In Chapter 1 of my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book, I give the narrative details of my expulsion from William and Mary in the fall of 1961 for telling the Dean of Men that I was “latent homosexual”.
To support arguments about a number of matters that will be made later, it is useful to give a detailed chronology of that fall semester as best I can remember it. There is a Blogger entry for this incident, here.
April 29, 1961 (Saturday). I take a competitive exam in chemistry at William and Mary resulting in winning a scholarship. I had stayed in the dorm. Two other students from the Science Honor Society had ridden down with the chemistry teacher. On April 28, we had visited the paper plant in West Point, VA.
May 26-30, 1961 (Friday-Tuesday). With other members of the Science Honor Society, driven by one parent and a physics teacher, we visit New Hampshire and drive up Mt. Washington on May 28. We stay in Boston two nights and in a family cabin in the Sandwich area of NH two nights.
September 7, 1961 (Thursday). My best high school friend, whom I will call Michael, takes me to the movies to see “The Guns of Navarone”, in downtown Washington DC, I believe at the RKO Keith’s theater.
September 9, 1961 (Sat.). My parents and I leave for Williamsburg from Arlington in an old Ford Galaxie. I recall driving some of it, especially Route 60 between Richmond and Williamsburg. I-64 had not been built yet. We stay at the Williamsburg Inn.
September 10, 1961. Around 10 AM, I check into Brown Hall, room 205. I seem to recall we brought our own bedding, which my father helped me move. My roommate, from Roanoke, who remains unnamed, appears at around noon and we meet. We had exchanged letters. In the afternoon, we have an outdoor welcome assembly with Dean Lambert, Dean of Students.
September 11, 1961, Monday, 40 years to the date before the 9/11 attacks. We start placement exams. I remember the English composition placement.
September 17, 1961, Sunday. I attend a welcome at a large Baptist church near campus.
September 18, 1961, Monday. Classes begin. MWF I have Calculus at 9 AM, Physics at 11 AM, English at 1 PM (roommate has same instructor, a young man from Australia, at 8 AM). PE is at 3 PM. Mondays, I think Physics Lab was at 2 PM Wednesdays, but I recall little of it. Physics Recitation was on Fridays at 2 PM. Chemistry (Qual Analysis) lecture is at 9 AM TTh, and Lab is at 1 PM TTh.
September 20, 1961 (Wed). We have to turn in a writing sample to the instructor, with grade not to count. My roommate wrote about his clock-radio. I don’t recall what I did on this theme.
September 27, 1961 (Wed). We have to turn in our first theme for a grade, requiring a technique of “definition”. I write about “friendship” (approximate outline here ). The roommate reads it (this was OK under the Honor System as long as he didn’t use it). Later that day, or the next, he reacts to my brightly colored shirts and says that only homosexuals wear clothes like this. (My own father, somewhat flamboyant, liked brightly colored shirts. Totally untrue.)
Sept. 29, 1961 (Friday). Freshmen boys are supposed to report to a basement of another dorm for “tribunals” where hazing is to take place, including leg shaving. I simply skip out.
Oct. 1, 1961 (Monday). At dinner in the common dining room, I meet a John, freshman student from California, with a considerable music background. (explained here on my drama blog).
Oct. 20, 1961 (Saturday). I check out a record from the college library to play in the music listening rooms, with John; we also sometimes used piano rooms. In the checkout line, there is another guy who mentions what happened to him at the Tribunals, which I had skipped. “Mine grew back,” he says. My roommate communicates how people from his hometown despise classical music; he can’t stand the Brahms Second Symphony when it plays in the room from the clock radio.
Oct. 27, 1961 (Saturday). By now I have a reputation on campus for getting good grades, especially on math and chemistry tests and English themes. There have been a couple of dorm counselor sessions where I have been teased, and been asked about what “69” means. There has also been one inappropriate sign on my dorm door. But today, I go to see the film “Splendor in the Grass” which recalls my own senior year to me and also introduces mental illness. My roommate sees it later in the day, but returns emotionally spent. The Wordsworth poem has been read in English class. For the next couple of weeks, he seems much less concerned about “me”.
Oct. 28 (Sunday night). I go to infirmary with a severe sore throat. While there, I notice a football player’s leg being shaved for bandages. The player would later taunt me in the cafeteria. I get a shot of penicillin and return to the dorm, and recover very quickly. (Maybe that’s good; for all I know, it could have been meningitis.)
Note that on Oct. 27-28 the Berlin Wall crisis came to a head, but on campus we didn’t notice.
Nov. 4, 1961 (Saturday) John and I see the film “Aimez-vous Brahms” which uses the C Minor intermezzo in the Third Symphony in the background. The Williamsburg Theater, on Duke of Gloucester Street two blocks from the dorm, changes films every two days but does offer foreign films. I remember previews to “Hiroshima Mon Amour”. John would at one time ask me whether “music was in my blood.”
Nov. 19, 1961 (Sunday). With sleet outdoors, we sit on the porch of Brown and some boys again quiz me about homosexuality.
Nov. 21, 1961 We have a second laboratory exam in Qual, which I don’t think I did very well on. Dr. Armstrong has asked me not hum music in lab! (Tuesday night). My roommate, who slept in the top bunk, says he is worried about continuing to room with me, and metaphorically says he fears becoming impotent, theorizing about my expected “super strength” while in a trance, an odd expectation from a weakling. He also has told the story of witnessing an abuse at a summer camp in 1960.
Nov. 23. 1961 (Thanksgiving Day). College does not let out for the weekend, just the day. May parents take me and John to dinner at the Williamsburg Inn. We go for a drive in Jamestown and explore the ruins of the colony and walk along the James River. It is sunny, breezy, and cool, temperature in the low 50s.
Nov. 24, 1961. It is cloudy, even foggy, and warmer. I spend the day uneventfully, I go to physics recitation in the afternoon and remember a demonstration of the gyroscope. The instructor makes a strange gesture, at one point grabbing my lower leg. Late in the afternoon, I apparently go to the library in Rogers Hall along the garden to study. I return to the dorm right around 5 PM.
I find the now legendary handwritten note on the door, with no envelope, mentioning recent room inspections and concerns about patent medicines in the room. I am asked to see the Dean of Men, Carson Barnes, immediately. I think it is strange that he would wait all day the Day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”) to see me. I walk outside, where it has just turned dark, but is still foggy and mild, about 60 degrees. It takes maybe four minutes to get to the entrance of Wren Hall. I enter the building, and climb a stairway to the second floor. The Dean’s office is on the north side (Richmond Road) side of the building. The building has been considerably restored and renovated since 1961 and that path can no longer be recreated. My conversation with him is as described in Chapter 1 of the first DADT book. I believe he is leading me on about homosexuality, so I tell him I think I am a “latent homosexual”. He asks how to contact my parents, who had left for Charlotte, NC that morning to visit friends. He specifically reassures me that I won’t be asked to leave school.
I believe he would have reached my parents with an operator-assisted call at about 8 PM. I have been in that house before. There was a conventional rotary phone on a night table between the two bedrooms in a hall (only one floor). My father would have taken the call. Imagine the conversation (for a screenplay). He probably would have told mother about it when they went to bed. The left Monday morning to return to Williamsburg Monday night. Imagine what this must have been like for them.
Nov. 27, 1961. My parents meet me at the dorm. We have an uneventful supper. That evening, I study in the room. That might will be the 79th in the dorm, the last.
Nov. 28, 1961. I go to the 9 AM Qualitative Analysis class as usual. At 10 AM, as agreed, my father is supposed to pick me up at the corner of Duke of Gloucester Street (then open to traffic) and Richmond Road. It is sunny, windy, and not much above freezing, the first really cold day of the coming winter. My parents were to meet the Dean at his office in the Wren Building at 9 AM.
My parents indeed swing by at around 10:10 AM, and my father’s first words are, “This is going to come as a blow to you Bill, but we have to take you out of school.” The Dean had lied. Supposedly he had conferred with the President of the College, Davis Young Paschall, and I had to go.
We go back to the Dean’s office. The Dean says I can return for the second semester if a psychiatrist certifies that it is OK. I just have “certain anxieties.” (Sounds like DADT repeal certification!) I even ask we could just speak to an Eastern State psychiatrist and get the cert. I had expected a roommate separation, but not this. These “thoughts and feelings” had a certain meaning for others, and I had hardly considered where they could go, or that others had certain notions about “what homosexuals do.” Even that idea had become a subject of rumor and urban legends.
My father asks me to help carry some bedding or sheets down to the car, and points to some stain, and says, “This is how I know you are not a homosexual.” Later, he would say that I had “pinned a label on myself” (the way you “pin” an app to a notification icon bar in Windows). Everything being said was so nonsensical and so far from any legitimate science or truth, in an otherwise liberalizing culture. They couldn’t face what this could mean for them, down the road. My father would say I had just “made a mistake” and later correctly note and chide that I didn’t “see people as people” but as foils.
We have lunch in a commercial cafeteria. I wonder what will happen, if I will be institutionalized anyway.
I recall the ride home that cold afternoon. It went down to 18 that night in Arlington the first night home.
Nov. 30, 1961 (Friday). My father takes me to visit the first psychiatrist we can find, whose home is somewhere near Western Ave. in the Chevy Chaser area. The appointment is at 6 PM and is an “emergency”. (“There are no psychiatric emergencies” – to quote a boyfriend and clinical psychologist from Dallas in the 1980’s.) I remember be asked to describe my mother. After the 1 hour session (which costs $25) the doctor tells my father, “Well, I don’t really see that he has a problem with homosexuality.”
Dec. 6, 1961 (Wednesday). My father and I meet with Dean Ruth, of Admissions, about going to GWU in the spring semester. The Dean doesn’t ask what happens, but only wants to know that it won’t affect academic work. (It’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”, 1961 style.) I get a brief tour of the campus, and see people working vigorously in an organic chemistry laboratory on the third floor of Cororan Hall, doing preps.
Dec. 13, 1961 (Wednesday). “Michael” has returned from the first quarter at VPI (now Virginia Tech) and visits me in the afternoon. The visit creates some anticipation. I tell him what happened. He is sympathetic, but does say that my “telling” was unnecessary and “stupid”. He seems to think the world is going to change.
Jan. 28, 1962 (Sunday). John comes up from Williamsburg for a few days between semesters, riding the bus on a day of heavy snow in Williamsburg and Richmond that misses DC.
Feb. 5, 1962 (Monday). In snow flurries, I start classes at GWU, the first being German, the next being Analytic Geometry, with English Literature in the afternoon. Chemistry will come Feb. 6. I remember even the K-Street first bus ride home, a 2-T bus. The Metro was still twenty years off.
Tom Baker gives an account of his own experience at William and Mary in 1963 in his book “The Sound of One Horse Dancing”, review here.
It is significant that at the time William and Mary admitted twice as many male freshmen as female.
Other parts to the video:
I did find a picture of my SAT scores from 1959-1961 in high school.
First published Friday January 10, 2013 around 5 PM EST.
Footnote key: “DADT3-C2-0001-20140110-31-U”