Totman, Conrad D.

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Conrad Totman in his office at Santa Barbara.

On a wintry 5th of January, 1934, Conrad Davis Totman was born in an upstairs bedroom of the family farmhouse in Conway, Massachusetts. His father, Raymond Smith Totman, declared it too dangerous to drive his wife ten miles on unpaved, unplowed, and unreliable roads to the nearest hospital in Greenfield. Thus, the family doctor made the trek to the farm on that cold and snowy day and helped Mildred Kingsbury Totman deliver her second son. Conrad was preceded by his brother, Leland, in 1931, and followed by two sisters: Barbara in 1936, and Gail in 1937. The third generation of Totmans to work the farm known as "Broomshire" was complete.

As the children grew, so too did their responsibilities and chores around the farm. At various points in his childhood, Conrad was responsible for duties such as the care of chickens, herding the dairy cows and calves out to pasture, cleaning udders prior to milking, and assisting older farmhands with their work. Later, when Conrad became one of those older workers, he joined in tasks like mowing, drying and baling hay, cultivating and drying tobacco, tapping maple trees for sap, harvesting, processing and ensiling field corn for cattle feed, tending to honeybee "supers," felling trees for firewood and lumber, and minding the vegetable garden.

Academically, Conrad excelled. After finishing grammar school locally in Conway, he started High School at Arms Academy in nearby Shelburne Falls. In 1952, Totman graduated from Arms second in his class. He enrolled in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the fall as an Ornamental Horticulture major. Totman's interest in gardening made horticulture a logical choice, but study at the university was not as exciting as he thought. He was enrolled in the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at UMass, and the Army seemed like a good place to sort out his future. So, after a year in Amherst, Totman fulfilled his enlistment on a three year stint. The decision to enlist in the Army proved to be the choice that changed his life.

After training to become a sanitary technician at camps in Virginia and Texas, Totman shipped out to Korea in 1953. The war had officially ended about ten months before, and South Korea was in the process of reconstruction. Totman was assigned to the 78th Preventive Medicine Control Detachment (PMCD). The unit was responsible for maintaining sanitary conditions both in the Army's camps and in the re-building villages of the countryside. Totman was a part of snap inspections of Army facilities such as mess halls and latrines. Another part of his job was to get samples from standing water to test for mosquito larvae. If enough larvae were present, then a sprayer would be hauled in to kill the potential disease-spreading mosquitoes, which also put any nearby humans at risk, though side-effects were largely unknown at the time.

During his stay in South Korea, Totman was an avid photographer, snapping pictures of everyday life both in and out of the military camp. He was able to document Seoul and Pyongyang, and on rest and recuperation (R&R) trips, he visited nearby Japan, a country he immediately loved. Totman took numerous photos and longed to return while stationed back in Korea. The break-up of the 78th PMCD lead to his reassignment to the 207th PMCD. Here, in a bonafide permanent hospital (as opposed to his previous temporary tent), his job was to identify mosquito larvae and to organize information about them. In February of 1955, Totman was given another reassignment, this time to the 10th Preventive Medicine Survey Detachment in Japan. Finally, he returned to the place he found most intriguing. Destiny also awaited him at the 10th PMSD in the form of the secretary to the commanding officer, Michiko Ikegami. They met for the first time on February 28, 1955, and have scarcely been apart since.

For almost a year and a half, Conrad and Michiko grew closer and spent increasing amounts of time together. In June 1956, when Totman's enlistment ran out, he was shipped back home. Soon after, Michiko quit her job and sailed on a cargo ship to San Diego. A plane carried her to Chicago, and another to Hartford, where Aunt Ruth waited to drive her to Amherst. There Michiko enrolled at UMass as a sociology major, and Conrad re-enrolled as a history major with plans to concentrate on Japan. They were married at the Totman family farm in Conway on January 28, 1958. Totman graduated in June--second in his class (again)--and was accepted into Harvard as a graduate student in history. Michiko finished her degree in June of 1959 at UMass Boston.

By 1960, Totman finished his Master's degree in East Asian Studies and in 1961 completed course requirements for a Ph.D. in East Asian History. Michiko, meanwhile, worked as a cataloguer in Harvard's East Asian Library. Conrad's research required an extended trip to Japan for his dissertation on politics during the Tokugawa period, so the couple made preparations to return. After a brief visit with the Ikegami family, they moved into their own house. Totman studied and wrote his thesis while Michiko worked, again cataloguing at a library, all the while speaking only in Japanese to aid Conrad. Their time was punctuated by sightseeing trips all around Japan and visits from Conrad's aunt Ruth and sister Gail. Two years later, in November of 1963, Totman completed his research and the family returned to America by way of an extended vacation; they visited Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Egypt, Greece, and western Europe, and arrived in Conway in time for Christmas.

In June 1964, Totman received his doctorate and secured a teaching position at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The family rented half of a duplex for a short while, but the addition of Kathleen Junko Totman required a more permanent abode. They found a home in time to receive Christopher Ken Totman, and prepared to settle into California. Soon after, though, Totman was asked to take a position in the History Department at Northwestern University, which he accepted. During the summer of 1966, the family moved to Evanston, Illinois, where they stayed until the children completed their public schooling. Conrad taught and wrote extensively while Michiko worked in the Evanston public school system's Japanese-English bilingual program.

After eighteen years at Northwestern University, Conrad accepted a position at Yale University in the fall of 1984. Although Totman had made many friends and acquaintances during his stay in Illinois, the move to Yale made sense because it was conveniently close to his family and boyhood home in Conway, Massachusetts.

During his career, Toman worked on a wide variety of topics in early modern and modern Japan, ranging from the collpase of the Tokugawa Shogunate to forestry and the lumber industry in Japan, a topic reflecting his early years at an agricultural college. He taught courses of equal diversity, and upon retirement in 1997, was granted emeritus status. Conrad and Michiko Totman continue to live near New Haven.

From the guide to the Conrad Totman Papers MS 447., 1800-2008, 1948-2005, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Conrad Totman Papers MS 447., 1800-2008, 1948-2005 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Ruth J. Totman Papers FS 097., 1897-1999 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Kingsbury Family Papers MS 504., 1862-2006, 1881-1902 Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
referencedIn Anthony Campano Papers MS 617., 1956-2007, 1956-1957 Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Drew Papers, 1943-1982, 1943-1972 Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Drew, Raymond Totman, 1923-1981. Drew papers, 1943-1982, (bulk 1943-1972). Amherst College Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Campano, Anthony person
associatedWith Drew, Raymond Totman, 1923-1981 person
associatedWith Kingsbury Family family
associatedWith Lewis, Gertrude Minnie, 1896- person
associatedWith Tokugawa family family
associatedWith Tokugawa, Ieyasu, 1543-1616 person
associatedWith Totman family family
associatedWith Totman, Michiko Ikegami person
associatedWith Totman, Ruth J. person
associatedWith Totman, Ruth J. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Japan
Korea
Conway (Mass.)
Subject
Agriculture--Korea--History
Human ecology--Korea--History
Forests and forestry--Japan--Akita-ken--History
Forests and forestry--Japan
Japan--Civilization--American influences
Lumber trade--Japan--History
Forest policy--Japan--Akita-ken--History
Forest policy--Japan
Dairy farms--Massachusetts
Family farms--United States
Human ecology--Japan--History
Forest management--Japan--Akita-ken--History
Post-war reconstruction
Afforestation--Japan--Akita-ken--History
Agriculture--Japan--History
Farm life--United States
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1934-01-05

Americans

English

Information

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