Saturday, September 27, 2008

Small Strange Happening

Right before I left my ofc yesterday I pulled out a book, Willa Cather's Not Under Forty. There's an essay in there that I was thinking of maybe having my fiction class look at part of on Monday. But I never did get to the point of looking at it, because as I opened it I got snagged on the name written in smooth even cursive in blue ink inside the cloth cover. This book, I should say, is a first edition. I bought it for $4 in the unnamed used book store just off Washington St. in Lewisburg, West Virginia. It was a find--a 1936 Borzoi book, with higher quality printing and paper than you see today--but probably not worth much more than four bucks because there was no dust jacket and the cloth had been faded by mildew. Anyway as I opened it up I saw this name and got sort of confused. The name was 'Myfanwy Williams.' I'd only ever heard of one Myfanwy--Myfanwy Collins, friend of Wigleaf and super-sweet writer--and at first, since I wasn't really reading the name so much as seeing it, I got confused. For part of a second I was maybe wondering if there wasn't some crossover between these two elements of my fiction-writer life, something I'd missed. 'Williams' being somewhat similar to 'Collins' maybe contributed to that. This all happened fast, within like a second, but it was enough to cause my left hand to jiggle and the book to slip, and when I caught it something fell out of the pages, something old and folded and brown. This was also really confusing, because when I'd found the book in West Virginia and discovered that it was a first edition, I'd looked it over hard, as an object. I wouldn't have believed there might have been anything in the pages I missed. But there was: part of a folded telegram, dated 1936, the year of the book's release. It was a Western Union Holiday Greeting, with a rich print of a detail from a painting of a colonial New England Christmas: guy in a tri-corner hat and floating red scarf with a pine tree over his shoulder, two daughters trailiing in the snow, one shouldering the axe. The pasted-on telegram print, dictated by Charles someone (the last name was torn off) expressed wishes for a happy season.

At home later I googled 'Myfanwy Williams.' There is one, a young girl. Then I googled 'Myfanwy Williams Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania,' because that's where the telegram was addressed to. I found a pdf of a 1964 student newspaper from Wilkes College. In it there's mention of the new student production of Sound of Music. Somebody named Myfanwy Williams was assistant director....


DOGZPLOT said...

this reminds me of wayne's world.


"does this seem strange to anyone else? i mean... we're looking down on wayne's basement...only that's not wayne's basement."


"garth! i believe that was a haiku."



Myfanwy Collins said...

Wild! I love this, Scott, and would you believe that just this week I got an email from a fellow who found me via google--his mum's name was Myfanwy.

p.s. thank you for your kindness! :)

BlogSloth said...


And I am glad I am not only one who preps for class a day ahead of time (or hours)

Judy said...

Dear Scott, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw your blog about Myfanwy Williams. I went to Wilkes College (now University) from 1969-1973. I was a music ed. major, but was very involved in theatre there. I was very fortunate to know "Myffy" Williams. I had taken an acting class from her, and knew her from our productions. She was in her 70s or 80s then, both sharp as a tack and amazingly sweet. She passed away around 1970, and we all went to her viewing- very hard. She was very much missed by her students, the faculty and administration and, of course her family. Scott, If you still have either the book or the holiday card, I would really like to have it for Alfred Groh, the head of the Drama Department at that time. He was like a son to her and is now ailing himself. Of course, I would gladly pay you for it. It would mean so much to him. Please email to me at or even phone-805-729-7474. We have moved to PA from CA recently. Thanks so much! Judy Sanger

Spencer said...

Hi, Scott--

Like Judy, I, too, was a student of Myffy Williams's at Wilkes (class of '74). Though it was many years ago, I remember her as a very sharp and supportive teacher of acting. I think she got her training at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. She was a major influence on my life and the lives of many others.

Brent Spencer
Omaha, Nebraska