36

II University Education

University of Manitoba (B.A.). 1927

Shearer

I remember your saying that it was--was it tuition free? Was that part of the appeal of the University of Manitoba?


Hayakawa

Well, it was pretty low tuition, because I don't remember anything about tuition.


Shearer

Was it close enough to home so that you didn't need to--?


Hayakawa

Well, we went by streetcar.


Shearer

I see. So it was a commuter situation.


Hayakawa

Yes. And the University of Manitoba wasn't much in those days either because, you know, I get that alumni magazine from the University of Manitoba now. No building that we ever went to is part of the University of Manitoba now. In fact, all those buildings have probably been torn down.


Shearer

How do you recall the University of Manitoba? How would you characterize the campus?


Hayakawa

Well, it wasn't really a campus at all. In the first place, many of the classes were held in what used to be law offices, but the lawyers had moved on to better sites, offices somewhere else. Some of the buildings we had at the University of Manitoba were--I don't know if you call them quonset huts or something of that kind. They were temporary shelters, and the real building of the university with its own buildings didn't happen until long after I left Winnipeg. The medical school was way at the other end of town. And the hospital. The agriculture school was way in another suburb. The university was pretty split up in the different parts of town. But we were the liberal arts people.



37
Shearer

Roughly speaking, how many liberal arts students?


Hayakawa

I just don't remember. I would say it's a very small college, by American or contemporary standards.


Shearer

Maybe three hundred? Would it be drawing from all over the province?


Hayakawa

I would say there were more than that. I would say there were almost up to a thousand, but I don't know. There was one college, for example, called Wesley College, which started out as a Methodist college, but it became part of the University of Manitoba. They got their diploma saying "University of Manitoba," not "Wesley College." And so on for the ag school, which was way out in some other part of town. They all went to ag school, but their diploma said University of Manitoba.


Shearer

You knew when you entered what you were going to study?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

Did you have a favorite class?


Hayakawa

Oh, yes. We had an attractive and enthusiastic English teacher, with whom we read Longfellow's Evangeline. She brought all our reading of poetry to life.

I was sixteen when I finished high school, which at that time took three years. A fourth year, also given at the high school, counted as the first year of colege. So I entered the University of Manitoba as a sophomore. At that time, the University, having no buildings of its own, conducted its classes in abandoned law offices a block or two away from the provincial parliament buildings. Today the University of Manitoba has a fine set of buildings in a suburb, but these were built long after I had left, and I have never seen them.


Shearer

How were the courses taught?


Hayakawa

They were mostly lecture courses. Of course, there were nice lab courses in chemistry, geology, and so on. They had a pretty large and intellectually respectable program, despite the fact that they didn't have any buildings worth a damn. I know one of my good friends was a geology major, and after he got his Ph.D., he was a really distinguished geologist--a real professional. It was the same with all the guys I attended college with. And the women too. They went on from there to medical school; they went on to scientific fields; they went to other Canadian


38
universities. I felt that we had a very good university, except for the buildings.

##


Shearer

I think you told me last time that you were living with your friends the Allisons when you were attending the University of Manitoba.


Hayakawa

Yes. You see, my father and mother and my little sisters took off for Japan, because Father moved his headquarters from Winnipeg and Montreal to Osaka. Father found himself offices and a home, and my mother joined him there with my two young sisters. My brother Fred (my brother's two years younger than I) went to Montreal to live with some relatives there, and I stayed in Winnipeg and moved in with the Allisons. Have I told you about the Allisons? He was professor of English, William Talbot Allison. He had two sons who were my very good friends, Gerard and Carlyle. Carlyle's been dead for some years, and Gerard has just died. And there is a daughter, too--Mary Josephine, or Mary Jo. I went to live with them when I was about eighteen years old, or nineteen. Mary Jo is still alive. She lives in Vancouver.


Shearer

It's wonderful to keep those associations for such a long time. I believe you said that you had worked as a delivery boy for a photofinisher, delivery person during high school. Did you change jobs, or did you continue to work when you were at the University of Manitoba?


Hayakawa

By the time I was at the University of Manitoba, I was through with that job. That was pretty much an after-school job. The work I did later was with my father's importing company. He imported all kinds of stuff from Japan--toys, Christmas tree ornaments. Another thing that he imported was light bulbs for automobiles.


Shearer

For the headlights?


Hayakawa

Headlights and taillights and so on. What you have now is a reflector and the bulb all together in one unit. In those days, you had one reflector and then the bulb in the middle. The bulb would burn out, and you'd take the front lens out--


Mrs. Hayakawa

Like a flashlight.


Hayakawa

Yes. So, there was a big market in automobile light bulbs. Father imported an awful lot of those.



39
Shearer

So that was your employment during your time at the University of Manitoba?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

What about--how did you arrange your academic life and social life and job? Was that difficult?


Hayakawa

Let me see. Ultimately, I think that the wholesale firm of which my father was head just closed up there, and moved all the operations to Montreal. My brother Fred went to Montreal, and my father's brother Harold was head of the Montreal office. I was left all alone. That's when I moved in with the Allisons.


Shearer

Did you date during that time? Or did you focus mainly on studies?


Hayakawa

Socializing with the girls and so on came much later in life in those days, and in Canada, than they do here. Dating by couples was almost unthinkable. It began only in college, if it began even then. We were very shy with each other.


Shearer

Were there group parties and group excursions?


Hayakawa

There were group parties every now and then, yes. The group excursions I remember best of all were in the dead of winter, when we would have snow shoe hikes which would end up as moccasin dances.


Shearer

Oh, yes, I remember. You told me that for the tape last time.


Hayakawa

Did I?


Shearer

Do you recall any social organizations such as fraternities or sororities?


Hayakawa

There were fraternities, yes.


Shearer

Did you belong to one?


Hayakawa

No.


Shearer

Do you remember why?


Hayakawa

No. I know Carlyle and Gerard, my friends who were the sons of the English professor with whom I lived, were never members of fraternities. I don't know who were the members of fraternities. The fraternity system must have been both very small and very exclusive. I knew nothing about them.



40
Shearer

You mentioned that there were women in your classes. Was the gender ratio pretty much equal?


Hayakawa

Pretty much, I would say. So many of them were going on to become teachers.


Shearer

Any particular faculty favorites, professors who impressed you?


Hayakawa

Of course, Professor Allison was a very favorite English professor of mine, too. He was very learned in that field. He had published some volumes of poetry.


Shearer

Which you have?


Hayakawa

I have at least one. He was not a great poet, by any means. His verse was very Victorian, as if he was imitating Tennyson, which he was. And Shelley and Keats.


Shearer

Did he seem a great poet to you in those days?


Hayakawa

No. But he was a competent poet, in the sense that when he finished a poem, it was a real, honest-to-God poem.


Shearer

Living in his household, did that give you an especially enriched education?


Hayakawa

Oh, yes, very much. In fact, Professor Allison wrote a weekly book review or column for a newspaper syndicate. When I was nineteen years old--I remember this very vividly--Professor Allison was way behind in his weekly column. I don't even remember what the subject was, but there was some subject on which he wanted to write a column but he didn't have time to do it, because other things were piling up. So he said, "Would you sketch one out for me?" So I did, and I wrote the column--the draft of a column--the right length. He read it over and said, "That's just fine; I'm going to send it out just the way it is." He sent it out over his name.


Shearer

Oh, he did?


Hayakawa

I think that's what happened. And then the next time, he sent it out over my name. Anyway, I was a columnist before anybody knew it.


Shearer

Well, you must have been--


Hayakawa

I was very thrilled, I was tickled to death.



41
Shearer

Do you recall the subject?


Hayakawa

I have no idea now. But he wrote a syndicated column for a number of Canadian newspapers.


Shearer

Was this in any way a model for your later entry into the newspaper column-writing field?


Hayakawa

Well, it really wasn't a model in the sense that I was already determined to be a writer anyway, and to get a chance to get one of my little essays published, even under his name, was a great step forward for me.


Shearer

Did you send the article back to your father in Japan?


Hayakawa

No, I don't think so.


Shearer

Did you have an opportunity to observe any educational approaches, teaching approaches, that interested you, or do you recall moments of excitement, teaching moments, in class or outside of class?


Hayakawa

No. Professor Allison was one of my better teachers, and I remember--I don't even remember his name--the teacher of Latin was very, very good. He would read aloud Latin poems, presumably in a proper Roman accent, and I found that very inspiring. My French professor was something of a dramatist, and he would read French poetry to us, with theatrical gestures. He was very good.


Shearer

Did you study languages then, too? You must have kept on with Latin, and did you also study French?


Hayakawa

Yes, I studied French.


Shearer

Were you ambitious to write poetry?


Hayakawa

Oh, yes. I was ambitious to write, it didn't matter what, so long as it could get published.

[interruption]


McGill University (M.A.). 1928

Shearer

You were just telling me about the French teacher who read poetry in French with great dramatic flourish, which you found inspiring. How did you settle on McGill?



42
Hayakawa

Soon after graduating with my B.A. from the University of Manitoba, Gerard, Professor Allison's oldest son, and I decided to take a cattle train to Montreal for a summer adventure. I cannot reconstruct how or where we had our meals on that train or where we slept.

The reason we were getting a free ride across the continent is that, in the event of a train derailment or wreck, the cattle would start running away and the railroad wanted a few extra men on the train to help recapture them. We really had nothing to do--no duties--except in the event of a train wreck and escaping cattle. Fortunately, nothing happened to the train and we were left off when we reached Toronto. I don't remembers now how we got from Toronto to Montreal. But I do remember meeting a few men and women friends in Toronto.

I had an uncle in Montreal, and my brother had gone to live with that uncle, Harold Saburo Hayakawa, and his English wife, Nora. Having found myself in Montreal, it naturally occurred to me to go to McGill University.


Shearer

Were there particular professors you had heard of?


Hayakawa

No, I didn't know a thing about McGill, except that it was Canada's most famous university.


Shearer

So you lived with your uncle and aunt--


Hayakawa

No, I didn't. I don't know how I organized this, but there was a student union building, and in the basement of that, there were a couple of rooms that could be occupied. I don't think I had to pay rent. I had to do some kind of chores for the building. So I stayed in that little basement room in the student union building for, I guess, almost two years. I worked for my M.A. degree there.


Shearer

Did Gerard or Carlyle follow with you to McGill, or did they go off to do other things?


Hayakawa

No. Carlyle went on to become a newspaper man and he spent the rest of his life at that. He died fairly young, in his sixties. Gerard died quite recently, on August 31 [1988], in Winnipeg. He was the oldest. He went to medical school and became a physician. I guess a reasonably successful one, but he's been retired from the medical profession for a long time now. He must have been eighty-six when he died. Their younger sister, Mary Jo, is the only one still alive. She lives in Vancouver.



43
Shearer

Do you remember Montreal in those days? What was it like to live there?


Hayakawa

Well, I loved McGill University very, very much. I enjoyed it. I wrote a column for the McGill Daily--I think that's the name of the paper--while I was there.


Shearer

What was the subject of your column, or did you have a particular subject?


Hayakawa

No, as I recall, it was not a column in the usual sense of an essay that goes all the way through on one subject. It was a column with bits of witticism and a little poem, a little narrative, jokes, and so on. But I did have that column for all of an academic year, I think, at McGill.


Shearer

You were at McGill and received your M.A. in 1928?


Hayakawa

Yes. Then I stayed an extra year, so I left in 1929.


Shearer

What did you do in the extra year?


Hayakawa

This is a very important part of my life. I became associated with some young people about my age who were trying to become poets. There are two names that stand out, Leo Kennedy and Abraham Klein. There were others, too, but they're the two important ones. Leo Kennedy was determined to become a poet. At that time, so was I. Abe Klein took his Judaism very seriously. He wrote a lot of long poetry with Hebraic themes, picking up ideas from the Old Testament. Much of it was over our heads, but we knew he was writing pretty good stuff. I don't know whatever happened to him, but he probably went on to write in his maturity. He was a good writer.


Shearer

These were associations you had formed at McGill?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

What was it that solidified your idea to become a poet? By this time you were--


Hayakawa

Well, the McGill Daily--that was the name of the paper--had a weekly column to which I contributed. Sometimes I contributed verse and sometimes I contributed wisecracks and little stories. But that kept me writing.


Shearer

So it was the association with these--these were students, right? Leo and Abraham were both students?



44
Hayakawa

No. Leo wasn't a student; his family was both very, very Irish and quite poor. I don't think he ever became a regularly enrolled student at McGill University. But he hung around with the small group of young men who were interested in becoming writers. Let me put this more emphatically. All in our group were determined to become writers--and I believe we all did.


Shearer

How did you, as a member of this group, operate?

[break for tea]


Hayakawa

I'll make a diagram for you. Here are mountains back here. [gestures] And then, coming south from there, there are hospitals, there is a residential district, and then there's the campus of McGill University. And then below that, there were excellent if modest French restaurants, rooming houses, shops, and so on, and a nice bar. That street to many of us was part of McGill University, because there were a lot of places where we used to meet. Above all, there was a place where we used to meet for beer. The people who were aspiring to be writers, like Leo Kennedy and Abe Klein and I, would meet in one of those bars and talk poetry and read our poems to each other.


Shearer

Did you develop a following for your poetry readings?


Hayakawa

No. We didn't have a following. If we didn't meet together, we had no audience at all. [laughter]


Shearer

So it was a very "select" group. But how long did you stay together in this enterprise?


Hayakawa

Leo Kennedy, who never went to college but who hung around with us, he's the one I stayed with longest. Others graduated and went away, others became lawyers, ultimately members of parliament, and so on. It was only a small coterie of poets and would-be poets who hung around that street. I've forgotten the name; let's call it McGill College Avenue. That may have actually been its name, for all I remember.


Shearer

So this brings you up to 1929, with the extra year, following your master's degree. How long did you stay in Montreal?


Hayakawa

Two years.



45

Language Divisions in Montreal

Shearer

Were you aware then of this French and English language conflict? How do you recall that?


Hayakawa

One very important thing is that the whole city was divided along language lines. The east part of Montreal was solidly French-speaking, and the English-speaking part of town was the other side, including a fashionable part of town called Westmont, Westmount--I've forgotten which--which was both wealthy and entirely Anglo.


Shearer

Did that reflect the political power--?


Hayakawa

I just don't know.


Shearer

Were the English and French language differences or conflicts carried out in the university setting as well?


Hayakawa

No. There was the University of Montreal, which I'm not pronouncing correctly, because Mon-real [gives French pronunciation], as they called it, is a French-speaking university, a very big one, dominated by the French-speaking faculty and students and by the Catholic priesthood. And then there was McGill University which was entirely English-speaking. I'm sure the University of Montreal had an English department, and we had a French department at McGill. But nevertheless, they were very, very separate from each other.

You could live your entire life in the French part of town and never speak English, or you could live your entire life in the English part of town and never speak French. I am talking about the 1920s, but I'm sure the profound linguistic and cultural difference still divides Montreal in effect into two separate cities.


Shearer

Were you aware of any complaints or grievances or events reported in the paper indicating discontent with, I guess it would be, access to public life, either on the part of the French-speaking population or the English?


Hayakawa

Well, if there were, I was not aware of them. It wasn't an issue for any of us. We lived in an English enclave of Montreal, and the French speakers lived in their enclave. There wasn't an awful lot of contact, and if the French-Canadians spoke English, many of them would have jobs in the English part of town. In fact, the last summer I was there, the summer of 1929, I drove a taxi. Many of my colleagues in the taxi


46
business were French Canadians who spoke English, or else they wouldn't have worked for that company.


Shearer

And this was a company that was concentrated on the English-speaking section of the city?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

What if you had a fare to the French district?


Hayakawa

Oh, we could always go. But actually, I rarely had to go there, because we were in the English-speaking part of town, and when someone wanted a cab, they were going to the English-speaking part of Montreal. Very rarely did any passenger in my taxi ask to be taken to a French-speaking part of town. The French-speaking taxi-drivers were distinguishable; they worked under different company names from ours, which was Standard Cabs.


Mrs. Hayakawa

Your brother became quite fluent in French.


Hayakawa

Yes, my brother Fred was there all that time. He was a businessman and a salesman, going from store to store and company to company selling stuff, and he speaks wonderful Canadian French which, as you can guess, is very different from French in Paris. But he was completely bilingual as a manufacturer's representative and as a salesman.


Shearer

What other people have characterized as a severe conflict between the English- and French-speaking did not at that point in your life impinge on you as a student?


Hayakawa

No. Mostly, the two groups, English-speaking and French-speaking, ignored each other. However, clerks in the big downtown department stores were usually bilingual. But you could tell by their accent when they were originally French speaking.


Shearer

Recalling the faculty of professors at McGill, are there any who absolutely stand out for you from your master's program?

[Mark Hayakawa enters; greetings and introductions follow]


Hayakawa

The one that I remember most of all was Professor Files. He was an American.

##


Shearer

What was it that you recall particularly?



47
Hayakawa

He was just a good teacher, an unspectacular man, nothing odd or glamorous about him. But he was the best teacher I had at McGill. The head of the English Department, Professor Cyrus McMillan, was a very Canadian sort, very British, too, very irascible, and I don't know much more about him. I think I took a one-semester course under him, but I don't remember enough to make much difference. Files was the one who helped inspire us and helped us most.


Shearer

What happened after you left McGill? That would be about mid- 1929 or late 1929?


Hayakawa

What happened is that after getting my M.A. in `28, I stayed around another year, just hanging around really, but continuing to write. But during that year, I decided I had to go on for a Ph.D. At random, I applied to a number of American universities. I don't at all remember which they were.


Shearer

And the Ph.D. possibility presented itself to you? Why?


Hayakawa

Because I wanted to have full professional accreditation in case I wanted to become an English professor, in case I couldn't make a living as a poet. [laughs]


Shearer

I see. Your year was instructive in that regard. And you were beginning to think more in terms of teaching as a career?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

So Madison, the University of Wisconsin, said yes, come.


Hayakawa

Yes. I applied to several American universities at that time, but the University of Wisconsin was the one that took me in.


Shearer

Do you remember why you thought of Wisconsin?


Hayakawa

I didn't know one American university from another--one state from another in the United States, at that time! I just took suggestions that people gave me.


Shearer

So you arrived at the University of Wisconsin in 1930?


Hayakawa

No, it was 1929.


Shearer

I gather you received your Ph.D. in 1935.


Hayakawa

Yes, I got there in 1929. I wish I could remember the name of the fellowship I received. There was, I believe, a Mary M. Adams Fellowship in English to apply for. It paid $600 a year,


48
but that was a lot of money at that time. I got that fellowship at Madison.


Shearer

This is 1929--


Hayakawa

But before going to Madison, I spent the last summer in Montreal driving a taxi.


Shearer

Were you able to earn enough money driving the taxi to--


Hayakawa

I got along, yes, sure, and I even had some pocket money with which to start a new life in Wisconsin.


Shearer

Those were very bad years in the United States.


Hayakawa

Yes, the Depression really started in 1929. Those years weren't very good in Canada, either.


University of Wisconsin (Ph. D). 1935

Shearer

Was this the first time you had come to the United States?


Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

First crossing. What was that like, coming across the border?


Hayakawa

Well, I don't remember the border crossing. I think I came by train to Chicago, originally. I went for a walk that evening before getting my train to Madison and [laughs] got beaten up and robbed by two black men.


Shearer

Oh, no!


Hayakawa

That wasn't very important.


Shearer

What part of Chicago--


Hayakawa

I have no idea now. Whatever it was, it was the wrong part.


Shearer

So that was your introduction to America.


Hayakawa

Sort of. Not really. I never felt it that way. I got to Madison the following day. I started, I think, by living in the University Club there, but that was more expensive than I wanted. I found I wanted a rooming house.



49
Shearer

What do you recall of Madison in those days?


Hayakawa

It was a very, very exciting place. There was a literary organization called the Arden Club, very close to campus. It was in Arden House, a women's residence, and it was also literary headquarters for people who wanted to write. They had literary evenings quite frequently, readings of Shakespeare or one's own poetry, critical evaluation of new novels, whatever.

The tradition was solidly in effect before I got there, before Marge got there. Calling it the Arden Club, of course, was a reference to Shakespeare's Forest of Arden. Men could have lunch or dinner there or come for literary meetings. Of course they were never invited upstairs.


Shearer

First floor only.


Hayakawa

Yes. Of the twenty or so girls who lived there, some were consciously literary. They were majoring in English; they wanted to become poets or novelists; others were physical education or chemistry majors who had found a nice place to live, but didn't take part as a rule in our literary meetings.


Shearer

Did Americans strike you as odd or--


Hayakawa

No.


Shearer

Boisterous or different in any way?


Hayakawa

No. I made no generalizations about Americans.


Mrs. Hayakawa

Explain The Rocking Horse.


Hayakawa

The Rocking Horse started after you got there, didn't it?


Mrs. Hayakawa

Yes.


Shearer

What was The Rocking Horse?


Hayakawa

That was a literary magazine, published by the Arden Club, that Marge and I both had a hand in.


Shearer

Did you start it?


Hayakawa

We started it, yes. It lasted for almost two academic years, which means for seven issues.



50
Mrs. Hayakawa

We got our title from a poem by John Keats: "They sway'd about upon a rocking horse, / And thought it Pegasus." That quotation was on our masthead.


Shearer

You were just saying that was the point at which you acquired the nickname "Don." How did that come about?


Hayakawa

Well, I was always called Hak at McGill.


Mrs. Hayakawa

You had much more of a British accent when you first came?


Hayakawa

At that time, yes. But I fell among barbarians and lost it.


Shearer

You felt that your friends at the University of Wisconsin were reluctant to call you Sam.


Hayakawa

I suppose Hak was an abbreviation of Hayakawa. It may also have been picked up from the name of a big-league third baseman, Hack Wilson, whom I admired at the time. My new friends had to decide whether to call me "Sam" or "Hak," and they didn't like either--the names didn't sound poetic enough. So I got a new nickname, "Don." I don't remember who suggested this, but I must have had enough English in my speech to suggest to an American ear the speech of a "don" in a British university.