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November 1968
Added to website November 1, 2018


I don't keep a diary, but I made some cryptic notes on a calendar about memorable moments in 1968, including:

Friday, November 1:  noon walk south.
Saturday, November 2:  called home/Mahler.
Sunday, November 3:  conference room.
Wednesday, November 13:  please don't.

Half a century later, some of these memories have faded.  But I do recall Tuesday, November 5.


The Fifth of November

Because WOBC's 18th anniversary was on November 5, our Tuesday newscasts included a story that I'd prepared.

It was longer than our usual “news carts,” because it featured the first couple of minutes of the recording I'd found of the station's premiere broadcast on November 5, 1950, during which station director Bob Chamberlain (far right) introduced college president William Stevenson.

November 5 also happened to be the date of the 1968 Presidential election.  Students on other campuses might have indulged in all-night drinking parties to watch the votes come in on TV, but Oberlin students were more serious than that.  We did want to learn the results, but we did not want to neglect our formal learning. 

Therefore, WOBC arranged its election coverage accordingly.  Our usual evening programming was classical music (by which to study).  On November 5 we interrupted the music only occasionally for the latest returns.

Most of these reports were supposed to be just ten minutes long.  They tended to run over, however.  After all, there were three candidates for President (Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace), and we had three anchors in our studio (for Presidential, state, and local results), and we had three pairs of reporters out in the field (for county and local returns and for campus reactions).  Behind the scenes, other staffers wrangled the vote totals.  About 30 people in all were involved. 

Once our election coverage kicked into gear around 7:00 that evening, I directed the first five hours.  My title was Station Director, after all.  A second shift took over at midnight, I went to bed at 1:00, and a small wrapup crew moved in at 4:00 AM. 


Parental Visits

The following day, Jan Olson got a call from home, and that weekend her mother and father visited the campus.  She invited me to join her and her parents for dinner at the Oberlin Inn on Friday evening.  I remember only one slightly embarrassing moment:  the subject of General Relativity came up, and I made a bad joke about “Lieutenant Relativity.”

Other folks at the Inn in the 1980s

Later that same weekend, I went home to visit my parents.  Actually I went first to Delaware, Ohio, 18 miles away, for WOBC's Saturday-afternoon broadcast of Oberlin's football game at Ohio Wesleyan.  Then I stayed overnight at Richwood and played the organ for church on Sunday, November 10.

I hadn't been there for choir practice, of course.  “I hope,” I had written the week before, “it'll be fairly simple to figure out what and how the choir is singing; maybe I can go over it with Rev. Wagner on Saturday to make sure I know what's happening.”  I mentioned what I was going to be playing so the titles could be listed in the bulletin.

Prelude:  ‘Jesus Shall Reign,’ Van Denman Thompson.
Offertory:  ‘O Blessed Emmanuel,’ J.S. Bach.
Postlude:  ‘Epilogue,’ Felix Mendelssohn.


Back at WOBC

Clark Hyde's “Virtuoso” featured Benny Goodman's classical clarinet recordings of Copland and Stravinsky at 9:00 on Wednesday, November 20.  Then at 11:30 we aired a recording of Oberlin's Mark Arnold and Roger Conner competing in the Dartmouth Debate Tournament's final round in February.

One of the many records in our library was the original version of Leonard Bernstein's “Kaddish” Symphony. 

I was fascinated by this recording, in particular the text spoken by the composer's wife.  Excerpts:

O my Father, Lord of Light!  Beloved Majesty, my Image, my Self!  Are you listening, Father?

You know who I am:  your image, that stubborn reflection of you that Man has shattered, extinguished, banished.  And now he runs free — free to play with his new-found fire, avid for death, voluptuous, complete and final death.

Why have you taken away your rainbow, that pretty bow you tied round your finger to remind you never to forget your promise?  Your covenant?  Your bargain with Man?

Tin God!  Your bargain is tin!  It crumples in my hand!  And where is faith now — yours or mine?

Rest, my Father.  Sleep, dream.  Let me invent your dream ... dream it with you, as gently as I can.  And perhaps in dreaming, I can help you recreate your image, and love him again.

The third movement's fantasy reminds us of the Genesis 32:24 story of Jacob wrestling all night with God.  The music builds to the climactic entrance of a boys' choir singing in Hebrew “Magnified and sanctified be His great name, Amen!”  Then afterwards comes a lovely morning theme.

The rainbow is fading.  Our dream is over.  We must wake up now.

The dawn is chilly ... but the dawn has come!  Father, we've won another day.  We have dreamed our Kaddish, and wakened alive.

We can still be immortal, you and I, bound by our rainbow.  That is our covenant — not quite the covenant we bargained for, so long ago, at the time of that other, first rainbow.  But then I was only your helpless infant.

We have both grown older, you and I.  Together we suffer ... together exist ... and forever will recreate each other.



The latest set of recordings from The Beatles, known as the White Album, was released on November 22.  For the rest of my college career, at least one of the 30 cuts on this double album was played on almost every pop music program on WOBC.

On Side Four, deejays could choose from two different versions of one song:  the relaxed, bluesy “Revolution 1” that I preferred (shooby doo wop), or the faster “Revolution 9“ with its noisy guitar distortion.

You say you want a revolution.
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.

You say you got a real solution.
We'd all love to see the plan.
But if you want money for people with minds that hate,
You have to wait.

You tell me it's the institution.
We all want to change the world.
But when you talk about destruction,
You can count me out.

Peaceful peace demonstration in Washington, from the 1970 Hi-O-Hi

Lyrics like these seemed to be warning leftists and other campus radicals not to go too far.


Listening with Jan

I had a date of sorts on Saturday night, November 23, when Jan invited me to her room in South Hall to hear a couple of entertaining tapes of classical music on her four-month-old reel-to-reel recorder.  We listened to one of Jan's favorites, Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé suite, plus the recently-released synthesizer recording Switched-On Bach.  The latter, according to Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, was “one of the most startling achievements of the recording industry in this generation and certainly one of the great feats in the history of ‘keyboard’ performance.”

The following afternoon, Jan and I talked for hours.  Among the subjects:  her boyfriend, who had graduated in June and was now in Florida, was planning to fly to her home in Pennsylvania for the November 28 celebration of Thanksgiving.  She was worried.  What if his plane were hijacked?

That summer, Palestinian gunmen had taken over an El Al flight and held some of the hostages for 40 days.  More recently, ten airplanes had been forcibly diverted to Cuba, including four U.S. jetliners in November.

I tried to reassure Jan that “skyjackings” lately had been no big deal:  the gunman orders the pilot to fly to Havana, Castro's soldiers arrest the gunman at José Martí Airport, no one is hurt, and the passengers are allowed to resume their trip the next day.  But for some reason that didn't calm her fears.

Epilogue: On the Monday after Thanksgiving, she revealed to me that over the weekend she had begun considering breaking up with that boyfriend.  She would actually do so six months later.


COMING IN DECEMBER:  In the final installment of this series, astronauts circling the Moon send a Christmas-Eve broadcast back to Earth, where a burglar is trying to steal presents from under my friend's tree.  I play a year-end Pastorale on the organ; you'll be able to listen to it and read my lyrics.  And I prepare to write a quantum physics textbook.  No, really!  Well, sort of.

Click here to continue.



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