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Pass the SALT—more lit. lore

Something is missing from the dusty archives of Swarthmore’s alternative publications. Eli Epstein-Deutsch’s story in the April 2012 Bulletin reviewed many “earnest and edgy” magazines, but one short-lived experiment from the 1970s escaped notice. SALT appeared on campus only twice but seems noteworthy for its dedication to strengthening the College through investigative journalism.

The first issue in October 1975 was published on an ancient printing press with moveable type that John Chestnut ’78 smuggled into the basement of Pittenger Hall. When that illicit equipment was discovered, the intrepid staff used a printer in “The Ville” for the second and last edition in the spring.

Articles in the first issue included a well-reasoned “Critique of the Arts at Swarthmore,” a frank assessment of “Women’s Health Services,” and a thoughtfully nuanced piece about high academic expectations called “Is Pressure Desirable?” The concerns expressed in SALT often resonated with faculty and students to galvanize improvement efforts.

Feminist thought was a powerful influence on campus at the time. The founding members of SALT reacted to the strict hierarchy of The Phoenix by declaring in the masthead that “All planning and execution of the paper is reached by consensus.” Our late-night struggles with group decision making proved more challenging than any other aspect of the endeavor, but possibly more instructive as well.

The brief, intense adventure of publishing SALT may not have much historical significance, but we celebrate the spirit of critical inquiry and collective enterprise that the newspaper represented. Thank you for recognizing the important role of alternative publications in the Swarthmore experience.

W. Lee Quinby ’79
Boulder, Colo.

Mary Rubin ’78
Larchmont, N.Y.

The April issue was very interesting! I particularly enjoyed the article about the literary magazines over the years. Here is a little extra Swarthmore history concerning the creator of The Lit drawing reproduced on Page 31. It is a vintage illustration by Russ Ryan ’57. Note the tiny two-R (back to back) signature on the box that holds the typewriter. His wry sense of humor was evident in virtually every illustration that came from his pen.

In my day, there was a traditional yearly student musical called the Hamburg Show sponsored by Kwink, the society of sports managers. My special memory of Russ’ work is from when my college roommate Jeff Davidson ’59, Peter Schickele ’57, and I put together the 1957 version. For this show, we needed a specific title and logo for the programs and ads. Russ came up with a drawing of an arm, slowly being ground into an old-fashioned hamburger grinder, holding a blank banner, onto which the show’s name was to be written. Once we saw the logo he had drawn, the name of the show became obvious—it had to be, simply, “AAAAAARGH!”

Robert Freedman ’58
New York, N.Y.

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