Interview with Knight Aldrich - part two


Interview with Knight Aldrich - part two


Kevin Randolph interviews Dr. Knight Aldrich, Class of 1931. Dr. Aldrich remembers life at North Shore during the Great Depression, Perry Dunlap Smith, and being a scholarship student.


North Shore Country Day School


North Shore Country Day School Archives


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OHMS Object Text

Knight Aldrich: Hi.

Kevin Randolph: I think the phone went bye-bye.

Aldrich: I may have turned it off accidentally. I don't know.

Randolph: It could also have been on my end so I apologize. You were just saying that you were clearly too young to go to Skokie.

Aldrich: It was not a place for me for the next year. What do we do with the problem boy next year? And my mother was willing to take me back but that didn't seem like a good idea. And entered Perry Dunlap Smith.

Randolph: Interesting.

Aldrich: Now Perry Dunlap Smith, who I'm afraid you did not get to know, did you?

Randolph: No, I did not. I just know him obviously by reputation. When you say enter, do you mean he actively got involved and decided what the next move for you would be?

Aldrich: Well I'm not exactly sure how that happened because I was not party to the deliberations. But in trying to reconstruct it, I think that they – that 00:01:00was the only available private school really. And I think Ms. Carswell talked with Perry Smith and he sort of took to this because he was interested in broadening his students' opportunities and the field of experience. And he thought also of himself and kind of a – of a social worker. I guess in these days you would think of him as a social worker. That was – he was interested in a lot of different ways. And I think he started this school, North Shore, and 00:02:00I think he'd hoped to have a more cosmopolitan, as it were, group than he had. Private schools, well as you know, in suburbs, well-to-do suburbs turn out to be – attract mostly preppies and debutantes. And Perry Smith was a little bit different than just that.

Randolph: Right. And he certainly had a very clear, definite ideas about education. And so it was an opportunity with you, no doubt, to really explore those ideas in a different way than he was – than he might have had. So I totally understand that. Can you tell me, you obviously knew him over an arc of time, what was he like? What made him – what made him into this larger life figure that he clearly was?

Aldrich: Well he was smart and he was personable. And he was athletic and I think he came from the proper background so that he could communicate with the 00:03:00well-to-do in a town like Winnetka, which voted in 1936 for Alfred G. Landon by four and a half to one. So I guess you get the idea – in the Roosevelt era. And he wanted – I think he took on people like me as a project. During the – and I think in some ways was a little too much. I think I fortunately got a lot out of it. But it was nip and tuck for awhile I think – what would become of me if I hadn't made it at North Shore after not having made it at Hubbard Woods School.

Randolph: Well you certainly did make it and obviously went a long way beyond North Shore Country Day School. I hear people talk about this cape that 00:04:00apparently he would wear in the winter time.

Aldrich: Yeah.

Randolph: And be this sort of figure in blowing in the wind across the campus. It cuts quite an image, I think, of that and that just adds to the lore and the legend I guess in a lot of ways.

Aldrich: He was very – what's that term for – I can't remember it but – not cosmetic –

Randolph: He's charismatic.

Aldrich: Right.

Randolph: That's the word that I keep hearing over and over.

Aldrich: Charismatic is – that was Perry Smith.

Randolph: Interesting.

Aldrich: And he taught this course in school standards, which was a little bit of sex education and a little bit of social – sociality and that sort of stuff. But he – and he very carefully tried to conceal the identity of the people he was talking about, except that he wasn't very good at it.

Randolph: And I've heard those stories too. Those go all the way up into the '60s. During Homecoming a few weeks ago, I talked to some – six guys who graduated in 1962 and they were still talking about taking that class as eighth graders and sort of navigating the experience, and you can imagine, think about how many years later that was he was still trying to teach that course.

Aldrich: He thought it was great stuff. He thought it was – and in some ways it was great stuff. But we had a kid name Franny Moore who Fish Howe knew him very well.

Randolph: He mentioned him, in fact. He mentioned that name.

Aldrich: What?

Randolph: He mentioned that name.

Aldrich: Yeah, Franny Moore. He was mister bright. He was the smartest and the 00:06:00most talented. He wasn't an athlete but he was everything else. But he also had a very kind of nasty streak in him and he would sit in that class and in about two minutes he knew who Perry Smith was talking about, even though Perry Smith tried to conceal it. And on one occasion, I was the one that was being talked about.

Randolph: Interesting.

Aldrich: And I never told Perry Smith anything again. I dummied up. I mean, he just could not – it was a clumsy effort at disguise. But it didn't fool somebody like Franny.

Randolph: Right. So you were obviously there, it was a bit of a transition in sixth and seventh grade.

Aldrich: Oh boy was it.

Randolph: What was it like in high school?

Aldrich: Sixth grade again. I took about three years to really adapt. I remember in fifth and sixth grade, we had sports together and I was – and [unintelligible] and Eddie Price from the class below me and I were the three 00:07:00shortest in those two classes. And then [unintelligible] got a growth spurt and he disappeared and so it was Eddie and I. Then the next year, it was even worse because then I had people with the class above me. Anyway, you asked somewhere about my experiences. And most of my experiences are sort of personal and non-educational, that is I can't remember specifically too much about oh Eddie what's his name math teacher, Mr. Riddle teaching History or I can remember that I was scared of Mrs. Childs because Mrs. Childs used sarcasm as a means of 00:08:00control. And I was having some time concentrating. I don't think I had ADHD, but I had – I was younger and young people do have a little more trouble concentrating than the old. And Ms. Childs was very, very sarcastic. So I was scared to death of her. We all thought that David Corkran was the greatest. David Corkran was the – did you ever hear of David Corkran?

Randolph: I have. Fisher Howe mentioned him as well.

Aldrich: He was the one that we unanimously elected as the one we wanted our yearbook dedicated to.

Randolph: I've seen that. I've seen – I saw the yearbook. Right.

Aldrich: And you probably saw David's picture in the beginning.

Randolph: Absolutely.

Aldrich: And he taught us some English and some History. But he was – he's the teacher that I remember best. And he was a non-conformist. And I remember one 00:09:00thing that – we used to have a home room teaching – do they still have that?

Randolph: We had home room for – when I first came here, we had – it was in 1990, we certainly had it. And I think we – it's only been gone maybe seven or eight years. And we don't have it anymore.

Aldrich: It used to be current events and David thought that current events was something you read in the paper in the morning. And he didn't – thought that was a bore and he was right because of what we would talk about. We didn't know much about it anyway. So he told us the first day of thing that he was going to read us The Iliad. And so for every morning he would read The Iliad for a part and then we would discuss something. He would lead a discussion about Hector or Patroclus or somebody like that. And it was really great. It was a great way to 00:10:00start the day because – chiefly because he sort of sensed what would appeal to us. I don't know. I don't know how he did it but he did it. And you did not come late to David's class because then he stopped whatever he was saying and waited with the Corkran, what's the term for – he looked at you, a scowl. Corkran scowl. He looked at you until you sat down and then he would pick up where he left before. But so that's the best way to keep people from not coming late.

Randolph: Right. Now was your home room all male?

Aldrich: No, no. We were – there was a whole bunch. See there were – I graduated with twenty-six others. There were twenty-seven in my class, fifteen 00:11:00boys and twelve girls. And we had most of our classes together. Except –

Randolph: That was Fisher Howe's recollection as well is that it was co-educational. He couldn't remember it not being – classes that were not co-educational.

Aldrich: No, everything was co-educational except physical education and Perry Smith's course. I don't think that was co-educational. I think we were separate for that. But other than that, it was co-ed.

Randolph: It's interesting as I've talked to people, they always, they do sometimes talk about their teachers, and that's understandable, but they more often talk about the experiences they had out of the classroom, like Morning Ex. Like working on the athletic field. Like being in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, those kinds of – being with their buddies, being with classmates in a homeroom like you mentioned. So it sounds like maybe you have a similar kind of feeling about it – much of the learning you did was out of the classroom.

Aldrich: Most of – that's right. What I did – I was – there were cliques. 00:12:00Perry Smith didn't think there should be and tried to stop it, but you can't stop that. And there was one clique and did Fisher tell you about the FiMoo club?

Randolph: No he did not. I'd love to hear about it.

Aldrich: I'm not sure I'm not talking out of – this doesn't get published does it?

Randolph: No, we just listen and we pick – it's a very much- it's an internal kind of thing.

Aldrich: Fi is for Fisher. And Moo is for Moore and he was the one that was so perceptive. And that was a club for the old timers. And I obviously never came close to even knowing much about it. It was supposed to be a secret club, but of 00:13:00course it wasn't. And as I say, Smith wanted to get rid of all of that. But he couldn't. And so what he did, and I didn't find out – he did it so smoothly that I never found out about it until later. He apparently worked with George Hale, do you know about him?

Randolph: I don't.

Aldrich: Well George Hale was a classmate. And he was – you know the George Ellery Hale who was the astronomer?

Randolph: Right.

Aldrich: This is his grandson, George Hale. George Hale asked me to go home with him to play with him in effects. I don't know – he probably didn't say it in that way but he said – and I took it in that he was interested in me. What I didn't know was that Perry Smith had set all this up with Mrs. Hale and George. And George did a very good job of it. I was completely convinced that I was 00:14:00somehow or other a very desirable companion for him after school. And we played a game called Mineroo which was with dice and horses, horse track, and things like that. And then Mrs. Hale, who was really one of the most beautiful women I've ever known, would provide lemonade and cookies or something like that. And then I'd go home. And I thought, gee, this is great. And I didn't realize the long hand of Perry Dunlap Smith in it. I should have.

Randolph: He should have – maybe he should have been in the foreign service you never know. That's pretty covert, isn't it?

Aldrich: Yeah. Anyway, I got started there with George and I think that was good 00:15:00for me and it was a good – I needed somebody because I was really a lost ball.

Randolph: Sure.

Aldrich: And he also sort of pushed me into other things. And that was good. I think I got parts in plays that I wouldn't otherwise have gotten because I was an exceptional individual who needed special help, needed encouragement. I sang Coco in The Mikado when I don't think I had the voice for it, but I got by, got by with it. And I think it was a learning –a good experience for me. And I think I've been a Gilbert and Sullivan fan ever since. As a matter of fact, about ten years ago – no, it must have been more than that, twenty years ago maybe, I sang the – I sang the baritone lead in The Gondoliers in a public 00:16:00production here in Charlottesville. So I'm still interested in W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Randolph: What are those – people so often focus on the experience of being in the musicals. And I try to ask them follow up questions, what was it that made that experience so special, so memorable for so many people? Was it the music? Was it the – was it working together? Was it the sort of – what was it that makes that experience? Because over and over people cite that as one of the most important elements of their school experience.

Aldrich: Yeah, it was. It was an important – I think it probably, why it was different from Broadway musicals or something like that, I think it was because of the humor. I think we were at an age when W.S. Gilbert appealed to us. I 00:17:00think that – and it also was an intellectual challenge. When I say when I sang in Coco and sang "And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife" I had to find out what nisi prius meant. A legal term as you probably know. And those kind of songs were the kind of humor that appealed to the high school kids of those days. And I think it was – OK, I've got all kinds of memories of that, including – see when I was – I was a junior when I sang that and one 00:18:00of the things that Coco does is he's engaged to Yum Yum. And no wait a minute, he's not – yeah. I can't remember how it is but he has to kiss her. And I – kissing a girl in front of an audience was something that was just too much for me I thought. But I was gently helped to do it by Jean O'Brien, who was Howard Vincent O'Brien's daughter. You probably don't remember him. But a much more sophisticated girl one year – one class younger. Probably a year older, maybe the same age that I was. I was just one year behind by then, not two years as I was in Hubbard Woods School. That – and I don't know, rehearsals were fun. 00:19:00Whereas rehearsals for the some of the religious stuff, Turn Back Oh Man, is one of the things I remember. I can't remember who wrote it but those weren't fun, those were something that you sort of did because of a chore. But when you went down to do the rehearsals for the pirates or for the Mikado or something like that, it was good sport. We really had a good time. I think that was – and did Fish tell you about the Christmas time – another part of Perry Smith's agenda for us was that we would, on Christmas Eve or maybe the night before, we would go and sing to people who were, I don't know –

Randolph: Homebound maybe?

Aldrich: Huh?

Randolph: Homebound, who couldn't get out?

Aldrich: Yeah, homebound. And for one reason or another. We would go out and sing carols as in Dickens or whatever.

Randolph: No, he did not mention that. I have never – it's interesting you say that. I have never heard that story before.

Aldrich: Really? We did that regularly. We would go –and Miss starting with 00:20:00Miss Babcock who became Mrs. Bailey who was the music teacher when I was first here and we would all go and tag along and go from this house to that. And some members of the family would drive us if we were too young from a place. And then we would all end up at the Strong's house. You know Walter Strong?

Randolph: I've heard the name.

Aldrich: Walter Strong was the – was the publisher of the Chicago Daily News and a very well-to-do guy who gave a lot to Carlton College. But anyway and they had a chauffeur and once in awhile Walter Strong who was a class below me but 00:21:00about seventy pounds heavier and played on the football team and a very impressive guy. And sometimes I would get a ride home from North Shore and he'd drop me off at the house because he lived out at the end of what was then called Tower Road in between Everwoods and Winnetka. They had a big kind of ballroom, the way they did, and – there was a piano there and the music would play the piano and we would sing Gilbert and Sullivan from the time the end of the Christmas carols until we broke up, maybe a couple of hours. And people who had sung different roles would sing their favorite song. And the choruses and the whole thing, it was just such a good experience and we loved it. And I'm surprised you never heard of it.

Randolph: Well it's really interesting. There are – you know how that it is, 00:22:00they're embedded – there are traditions and there are embedded traditions within individual classes or eras. And you don't hear about them until you start doing what I'm doing which is just ask someone to recall their experience and then the next person I talk to, I can say well did you do this? And then we can track it. But this is exactly how it happens. It's so interesting because Mr. Howe talked yesterday about the importance of music and how ubiquitous it was at school, how Morning Ex was so much musically connected.

Aldrich: Yeah, Morning Ex was.

Randolph: And Howe, when I asked him I said, well what's something that you would hope would never change about the school? And without hesitation that's what he said, he said music. Music was a central part of the experience in his own academic life and his belief was that it should be in every part of the school and it should never change. So it's interesting because you two have both 00:23:00landed in the same place.

Aldrich: And we were in the same class.

Randolph: The role that music played in your lives at school was obviously very important.

Aldrich: Yep. I would certainly agree with that. Some of the other things – what's her name, Smith, also insisted that everybody – all the boys play football.

Randolph: Football, right, right.

Aldrich: That I was not so enthusiastic.

Randolph: I had a feeling. I gathered from things you said that maybe you weren't quite as committed to that one as you are to music.

Aldrich: Fish was the center on the football team and the catcher on the baseball team. He was not slow. I think he was not fast but he was strong or big and enthusiastic. And I was just – I finally – they couldn't run the risk of 00:24:00having me ground to bits in football. I know played – remember trying to block Bill Van Horne. I should say that I was, The Depression hit us and I – at the beginning of the ninth grade is when I really kind of began to sort of blossom and Bill Van Horne and Bo Kreer [George Kreer] were two scholarship boys from Skokie School who had been given scholarships. And it's no accident that those two were my closest friends all through high school. And there was a difference between those who had chauffeurs and those who – and part of it was the Indian Hill Club. Those who had chauffeurs belonged to the Indian Hill Club and I never felt anybody – any objection to giving me – to taking me over there and signing for me and that sort of thing, but I felt it you know. I couldn't reciprocate.

Randolph: Sure.

Aldrich: The idea of a poor boy or the scholarship boy is good in theory but it's sometimes a little hard on the scholarship boy.

Randolph: It's complicated, isn't it?

Aldrich: I got quite a different experience in college when really it was almost – you had to apologize if you weren't poor. Because that was '31 to '35, those were really rough years. My father had lost his business. He – he started a business, he saved his money, he'd been a salesman. He saved his money, started a real estate business in Winnetka and he figured it would take him two years to 00:26:00make it a going concern. So he had it all set up. And what did he do? He started it in October of 1928, one year later the real estate collapsed totally and there was just no hope for it. And he was out of a job for five years. And I got a scholarship at North Shore. I got a scholarship also at college but at North Shore for the last year and a half. I've never known who was responsible for it except I'm sure that Perry Smith engineered it. I suspect that Mr. Laird Bell, the father of one of my classmates, and you know Laird Bell is the Laird Bell –

Randolph: I know that. That's a prominent name for sure.

Aldrich: Yeah. And Laird Bell was I think the Head of the Board of Trustees or something. I suspect he engineered that. But that certainly added to my own cumulative deficiencies. I wasn't big enough, I wasn't this not enough and I wasn't rich enough. And so I didn't have the same feeling of belonging that I 00:27:00would think Fish did and Franny Moore and Tom Dammann and George Hale.

Randolph: As you well know, the Howe's family connection to the school goes back to the very beginning and so –

Aldrich: Very beginning.

Randolph: So his – I think his experience is probably different than almost anyone's because his family had everything to do with hiring Perry Dunlap Smith. So I mean, it was a very different – his experience is unique. But yours is too. Yours, I think, represents the experience of a lot of different students. People come to this school in a variety of ways. And I think that's part of what 00:28:00makes the story interesting is who you were, how you came here, the experience that you had. I think every story matters really when you're trying to learn about the institution. So –

Aldrich: Mrs. Howe for example, she added up the cost of our lunches at the lunch room and we had our lunch at the lunch room and the woman, the mothers club would be – would help in it. And what she did was sit at the end of the line and say your lunch today is 43 cents or whatever. And then there was another thing that I bet you haven't heard about, maybe you have, but I think it was very good, a very good educational thing. Is that you pay for everything by check and you deposited money at the school for things like your lunches and 00:29:00that sort of thing. And this gave an opportunity to really deal with money. And I think that was important for me, especially since I had to work my way through college for – what's going on here? Are we talking too long? Anyway, I worked my way through college and was very useful to have this experience of handling money.

Randolph: Right, the management. There are always lessons that outside of a classroom so that's a good example. I think of the kinds of things you learn that are not necessarily part of the curriculum. So yeah.

Aldrich: Another thing, I would expand Fish's idea of music to include drama as well. I think the experience of being in plays. We did a Shakespeare play every year, just about. That was to someone who was very embarrassed of speaking in 00:30:00public and blushed easily and all the problems that I had, the fact that you were assigned a role in a Shakespeare play every year, you have to very much get out of it. Especially when it was handled as well as I thought the drama people did it at North Shore.

Randolph: People often talk about that experience of being on stage, learning the poise that you learn, the ability to sort of – to deal with pressure in a public setting. People frequently cite that as a really important part of their experience. You know the school motto, it's live and serve. And I'm wondering if you had experiences here at North Shore Country Day School that helped cement 00:31:00that for you, that made that a part of your own belief system in terms of the way you – the career path you chose. The way you've chosen to live your life. If that was an – if that motto means something to you personally.

Aldrich: Well you see, I think live and serve, the serve part of it had to do with me. I was being taken care of by everybody else. I think I wasn't a – I played the Bishop of Carlisle in Richard the Second and I was not cut out for the Bishop by size or anything. But the idea that I had that task was really quite – it was a boost to my fragile ego at that time. And I think it was very helpful that you just were assumed to do it. And there are a lot of people that 00:32:00were no better than I was at it. But we put up with it. And I'll tell you one thing, a big experience for me in the area of drama was – and I'm sure this is part of Perry Smith's rehabilitation that somehow he signaled that I should be given this or that kind of opportunity, I was given the opportunity of directing a play. We did Shaw as well as Shakespeare and this is Androcles and the Lion. And you know, that was not my forte but I worked very hard at it. And I wanted to do it right and I bothered the drama people about minutia about it and so on. And the students, the people who were in the play, the idea that I was directing anything was really most scary and kind of unreal, but I did do it. And then the 00:33:00night – the day before the play was to begin, the guy that played Androcles came down with scarlet fever. And I was the logical person to take over for him because I knew every line already. And there wasn't anybody else, at least there didn't seem to be. So I ended up in twenty-four hours going on stage as Androcles, as the main character in the play. And in some ways, Bill Van Horne was the Androcles. He was quite tall and big fellow. And I was quite short and 00:34:00that's the right part for Androcles. And my wife in the thing was Jean Ward who was a head taller than I was and much bigger and it was sort of like [unintelligible] and Coco, the big threatening woman and the poor little guy. And it worked very well. And I got a boost out of that. I got enough of a boost so that I could attack college with so much different – in comparison to my colleagues, other people in the class. I felt – I didn't have this feeling of inadequacy and so on that I had at the beginning of North Shore. And I think Perry Smith's efforts were – and the whole school went along with it because I guess if you don't go – didn't go along with Perry Smith you went to New Trier or somewhere. And I think that helped.

Randolph: That's a big thing to happen in just a few years, to go from lacking confidence to having confidence. That's a great gift and I think – I know that 00:35:00the school is pleased that it helped. And I know you've certainly given back to the school as much as the school gave to you. So it's a happy – as I said to Mr. Howe yesterday, it's a happy relationship this, the school- yours and the school's and there are many, many of those relationships that I've come to learn about and know about over the years and that's part of why we're telling this story is because it is a story of relationships at its core.

Aldrich: Yeah. I'll tell you what. You've got time for another anecdote?

Randolph: I do. I just have a little bit more time but I don't want to wear you out either so I want to be respectful of your time.

Aldrich: I'm fine. This was about 1929 when I was probably – I was fifteen I guess. And the crash had just happened and a girl – a family at North Shore, I 00:36:00don't think I'd better identify the family – they know about it. The father was a bond – stock and bond business and he was wiped out by the crash. And he had come to the end of his grace period of his insurance, he was well insured, he came to the end of it. And he killed himself. He sat at his desk and he shot himself or I don't know what or jumped out the window or something. Anyway, he killed himself. At least that is the story that we heard. This is just rumors 00:37:00because the newspaper didn't publish, or at least I don't think they did. Anyways, I wasn't sure what it was. And I remember very keenly, I was standing in what was the name? Not Knollslea – Knollslea was the old building wasn't it?

Randolph: Right, right. It was.

Aldrich: What was the building of the upper school?

Randolph: Dunlap Hall.

Aldrich: Huh?

Randolph: Dunlap Hall.

Aldrich: Dunlap. I was sitting in Dunlap Hall looking out and I was planning and going out on the walkway down towards the gym and I saw coming up towards Knollslea Hall quite a ways away one of the daughters of this guy that had killed himself. It was, I guess, her first day back to school after that and she was dressed in black. And she was sort of looking down and I was supposed to go by her. I felt – I did not know what to say. And I was afraid I would say the 00:38:00wrong thing and all that sort of thing. So I turned off and went towards someplace else and we passed and she never knew that. And I thought after, that was not living and serving. I should know – I should have known or should have said something. And of course, now I know that all I would have had to say would be I'm so sorry or something like that. But I didn't know at the time and I was petrified. And then I felt very ashamed of myself. And I think that may be – have something to do with the fact that one of the areas in which I work as a psychiatrist, my particular interest is in grief. Grief and its accompanying feelings, shame, guilt and so on that make it from a normal to a psychiatric 00:39:00kind of problem. I think that probably I have that as a very vivid memory of my – I think I was a first year – no, what was I? Second year. I guess I was a sophomore.

Randolph: That's interesting that you have – that that kind of vivid memory is connected to a path that you chose to go career wise. That's fascinating.

Aldrich: Yeah. Although I really didn't think – I didn't – I don't think – how do you know, but I don't think that my experience as a child had as much to do with my selection of a profession as it would seem logical for it to do. I had a – I had some very good teachers beside David Corkran. One was Howard E.A. Jones who taught physics. And I was good at it, and he was a very fine teacher I thought. And I thought I was going to be an architect, and I was going 00:40:00to go to school there and my mother, who liked to plan things out for me said, yes you can go there and then you go to MIT for a Masters degree and then you go to the Sorbonne and you learn all about how to be an architect. And so I went to Wesleyan and I – I didn't have to take first year physics or first year English, two big mistakes because I was really lost in an advanced physics course and I really disappeared out of that and went into mathematics, which I 00:41:00was much more – found much more easy on me. And I was going to be an actuary until my junior year when I had taken a psychology course and I found that I could use, statistics were more interesting with psychology than they were with insurance. With live people than dead people I guess it was.

Randolph: I agree with that.

Aldrich: So I started to be a – I was going to be an actuary and I started taking advanced degree in psychology but mostly the psychology of testing. And that's how I got in because then I found out that the guy that really presses the buttons in mental health is the psychiatrist, not the psychologist. And I didn't want to be having to rely on somebody else. So I – at the last minute I switched over in college to pre-med and instead of having nice cut courses in 00:42:00my senior year I had to spend all afternoon in the laboratory.

Randolph: Well it served you well and lots of other people well.

Aldrich: Where did you go to college?

Randolph: I went to Pepperdine University out in California where both my parents actually taught. My parents are retired college professors.

Aldrich: Are they? What'd they teach?

Randolph: My dad taught History and my mom taught Literature.

Aldrich: You just combined David Corkran.

Randolph: That's right.

Aldrich: I've just found recently that my grandson who is a senior in college this year has decided that he is going to take a Masters in Education but what he wants to do is to teach history at a high school level.

Randolph: You need to send him to North Shore Country Day School so I can meet him and we can have a conversation about it. You can never have enough good 00:43:00teachers. It would be a pleasure to meet him and I'm sure he'll be like his grandfather, articulate and interesting and make a huge difference for people.

Aldrich: I think I may have had something to do with it, just a tiny little bit.

Randolph: My guess is you're being a little modest. You probably had quite a bit to do with it actually.

Aldrich: About two years ago, he said he was thinking of this. And I said, well I had found important to, he said the way they do it in college these days you take history courses in very minute areas in the Russo-Japanese wars, something like that, instead of overall. And I said, you really need to learn the whole history of American history. I said and particularly European history.

Randolph: Specialization is the – is in many respects what history is all about these days. And generalists, which is what you're talking about, and what I would consider myself, generalists are a bit out of fashion. But you know what, we'll just be patient and we'll come back.

Aldrich: Did you ever read a book by Schevill?

Randolph: I don't know it, no.

Aldrich: Schevill – Professor in Chicago. And I gave Matthew Aldrich, my grandson, I gave him my copy. And it was a wonderful book. It gives the background European history.

Randolph: I will look it up. My father was a professor of French history in particular and European history in general so I'm a little partial to that.

Aldrich: I'm sure he knew of Schevill.

Randolph: I bet he does. I want to be cognizant of the time. I want to tell you, you're a great storyteller by the way. And it was just a pleasure to listen to 00:45:00you tell stories and to talk about – and to reminisce about the school. And it really was. And you're so kind and generous to take the amount of time you have –

Aldrich: At my age you've got a lot of time.

Randolph: Yeah.

Aldrich: You don't have a lot of time on one hand, but on the other hand you do have a lot of time.

Randolph: It sounds to me like you've got a lot of time and you tell great stories. So my feeling this may not be the last conversation you and I have about this subject.

Aldrich: I hope that's true. And I'll brag a little bit, have you read my book in history?

Randolph: I have not, but I'm sure going to –

Aldrich: Oh you haven't. Well too bad.

Randolph: I bet Nancy has a copy. And if she doesn't, then we're going to track one down because now you better believe I want to look at it. Absolutely I do.

Aldrich: The book is called Quest for a Star.

Randolph: OK.

Aldrich: And it is about – it is – I wrote about the - yes I'll be there in 00:46:00a minute Shirley - I wrote about the – my – the letters and the diaries of my great grandfather.

Randolph: Fantastic.

Aldrich: His Civil War diaries. And he was from Chicago and he was a political appointee because his father was the Mayor of Chicago during the Civil War.

Randolph: Oh interesting.

Aldrich: And the mayors, as you know, appointed the commanders or the chiefs of 00:47:00the regiments. And so he was – he became Colonel of the regiment. Not because of his military skills but because of his father. And immediately he decided he should be promoted to Brigadier General, hence Quest for a Star.

Randolph: There it is.

Aldrich: He spent the whole war trying to figure out ways of becoming the Brigadier General.

Randolph: Family history is the best history.

Aldrich: Have you got two seconds for one more anecdote?

Randolph: Of course, absolutely.

Aldrich: My father and his father had their problems together. My grandfather was a kind of a pirate. He was a Republican politician. He'd been an engineer by 00:48:00trade and he'd been a- he was the Commissioner of Public Works for Chicago. And he never got over – and he had a long story of being – he was the Campaign Manager for Speaker Reed in his campaign for the nomination that McKinley got. And that was the end of my great – my grandfather's career. But he still thought my father should be as interested in Chicago politics and Chicago people as he was. And so he was always on my father when I saw him. And my father gritted his teeth and let it go. But I remember one time driving down through Lincoln Park on Sheridan Road or going to Sheridan Road, this is before the Outer Drive, going down there. And my grandfather in the front seat harrangueing my father who was driving. My mother and I were in the back seat and one of the things I remember is that my grandfather said, I suppose, Sherman, to my father, 00:49:00that your interest in what's important to this family is such that you don't even know the name of that horse. And he, with a grand gesture, pointed his finger at the equestrian statue of Philip Sheridan, which is somewhere in Lincoln Park. I remember that very, very clearly. And so then he turned to me and he said, well I hope that I will be more interested in that sort of thing. And I have been because the horse was given to Sheridan when Sheridan got his star, and was the one that he rode from Winchester to something or other, forty 00:50:00miles away I think – the poem about the battle in the Shenandoah Valley that he rallied his troops. And that horse was put to pasture was my great grandfather was on Sheridan's staff for most of the war, was one of his – so he took the horse on his farm, that he had a farm down in southern Illinois and that's where he – that's where that horse died, and the horse is now stuffed in the Smithsonian Museum.

Randolph: That's great.

Aldrich: That's how I got involved in writing this story.

Randolph: Well I'm going to see if Nancy has a copy and if she doesn't we're going to track one down because it sounds like a great read to me.

Aldrich: University of Tennessee Press.

Randolph: I'll go after it today.

Aldrich: OK.

Randolph: Dr. Aldrich I want to tell you, it was just - it was a pleasure to talk to you. It really was. You live in such a beautiful place. I've been to Charlottesville lots of time, it's such a pretty place. It's – I hope our paths cross. I'd love to sit down with you some afternoon there in that beautiful place and listen to you tell more stories.

Aldrich: Well you better hurry up because I'm ninety-eight years old.

Randolph: I know but –

Aldrich: I can't live forever.

Randolph: I feel like I'll get there in time because I think you've got a long ways still to go, I'll tell you.

Aldrich: I hope so.

Randolph: It was a treat to talk to you today, thanks so much for your time.

Aldrich: Say hello to –


Knight Aldrich


Kevin Randolph

Interview Format


Interview Duration





North Shore Country Day School, “Interview with Knight Aldrich - part two,” North Shore Country Day School Archives, accessed July 13, 2024,


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