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February 1968
Added to website February 1, 2018


After the exams ending the first semester of my junior year at Oberlin College, there was a short break before the start of the second semester on Monday, February 5.

I was now the WOBC Program Director.  The February 5 issue of the student radio station's weekly Program Guide, normally edited by Bruce Robinson, was prepared by Tom Clark.  He included several notations of change.

Carl Bauman retunes himself for a new semester — plenty of good rock.

Al Firestone moves to Monday night but his smooth and easy sounds continue.

Night Patrol goes rock five days a week by demand.

George DiFerdinando gives name-pronunciation lessons.

The Pratt Patrol moves back 2 days.

Please note the new time for The Fine Arts:  now 1000pm Wednesday evenings on WOBC.

Paul's Place is now 120 minutes.

Bob Kaye comes to Night Patrol — tune in!

The Medium Is? ...  moves to Friday.

And Friday night's Folk Fest, no longer restricted to folk music, was now called Live!  The student band called “The Department of Agriculture” performed in Studio A that first week, followed by “Ant Trip Ceremony” on February 16.

The latter group (Steve De Tray, George Galt, Roger Goodman, Gary Rosen, Mark Stein, and Jeff Williams) produced a record that would be sold in May in the dining halls and snack bar.

A blurb in the student newspaper mentioned the $4 price and emphasized quantity over quality: “includes 50 minutes of stereophonic sound (longer than most LP's).”


Our musical guest on February 9, “The Department of Agriculture” (left), also released an LP.  They used our studio to record the tracks.  It did not go platinum.

As I recall, there was a comedian in the group, and the first track began with him laughing at the listeners for actually being gullible enough to purchase the record.

Later that spring, the Live! show mostly devolved to just these two guys in our studio playing bluegrass, sometimes on their instruments and sometimes from records.

They told a story of a guitar player who heard a record of a very complex guitar piece and wondered how that performer was doing it.  Eventually, with great effort, he learned how to play the piece himself.  Only later did he learn that the recording was of two guitarists.

From the 1968 Hi-O-Hi yearbook, here's a photo of a larger group of musicians broadcasting from WOBC's studio.


In the Laboratory

We Physics 36 students were asked to pair up for lab work on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Jan Olson and I agreed to be partnersThere were setups for eight “experiments” in various rooms, to be used by the various pairs in successive weeks.  Jan thought the experiment on spectra sounded interesting, so we started with that one on Wednesday, February 7.

Of course, our lab work did not uncover any new scientific facts.  We were merely undergraduates, and the exercises were intended to familiarize us with laboratory procedures and record-keeping.  I still have my 152-page bound Computation Note Book, two-thirds filled.

After the first week in the lab, I reported to my parents that our collaboration was working satisfactorily “except that both of us are what you would call ‘perfectionists:’  we're so careful to try to think things through and get them right that we're going at about half the speed we should be.  We'll have to learn another approach.”

Jan lent me her notes from a math class I had missed, something about Fourier functions.  I photocopied this portion, complete with a scribbled-out glurp.

She perused my January paper on waveguides, then typed up an Old Farmer's Almanac article titled “Watch That Spark” and presented it “To Tom Thomas for his edification in return for the loan of his stolen term paper.” 

I've condensed the article she gave me.  It sounds sexist by today's standards, referring to “man” instead of “person” while allowing that possibly someday the “human female” might dominate one field.  Was she flirting somehow?

Man's present struggles to make all his electrical inventions work compatibly and not interfere with each other have required science to uncover more and more of the electrical secrets of nature.  The scientists at Stanford Research Institute in California, for example, found that running water produced negative ions which had a stimulating effect on man.  One time, a girl was brushing her hair and thereby creating negative ions — a phenomenon which is how being explored further by imaginative members of the fair sex.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has discovered the electrical energy in different parts of the spectrum can be used effectively.  The female moth had learned that, when the time came for mating, she could attract the male by flying high and increasing her wing movements.  But the unromantic scientists built instruments and put them up on poles the night before the females planned to fly.  These attracted the males, which were done away with.  When the females rose the next night, in all expectation, they were sadly disappointed.

Scientists have found that they can take the mental command to push a certain button off the surface of a man's skin and translate it into an electrical pulse.  The mental command can be amplified electrically and an instrument made to do the job.  The Air Force has been experimenting with this, and it is also being tried with astronauts who may have to change the orbits of their capsules.  Man has to be careful, however, not to go too near other sources of electrical energy, as the signals are apt to get a little mixed and the man may behave erratically.

Some may wonder whether or not man's indiscriminate use of the spectrum might not be inadvertently upsetting some of the balances of nature.  If it is ever discovered that science can manipulate human love as effectively as it can insect love, it can be assuredly prophesied that there is possibly a coming era when the human female will dominate in the study of electromagnetic compatibility.


Gift-Giving Time

As you can see, our relationship included whimsy as well as science.  I practiced faking a postmark and disguising my handwriting so I could make a counterfeit label for a large flat package and drop it off at Jan's dorm.  At first glance it appeared to have arrived in the mail from home, but then Jan said to herself, “Hey, wait a minute...”

The items inside included a note labeled “Read me first.”  It explained that in cleaning out the Program Cabinet at WOBC, I had determined that we no longer needed a certain 331/3 rpm record.  It was a collection of :30 and :60 PSAs (Public-Service Announcements) with celebrities warning about the likes of DDT.

If you played one, you heard something like “This is Arthur Godfrey.  I'd like to talk to you about pesticides.”  Or maybe “Hello, dahling.  This is Eva Gabor in Hollywood.  Did you know that pesticides are dangerous?”

Our campus listeners weren't into farming and gardening.  Nor were they impressed by hearing those celebrities.  Therefore, we had no use for the PSAs.  So here you go, Jan, the record is yours.

She played it, of course, and the other women in her dorm found it both amusing and frustrating.  Each announcement ended with a “lock groove” preventing the needle from moving on to the next cut, thus eliminating the possibility of the disk jockey accidentally airing two in a row.  So when the gals clamored “play another one,” Jan had to pick up the needle each time and set it down again.

For my 21st birthday on February 20, Jan gave me a Twizzler.

She also presented me with a Gee-Haw Whimmydiddle, a wooden folk toy that she'd acquired the previous summer while camping with her family in the Great Smoky Mountains.  “Gee” is how the hill people tell a mule to turn right, of course, and “haw” means to go left.  There's a scientific explanation for how the Whimmydiddle can spin in the direction you command, involving cosines and everything, but I never got it to work. 


Fun at WOBC

Two nights before visiting Kenyon College on Saturday, February 24, to broadcast Oberlin's regular-season basketball finale, I enjoyed hanging around the radio station and talking with a couple of classical music hosts during their shows.

Senior Mike Barone from Kingston, Pennsylvania, had a program at 9:00 on Thursdays that he called Music Offbeat.  This week it featured “popular dance and vocal music of the Renaissance court and countryside.”  We restrained ourselves from either dancing or singing along in the studio.

Then enthusiastic freshman Chris Rouse from Baltimore came in at 10:00.  He played some records suggested by a professor to supplement the college's music appreciation course, Introduction to Music X11C.

Fifty years later, Michael Barone is the long-time host of a public radio series about organs called Pipe Dreams And Christopher Rouse has written five symphonies and much else besides.  In fact, Chris is considered “one of the most important American composers of our time” by the people of Luxembourg. 


COMING IN MARCH:  Using sodium, Jan and I measure the length of  light waves (more than 42 thousand of them to an inch).  Using cobalt, we count gamma rays (gee haw, there wuz a heap o' cipherin' goin' on there).  And over at WOBC, I broadcast election returns.  I also get my FCC license and apply to become the station's head honcho!

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