July 6, 2005: From the Editor
Ralph Ritchie ’34 wrote his first Class Notes column for the Sept. 22, 1939, issue of PAW, noting, among other things, that the class consumed a record-breaking 85 half-kegs of beer at its tent during a spirited fifth reunion. Ritchie thought he would write the column for five years. Sixty-five years and about 1,600 columns later, he’s still on the job.
Ritchie, Princeton’s longest-serving class secretary, missed only five years, when he was serving in the 101st Cavalry during World War II (five classmates wrote the column in his absence). When he resumed his class duties in the issue of Jan. 18, 1946, he stated his intention to immediately “re-establish our 1939—40 network of special news correspondents in key cities, for the purpose of collecting all the news of all the class.” Then, as now, Ritchie took his responsibilities very seriously.
Ritchie is one of 10 class secretaries who have been writing columns consistently for at least 20 years. (Another long-time secretary, Joe Hazen ’35, died this spring.) To celebrate the work of all purveyors of class news, each year PAW thanks the secretaries with a small party during Reunions weekend. A photo of the celebrants at this year’s gathering is on page 43.
The secretaries’ tasks are relentless: a column every other week, a growing load of memorials as the years pass (some classes have memorialists for this assignment), and assorted other class responsibilities. Jim Bensen ’36, who has written his class column since 1971, figures that he has penned 733 columns plus 423 memorials, and has sent an unknown (but very large) number of birthday cards. The work — he calls it “a joy and a pleasure” — keeps him in touch with classmates and their family members. “I challenge [classmates] at Reunions,” Bensen says — “Give me your last name, and I will give you your first name and middle initial. I’ve never missed on a one.”
Longtime secretaries agree that they bind a class together. David Reeves ’48, in his 32nd year, says he took on the assignment to help create a sense of identity in his war-torn class, which includes men of different ages because of their stints in the military.
For the older secretaries, the toughest part of the job is gathering news from classmates who have grown less active with age. Reeves jokes he tells his classmates that “unless they produce some news, the column will be restricted to deaths and replacement of body parts.”
But he and the others have no intention of giving up their jobs. “As long as there are people to write about,” says Ritchie, “I’ll be doing it.”
To these secretaries and all the others: Thank you.
With this issue, PAW introduces a Princeton crossword puzzle, found on page 35. Stella Daily ’00, who finished sixth at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this year, designed our puzzle, which she calls “Together Again” in honor of Reunions. We hope the puzzle provides a few moments of pleasure during PAW’s summer hiatus. We resume publication Sept. 14. Have a great summer, everyone.