It was very enlightening and heartwarming to read about the co-ops at Oberlin and the recollections of my esteemed classmate, Al McQueen. I was an original member of Grey Gables, the second co-op, in my senior year. I was distressed and puzzled to read that the co-ops did not develop naturally as inclusive communities, given their democratic structure and ideology—not to mention the opportunity they offered for financially challenged students to save money. Eduardo C. Mondlane ’53, whom Oberlin later honored as a martyr for the freedom of his home country Mozambique, was among our Grey Gables comrades that first year. When I started medical school, I joined one of the well-established co-ops at the University of Michigan. After stuffing turkeys for 80 [people] at Grey Gables, cooking at a smaller house in Ann Arbor was a breeze.
Nancy Thoms Block ’52
Berkeley Heights, N.J
I was touched to learn of OSCA’s history from your beautiful article. As I was reading, though, I saw a story untold, one that is quite valuable and relevant. The article mentioned a co-op that served Kosher food, but this co-op redefined itself in 1989. It went from being the Kosher Co-op to the Kosher Halal Co-op (KHC), adhering to the Muslim dietary laws as well as the Jewish ones. While this pairing may seem logical to us Obies, KHC is the only student run cooperative in the United States that brings Jews and Muslims together in this way. Kosher Halal Co-op has become the seat of Jewish and Muslim religious and cultural life on campus. It provides late dinners during Ramadan, when Muslims are fasting during the daylight hours, and a breakfast at the close of Yom Kippur, a Jewish fast day. It opens its doors wide for the Eid al-Adha feast and for the Passover Seder meal. Kosher Halal Co-op serves members from all backgrounds and all faiths, but gives priority on its waitlist to Jews and Muslims who need to be there for religious and cultural reasons. In this way, it has become a home for intercultural cooperation, bringing together cultures that have lately seen far too many disputes. At Kosher Halal, we unite in our commonalities and learn from our differences. A model cooperation—a unique cooperation.
Shoshana Silverman ’09
Jewish Student Life Coordinator
There is a small error in the interesting history of student co-ops at Oberlin. Grey Gables started in 1951, not 1952. I can attest to that as the treasurer during Grey Gables’ first year. The article mentions abuse of the college’s social laws in 1952. I do not recall any such issues arising in 1951-52. In fact, I chuckle at thoughts of yelling "Man up!" when I emptied the pay phones in the upper floors of Grey Gables. I came early to Oberlin in the fall of 1951 to understand better the basis for our "rental" charges. I was treated with dignity, but felt the overhead cost allocations were excessive. Still it seemed prudent not to challenge the charge further, and, more important for Grey Gables, to earn the respect of the college (and hopefully have the rent reduced in the future). Two of our children attended Oberlin and benefited from co-ops. In 1951, I never dreamed the movement would get so big and so important.
Bob Whitney ’52
I (and no doubt others) was very disappointed to see that Karl Rove was invited to speak at Oberlin, on the same stage where, in 1963, I shook the hand of Martin Luther King. Surely Rove gets enough invitations elsewhere and does not need to come to Oberlin. Oberlin’s reputation derives from its students, faculty, and invited speakers in the progressive tradition, and I would hope it would stay that way. This poses a dilemma for me and my wife, Dina. We have been making small donations to Oberlin every year and had planned to continue doing so. But now we are not sure that this is the Oberlin we loved and want to support.
Joel Sherzer ’64
West Lake Hills, Texas
On receiving the magazine with the article about jazz at Oberlin, I immediately got out my yearbooks to confirm that the Oberlin radio station (KOCN) was begun around that time. It was November 1950. Very early on I began a weekly jazz show on the station. The D.J. (me) wasn’t very good, but the jazz was great! Bird, Diz, Miles, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Ellington, Basie et. al. This reminded me that sometime in the winter of 1950-51 someone convinced the manager of the Woody Herman Band (The Thundering Herd) to conduct a rehearsal of the band in Finney Chapel at no cost to anyone—which they did. They rehearsed and played a regular show. Therefore, as great as Brubeck is, he was not the first! Also the show was introduced by a five-piece combo of Oberlin musicians who, to the amazement of the Herman personnel, played modern jazz (Be-Bop) instead of the Dixie style they expected from a college band. I can only recall one member, Paul Horn, who played alto sax that night and later went on to play jazz flute with the Chico Hamilton Quintet. Yes, Frank Williams was first, but Be-Bop was spoken at Oberlin before 1953!
Jim Lloyd ’51
Winter Park, Fla.
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