It was Saturday, October 5. Oberlin College's football team, having eked out a comeback win at Hiram the previous week their first opening-game victory in seven years now were playing at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was also our second broadcast of the season on WOBC.
Again we were coming down to an exciting finish. The game was tied 28-28 late in the fourth quarter. It might end that way; the NCAA would not institute overtime until 28 years later.
Oberlin had already used two of its time outs, but sophomore quarterback Dan Duffey was working the clock with a brilliant display of running and passing (according to Cary Seidman in the Oberlin Review). I recall at least one reception near the far sideline by tight end Pat Donlon, who had been in a German class with me when we were sophomores.
With the Yeomen driving from left to right on your radio dial, I was on a roll as I called the game. My analyst, Jeff Hanna, was sitting beside me. We shared a single hand-held stick microphone.
There had been a rule change for 1968: On a first down, the clock was stopped until the chains had been moved and the ball was marked ready for play. I had wondered how to describe that concisely, but it turned out to be no problem: Only 32 seconds left in the game! The clock has stopped for the first down. Now it starts again!
Oberlin reached the 10-yard line, and the running clock reached 10 seconds. Then Carnegie-Mellon's rattled defense surprised everyone by calling time out. My analyst held out his hand to ask for the mic.
Jeff speculated about what Coach Bill Grice could do. The Yeomen might throw a pass into the end zone, and if it fell incomplete they would still have time to try for a field goal. But Grice decided to play it safe. Jeff told our listeners that placekicker Steve Ashton had come on to attempt a 27-yarder.
A Long Talk in the Conference Room
As a college senior, I was conflicted. Should I meet conventional expectations by pursuing a career in my undergraduate major, physics? Or did I want to continue having fun as a broadcaster? (The niche in which I would eventually find myself operating a computer to display live graphics on TV sportscasts was then in its earliest infancy.)
One evening, probably in October, I confessed to an increasing sense of depression. I have almost zero interest in studying graduate physics, I'm getting behind in my problem sets, there are difficult WOBC decisions to be made, I have to force myself to work on the problem sets, etc.
But in my unconfident state I wasn't a good conversationalist (someone else grabs you away when I stop to think). One of her other friends was Bruce Babcock; as it turned out, she would marry him four years later. Finally Jan accompanied me as I walked to Wilder Hall and up to the third floor.
There's a seldom-used back room at WOBC Radio that in recent years has become a live performance space known as Studio B.
In my day we called it the Conference Room. Near the door sat a four-foot-high plywood cabinet that had once enclosed the station's teletype machine to muffle the sound. Over on the far side lay some discarded organ pipes.
On this occasion, as usual, no one was using the room, and here I was able to talk to Jan without interruptions. For a while she sat inside the cabinet. For a while she stood by the window, gazing out over the fire escape onto rainy Woodland Street, and I joined her there. She spoke partly in French, saying things that I took to mean Poor, poor Tom.
I tried to explain to her the next day (in the note I've been quoting above), even though I had absolutely nothing to say to you, I just wanted you to spend a little time with me and thereby partly restore my confidence in myself. And that's what I was trying to say to you, although since nothing seemed to be going right yesterday it didn't come out very coherently at all. I'm sorry.
Later that month, Jan got out her scissors to make for me a small token of friendship, which was in growing recognition and appreciation of much that is going on inside you. You can click on the image to the left.
Giveaways and Double Negatives
nearly as I can reconstruct the nonsense, Jan asked what I wanted for
my 22nd birthday. I suggested she could give me a negative nail clipper.
Want the Good News First?
Turn-on news: The three-way 1968 presidential race was heating up. One day I got the emphasis wrong while reading the UPI headlines at the top of WOBC's News Roundup. (I wasn't yet aware of David Brinkley's recommendation: in your script, underline the words you want to stress. Here I'll underline the words I actually did stress.)
up, and behind the glass Randy Bongarten was laughing.
Brief news: One night I was assigned to read the five-minute news summary. However, because of reasons, the time slot had shrunk to two minutes. I decided to speakveryrapidly in order to pack as much news as possible into those 120 seconds.
asked my engineer whether my fast talk had been understandable.
The answer: yes, except the part where I rattled off the sports scores.
Our next football game, on October 19, would be part of the homecoming weekend.
Jan wrote out a dining hall announcement on behalf of the Social Board. It promoted Open Wilder on Friday from 7:30 to midnight. There would be folk dancing and singing, poetry readings, three 1930s movies for only 25¢, and a Multi-Media Arts Environment on Wilder's second floor.
Our radio station had often played Judy's recording of Joni's Both Sides Now. Her Finney Chapel performance included more than a dozen other tunes. I remarked that, for some reason, the one I happened to like best was In My Life. But, Jan pointed out, that's just an old Beatles song. I know, I replied, but it's a good one.
As it turned out, somewhat to my surprise, in 2001 a poll of songwriters chose In My Life as the greatest song ever written! Here it is.
And here's another tune from Judy blue eyes.
The next day was Monday, October 21. I chaired a meeting of the WOBC Board of Trustees.
Our first meeting didn't lead to anything, and I don't think there ever was a second meeting.
October Draws to a Close