Report of the Cannon

Your recounting of the episode of Sandy Macdonald ’46 and his little brass cannon (“Revolutionary Spirit,” March 2014), was amusing and edifying.

Although I first met Sandy in a touch football game a few years before (yes, that’s right, touch football), I did not become a good friend until we were both in the debate club at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Other members included Gerald Meier ’47 and Gordon Baker ’48. Sandy did not demonstrate any eccentricities during high school, although I think he did wear a small jabot to a couple of parties. In any event, Sandy was our valedictorian, the only one in the class to have all As.

Sandy went off to St. John’s College in 1942 despite the distance and the war. All reports were that he was extremely happy there. Thus, I was surprised to find him at Reed in the fall of 1943.

At this time Sandy’s fascination with the 18th century became more apparent. One story was that his father dropped in to visit and was upset to find that Sandy had rigged up a canopy over his bed.

Sandy became critical of the Air Corps pre-meteorology group that held a retreat ceremony at sundown on the Great Lawn. One afternoon during the ceremony, he reportedly opened the window, hauled out the Union Jack, and fired off his cannon as he and Rollin Dudley ’46 sang “God Save the King.” I am sure Sandy would have been much less critical had the PMs done a proper slow march.

Sandy thought there should be a fitting farewell for people who were leaving Reed in answer to a draft notice. So he got a bunch of us together to learn “Non più andrai,” the aria Figaro sings to Cherubino when the latter gets his call-up notice. We sang it at dinner in the Commons when someone was leaving; then I left at the end of the semester to go into the army. I do not know if the practice continued.

Those of us who had known Sandy for any period of time agreed wholeheartedly that Sandy should not have been in the service; basic training would have crushed him. I asked him how it was that he was not taken. He said that if he got on the end of the line during the induction physical the doctor would have time to listen to him and reject him, which is what happened.

I did not see much of Sandy after I came back to Tacoma in 1946. I returned to Reed that summer and then came east in 1948. I was told that Sandy went to work for the family construction firm, but he performed only menial tasks, ending up to be little more than the night watchman. I also learned that he withdrew socially and lived in a hut on the grounds of the construction firm where they found his body one morning. I never heard the cause of death.

Any reflection upon Sandy is necessarily touched with sadness. He had a great sense of humor, was good fun at our debate club parties, and had good manners. He had certainly demonstrated a disciplined mind. 

—Stuart Gaul ’48

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania