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Dialogue in the Age of

Criticism

 

Paul Twitchell's Early Careers

Part One

     If we were to listen to the opinions of David Lane, we would have to conclude that Paul, in his early days, couldn't hold a job, never succeeded at anything, and was generally a loser. Interestingly, the information from the files at the Paducah Library from those days, tell us a very different story.

     Paul apparently had a very productive career as an athletic director, right out of high school, on through college, and into his mid-twenties. This seems to be where Paul first developed his skills as a promoter and leader, since the files hold pages and pages of news stories about his efforts in those days. It appears that Paul was quite successful in this early career of his.

     Following this, Paul decided to take up writing. He began with his poetry and The Coins of God, but soon expanded into all types of writing; from historical pieces to fiction. He wrote books that were serialized, newspaper articles, magazine features, and even small pieces for Ripley's Believe It Or Not and other similar publications. In fact, his writing career grew so rapidly it became something of a sensation itself, and a source of many articles about Paul.

     This would become the beginning of a career in journalism for Paul that lasted for over 25 years, ending when he began his work in building ECKANKAR.

     However, David tries to tell us a very different story - that Paul tried to hide his past by lying. Here's what David said recently on the Internet newsgroup, alt.religion.eckankar:

     Paul Twitchell has had a LONG history of changing his biography. As Harold Klemp acknowledges in his review of Paul's life, Twitchell "exaggerated" and "twisted" facts from an early age. His myth making didn't start in 1963 or1965. It started much earlier.

     To back up his argument, David refers to a quote from Harold where Harold refers to an interesting piece on Paul that showed up in the Who' Who in Kentucky, when Paul was just 27 years old. Harold wondered whether Paul himself, known for his ability to promote, had not been the source for the piece.

     However, David never looked behind the comments that Harold was making. Harold wasn't saying that Paul did dark and sinister things. Harold was talking about Paul in the same way you might describe a favorite friend. If David had seen the actual piece on Paul in the Who's Who in Kentucky, he would have seen that his argument was without merit.

     Fortunately, this page from the Who's Who turned up in the Paducah Library files. Here is the article:

     "Twitchell, John Paul, director municipal recreation; b. Paducah, Ky., Oca, 22, 1908; s. Jacob Noah and Effie Dorothy Twitchell; ed. Augusta Tilghman H. S., grad. 1928; Physical dir. Y.M.C.A., Paducah, Ky., 1928-31; Paris Ky., 1929; track Coach, Tilghman H. S., Paducah, 1929-30-31; athletic director Murray State Teachers Coll., 1931-33; Western State Teachers Coll., Bowling Green, Ky., 1933-35; asst. director Ohio State Univ., fall of 1935; municipal recreation director, Paducah, since 1935. Contributor of articles to Athletic Journal. Office: Campbell Bldg. Mome[sic]: 1625 North Twelfth St., Paducah, Ky."

     We can see from this piece that it was included in the Who's Who because Paul was the director of municipal recreation for Paducah. That's what it says in the lead sentence. Later, it says that Paul held this position since 1935.

     Next, we notice that Paul's date of birth is wrong, since we have now established that Paul was born in 1909, not 1908 as some of Paul's relatives had recorded in their family bibles. I believe this shows us that this piece was not submitted by Paul, but more on this a little later.

     However, I see nowhere in this piece what David could call proof of Paul's twisting and exaggerating facts, especially since it is unlikely that Paul even submitted it.

     Harold was simply referring to this Who's Who article because he was wondering why anything about Paul would end up in such a reference book when Paul was just 27 years old. Harold could imagine Paul sending this information into the publication, because Paul was well known for his abilities to promote the activities of others and himself. In other words, Harold was simply trying to move ECKists away from the idolization of Paul by showing Paul's human motivations were much the same as our own. Harold was showing us Paul's human side in a friendly way.

     As for the difficulty of being included in the Who's Who of Kentucky in those days, here is a quote from the very same page that Paul's name was on:

     "Tway, R. C., pres. Tway Coal Co.   Breeder of        Registered Live Stock.  Office: Ky.  Home Life Bldg., Louisville, Ky.  Home: Plainview Farms, Jefferson County, Ky."

     There must be thousands of entries in this Who's Who. Some long, some short.

     I agree with Harold that Paul was a great promoter from his early twenties. Paul started promoting the sporting and physical activities that he helped organize for the community. There are dozens of articles about these events in the files at the Paducah Library.

     In his late twenties and early thirties, it appears that Paul decided to make it as a full time, freelance writer. He then looked for any way he could find to sell a story. Sometimes these stories were about himself. Not usually, but he didn't pass up on these opportunities.

     For example, Paul got a blurb on himself, when he entered the Navy, printed in the periodical called "Strange As It Seems." It was a column similar to Ripley's Believe It or Not. It says, very simply, with an illustration of Paul in his uniform:

     "The family of Paul Twitchell U.S.N.R., has its name on the war record of every American war! He is cousin of Robert Barret Winch, first American killed overseas in World War I."

     Periodicals printed little bits like this all the time, because they were human interest pieces and could easily fill a space in the page layout.

     In response to this new information, do you think David would agree that his references to the Who's Who article were a bit exaggerated themselves? No, it merely whet his appetite. Here is how David answered:

     Here we have a wonderful test. 

     1. Was Paul Twitchell really the "athletic director" at Murray State Teachers College from 1931 to 1933?

     2. Was Paul Twtichell really the "athletic director" at Western State Teachers College from 1933-1935?

     What I do know is that Stephen D. House, Registrar at Western Kentucky University, writes that Twitchell entered college in September 1933 at the recorded age of 22.

     Did he really secure the athletic director's job at the same time?

     And what does such a title mean?

     I know that being an athletic director today is actually a fairly big position......

     In any case, Doug, here's a treasure trove of possibilities.

     Let's check and see how accurate this bio is.

     And if Twitchell is the source for this bio, then he is claiming he was born in 1908.

     What I find so interesting is David's own writes: "here's a treasure trove of possibilities."

     I can see David's creative juices at work. This new material presents a whole new list of negative possibilities that can be suggested about Paul. Think of all the new imagined accusations we can now propose!

     David, indeed, seems inspired by his work. And from this we can be assured that if there is any possibility of negativity about Paul, or ECKANKAR, David will be there to help us see it and face it. This appears to be David's contribution, and I don't mean it sarcastically when I say that we should appreciate him for the benefits of his work, because we learn and grow when we face challenges. David will surely keep ECKANKAR honest, even if he does twist and exaggerate a bit himself.

     Here was my response to David:

    Why would you think Paul was the source for this bio? If anything, the 1908 date would normally suggest that someone else must have submitted this information. But let's see how it checks out.

     Take another look at that letter from the Registrar at Western Kentucky University. It doesn't say what you think. It says that Paul listed his age as 22 upon his "admission" to Western State, not when Paul entered college. Also, the Registrar includes the correction to an earlier error he had made when he writes that Paul attended Western State from September 1933 through January 1935, "not from September, 1932, as given in my earlier correspondence."

     Why did he make that error? Was it because in fact the Sept. 1932 date was the date of Paul's admission? Admission does take place before attending, correct? Paul would have been 22 on Sept. 1932, if he was born Oct. 1909, right?

     The 1933-35 date for Paul attending Western State does match the Who's Who bio.

     Also, if Paul told his correct birthdate upon his "admission" to Western State, or let's even say that he made it sound like he was one year younger than he really was, as you have claimed, why would he say to Who's Who that he was now one year older?

     And remember, you claimed that Paul said he was born in 1912 when he got married to Camille Ballowe, and that was only a few years after the Who's Who bio. That would have Paul even younger. So why would Paul make himself one year older? It doesn't even fit.

     Of course, we shouldn't forget that in fact Paul's father was the source of the 1912 birthdate, since that was the date that Paul's father recorded as Paul's birthdate in the delayed birth certificate he filed less than one year before Paul's marriage. This birth certificate is likely the source of the date on Paul's first marriage certificate. In fact, it was probably due to Paul's impending marriage that Paul's father filed the delayed birth certificate.

      As for whether Paul indeed held the position of athletic director for those schools, the Paducah Library files have copies of well over 100 articles on or about Paul Twitchell covering the period up to about 1943. Over half of them are about the physical activities that Paul organized or led. The other articles cover Paul's literary career which began in 1938, after the Who's Who bio.

     Here are a few titles related to Paul's physical activities leadership:

     "Plan For Formation Of Basketball League in Graves County: Twitchell Calls for Meeting Tuesday Night Here"

     "Wildcats are Named Touch Grid Champions"

     "Forty Candidates Will Report For Murray Practice"

     "Paul Twitchell Promotes Water Sport in Egypt [Kentucky]"

     "Local Swimmers Back Evansville Stars Saturday."

     "McMahon Presents Each Winner With A Handsome Medal - Twitchell Says Next Program To Be Held March 27"

     "Boxers to Mix Thursday For Tade's Benefit."

     "Twitchell Pairs Boxers For Next Show At College."

     "Negroes Prepare For Boxing Card."

     "Twitchell Explains Values of Trophy for College"

     "Champion Toppers Are Welcomed By Students On Return From Tourney"

     "Twitchell Says Amateurs Will Mix January 31."

     "Paducah To Have Bicycle Marathon."

     "Colored Fighters Ready For Bouts."

     "10 Playgrounds To Open May 1, Twitchell Says."

     "WPA To Sponsor Training School."

     "Basketball Clinic To Be Held in Paducah."

     There are dozens more just like these. So, does it seem hard to understand why someone at Who's Who thought it appropriate to include a bio on Paul Twitchell?

     Except for the birth date, which someone seems to have gotten from one of the family bibles that were incorrect, the rest of the bio seems accurate.

     Does this surprise you David?

     Well, David didn't say if it surprised him or not, but he began digging through some of his old files and came back with this:

    Here is a direct quote:

     "Wilson Gantt, dean of admissions and registrar, says the school's records show Twitchell graduated from Tilghman High School in Paducah in MAY 1931 and entered MURRAY that September. He remained a full-time student until March of 1933, Gantt said."

     Hmm.... Hey, Doug, what does this do to that profile?

     Well, it does raise a few interesting questions, but it certainly doesn't suggest any wrong-doing by Paul, since, as I've said, it is unlikely that Paul submitted the piece to Who's Who.

     In studying David's quote, a number of questions and observations can be made. For example, Gantt was the dean for Murray College, not for Tilghman High School, so where does his information about Paul's high school records come from? Are they accurate? When did Paul begin high school? Did he attend high school for 6-7 years? If so, why?

     Unfortunately, Gantt's information is so incomplete we really don't know what it means.

     If we look again at the Who's Who piece, interestingly, it shows that Paul was associated with Tilghman High School until 1931, as Gantt said, but not as a student. It shows Paul as track coach then, and that Paul graduated in 1928, which would have made Paul 18 years old. Is there a connection here?

     If we try to piece this together, we can imagine what might explain these bits of information. We can remember that these years are around the time of the Great Depression. Paul's brother, Clyde, who was two years older than Paul was probably going through college when Paul graduated high school. Kay-Dee, could still have been in college at this time as well. Perhaps Paul's father could not afford three children in college at the same time. Was this why Paul postponed entry into Murray for two or three years? Did Paul work as track coach so he could continue his studies through the high school while he waited? Was this common practice in those days?

     One of the reasons I am including the details of this discussion with David, is because it shows the challenges of accurately recreating what took place so far in the past. There are not enough facts to know for sure what really happened, and so we are largely left to our imaginations. With David and I coming from such different viewpoints, perhaps a more truthful picture is obtained. Sometimes interesting insights are gained from even the minor details.

     For example, in what I thought was at first a humorous discovery, I posted to alt.religion.eckankar that I finally had proof that Paul had been to Paris after high school. If you will remember, in the book, In My Soul I Am Free, Brad Steiger tells a story about Paul's youth. Paul had just graduated from high school and went to see his Grandmother, whom he affectionately called "Grands."

     "You will recall, I am certain, that I made you a promise," Grands began in a strong, raucous voice. Her weight had easily shot up to one hundred and sixty pounds since she had got off her horse and into her Cadillac. "I promised you that if you kept your grades up you could go to Paris for a few weeks and visit your sister. You do recall that promise?"

     Paul grinned, not minding the way Grands was teasing him. "Yes, Grands," he said. "I surely do recall your promise."

      "Well," Grands said, slowly working at the wad of tobacco in her mouth, "it 'pears that you have kept your part of the bargain and now I'm gonna have to keep mine."

      Grands then goes on to instruct Paul to check up on his sister Kay-Dee, who was studying art in Paris. Grands was concerned Kay-Dee's thoughts might be drifting toward the young French men and off her studies.

     We have already seen, in Chapter One of David's book, that Kay-Dee's second husband, and Clyde's wife both claimed that Kay-Dee never went to France or India. So, David wrote the whole thing off as wholesale lies.

     So, what was my proof? Well, go back and re-read the Who's Who article. You'll see it says quite clearly that Paul was in Paris the year after he graduated from high school. Exactly like it said in Brad Steiger's book. Well, except for the fact that it was Paris, Kentucky, not Paris, France!

     I thought this was funny, and wondered if there wasn't a bit of a joke in there somehow. But then, about the time I posted this, David began dredging up old posts from his web site and sending them to alt.religion.eckankar. A few days later he posted one I had never noticed before.

     In the post, David was reporting a phone conversation he had with Charlie Wallace. Charlie claims to have gone to Kentucky, where he spoke with Paul's nephew. In the post, David writes:

     "Charlie also states that Kay-Dee did indeed study in Paris - but not Paris, France - but Paris, Kentucky..."

     I then remembered that David had once written about a conversation he had with Brad Steiger. David asked Brad how he could have published all the stories he did about Paul, and Brad admitted that he had changed the names and places, but such practice was common in biographies in those days.

     We, of course, know that China Point, which Brad had named as Paul's hometown, was in fact Paducah, Kentucky. Apparently Brad and Paul went a lot further than China Point. How many of the names and places did they really change? Was Sudar Singh his real name? Did Paul really meet him in India? Did this really take place just before Paul's mother died in 1940? If Brad and Paul changed the names, places and dates, as Brad admitted, then most of what David has challenged would be explained.

     We already have learned, contrary to Paul Iverlet's (Kay-Dee's second husband) statements, that Paul's father had fathered more than one child illegitimately and had later married and adopted those children to legitimize them. So, Paul's own story of being born out of wedlock has at least some truth to it. So, was the essence of these stories true? Is it the names, places and perhaps some dates that David is so concerned with?

     Once again, we don't have enough information to know for sure. But I'm sure David will let us know any new negative possibilities that come along, to keep us honest.

 

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Copyright 2000 by Doug Marman

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