Printer Bowler

Nathaniel Blumberg: Open to change


By Wilbur Wood

 (Wilbur Wood was a student of Nathaniel Blumberg in the early 1960s at the University of Montana in Missoula. And he was the leader  of a contingent of Blumberg students that turned up in San Francisco, many dispatched by the  Dean to work on the Guardian during the highly active and newsworthy 1960s.   Wilbur was a poet and a reporter,  with a master's degree in creative wiriting at San Francisco State, so he fit in well at the Guardian. He had edited his campus paper,  so I made him city editor. He covered the 1967 mayor's race and operated as if he were directed by Blumberg himself.  Wilbur followed Joe Alioto around, from place to place, and found that Alioto was changing his story depending on the audience.  Wilbur, as a Blumberg mentee, was not shocked. He nailed Alioto and  wrote one of the most amusing and  illuminating stories of the campaign. but it did not deter Alioto from becoming mayor. Wilbur 's big triumph as city editor was his work in positioning and editing an investigative story exposing how the members of the  local  San Francisco draft boards were anonymous, establishment types who worked in secrecy at secret meetings to draft a disproportionate number of minorities.  The expose  appeared in Deccember, 1967, in  the red hot middle of the Vietnam War. It was a bombshell, the first such story ever done in the nation, and led to extensive litigation on behalf of draftees in federal court, pioneering reforms in the draft, and inspired a national New York Times investigation.  It was written by Eugene Hunn, the husband of Nancy Engelbach Hunn from Kalispell, Montana, and a classmate of Wilbur's and a student of Blumberg at the Montana School of Journalism.

(Alas, Wilbur  went back to Montana, as all Montana people seemed to do, and is now a poet, reporter, and philosopher living in his hometown of Roundup, Montana with his wife Elizabeth. She worked as an ad representative at the Guardian. Elizabeth and Wilbur run a a writing, editing, and consulting business called Stone House Productions. The stonehouse was built by Wilbur's grandfather and is where the two live, work, and play.   Others in this Guardian era also went back to Montana:  Printer Bowler, Troy Holter, Larry Cripe, Nancy Engelbach Hunn, Karen King, Bruce DeRosier, Doug Giebel et al, a talented group of journalists, writers, and political activists bristling with Montana populism. The Blumberg/Montana contributions were enormously valuable in our early days when we had lots of ideas and ambitions but slender resources.   Why they left San Francisco to go back to Montana is still a mystery to me.)

I’m late for class, jogging, short-cutting across a mowed lawn in front of the School of Journalism. A window squeaks open and the unmistakable voice of the Dean, Nathan Blumberg, roars out a second story window: “BARBARIAN!”

Astonished, I plop down on the ground, speechless, chagrined, then leap up and disappear into class. It is the early 1960s. The Dean is, at that time, a man who believes that people should walk on the sidewalks, not upon the carefully tended lawns, at the University of Montana. He sees a reason for rules, even as he openly questions many of them

A scant six or seven years later, this same man is gliding over those same lawns, sailing Frisbees into the sky, chasing the return throws from students, the occasional faculty colleague, and former students back for a visit. Read more »