After meeting Robert Thornton Morrison, an organic chemistry graduate student at the University of Chicago, on Washington’s Birthday in 1942, Joan married him June 19, 1943. For a year they lived in Oberlin, Ohio where Bob was an instructor in the Department of Chemistry at Oberlin College. Joan finished up at the U of C by correspondence—all by hand and “snail mail” as there was no internet in those days!
Bob then entered the navy and they moved many times between 1944-46. Here’s my dad in his navy uniform.
Joan accompanied him around the country and they often reminisced happily about those honeymoon years. Bob was stationed mainly in Virginia and Florida. An ensign, Bob taught radar in Norfolk, Virginia and was getting his destroyer ready to fight in the Pacific, when the atom bombs fell on Japan and World War II ended.
Here is a photo of Joan and Bob at a restaurant or nightclub. Note that Bob is wearing his navy uniform!
Thereafter Bob took a postdoc at Northwestern University and Joan worked on a team with noted sociologist Robert Havighurst on his landmark “Prairie City” study of adolescent development and family life. Bob got a job as a professor of Organic Chemistry at New York University starting in 1948, where he stayed until his early retirement in 1969. You can read about Bob and his famous Organic Chemistry textbook here.
Meanwhile, Joan worked for the advertising agency Cunningham and Walsh and freelanced in the late 40s and 1950s for women’s magazines such as Mademoiselle, Better Homes and Gardens, and Glamour, writing articles such as “24-Hr. Mothers with 8-Hr. Jobs,” Glamour (January 1956). She also began to freelance for The New York Times, publishing articles well into her 70s. One of her articles was entitled “North Woods Odyssey” for Mademoiselle (May 1949). She was paid $250 for the article (a lot in those days!) and for each photo $5-10. It was about Joan and Bob’s canoeing and camping odyssey into the North Woods of Minnesota and Canada. Here’s a photo of Joan and Bob (taken with a time delay camera).
They loved to travel all their lives. In 1951, they took their first trip abroad and visited England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. They visited my mother’s father’s family in Sweden; my grandfather–her father–immigrated from Sweden in 1913 at the age of 16.
Here is a photo of my dad in Norway.
Here’s Joan in the same spot.
They visited Europe again in 1952, but their travels to Europe ended until 1966 with the birth of my brother in 1953. With the start of their family, the couple moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1957. Three children came into their lives: Robert “Bobby” Kirby, James “Jimmy” Vaughn, and Susan “Susie” Signe. They often visited Cape Cod, Massachusetts, during the summer holidays and even went to Europe by ship in the 1960s and 1970s.
Here’s a picture from 1963. My brother, Bobby, is 9, Joan is 40, my grandma Neva is 59, and my brother, Jimmy, is 7. Susie (me) is in the front, age 4. We joke that this is our “Leave It to Beaver” photo after the famous television series because we look so wholesome.
Joan also taught freelance writing as an adjunct professor at the County College of Morris in Dover for 15 years, and as an adjunct professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City taught a popular course on the 1960’s. She died in 2010. In a way, this book is Joan’s own oral history, unearthed decades after having been composed.
My brother, Robert Kirby Morrison, let me use some of his material on our parents’ lives in this biography. Thanks, Bobby!