Back to Grover Cleveland 56-57

A friend in need. I hope you have had lots of friends, and if some were in need you helped.  Lets go back to the ending of the Spring semester at Syracuse.  A friend of mine, can’t remember his name now, was in the same Sophomore Physics class as I was.  We were in my room cramming for the final exam as it would be tough.  My friend worried that he might not pass and needed more time to study.  He had a job at the University cafeteria.  I think it was as a dishwasher.  He asked me if I could fill in for him so he would have time to study.  I felt secure and said sure, be glad to.

There were maybe 3 weeks left in the semester and I went over right after he gave his notice and told the chef he had a relief.  I didn’t need the money, which was minimum wage anyway.  To me, I was doing him a favor as well as the cafeteria.

The summer passes and I thought that maybe a little job would give me some more money for luxuries so I went to the Student Employment office. Some old woman was in charge and had a file about me.  Much to my surprise, she told me that I had been evaluated as being “Belligerent.”  This was the first I heard this as nobody had spoken to me about an evaluation when I left.  I was pissed off, to put it lightly.  I had worked better jobs in better places than a cafeteria Slop Shop.  Possibly I made what I considered constructive comments about the running of the kitchen.  Washing dishes is the lowest of the low.  Dirty dishes come in, you feed them into the washer, and clean dishes emerge. What is there to become belligerent about?

This so-called evaluation was a bunch of crap.  I said to the interrogator “Don’t tell me that I am belligerent!!!! and quickly got up and left.  So much for work.

The second and last year at Grover Cleveland had begun.  I have had some correspondence with 54-55 roommate, Roy who took a year off to evaluate his reasons for going to college.   We have had some correspondence about that time period and I am enclosing that now as stated by Roy.  We remember some of the same things, some different things.  So in the next few paragraphs, the word (I) is Roy speaking about himself and his memories.  On occasion, I have entered an editorial comment with the note (Bob) indicating the temporary change in authorship.

Roy starts remembering this stay in the following:

The next year – 1956-57 you and I were in a double. There were two football jocks in the other double. One of ’em, poor soul (Paul something?) was making it through on a football scholarship and working to gain an engineering degree – impossible now and extremely difficult in those days. The singles were occupied by someone we called “Shot-In-The_Back” Smith, and Fred Swiatlowski. Swiatlowski (Swat) listened to a program on the low-end of the AM band called “Obituaries on the Air”

Fred and his brother became Hams, and (as far as I know), both retired from teaching in Camillus. They were significant fundraisers for the scholarship fund of Washington’s Foundation for Amateur Radio. I knew of them because I wrote a column for the F.A.R.’s monthly rag for about ten years.

Smith had gained fame by receiving a minor .22-caliber wound and by his non-residence. For awhile the Housing Office Inspector was hassling him for not making his bed, and we only saw him one night a week when he would come in, rip open his package of linens, stuff ’em into the pillowcase, and take them down to the basement where he traded them for a package of clean stuff. Then he left the package on his bed and got hassled the next week (in absentia) when we had another meeting with the R.A. (Resident Advisor)

Seems to me that Smith eventually solved the problem by bringing in a pillow case and a blanket, making the bed one time, and then continued the practice of recycling clean linen with the contractor. I suspect that his parents were paying for his dorm rez, linen, &c, and that he was rooming with an “Industrial Debutante” (as we useta refer to working girls when I was an Officer Candidate). Maybe she had a husband who returned from the wars inconveniently?

Donald Adams was the most interesting guy on that floor. He’d attended MIT, but concluded that he would never flunk out and would never graduate as an engineer, so came to SU’s Business School and planned to become a CPA. His grandad was a millionaire who had been bilked clean by a crooked accountant, so Don’s life plan was to spend his career seeking and incarcerating fraudsters. He was devoted to a board game of baseball, and he had a pal who played against him by mail. Every year they worked hard to get through the whole season, each with their chosen team, and then simulated the World Series before it was actually held.

The tale about Don that I have always remembered was that he had endured surgery to remove a cyst (non-malignant) from the top of his left lung. When unclothed, he looked like a survivor of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but actually had two full-sized lungs. The surgery was done when he was young enough for the lung to expand into the empty space. What was obnoxious about that was that he was in ROTC, and had some ambitions of becoming a Regular Army Officer (Pershing Rifles, &c, &c), but he kept failing the physical because of the dreadful scar. On the other hand, it didn’t make him 4-F, and his draft board was dogging his steps. I would not be surprised to learn that he was one of the draftees who founded Phi Tau Alpha.

Our freshman pal Don Fox was a PTA member with Army Chemical Center at Fort Detrick, Frederick MD. He had graduated from The Tree School in Pulp&Paper Technology, and worked as a PFC alongside a lot of GS-11/12/13 civilian chemists. US Army got a real bargain cashing in on his education for two years.

Most of our rations came from Gregory’s Restaurant, The Varsity (still there), or another place sorta between ’em. A Macedonian called “Ted” had a tiny deli that we frequented for sandwiches and other take-out rations – near Manny’s strange combination store that sold clothing, books, and all else.

We often dined at “The New Smile”, down the west side of The Hill. Food was OK, plentiful, and cheap – mostly because the bar was always jammed. We went to McCarthy’s a few times – last site of the $.05 draft (Haeberle Congress Beer, I’d guess?) McCarthy’s hated students, and we didn’t hang out there often.

(Note by Bob) Merle Lovelace lived on the same floor with Roy and I in a different apartment.  He was not loveless as had an active love life which he was glad to share on occasion. Merle had intentions of becoming a Veterinarian and getting that training at Cornell.  I have no idea how that ever worked out.  (now back to Roy)

I remember Merle Lovelace’s attempted suicide by OD’ing vodka, but you told me about it. His girlfriend then was Jeanette, but I (Bob) don’t remember her last name She was in a chem class with me (Roy), but refused a date, telling me that I was too young for her. Don’t think the name was Jeanette, but might have been. We visited Merle and family once at their farm in Wayne County, west of Port Byron after he transferred (maybe to Cornell?).

I had mono that year and will never forget the incredible feeling of exhaustion that endured for several weeks as I achieved access to our digs on the top floor. I do remember one other guy who lived there when we did, in another suite, and that’s all.

The rest of the post is Bob’s memoirs.

Being roommates, we shared many experiences, but some were personal and some things I remember that Roy did not mention.  I hope you have an idea of the culture in our dorm by now.

 One event that occurred shortly after the semester started was the Hungarian Revolution lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956.  We, and many others cheered on the Hungarians and hoped the US or United Nations  would intervene in some way.  Instead, the revolution was brutally crushed by the Soviet Union and Roy and I had become very disillusioned by the inaction of the US and UN.

Somewhere along the line, we had acquired a moose head which we believed made a nice decoration for our room.  I had also picked up a cheap used TV, may 12″ at most and the effect was quite homey we thought.  Alas, the dorm Storm Troopers a.k.a. RAs did not agree.  They let us keep the TV, in a way, by putting it in the dorm game room, so called.  There it went, but I never watched it.  The moose also had to go, which It thought was very narrow minded.  The Storm Troopers had no sense of style at all.  Everything had to be the same.  We longed to get out of this environment, but that is a later story.

One of my faithful readers, Carol, has mentioned she likes the vintage auto videos so the next paragraph is for her.  We lived on the top floor overlooking the hill leading to the University.  Syracuse, in winter has a LOT of snow and a minor amusement was watching out our window as cars tried to make it up the grade.

Many auto makers wanted to offer an automatic transmission as an option.  Oldsmobile even offered one in 1940, as did Cadillac.  They worked well enough, but required repairs and maintenance.  Buick came out with their version, Dynaflow, in 1948.  This was different in that there were only two gear selections, drive and low.  Normally the car started in high and relied on a hydraulic torque converter to get it going fast enough for the high gear to function.  This made for a very smooth operation, but inefficient and rather gutless.  However, these qualities made it ideal for driving up the hill.  Other cars would often spin out, which was interesting to watch.  Buicks though, just purred smoothly up the hill with a very characteristic humming sound.  I never remember one of them spinning out as they were ideal for this type weather.  I an enclosing a YOU TUBE of a 1949 Buick Roadmaster from that era. Just imagine yourself in the driver’s seat smoothly making your way up the hill, passing the other cars, wheels spinning futilely So, since our TV was confiscated we sufficed with minor pleasures such as this.

With time on our hands, and our TV gone, I did participate in a few pranks.  One of them concerned Merle, mentioned above. His roommate was Tom.  We decided to wait until Merle was out one evening enjoying himself, and I would hide under his bed.  Then, after he put his light out, I would scratch on the springs.  Of course, Tom heard nothing. Maybe 5 minutes passed and I repeated the scratching.  After a bit this got to Merle leaned over to look under the bed and I responded with a bark, growl or something like that.  He was sort of pissed off at first, but then we all had a laugh and I went back to my room.

Another prank involved a pre-med student, Herb, who was taking organic chemistry, the killer course for pre-med.  The gag involved myself and a few others.  One of the other guys was in a class with Herb and noticed he sat next to a good-looking girl.  Somebody else, in on the plot, started to make threatening calls to Herb telling him to stay away from his girl.  Herb’s roommate, unremembered now, was also in on this.  The end of the gag was for the caller to call in telling Herb to meet him at some dark place and they would have it out.  Before this happened the other guys and I were to keep watch on Herb so things didn’t go too far.  WRONG.  We all went to the shoot-out place and there also was a car of campus police who escorted us to the Men’s Dean office.  We apologized to Herb, told all that we thought we had this under control but didn’t.  We got a friendly lecture from the Dean and that was the end of it.  Herb did sort of accept the complexity of the plot and had no ill feelings.

I did reasonably well at school though I did get a C in an economics course that I did not think I deserved, but didn’t fight it.  Mostly Bs and one A, in psychology.  I don’t recall any relationships or romances that were in any way memorable.  The summer vacation is another story which deserves it own post.  Coming soon.

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About R. F.

I am a Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. images vary from time to time
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7 Responses to Back to Grover Cleveland 56-57

  1. Allan T. says:

    Neat, the more I read of your post about college, the more I wished I listened to my parents, when the suggested I go and check it out. I would maybe also have a better retirement. But if so, we would never have come to NEVADA, never met you and Marge.

  2. ingridmg2014 says:

    My, oh my–my own father-to-be, a prankster! It’s fun to read about your hijinks. Sounds like Herb was a good sport.

    • R.J.F. says:

      Yes, idle hands and all that jazz. We were cramped up in that hi-rise concentration camp so had to make our own amusement. We had fun taking the elevator up to the top floor and finding a way to jam it there so everybody else had to walk. So yes, we had fun and people played pranks on us too. All parts of sophomoric living. Perhaps I should write one about my contest with Erwin Brownstein. It sounds ethnocentric, but really isn’t just a way to get the goat of a pain in the butt RA.

      • R.J.F. says:

        Yes, idle hands and all that jazz. We were cramped up in that hi-rise concentration camp so had to make our own amusement. We had fun taking the elevator up to the top floor and finding a way to jam it there so everybody else had to walk. So yes, we had fun and people played pranks on us too. All parts of sophomoric living. Perhaps I should write one about my contest with Erwin Brownstein. It sounds ethnocentric, but really isn’t just a way to get the goat of a pain in the butt.

      • R.J.F. says:

        Yes, idle hands and all that jazz. We were cramped up in that hi-rise concentration camp so had to make our own amusement. We had fun taking the elevator up to the top floor and finding a way to jam it there so everybody else had to walk. So yes, we had fun and people played pranks on us too. All parts of sophomoric living. Perhaps I should write one about my contest with Erwin Brownstein. It sounds ethnocentric, but really isn’t just a way to get the goat of a pain in the b

      • R.J.F. says:

        es, idle hands and all that jazz. We were cramped up in that hi-rise concentration camp so had to make our own amusement. We had fun taking the elevator up to the top floor and finding a way to jam it there so everybody else had to walk. So yes, we had fun and people played pranks on us too. All parts of sophomoric living. Perhaps I should write one about my contest with Erwin Brownstein. It sounds ethnocentric, but really isn’t just a way to get the goat of a pain in the butt.

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