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Alma Mater
Back to Top of 1st Quarter

Start of 2nd Quarter . . .

 

2.

O Sophomore, leave your pondering
     And smooth your brow of care
And come with us a-wandering
     Out in the cool night air.
For college days too soon must end
     And Time shall sunder friend from friend.

Won't you come along?  Won't you come along?
     Just three good friends together?


Monday, June 6, 1966 (to my classmate Jan Olson, who was remaining at Oberlin between our freshman and sophomore years to work on a lab project)

I don’t know where you’re staying this summer.  I could have guessed at your address, but rather than try to picket out of thin air I decided to go through the chemistry department.

After all, it would have been a tough assignment, even for a professional address-guesser, to figure out which of the many cell-blocks up there they’re using for summer stayers-on.  A real pro test.

To explain the puns on "picket" and "protest" and "raisin":

Jan was still on campus for her birthday that summer, so I sent her a miniature sign with which to protest the food service.

No bigger than a postage stamp, the sign was mounted on a wooden matchstick (above) and accompanied by "more food":  a raisin.

She replied in kind (below) to thank me for remembering her birthday.

And if I tried it, think of all the postage I’d have to use sending the letter back again after wrong guesses.  I might have trouble raisin the money!

 

Sunday, October 2, 1966

One of the requirements of the phys-ed program is that you have to take swimming sometime, so that's what I'm taking this first eight weeks (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 1:30 to 2:30).  It didn't take me long at all to learn to float face down, eyes open.  But I still haven't learned how to make any significant progress in the water; I just lie there, floating.  Stroking, kicking, and breathing come next, I guess.  Anyhow, I don't seem to be having as much trouble with it as I'd feared.

My dining hall, Harkness, turns out to be a dorm for freshmen this year (replacing May, which was converted to a four-class women's dorm).  So I'm slowly becoming acquainted with a new group of people.

At lunch we have cafeteria-style lunches at Dascomb and South only, with everyone free to eat anytime between 11:15 and 1:15.

Lately I've been eating lunch part of the time with Jan Olson, who's in my physics class that's over at 11:50 (she's the girl who was glad to see that someone was interested in raisin the standard of eating).  But now she's started riding her bike from physics to lunch in order to beat the crowd, which puts her fifteen or twenty minutes ahead of me in line.  I'll have to either find some way to slow her down or find someone else to eat with.

 

Monday, October 10, 1966

Well, again I didn't have much time over the weekend to write, so here I am on Monday night writing a letter.

I also have a letter from Terry [Rockhold], which he wrote on September 26, October 1, and October 4.  He takes two pages telling me about the world softball tournament (his team came in third) and four pages telling me about the Case-Allegheny football game (Case lost, 20-12).  Also, he writes, "I'm getting a little braver with my cooking.  Tuesday I fixed a sirloin tip steak and last night (Friday) I fixed pork steak.  Actually, you could have a steak dinner every night for about the same price of a cheap dinner at a restaurant.  I've been trying to lose a little weight, but I don't know if it's going to work.  I'm only eating two meals and stopped virtually all my snacking, but I don't seem to be losing very quickly and I'm losing my will-power."

By the way, I think I've lost some weight, as I expected to; I'd guess between five and ten pounds, and I'd also guess that I won't go much lower than I am now.  My appetite wasn't too good the first couple of weeks, but I think now I've gotten myself used to SAGA food again.

You asked how I see in swimming class; the answer is I don't.  I can't wear glasses for several reasons.  One, they would fall off easily, even with a strap.  Two, they wouldn't work very well under water because water has a higher index of refraction than air does, more nearly the index of refraction of the lenses themselves, and thus the lenses wouldn't be so powerful (got that?).  Three, when I raised my head out of the water I wouldn't be able to see at all because glasses don't have windshield wipers.  So it turns out that, as poorly as I see without my glasses, when I'm swimming I can see better without them than with them.  But when the coach is standing forty feet away demonstrating how to do something, I have to squint like mad to see what he's doing.

Jack Heller is still around this year; he says now he isn't transferring to Ohio State until his junior year.  He and I are in the same math and physics classes and also eat at the same dining hall, Harkness, so we end up talking to each other quite a bit, sort of like Tom Renwick and me last year.  Jack is critical about almost everything; there's not much that he doesn't make satirical jokes about.  But he's certainly an entertaining conversationalist.

 

Saturday, January 21, 1967

They've come out with the phys-ed schedules for next semester, and I've decided I'm going to try to take bowling the first eight weeks and weight-lifting the second.  I haven't bowled in over a year and probably need a lot of work there; the weight-lifting is a requirement.  We have to take one "conditioning activity" in our two years sometime, and of course I couldn't take tumbling and apparatus (too much danger of falling), so that leaves lifting weights.  Both the bowling and the weight-lifting will be Tuesday and Thursday, 1:30 to 3:00.

 

Sunday, February 12, 1967, 8:30 pm

A very busy week, and it'll probably stay this way for three or four more:  one basketball game next week, and then our tournament is March 2 through 4 in Akron.  And we may be broadcasting a hockey tournament on March 11 and 12 in addition.  As far as classwork is concerned, there's quite a bit of reading to be done in religion and sociology, and a lot of homework in math; physics is starting out pretty easy, but the other three are making up for it.  Bowling looks like it's going to be fun.

"Wesley at the Pierces'" refers to the regular Sunday-night meeting of the Wesley Fellowship.

Because of all the academic work and the two games this week (we lost both of them), I haven't had time to write you earlier; I don't actually have time now, but I'm taking some time before going to Wesley at the Pierces' and then I'll stay up after midnight finishing the math homework.

 

Monday, March 20, 1967, 7:30 p.m.

Quite a bit of social activity involving professors this past weekend.  Mr. Zinn had our religion class over to his house (across from Dascomb) on Friday night, 8:15 to 10:15 or thereabouts; he showed a number of slides of archaeological objects of all sorts, after which his wife served us refreshments.  It was a pleasant evening (and it meant no class on Saturday), but not an especially exciting one:  the religion class is pretty well inhibited anyway, and Mr. Zinn is new here and pretty easy-going, so the conversation stayed rather quiet all evening.  But it wasn't a bad idea, all in all.

Last night I had dinner at the Palmieris' house along with Jan Olson, Polly Moore, and three other fellows from the physics class none of whose names I remember since I hadn't known them before.  We didn't meet until eight o'clock because the Palmieri children (5 and 2½) had to be put to bed before we came, and of course I had to leave about ten to get to Wesley out at the Longsworths', so I was just there for the meal and the conversation during it.  But those two hours were a lot of fun.  Jan told me today that they didn't break up until midnight, talking about student politics, hot-air balloons, Harvard pranks, the Oberlin faculty, and all sorts of subjects.  Apparently he does this several times a year just to get to know the people in the sciences better.  We weren't all physics majors (Polly's in math), but we're all taking physics courses, and we're all someplace in the math-science field, so we had a good common base to talk about — in contrast to the religion class, where practically all of the members are in the course just to satisfy a requirement.  And the food was good, too.

Still not much going on academically; there are people who have bluebooks, but I'm not among them.  Things will pick up again considerably as soon as vacation is over.  I'm willing to wait.

 

After tolerating living with a roommate my freshman year, I decided that thereafter I wanted a single room.  For my sophomore year, I had found one in Noah Hall.  Here I begin maneuvering to live in that building for the rest of my stay at Oberlin.

Saturday, April 8, 1967, 7:00 pm

For the past few years John Dawson, who lives at Noah, has been getting everyone together who wants to stay at Noah again the next year and presenting the list of all these names and room preferences to the Dean in one group.  They've found that this system works; the Dean likes to have the students work out a system of who stays where, because that makes his job easier or something, and he has always approved the group's application.  This year Dawson is a senior, so some people from his section are getting the list together for next year since he can't present it himself.

It seems unlikely that my present section will stay together, so I'll probably try to join up with another one on the condition that I get a single.  Which section I live in doesn't really make that much difference.  All this has to be done by a week from Tuesday, though, since that's when they're turning in the list.

I won't be able to play the organ at church in Richwood on Sunday, June 4; my exam schedule is nicely spread out, but I have a test on the last day, June 7.  All finals are from 9 to 11 am.

Wednesday, May 31

Physics

Saturday, June 3

Religion

Monday, June 5

Math

Wednesday, June 7

Anthropology

And two bluebooks are coming up this next week:  physics take-home Monday to Wednesday, and math on Friday.

 

Sunday, May 7, 1967

A very rainy Sunday morning:  puddles standing all over the Men's Quad, and the yard of one house to the west of Noah is completely under water.

At least it wasn't this wet yesterday evening.  As part of the Big Spring Weekend, there was no dining hall meal last night; everybody had to go to a picnic held behind Dascomb.  With the temperature around 50, it wasn't a particularly enjoyable meal.

Let me know when you're coming as soon as you decide on it; it may be best to call Noah, between 3:30 and 5:45 or between 7:30 and bedtime.

 

Monday, May 22, 1967

I got a math bluebook back last week with a 100 on it, the first such score I've gotten in a year.  Mr. Wong told me this test showed I was good at analyzing a problem and figuring out what had to be done to solve it, and he asked me if I was sure I didn't want to be a math major.  I told him I was pretty well decided on physics (I enjoy it more than this theoretical math stuff, even though I don't get as good scores on the bluebooks as a rule — although last semester, physics was A+ and math just A).  But I might consider his suggestion to at least take Math 31, which happens to be a course he teaches in his specialty, linear algebra.

It's likely I'd take that in my senior year.  The second-year Russian could easily be dropped since Mr. Palmieri says one year is enough to enable you to get through technical journals written in Russian, and the physics courses can vary widely according as to whether I'm in the honors program and so on, so Math 31 could be worked in somewhere.

Mr. Wong says he started out in physics as a major but ran into problems in the lab work:  he knew what was supposed to happen and why, but he was never able to get things to work right because his technique wasn't good enough.  So he gave up on physics and switched to math.

My math professor last year, Mr. Baum, told a similar story, except that in his case he said he was just too lazy to stand up in a chemistry lab all day when he could be lying in bed working math problems!

 

Friday, June 2, 1967, 4:00 pm

One exam is out of the way so far, physics, and I've gotten back the course grade in it:  A.  This final was sort of a strange one.  We had the option of taking it or not according as to whether we thought we needed it to help our grade.

Before taking it, I ranked third in the class of forty-one with an average of 80 on the three bluebooks.  Someone was leading the class with 86, someone else had 82, and someone else was right behind me with 79.

I figured from looking at these numbers than an 80 ought to be good for an A, but an 83 or 84 might be able to get an A+ if I was able to raise my average that much by doing well on the final.

On the other hand, if I didn't take the final, whoever had that 79 might take it and pass me, possibly leaving me with an A–.

On the third hand, if I did take the final and got a grade of much less than 80, I might very well give myself an A–.

The decision as to whether to take the final had to be made by a week ago today.  I talked about my dilemma to Jack Heller (who advised me to go for the A+ because the very best grades count when applying for graduate school) and Jan Olson (who pointed out that regardless of grades, going back over all the material in studying for the test is a good review and might even teach you something new).  I also reasoned that I'd rather be responsible for my own grade, rather than not taking the test and being at the mercy of what the other students taking it did to the curve.  If they improved their averages so much that I was left with an A–, I would have felt it was simply because I hadn't tried hard enough.

So I decided to take the final, but I wasn't at all confident about my decision because I've had generally bad luck on physics tests this semester.  When I took this one Wednesday, things didn't go too well, and I guessed the grade would be someplace between 80 and 60, depending on my luck.  But this time my luck was better and the score came out 80.  So at least I didn't hurt myself any in taking it.

Most of those around me didn't take it either, including Ed Francis, who turned out to have the 79 average and expressed surprise at my wanting to get a better grade than an A.  So if I simply hadn't taken the final everything would have come out exactly the same — but then I would have felt guilty for not going for the A+ when I had the chance.  Ah, well.

About half the class took the final, with my 80 the highest score by a nine-point margin; Jan had a 56 and ended the semester with a B–, while Jack got a 43 and a D.  Perhaps it's a good thing he's transferring to OSU.  There were four grades in the A+-to-A– bracket:  Ed's, mine, and two others whose identities I don't know.

It's a good thing I took the final for another reason, though:  I would be terribly bored if I'd had nothing to do all this past week.  I'm just now getting into the part of my exam schedule where I need to spend time studying for tests to any great extent.  With no homework and no concerts or anything else going on, the exam period can go terribly slowly.  I'll say one thing, though — I've been getting enough sleep.

My high school classmate and I were planning our "Richwood Prep Rally" for later that month.  Click here for the results.

 

The fact that the Richwood Gazette is taking a vacation just before our rally doesn't help our publicity plans; for one thing, it means we'll have to get our press releases out by the evening of Monday the 12th.  Everything's pretty much set except one important point:  where is the rally going to begin?  Terry failed to reserve anything at the Park when he was home for Easter, so the best idea now would seem to be the fairgrounds.  There's plenty of parking there, we won't need electricity for this rally since it's not so closely timed, and it's very unlikely that anything else will be going on there the Sunday afternoon of June 25.  But we'll have to check to get permission.  So do you know who's on the Fair Board?  I'll try to get in touch with the proper person as soon as I get back.  If we can't get the fairgrounds, we might try the parking lot for the softball diamond at the park; or we could move all the cars off the used-car lot at the garage and use that . . . .

One o'clock Wednesday sounds about right, so I'll see you then.  Hopefully things will be arranged well enough that we can pack and move out in half an hour or so.  Not that I'm in that much of a hurry to leave, though I'm getting sort of tired of academic life for the time being, but I am anxious to get home.

 

About June 19, 1967 (to Jan Olson)

Thanks for the postcard, but you seem a little confused about one thing.  This big event Mr. Rockhold and I have coming up is not a "road-runners' relay" but rather a Richwood Road Rally — if Rockhold really revises the rally route so our road rallyists can run it reasonably readily.  We don't want them all to get hopelessly lost, but some of our landmarks are so obscure that they might, so our objective now is to make things a little easier for them.

Road-runners' relay, huh, Janet?  I'll have to admit that's an interesting idea.  Picture this fellow standing out in Arizona with a starter's pistol.  Alongside him there's a row of odd-looking little birds, all lined up and holding little batons in their bills, looking up at the starter expectantly.  He fires his gun, and off they scamper madly over the desert, passing their batons off to another group of odd-looking little birds....

You know, if we have a dozen rallyists next Sunday we'll be lucky!  [As it turned out, we had one.]

 

. . . End of
2nd Quarter