to college we went in those days (1947)., I was just an ignorant freshman
with little foresight and little advice from any quarter. I just blundered
along. At the freshman registration I had no advisor and no help from anyone.
It was just claw your way to 'a table and register for some class--if it
were not full. I was placed in English 101A at 8:00 Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday under Dr. Gordon Wilson, the department head. He had a PHD in
English from Indiana University and was a naturalist, a folk loreist a
hometown writer(down in the Purchase-Fidelity), he was 100% full of energy.
He packed his one hour class with lecture, tests, questions, and sometimes
his recall of the past; he drilled us; made us use the library; cut us
down to size; marked our themes with red pencil; criticized our poor sentence
structure, use of words, and our poor punctuation. In his eye we were illiterate
and uncouth. Half our classroom was football and basketball players. The
football linemen suffering from injuries drug therris elves to Class and
limped out of class. Most were too tired to do their class assignments.
The fall of '47 hung on us heavy-- 1/3 of the class were GI vets of World
War 11 going to school on the GI bill and their money was short and many
were married with children and living in vet village in a small trailer
with a wife and two or three children.
Thus, it was dog eat dog; some were pre-med
and pre-dental students--studying hard to get a grade to get into med school
and dental school or pharmacy school. Thus, I knew not a real scholar
among them--there just for the learning and the hunt of knowledge; It was
an economic thing; to heck with the content of the couse--just get a grade
and a good grade point average. A sonnet was just a 16th century something
that Shakespeare scribbled for his plays. They were hunting dollars" out
Dr. Wilson tried to cull us out and discourage
us. He saw little hope in our eyes and little promise In our poor theme
writing. But I was hanging on. Just passing. Just barely holding
my own. It was so much to digest; and I did try--or a least I thought
I was trying. Someone stole my text books--I was fool enough to leave
them on the campus rock and grass while I attended the college chapel (1947)
in old Van Meter Hall. How was I to know (in 1990) my youngest daughter
was to win the title of Kentucky's Jr. Miss in that hall; and Will, my
son, was to, in 1991, accompany her on the piano and bring down the, house
when she returned as ruling Jr. Miss.
But fall ~of 47 was a full schedule school
term (quarter system) full of few exciting courses. Because courses were
short I signed up for Art I (appreciation). I learned nothing
for the teacher taught nothing. She taught nothing of excitement
of art or art history; or the fields of art. We had a very limited use
of water colors and silly drawings. Years later I had a real art teacher
at Henderson Community Coliege--Mr. Gourley -- and he propelled us Into
art history, oils, etc., and perspective and etc. Dewy Gourley was a real
inspiring teacher at old Henderson Community College and it was all night
school after a hard day at work.
In fall of '47 1 had biology (plants) under
a good lecturing professor. However, there were 250 in the class; and for
lab it was so. crowded we never got to do any actual dissecting of the
frog. I learned more from hog-killing on No.9 road at Uncle Lim Hulete's
than at the college lab. I did see. that the hog and the frog were all
much like we humans. Same this and same that. Poor creatures, treated so
inhumanly. Then I had a history course under a teacher who was subbing
for a college teacher, and she was kind and understanding, but not a college
level teacher--so I got a wasted course in American History.
But the real learning was Just observing
the students, their attitudes, their dress their reactions; their hometown
attitudes; their motivations; their speech patterns; their
smoking, drinking, and social habits.
And all the recreation was built around
one's basketball ticket and right to get into the basketball gym to see
U of L vs. Western or Eastern vs. Western; or Murray vs. Western; or Morehead
or Memphis State; or Evansville College; and there was never an empty seat
in the college gym. And there was Ed Diddle. I was not much of a basketball
fan, but finally in four years I began to follow the game -- as all others
seemed to love it. Western had little to crow about -- but basketball;
and crow they did. The college was academically not so great, but mey had
a big bunch of 6'5" basketball players. Thus, the game, the athlete was
the end of all and nothing else manered. But there was a big world out
mere that cared not for a basketball score but we at Western were blinded
to it for four years. But it was a place to get a college degree; so I
coasted along; joined the Congress Debate club; A.M. Stickles History club;
and attended Sunday School and Church and BSU, at First Baptist Church.
But for all of '47 and '48 at 8:00 each
morning I got a big 100% shot of Dr. Gordon Wilson. And then I took
Dr. Stickle's history course and loved every minute of it. For all his
old gray hair and elderly ways he was a giant of a teacher and I could
not get enough of his teaching. And but for those two teachers Western
was no different from high school. Thus, I left Western still a rural person,
with rural ways and views and conservative in religious views. And I was
not recognized for having any talent or any special gift just a hum-drum
person--as still am.
But we (all) have a tale to tell and a
story to relate. But I am still the 13 year~old lad who began writing in
our old attic on No.9 road on a tablet with pencil, with no one to watch
or observe or criticize. At least freedom was here for me to seize and
special views could be set down and recast. At Sturgis High we had
not one chance to submit a theme, a poem, or a creative writing; but that
was okay; I was far too bashful to let my writings go public; it was a
private exercise; between me and my maker for the time being.