One of my roommates my freshman year was Roger Lance Moffett, from Kansas City. He was a jock transfer from CMSU in Warrensburg, then called CMSC (Central Missouri State College). He had this really square jaw and his nickname was Jaw. Everybody had a nickname. My other roommate, Ed Fulton, we named Lips.
I had several (Snowy - because of my dandruff, which is gone now; Bobby Muffin - by my first girlfriend's roommate; Squirrel - because I was so lucky (good) playing cards; and several others I can't mention).
Roger and his friend Tony Teresh (Tuh-resh'), a pre-dental student, had a contest during school to see who could memorize the World Almanac first - a paperback book about two inches thick. When everybody else was studying for finals, Roger would lie on his bed all day and all night reading that book. He'd occasionally close his eyes and you could see tears running down the side of his face. "Moffett," my friend Skip Hughes used to say, in a long, drawn out, slightly scolding tone of voice. Roger would say, "I'm only resting my eyes," and in a few moments, he'd open them and keep reading. After several weeks, he slammed the book shut, threw it to Skip and me and said, "OK, ask me anything."
Skip and I chuckled and took the book. "Who won the Kentucky Derby in 1927?" we asked. "Whiskery in two minutes and six seconds." Huh? All right, smart aleck, what's the population of Tokyo (there were two different figures)? "6.8 million in the city and 9.85 million in the metropolitan area." Huh? We skimmed through the book and noticed that our home town Versailles wasn't in it. We pretended it was, "What's the population of Versailles?" "Versailles isn't listed but I think it's about 2000." Its population, listed on the city limit signs as long as we could remember, had been 1956. On and on for ten minutes and he didn't miss any. "How can we get girls?" we pretended to read in the almanac. "That," he said, " is not possible," and giggled.
Ah, Stephens College - where all the rich girls went. How this school ever wound up in Columbia escaped me, but we loved it. My freshman year in early winter a guy ran in and said, "Let's go over to Stephens. The girls from California are going nuts because most of them haven't ever seen snow." We ran over there looking for snowball fights and all sorts of fun things, but all we ever got was in snowball fights with each other. We had lots of mixers with the Stephens girls, and I couldn't help but notice how gorgeous some of them were. I don't recall ever going out with any though. Maybe they weren't given my phone number when they enrolled. Paula Zahn is a Stephens grad.
My mom. I think I'll keep her. She was always so happy to see me, and when she couldn't see me on college weekends, she wanted me to send my laundry home with anybody from Versailles who was going home. So that's what I'd do. Then that person would bring the clean clothes back, and I'd pick them up from him or her on Monday. Thanks Mom.
When I was a freshman, and we were required to have a slide rule, I dutifully went to the book store and bought my very first one (I still have it - a "Post"). The next day I strapped it to my belt and it hung down like a sword. Boy, was I cool. I strutted off to all my classes, ready to whip out my new slide rule at a moment's notice. A few days later, I was sitting in the student union having a Pepsi in a booth when I overhead a couple of girls in an adjacent booth talk about how dorky those guys looked who wore their slide rules on their belts. I had to wait for them to leave of course. Then I took my slide rule off and never wore it on my belt again, except at a couple of Halloween parties. Too bad. Later, when I worked for GE and the first small calculators came out, I ordered mine in the mail and couldn't wait to get it. It had a holster, and I hooked it to my belt and wore it to the Hatch I Nuclear Power Plant startup, near Vidalia, Georgia, where I was lead startup engineer. I hadn't learned anything. I was told how nerdy I looked about ten times, so I finally took THAT off too.
Update 2003: So the world has finally come around. I wear my cell phone on my belt.
Dad was a great hunter and fisherman. One weekend I came home and Mom said, "Your dad got his picture in the paper," and there was a picture of Dad holding up this eight-pound bass. Now catching a bass in the Lake of the Ozarks is about as common as a Silicon Valley commuter spending five more minutes in a traffic jam. But this was special. You see, this bass must have been an old hand at not getting caught. When Dad hooked him, the fish went down to the bottom of the lake and swam around a fallen tree limb about three times, so Dad couldn't pull him up. Nice try, fish. Dad kicked off his shoes, took out his wallet, and jumped in the lake. He swam down to the bottom of the lake, got the fish, cut the line, and brought him back up.
Dad: 1, Fish: Fry.
When I was in high school, every school party had both kinds of dancing - slow and fast. Larry Houchens, BMOC and top jock, could do every fast dance known to man. Not only could I not do any, I didn't even know what they were called. So Bill Washburn and I would watch the fast dances, and then when a slow dance came along, we would be too shy to ask any girls to dance, except maybe once a night. Bill got better at it, but I was always afraid they would say no, and why would anyone want to dance with me anyway? Or I'd daydream about the last dance with Sally Washburn or whoever I had my eye on, and sometimes, as I was walking up to ask her, somebody else would beat me, there she'd go, and I'd walk on past like I wasn't going to do anything anyway. And, of course, sometimes I'd dance.
But when I was a freshman at MU, the Twist was born, and I could finally do a popular dance. So I was onto the dance floor. Then came the UT (and whether it was the University of Tennessee or Texas where it was invented). Anyway, I got my confidence, which I learned mainly consisted of not taking yourself too seriously, wanting to have a really great time, and not being afraid to make a fool out of yourself.
That strange-looking guy to your left was starting to come out of his shell.
I could never have imagined the camaraderie that developed at MU when we would get together for an all night bull session. Actually they would only last until three or four but they were great fun. We talked (freshmen listened) about everything that wasn't meaningful. Football, baseball, sex - lots about sex. The upper-classmen who were having sex would tell their stories, and we freshman basically sat around with our mouths open, chins touching the ground. "Is that possible?" I remember asking myself in the bull sessions. "What's that?" But of course I could NEVER ask what THAT was.
The student-elected Governor of Stewart House was Jim Hobbs, from North Kansas City H.S. where he had been student body president as I had been in Versailles. We became friends, and he came to Versailles with some other guys one time, so I could show them the town and the lake. Jim was always talking about his girlfriend Grace, and I learned later from Ed Fulton that he married her, and is a dentist somewhere around Kansas City.
The mail room was underneath the cafeteria, and I would go in and look into the glass door and immediately tell whether there was a dark diagonal line across the glass - a letter waiting for me. There was never any junk mail. And it was 99 times out of a hundred a letter from Mom. I loved to get those letters. Sometimes it was a few lines telling what was happening, pleading with me to call or write more often, "Are you still alive?" And bless her heart, she'd send my spirits soaring when she included two or three dollars. Now money doubles about every ten years in comparative value because of inflation, so thirty years ago, that's a factor of eight, so two or three then was like about twenty now. I mean after all, a movie was 95 cents. So I send Tara ten or twenty bucks in a letter every now and then at Santa Clara University, and remember how I felt getting that money.
After a couple of months, each of us got a mid-semester grade point average. MU had the 4.0 system - all A's was 4.0. Anyway, there was a guy who was from St. Louis who partied all the time. I never saw him study, he was either going out on a date or playing this organ he kept in his room. Like Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." Boy, was he good. Midway through the first semester of our freshman year, he got his mid-term grades, and his average was 0.0 - he had five Fs. I was impressed.
College kids are nuts. It was the night before my first-ever final exam. It was for Calculus 101 at Missouri University in January of 1962. I was a freshman. Three guys were running around trying to find a fourth to play cards all night long. It suddenly struck me as the ultimate nose-thumbing at the stresses of studying. "Hey, I'll play. That'd be really cool," I said. So we sat down in my three-man dorm room and started playing a game we called britch. At about 1:30 AM I ran out of gas. "Hey, guys, sorry, I didn't know I'd get this tired. I gotta go to bed." "You promised, you promised." "I know, but I just can't. You can play here, but I'm going to bed." "Jacky backafwatz, you hoggy pegaloomer," they yelled at me. But I was REALLY tired. So I climbed into my top bunk and went to sleep. After what seemed like five minutes, my alarm went off and it was morning. I made a note to not stay up so late tomorrow night, and to avoid card games during finals week. I was UNBELIEVABLY TIRED. I swung my feet over the bunk and dropped to the concrete floor with my morning THUD, which I used as a method to shake myself awake, and which never seemed to bother my roommates, Freshman Ed Fulton and Senior Roger Moffett. They remained in their beds, still sleeping, as usual. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, put on my clothes, and went to the community bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. There were guys shaving and a couple of guys in the shower. "You got a final? Are you ready for it, Bob?" my friend asked me. "I don't know, I studied a lot but it's really hard. Boy, am I tired." I finished brushing my teeth and went back to my room. Guys were getting ready for the morning. I got my jacket and books and walked up the length of the third floor of Kramer Hall towards the cafeteria. I walked down the three flights of steps, out into the dark, early morning, casting my eyes towards the cafeteria glass archway, ready for the familiar warm lights, waiters walking up and down the tables, getting ready for us. But...
TOTAL DARKNESS IN THE CAFETERIA! I shook my head, looked up at the sky. Cold stars everywhere, as always at 6:30 am in January. I glanced across the sidewalks at our companion dorm, and lights were on in about three-quarters of the room. Everybody obviously getting ready for the morning. Did I miss something? Is the cafeteria closed this morning? I'd better go back and check. So I walked back up my dorm steps, and when I turned the corner into our floor, I could see guys lined up on both sides of the hallway leading to my end room on the right-hand side. How come everybody's in the hall? As I neared the first guy, they all broke into wild cheering, totally nuts. I was in the Twilight Zone. "Hey Bob, what time is it?" "Hey Bob, what'd you have for breakfast?" "Hey, Bob, wanna play cards NOW?" I double checked my alarm clock and my watch. No help. After I had gone to sleep, the three guys had changed my wristwatch and alarm clock and everybody else's clock in our room. My roommates got into their beds, under the blankets. A couple of guys got in our closets to listen. The guys in our end of the dorm were all asked to pretend it was morning and to be getting ready for class. It was 2:15.
They tried it the next night too, but I had hidden my wristwatch. When my alarm went off, I retrieved it. "OK, you jerks, I know it's 2 AM, cut it out." From the closet: "Let's play cards. Giggle giggle."
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There were some pretty strange guys at MU when I was a freshman. One guy was a rebel and a loner. He gradually made friends with some of us though, and one time we found out that he had taken a fifty point True-False test and got a zero on it. Now to do that, you can't just guess and be wrong. The only way to do it is to KNOW the answers and answer them wrong on purpose - every one. I always wondered how he got wired up the way he did.
It was Christmas vacation from Missouri University my freshman year, and we were out in the Hilty countryside. Jim Milburn had a cream '52 Chevy, and during our senior year, a bunch of the kids went goolying. "Goolying" means you tie a rope onto a car's bumper, then have a buddy drive the car around the town roads when they are solid ice or packed snow, and you slide on your boots or shoes in the road. The rope gave a crack-the-whip effect, and it was, of course, really dangerous. An alternate method is just to grab onto the bumper, not using a rope. Being basically a preservationist, I somehow managed to avoid doing this during my high school years. But Jim's folks had a field with small stacks of hay, covered over by drifting snow, thus making twenty or thirty individual little ramps. So we turned an old car hood upside down, tied a rope between it and the Chevy rear bumper, filled the car hood with straw and blankets, loaded it with about five kids, and Jim took off in the field. He didn't so much drive it as he just went slowly around in a very tight circle, and the centrifugal force whipped the car hood around at probably thirty miles an hour or more, I'd guess. The idea was for him to turn the car so that the car hood would hit one of the small hay stacks with the leading edge of snow, and sail the hood and its riders into the air like a ski jump. Well several people tried it, but he kept missing it.
After a while, I said "Let me try." Everyone else got off and I was the only one on. I held on with both hands as the hood went faster and faster. Something caused a needle-like spray of snow to blow straight up into my face, so with one hand holding the edge of the car hood, I used the other to pull my parka hood down over my face so the spray wouldn't hit me directly. Well, that worked, but what it prevented was me seeing what was happening. I felt a little bump. What I didn't know was that Jim had finally scored - made a direct hit on a hay stack ramp. The hood went sailing, everyone later said, easily jumping an imaginary six foot guy with two feet to spare. But during this flying time, I was just wondering what that little bump was. Well, when the hood crashed back to earth, I thought I had been hit by a Mack Truck. It knocked the breath out of me, and luckily that was all the damage it did. I lay in the field, fighting for breath as everyone ran over to me to see if I was OK. I started laughing and couldn't stop when I finally regained my breath. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, and everyone else started a kind of nervous chuckle, thinking I probably had brain damage, but then they figured out I was OK. Everyone joined in the great joke - you know, college kids doing stupid things and getting away with 'em.
When I was a freshman, our floor of our dorm arranged for a Sunday mixer with the girls on a floor of a dorm down the street. Everybody was "fixed up" by height. I was then introduced to the traditions of male life on a college campus in the sixties. "OK, everybody put in a dollar," one guy said. "What for?" I asked. "For the pig pot. Whoever gets the ugliest girl gets the pot." Well that was just great. "How will we know who was the ugliest one?" I said. "We all vote after it's over." Well, that sounded reasonable. See, if you got a real ugly girl, you would get compensated by the pot. Of course, if you got the second ugliest girl, then that was as low as you could get.
So we went, and everybody met their partner. We had lunch and sat around and talked and played a couple of games and went home. I thought my date was a little plain, and she was really quiet. I'd say, "What's your major?" and she'd say, "English," and nothing else. Silence, then I'd say, "Where are you from?" "Moberly," she said, and nothing else. After four or five questions with short, curt answers I gave up and just watched everybody else. My roommate Roger Moffett's date got my vote. So we got back - twenty of us, and voted. Moffett's date got one vote and my date got 19. I won about twenty bucks. Hmm, I wonder if my date won any money in a dork pot.
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