Letters to the Editor

Max’s Back in the Day

Those of us who graduated way, way back in that other century spend an inordinate amount of time visiting the archives of our minds. For me, that journey is sometimes to that great institution associated with the University of Oregon in the pre–World War II era and on through the ’40s, ’50s, and early ’60s: Max Robinson’s Tavern, or Max’s (never Maxie’s). For many of us it was a welcoming and comforting retreat from long, grueling hours in the library seeking enlightenment and truth. You would enter through that glass-paned front door into the long, narrow room filled with large, high-backed, wooden booths jammed with scholars drinking dimers—the 10 cent beers in a glass that looked like they came from early Coca-Cola ads. It was a room designed for serious drinking and loud conversations. No pinball machines. No shuffleboards. No pool tables.

Max Robinson (below, in 1959) graduated from Oregon’s School of Law during the Great Depression. After passing the bar and not finding work as a lawyer, he opened his tavern and became the city’s best bartender from whom to seek advice. He was always stationed behind the bar to your immediate right as you entered, and would ask to see your ID. Unless, of course, he had checked you anytime in the past 20 years. Max had a phenomenal memory. One day I walked in, years after leaving school, and he greeted me with, “Hi, Bill.”

At 6:00 p.m. every day, Max would close the taps. On his public address device, he would announce, “OK, everybody . . . home for dinner.”

It was a testament to Max’s scrupulous attention to ID checking and his connection to the law-and-order establishment of the community (his law degree didn’t hurt) that when the scandal of out-of-control drinking one warm spring Mother’s Weekend (cases of beer passing out of the windows at Taylor’s and students drinking in the street at the College Side Inn) brought on the establishment of a dry zone around the campus, Max’s dodged the bullet.

The dry zone was primarily aimed at the College Side Inn and Taylor’s at East 13th and Kincaid, the western edge of the campus. The zone started at Kincaid, went west and south to 13th Avenue, then went back up 13th to the block past Max’s. It turned south to 14th avenue, then west, leaving Max’s notched in a safe haven just a couple blocks from the university.

When Max Robinson died, his memorial service brought an overflow of hundreds that included ex-students and a fair percentage of Oregon’s lawyers and judges.

I feel fortunate to have been a part of those good times on 13th Avenue. And yes, I sometimes wonder, where have all the dimers gone?

Bill Landers, BS ’54 (history)

Milwaukie, Oregon

Remembering Professor Paul Dull

Many readers responded to John Gustafson’s Duck Tale about history professor Paul Dull, “A Forceful Lecturer, a Dedicated Teacher,” in the Winter 2018 issue. 

I was in Paul Dull’s Far East in Modern Times class in the academic year 1959. Professor Dull inspired me and sent me on my way to be a teacher, hoping to inspire students as he inspired me. I was a Korean War veteran who had spent time stationed at Pearl Harbor. We had long conversations about this event and the status of the territory of Hawaii and its progress toward statehood. A great man, teacher, and a person I called a friend.

Walt Hull, BS ’59 (secondary education)

Clackamas, Oregon

I was a member of Paul Dull’s Far East in Modern Times class in 1960 and 1961. I remember his annual December 7 Pearl Harbor lecture and how he had encouraged his wife to come to Honolulu, the safest place in the world. I also remember him telling us once the Japanese attacked, he was ordered to go to a certain place and bring his weapons. He did not have a weapon per se; he had a card table, a dictionary, and, I believe, a golf club. He was also a friend of James Michener, and guess who once came to lecture? Truly a young life experience to have been in his class.

Carolyn Blume, BA ’61 (foreign language)

Portland, Oregon

John Gustafson’s memories of Professor Paul Dull rekindle my own about a superb teacher and man. For me, two classes in Chinese and Japanese history with Professor Dull led to a master’s in Asian studies, a five-year Air Force assignment in Japan, and 27 months in Korea. He was intimately familiar with Japan, based upon his travels in Asia before World War II and the insights he gained as a Marine Corps second lieutenant who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor for only three days before the attack. When the smoke cleared, he and a US Navy bosun’s mate explored one of the miniature submarines to learn everything possible about the boat. After the war, as part of the occupation staff, one of his major accomplishments was to develop an index for the proceedings of the war crimes trials. His famous third question on exams caused great concern for some students and gave others great advantage: “Based upon your outside reading since the last exam, present and answer a substantive question.” After Professor Dull died, I wrote a letter to his wife, telling her how influential he was in my life. Her response was interesting. She said that her husband actually was concerned that his teaching would influence students. In my case, he certainly did that.

Cal Taylor, BA ’63 (history)

Olympia, Washington

I, too, studied with Professor Dull and was his teaching assistant–grader in Far East in Modern Times as a graduate student. Professor Dull directed my master’s essay on late 19th century China, and was a major factor in my decision to pursue a doctorate in East Asian studies at Columbia University. I arrived at the University of Virginia to teach East Asian history in the fall of 1968, retiring in the spring of 2012. I agree with John Gustafson when he writes that “Professor Dull was an inspiration to us and many other Oregon students, and that continues to this day.”

Ronald G. Dimberg, BA ’60 (Asian studies),

MA ’62 (interdisciplinary studies), MA ’62 (history)

Charlottesville, Virginia

Paul Dull and The Far East in Modern Times was by far my favorite professor and class. I remember he insisted that we properly pronounce the Chinese letters, especially Gs and Ks. Learned so much from him, which inspired my love for history and political science.

Pat Leonard Davis, BS ‘55 (speech)

Portland, Oregon

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