Friday, May 21, 2010

for 22-23 MAY 10: Rock Chalk Review

(CLASSIC BLOG: This past week marked an anniversary for us -- 30 years since college graduation. As we take a break for Pentecost weekend, we share some memories which originally appeared here 19 Oct 08.)

Years before I selected a college, my older brother gave me some advice. I could go to any college I wanted -- "but if you go to Kansas State, I'll never speak to you again."

Kansas State was never in the running, for a young man interested in journalism. "Silo Tech" had no journalism school. My brother's alma mater Kansas did. For that matter, K.U. had no veterinary school while K-State did -- so the risk of coming across wandering animals on campus was very small.

I had nice offers to attend college from Drake and Texas Christian -- but I chose Kansas because my first year would be covered by grants and scholarships. Given that sort of thinking, maybe I should have been a business major....

Financial help also came from the fact that I was accepted for a "Scholarship Hall." It's an inexpensive cross between a dormitory and a fraternity -- with about 50 invited people in a hall, and each person assigned daily tasks to save on expenses. Think the Koinonia farm, only with a mix ranging from Christians to pot-smokers.

So I entered Room 3 of the Scholarship Hall -- and was stunned to learn the "new men" were targeted for a welcome night which walked close to the borderline of hazing. Then I was stunned to learn the "sleeping dorm" required open windows year round, for fire safety reasons. Aw, c'mon - this was Kansas, not Florida State....

My first semester in college was relatively uneventful. But I remember well one young woman in my Advanced English class -- an engineering major who some say is in line to become the next President of Royal Dutch Shell. To think I ruled out a potentially wealthy oil executive, because she was a smoker....

I did a bit of "skirt chasing" in college, but.... well, check that. I don't recall that many ladies wearing skirts, other than the cheerleaders. And I was more interested in their hairstyles, because practically ALL women have legs.

But again, no real romances blossomed from my college years. I developed friendships with some women, but nothing more. Perhaps I should have moved beyond Step One -- invite a college woman out to dinner, because the last thing they want to do is cook.

(That approach didn't always work, either. We were allowed to bring guests to a Scholarship Hall Christmas dinner one year -- and nine different women turned me down. Even the Kansas football team won once or twice that year.)

One of my goals in college was to have a 4.0 semester at least once. I never did, but I came close. In one case, I thought sure I'd done it -- but the News Director of the campus public radio station gave be a B in a course. "I never give anyone an A," he explained. If only he had said that at the start....

Then there was the fall semester of my junior year. I missed a 4.0 grade point average because I sang in the top-level choir, and chose not to sing in the Christmas Vespers for religious reasons. I accepted a one-grade deduction from the conductor -- and the next fall, I found a very fun Journalism History course to fill that hour.

My broadcasting career officially began during college, beginning with volunteer reading of the Wednesday morning newspapers on a channel for print-handicapped listeners. I stunned my reading partner one morning when I read an Ann Landers advice column about "switch hitters," and openly wondered what baseball had to do with it.

That led to a regular paid on-air shift with the Audio-Reader Network. Things spread from there to campus radio stations, including the student-operated station where I did play-by-play of some Kansas basketball games. My musical tastes were evident one night when I declared: "You can dim all the lights, sweet darlin' -- this one's over."

To commute from Kansas City to Lawrence, Kansas, I needed a car -- and my older brother sold me a 1966 Impala which had been passed down through the family. I bought my first car for $500. Some say my 14-year-old Honda is worth about as much today.

(I still have a record of my first summer with that big Impala -- and for my first tank of gas 16 Jun 77, the car gave me 13.3 miles per gallon. Be honest now: how many current SUV's can beat that?)

The Impala kept me motoring through college -- except when a couple of rough winter storms hit. On one occasion, the car was parked several blocks from campus and refused to start for days. An early thaw saved me from having it towed away.

(Then there was the cold Sunday morning when the car started, but wouldn't shift into drive. I went in reverse for a couple of blocks to get the transmission warmed up -- and thankfully it was after all the potentially drunk drivers had gone to bed.)

There were some very early Sunday wake-up times for me in college, because I was hired to do the sign-on shift at Lawrence's two commercial radio stations. That meant playing a lot of religious tapes, some soft morning music -- and being stunned by a church pastor using four-letter words, when he called about a program not being on the air.

I also earned some extra money during college by umpiring youth league baseball games during the summer. I learned the last thing you want to tell upset parents after a close playoff loss -- "It's only a game."

There was also the summer I served as an "enumerator," gathering information door-to-door for the local City Directory. But one day, a dog from a block away decided to challenge me -- and within a minute, I was standing on top of a stranger's car as a group of dogs barked all around it. It took the dogs at least five minutes to determine I had no food, and wasn't worthy of being their lunch.

Walking across the college campus provided most of my exercise during college. Our Scholarship Hall had a couple of intramural teams, which didn't do so well. Take the evening I played offensive lineman in touch football, and someone ran me over so hard I did a reverse somersault....

But a roommate in my senior year of college persuaded me to start jogging for exercise. At first it was a couple of laps at Allen Field House, which has a track around the historic basketball court. Then it was several laps. Then I longed to outrun some of the sorority women, hoping to impress them.

Then came the summer between junior and senior year, when I truly lived by myself for the first time. Thanks to an internship at a TV station in Topeka, Kansas, I spent three months in an apartment building near the state capitol. It took a few days to figure I should NOT take a shower without a hanging curtain.

By piling on extra credit hours early in the college years, I was able to take things relatively easy during the senior year. But some hall-mates thought the student manager gave me a slap, by assigning me to dinner dishwashing duty. I quietly accepted it -- instead of starting a very hot "soap" opera.

(But when I back to the Scholarship Hall months after graduation as a surprise guest at the August "new man" initiation, that manager made it clear I was NOT wanted there anymore. Helping the hall win a campus "College Bowl" title as a junior didn't amount to anything -- not to mention the hall fad I started one semester, which had almost everyone playing Stratego.)

I never took a "spring break" trip during college -- even though I wanted to. I reserved a spot on a campus trip to Padre Island, Texas. But I couldn't arrange a swap to get off work, while other student employees did. Oh well -- at least when I finally went there in 2002, I saw tall tropical storm waves they never did.

So my senior year spring break was spent beginning the job hunt -- and much to my surprise, a Kansas City radio station was interested in me doing the morning news. Local legend Max Bicknell was retiring. His classic closing line, "So moves the news!" was perfect for a station playing disco music.

KJLA-AM hired me, with my starting day being the May Monday that I graduated from college. But by that point, disco was dying and the station was changing its musical sound -- so I did NOT get the opportunity to report about people dying in plane crashes to an underlying disco beat.

Monday, 19 May 1980 was one long day. I was on the air from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., then stopped at Winchell's Donuts for a celebration treat on the way to Lawrence for graduation. Before the evening ceremony, I stopped at a sorority for a nice chat with a friend who was becoming house President. You had to like a woman who wouldn't come out to see you because she had "wet hair."

(But of course, she didn't become a girlfriend either -- and when I learned she moved to Atlanta while I lived there, I didn't take the time to look her up. Under the rules of the church I was attending, I couldn't date her. Get baptized like me, or doomed you could be....)

I could have kicked myself on that graduation night -- because students decided to stage a protest during the ceremony, several rows above me in the football stadium. I took a camera to document my march down the hill to graduate, but I didn't think to take a tape recorder to get soundbites for the next morning.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 652 (- 71, 9.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2008-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

site stats