I grew up,
along with two brothers and a sister, in Winchester, a suburb close to
Boston, during the 1940's and 50's. I attended the Winchester public
schools through high school, and applied to Yale at a time when she was
looking for public school students.
years there and, by then, 17 years in school, I was looking for a change.
The Peace Corps was then very new, very much in the news, very much a "thing
to do," and offered a way to do something very different and very far away,
and get paid (at least a little bit) for doing it. So I applied and was
offered a position in the first Turkey project. That seemed far enough away,
and I signed on.
account of the next two years, see below . . .)
U. S. via the Orient Express (in the other direction) through Europe to
Great Britain for a month-long car tour of London, England and Ireland,
thence via Cunard Liner to Montreal, a grand reunion with family, and back
home to Boston area.
Mustang in October 1964. (Traded it in 4 years later.)
for what turned out to be 35 rewarding and productive years on about 20
different jobs within the company in New England and in the western
Connecticut - eastern New York area. Retired at midnight on December 31,
Janet Woodruff, November 27, 1965, for what has turned out to be 46 very
rewarding and happy years, and counting.
We have two
daughters, both now around 40, one in Connecticut and the other in Seattle.
We have two grandchildren, 7 and 11, in Seattle.
We lived in
eastern Massachusetts for 4 years, southern New Hampshire for 5 years, and
in Sherman, Connecticut (on the NY border, population now 4200) for the past
37 years, and counting.
shared our lives with a series of between 1 and 4 horses during all that
time, as well as a series of dogs and cats, along with the occasional goat.
I have been
retired for 12 years now, and counting. I am healthy (knock, knock) and
expect to be active at least long enough to participate in the 75th
Now, about Turkey . . .
was an educational experience in the traditional sense, the Peace Corps was
certainly one in a non-traditional sense. Whereas pretty much all of my
life before and after the Peace Corps has been conducted in familiar
territory (New England) doing familiar things (school, job, family),
surrounded by familiar people (Americans), the Peace Corps was not that.
with the intense 10-week training course at the University of Maryland
(Washington in summertime!), then traveling far away from the familiar to
the exotic setting of "Turkey," and being dropped into a position as an
English teacher in the city of Gaziantep in one of the far corners of that
country, surrounded by
strangers, learning a strange language, amid a strange culture, with strange
rules, and surviving all of that for a year, only to
move to the very different city of Giresun, in a different far corner of the
country for another year . . . those two years remain
the most intense, sustained, challenging years of my
two main themes to my time in Turkey. On the one hand, I was a teacher in
the everyday society of Turkey, going about the business of finding and
occupying an apartment (along with one or two other PCV's), shopping,
preparing meals, preparing lessons, conducting classes (with as many as 80
kids in a classroom), giving tests, grading, disciplining, passing the time
with other teachers, visiting, running evening classes, running basketball
or soccer activities for kids, and so on.
the low times: not being able to find an apartment for several weeks,
living three in a room with a bathroom (such as it was) down the hall;
facing a class of 50 or 60 kids ages 12 or 14, with perhaps some idea of how
to teach English, but essentially no training in how to manage a class or
maintain discipline; planning, scheduling and announcing an activity
or event and having nobody show up; living very near a restaurant that had a
very loud radio that played Turkish music all day long to attract customers
. . . being away -- and I mean really far away -- from all that was
familiar, with no newspapers nor magazines nor English radio nor
television nor any communication with that familiar world beyond
the occasional letter from home and a once-a-month newsletter
from PC Ankara . . .
were the better times: figuring out eventually how to run a class, and
having those 50 or 60 kids all leaning forward, with hands up, learning
English; going to the food market each day with a string bag to bring home
lovely fruits and vegetables, and lamb, and whipping up a meal fit for a
king; planning and scheduling and announcing another event and having 100
people show up; exploring the castle at the center of town, and the bazaar
with its tiny stalls for copper-smithing or wood working or leather working
or tin-smithing or any of 100 other activities, probably unchanged in its
ways for hundreds of years; visiting a student's family for dinner, or for
a day back in his village, using my ever-broadening command of the language
not merely to communicate, but to entertain and be entertained . . . telling
a joke in Turkish.
On the other
hand, during all this I also spent a good deal of time reading, particularly
about East and West. One of the trunkful of books the Peace Corps provided
for us was by Herbert J. Muller, at the time a professor of English and
Government at the University of Indiana. He had earlier taught at the
University of Istanbul. He wrote a series of books, including The Loom
of History and Freedom in the Ancient World, that served to
introduce me to the broad and fundamental differences between Eastern and
Western civilizations, the slow but steady evolution and spread of "western"
civilization during the past 2500 years, and the incessant friction between
East and West.
of course, an ideal place to be exposed to these ideas, because it was --
and continues to be -- the clearest and most prominent example of a people,
a nation, working to contain, to understand and to resolve the differences.
Until the end of World War I Turkey was that most "eastern" of
civilizations, the Ottoman Empire. Beginning with the founding of the
Turkish Republic it was a most aggressive adopter of all things "western,"
especially a secular, constitutional government rigidly separated from
religious influence and with a determinedly capitalistic approach to its
economy. (Not all of that is quite so true today, but in 1962 it seemed
very much to be the case.)
largely ignorant of that history at the time, and of the policies of the
government, and of the ins and outs of politics of the time. But I was very
much aware of the day-to-day details of this. I saw how people lived, how
they behaved hour-by-hour and day-by day, how they behaved toward one
another, how they earned a living, how they thought about things. I spent
time with the teachers, most of whom had been educated in Ankara and
Istanbul, many in Europe, and who were very much "western," or wanted to be
western, in their thinking and in the conduct of their lives. I spent time
in the near-by villages, with the families of students, where life was
conducted, in most ways, as it had been for a thousand years before.
And I spent
a good deal of time traveling around Turkey, visiting the sites of ancient
and not-so-ancient civilizations, both "eastern" and "western" --
Hittites, and Trojans, and Ionian Greeks, and Romans and Byzantines and
Crusaders and Seljuk Turks and Ottoman Turks. Antioch, Ephesus,
Halicarnassus (site of the Mausoleum of Seven Wonders fame), Pergamum, Konya
. . . and Istanbul, home to them all.
exposure -- through the books I was reading, the places I was visiting and
through the minute-by-minute observations of daily life -- to the
differences between East and West, was fascinating to me at the time, has
been the strongest and most persistent residue of my time in Turkey, and has
provided an invaluable background against which to assess the struggles
going on today around the world.
Turkey, after the Peace Corps, life was less intense. I came home, got a
job with IBM, married Janet and together we brought up two daughters. The
job at IBM lasted for 35 years. Since retiring I have helped Janet run her
newspaper business here in Sherman, Connecticut, and helped the Planning and
Zoning Commission manage some of the affairs of the town. I spent a part of
most days the first three years of retirement reading about the human neural
system, and contemplating and writing about the subject of consciousness.
(I intend to return to that subject, someday.)
of that neither Turkey nor the Peace Corps was a major part of my life; but
Turkey, especially, was always there, and I have marveled at the increasing
presence of Turkey and things Turkish in our lives here in America. I read
whatever crops up in the newspapers about developments there; in recent
years that has grown to be an almost daily occurrence. At first rarely, but
more and more frequently in recent years I have met Turks in the course of
everyday life: a Turkish systems engineer working for IBM in 1968; a family
at the airport waiting for a plane to visit their relatives back home; the
manager of a local liquor store (half German, half Turkish) who sold me Yeni
Raki and advised me on the several Turkish restaurants within an hour's
drive of the country town of Sherman; Turkish students at Yale. Turks
showing up on NBA basketball teams - even my own Celtics. America's young
soccer star, Freddy Adu, playing for a bit with Rizespor (or was it Orduspor).
Diana Taurasi playing for Fenerbahçe.