What brought us together as roommates at Middlebury College was our shared love of classical music and our progressive political beliefs. In a few weeks in the fall of 1959, he drew from his large record collection to introduce me to music of the baroque and classical periods, and in the process changed my tastes forever. For a non-musician, Ed Rothchild, at age twenty, held an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music and opera, the kind you might find among professional symphony players and conductors.
In late February 1960, he and I took a bus to Montreal, about two hours north of Middlebury, to see the sights. Some students went up there to drink or maybe to find loose women, but we went to Montreal to visit cultural sites and listen to classical music. We stayed a couple of nights in the YMCA and visited churches, including the magnificent Notre Dame Basilica with its incredible wood-carved interior and the sprawling St Joseph’s Oratory which featured a large collection of crutches and braces abandoned by people who believed they were cured there. We also took in Notre Dame de Bon Secours, a chapel in old Montreal dedicated to prayers for those at sea. In Bon Secours, lamps suspended from the ceiling were shaped like ships of various eras.
At the Forum, we watched a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. I still recall the French penalty announcements, “La Punission des Canadiens….” On our last day we attended a chamber music concert at L’Ermitage, a small concert hall.
Afterwards we discovered that we didn’t have enough money for the bus back to Middlebury, one hundred and thirty miles away. We took a city bus to the outskirts of Montreal and began hitchhiking. We both wore olive-drab hooded parkas, which our second ride told us were hurting our chances; in the previous month a man in a military-style parka had murdered a priest. “My protection,” he said, pointing to the glove compartment, “is in here.” I guessed he wanted us to think that he had a pistol, on the off chance that we were the killers of the priest. Finally, after a long cold wait in Phillipsburg, Quebec, a group of drunken teenagers took us across the border to Burlington, Vt., where we picked up a ride to Middlebury. It may have been 2:00 AM when we trudged back to our dorm after our frightening trip back from Montreal. He and I made a couple of visits to New York City, and one to Marblehead but that’s another story.
Next week: Stranded