Luther H. Buchele History

Luther H. Buchele History
Written August l993

I began my college education at the University of Kansas in the Fall l939. I received my A. B. Degree in Zoology in l946 and my M. A. in Bacteriology in l948.

Starting in l946 I worked on a Bacteriological warfare project under Dr. Cora Downs at the University of Kansas on tularemia (rabbit fever) and used part of the material for my Master’s thesis, “The Pathogenesis of Bacterium Tularense.” The war project was to experiment with Tulerense to see if we could infect mass populations by spraying the germ over troops in the field, stadiums or theaters. Tularemia is a very debilitating disease lasting at least a month and can cause death by pneumonia if inhaled. Streptomycin is counter indicted but wasn’t discovered until the late 40-’s. I accepted the one-half time job as the Executive Secretary of the North American Student Cooperative League (NASCL) in 1949 and worked out of the clothes closet of the Don Henry Co-op in Lawrence mainly editing Co-ops in Action.

In the summer of l95l, I accepted the job as Executive Secretary of the ICC and moved to Ann Arbor early in September. I took NASCL with me to Ann Arbor and Lee Hiller from Wisconsin came to work full time for NASCL under my supervision. In the spring of l988 I was nominated to the Cooperative Hall of Fame by the National Association of Business Cooperatives (formerly the Cooperative League of the USA–CLUSA). I was nominated to the NASCO Hall of Fame in the fall of 1991. I was also recognized as a “Cooperative Pioneer” about five years ago by the Michigan Association of Cooperatives. Please check these dates from the Alumni Cooperator).

The ICC awarded me many plaques for my contribution to the growth of the organization although many times I wondered if it was a reward for my staying longevity.

I was married to Joan Alison Bross (a member of Mark VIII from l956-l958) February 4, l96l at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. We have four children: Royd Stefan, Theresa Allison, (adopted), Libbie Ann and Heidi Lynn. Three of them have received their B. A’s: Royd from Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, Libbie from the U of M and Heidi from Kalamazoo College. Libbie is currently working on a master’s from U of M in Public Policy and Public Health.

Joan and I enjoy our retirement by being active in the Unitarian Church, taking a major trip each winter, and summering at our Cottage on Lake Michigan near the Warren Dunes at Camp Hazelhurst, Harbert, Michigan. Joan is the Librarian at the Hazelhurst Library. I have been president of the camp two years and presently publish the camp newsletter. I am still sorting student co-op material (both locally and nationally). I hope that some of the essay’s we have written will end up in a book about the Luther years.

Recognition of early co-op influences and mentors in my life

I was introduced to cooperatives as a young boy in my rural home town community of Cedar Vale in Southeastern Kansas around l928. My parents were farmers and they were members of many co-ops in the community. Several of the co-ops marketed products raised by the farmers such as grains, livestock, milk, eggs, and wool. Other co-ops sold them farm supplies, electricity, groceries and clothing.

There were seven boys in our family and we learned cooperation by doing the farm chores and helping our mother save the mortgaged farm. My father died in l932 when I was in the 5th grade. Cooperatives in our community made a strong impression on my twin brother and I, the youngest in the family, since we were in the depth of the great depression when my father died.

Cooperatives were a big part of my life an early age, for I shopped at the co-ops, delivered grain to the elevators, herded livestock to the shipping yards, and attended the various co-op’s annual meetings with my father or older brothers. I learned first hand their individual organizational strengths and weakness while sitting on hard wooden benches during the long meetings. Farmers in one of the co-ops (organized as a stock company) had bought stock in the co-op expecting to receive large stock dividends on profits. I can still hear them raging at the management because the co-op paid no dividends. The co-op was loosing money and I knew for a fact that the most vociferous farmers didn’t spend a dime a year at the co-op.

It was natural that I joined the newly organized Jayhawk Co-op when I enrolled in the University of Kansas in Lawrence in the Fall of l939. I had read about the student co-op being organized at KU in the Consumers Cooperative Association’s (CCA) newspaper, The Cooperative Consumer which came to our farm home in Cedar Vale. CCA is now called Farm Land Cooperatives. Life in the student co-op exceeded my wildest expectations for among the members were socialists, brilliant scholarship students and students working on advanced degrees. I flourished and become a “gung-ho” cooperator. It was as if “cooperatives were in my genes” for I held every office possible in the KU co-ops from secretary to president of the University of Kansas Student Housing Association. I helped to organize many of the member co-ops belonging to the Association: Rock Chalk Co-op (men), Harmon Co-op (women), Kaw Koeds (women), Henley (Women), Hill Co-op (men), Rochdale (Men), and Don Henry (men) and lived in most of the mens’ co-ops during my twelve years at KU. The adult movers and shakers of the student co-ops were John J O’Moore, YMCA Executive Secretary, George Docking, a banker, Rev. Edwin Price, Student minister for the Methodist Church, and Dr. Hilden Gibson, of the KU Political Science Department. It is important to point out that the Student Christian Movement was largely responsible for stimulating the organization of student co-ops on college campuses during the depression to help students’ cut living costs and enable them to stay in college. Dr T.. Kagawa spoke at the conference held in _____at Univ______on organizing student cooperatives to promote world peace and economic democracy. Undoubtedly, O’Moore and Price were stimulated by this speech to help students organize the KU co-ops. Docking went on to be the Governor of the State of Kansas and in a few years later his son Robert followed him in the governorship. Gibson was a socialist who had been bitten by the co-op bug when his brother managed the Hyde Park Co-op Cooperative in Chicago in the late 30′s. I was active in the organization of the Central League of Campus Cooperatives (CLCC) for states surrounding Kansas and including Texas. These states were the trade area of CCA which was located in Kansas City. Their staff provided tremendous help to CLCC and their individual co-op on college campuses in the CCA area. I remember Merlin Miller, Hal Charles, and Durwood DeWitt of the CCA Education Department, Glenn Fox in the Finance Department and Howard Cowden, President of CCA. I had met these men at a 4-H Youth Cooperative Camp at Hutchinson Kansas when I was in High School . I was awarded this trip as a scholarship for writing an essay on Cooperative Marketing.

I was elected to various CLCC offices. We held conferences on various campuses about every six months. It was at the Baldwin City, Kansas conference that I met Gwen Goodrich who, when she moved to Ann Arbor, was helpful to the ICC by serving on the advisory board.

When the North American Student Cooperative League (NASCL) was organized, I saw its potential for the strengthening of co-ops over America. I have always been sorry that I didn’t attend the organizing conference in Plymouth, Wisconsin in ________. I attended the second NASCL conference at UCLA where I accepted their job offer to become their Executive Secretary and edit the newsletter, Co-ops on Campus (later changed to Co-ops in Action).

In September l95l, NASCL and Co-ops on Campus moved with me from Lawrence, Kansas to Ann Arbor when I accepted the job to be Executive Secretary of the ICC at the University of Michigan. For a number of years I was able to recruit U of M students to help edit the magazine and plan yearly nation-wide conferences. In all these activities I had the strong backing of the CLUSA in Chicago and Hays Beall who garnered money to pay the publication costs and to hire part time help.

By the early 60′s interest in NASCL had waned except that Co-ops in Action was edited and published by CLUSA in Chicago. In the early 70′s NASCL was revived as North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO). It became the leading educational and organizational edge for the emerging natural food cooperatives and the communes so popular in the late 60′s and early 70′s fostered by the “hippy generation”.