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The Edge of the Nest
Written August 4 and September 15, 1965


Background:  Six weeks before enrolling as a freshman at Oberlin College, I received a letter from Dave Wilkinson, who had been assigned to be my roommate in Burton Hall.  Dave introduced himself and his interests, including flute playing and mountain climbing.  I responded with this summary of my life so far.


Dear Dave,

Actually, I'd been planning to write to you for several days when I received your letter.  One thing or another had kept delaying me, a somewhat reluctant letter-writer anyhow, until I heard from you today.  But I am glad to have a chance to get to know you before we meet at Oberlin next month; there are going to be enough new experiences for us, I imagine, without our having to get acquainted as if we were complete strangers.  So, I'll kick my letter-writing mechanism into gear to answer your missive and perhaps to ask a question of my own.

You are a music major; I am a physics major (probably) who is also interested in music.  I say "probably" a physics major because there still exists a possibility of my majoring in mathematics.  At any rate, my strongest interests lie in this general area; my greatest aptitudes seem to be for math and the exact sciences.

Now, I have also studied piano for 11½ years, and I have been playing the organ for six.  I enjoy music, classical and otherwise, but not to the extent that I want to make it my career or even to study it at college; I feel I'm better suited for other things.  I've gotten plenty of satisfaction from such activities as playing the organ for church and accompanying the Junior Choir, sometimes with an "arrangement" for the Choir thrown in.  And one of my reasons for coming to Oberlin is the musical scent in the college atmosphere.  But, repeat, I'm really a physicist at heart.

As to other activities, I have dabbled in several varieties.  I'm not much of an athlete.  I have a myopic condition which has led my doctor to recommend I avoid contact sports such as basketball (?), and there aren't many mountains to climb around here.  But, during my years in high school, I served as a student manager for Richwood's athletic teams, keeping track of all the statistics and even doing some play-by-play sportscasting on our area radio station.  I have been active in the church and, of course, with schoolwork.  In addition, I play around with architecture, photography, poetry, cryptography, dramatics, and all sorts of other occasional hobbies, none of which I'm any good at.  If I'm ever by myself and bored, though, one of them will usually provide the necessary diversion.

Now about that all-important "question of my own":  Mother has been wondering for days what your family is like.

Mine, one might say, is small — just the three of us.  My father is an automobile dealer here in Richwood, selling not only to the surrounding farms but to other nearby areas as well, including the city of Marion.  We've lived here for thirteen years since we came up from southeastern Ohio.  We left all our relatives "down yon'er," and as a result I've grown up without seeing my grandparents and aunts and uncles every week, as other people around here seem to do.  So, we three are a rather close family.

Perhaps for this reason, I've been unable to work up quite as much enthusiasm as you over the approach of September 16, at least not yet.  This little fledgling has been flapping his wings on his own for some time now and has climbed up onto the edge of the nest, but he's still reluctant to hop off and sail into the unknown.

Oh, well.  Deep breath!  Onward to better things!  And may the knowledge and the new experiences we gain at Oberlin help us to learn better to live the wonderful lives that lie ahead of us.

Forgot to tell you one of my occasional hobbies is philosophy, didn't I?


Background:  On Wednesday, September 15, 1965, I wrote to my high school classmate Terry Rockhold.  He had already left home to enroll at Case Institute of Technology (now Case-Western Reserve University) in Cleveland.  Now others of our class were also going to college, including Ed Olson to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and Kelly Drake to Duke.

Since our graduation in May, Richwood High School had consolidated with Byhalia to form the new North Union High School.  But the same facilities were still being used, because a new building was a few years away.

As a high school junior and senior, I had picked up plenty of practice in calling Richwood Tigers basketball play by play, but I had not yet described a football game.  So, to advance what turned out later to be my career, I had gotten permission to take my tape recorder up to the roof of the pressbox at Memorial Field the previous Friday, where I recorded a fake radio broadcast of the very first North Union Wildcats football game.

The North Union band, from a picture posted by a member of the Class of 1968.  My “broadcast” location was at the orange T in the upper right.


Dear Terry,

A few notes on what's happened here in the past week.  First of all, Ed was at church Sunday, and I asked him what his address will be at Athens.  Compared with yours, it's a very complicated one.

James Hall

Box numbers will be assigned later, but "James Hall" will get it to him.  I rattled off your address, but since Ed didn't have a notebook with him, he's going to let you write to him first.  He went down to Athens yesterday morning, with Hilda DeGood taking him in a pickup truck.

Also at church Sunday was Kelly, who, like me, leaves tomorrow.  He hopes he can handle the Russian course; he's been hearing stories about people who made straight A's otherwise but flunked Russian.  Sounds like Latin at RHS.

Speaking of high school, the football tape I made Friday turned out pretty well — the main thing I lack is experience — but the game was a flop.  The Wildcats lost, 26-0.  Neither team was any good at running, as the blocking from a pair of underweight offensive lines wasn't working; only once was anyone able to turn the corner on an end sweep.  Marysville gained a good part of its yardage through the air.  North Union tried to pass, but [Jim] Blue was consistently wild; he either led his receivers too much or threw too short.  So, we can't run and we can't pass, and something's going to have to be done.

And [North Union] school spirit?  Well, to me it seems about as little as that of Richwood recently, except that there's less tradition.  No one seems to know the fight song or the Alma Mater; no one knows what a wildcat looks like; there's nothing to be proud of yet, not even a new high school building such as most other newly-consolidated schools have.  It's just a little bit dead.  Things are bound to improve as an NU tradition is formed, but this takes time.



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