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First Student Co-op Residence at Stanford, 1939-1945

The Japanese Clubhouse, built by the Japanese Student Association, 1916. Leased by the Walter Thompson Cooperative House, 1942-1945 during the Japanese internment by the US Government. Demolished in 1968.

Excerpt from Reminiscences, by J. Murray Luck. 1999, pp. 79-81. [PDF]

My description of cooperative housing in the Stanford area (see the preceding section) would be quite incomplete unless a brief reference to the Stanford Housing Cooperative were included. The Co-op was commonly known as the Walter Thompson Cooperative House. It was located at 714 Santa Ynez and was also referred to as Tamarack Lodge. For at least twenty years prior to 1942, the house, owned by Stanford University, had been leased to a club of Japanese Japanese-American students. Yoshio Okumoto, a research assistant in anatomy, served for twenty years as the secretary of the club. *   He collected the rents ($300 per month) for transmittal to the university, paid the taxes, and exercised other functions as a sort of de facto owner.

The Japanese were obliged to evacuate the house in early 1942. Shortly thereafter, other students, members of the Stanford University Student Cooperative, took over the lease and occupied the premises. Occupancy continued during the remaining years of the war. The Cooperative was in excellent financial condition throughout its occupancy of the house. In June 1945 the group was informed by the university that the lease was to be cancelled and would terminate in the following August September. Termination of the lease was part of a major reconversion project of student housing, dictated by the closing of fraternities in 1943 and by the demands of the Army and Navy to use all available housing for occupancy by the Civil Affairs Training Officers, the Civil Communications School, and a number of female officers. Several fraternity houses, Encina Hall, Branner Hall, and Toyon Hall, were occupied by units of the Army and Navy. Sequoia Hall remained as the only university residence for male students.

On June 21, 1944, the Student Housing Cooperative conveyed its assets to a Trust of which the Trustees were Paul Kirkpatrick, Murray Luck, Otway Pardee, and Robert G. Randolph. The document of conveyance was signed by the three officers of the Student Housing Cooperative and by thirty of its members, 12 of whom were occupants of the house. The sum of 1,000 was received from the Cooperative for investment on its behalf and to be used to aid in the re-establishment of a student-sponsored cooperative living association when this was deemed advisable and possible.

As of June 1, 1953, the assets of the Trust totalled 1,272.65, distributed as follows:

Throughout the 1960s the Trustees moved steadily toward the conclusion that the monies committed to their care should be used in the immediate future for the purposes spelled out in the conveyance document. In 1969 the Trustees agreed that the Trust should be terminated and the funds in its custody should be given to Stanford University for the Stanford Student Loan Fund. The funds had increased through interest accumulation to $2,393.55. On March 6, 1969, President Pitzer gratefully accepted the gift and assured the Trustees that the money would be added to the Student Loan Fund and used to assist the university’s students in financial need. This transmittal of the entire assets of the Trust to the university led thereby to termination of the functions and responsibilities of the Trust and hence to its immediate dissolution.

Please refer to the following extract, “An Obituary” on cooperative housing, for further information, including several statements by Leland Stanford, who was a firm believer in, and a dedicated advocate of, cooperative organizations. Leland Stanford’s advocacy of cooperative organizations is also described in much detail by Lee Altenberg in Sandstone and Tile, Vol.14, No.1, Winter 1990, pp. 8 to 19, a publication of the Stanford Historical Society. The Altenberg article, which I heartily recommend, is entitled “An End to Capitalism: Leland Stanford’s Forgotten Vision.”

* According to Nilan (2003), the address was 420 Santa Ynez Street. Stanford President Wilbur signed a leasehold with the Japanese Student Association in 1916 to build the Japanese Clubhouse, which implies that the Japanese Student Association owned the house. However, from Luck’s comments, it appears that by 1941, the University has ownership of the house.

The interview with Prof. Pardee, below, mentions that the University also placed itself as the sole Trustee of the Japanese Student Association. In 1945, Stanford Vice President Alvin Eurick, who especially “wanted to control everything on campus,” informed the Trustees of Walter Thompson Cooperative that he wanted the University to take over its Trusteeship, and offer they refused. The administration therewith terminated the cooperative.

August 23, 1945

Stanford Daily Editorials—Features [PDF]

An Obituary

by Cyclone Covey

“THE FEW VERY RICH can get their education anywhere,” said Senator Stanford in his last letter to David Starr Jordan (the first president of the University). “They will be welcome to this institution if they come, but the object is more particularly to reach the multitude—those people who have to consider the expenditure of every dollar.” But over the years the Stanford Family has winced to see this University become, perhaps partly out of necessity, a rich man’s school. And for whatever reasons and however justifiable, the hard fact is still that Stanford has failed a fundamental aim of its founders.

With us they would watch sadly next month the death of the only active adherence to the original ideal still remaining at Stanford, when the University administration terminates the Walter Thompson Co-op House.

In spite of the vicissitudes of its establishment, the lack of University encouragement, and all the years of the war, the Co-op has operated continuously, has served superior meals, has kept low prices, and still shows a surplus of one thousand dollars. (At one time, it not only provided meals for its own members, but also for the graduate women of Hilltop House.) During the same period, the fraternities and eating clubs were forced to close entirely, and the University lost money on men’s halls under its management while keeping them less clean, serving inferior meals, and charging prices twice as high. The meals served at the Co-op are the best available to men, army or civilian, on campus, and the cost of both room and board is the lowest of any campus living group, men’s or women’s. The Co-op has been successful. It has also made a definite contribution to student life.

Among its members have been counted Jews, blacks, and nationals of twenty foreign countries. And from the beginning, the operation of the house on cooperative and democratic principles has been for the most part effective and congenial, and for many members, a godsend.

For two successive years the Co-op ranked first among all living groups in scholarship. Numbers of its members have served on Excom and Men’s Council, and other offices of student government, and have participated in every activity from the choir to intramurals to theatricals. Members have held scholarships, worked as instructors and as teaching and resident assistants.

And no Co-op member has ever been brought before Men’s Council on a moral charge or violation of the honor code.

Far from deserving termination, the Co-op more than any single living group deserves official backing by the University.

Leland Stanford took frequent occasion to further the cause of cooperation and cooperative groups. He even introduced a bill in the US Senate to encourage and provide for the formation of cooperatives in the District of Columbia.

And in support of it he delivered two months later one of his rare speeches on the floor of the Senate.

In the exercises of the opening day of the University he was careful to point out that provision had been made for freely teaching the benefits of cooperation, through which modern progress had been mostly achieved. “Cooperative societies,” he said, “bring forth the best capacities, the best influences of the individual for the benefit of the whole.” The doubtful venture of the founding of the Walter Thompson Co-op was underwritten by eighteen of the Stanford faculty, and approved in writing by twenty-two more. The name was in honor of the late Walter Thompson, a kindly professor of political science, who had actively furthered the Cooperative Movement. And among scores of contributors, Mrs. David Starr Jordan herself gave a table, chairs, and wicker furniture toward the establishment of the house.

With the passing of the Co-op, and with the imminent commencement of direct supervision of the fraternities and other residences by the University, and its published intention of raising room rent yet again for next quarter, our regrets are deepened that the winds of freedom will blow henceforth less briskly.

Written by Cyclone Covey (one of the student residents of the Walter Thompson Cooperative House)

Interview with

Prof. Otway O'Meara Pardee,

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Syracuse University

Member of Walter Thompson Co-op

Stanford University Oral History

Conducted by Lee Altenberg, October 16, 1989