Palo Alto, California, and Retirement

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Palo Alto, California was probably about the best place Dwight and Louise could have selected for their retirement.  Having lived there previously during Dwight’s time as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1969-1970, they were quite familiar with the area.  The weather was mild–no more Massachusetts winters–and there was only one step up into the single-level Palo Alto house, unlike the multi-level Belmont house which was hard on Louise’s knees.  Stanford University appointed Dwight as a Visiting Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, which led to his serving as an adviser for linguistics graduate students, and which meant that he had free use of Stanford Library.  He also could take advantage of the shuttle between the Stanford and U.C. Berkeley campuses.  And it was the Stanford Library, Special Collections, to which Dwight would leave his papers after he died.  Family connections were also a consideration in selecting Palo Alto.  Their son, Bruce, and Louise’s two sisters, Mimi and Malvina, and their families lived in California.  Dwight and Louise quickly made friends with their neighbors on Ramona St.  There was a Co-op market close by and the streets were perfect for bicycling, Dwight’s favorite exercise.

Professional colleagues of Dwight living in California or passing through San Francisco could conveniently pay them a visit.

Dwight with Joseph H. Silverman of UC Santa Cruz, a former student of his, shown here at the Palo Alto house.  On the wall in the background are a painting by Louise and a photo by Bruce of a tower in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a medieval German city.

The house even had a spare bedroom which Dwight turned into a study, unlike Los Angeles where he had to use the garage and Belmont where he was in the attic.

Filing cabinets and bookshelves lined the walls and a window provided a view of the back yard.   Photo taken 1988.
Dwight at his desk, Palo Alto home, probably late 1980s.  Note the card files behind him containing 50,000 4×6 cards with fully quoted citations of anything he had read that might prove useful and phrases he had collected by direct observation, carefully annotated as to time, place, and speaker.  (See Stockwell’s obituary.)
Dwight in his study, probably late 1980s, Palo Alto.  Pictures on the wall include his father, AJ; son, Bruce; grandson, “little” Bruce; and Ann and Derrick.  A replica of the Rosetta Stone appears at top left.

Another benefit was the convenient access to Stanford University Press, which published Joseph Greenberg’s Universals of Human Language in 1978 which included Dwight’s contribution, “Intonation and Its Uses,” (number 252 in the full bibliography on this website). Stanford University Press went on to publish Dwight’s last two books, Intonation and Its Parts: Melody in Spoken English in 1986 (number 298) and Intonation and Its Uses: Melody in Grammar and Discourse in 1989 (number 316).  Speaking of his Intonation and Its Uses, Dwight said of this scholarly output, it is “my last symphony.”  (By the end of August, 2017, Stanford University Press reported that sales amounted to almost 3,000 copies for the two books combined.)

In spite of being retired, Dwight’s continuing involvement in the linguistics profession led to his being elected president (1975-76) of the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS).  The history of LACUS describes its founding as follows:

“LACUS was founded in August 1974 by a group of linguists of the Great Lakes Region.  Their plan was to create a forum for the free flow of ideas and discussion on human communicating behavior from all possible points of view, going beyond traditional grammatical studies in the various tradtional modes.

“Their thinking was in part influence by an enjoyable informal meeting held the year earlier, in the summer of 1973 in Seattle.  It was a time of lively argumentation and occasional intolerance at meetings of established linguistics organizations.

“As the inaugural meeting of 1974 at Lake Forest College drew to a close, it seemed clear from the reactions of those present that many linguists from around the world would respond positively to such an organization.

“It was decided to hold an annual Forum at a university campus each year, alternating between Canada and the United States.  The 1975 meeting was at the University of Toronto.  The 1976 Meeting was at the University of Texas at El Paso, and the first elected President, Professor Dwight L. Bolinger of Harvard University, delivered the first Presidential Address in Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican side of the border.”

Honors came aplenty during retirement.  Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1973); Orwell Award, National Council of Teachers of English (1981); Corresponding Member, Royal Spanish Academy (1988); Corresponding Fellow, British Academy (1990).

Palo Alto was a favorite destination for the McClures and their three sons.
Dwight in front of their home at 2718 Ramona St., Palo Alto
Dwight relaxing at picnic bench, probably at a Palo Alto park.

During his retirement in Palo Alto, Dwight had an impact on California politics and election law.  The California State Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional the provision of law determining the order of the names of candidates on the ballot–incumbents first with everyone else in alphabetical order.  His son, Bruce, was then working for the California Legislature on election law reform.  There was a need to establish a new rule on ballot order of candidates’ names but the Legislature had been unable to agree on what it should be.  Bruce discussed this with Dwight who came up with a simple solution: have a drawing of the letters of the alphabet at each election to create a random alphabet which would be used to determine the order of the candidates’ names.  The Legislature enacted the new law.  For a more details, see the following pdf file: Something New in Ballot Alphabets, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 19, 1975.

In 1980, Dwight and Louise’s son Bruce married the former Charlotte Brux McKinney.  Bruce and Charlotte moved to Nevada City, north of Sacramento, where he went to work for Nevada County.  Dwight and Louise would make visits to the picturesque Gold Rush town of Nevada City to visit them.

Dwight and Bruce, 1980, near Nevada City, CA.
Undated photo of Dwight and Louise, probably taken in Palo Alto.

Robert Stockwell, in his obituary of Dwight for Language, wrote of Louise’s role in Dwight’s career: ” She also was the critic to whom Dwight submitted every word before anyone else saw it; she commented extensively, and did much of the final typing for him.”  Because she was fluent in French, she could also translate articles on linguistics from French to English.  She spoke Spanish, which helped with his professional relations with colleagues from Spain and Latin America, and, of course, conducted all the social duties expected of a university professor’s wife.  In 1943, when Dwight applied for a Sterling Fellowship at Yale, he headed for the Topeka Post Office on his bicycle, carrying the application with him to mail, but lost it on the way.  Thinking that he did not really have any chance of being awarded the fellowship, Dwight was ready to forget the whole matter and not bother to make out a new application.  It was Louise who retraced every inch of his route, found the application where it had fallen out of his pocket, and mailed it.  The Sterling Fellowship was followed by his appointment to U.S.C.  Dwight’s professional success was certainly, in large part, the result of the support he had from Louise.