We needed to shut the door to achieve the necessary darkness while we waited for the occasional photon to strike the paper. This required exposures as long as 30 minutes. Being a gentleman alone in the dark for half an hour with an attractive young lady, I was careful not to make her uncomfortable. I kept my distance as much as possible. We made small talk.
The next day was Thursday. A letter arrived informing me that I had been elected to the honorary Phi Beta Kappa society. How did that happen? Apparently I'm in the top six in my class by grade average, I wrote my parents. Jan seems quite thrilled about my election she'd predicted it before spring vacation, though I didn't have as much confidence in myself as she did and I imagine you are, too.
Also that afternoon, a meeting of WOBC's Board of Trustees was scheduled. The Board was going to appoint me Station Director for the coming year, which was only a formality because no one else had applied. However, due to lack of a quorum, the meeting was postponed until April 15.
After supper that Thursday evening, April 4, I had returned to the station by the time of our 7:25 PM newscast, which basically consisted of someone reading a five-minute World in Brief summary ripped from the UPI teletype. Buried in the copy, maybe the sixth item, was a sentence saying that Dr. Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis!
My goodness, I thought, that should have been the lead story especially on our campus with its strong advocacy of civil rights. Was the shooting fatal? It was. By 9:00, the assassination was indeed dominating the news. Paul Sturm made arrangments to play our tape of Dr. King's 1964 Finney Chapel address, The Future of Integration, on Oberlin Digest at 11:00 that night.
Besides news coverage, how should WOBC respond? I discussed it with the outgoing Station Director, John Heckenlively. He was in favor of suspending normal programming out of respect. I preferred staying on the air but occasionally interspersing one of Dr. King's speeches or sermons, using the records that I had found in the Program Cabinet.
My plan won out, but in hindsight I don't know whether it was the better one. Also, I should have been more specific and scheduled different recordings for various hours. The music hosts weren't familiar with the content, and almost everybody chose the first speech on Side One. Our listeners were appreciative, however.
On Friday evening, the day after the assassination, I was in the control room at the station as we broadcast a memorial service live from Finney Chapel. The campus was outraged, of course, especially the African-American students. When I heard impassioned non-FCC-approved words coming over the line, my first instinct was to mute the audio momentarily, but that was futile because we were not broadcasting on a delay. The profanity had already gone out over the air.
Don't Forget the Physics
My scientific education continued. Two weeks later, I turned in my solutions to a physics problem set. Here's part of Page 5. I think these equations describe quantum wave functions. Back then, I actually knew what an eigenvalue was.
Dealing with the Media
That evening, Friday, April 19, when our campus newspaper the Oberlin Review hit the newsstands (by which I mean the dining halls), I found myself on the front page.
The headline seemed to imply that the radio station was planning to imitate the newspaper. My colleagues at the station took exception to that, and I immediately dashed off a letter to the editor to correct the misapprehension. When it didn't appear in either of the paper's editions the following week, my colleagues grew impatient.
"Section Autonomy" Fallout
The front page of the April 30 issue of the Review reported the resignation of the college's Dean of Women, due to the campus's changing social mores.
Most of the younger generation disagreed, however. Just two and a half years later, a Life magazine cover story revealed the shocking news from Oberlin. Not only were some sections now open to the opposite sex, but entire dormitories had been converted to full-time co-ed living!
Back at the Station
My letter to the Review finally appeared in that same issue on April 30, 1968.
I was assembling my cabinet: a Program Director, two engineers, two business types, a Program Guide editor, and department heads for news, sports, classical music, popular music, fine arts, and public service. I solicited applications from current WOBC staffers, and if more than one person applied for a position, I had to decide (with advice from others) who should get the job. The final list was to be approved by the Board of Trustees on May 9.