'You're absolutely right, there
ought to be a toilet facility there; you never know
when it'll be needed by important persons.'" [laughter]
And this is not apocryphal; Carl McElvey reported this
back. And of course we have the little toilet. You
remember, it used to be called the Administrative Office
Branch Library, I guess because I had books in there.
MINK: Well, now at this point I'm forced to ask you. . .
POWELL: Did Dickson use it? You bet he did.
MINK: . . .is there any truth to the tale that when
Robert Gordon Sproul saw these facilities he nearly went
through the roof and said, "Why I don't even have these
facilities in my office at Berkeley."
POWELL: [laughter] I don't know, Jim. I guess I heard
that, but I think it would show the relative importance
of the president of the university to the chairman of
the Board of Regents at that point. I think Dickson
in the last resort got his way. Somebody suggested they
put a plaque above the door--"The Dickson Facility."
MINK: Well, probably Sproul didn't know anything about
it if it went to a committee of the southern regents; it
was simply approved at that level.
POWELL: That's right.
MINK: It was never discussed with him. So I suppose
maybe when he saw it^ it came as somewhat of a surprise
POWELL: But Sproul was always ready to accept an accom-
plished fact and to make a joke of it. I know we had
meetings of the regents here in the new wing when the
Board of Regents met. Remember? Were you here then?
POWELL: We met upstairs. I remember one of the things
about Neal Harlow (he was in charge of building and of
course was head of Special Collections) : I went up to
see the room after the regents had met--it was the Grad-
uate Reading Room up on the top floor--and I caught Neal
going through the wastebaskets . [laughter] I said,
"What the hell are you doing, Neal?" He says, "I'm
gathering source material." He cleaned out all the
wastebaskets, took them down to Special Collections
and checked them out to see if there was anything he
should know about. Oh, my.
Well, Dickson and I worked together then on found-
ing the library school through the early fifties. It
came to a climax at that regional conference that I
called in 1955. We met down in Westwood Village at the
Westwood House for lunch, and we had quite a gathering,
Jim. We had the chairman of the Faculty Library Com-
mittee, of the Educational Policy Committee, of
the Budget Committee, the dean of the Graduate Division,
and Mr. Dickson was there. The librarians from around
Southern California were there: Hamill, Castagna, and
Henderson; Kelley and Bennett from the Universities of
New Mexico and Arizona. We published a proceeding of
this, and called for the establishment of a regional
library school at UCLA at the earliest possible date.
Well, that was the last time I saw Mr, Dickson. I saw
him to his car after that meeting. We came back up to
campus, and I saw him to his car, and we talked a little
about strategies. He said, "Well, budget again; I'll
try to see that it goes on through." Soon after that
he fell ill.
POWELL: He was ill six weeks and then died.
MINK: Larry, it's really not the purpose of this kind
of an interview to malign Dickson--and certainly there's
no reason to; he was a great man--however, I think that
if you would care to comment upon, how shall I say, his
intellectual level. .... I think that it's demonstrated
by some of the things that he did that he was very in-
terested in a lot of intellectual things, but that he
was not knowledgeable; I refer particularly to the
Willits J. Hole art collection, for example.
POWELL: Yes J that was a f right--really was.
MINK: I refer to his so-called collection of fine
printing. Would you v/ish to comment on any of these
POWELL: Well, I can only agree with you, Jim. He v/as
an amateur, at a rather low level, and he was above all
a newspaperman and a politician. His taste in art and
in aesthetics was questionable, and yet he had a devo-
tion to the idea and a vision, certainly, of a great
university, but he didn't have the supporting culture
and education. No, this is true; he was taken in at
times--by the Hole things. He always thought of quick
increase of prestige. Anything that would raise UCLA
above USC, he was for. When he saw a big collection
of old masters, he thought right away, "This will raise
us a notch." God knows, we had to be raised a notch,
because we were a jerkwater country outfit--the old
Southern Branch, merely contemptible. You and I know,
as Occidental people, the contempt we had for the "Twig."
We used to come over and beat the shit out of the Sou-
thern Branch, didn't we?
POWELL: God, In baseball, football and track. Back
in the twenties we had nothing but contempt for them,
and this was the problem faced by Mr. Dickson, to bring
this thing up to some kind of a level. Even worse than
the V/illits J. Hole fraud was the Carrie Jacobs Bond
collection. Oh, God, I had to live with that for years,
Jim. You know about that?
MINK: I know of it, but I wish you would tell me.
POWELL: Oh, God!
TAPE NUMBER: VI ^ SIDE ONE
OCTOBER 21, 1969
MINK: You were going to discuss in some detail the
Carrie Jacobs Bond acquisition.
POWELL: Well, she was the venerable American composer--
"End of a Perfect Day" and "I Love You Truly" --living
here in Southern California. Well, she had quite a
collection of her own memorabilia: a harpsichord, a
pianOj costumes, music and manuscripts, and engraved
music. Mr. Dickson met her socially, and I think, as
I got it from him, heard that Rufus von KleinSmid was
trying to get Carrie Jacobs Bond's collection for USC,
so he leaped in and persuaded her to leave everything
to UCLA. Well, there was to be a museum, and I don't
know what he promised her. But for an interim arrange-
ment in the war--I guess she died--it was taken and
stored in the Clark Library residence.
And when I became director, one of the first things
Mr. Dickson on one of his visits to the Clark said was,
"Now let's go in and see the priceless materials of
Carrie Jacobs Bond." And he said, "VJe plan to transfer
this to the campus when they have a new music building,
and it'll be installed as a unit of the new music build-
ing. I want you to get in touch with the chairman of
the music department and have this understood." Well;,
I can't remember who the chairman was then. It was
either Bob Nelson or John Vincent or Petran. No, it
was Leroy Allen, the old trumpeter. It was Leroy Allen
who directed the band. He came over and looked at it,
and he was all in deference to Mr. Dickson--"Yes, of
course, of course." He went out then and Nelson or
Vincent came in with a much more critical view. They
came over rather cynically and said, "Oh, we'll take
care of this, you bet we will. Powell, don't you count
on it; it'll stay right here in this old residence as
far as we're concerned." I said, "You tell that to Mr.
Dickson, you chicken shits." [laughter] And they
wouldn't do it of course; and I was the fall guy in be-
tween. So it went on.
All right, the showdown came when the new music
building was to go up. I said to my boys, "I want to
get this out of the Clark Library residence and get it
over to the music building." All we could get the music
department to do — and I think Mr. Dickson had died then--
was to take the manuscripts and the music and to put
them in a case. They said, "You keep the harpsichord,
the piano, the rugs, the costumes, and everything else,"
which were stored in the upper floor of the Clark. Did
you ever see it when it v/as up there?
POWELL: So there it was. Now Carrie Jacobs Bond's
niece^ her executrix, or friend, or both, remembered the
agreement with Mr. Dickson and kept pressing the uni-
versity: "When are you going to open the Carrie Jacobs
Bond Memorial Museum?" Hah! The pressure kept mount-
ing to do this, and everybody kept stalling. Vern
Knudsen became chancellor after Allen, and Vern came
to me once and said, "Larry, look, we've got to do
something; the heat on me is intolerable." He said,
"Can't we get something here in the Clark Library resi-
dence?" I said, "Well, Vern, we're going to tear this
goddamn thing down. It's a rattrap, it's a firetrap
and everything else, and there's no point in spending
any money here." Well, he said, "Look, I've got a
little money and I want to spend it." He said, "Even
though it's ephemeral, I've got to do something to
salve my conscience and get them off my back." So God
help us, we went into that ground floor of the Clark
Library residence, into the old study. Hah, we furred
over the beautiful walnut panelling with some damask
wallpaper. V/e developed a little museum room in there,
and we were going to transfer the stuff down there.
Well, I guess Knudsen went out of office.
MINK: He v;as only chancellor for a year.
POWELL: Yes, and Murphy came in, I think.
MINK: Who's Carrie Jacobs Bond?
POWELL: Yes, who's Carrie Jacobs Bond. And a nev;
business manager came. I think Paul Hannum v;as the
new business manager. So Paul came over to see me and
he says, "Look, we've spent a couple of thousand dol-
lars on fixing up this room, and it was really a brain-
storm, wasn't it?" I said, "Yes, I opposed it and yet
I had to go along with Knudsen." And he said, "Well,
have we any facility here for opening a museum? Can
we accommodate people?" I said, "No, we can't receive
people in this building; it's condemned by the fire
department. We couldn't open it; it's totally impos-
sible." He said, "Well, freeze the project."
We sat down together and he said, "What '11 we do?"
And I said, "Paul, I think the smartest thing we can
do is to give it back to the Indians." [laughter] I
said, "Look, there's some valuable furniture here.
Although the moths have eaten the rugs, there's some
bureaus, and there's a harpsichord and the piano, and
there 're a number of other valuable pieces of furniture."
And I said, "I think if we emphasize that we've taken
the music and the real memorabilia out to the univer-
sity and we're honoring it, we might negotiate with the
executrix (I think the old friend of Mrs. Bond had died
then and the executrix was alive) to give it back to
them because we simply can't do anything here."
Well, I must say to Paul Hannum's credit, he made
a trip to San Diego, went down and saw the niece, brought
the niece up, devoted a great deal of time to this and,
by God, he brought it off. We gave it back to the In-
dians. And that was the end of the Carrie Jacobs Bond
situation. But here it was Mr. Dickson's original lack
of discrimination and taste in mistaking Carrie Jacobs
Bond for a great American composer, which she was not.
She was an ephemeral balladist, and yet he was taken in
by it. Of course on the other side of the picture he
was completely unappreciative of the Walter Arensberg
MINK: Oh, was he?
POWELL: Oh yes; there was a tragedy. We lost the
Walter Arensberg Pre-Columbian and modern art collec-
tion because of Mr. Dickson. This was a tragedy in our
area, and I vras caught in it.
MINK: How were you caught in that?
POWELL: Well, I was a friend of Mr. Arensberg' s because
here again he was someone that I'd known v;hen I worked
for Jake. And I used to deliver books and art out to
him. And at the time that I arranged the exhibition at
the Los Angeles Public Library in 1937 of Frieda Law-
rence's manuscripts of D. H. Lav;rence, I v;ent out to
Mr. Arensberg's house and borrowed Knud Merrlld's por-
trait of Lawrence, a beautiful oil portrait painted from
life. I said, "May I borrow it for a centerpiece of
the exhibit?" Mr. Arensberg said, "Yes, if you can
His house then in Hollywood vms so full of art, he
didn't knov; where anything was. He was getting older.
I went all over the house and I found it on the landing
of the staircase and borrowed it.
Well, the collection was given to the university
with the understanding that it would provide an art
building to house it. And this got caught in the post-
World War building program. The other buildings had
higher priority. Besides Mr. Dickson thought it was
a bunch of screwball art--Picasso, and "Nude Descending
a Staircase" of Marcel Duchamps and so forth. He just
didn't appreciate it.
MINK: Let me just interject this. Is it true--and I
think it is true--that at the time of the dedication of
the Dickson Art Gallery and the Art Building, I suppose.
Dr. With said to Dickson that the Willits Hole collec-
tion was nothing but shit.
POWELL: I never heard the word, but I was there at the
dedication, and I saw their scuffling and so forth.
MINK: Then did Dickson turn very red in the face?
MINK: And he got very annoyed^ and yet after that had
a great deal of respect for Dr. VJith. Now my point
here is: could he have realized In his mind that per-
haps the Hole collection was a mistake, and not wanting
to put his foot in it again, opposed the Arensberg ac-
quisition on that account?
POWELL: Well, possibly; hut he just didn't like the
stuff. He had no appreciation of contemporary art.
He had no appreciation of it. But I think I can blame
the failure on somebody. We always want to blame some-
body else. The chief failure was by Pinky Bynum. Bynum
was Sproul's legman on this and the go-between, and
Pinky just never brought it off. He should have been
able to educate Dickson to this and show him that it
was a prestige item, that other museums wanted it. If
Dickson really had known that the Philadelphia Art Mu-
seum was ready to grab this, or if we could have planted
in Dickson's ear that USC was going to grab it, he
would have switched.
MINK: In defense of Lindley Bynum, could it be said
that Lindley Bynum had his own little things that he
worked on, and his method of working was slov/, and he
sometimes took years to bring off the acquisitions of
a collection, when really the person gave it to the
university more because they were a friend of Lindley's
by this time, than because they were interested in the univer-
sity. And he would be in this instance pushed by Sproul
to pull something off very fast; that this wasn't the
way he worked.
POWELL: Yes, I think this is true. It just wasn't his
cup of tea.
POWELL: And this was Sproul' s mistake, I suppose, in
expecting Bynum to bring this sort of thing off. I
don't know why Arlt didn't get into it. Arlt could have
brought this off. Your story about With and Dickson is
characteristic of both of them, I think.
MINK: That he would speak up and tell him what he
POWELL: Yes. I was there at that dedication and I
heard there was a lot of talk about how Dickson had
turned on his heel and walked away, had been insulted;
it got all over the place very quickly. And, of course,
I knew Karl With; he's a great character.
MINK: Well, when I said v/hat I did, I was simply
quoting what I had heard about his remark.
POWELL: I think that's true, sounds like him. My God,
he was really a rough jev:el, old With was. A man of
great scholarship and perception and taste and gusto.
MINK: Well, to come back to the Arensberg collection:
what was the upshot of that?
POWELL: It was given to the Philadelphia Museum.
MINK: We failed to come through with the building.
POWELL: We never built the building for it. We didn't
honor our commitment to Mr. Arensberg, he said, so he
gave it to Philadelphia--valued at $3 million.
MINK: Now, you were going to say something about your
idea for the establishment of a Dickson Chair in the
POWELL: Well, I thought this would really have been a
happy ending--that Mrs. Dickson endow a chair in Mr.
Dickson's memory. This was something that was very
close to him. But I think she felt that he was more
interested, and it was more fitting and more impressive
certainly publically, that his name be associated with
art. So the Dickson Art Center. She's done certain
things in her lifetime, and I don't know what her will
will be, but I don't expect there'll be a bequest to
the library school. It would more likely be the art
department. I talked to Gustave Arlt about this re-
peatedly and urged him to work on her to endow this
chair, because Mr. Dickson--Lord, he would have been
pleased vfhen the library school opened, and I'd like
to have seen his name associated with it. He was the
one that first sought it, and he never gave up seeking
MINK: How did Arlt feel about this?
POWELL: Well, you never knew how Arlt felt. He was
an operator, bless him, and he was frying fish in a
dozen pans. He may have had his own ideas of what Mrs.
Dickson should do, and they weren't either art or li-
brary school. They might have been Germanic languages
or Graduate Division or scholarships and fellowships in
the field. There 're all kinds of things that would have
Well, Jim, the other controversy that I think that
this would feed into naturally was the Bullock's Depart-
ment store. Have you ever had any tapes on this?
MINK: No, we haven't, and I think we should have a
good in-depth description of this controversy.
POWELL: Well, I don't know that I can give it as well
as maybe Sam Herrick, who is now in engineering and
astronomy; he was closer to it, but I was certainly
drawn into it. I don't know the dates, but I would
think 1945 and 19^6.
POWELL: It came to my attention first v/hen I was in
Dykstra's office when he came as provost. We got
together; he knew who I was because his sister was
married to Professor Walter Hartley of the music de-
partment at Occidental, whom I'd studied under. Edith
Hartley was Dyke's sister. So when Dyke came from
Wisconsin to UCLA, Edith, his sister, said, "You look
up Larry Powell; he's the librarian out there." VJell,
a week or so after Dyke arrived, I got a phone call
one morning, about a quarter to twelve, "Hello, Powell?
Well, this is Clarence Dykstra; I want to meet you; I
want to see the library." He said, "I'm coming right
over." Well, I had a firm date then to go home for
lunch with Fay in Beverly Glen and then bring her back
to the Village for something. We didn't have a tele-
phone then (we couldn't get a phone during the war);
I had no way of reaching her. So Dykstra came roaring
over to my office about six times as tall as I, stooping
through the door and all. He said, "Hey, let's have a
look at the library. What you got here anyway? Got
any books?" So I went trotting along at his side; we
made a whirlwind tour of the library and then he said,
"Let's go get something to eat." I said, "Would you mind
if I took you home for lunch? My wife's expecting me."
"Well," he said, "will it be all right; will she have
enough for us both? I'm a big eater." "Sure," I said.
We got into my Chevy; we v;ent tearing up Beverly Glen.
Fay was equal to it of course; she had great resilience.
And that was our first meeting--at our little cottage
up in the Glen. Dyke sat down to potluck with us at
lunch. This was the kind of guy he was; he was great.
MINK: Yes, he was.
POWELL: He was a tremendous guy and. Lord, I loved him.
And I got along fine with him after that. He gave me
everything I asked for; he fought for me vis-a-vis
Sproul, and when Sproul once made me a commitment that
he forgot about. Dyke reminded him.
I was in Dyke's office one morning, probahly with
my tin cup asking for a million dollars, and Dyke said,
"What do you think about this, Larry? What the regents
are doing to us." And he explained to me that the re-
gents weren't going to buy a strip of land on the north
side of Le Conte.
MINK: Known as the Janss Triangle, right?
POWELL: Yes, which the university thought it owned,
but the Jansses had kept it, and the Jansses were sel-
ling it to Bullock's then to build a department store
on what we regarded as the campus. And Dyke said,
"Well, even some of the regents didn't know we didn't
own this." The gates are there; it was inside the gates.
It v;ent from VJestv;ood Boulevard over to Hilgard, that
whole piece of land. And he said, "I think this is
wrong." He said, "I'm going to take it to the senate."
And he said, "I want your support, too; I want all the
support I can get, because I think this is a terrible
thing that the Southern Committee of the Regents and
Sproul agreed to do."
VJell, this was characteristic of Dyke; he put his
great "big, thick neck out there and opposed a policy of
the university when he thought it was wrong. So the word
got around that Bullock's was going to build a depart-
ment store on what we regarded as university land, and
the senate became aroused. And particularly zealous
in the arousal was young instructor Sam Herrick and his
Colombian, South American wif e--Betulia--a little fire-
eater if there ever was one.
MINK: Why was he particularly concerned?
POWELL: I don't know how he got in with this, but,
Jim, I know we have his collection. I got him to give
his stuff on it to the archives.
POWELL: It's in the archives.
MINK: We have it in the archives.
POTOLL: The ansv;ers would be in there. VJell, he was
an instructor without any tenure. And bringing pressure
on the university to go through with this and honor
their agreement v/ith the Jansses not to oppose this, to
let the Jansses sell this to Bullock's, was the pastor
of that church, Jesse Kellams, who kind of installed
himself as the university preacher; he v/as always at
Commencement in his robes. And Dyke said, "I'll put
a stop to this; we aren't having any damn preacher on
the stage--the same one every time--we'll have a dif-
ferent one every time." At any rate, Kellams was heat-
ing the drums for this, and the Chamber of Commerce in
Westwood Village and all wanted to put this over.
MINK: The Westwood Businessmen's Association.
POWELL: Yes, they wanted to put this over. So a lot
of uproar was going on, and the student body got into
it. And the president of the student body then was Gene,
Edwin Lee's son. Gene Lee who's now the vice-president
of the university, I guess. The senate was in it, and
the alumni got involved in it. Dykstra's whole point
was that the university needed this land, that the re-
gents should buy it.
MINK: Indeed they did.
POWELL: That's right; where the medical school is now.
Well, the regents had said they wouldn't, that they
wouldn't oppose Bullock's buying it from Janss. So we
had strategy meetings. Dyke said to me once, "Fay, your
wife, is the niece of Alphonzo Bell. Wouldn't it be
wise to tell Mr. Bell about this? Because my records
here show that Mr. Bell gave nine or eighteen acres
to the university across Sunset Boulevard, out where
the old poinsettia gardens were for faculty housing."
That tract was given by Bell.
POWELL: And so I went tearing up Stone Canyon to the
Bell corporation headquarters, to Uncle Alphonzo, and
I said, "Look, the University needs your help." "What
is it?" Well, I said, "We want you to go to Mr. P. G.
Winnett, president of Bullock's, and tell him not to buy
this and to let the regents buy it." Well, he said,
"Do the regents want to buy this?" We said, "Not yet,
but we think they can be persuaded."
Well, Mr. Bell then was ill; he'd had one stroke
and he was under doctor's orders not to exert himself,
but he became concerned about this. I took him down;
we looked at the tract, and he talked to Mr. Winnett
and reported back to me. He said, "Well, Mr. Winnett
doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the
cordial relationship with UCLA; he's willing to with-
draw if the regents say that. He said it's up to the
regents." I said, "Well, Mr. Bell, talk to Mr. Dickson
about this, because there's the key to it." So Alphonzo
Bell did talk to Mr. Dickson and pressure began to build
We had a strategy meeting in old Truman's Inn
there (Mrs. Gray's Inn it was called) at Westwood and
Wilshire in the dining room upstairs. It was attended
by Dykstra, by Gene Lee, president of the student body,
by Ed Lee, his father, by the Herricks, and I brought
Mr. Bell. He was a very impressive figure then, on a
cane and all, and he spoke and he said, "Well, I cer-
tainly think the university needs all the land it can
get." He said, "We gave it eighteen acres. We are glad
we did, and we're still waiting for the university to
build faculty housing on it." Dykstra said, "Yes, yes,
yes, yes; let's not get off on another issue here."
[laughter] So Bell needled him a little about that.
And the pressure then kept mounting. VJell, I had a phone
call that night from Alphonzo Bell, Jr.
MINK: Uncle Al? Our congressman?
POWELL: Our congressman. He was then in the petroleum
company. He says, "Larry, I wish you'd take the heat
off my father. He can't stand this. The doctor said
he's not supposed to get aroused, and you're getting
him all aroused here, and God damn it, stop it! " I
says, "Look, Fonso, your father can't live forever."
And I said, "If he can go out fighting for a worthy
cause--" I says, "he feels very deeply about this as
a matter of principle, and it's a matter of duty and
so forth." And Bell said, "VJell, I know hov/ Father
feels, but please don't overdo it." So I had to tell
Dykstra, "We can't get Mr. Bell involved too much any-
more." Well anyway, it came up to the point where the
regents held an open meeting to discuss this, in Ker-
ckhoff Hall. And I'd been downtown and met v/ith the
president of the Alumni Association--it v/as Paul Hutch-
MINK: I remember that name.
POWELL: And we developed the strategy that Hutch would
appear at the open meeting of the regents and present
the case for the university and Sam Herrick v/ould speak
and represent the faculty. That was a great meeting,
Jim. Do you remember it?
MINK: Yes, I do.
POWELL: The spokesman on the Board of Regents was not
Mr. Dickson; it was John Francis Neylan. That great
big son of a bitch. He was as big as Dykstra. He got
up, and I think he blamed it all on the Communists.
POWELL: But Paul Hutchinson then gave, I think, one of
the most eloquent presentations I've ever heard at a
meeting of that kind. God, he spoke marvelously to
this, that this land is needed by the university, the
regents were derelict in their duty if they didn't
take steps to acquire it, and he really nailed the re-
gents. And by God, they took a vote and they reversed
their action, their condoning this purchase by Bullock's
and moved to reconsider and investigate the purchase of
this for university purposes. And Herrick had been
subjected to all kinds of abuse by this, threatened
by Kellams and by various others.
MINK: He was going to see that he didn't get into
POWELL: To never get promoted.
MINK: Well, how did Kellams have influence in there?
He's just a preacher.
POWELL: Yes, but he was damned high in university in-
fluence through Titus and others like Malbone Graham.
He was really a voice in the university that Dykstra
put a stop to; he muzzled him.
MINK: He was pastor of what church?
POWELL: That Community Christian Church at the corner
of Hilgard and LeConte.
MINK: Oh, I see.
POWELL: That has a rare combination of Gothic and Ren-
aissance in one building. And Romanesque. Soon after
that, you see, the UCLA Medical School came, and that
v;hole purchase of land was justified. That was a great
fight, and the person chiefly responsible for doing this
was Clarence Dykstra. This is a jewel in his crown,
TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE ONE
NOVEMBER 11, I969
MINK: Well, Larry, this morning we were looking at
your ten-cent notebook. In the autobiography. Fortune
And Friendship , you mentioned this, and some of us
didn't believe that you had one. But we're looking at
it, and we see that indeed it's an old notebook, and
it has "ten cents" written somewhere on the front cover.
POWELL: Right there on the cover. Library Notes, ten
cents. Western School Series Composition Book, L. C.
Powell, October, 19^3, Library Notes. On the first
page I entered materials that I would need as office
reference works. And here are periodicals and reference
books. Dictionary of American Scholars , American Men
of Science , File of Library Surveys , File of Library
Guides and Handbooks , Library Quarterly . Install shel-
ving no place to put any books when I moved into Mr.
Goodwin's office — he had no bookshelves.
MINK: Did Mr. Goodwin have any kind of a library of
POWELL: Apparently notj he had the periodicals that he
subscribed for, and he took most of those home with him.
It came to us eventually, I think, when Fanny Alice
turned them over, the Library Quarterly and so forth.
MINK: Was the library collection able to supply any of
these works or did they have to go out and buy them all?
POWELL: A number were in reference and I left them
there. A number were duplicates that I bought out of
the equipment money. But I needed them right there.
Well, then on page two, I jotted down a potential
membership of the Senate Library Committee, as I knew
that the Committee on Committees would be coming to me
and asking my advice on the appointment of the Library
Committee, so I had that ready. Westergaard, Huberty,
U. S. Grant, Dudley Pegrum (who had been a bitter critic
of my appointment, I thought he should be on the com-
mittee), Wayland Hand, Majl Ewing, Russell Fitzgibbon,
Angus Taylor, Lindley Bynum ( ex officio ), and myself as
MINK: Why had Pegrum been a critic?
POWELL: Because he'd been an earlier member of the Li-
brary Committee, and when Sproul appointed a special
committee to find a librarian, none of the Senate Library
Committee was on that. Max Dunn was angry about it and
Pegrum was angry about it. They thought it should have
been represented, and it should have. Now the committee
wasn't appointed by Sproul, this blue-ribbon committee
to pick a successor; it was recommended by the Budget
In other words, Sproul went to the Budget Committee
and asked them, and they thought it best to have a com-
pletely nonrepresentative committee, no one who was con-
nected with the library in any way. That's one thinking.
Now I would have thought the other way, that the chair-
man of the Library Committee, who was Charles Grove
Haines, I think, should have been on that committee, at
least ex officio .
Well, Max Dunn, the chemist, felt so riled up about
this that after I had been appointed he had the Senate
bylaws changed so that in the future, when a committee
was set up to pick a university librarian, the Senate
Library Committee should be represented on ito So
that's why I wanted Pegrum and Huberty, who were on the
Library Committee, to be represented. Well, it wasn't
appointed just that way, because Committee on Committees'
appointments always have to take into account memberships
on other committees, so there isn't one man on two ma-
jor committees. I learned this in my last three years
here, when I was a member of the Committee on Committees^
you have to do a real chess game with personnel. At
any rate, it was a good committee set-up.
Now page three: I have here ten Item.s that I
thought we needed to work on. These were the things I
thought about in my six years and I'd talked about
constantly with the faculty, particularly young faculty
who were critical of the library. Item one, the Library
Committee and its function. I thought it should be re-
defined. It was more or less a rubber-stamp committee
for the Librarian and a good one, and I thought it should
be more active; and so I set that down. Item two, the
University of California Library Council, which Mitchell
and I had agreed should be appointed, made up of head
librarians of UC and UCLA and the other campuses. Per-
haps Library Committee chairmen from those campuses--Bynum;
the library school should be represented and a subcom-
mittee of technical department heads. Well, that was
something that came about in somewhat that form.. Three,
a library survey of UCLA, (a) of collections, and (b)
of the building and its services. Well, remember Fulmer
Mood was appointed.
MINK: Yes, he was.
POWELL: And then various surveys were done by Neal Har-
low, and Herman Fussier of manuscripts of photography;
Ray Swank of acquisitions. Item four, completion of the
building. We were due to have an added stack and an
added wing. And I put down, move Librarian's office to
new wing (remember, the old office was hidden, hard to
find) and use the present office for assistant librarian
in charge of technical processes. More faculty research
facilities J studies, etc. These were things that we
needed. Five, reclassify jobs to distinguish better
between professional and clerical. And I put a note:
the role of the Staff Association in this. In other
words, the staff should be involved in that kind of
self-survey. Six, annual report. It should be a printed
annual report, and perhaps one should be issued statewide
for Berkeley and UCLA, including the Clark and the Ban-
croft. A section for each--the total to be edited by
one person, that is L. C. P. [laughter] You see, be-
fore that there 'd been no annual reports issued. Nei-
ther Harold Leupp nor Goodwin had ever issued anything.
The annual report was typed up and filed. Or it was
sent to the president. And there was no reporting at
all to the staff or to the community. Seven, answer
the question of keeping intact or classifying, dispersing
collections. Now this, I think, was a result of Caughey's
pressure on me, because of what had happened to the
Cowan collection. Remember, we talked about this at
another session here., And I felt we should have more
of a known policy of what we were going to do with these
valuable collections that came in. Item eight, form a
division of rare books, special collections, manuscripts
and archives, pamphlets and ephemera, with a curator.
And as you kj^ow, that came about through the appointment
of Neal Harlow.
MINK: First, as Gifts and Exchange Librarian, because
I suppose there was no slot and no chance of getting
POWELL: There was no slot; there was nothing. Neal
applied to me when I was appointed. Neal wrote to me
from Sacramento. He was then Assistant Senior Califor-
nia Librarian in the State Library, and he was a UCLA
graduate, former employee of the Bancroft, was interested
in this area, and he wrote and said, "Are you going to
have any such? Will you consider me?" The archives
would show how our correspondence developed. It didn't
develop well, I might say, because it nearly went off the
tracks. We became angry with each other because when
the Bancroft Library heard about this, that Neal might
be moving to UCLA, they jumped into the picture and made
Neal an offer. Eleanor Bancroft, who was really running
the Bancroft Library at that time, came in between and
tried to get Neal back to the Bancroft.
Well, I blew up over this. I said, "Well, I have
a priority." So I got in touch with Leupp and with
Mitchell and with Neal and with Eleanor Bancroft and
with everybody else, and I said, "The guy's mine, not
yours. You don't have any right to do this." And Neal
got caught in the middle of it. We exchanged a couple
of annoyed letters^ and then finally I think Neal re-
alized that the priority was here and his interest was
in coming here and doing something from scratch. So
it worked out, and he came to that position of Gifts
and Exchange and with a side assignment of developing the
Department of Special Collections, and that's how it
came to pass. But the first item on it, of course, is
this notebook entry. This was something I knew was im-
portant. Neal, of course, was God-given. He was the
person to do it.
MINK: Would you say that Eleanor's interference just
reflected a tendency at Berkeley to not want to see
this campus grow, or what were her motives?
POWELL: Oh, I don't think so. I think she was very
fond of Neal and wanted him back. I think she recog-
nized his potential, and I think it was a simple wish
to have him back on the staff, and when she heard that
he might move, she acted. I don't think she was Machi-
avellian at all. On the other hand, there was always
an unconscious feeling on the part of Berkeley that they
had priority always for everything. And, of course,
Harold Leupp had demonstrated this earlier when he jerked
Jens Nyholm away from Goodwin and made him the assistant
librarian at Gal without even consulting Goodwin. But
Leupp and I had friendly relations, and then Donald
Coney and I, and we never raided after this. Then the
Library Council developed the policy that there must be
consultation, and that a campus couldn't hire anyone
from another campus at a higher step without total agree-
MINK: Harold Leupp, Berkeley Librarian from I919-I945,
is almost legendary from the things that are said about
him. Why don't you describe him as you knev; him?
POWELL: Well, Leupp was a formidable man really. As
library school students we all were a bit in awe of him
because he was so formal and so apparently austere. I
remember once as a library school student I checked out
an item that was probably an early edition of Rabelais
in the public catalog at Cal, and it was marked case
"0". "0" was always supposed to stand for obscene, wasn't
it? I asked at the Loan Desk for this. They said, "Oh,
those are shelved in the Librarian's office." So I made
my way into the office and of course I ran into Eleanor
Hand, the tigress of the office who guarded the inner
sanctum. And she said, "Well, you'll have to see the
librarian about this." She ushered me in and Leupp pro-
ceeded to catechize me about why I wanted it. I became
angry and I said, "Well, it really isn't any of your
business, is it, why I want this?" And he really burned,
but he gave me the book.
And on the other hand, I had another encounter
with him. I think I wrote this in the UCLA Librarian
at the time of Leupp ' s death, when we had a little
memorial issue. I used to go into the stacks of the
Berkeley library to nurse my wounds. When things got
too rough in the library school, I used to retreat.
And there are wonderful places to hide out, as you know,
Jim. You probably did the same yourself. You got a
little table and a chair and you could read up there.
I was up on the very top level of the stack. I was
up under the skylight where the academy proceedings
were shelved, and I was delighted to come upon the pro-
ceedings of the Academy of Dijon where I'd gone to school-
the Academie de Dijon et de la Cote d'Or. I fell on this
with great nostalgia. It went clear back to the begin-
ning--I think the 1740s or something. The academy, mind
you, was where Jean Jacques Rousseau had made his start.
He'd won the prize essay in the eighteenth century offered
by that academy; it was a famous academic group in Europe.
And I went through the set and was full of joy and nos-
talgia, and was browsing there when, good Lord, Leupp
came along the stack aisle for some reason. God knows
what he was doing up on the ninth level, and he showed
me an entirely different side of his character.
I guess maybe I said, "Well, Mr. Leupp, it's
wonderful to find a complete set of the Academy of Dijon
proceedings." He said, "I'm sure it's only one of thou-
sands." And of course that's true; that was the heart
of the riches of the Berkeley library, these tremendous
runs of learned society sets. And he said, "Why are you
particularly interested?" I said, "I went to school
here. This is my hometown in France." And he gave me
a very sweet gentle view of his character. I realized
that he was a complex man. That's all; he smiled and
said good and passed on.
Well, I had other views of him through this whole
series of young men that passed through his jurisdiction.,
I mean Archer and Everett Moore and Frank Lundy and Bob
Vosper. They'd all worked a year or two, or a little
morBj for Leupp and had left because there was no future
MINK: Did they regard him as a tough taskmaster?
POWELL: Yes. You dressed a certain way, always wore
a tie, and you didn't chew gum, and you kept your shoes
polished. All these things, of course, now in my advanced
middle age, I heartily approve of. Jim, Where's your
necktie this morning? [laughter] But anyway, he v/as a
taskmaster, and he ran a strict show. He v;as a military
man originally, and I think v;hen he retired he became
the Ninth Army Corps Librarian, didn't he? He went over
to the Presidio and worked a few years.
But he was a bookman, too. I remember when I was
appointed librarian, I went up to talk with him about
the Library Council. I called on him at his home. He
was recovering from the flu. Mitchell said, "Go up and
see him." His house was full of books. It was a real
bookish setting; it contrasted with Goodwin's home here,
over in Calmar Court. Hell, there wasn't a book in it,
really--or not one you'd look at twice. Leupp was a col-
lector. His father was Francis Leupp, the Indian com-
missioner, and there's a town in Arizona (not a town,
it's a crossroads) named Leupp, Arizona. That was Harold
Leupp 's father.
When I called on him at his home, he said, "Well,
I'm on my way out." He said, "Powell, wait until my suc-
cessor comes and you all develop these things that you
want to do." And one of them was item nine in my list:
a guide to the University of California library resources,
a printed total guide. I don't mean a survey of the col-
lections. I mean a guide to the collections--Berkeley
and Los Angeles. And I had put a note in the margin
here in pencil: the person to carry this off--Edith
MINK: That's a very good idea. /
MINK: She would have been marvelous.
POWELL: She could have done this. Item ten, and the
last item on the list, was: an undergraduate library
as separate from the main graduate collection. Well,
I was thinking, you see, along that line in 1943.
MINK: Let's see, that would have been about the time
that the Lamont Library was beginning to develop.
POWELL: I may have talked to Bill Jackson about this.
Lamont wasn't dedicated until later in the 1940s.
MINK: But the concept had been formulated.
POWELL: I think probably I'd talked with Bill Jackson
at Harvard about this. Because of course he and Metcalf
were cooking up all these building developments for Har-
vard. At any rate, that's where it appears. There's
more. I thought it was item ten only. There are nine-
teen items. Item eleven was to be a Clark Library ten-
year report, 1934-1944, printed. "Note," I said, "the
Morgan Library's five-year printed reports." That's
where my idea came from. "Do a ten-year report for the
Clark." And of course I did before I was through j I
did three of them, covering thirty years of activity. Item
twelve, send out a questionnaire to the faculty on the
library. What did they think--that is, people that I
never met or talked v/ith. Item thirteen: "Require
monthly written reports from library department heads."
This was an old standard hassle I used to have, paiti-
cularly with Debbie. I never could get Debbie King to
turn one in regularly. She'd end up doing one every tv/o
or three months in which she packed everything. I must
say they were worth waiting for. Item fourteen, establish
the relationship between the University Library and the
Clark Library, their buying policies and their reference
services. Well, this is still going on, of course. Vos-
per has a committee that's working on this. Fifteen,
develop a standard personnel record form for all Univer-
sity Library and Clark Library employees, professional
and clerical. That is, it would be an evaluation--per-
formance, and all these things. There was nothing in
the office that you could tell about an employee's past
or record of performance. Sixteen, issue a staff bulle-
tin of information. And that was, of course, the UCLA
Librarian that I had Everett Moore edit when he was the
first one that came along that I thought could do this
and that was interested.
MINK: Well, was the librarian's occasional letter to
the faculty intended to fill this void to begin with,
because I believe this preceeded, did it not, the estab-
lishment of the Librarian ?
POWELL: The occasional "Letter to the Faculty." Yes,
it was; and here item seventeen, a faculty bulletin of
accessions o Now Vosper did this and called it "Acqui-
sitive Notes." Item eighteen, refurnish the librarian's
suite of offices. Well, we put a rug on the floor, we
hung pictures, and we dressed the cell up a bit. It was
very drab. Nineteen, inquire into photographic proce-
dures. Acquire microfilm equipment at Clark Library, a
microfilm camera, and send the films for processing to
UCLA. Well, those were nineteen items that I thought we
could do in the University Library, and I set those down
in 1943 during October, nearly a year before I became
University Librarian. In other words, all of these things
were in my mind and came out of my talk with staff, with
faculty and my own thoughts, and by and large they came
to pass. We developed these things.
MINK: The Library Council, for example, you had to wait,
really. As you said, you couldn't talk to Leupp about
thisj he was on his way out. How did Coney take to the
idea of such a device?
POWELL: Eagerly. Because I think Mitchell had already
MINK: I see.
POWELL: Vmen Coney came up for an interview at Cal, of
course he saw Mitchell. Everybody went to see Mitchell.
And I think Coney's thoughts were--he came from Texas v:hich
had a dispersed system--that he vfas eager to do this.
There were never any problems, and the early meetings
of course were a delight. They were half social, half
professional, as we rotated around. I remember one of
the early meetings was at the Riverside campus. Margaret
Buvens was librarian, and in our break she took us out
into a grove of guava trees that were in fruit. We all
picked guavas, and on the table in the conference room
she had pitchers of freshly squeezed orange juice. My
God, we lived high, Jim, in those early years.
MINK: You said informal at first--did the concept of
a Library Council have to have approval of the adminis-
tration to have any force? How did this come about?
POWELL: Well, Sproul established it. It was created
by the president, and it reported to the president.
MINK: Did you bug Sproul about this? Did you write him
letters about this?
POWELL: Well, Coney and I suggested it, and we wrote
the letter creating it.
POWELL: We drafted his letter, I think, establishing
it. And I had talked with him about it in my interviews
with him in the summer of ig^^S at Berkeley when he said,
"Well, what are your ideas, Powell. What do you think
the library needs?" In other words, I'd talked about
this v/ith Mitchell earlier, and I said right av;ay, "One
of the first things we need is a Library Council." He
said, "My God, yes." He said, "l wish you could get
together the way Goodwin and Leupp haven't." He was
very angry and embarrassed by the antagonism between
Leupp and Goodwin.
MINK: There was then an antagonism mainly over Jens
POWELL: Ohj, over everything.
MINK: Over everything.
POWELL: Yes. You see, Goodwin had broken the Berkeley
policy that UCLA should never develop beyond 100,000 vol-
limes. And in the beginning, when Goodwin came here, all
the purchasing was done through Berkeley. The orders
were placed at Berkeley, and this was intolerable, really,
Leupp was glad to have all this continue because it kept
his staff and budget up. No, it was a deep antagonism
and feeling on the part of Berkeley.
MINK: Well, Goodwin had to develop the library because
he had to support graduate work, first the MA and then
the PhD in the late thirties. He had no alternative
but to develop it beyond this minimal kind of a library,
this college library.
POVJELL: Yes, that's right, and he did.
MINK: I don't see how they'd hold that against him.
The regents after all proclaimed that graduate v/ork
should be done at UCLA.
POV/ELL: Well, I don't know, Jim; you'd have to inter-
view Leupp's ghost. [laughter] That's an idea. But
at any rate, Sproul was for anything that brought the
statewide systems together. He'd hit the table and say,
"Yes, by all means, cooperation," and this was his whole
Well then on the next page, Jim, 1 have a heading:
"Buying policies for the University Library." Now you
asked me this at a previous meeting: what did you de-
velop in the way of buying policies? Well, here are ten
items that I set down. I think this was before Vosper
was appointed. It was a result of my experience in the
Acquisition Department. One, folklore. Two, history
of science. Three, South Pacific. Four, Californiana,
Cowan, Los Angelesiana. Five, Germanics, build on the
strength of the Burdach, Bremer, Dahlerup, Koch collec-
tions. Six, French civilization--history, literature,
art, travel. Seven, vertebrate zoology, the Dickey col-
lection as a point of takeoff. Eight, aeronautics. Nine,
moving pictures. Ten, oil, petroleum. And to do this
we should compile lists of desiderata; we should check
standard subject and author bibliographies in all fields
to be done by fellows in bibliography(? ) , together with
the Reference and Order Departments and the Librarian.
The procedure here must be rigorously systematized. In
other words, I foresaw appointments of graduate students,
called fellows in bibliography.
MINK: Somewhat like teaching assistants that used to
work in the Bancroft Library.
POWELL: Yes, and did we do some? We did something like
this, didn't we? Well, you were an example, I guess,
weren't you? You were a graduate student in history
and working in the--but you weren't responsible for col-
MINK: No, no.
POWELL: You were stack supervisor; that's different.
Two, develop standard printed forms for requests
for bids on items, for acknowledgements of gifts, in
order work, requests for quotations and reports on un-
I have a couple of pages on the Clark Library.
"What to do at the Clark." One, subscribe to the Limited
Editions Club and get their back publications. Develop
local presses, Ritchie, particularly the printers of
Los Angeles. Develop reference book collections at
Clark (which they lacked). Acquire the British Museum
Catalogue, which we did eventually in a reprint. Develop
typography, the history of printing, the monuments of
printing, the Gutenberg Bible facsimile and other in-
cunabula facsimiles. Issue a ten-year summary in 1944,
listing accomplishments and nev/ directions to be taken.
Eight, at the Clark, write for a back file and a continua-
tion of other library reports--that is, the Huntington,
the Houghton, Stanford, John Carter Brown, the Folger,
the Morgan, the Wrenn, the Chapin, and the Library of
Congress. Acquire at the Clark a union list of serials.
Recent books on Montana; check and see that the Montana
collection is developed. Eric Gill (there it is clear
back in 1943), develop Eric Gill, Nonesuch Press, Gol-
den Cockerel Press.
MINK: Well, how were you going to justify all of the
collecting of the fine printing?
POWELL: Building to strength. Clark had Nash, he had
Kelmscott and Doves; he'd been Nash's great patron. It
was building to strength, Jim. There they were, the
beginnings, and I saw all the modern local printers could
be had free. I primed the pump by giving my Ward Rit-
chie collection. It's now worth a hell of a lot of money.
We appraised it then as a gift of $1,500, but now you
couldn't duplicate it, because I used to pick things
off the floor, you see, in Ward's early years, empty
the wastebaskets and all the stuff that's gone forever
otherv/lse. And the Clark Library Committee, I had
suggestions because it was an administrative committee
appointed by Sproul^ not by the Committee on Committees,
and here were names that I wanted to be on it. Sproul
as chairman, Ernest Carroll Moore, ex officio . And I
had Goodwin's name here, and as I suggested to Sproul
that at Goodwin's retirement he be given a membership
on the Clark committee.
MINK: Was he ever asked?
POWELL: Well, it's struck through on my list. I think
Sproul said, "Uh-unh."
MINK: He didn't want anybody outside of the university
on it, I suppose. Could that be it?
POWELL: Well, he wasn't outside of the university.
MINK: Well, he was emeritus.
POWELL: Yes, well, course I'm a member of the Clark
committee. Murphy appointed me lifetime honorary member;
it's the same idea. And then Hustvedt has been stricken
through, and I wrote Bynum.
MINK: Hustvedt was the one that opposed it.
POWELL: Yes, he wanted to run the thing. I wanted to
keep him on the committee. Sproul said to dump him.
MINK: He opposed your appointment as librarian of the
POWELL: Yes, because he v;anted one of his own proteges.
POWELL: All right, Edward Hooker, Dixon Wecter, David
Bjork, to represent history. And on the next page (and
we're getting toward the end), Clark Library: to dis-
cuss with RGS before the first committee meeting (which
would have been early in 1944 after I took office; this
was written in autumn of '43). "Things to discuss with
Sproul." One, the Library Committee and its role, the
formulation of a policy for the Clark Library--its re-
lationship to the university, to the research library,
or museums of the region, and what to do about the resi-
dence, relations to the community, to scholars in general,
and its buying program. Three, the administration of
Clark Library after July 1, 1944 (after I became Univer-
sity Librarian, too). The appointment of a bibliogra-
pher, which was Archer. Four, purchase order routine.
Dispense with a committee OK for items under $100.
That is, up to that point, everything that v;as
bought at the Clark, even a fifty-cent pamphlet, had to
be submitted to the committee on a typed list, and to
eliminate that, I suggested at first for everything un-
der $100 I be given carte blanche. This v;ould save de-
lay in dispatch of purchase orders from ten days to tvio
weeks. It would save two clerical processes, the typing
of lists and advance reservation letters to dealers.
(Anything that saved money would appeal to Sproul.)
Lists do not represent purchases because of the large number
of cancellations. These were arguments in favor of
this: (d) almost no items have ever been rejected by
the committee; (e) the committee does not read the lists
at present; it's just red tape. The director should be
responsible for evaluating worth of possible purchases —
one thing he's hired to do! --within the limits of the
buying program set by him and the committee.
In other words, when you propose things to Sproul,
you had to have the reasons laid out. You couldn't go
in and say, "Look, I think it ' d be a great idea; turn
the thing over to me." Uh-unh. You had to justify and
give reasons. I learned this early, and I did it. And
it always worked, because Sproul was a man of reason.
You could convince him by a reasonable argument.
Five, a monthly report to the president and the
regents. Its desirability and usefulness. Six, why
not a full printed annual report which can go beyond
the walls. Seven, discuss the recent Montana items.
Should we keep the collection up to date? Eight, es-
tablish a bindery (and I've written McKeown who was the
janitor at the Clark who we made the binder) . Nine,
get mechanical equipment at the Clark--a mimeograph card
machine, an electric typewriter. Ten, consider putting
exhibition cases in the hallway. Eleven, consider
turning the drawing room into a seventeenth-century read-
ing room with wall cases and tables. (Well, vie never
did this because it was architecturally impossible, really,
to tamper with that room. And I consulted with Farquhar,
the university architect, and we decided to leave it
alone.) Twelve, put signs at the street entrance. Iden-
tify the place. We did; we had those bronze signs made
on the three sides. Exhibitions to do at the Clark.
Books mentioned by Pepys, books read by Dryden, Ned
Ward, the seventeenth-century pamphleteer, John Taylor,
the Water Poet, and Defoe. Issue handlists. Revise
the leaflet for visitors o Prepare a manual for readers.
Prepare a staff manual. Prepare a reader's card which
will be revised and printed. That's it.
MINK: That's it.
POWELL: That's it. Well, what can I say, Jim? What-
ever success I had was because I was prepared in theory
to do these things. The practice or the carrying of them
out was another matter, and it took time and they were
modified; but in theory I knew what was needed--and why?
Because, hell, I'd been in the mill here those years
and lived with the library day in and day out and knew
from the faculty what they wanted, and from the staff,
There must be in the archives, Jim, the letters
of Deborah King, or are they in my files here? In
the six months I was at the Clark, Debbie wrote me
about every week, things that she thought the library
needed. Wonderful letters.' You know how she used to
beat 'em out on her typewriter at top speed, and she
was full of ideas for remodeling the building. And of
course when we came to enlarge it, I put her and Neal
on the committee to do it. Debbie was full of good
ideas. I think her father had been an architect, and
she had a third-dimensional sense that I didn't have,
and of course which Neal had. But all the things that
we did here--sure, I was a paternalistic and "big daddy"
type, but we had a lot of staff participation in policy
formation. I tried to have people around me and work-
ing with me that knew more than I did.
MINK: Well, one thing I noticed there that isn't in
the notebook that did develop, and I suppose it would
be easy to check as to the exact date at which it oc-
curred, was the department heads meeting that was held
every week. Wnen did you begin this?
POWELL: I don't remember.
POWELL: I needed help, Jim! This sounds like a lot
of learned guff, and of course it is. It sounds like,
Jesus, I knew it all; but, actually, I never administered
anything. And I needed people out on the administra-
tive line in departments and in divisions who could do
it, and I suppose I wanted their experience always to
draw on, that would reinforce and build up my ignorance,
is what it amounted to. I had tremendous confidence--
it's obvious--didn't I. I was pretty confident, almost
a blind faith that I could do this job; but I had no
day-to-day experience in running a library, least of
all a library of this size and complexity. I know Vos-
per was a very fortunate appointment. There again,
Mitchell deserves the original credit. He said, "Here's
the man for you." Well, I looked at the picture and
said, "Of course it is." I liked the guy's mug.
But he showed this flair--we were just talking
about it a minute ago--that is that Vosper is a faculty
man. Well, he showed this in the beginning, that he
was able to integrate his thoughts and action all his
life with the faculty here--more so, I think, than with
the staff itself. Isn't this true?--that he has a
greater rapport with the faculty than the staff at large,
He has bitter quarrels with his immediate contacts on
the staff, but I think in the beginning, at least, I had
a very strong rapport with the staff, down to the grass
roots, to the shipping clerk, because I got around more.
He would say right away, "You could; it was smaller."
That's true. It was all in one building, wasn't
it? The only branch library was chemistry v/ith Eve
Dolbee, who was the departmental secretary, and agri-
culture had a bit of an operation--didn' t it?--under
Martin Huberty. These were bootleg branch libraries.
I brought Betty Rosenberg. As I recall Betty was the
first agricuture librarian; I got her from the county
library, probably through Debbie; she had worked for
Debbie in RBR as an undergraduate, and then I got a
group from the county library who wouldn't sign the
county loyalty oath, remember? And then they came
out here and ran into the same thing. Dorothy Harmon,
Charlotte Spence, Betty Rosenberg, all came from the
county library, and they're all here yet. What were
we on, Jim; get me back on the rails.
MINK: The ten-cent notebook.
POWELL: Well, the heads' meeting I think was just--well,
it was a way we operated the library.
MINK: Well, it was very much tailored to the time. You
couldn't do that today.
POWELL: VJhy not?
MINK: I think that this has been one of the things
that brought about the change in the administrative
setup, where you have the meetings of so many department
heads, of twenty-five people.
POWELL: It's too big.
MINK: You can't have a meeting like this that has too
much feedback. It becomes an orientation meeting. The
librarian gets together the department heads and tells
them what he's done. He doesn't get them together to
ask them what he ought to do. There's a lot of advice,
but very little consent.
POWELL: Well, we actually developed policy in those
heads' meetings on cataloging and on acquisitions, on
reference, and particularly on building development.
You see, that was the big overriding thing, I think,
in 1944, 1945, and 1946--to get that east wing going.
We had a blackboard and pinups, and we were kicking
that thing around. We'd have the architect, Carl McElvey,
and--who was the firm that built this, great big guy?--
Charlie Matcham. And we had Earl Heitschmidt. Heit-
schraidt and Matcham did the east wing here. Well, I'd
known Earl Heitschmidt in the Phi Gamrr.a Delta. He was
a member of the Oregon chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta.
I knew him in the graduate council here; so we were
delighted to join up again in this project. We're
sitting in it here, aren't we? This is the east wing.
Well, sure, we met once a week to tool the thing
up. I couldn't do it all by myself. I didn't know
enough. VJell, even if you knew enough, it vfouldn't be
the right thing to do. I'm a great believer in com-
mittee work that results in action, not in committee
work just for committee work. But this was an ad-
ministrative working committee that ran the library
for better or worse. I don't think I ever brought
out the ten-cent notebook. I don't think I ever
showed this to anybody before, but you. It was my
under-the-cover operating manual. But I couldn't have
operated without it. That's what I always came back
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