The scoop

Sixty years ago, The Trail article that never was

by Bob Winskill ’47

I’d been looking for a story for my column in The Trail and was tipped off that the then College of Puget Sound owned property in a seedier part of town. Investigating, I learned that the address was where the local house of ill repute was located. Maybe the property had been donated to the college, a caveat I didn’t care less about. The school owned it—a great story, with all the ingredients I was looking for. A Methodist college in the sex business. Wow! A president who was an ordained minister collecting money from dubious sources. Double wow! I could hardly wait to get it on paper.

Which I did.

Except that The Trail editor got cold feet and turned the column over to President Thompson for review before it went to press.

Hence my standing in front of him, an imposing man. Thompson stood. He paced. He roared. He preached. He swore (that really impressed me—a doctor of divinity who knew a lot of four-letter words). And I was told to kill the piece.

After the scorching, he explained that college presidents were constantly under fire from alumni, boards of trustees, professors, and pillars of the community. And, he underlined, the last thing he needed was some undergraduate taking a shot at him. We parted friends.

The salon in question was run by one Ann Thompson (who was not even remotely related to DocT). It was a nice house. The girls were pretty, and there was always music downstairs where the patrons waited, usually a good piano player. The bar was frequented by the local judge and police chief, so the place was never raided. Paying customers, swabbies and GIs intent on other pursuits, didn’t hang around the bar. They headed upstairs. But my pal Harry Smith and I did. The drinks were cheap and the chief and judge were good people to know.

While Ann had a lot of stories to tell about upstanding citizens who were regular, although furtive, customers, I never had the intestinal fortitude to ask if anyone I knew was one of them. I had learned that sometimes it’s better to leave sleeping dogs lie. So to speak.

But I would have loved to have had that piece published and seen the look on my mother’s face when she read it. That alone would have been worth getting expelled.

In addition to writing for The Trail, Bob Winskill worked on Tamanawas when he was a student and sang with the Adelphians. These days he lives in Sausalito, Calif. He writes a weekly column for the Marin Scope, which he always e-mails to us and which we look forward to and enjoy reading very much.