Though Princeton University has had a reputation as a relatively wealthy institution, both the school itself and its students faced economic struggles alongside the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. One March evening in 1936, two Princeton roommates, Urban Joseph Peters Rushton ’36 and Lewis Jefferson Gorin, Jr., ’36, went to the movies. The newsreel prior to the film included a report on the Adjusted Service Compensation Act (ASCA), which authorized government payouts of $2 billion to World War I’s veterans. Feeling irritated by this huge expenditure at a time of financial hardship—close to $34 billion in today’s dollars—the two sat at Viedt’s Chocolate Shoppe afterward, outlining their thoughts on paper napkins while they waited for their chocolate malts and bacon and tomato sandwiches to arrive.
It later seemed either a cynical or a chilling prophecy: “War is imminent,” their manifesto had begun, though the Spanish Civil War had not yet started and Adolf Hitler would not invade Austria for two years. At t the time, it was just a joke made by a few irritated youth who had come of age in a time more familiar with poverty than prosperity. They demanded their “war bonuses” before they were asked to fight—after all, many would die and not otherwise be able to benefit from it, they argued. A thousand dollars each, with thirty years’ worth of interest added, payable immediately to every man of military age (18 to 36), was the only fair thing.