Saturday, August 24, 2019

On This Day in 1981

So, on this day, Monday August 24th 1981, I first saw, and worked with, Tolkien manuscripts. I'd  arrived in Milwaukee by train on the 22nd, having moved sight unseen to a city I'd never visited before and where the number of people there I knew, or had even met, was exactly none. There must have been some paperwork confirming that I'd been admitted to the graduate school and granted a Teaching Assistantship in the English department, but all I remember are two letters I'd received from Chuck Elston at the Archives, the first saying that no, they couldn't send me photocopies of any of their manuscripts, and the second saying that I could certainly look at their Tolkien manuscripts if I came to Marquette in person.

The days leading up to this had been busy ones: my mother dropping me off at the train station in Little Rock late in the afternoon of Friday the 21st (so she cd get well on the way back to Magnolia before dark), my catching the train around midnight and arriving in Milwaukee around six or so the evening of the 22nd, then finding my new apartment (which took a while, due to the inability of the cab driver to find the building). Sunday I either walked or took the bus* down to the Sears on Mitchell Street and got some kitchen essentials, like a set of three or four pots and pans.** Monday I reported to the English Department and started their training for new TAs, which ran the week before classes started (both the ones we'd be teaching and the ones we'd be taking). That same day I went into the Archives for the first time and met both Chuck Elston, the Archivist, and Terry Margherita, the Archives secretary.

My reading list records that I read MR BLISS that day,*** and I still have a complete transcription of that then unpublished work that I made in those early days, followed I think by what I cd transcribe of the two earliest versions of FARMER GILES (which has always been a favorite of mine).

That evening I read John Bellairs'  THE FACE IN THE FROST, for the first of what turned out to be many times. I'd previously known only through a paragraph quoted in my friend Franklin Chestnut's master's thesis, so when I saw it in the university bookstore I bought it right away. It quickly became one of my favorite books (I read it again four days later****); that it gave me nightmares might have been partly to my reading it in a near-empty apartment in a strange city.

And I'm currently making plans for my next visit to Milwaukee in September to spend a week working with the Tolkien manuscripts there. The more things change . . .

--John R.
--current reading: just finished a near-final draft of a Master's Thesis (good!)
--currently reading a small book on J. M. W. Turner, about who I know next to nothing; enjoying this as well.

*I was without a car most of my years in Milwaukee
**one of these later figured in the exploding skillet story, but I'll save that for another time
***it's number seven (#II.7) in my restarted list

1 comment:

Trotter said...

The day before, 23rd August 1981, in the UK the BBC broadcast episode 25 "Homeward Bound" as part of the BBC Lord of the Rings Radio series