Monday, January 14, 2008


Besides the Walter Pulliam incident (last installment), and the resulting promise to myself to “never forget,” there were a couple of other things that motivated me to move on up the academic ladder, an area I knew entirely nothing about, and frankly made me very nervous.

One was First Lieutenant Summers, at Sewart, who once bragged to a bus load of us about his education and, basically, why we were subordinate to him. The comment instantly pushed me over the edge, (a temper I have since learned to control) and without fear of consequences, I blurted out “You just got there first! I’ll get my education after this crap is off my back. Just you wait and see!

The other thing that motivated me was having to live with my in-laws! I wanted more and I wanted it as fast as possible.

Like I stated earlier, it had been five years since I had been to school, and probably that long since I had read a book! I suppose that was the reason I lacked 0.2 of a point in passing the SATs. Luckily, I was allowed to enter the University of Tennessee's College of Communications winter quarter of 1969 under “probation,” which meant I had to pass with a 3.0 (out of a possible 4) that first quarter.

Somehow, I made it past the first quarter, but I did not make it easy on myself.

First of all, some of you may remember that getting classes used to mean you had to “pull cards!” The cards were computer “punch cards” that were imprinted with specific classes scheduled at specific times. Today, computers automatically generate class schedules, and no one ever gets to enjoy a hot gymnasium with thousands of students pushing and shoving in long lines to get the perfect schedule!

I ended up with classes scheduled at 7:50 in the morning, and maybe nothing until 1 or 2 PM! This meant I had to wait hours between classes either in the library or in my hot car in a parking lot!

Commuting to Knoxville from Harriman, was at least a forty mile, one way, trip! I did this for three years, not taking the summers off, but after the first quarter I learned how to properly “pull cards” and get late morning classes and have the day over prior to 3PM.

The only problem I could not overcome was my senior year when group projects for final presentations were necessary. This meant I would attend class all day, and then have to go to some off-campus apartment, or house, to work on the team projects. People who lived on or near campus generally wanted to party a little then work.

You have to remember I had just given four years service to my country, and most of these “kids” were at least four years younger than me! I sometimes forgot that too!

However, with my temper as it was, I lasted about an hour and then I was forced to make a scene by demanding that “we” get to work. You people don’t understand that after this late night meeting, I STILL HAVE A FIFTY MILE (Exaggeration added for emphasis!) DRIVE HOME!

No, I probably was not popular, but who cared! You only get in life what you fight for anyway.

The best part of my college years was actually parts of the driving experience, strange as that may seem.

That first quarter I drove by myself, and if there is such a thing as “white line fever” I got it! Sometimes I did not even remember the trip, just that I was either at school or I had arrived home. If you have ever commuted for any distance, you will understand completely.

After that lonely and boring time, I began riding with Connie’s cousin Belinda and her husband Bill Powers. They were and are wonderful people and I still love it when I run into them somewhere.

Bill and I used to pretend we were flying my Mustang like it was an airplane! He would flip imaginary switches, to raise and lower the flaps or wheels, complete with sound effects, and I took off and landed us with all the drama and animations you would expect from me!

Belinda just sat in the back shaking her head and trying to read without helping us watch the road.

One day I had wrapped the seat belt, just the part sticking out the end of the buckle, around the bottom of the stirring wheel and was pretending the six-inch piece that was left over was the “stick!” I could move it slightly to the left and right and the car zoomed right along the Interstate.

However, when we arrived on campus and it came time to make a right turn the wheel would not turn! I slammed on the brakes and then remembered the belt round the bottom of the wheel! What an idiot! But we had fun and these are always some of the moments we recall when we get together.

Somehow, we all survived to graduate; Bill in ’71 and Belinda and I in ‘72. Bill became the principle of the junior high, Belinda became an English teacher, and I got a B.S. in Communications.

I set my sights on a career in advertising in Atlanta and becoming one of the “Mad Men” of the seventies, but that was never to happen.


~Fathairybastard~ said...

Well that was fun reading. Reminded me of going to the gym to register and fill out all the papoer work to get the classes I wanted. Things weren't too much different I guess in the early 80s. I remember how cool it was when I gotr into grad school that i could go to the head of the line. People used to give me dirty looks, but I just said to myself "Fuck you buddy. I was there once. Maybe one day you'll be where I am." Yep, you only get what you fight for. Truer words were never spoken. Congrats on getting it done in three. from where you started, that's an amazing accomplishment. Oh yea, I was on "probation" after my first semester. Was on the honor roll a few semesters later. And the thing with the car being a fighter is hilarious. Shit, you probably still do that. I'll never tell.

Hammer said...

Kids still have the same problem these days. I used to sleep in my car or in the university center between classes then go to work.

There were way too many distractions and partying going on back then it was indeed hard to concentrate.

Can't wait for the next installment

pat houseworth said...

Sounds like my experience 25, after 4 years in the Air Force, and 2 years working and taking night classes at the Wright State Branch Campus...I headed down to Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University....being 25, 26 etc....mixed in with a bunch of starry eyed 19 year old gawdam liberal skulls full of mush was a treat.....but I survived and despite pissing off a few marxist professors got out with a 3.6 GPA.

Mushy said...

Grad school and 3.6 makes me feel so dumb! Great job guys.

Buck said...

One was First Lieutenant Summers, at Sewart, who once bragged to a bus load of us about his education and, basically, why we were subordinate to him.

I learned fairly early on to avoid asshats like your Lt. Summers. Gratification, of a sort, came later on in life when a couple of retired field-grade types wound up working (rather: reporting to) for me.

It's an unwritten rule that you don't "carry" your former rank into the civilian world but some people, such as those that brag about their academic achievements, just can't resist. Upon finding out I was retired Air Force, one former major (and new employee) asked me what rank I was when I retired. The look on his face was simply priceless when I said "Master Sergeant," and continued on...

Sometimes you just live for moments like that...

Mushy said...

Excellent story Buck!

Michele said...

My college days were after I had my kids, single Mom, worked full time during the day and went to school at night so I remember (or don't remember as the case may be) some of those late night drives home!

BRUNO said...

I can't lay claim to a college education---I was too damned dumb, and mean to match! Guess I had one too many "axes to grind" when the college opportunity was available to me!

But I always kinda wondered what my life might've been like if I had attended such. Probably not much better. And I can't tell ya' about business management, or any other subject that requires a college "sheepskin".

But I can STILL show you the difference in thickness between a thumb-nail, and a cunt-hair, when it comes to the fine art of "make 'er fit"...!

Mushy said...

Bruno - No one who ever reads your posts, or has ever discovered your heart, would ever think anything of the such about you my friend.

College only shows a man's ability to find the answers he ponders, and then to organize them into thoughts he can share with others. You, my friend, do that very well everyday.

Les Becker said...

Augh! Way to leave me hangin', Mushy. Thanks...

What happened, what happened, what happened inSTEAD?! (she whined)

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Yea Bruno, what he said. College is just a culling process. Anyone who reads your stuff can see you would have done well, and none of us would think less of you for not having gone.

Suldog said...

Never did the college thing, myself. I was too busy pretending I was going to be a rock star.

I identify with that thing about driving a long distance on auto-pilot, though. I made many a trip between Dorchester and Brookline (about ten miles, between my home and that of a girlfriend) arriving without a single clue as to how I got there or what I might have seen along the way. Dead sober, I should add.

BRUNO said...

NO, really, guys, I didn't mean it to sound bitter---I was too damned dumb! I "squeaked" through high-school graduation on a C-minus! I didn't get a REAL education until I got OUT of school. I can thank my rich relative, Uncle Sam, for that!

Honestly---I never developed the "urge" needed to attend college, and that's 90% of the battle right there! And, once I found that college required both MONEY and STUDY(ugh!), that pretty much "sealed" it for me!

(BTW, a thumb-nail is about 10, maybe 15, thousandths. Whereas, a "cunt-hair" is generally around one ten-thousandths, depending on how steady your nerves are, at the time...!)

pat houseworth said...

Bruno...I wasn't worth a crap in High School...I kept good enough grades to keep playing sports, that was all, finished something like 123 out of 201 in my class....

I wasn't ready for college until my late 20s.....I can tell you, I've met alot of stupid wizards...most of them were college professors, or senior officers in the Air Force.

Look at Einstein and Gates...but were lousy students!

pat houseworth said...

That should be "BOTH" were lousy students....see....everybody, especially me, hardly get it right all or most of the time.


Mushy said...

"...a "cunt-hair" is generally around one ten-thousandths, depending on how steady your nerves are, at the time...!

Does that mean at the time of the plucking of the hair!

Sorry...couldn't resist!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Hell, I barely made it out of high school. You needed a certain number of "credits" to graduate and I had just that number and no more. College was then just an extension of high school for me. Did it for my parents, and to avoid having to get a real job. Immature as hell. A big baby, totally illprepaired for the real world. College was a refuge.

Had no clue that I was going to eventually have to get a job and needed skills. History was just my passion, but there was no notion of turning it into a job. Just fillin' slots.

Grad school was different. I was workin' as a security guard at an oil company in Ft. worth and saw there was no future in that. I told my dad later that I got my BA for him, but went to grad school for myself. And you know, it was easy as hell.

I mean, the work was a bit hard, writing all those papers, but with all that math and crap behind me, all I had to do was study history. It was fun! Then, when I got my teaching job on the ships, the REAL work started.

I've heard other profs say this too. We all studied MUCH harder after we started to teach than we ever did in school. The last thing you want to do is stand up in front of a room full of people and look like you don't really know what you're talking about. That's particularly true when it's a room full of Navy or Army folks who are ten years or more older than you and LIVED through some of the shit you're talkin' about. THAT is what finally motivated me to work hard, and earn the respect of those folks. In the end I've gotten pretty good at it, and love it to death.

Thing is, a lot of times I find myself envying the guy who is fixing my car, or other guys who work with their hands in some way. Those sorts of skills are cool as hell, and I never picked any of that up. The gear is so cool!

Gledwood said...

Hey Mushy.

College is always a good place to go; specially if you're studying something to do with ££ money money.. yeah!

Hey why d'ya call yerself MUSHY?

Ever tried mushy peas??

Mushy said...

Good second comment FHB...I can appreciate those comments. It would scare me to death to stand up each day and wait on a question I could not answer!

Glenwood - A nickname from high school that a girl gave me for whispering something "mushy" to her...I suppose! Thanks for the visit.

BRUNO said...

In re: to the "steady-nerves"---damned mind-reader! That's EXACTLY what I meant by it...!

BRUNO said...

HEH, Pat and his "123 out of 201"!

I graduated high school "10 out of 13"---and TWO of those were expelled early.......!!!