Stories From 1945 - 1959

Lovingly referred to as the "Golden Age" of I-House by alumni of this time, life under the dome post World War II was full of healing, hope, and of course, friendship.

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1945 - 1959

Dick Rowson (IH 1944-46)

International House: The Callaghan Hall Years, 1944-1946. An interview with Richard "Dick" Rowson.

Watch our latest oral history video featuring Dick Rowson (IH 1944-1946) who served in the US Navy while living at I-House Berkeley during WWII, the “Callaghan Hall” years. Interview conducted by alumni engagement manager Margie Ryan (IH 1992-93).


Joseph Jedeikin (IH 1946 - 48)

Joseph Jedeikin (IH 1946 - 48)

I was a freshman in the fall of 1946 and was admitted to I-House as a foreign student from Shanghai, a year after the end of World War II. I had no ideas about American customs, football or holidays. Fortunately I had an American roommate who initiated me by bringing me to football games on Saturdays and inviting me to his family home for Thanksgiving dinner. It took me no time at all to become accustomed to the American way of life. I enjoyed my social contacts, many war veterans, and meeting other foreign students from Europe and the Middle East. This was the beginning of the Cold War, the Marshall Plan, and the first skirmishes preceding the establishment of Israel, a very explosive time. In cap and gown, I heard Truman as the Commencement speaker.

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For our 90th Anniversary on August 18, 2020, Joseph Jedeikin wrote to us with more memories to add to his remarkable story:  “I lived in Shanghai during the war under Japanese occupation. It was rough waiting all these years until it finally happened: Japan’s surrender on the USS Missouri. Now I could finally plan my college days. Accepted by UC Berkeley, I was issued a student visa by the US consul, not on my Latvian passport but on a blank piece of paper on which I signed an affidavit. The reason for that was that my country Latvia was now occupied by the Soviet Union which made me stateless.  It was 1946, I was 19 and it was an unforgettable day, standing on the deck of the SS Argonaut, experiencing my first sight of America which was the elegant and stately Golden Gate Bridge. The very next day I took the F train on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge to Berkeley, then walking from Shattuck to Piedmont Ave and seeing the impressive I-House for the first time. The silver-haired Executive Director Mr. Blaisdell admitted me, the start of living in my new impressive home with the opportunity to mix with and meet students from all over the world. Those days are enshrined in my memory.”

Estelle Pau-On Lau

Dr. Estelle Pau-On Lau 
(IH 1942 - 45, 1951 - 52)

Estelle Pau-On Lau was born in Honolulu, and thanks to a fateful stay at International House she became one of the few people – indeed, perhaps the only person – to personally witness both the beginning and end of the war in the Pacific. Estelle’s application to live at the I-House described her “extreme interest in meeting and becoming acquainted with all peoples.” While majoring in American and Chinese history, she participated in all aspects of I-House life, including performances of traditional hula dances she had learned in Hawaii.

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International House during World War II
Estelle is pictured with her roommates in the I-House historical display featuring the Daily Cal article describing student life during World War II, when GIs were housed at the I-House and students moved into fraternity housing:  “A Chinese girl from Hawaii, a black girl from the South, and a white girl requested to live together, and their room was always a center of activity.” The I-House team would later describe her as a “charming and attractive girl, vivacious, active, deeply interested in I-House.”

She went on to do graduate work at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, and at both universities, she lived at the International House.

When she returned to the Bay Area as a young historian for the 1951 signing of the peace treaty between the United State and Japan, she lived in I-House Berkeley again. During that stay, she met a graduate student, Mason Gaffney (IH 1948 - 52).
Estelle Pau-On Lau and Mason Gaffney Wedding
As he was playing guitar in the Great Hall while another student sang, Estelle appeared on the balcony, and their eyes met. They married the following year at the I-House in 1952, in a beautiful ceremony written up in the Daily Cal.

Read more in this story written by Estelle and Mason's son Stuart.

Maria Sagarna (IH 1956 - 58) and Gunnar Engen (IH 1956 - 59)

Maria Sagarna (IH 1956 - 58) and Gunnar Engen (IH 1956 - 59)

Gunnar writes, "As an international student from Norway, I benefited greatly from my three years at I-House, where I worked at the Information Desk. I met Maria Sagarna, a Ph.D student from Spain, and fell in love. I proposed to Maria and the final "negotiation" took place on the I-House steps where this photo was taken. A year later we were married on the day I received my MA in economics. We both became US citizens and worked until retirement.

It was so long ago, but such incredible memories which are hard to describe! We were foreign students in a foreign land setting out on an uncertain journey. Youthful exuberance and strong belief in the future were the guiding force. Our stay at International House is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of our studies at UC Berkeley."

Linda Jay (IH 1959 - 60)

As a rather sheltered 21-year-old junior transfer from Cincinnati, I thought it was very daring to live at I-House with mostly graduate students from countries all over the world. But I was ready for the adventure! What a wonderful time we all had. I vividly remember animated discussions in the Dining Commons, ping-pong matches, listening to fascinating speakers like the pianist Leon Fleischer, and a leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, and getting to know a young woman architect from Persia who lived on my floor.

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I recall singing ballads to a small group in an elegant room; the sign outside the door said "The Golden Throat of Linda Jay" -- ironic, because SD (spasmodic dysphonia) eventually affected my singing voice. I made a friend at I-House who is still a great friend today -- Malcolm McCausland, from England. He and my I-House romance, Akbar Aziz from Hyderabad, India, were co-captains of the UCB cricket team. I went to many cricket matches of that s-l-o-w game; although Aziz was, as Malcolm wrote to me recently, "an exceedingly fast bowler." I also dated our current Governor, Jerry Brown, twice; he lived at I-House that year, and so did his political colleague, Rose Bird. I-House was an unforgettable experience, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to live there.

Jim Gregg (IH 1950 - 51)

International House Berkeley was part of the larger “International House Movement” founded by Harry Edmonds who, as a young man working for the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1909, had a chance meeting with a Chinese student. Edmonds’ casual “Good morning” on the steps of the Columbia University library provoked the startled response: “I’ve been in New York three weeks, and you are the fi rst person who has spoken to me.”

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Most American students associated with students from the country of their roommates. My associations continued for the rest of my life and included exchange visits of Japanese friends and my wife and my travel to Japan and their visits here. The last of my Japanese friends died several years ago. I fondly recall their response when I suggested that I would rent a car on a visit to Tokyo. "Why would you do that? You can't read the street signs!"

Taro's most vivid memory of his army service was the physical abuse of enlisted men by low level officers. Mine was a minor court martial for violating flight rules while my pilot officer only got two weeks of voluntary restriction to quarters and I lost my Christmas leave and was given two months of mustering at 5 am every day. I discovered the Japanese students had a great sense of humor. They taught me a greeting and put me up to saying it to a Japanese woman student I was dating. As she came down the grand staircase her response was total shock and she quickly retreated up the stair case. Apparently the phrase referred to a most intimate moment between lovers.

For a Pennsylvania native from a small liberal arts college, living at I-House was a remarkable experience that carried over to my life time of university teaching. It was a unique experience in my educational life that is fondly remembered and deeply appreciated.

Dwight Fine (IH 1956 - 59)

Besides being the source of some lifelong friendships in connection with my professional life, I House influenced my social life profoundly by introducing me to international folk dancing via the Friday night sessions taught by Walter Grothe. Folk dancing was to be my principal recreation for 50 years. I used to run into Walter at folk dance events and express my gratitude.

Basil Hoare (IH 1952 - 53)

This was an amazing and quite unforgettable experience for me.  I made so many friends  from all over the world during this time and am still in contact with some of them.  

This period at International House was also invaluable since it encouraged me to take an international outlook on life and to start on a career which resulted in my employment with the UN for more than sixteen years.  I saw service  with the International Labour Office and the Food and Agriculture Organisation in some six countries including Nigeria, the Philippines and Western Samoa. It is now a pleasure for me  to be able to assist a female student from Botswana who is currently a resident at I-House.

Patricia Ann Lynch Heer (IH 1957)

I spent only one semester living at I-House (Fall '57), otherwise, lived at family home in Albany, but it was long enough to meet my husband, Naranjan Singh, later Naranjan Singh Heer after he added on his family surname. After our graduation in 1958, he went on to Boalt School of Law and I earned a teaching degree at Cal. We lived in the Bay area all our years together, raising three children, until he (aka Jack) passed away in 1997. Our son, David S. Heer also lived at I-House while earning his Masters in Finance. From my home in Fremont, I occasionally enjoy spending time in Berkeley, for OLLI classes, and visits to I-House. I intend to go soon for lunch at the new dining commons. I'm most nostalgic about the magical place which I so enjoyed. Our brick is on the Cafe patio.

Nicholas A. Veliotes (Frequent Visitor 1948 - 54)

My cumulative experiences in the vibrant, muliticultural environment of I-House during my undergraduate and graduate years at UC (1948-54) were important elements in my decision to join the Foreign Service of the United States. Of great importance were the opportunities for personal, face-to-face contacts with so many outstanding persons from so many different countries and cultures. I am convinced that these experiences helped provide the basis for my diplomatic career that included positions of Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State. Thank you I-House!!

Carol Salin John (IH 1953 - 54)

Many Happy Memories

Living in I-House was a wonderful experience and provided my husband and I with many happy memories. This is where we met. We were both graduate students—Walter in physics and Carol in Art. The I-House very generously gave us our wedding reception. We were married on January 23, 1954 in the chapel of the Methodist Church on Durant Avenue. Elsie Fritch Faiman and Trudy Tsue, my best friends at the I-House, were maids of honor, Some of our I-House friends attending the reception were Arnold Kahn, Bonnie Ritzenthaler Wilson, Alan Wilson, Selig Kaplan, and Sam Solomon. Elsie, Alan and Arnold are deceased. Prior to the wedding, Bonnie asked Carol to aim her bouquet toss her way. She caught it and months later married Alan.

Walter and I have four children and five grandchildren. When our youngest daughter, Leslie, was a UC student, she moved into the I-House and asked me to come see her new room. When I walked into the room I realized it was the very same room I occupied so many years ago! Leslie met Greg Blackman, who was also an I-House resident, and they were married in the Faculty Glade.

Happy Birthday International House!

Satya Prakash Agarwal (IH 1948 - 50)

This story is about my grandfather, Satya Prakash Agarwal, who arrived at the International House at UC Berkeley in the Fall of 1948 after an arduous journey from his native country of India. His journey from Rajasthan, India to I-House took more than two months, employed several modes of transport including bike, bus, train, air (from Calcutta to Hong Kong), and ship (from China to San Francisco). As a fresh doctoral student in the famous Department of Statistics, Satya received a warm welcome at UC Berkeley and at I-House where he stayed in Room 309 for the next several years. He was allocated a seat at the "Hindi Table" adjacent to the "UrduTable" occupied by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from Pakistan who had also just joined Cal as a graduate student.

I-House was a lively place of great camaraderie between students from various backgrounds and nationalities in those heady post-World War II years. American students and faculty experienced a rich tapestry of world culture through the eyes of young guests like Satya and Zulfikar. Satya regularly enthralled audiences at I-House with his early experiences in foreign lands and his initiation into America's vibrant Pacific Coast civilization. Satya eventually received his Ph.D. at Berkeley in 1957, and today is a resident of Maryland and the author of 17 Books in the fields of Human Resources, and of Indian Philosophy, but he counts his stay at I-House 1948-1950 as one of the most significant learning experiences in his past 91 years of life on earth!

-- Written by Maya Agarwal, UC Berkeley, Class of 2013

Audrey Oldach Stewart (IH 1952 - 53)

As I read the recent newsletter about the dining commons changes, I remembered my year at I-House (fall 1952 to end of summer 1953). I remember we sat for hours with different groups of people from all countries at the long refectory tables. I remember in particular Big John (from England) giving us a lesson in cricket. He used utensils, salt and pepper containers, anything available to set up the playing field. I’m not sure if we really understood cricket better, but we all had fun. He was a storyteller. When he spotted American tourists in his little hometown, he often walked them all over, pointing out the spots of historic events: “Here is where king so-and-so was killed,” or “On this spot king so-and-so won a decisive battle.” The gullible Americans duly took pictures and wrote down the historic “facts.”

After the long trudge up from the main campus we needed some lighter moments.

Bernice Livingston Youtz (IH 1946-48)

I lived at International House from 1946 to 1948, and it was an amazing experience. It opened up much of the world to me, affected my life decisions, and—of course— I met my husband Byron Youtz (IH 1946-52)there. I am glad to contribute what I can to I-House because I realize what an extraordinary opportunity it continues to be for young Americans and people from throughout the world.

The year 1946 was a memorable time. The war was finally over, and the men were coming home. I have to admit to my younger women friends that my feminist urges are tempered by the memory of what it was like to live on a campus almost devoid of males. Our “gender issue” was wondering why the mere accident of being born women left us safely attending college while men our age were laying their lives on the line. But in 1946 they were coming back to I-House! Along with the American men were fascinating people—male and female—from the far reaches of the globe, sometimes from countries we had not yet heard of. Dining table conversations might involve people who had served in the Norwegian or French resistance talking with rugby players from New Zealand and South Africa. We discussed the concerns of Jews, Christians and Muslims from Palestine; of the Indo-Dutch and native Indonesians; and of the followers of Chiang Kai-She k and Mao. And we talked about our growing awareness of civil rights in the U.S. But it was not all so serious! We went to football games next door at the stadium and shouted “Cal” to victory or defeat. There was a rugby game reported by the San Francisco Chronicle’s sports headline: “I-House Beats Stanford!”

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When we first moved into I-House in September 1946, the navy had just moved out, and we dodged ladders and buckets of paint. We never knew where the next meal would be served—in the auditorium? A wing at the rear? We probably did not fully appreciate the kitchen crew who managed it all; conversation was more important than food.

We danced at informal mixers on a weeknight or at full-scale, evening-dress affairs sometimes during the year. There was music: folk singing in the stairway corridor with Rafael Rodriguez (IH 1946-50) holding the record for the number of songs he knew. He also composed new ones, often with lyrics containing sly and wry comments about all of us. There was a jug band. And there were gatherings in one of the large rooms to listen to speakers such as consuls based in San Francisco, the composer Darius Milhaud from Mills College, or one of our own with a report on such topics as developments in Indian independence and the establishment of the Marshall plan for Europe. We had picnics, hiked in the hills, organized baseball games at Tilden Park, or walked en masse to Shattuck Avenue for the F train to San Francisco to seek an Italian restaurant serving the newly imported delicacy of pizza.

It was a time for dating, but one did not really need a date: there was always a group going somewhere that one could join. I remember an evening when a group of us attended a campus production in Wheeler Hall of an especially grim tale of life after another atomic bomb that destroyed much of the world (Hiroshima was not distant in our minds). We walked out in silence and were plodding up Bancroft when someone said, “Hambone Kelly’s,” and we all reversed course down to San Pablo Avenue and Hambone’s raucous New Orleans Jazz.

I met my husband at I-House, and there were many, many other romances that led to marriages, most of them happy, I believe, because they were rooted in strong shared knowledge and ideals. Many of the international students returned to their homelands. My husband and I went to the American University of Beirut for three years and enjoyed visits throughout the Middle East, fortunately during a more peaceful time, although we were aware of the tensions and problems in the region. In Cairo we met one of Byron’s I-House pals, quite by chance, in the middle of Tahrir Square. Over the years we encountered others in Paris, Glasgow, Damascus, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. I have kept in touch with some, though sadly some are no longer with us.

I-House has a heritage for which I am endlessly grateful and that I want to continue for more young people, who are the hope of our world.

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