Pauling’s Freshman Diary, Part 2

diary title

In part one of our look at Linus Pauling’s Oregon Agricultural College diary, we covered the genesis of document as well as a few of the young Pauling’s more interesting entries. Today, we’ll discuss some of subjects most prominently occupying Pauling’s thoughts both before and after he left for college. Although Pauling undoubtedly had much to think about during this time, a few specific topics dominate his entries.

First, it is interesting to note that Pauling, even at the age of sixteen, wrote in his diary with the same detailed, precise, and occasionally cumbersome prose that tended to define the more formal writings of his later life. One excellent example of this tendency is found in one of his earliest entries, written on August 30, 1917.

I regret to say that I have this minute laid my fingers on the top of the little stove in which I was burning some waste paper, and in this manner have caused the formation of blisters fully 1/3 cm in diameter on each of the four fingers of my dextrum. They are already visible, although formed only a minute ago. They do not interfere with my writing, but pain me considerably.

Another particularly interesting example is dated September 6, 1917.

The more I look at myself in the mirror the more peculiar my physiognomy appears to me. I do not look at all attractive, but I am a prejudiced judge. I already have faint horizontal wrinkles in my forehead, and my upper lip projects to an unnecessarily great extent. I must remember to restrain it.

[For the sake of comparison, see Pauling’s account of a hallucination experienced some fifty-seven years later.]

Although other entries along these lines do make appearances, the majority of Pauling’s writing before he left for O. A. C. is focused on his various jobs. In particular, the teenager details time spent working at a movie theater named The Echo, his short stint at Apple’s Meat Market, and a job in the machine shop of the Brown Portable Conveying Machinery Co. For the most part, these entries are not particularly intriguing, but do provide a nice timeline for a portion of Pauling’s blue-collar adolescence.

Business card for Palmon Laboratories, Pauling's joint venture with his boyhood friend, Lloyd Simon.

Business card for Palmon Laboratory, Pauling's joint venture with his boyhood friend, Lloyd Simon.

More interesting are Pauling’s accounts of a photograph-developing business started by himself and his friend Lloyd Simon. The first mention of this business is found in an entry dated September 5, 1917.

Lloyd, while working at the Portland Rubber Mills, made the acquaintance of Dave Beutler, who is a very good photographer; i.e., from the developing side. We three are going to install in our lab (a 14’ x 14’ structure in Lloyd’s basement), a complete developing, printing, enlarging, tinting, etc., establishment, enlarging a specialty. We will attempt to get the trade of Huntley’s and, after that, of other places. Tomorrow, I will have a business conversation with Mr. Zeigler, and will show him samples of Dave’s ability as a photographer.

In this same entry, Pauling also writes:

We are accordingly on our way to becoming firmly established in business. The company will probably purchase a second hand motorcycle for use in delivering and collecting work, and Lloyd will use it before and after school. If I get $5 to $10 a week throughout the year my college course will present few pecuniary difficulties.

The next few pages of the diary are composed of a business plan developed by Pauling and very detailed records of the company’s expenses. Unfortunately, their business seemed to never hit its stride. The last entry in which it is referred to is dated September 28, 1917. It is the last we hear of the company, even though its mention contains no talk of failure.

Pauling and friends, freshman year at O.A.C., ca. 1917.

Pauling and friends, freshman year at O.A.C., ca. 1917.

After Pauling leaves for college, his writing undergoes an understandable change in direction. Two excerpts from his first Corvallis entry, dated October 7, 1917, read:

I have a nice big room, much larger than two boys usually have. I will share it with a sophomore named Murhard, who has not yet arrived. Last night the two other boys and I killed about 50 yellow jackets there with a fly swatter. There are two rooks; one, a 20 yr. old talkative fellow, named Hofman, weight 175# and always talks about his girl, Millicent, nicknamed “Titter.” The other, Henry is a very quiet, small young man, but slightly deaf. He will take Commerce, and Hofman will take Forestry….

Last night at the train I met Mr. Johnson, and his small son. He asked me if I was new, and said he was the head of the math department. According to the catalogue he is: Charles Leslie Johnson, B.S., Professor of Mathematics. I intend to take every one of his courses offered in Mathematics.

From there on, Pauling’s diary focuses more and more on finances. Because money was very tight for him in his first year of college, most of the remaining pages are filled with long lists of expenses and strategies for making ends meet.

Amidst the ledgers, there remain a few compelling entries that allow us to glean telling information about the make-up of young Pauling. In an entry dated October 10, 1917, he records:

I’m getting along all right. Cleaned the fountain today and serpentined with a couple of hundred other rooks to the football field, where we yelled for O.A.C. and sung some songs. We then marched to Waldo hall and sang “How green I am” to a crowd of inmates. We were guarded by about 20 sophs.

And in one of the diary’s final passages, dated October 29, 1917, Pauling reveals himself in a manner duplicated by untold numbers of diarists throughout the generations.

Saturday (two days ago), I went to work at Kincaid’s chopping word. I saw Irene at 8 o’clock in morning. I saw her again once during morning. In afternoon she went to game. About 6:30 I called her up and asked her to go to the show. She consented, and I got up some speed getting ready. We went to show and to A’s & K’s. Sunday I stayed away all day, then called her up about 6 and went to Presbyterian church with her. I do not know whether she likes me or not. I hope she will go to Lyceum with me Sat. night. I must remember to reserve seats for it. Then we will have reserved seats for all Lyceums this year. She is the girl for me. She is 17 years old and is about 5’5” tall. She is rather light and fragile. On account of lack of strength she is taking a special course in Dom. Sc., together with stenography. She lives with her uncle and Aunt, Mr. & Mrs. Kincaid. They have been in Corvallis about 4 months, having lived in Eugene before. She said she had never gone with anyone for over six months, but I will show her. I must not, however, monopolize her. She has pretty curly hair. Her last name is Sparks. I must be as nice as possible to her.

Overall, much of Linus Pauling’s diary helps to prove the point that his adolescence was anything but typical. However, a select few entries also show that beyond all his extraordinary characteristics, he still had the feelings and concerns typical of a young man.

For more information on Linus Pauling in Oregon, check out our Oregon 150 series. For general Linus Pauling information, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150


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