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November 1967
Added to website November 1, 2017


On the first evening of November in 1967, Oberlin College's student radio station aired part of a famous Beethoven symphony.

In fact, John Heckenlively played four different historical recordings of the “Ode to Joy” movement, featuring the interpretations of four different conductors.

WOBC was preparing its listeners for an upcoming Musical Union performance.  Dating back to 1837, MU presents a great work for chorus and orchestra each semester.  Many of its 140 members are students in Oberlin's Conservatory of Music.

The year before, the Musical Union had performed Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem.  As a college sophomore, I had heard excerpts of that work on WOBC as well, particularly the powerful chorus “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras.”  I decided to attend the concert.  However, I went by myself; I didn't take a date.

Among the college's young women I did have friends — or “colleagues,” as Jack Heller preferred to call classmates whom one knows by their first names and a few idiosyncrasies.  But as I explained later, “I had nothing against girls; I just was afraid to get that ‘serious’ with them.”

Dating Begins

Later in 1966, I did work up the courage to actually start going out with “the fairer sex.”  I took Susan Titus to a performance of Ruddigore.  The next spring, Jan Olson, who was on Social Board, talked me into overcoming my shyness by being matched up with a stranger via “computer dating.”  After that, I took Sherry Burian to a performance of The Alchemist, and I got turned down by Karen ter Horst.

Now I was a junior, and the Musical Union was going to perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on November 3, 1967.  Three weeks in advance, I asked Jan to go with me.

This would be the first time I'd ever dated her, although we'd been friends for over two years.  We were both majoring in physics.  After our last class ended at 11:50, we'd sometimes walk to the dining hall and eat lunch together.

Sometimes she'd borrow my lecture notes, or I'd borrow hers (left).

Miss Olson actually had a serious boyfriend in the senior class, so I remained merely one of her colleagues.

That weekend I wrote my parents, “I probably won't take Jan out very often, since she does have several other friends who are much better at the social game than I am.  But as long as I don't make a nuisance of myself, I think she and I will stay pretty good friends.  She's a good girl.”

Friday Night

At that performance of the Ninth Symphony — “Alle Menschen werden Brüder, all humans become brothers” — Jan shed a few tears, although I didn't notice it at the time.  She told me later that she sometimes cried “from happiness and events which move me.”

Afterwards we walked from Finney Chapel to nearby Wilder Hall.  Up on the third floor, Folk Fest was on the air live from WOBC's Studio A.

I was the station's Sports Director, and at 11:00 that night I would be hosting a preview of the following afternoon's football game against undefeated Ohio Wesleyan.  It was Homecoming.

I always tried to speak conversationally on the air, so I had included some fragmentary sentences in my script.  Jan scanned it and questioned the informality of beginning one paragraph with the word “Yep.”  However, I changed nothing.

At 11:30, following my Oberlin Digest, we stayed around to watch the live broadcast of Backgammon 101, a comedy sketch show that nowadays might be described as a radio version of Saturday Night Live on a much smaller scale.

At 12:30, Studio A emptied out.  Jan and I went over to the WOBC piano and sang songs from the Oberlin College Song Book.  At her suggestion, our session concluded with the traditional “Good Night, Ladies.”  The Backgammon kazoo happened to be lying there, so I added my “two bits.”

Saturday Afternoon

The next day found me in the press box at the football stadium.  It looked much like this photo taken 35 years later, except the weather wasn't as pleasant. 

2002 photo

I was sitting beside my broadcast partner Jeff Hanna.  But because WOBC broadcast only away events, not home, we weren't there to call the game on the radio.  Instead, Jeff was the public address announcer, and I served as his spotter.

Larry Gellman would write about the event for the following Tuesday's edition of the twice-weekly campus newspaper, the Oberlin Review.

A freezing day and far superior opposition combined to make last Saturday one of the most miserable Homecoming days ever for the Yeoman gridders as they were devastated by Ohio Wesleyan 55-0.

The Battling Bishops methodically picked apart the Obie defense all afternoon, scoring five touchdowns in the first half.   Primarily a running team, OWU gained 440 yards passing.

After the game, Jeff and Larry and I walked back to the radio studio to present a sports talk show we called “Yeoman Scoreboard.” 


Later in November

WOBC's programs the following week included Continental Theatre, which featured a recording in French of Jean Cocteau's “The Terrible Parents.”

I wasn't listening, (A) because I don't know French and (B) because my Physics 33 professor, David Montgomery, had invited several majors to join him that evening for supper in his second-floor apartment.

That Saturday, November 11, would be the final football game of the season.  Our radio crew signed out an Oberlin College station wagon and drove the 45 miles southeast to the College of Wooster, where the Fighting Scots were hosting our Yeomen.

As the play-by-play announcer, I took the air at 1:55 PM.

Fortunately we were working inside a nice warm pressbox (this is a much more recent photo), because it rained steadily throughout the game. 

For the second week in a row, Oberlin was shut out by a lopsided score, this time fifty-six to nothing.  “All in all,” I wrote my parents after returning to campus, “it was quite a miserable day.”

And it had been a miserable 1967 football season.  Not only were we outscored 111-0 in November, we won only one game all year, and that by a narrow 14-13 margin.  (Kenyon College handed us that victory courtesy of a high snap on their second extra-point attempt.)  Larry described the disappointment of a 1-7 record.

Head coach Bill Grice referred to his team before the first game as “the best-looking team we've had in three years."  As the season progressed, however, it became painfully apparent that this was not going to be the year everyone had hoped for.  On the contrary, the locals came within an extra point of going winless.

This year only 11 freshmen came out for football, the lowest figure in the Ohio Conference, which seems to spell a real difference as far as the future is concerned.  This fall's record could well be the best for three years more.

The next afternoon's outcome was happier.  My Physics 35 professor, Robert Warner, welcomed a dozen members of the class to his house on Forest Street.  We drank hot cider and snacked on cookies and ham and cheese.

Two invitations to professors' homes in five days?  This was not all that unusual.  There was remarkable faculty-student interaction at Oberlin.

The previous spring, I had been among the students visiting the homes of Grover Zinn (religion) and Joseph Palmieri (physics).

I wrote to my parents that all the faculty “seem to be really nice people.  During my freshman year, when I was still awed by professors with doctor's degrees while I had only graduated from high school, I certainly didn't expect that two years later I would be on practically friendly terms with over half the physics department staff.”

I pointed out that this was the result of a good student-to-faculty ratio.  “There are seven physics professors, and only eight majors in the class of 1968 and fourteen in my class of 1969.  And the Physics Club meetings and these invitations to their homes make it simpler to talk to the professors about subjects other than that which they profess.”


COMING IN DECEMBER:  I receive a promotion at the radio station, Jo Ann Frech sports a black eye, and Jan and I attend a church service of Christmas carols.

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