As students descend on WKU and set up housekeeping in residence halls and apartments, let’s hope that none has the experience of a former faculty member during one of his many overseas adventures as a visiting professor.
Carlton Jackson (1933-2014) taught history at WKU for more than four decades. An enthusiastic traveler, Jackson accepted several Fulbright professorships and visiting lectureships in countries such as Finland, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the fall of 1978, he and his family headed for Shiraz, Iran, where Jackson was to serve in an endowed professorship at Pahlavi University (now Shiraz University).
Jackson leased a house in September, but only a month later was preparing to vacate. “The electric supply in the house is faulty,” he complained to the University’s representative, “and extremely dangerous. . . . The wires are exposed, and would electrocute anyone who touched them. One of the plugs has a piece of newspaper stuffed into it, creating a real danger of fire.” As if that wasn’t enough, the house’s proximity to a nearby farm field attracted “huge amounts of mosquitoes, flies, and other biting and possibly disease spreading insects.” And then there was the rodent population. The house “is full of rats and mice,” complained Jackson. “Each night, several of them come through the bedrooms and get on the curtains and Venetian blinds.”
And finally, there was the danger that this whole house of horrors might explode: there was “a serious leakage of gas in the front yard” that was seeping into the family’s bedrooms at night. Jackson was unimpressed with the representative’s assurance that “It’s been there for two years, and goes up in the air.” With a friend’s help, Jackson had contacted the gas company, and while the problem was quickly fixed he had become convinced that the landlord had no intention of making the house habitable.
Ultimately, however, it was the Iranian Revolution that cut short Jackson’s time at the University and sent him home, one hopes, to better housing. “I only taught two hours at this position,” he would later write ruefully in his vita. “I had to leave early for reasons that are well known.”
Carlton Jackson’s papers are held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections and are expected to be fully processed by the fall. . . the 40th anniversary of his brief stay in these less-than-palatial accommodations.