Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Texas A&M 1941

Texas A&M (1941)

            I'm not sure why I went to Texas A&M.  Bill Boling first touted me off on it (he subsequently went to Rice Institute now Rice University on a football scholarship).  The Aggies were the mythical National Champions of college football in 1939 and were 9 and 0 and number one in all the polls when they played the University of Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving Day in 1940.  In he first minute of the game, Pete Layden scored a touchdown for Texas and the Aggies spent the rest of the game futilely trying to score.  I'm surprised I didn't give up on them then.
            However, after I graduated from High School in the spring of 1941, my friend Frank Morgan visited me in Wichita Falls after completing his freshman year at A&M.  He introduced me to a classmate, Vincent de Paul Kelly, whose family had recently moved to Wichita Falls.  Frank and Paul, had been freshmen together in H Company Infantry in the Cadet Corps the previous academic year.  The three of us went out to drink a little beer a few times before Frank returned to his grandparents' home in Sweetwater, Texas.  Before leaving, he and Paul had me completely sold on Texas A&M.  At his suggestion, I requested H Co. Infantry when I applied for admission.                                   
            Shortly after Frank left, Paul Kelly called and asked if I would like to double date with him.  He said he had had a few dates with a girl who lived across the street from his parents. He picked me up, then my date, Pat George, before picking up his date.  He escorted her to the car, and turned on the dome light before introducing us.  His date, Marjorie Page, and I both burst into laughter; we had been in the same Sunday School class before we went to grammar school and had even "gone steady" a few times between other boy and girl friends.
            The four of spent a lot of time together that summer when Paul and weren't working on the construction of Sheppard Field, a major "Air Corps" training facility outside Wichita Falls.  I saved a lot of money, in 1941 dollars, for my tuition and room and board at A&M from the summer's work.  However, we did find time for frequent dates, always in Paul's family's car since my family did not own one.  We didn't spend much money, probably because neither of us had much and we both needed all we could save for college.  Mostly, we just parked and necked (it may be that is just the part I remember). One time Paul and I tricked the girls into a Navaho" or "blanket party".  We had a tub of beer in ice, carefully covered with a thin layer of cokes.  The girls were furious when the beer was revealed.
Probably as a result of that summer's "pair bonding" Paul retuned to and I enrolled in Texas A&M and Pat and Marjorie went to Texas State College for Women (now Texas Women's University), the "Sister School" of Texas A&M.  Like geese, the pair bonding was permanent; both couples have now been married for more than 60 years.

            After completing the summer working at Sheppard Field, I left for Texas A&M in September.  I was assigned, as I had requested, to H Co. Infantry.  As freshmen "fish" at Texas A&M, I soon learned that life was cruel.  All undergraduates wore uniforms to class and we marched to meals by military organization.  ROTC (Reserve Officer's Training Corps) was required for all freshmen and sophomores who could pass the physical examination (including almost everyone).  Most juniors and seniors who did not receive "Contracts" for advanced ROTC continued to live with their military organization, march to meals, and participate fully in cadet life except they did not take Military Science courses.

            “Fish” were readily identifiable by the white "fish stripe" on the left sleeve of uniform shirts and blouses.  Fish had to speak to everyone they met on campus (so did upperclassmen, but Fish did it first and with a much louder "Howdy").  Fish "whipped out" when they encountered upperclassmen of their organization with someone they didn't know:  "Howdy, Mr. Grote," to your
upperclassman, then, with a slashing thrust toward the midriff of the accompanying stranger with the right hand, "Fish Sparks is my name, SIR, glad to know you, Mr. Goldman, SIR. Where’re you from, Mr. Goldman, SIR? What outfit you in, Mr. Goldman, SIR?" All the while pumping Mr. Goldman's hand and forearm vigorously.  The next time you saw Mr. Goldman walking with Mr. Grote, you were expected to burst forth with a " Howdy, Mr. Grote, Howdy Mr. Goldman”.  If you didn't remember Mr. Goldman's name, you "whipped out" again, repeating the same ritual.  If, before you could introduce yourself, Mr. Goldman said "Hello, "Fish Sparks," you were in a lot of trouble and could expect to be summoned to Mr. Grote's room on your return to the dormitory. That happened more than occasionally because a Fish would probably "meet"  more than a hundred strangers each day the first month or two at Texas A&M. 

A&M Registration 1941
            Aggie freshmen were required to learn the full name, classification, home town, and major (Animal Husbandry, Petroleum  Engineering, etc.) of everyone in their "outfit."  So, sometime in October all H Infantry Fish were herded into a couple of rooms and given a pencil and blank sheet of paper by the "Piss Heads" (Sophmores) who monitored the examination.  We then listed all the above for each member of the organization.  All errors were corrected by the correct information being "spelled out," one letter at a time, on your butt with a "board."  Before Thanksgiving Holidays we had a similar quiz covering everyone in the dormitory.

            The methods were barbaric by modern day mores, but there were some worthwhile results.  I learned to remember people's names and trivia that is important to them --  a skill that has
helped me greatly, both professionally and socially.  I'm not sure that it has any value, except possibly for barroom bets, but if anyone mentions the name of any town in Texas I automatically
recall the name, class, and major of one or more A&M former students who originally came from there.

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