Cosmos is a flower. Cosmos Screen is a patch of cosmos flowers observed at the age of five; iconic pleasant first memories for the author. It is from this screen that he relates the story of his life. It is also the screen beyond which he relates something of his ancestry. The story follows the author from that cosmos screen in rural southern Alabama in 1930, through the Great Depression of the thirties, World War 11, his college years, then through his professional development as an artist educator, and describes his travels to forty-six countries. Throughout all of this the author threads stories of his secret struggles to satisfy his sexual desires while maintaining the secret of his, and his older brother’s, homosexual life. Religion, racism, homophobia and poverty are described as issues against which the author struggles along with the alienation that these issues develop for the author and for his brother. Intriguing stories told with analytical insight.
My work at Pearl Harbor was enjoyable, and my time spent off base in Hawaii was extremely enjoyable and rewarding. Perhaps the most depressing event that I experienced was the purge of homosexuals that was carried out throughout the Pacific Command. The “purge” began when three sailors, stationed at three different bases, became involved in a triangle love affair. One of the sailors was stationed at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. It seems that he felt rejected in this triangle affair and committed suicide in a major downtown hotel. The subsequent investigation revealed the other two parties of the triangle as well as names of their friends. I knew, but was not close to, the Ford Island sailor and his suicide upset me greatly. Fortunately, we had never exchanged telephone numbers or addresses, therefore, had no known contact. The other two sailors were arrested by marine guards, who treated them as the lowest of criminals. Their heads were shaven and they were ridiculed. They were made to do the most menial of tasks. They were threatened into revealing names of everyone they knew, gay and non-gay alike. Each of these in turn was investigated and interrogated. I received this information as factual from my Marine friends. It was well known that there were many gay officers and enlisted personnel in all branches of the service at that time, and, as one should expect, there was a large concentration of gays in each of the headquarters. When this investigation began to reveal the names of so many gays, one could sense the fear permeating every office. Suspicion ran rampant among the troops. Friends became afraid to leave the base together or even to talk to each other on buses. I well remember that our daily ride by bus to and from our offices had been times of chatter and friendly banter. This typically was about events or experiences the previous evening or weekend. These rides became silent journeys after these investigations began. Each of us read something or tried to ignore each other. Tension was clearly apparent in the offices. The inquisitions and discharges were debilitating and demoralizing generally and particularly traumatic for those who were personally involved. These purged discharges and resignations were at a terrible cost to the government. We lost well-trained personnel, knowledgeable in their fields, and serving their country well. Their training, of course, came at a high price for the government, and the disruptions and replacements likely cost as much. During this time, Tommy and I had been dating two female professors at the University of Hawaii and had acquired many friends on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. During the purge, we had to sit apart on the bus or take separate buses and meet at private homes. Even in the private homes, we had to be cautious about invited guests who might divulge our names. Tommy and I continued to be close friends and lovers during my entire time in Hawaii as a serviceman and as a student. Unfortunately, in 1949, our affair ended when he finished his enlistment and he returned to Texas, and I to the University of Florida. We continued a regular correspondence for about twenty years. We finally lost contact with each other when I began my doctoral studies in 1960, and he moved after the death of both parents. I had planned to complete my doctorate and resume our relationship. I have to admit that the loss, that disconnect, has haunted me ever since. My barber in Pearl Harbor, a sailor who I knew was not gay, was in town one evening and took a cab back to the base with a Marine, who happened to be in need of a cab to the same place. This was a common practice. However, the following morning when he came to the barbershop, he was arrested by two Marine guards and underwent extensive questioning. There was absolutely no indication that either of these persons was gay, and they were cleared. That experience was indeed traumatic for both of them. It certainly increased the tension and anxiety among all of us. At the same time, the head of our personnel office at CINC-PAC headquarters was an openly gay person who daily wore sandals with his uniform. He was never even investigated. Presumably this was because he knew too many of the highest ranking officers who were also gay. He could have exposed several of them. One need only imagine how everyone distanced themselves from him during this time. During these purges, officers most often were given the chance to resign while enlisted men were summarily discharged with "less than honorable" or "Section Eight" classifications, leaving them without educational and veterans’ benefits. Over three thousand officers and men in the Pacific Command were humiliated and sent home for no reason other than sexual orientation. This was clearly a demonstration of homophobia at its worst. It was a very costly and futile exercise. It was futile because many of the replacements themselves were gay. Unfortunately, it was an experience that still frightens me today and that I would later see repeated in civilian life.
The author is a retired university professor, who describes his struggles of life in a fundamentalist religious family, a homophobic and racist society, and rural southern poverty. He left home at the age of 18 and served three years in the United State Air Force. He attended the University of Hawaii, the University of Florida and George Peabody College of Education. He taught art and World Geography in junior and senior high school. He earned his doctor’s degree in 1965 after which he became a university professor who obtained recognition as an acclaimed art educator. He is an artist, a photographer, a world traveler, an atheist and an advocate for racial and gay rights. He has lectured and exhibited in Denmark, Brazil and China. His travels have taken him to forty-six foreign countries with one trek along the Silk Route in the Gobi desert of China. He has enjoyed home stays in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Irkutsk, Russia as well as Kunming, China, Uzbekistan and Denmark. In this story, he relates the events of his life and examines them from an optimistic philosophical reference. His pain of having to live a secret life, his sexual explorations, his seeking companionship and love are described without blame. His family’s economic struggles as a Southern sharecropper established a fear of poverty that permeates all other events. At the same time he credits effusively those who aided him or directed him on this journey. The Cosmos Screen is the backdrop against which he tells his story.