- Humanist Club Members
- (Strayer on the left, Warren Allen Smith on the right in a yearbook photo)
Strayer, Gordon (20th Century)
Strayer, a student at Iowa State Teachers (now the University of Northern Iowa), and Warren Allen Smith in 1948 founded the first Humanist Club on any American campus.
Dr. John Cowley, an English professor, and Dr. Martin Grant, a biology professor, agreed to be faculty advisors of the group, formed because Strayer and Smith were not required to take any courses in philosophy and felt the need for a club to discuss what was not taught directly in classes.
Strayer's account of his service during World War II:
- I had been in a Signal Corps school in southwest Missouri: Camp Crowder, near Joplin, since April or May of 1944 (several other places, including an ASTP unit at the University of Chicago, before that). Then came the Battle of Bastogne the following December. Excessively heavy casualties inspired the Army of the United States to sweep thousands of GIs out of non-critical jobs in various service corps: Quartermaster Corps, Medical Corps, Signal Corps, etc. and order us off to infantry training for six weeks, thence directly overseas as "casual" infantry replacements. "Casual," as you probably remember, in that context meant unassigned to any specific unit; assignment was to follow when we reached the replacement depots--the so called "cigarette camps" (Lucky Strike, Philip Morris, et al, on the coast of France).
- So I found myself in the company orderly room Jan. 1 of 1945, putting my own name on orders to entrain within a few days for Camp Gordon, Georgia, near Augusta.
- In the middle of a night about eight weeks and a lot of sweat later, following a week's furlough to visit my family in Saskatchewan, I boarded the Queen Elizabeth, then in service as a troopship, for five days of Atlantic travel to Greenock, Scotland, where we transferred on lighters Glasgow, boarded other troop-trains which carried us down to the south of England, near Winchester. A couple days later we ferried across the Channel to LeHavre, then a few hours in one of the cigarette camps, then boarded trucks to be driven through the night to the base camp of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
- That base camp was located a couple km. from two smallish French towns, located on opposite sides and perhaps third of a mile from each other along a railroad track: Mourmelon le Grande, and Mourmelon la Petite. As I recall, the camp was essentially due east of Rheims, which most of us visited at least a couple times while we were there.
- I hiked on the occasional Sunday with Dave Barry, a GI from Belmond, Iowa, who had just finished his junior year at Iowa State Teachers College (ISTC, now the University of Northern Iowa) before being drafted. In addition to exploring the Mourmelons (which didn't take long), we struck out for such places as Chalons sur Marne and Epernay. Dave had had a minor in French at ISTC and spoke the language well enough that we could always find wine, cheese, and bread for our forays through the countryside. I don't know who we hitchhiked with to get there, but we got to Rheims several times, and on one of our last trips we made a point of seeing the "Little Red Schoolhouse."
- Most of our guys were moved forward and into action as replacements a couple weeks after we reached the camp, but I was pulled out, on the strength of having had a semester of typing in high school several years earlier, to work with a Warrant Officer (assistant adjutant) to get out a large number of letters to the families of 327th soldiers who had been killed or were missing in action. These were signed and sent by the regimental commander, of course. The shooting ended in May, and shortly after that the handful of us still in base camp were flown or trucked to Berchtesgaden, where we rejoined our comrades and spent the summer nominally on occupation duty. Moved to Bad Hofgastein, Austria, for a month, then back west (in cattle cars) to Sens, south of Paris, until ordered home for discharge in time to celebrate New Year's of 1946, on the high (and stormy) seas--and in the Queen Mary, no less.
Strayer and his wife, Faye Strayer, are activist members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City, Iowa.