Amherst College recently received the papers of poet Richard B. Aldridge (AC 1952). Aldridge lived from 1930-1994, edited several poetry anthologies, including Poetry Amherst (1972), and published numerous volumes of his own poetry during his lifetime.
His papers are a fascinating variety of material, including draft and unpublished poetry, a wealth of correspondence with prominent literary figures, a scrapbook from his years at Amherst, emotionally fraught letters between Aldridge and his mother (who disapproved of both his first fiancée, the novelist Janet Burroway, and later of his wife, Josephine Haskell Aldridge), childhood letters from Aldridge’s mother at boarding school in India to her own father, a civilian employee handbook from the National Security Agency with amusing 1950s clip-art (Aldridge briefly worked for the NSA in 1952), and more.
Some of my favorite items in the collection, though, are Aldridge’s childhood stories and artwork. Like the Nelson brothers collection that Mariah wrote about several weeks ago, Aldridge’s childhood creations give a glimpse into the mind of a young boy processing the world around him.
The earliest stories in the collection date to 1936, when Aldridge was just five years old. These stories are quite short, with a strong sense of cause-and-effect and usually ending with the death of the central character.
In 1938 and 1939, Aldridge created a series of hand-drawn magazines or newspapers called “The Champion” that included comic strips, serialized stories, and riddles. At the top of these pages is the price “3¢ a week.”
Aldridge was particularly close to one of his aunts, Jean Symington, and sent her artwork, stories, and poetry throughout the years. In the early 1940s he sent her sketches of horses (he was an avid horseman) and elaborate comic strips about a Nazi-fighting, horse-riding superhero named “Iron Ilent.” These stories are strongly reminiscent of the comic books that were available at the time, with international conspirators and patriotic themes. Enjoy!