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Silent Generation at College: Bob Henger ’63 Shares His Story

In his retirement, Bob Henger decided to preserve his life experiences as a member of the Silent Generation in a book, The Silent Generation, 1925-1945, in which he devotes an entire chapter to his years at Indiana State College. While the book was intended for family and friends, Henger allowed IUP Magazine to share the following excerpts from the chapter “The College Years, 1959-1963.”

Thinking about the Future

Oak Grove 1960 Oak

Always a central part of campus: the Oak Grove, from the 1960 Oak

At the start of my senior year, football was still my major goal. Adults always say to teenagers in high school, “This is the best time of your life,” and I believed it at the time! As I look back on those freedom days, I only have one regret about my high school years. I wish I would have studied more and made that my priority, but I wasn't mature enough to understand it at the time. I never took school seriously and managed to get by with minimal effort, whereas Gary was the very opposite. He was pointing toward college during the four years of his high school experience, and I was unconsciously positioning myself for the steel mill or the military.

What was very evident to me and my parents was that Gary was a student and deserved to go to college with whatever financial resources my parents could afford. I just went on for three years playing sports, having fun, and socializing with little thought or discussion regarding my future. What changed all that? Gary earned at the end of his senior year a full-paid academic scholarship from a local engineering firm to study metallurgical engineering at Penn State. This opened the door for me, entering my senior year. I started to think about my future, and with my brother’s future in hand, my parents were asking me what I might like to pursue after high school.

The Entrance Exam

In the middle of the winter, John Boyle, a senior classmate and friend, informed me that he was planning to take the entrance test at Indiana State College in Pennsylvania and encouraged me to apply with him. I lacked study skills, had poor grades, and little academic self-confidence when I walked into Fisher Hall at Indiana to take the college entrance exam on a wintery Saturday morning in January of 1959. I didn't expect to gain acceptance, and it was the only college I applied to that year. Several weeks later, I was anxious and excited to open a letter from Indiana State College that indicated I had passed the entrance exam. They were enrolling me in the fall freshman class.

Pottery 1960 Oak

Bob Henger thought his best chance to succeed in college was as an Art Education major. Photo of an art student from the 1960 Oak

Once I knew that I was off to college in the next six months, I wasn't sure what to study. Indiana State College was a teacher’s college, so at least I knew Education would be my major. I enjoyed playing sports and thought about Physical Education and coaching, but I later learned Indiana didn’t offer that curriculum. It came down to Art Education. The only subject I got straight A’s in my junior and senior years. I thought my best chance to succeed in college was to become a public school art teacher.

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New Student Experience

Indiana State College sign 1960 Oak

Signage in this photo from the 1960 Oak did not yet reflect the shortened name, Indiana State College.

In the fall of 1959, I entered Indiana State College, and it was during those years of learning, making new friends, and trying to understand the bigger world ahead that I began to mature. The year I enrolled at Indiana, the college shortened its name to Indiana State College, dropping the former name, Indiana State Teachers College. The college was now offering a wider range of academic and vocational programs, but I had made a decision and I was sticking with teaching. The college enrollment in the 1959-60 academic year was 3,317 students, and room and board and tuition for the school year was less than $1,000. During the four years I attended Indiana, the tuition was increased only 2 percent a year, and the campus grew to nearly 5,000 students. In 2010, the enrollment borders on 15,000 students, and tuition cost alone is $8,691 in state; the college is now called Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

By the end of my senior year, I was anxious to move on. During the spring track season, Johnstown High and Catholic High shared the track at Cochran Junior High School, where I met a new friend, Jim Horner, a track star at Johnstown High School. He was also on his way to Indiana State College on a modest track scholarship. We struck up a friendship knowing we were entering our freshman year at Indiana in the fall. The college track coach had arranged housing for Jim a block off campus in a widow’s home for five dollars a week. He was in the same dilemma as I was—both trying to attend college on a shoestring budget.

Freshman Fear

The fear of failure is a great motivator that I lived off during my first year in college. It was further reinforced at the first morning session during freshman orientation week when the college president, Dr. [Willis] Pratt, addressed 1,800 eager faces in Fisher Auditorium.

Willis Pratt 1960 Oak

President Willis Pratt, 1960 Oak

He commenced his remarks, “Look at the student on your right; now look at the one on your left. At the end of this year, one of you will not be here.” I found out years later that other colleges used this same line to put fear into their freshman classes.

To add to my anxiety, Dr. [Maurice] Rider, the chairman of the English Department, later that morning spoke to the freshman class. His message was that Indiana State College, being a former teachers college, prides itself in turning out students with excellent language and communication skills, and that notable tradition would continue to be a priority for its future graduates. Therefore, the college maintained the requirement that first year students take five credits in Communication I and five credits in Communication II during their first two semesters, then as sophomores, a total of six credits over two semesters in Literature I and II. I knew I was in trouble immediately, considering my past record in high school English and literature classes.

Orval Kipp 1961 Oak

Orval Kipp, chair of the Art Department, 1961 Oak

Most of the first day of orientation was in Fisher Hall, hearing one professor or administrative person after another acquainting us with the college facilities and functions. In the late afternoon, students went on to their departments to meet with the department chairman and the faculty. I, with 50 other arts students, made our way to McElhaney Hall. The Art Department was housed in a three-story building completely equipped and dedicated to the art curriculum in preparing and educating art teachers. Dr. Orval Kipp was chairman of the Art Department, a welcoming and gracious little man entering the last few years of his career. I felt a lot more secure after his grandfatherly orientation. We were then given a listing of our required classes for the term, along with an orientation to the art building and faculty.

Registration: An All-Day Affair

Registration 1962 Oak

Registration, “the inevitable start of waiting in lines.” Photo from 1962 Oak

The next morning of freshman week was registration day. Although we had received a listing of the subjects we were to take, we now had to register for each subject. It was the inevitable start of waiting in lines. Registration started at 8:00 Tuesday morning. For every class registered, you had to find the location for registration in one of several buildings, then form in long lines and wait until your turn. You were then given the registration number for the class, the professor’s name, the building and the classroom number. If a class was filled by the time you got to the front of the line, you might have to take the class the next semester; or go back to your department head to get a substitute class and start the process all over again. Nonetheless, registration was an all-day affair. Everything was done manually; computerization didn’t exist. Registration left a paper trail that must have utilized 25 acres of pine trees in Pennsylvania forests every semester. It was a process that took six hours in 1960. Today, students self-register online within minutes. Freshman registration was agony, but it never got any better over my four years at Indiana.

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ROTC Requirement for Men

Truman Deyo 1961 Oak

Truman Deyo, officer in charge of the ROTC program, 1961 Oak

Wednesday morning, the freshman boys were standing back in line at 7:30 a.m. at the ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] warehouse building. When I enrolled at Indiana, I didn’t realize that ROTC was a requirement for all incoming freshman males. The military was not yet a volunteer army in the 1960s. Young men were drafted into the armed forces unless they had a medical deferment or were enrolled in college, which gave you a four-year deferment. Many colleges and universities offered ROTC programs under the title of Military Science. Besides the military academies, ROTC programs were the military services training grounds for future officers and newly commissioned second lieutenants. Indiana’s program was established in 1952 and geared to the U.S. Army and the training of cadets and infantry reserve officers. From 1959-63, Lieutenant Colonel Truman Deyo was the officer in charge of the ROTC program. His position was equivalent to a chairman and professor of the Military Science Department.

Spit Shines and Polished Brass

The Army inventory warehouse looked like an oversized barrack. The Supply staff sergeant was in charge of getting every candidate an army green formal uniform and hat. We were also given a pair of low luster plain black shoes that came out of a shoe box labeled Army surplus. It was our job that initial week to get those shoes looking like glass from the heels to the tongue. They called it a “spit shine,” layer upon layer of black shoe polish applied with a soft cloth dipped in water before applying. It took a good half day to get our shoes to a point where they could pass their first inspection at the end of the week.

ROTC 1962 Oak

In addition to inspections and drills, the one-credit ROTC course included two hours of lectures each week. Photo from 1962 Oak

We were also told to go to the local hardware store in downtown Indiana and buy a can of Brasso to polish the golden brass stars, bars, and Army emblems that adorned our uniform. The hardware store looked as old as its owner, Jimmy Stewart’s father, who proudly displayed his son’s Academy Award in the front window.

Our first inspection occurred on Friday morning, the last day of orientation week. We were to be on the parade field at 8:00 a.m. sharp to get our company assignment. Captain Day, a square-jawed, erect, perfect specimen of a soldier wearing a crisp, creased khaki shirt and pants, stood on the 50-yard line of the Miller Football Stadium yelling out our names and company assignment. His voice was so commanding, he didn't need a “mic.” I ended up in Company C, led by senior cadet Bill Hoffman, a handsome, well-proportioned, athletic young man who was also the quarterback on the college football team. He was a picture-perfect poster cadet and future officer. He not only looked the part but was a natural leader. Company C cadets looked up to Bill like teenage girls idolize rock stars.

Firing in Their Sleep

ROTC 1960 Oak

Henger said he spent so much time at the rifle range that he could hear firing orders in his sleep. Photo from 1960 Oak

The last piece of equipment we were issued was our M1 rifle that we came to know better than our middle name. We were told it was our best friend, and we all learned to field strip and meticulously clean every inch of our best friend. When the rifle was clean, we reassembled it. The drill sergeant went over the nomenclature of the rifle until we could name every part by blind touch. He also demonstrated the movement of rifle drills and how to present your rifle. Each squad competed to be the fastest and most precise in rifle drills. We felt as though the M1 was part of us.

The captain called the M1 rifle a “piece” and kept emphasizing to always keep the piece pointed toward the target and never point a rifle at anything you don't intend to kill. We fired at black bull’s-eye targets from different distances until the paper target was riveted with holes. Our squad spent so much time at the rifle range we could hear in our sleep, “Ready on the right, ready on the left, all ready on the firing line, commence firing.”

In addition to weekly inspections, the cadets drilled twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After retrieving our M1 rifles at Military Hall, we formed into companies on the nearby football field for marching and ceremonial drills. We also had two hours of lectures each week on military history and warfare strategy. We were jammed into the Military Annex Building with hundreds of cadets sharing two classrooms. The one credit we received in ROTC was nearly as demanding in time as the five-credit course in Communication. By the end of the year, I was glad to return my uniform and rifle back to the U.S. Army Reserve.

Crisis Avoided

At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to exit from the ROTC program. John F. Kennedy had been in the Oval Office less than three months when, in 1961, he reluctantly attended the initial summit meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who judged Kennedy to be weak. The following summer, Khrushchev began arming new communist Fidel Castro with medium range ballistic missiles. Once verified, JFK moved quickly and ordered an air and sea quarantine of Cuba and entered into six days of angry negotiation with Russia. During this period, young men in colleges and particularly the ROTC candidates were put on alert that a war might break out, terminating their college days. Khrushchev caved in and agreed to take back the weapons, and the Cold War proceeded throughout our college years.

Commissioning 1962 Oak

New graduates were commissioned as second lieutenants at commencement, 1962 Oak

In 1970, ROTC became an option, rather than a mandatory class for freshman males at Indiana. There is a saying that leaders are born, not made. The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Indiana University of Pennsylvania didn’t buy into that; after six decades, the program has distinguished itself among the 273 college and university programs across America, producing 1,911 leaders in the form of newly commissioned second lieutenants. Today, ROTC is the largest source, supplying about 65 percent of the Army’s officers; about 80 percent are male and roughly 20 percent are female, figures that mirror the Army’s overall gender ratios.

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Becoming a Better Student

Library 1960 Oak

The library: a place conscientious students knew well, 1960 Oak

Walking into Mr. [William] Force’s Communication class the first week of college classes, I had that same quivering feeling that I had experienced in Sister Irene’s freshman English class in high school. Mr. Force was a tall, thin, baldheaded professor, a rather stern, all-business, no-nonsense individual. He never smiled, never showed any sense of humor; just the type that cracked the whip. We were told by other art students that had experienced him the year before that he was the toughest English professor in the department and had a reputation for failing students out of college.

Painting 1963 Oak

An art student painting, 1963 Oak

There was no question Mr. Force was disciplined and expected his students to perform. He was as demanding of us as he was of himself, always prepared to lecture the full hour with content that was challenging, relevant, and could be mastered with reasonable intelligence and the discipline to study and work hard. Like most college professors at that time, he graded his students using the normal bell curve. That is, 66 percent of the students would receive an average grade of “C,” the top 16 percent would earn a “B” or “A,” and the bottom 16 percent would receive a “D” or failing grade. Professor Force once said in class, and I took it personally, “One who does not read is like an ascetic, who tries to live on the smallest possible amount of food and sunshine. He will eventually shrivel up and become an academic and intellectual anemic.”

I wanted to make up for lost time and develop my intellect in college; I seldom read a book in high school. At first, I actually had to practice reading as if I was acquiring a new skill in a sport. As I read my textbooks, I would underline, then outline and try to comprehend the important content. In those early months, I made it a point to get to know my way around the college library. Halfway through my second semester, I made a visit to the office of Dr. Ornstein, the English Literature professor I was hoping to register with in the first semester of my sophomore year. I informed him I was unsure of myself and requested the list of books and literature I would be reading in his class the following semester. Over the summer months, I read ahead, so I could later keep up with the lessons and the class curve in the fall term. As I read more, it became more natural.

English-Speech class 1962 Oak

An English-Speech class, 1962 Oak

To improve my writing skills, I became friends with two senior English majors that were “rushing” me to join their fraternity. Both men were exceptional in helping me with every sentence and paper I wrote that first semester. For me it was both a creative writing exercise and a lesson in grammar. At that period in time, there were no spelling checks or programmed computers that helped you structure sentences and proper punctuation. All we had to fall back on was a typewriter, a dictionary, and the stored knowledge in our brain. I was never over-deluged with words, but I learned to express myself verbally and in written form that first year. Mr. Force never said much to me, but I sense he knew I was weak-kneed in his class and may have compensated me for my effort and interest in becoming a better student. I earned a “C” in both Communications I and II that freshman year. For some students it would have been a disappointing grade, but for me, I earned it proudly as a comeback kid.

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Campus Life

Freshman Week 1960 Oak

Freshman Week, 1960 Oak

During freshman week and the following week when all the students returned to campus, there was a mixer dance every night except for Sunday. Jim and I were extremely nearsighted and wore thick-lensed glasses before contacts hit the marketplace. We attended the dances like two kids in a candy store but were at a great disadvantage. Without our spectacles, we were like two blind men leading each other around on a dimly lit dance floor. We would quickly slip on our glasses, like two criminals doing something wrong, then look around the dance floor until we spotted a “good looker” and instantly pull off our glasses and proceed toward her. The only time we would be seen wearing glasses was in the classroom.

Freshman Week 1961 Oak

Taking orders: Freshman Week, 1961 Oak

Throughout my first year, I lived in the freshman dorm with 300 other male students. I had been assigned a roommate, Dick Price from Mount Union, a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania. Dick was a bright guy, a nonconformist, and a fellow art student. His father was a professional sign painter and owned his own small company. Dick had inherited the creative talents of his father and worked the sign painting business during his high school days. We shared an end room on the third floor of the dorm, which was about three feet wider than the normal rooms. We figured, because we were art students and required more room for our art supplies and painting easel, that we were given a larger room. Good logic, but we were never more wrong.

New Addition

At the end of the first semester, our hall counselor informed us that a roommate was moving in with us starting the second semester. It was hard to imagine how another student could possibly be shoehorned into our room. The first day of the second semester, Dick and I arrived back on campus early to rearrange our room for the new kid. At 5:30 p.m., Billy arrived with his parents during a heavy winter snowfall. He was coming to college as if he were leaving for Boy Scout camp. He and his father lugged up three flights of steps two suitcases, an army duffel bag, a sleeping bag, pup tent, ice chest, and a green Coleman gas stove. We stashed everything on and under his bed, which was the first bed inside the room and having no more than a foot between each bed across the room.

Pool 1961 Oak

Passing the time: students playing pool, 1961 Oak

Billy was exactly what his paraphernalia claimed he was, an outdoor enthusiast, bright eyed and bushy tailed, appearing like a premature college boy that landed in a Norman Rockwell painting on his way to college. He reminded me of Scotty Hamilton, the Olympic gold medalist figure skater, in build, looks, and personality. He was easy to like and got along well with us in tight quarters over the semester. Billy stored his tent and sleeping bag under his bunk and never found much use for them on campus that winter or spring. But he immediately earned the nickname of “Will-Gas,” attempting to cook his breakfast early the next morning on the Coleman stove in our room. We shut his Coleman stove down for good after being awakened by the smell and sound of crackling bacon and propane gas.

Living in the dorm, we made friends quickly, especially with the guys on our wing. After study hours, we would gather in each other’s rooms to horse around or get into these philosophical discussions about Religion, God, and the Universe, the great mysteries of mankind. After all, we were now college students and were to be developing our great intellects. It was just plain enjoyment to be on our own, living with a bunch of guys without parental control and few restrictions; it was an educational experience of its own.

A Lead to Follow

We lived in the wing of the dorm with 26 other guys sharing a men’s lavatory and taking our meals in the same building in the first floor cafeteria. Every wing of the building had a hall counselor to help control the boys and enforce college rules. Don Wonderling was our hall counselor, a Korean War veteran nearly 10 years our senior. Don came from a small brickyard town, 25 miles east of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River. After his service days, Don returned home to work in the brickyard, joining his father and brothers as laborers for the next five years. He realized this was not to be his life’s work and utilized the G.I. Bill to enroll at Indiana as a freshman in the fall of 1959, like the rest of us in the dorm. Don was a man’s man. At six foot, 180 pounds, he had the strength of an ox, and his body was as solid as a brick. No one messed with Don, not because he was intimidating or mean in any way. We simply respected him and followed his lead. He was overtly friendly, mature, and willing to help any of us when we needed his advice or assistance. Most often, you would find him in his room at the other end of the hall studying.

Students on bench 1960 Oak

Mixing on campus: Students converse on a bench, 1960 Oak

Don graduated in 1963 from Indiana, and we lost track of each other for nearly 10 years. When my wife and I and our two young children moved to Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, to our pleasant surprise, Don and his family lived one street over and our families became good friends. By this time, Don had earned his Ph.D. and was the superintendent at the School for the Blind and Deaf in Pittsburgh. It was one of those remarkable stories and turnaround lives that could only happen in America with the G.I. Bill, combined with individual initiative, after three generations of family brickyard workers.

A Man’s Freedom

In the 1960s, the men’s and women’s dorms were not only separate, but on different ends of the campus. The girls were well protected by elderly house mothers who gave parents peace of mind when they dropped off their freshman daughters at Indiana. The closest the boys got to their rooms was in the entrance hall of their dorm, where we dropped them off after a date.

Sutton 1960 Oak

The south lawn of Sutton Hall, 1960 Oak

Boys had more freedom and no restrictions on their time. We could come and go as we pleased and stay out all night if we wished; whereas, the girls were treated more protectively. On weekdays after their evening meal, they were restricted to the dorm and expected to be in their rooms studying. From 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. was their Cinderella hour, when they could meet their boyfriends on campus or simply go out with a group of girls to the Student Union for an hour. At 10:00 p.m. sharp, their house mothers were at the entrance steps of their dorm with a bell signaling the girls back up the steps and into their rooms for the remainder of the night. We headed back to our dorm; on many evenings we went to the Capitol Restaurant downtown for a cup of coffee and their famous grilled cinnamon rolls. Jim, Dick, Will Gas, and I would sit there for an hour locked into conversation and humorous tales.

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Pledging a Fraternity

Crowd 1961 Oak

A spirited bunch: crowd at a football game, 1961 Oak

In Mr. Force’s class, I sat directly in back of another young male art student, David Thornton. David went to college with sun-bleached, blond hair and a dark golden tan from a summer of lifeguarding. He wasn’t tall, about five foot eight inches and 140 pounds, but he had the chiseled body of a high school wrestler. He was a state champ wrestler in Pennsylvania and had been recruited by Indiana’s wrestling coach. He not only had the body of a Greek God, but also had a male model’s face with high cheekbones, a strong jaw, blue eyes, and perfect teeth. Even his ears were not cauliflowered like most outstanding wrestlers.

Throughout the 1950s and early ’60s, nearly every young man in college wore his hair short in a crew cut or flat top. David Thornton was the exception; he wore his blond hair short, but combed down in the front like a Roman Centurion. His unique hairstyle made him even more noticeable by the girls. In the early weeks, you could see the freshman girls in our classes making their little moves and gestures to win his attention, as the rest of the boys felt like chopped liver. Even Mr. Force took a liking to David.

Differences in Dress

In those initial months in college, it was also interesting to see the freshman men and women still clinging to their high school reputations and letterman and cheerleading jackets on campus for individual security and identification. Boys had letters and stripes on their jackets, showing they played football, basketball, and baseball, and lettering one or more years in each sport according to the number of stripes. By the end of the first semester, high school jackets and letter sweaters were lost in memory and put in mothball storage for good, being replaced by fraternity and sorority sweatshirts, jackets, and blazers in the second semester.

Parade 1963 Oak

View from above: spectators at the Homecoming parade, 1963 Oak

Besides hairstyles during this era, a college student in the early 1960s dressed markedly different than today’s casual T-shirt and blue jean college crowd. I don't recall anyone wearing blue jeans—they were still a working man’s wear—and girls never wore slacks of any kind. They wore skirts and blouses, sweaters, and blazers. College men dressed in slacks and button-down shirts, fraternity sweatshirts, crewneck sweaters, and blazers. Most of us wore penny loafers or docksides without socks. Except to play sports, tennis shoes were not in vogue as they are today on campuses. In the summer months, Bermuda shorts and plaid madras shirts with loafers or flip-flops were popular with the in-crowd. Art and music majors were the exception; they looked more like Peter, Paul, and Mary with long stringy hair and beards, baggy pants, and sweatshirts. Some art students wore black leather boots, and some went barefoot on milder days.

By the middle of the first semester, compared to the other art students, I discovered that I had no real talent for art. However, I also realized we were not being prepared to become professional artists; the Art Department at Indiana was manufacturing teachers. Since I had even less self-confidence to switch to another major, I continued my college days as a struggling artist. Nothing came natural to me academically. The message was clear; it was a matter of “survival of the fittest.”

New Face of the TKEs

Grades 1961 Oak

Henger said his first-term GPA was just high enough to pledge a fraternity. Students get their grade reports, 1961 Oak.

Although, I made passing grades the first-term, I barely had enough of a grade-point average (GPA) to pledge a fraternity. It was an academic risk, but I promised my parents that I would not live in the fraternity house or let it interfere with my grades. Joining a fraternity or sorority was no different than status-seeking individuals joining the Junior League or the local country club later in life. It was a way of identifying with the in-crowd and improving one’s social life and status on campus.

Jim and I were “rushed” by several fraternities that seemed to fit our personalities and values. We finally settled on the TKEs and pledged to their fraternity in the second semester. The TKEs were not the most popular fraternity on campus, but one of three or four that freshman boys wanted to join and popular sororities hung out with. The TKEs were a cross section of nice guys from different socioeconomic backgrounds and majors. They were guys with good grades and popular because of their personalities but were not jocks, nor necessarily suave, good-looking guys. For whatever reason, our pledge class, a large crop of 28 freshmen and one sophomore, was a combination of jocks and unusually handsome guys. We changed the composition of the fraternity and the culture within the TKE chapter over the next three years.

TKE float 1962 Oak

Tau Kappa Epsilon float, 1962 Oak

David Thornton was one of those handsome recruits and also an outstanding athlete. He moved into the TKE house in his sophomore year and would have made a great case study for a sociology graduate assistant in researching young male conformity and individuality. By the end of the second semester of our sophomore year, one by one, TKE fraternity members started combing their crew cuts down over their foreheads, modeling David’s hairstyle. It became a trademark of our fraternity, and David was the unintentional leader of this social craze that eventually took over the whole campus in 1961-63, until the Beatles appeared on the rock scene in 1964. Then, the whole country remodeled their hairstyles from crew cuts to longer hair with bangs in the front.

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Off-Campus Living

Dining 1962 Oak

Breakfast and lunch were served cafeteria style; dinner was family style, on white linen tablecloths. Photo from 1962 Oak

As I promised my parents, I didn't move into the fraternity house at the start of my second year. I relocated one block off campus with Jim Horner in a private home. An elderly widow and her adult son, Wally, lived alone in a substantial home and neighborhood on a tree-lined street.

Jim and I lived on the third floor in the attic, which was comfortable and private, but it was an ice box in the winter without insulation in the rafters. The only heat we could draw on was to keep the door open at the bottom of the steps, but that was like heating the earth from the heat of the moon. We would study at our desks with our winter coats on and steam coming from our mouth and nostrils. We rationalized that the five-dollars-a-week rent was worth the discomfort.

The Dining Experience

In my freshman year, meals were served in the dorm where we had residence. When I moved in with Jim, we did not have kitchen privileges in the home and had to take our meals in the main student dining room on campus. The college dining room was located next to Sutton Hall, and it reminded me of those old gracious ballrooms in classic hotels. Breakfast and lunch were served cafeteria style, but dinner was served family style with white linen tablecloths covering large round tables that seated 10 students. The biggest difference between yesterday and today’s college cafeterias is that we were treated more like servicemen or prisoners; whatever they slapped on your plate, you ate. There were no seconds or multiple menu selections; today, college dining rooms look more like food courts.

Dancing 1961 Oak

Mixer dances, a popular activity on campus, 1961 Oak

The dinner meal at Indiana had two sittings, at 5:00 and 6:15 p.m. We signed up for the earlier meal, worried that the student servers might run out of food at the later meal. The cafeteria doors didn’t open until five-o’clock, and the students gathered in a large vestibule awaiting the swinging doors to open. When they did, students would scurry into the dining room and grab a table for their friends. The first several weeks, Jim and I sat wherever there were two empty chairs, it didn't matter to us. Several weeks later, Jim started hurrying into the dining room looking for a table with all girls. He was a tall, handsome guy, and we were always well received at their tables.

One evening, we sat with a group of sorority girls that were both attractive and friendly toward us. I mentioned to Jim as we were leaving the dining room what a smart idea he had to sit with girls since we were meeting a lot of cute coeds. He just laughed at me and replied, “I didn’t start sitting with women for social reasons. Haven’t you noticed how much more food we get when we eat with them?”

A Friend’s Success

We lived together in the attic for the next three years and could see that Wally had more potential than his overprotective mother would allow him to actualize. His existence was in the home watching television every evening with his elderly mother, and by 10 o’clock, they were in bed. As time went on, we grew more and more sympathetic toward Wally. He looked forward to Jim and I coming back from our classes, and he would be waiting for us like a faithful dog. From time to time, he would sneak up into the attic until his mother missed him downstairs. She would scold him, saying, “Wally, let those boys alone, they have book work to do.”

In our senior year, we became worried about what would happen to Wally as his mother was becoming frailer each day. Near the end of the school year, Jim became aware that a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking and self-confidence building was being offered at the college for the town’s people. Jim spoke to the Dale Carnegie instructors about Wally enrolling in the 12-week course as a special-needs case. They agreed to take him on if we could now convince his mother. Surprisingly, she consented when we told her we would be responsible for taking and bringing Wally home from class every week.

The class had an enrollment of over 20 people when we arrived with Wally that first evening. Like the rest of his classmates, he was anxious but was able to introduce himself, stuttering through it. You could see in the faces of the others that they were questioning this man’s ability to perform in such a challenging course. Each week, the candidates had to prepare one or more talks and deliver them in front of everyone. There was a lot of positive reinforcement going around the classroom, and as Wally progressed, you could see his classmates increasingly pulling for him and befriending this limited and humble man. It was absolutely astounding how Wally advanced in confidence and the ability to communicate. At first, a simple one-minute talk turned into the ability to give a short extemporaneous speech in the later weeks. Wally became the favorite and the most endearing person in the class. Everyone loved him like Jim and I had experienced. On graduation night, in front of classmates and guests, Wally received a standing ovation and was recognized with an award as the most advanced student. Jim and I and others left with tears in our eyes. Unfortunately, his mother never lived long enough to see her son excel. A year later, [she] died, but Wally had gained enough self-confidence and independence from the Dale Carnegie experience that he was able to live alone in the big house.

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Entering Adult Life

Bob Henger 1963 Oak

Bob Henger’s senior photo from the 1963 Oak

During my four years of college there were no auditorium classes that assembled 100 or more students at a time. Nor did they use graduate students or video instruction in place of a professor. The largest classes were 40 or 50 students for some appreciation of music or art class. In every classroom professors took attendance, and if you missed more than three classes during the semester, your grade was in jeopardy.

In the winter semester of my final year in college, I student taught in two different school systems in Pennsylvania, spending eight weeks in each school district. I was so preoccupied with student teaching through the winter and spring, I had little time to think and explore teaching opportunities for the following school year. I heard from other classmates that were interviewing in Western Pennsylvania school districts that starting annual salaries were around $4,800. Some colleagues were interviewing in Silver Springs, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, where salary ranges were a little higher. One of my female classmates was from upper state New York near the Finger Lakes District and informed me of a job opportunity with two rural school systems. She indicated the starting salary was $5,500, which caught my attention.

Graduation 1962 Oak

A proud moment: graduation. Photo from the 1962 Oak

In late spring of 1963, I drove up to Bath, New York, to interview for the art teaching position with the county superintendent of schools and the two school principals. It was late in the year to be interviewing, and I liked the people I met and signed a one-year contract. I drove away excited and relieved that I had secured a teaching position for the school year 1963-64.

The day that I graduated from college in the spring of 1963 was a proud moment for me and my parents. I felt I had worked hard and disciplined myself into becoming a worthy student. I graduated with a 2.5 QPA, never receiving an A in any course, nor a D or F. I was a straight B-C student throughout the four years; what I had lost academically in high school, I paid the price in college. I especially recall my first year of college; I was all elbows trying to find my independence, individuality, self-confidence, and academic self.

As I look back on those four years, they were some of the best in my lifetime, and I knew it at the time. It was a transforming period and a generous time to wean a young person from his parents’ home and gain guidance toward maturity. It was the ideal time of life to develop in an environment of freedom and intellect, a time to grow socially and emotionally, intellectually and vocationally from an adolescent to a mature young adult. I believe I did!

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About the Author

Bob Henger

Bob Henger ’63 wrote The Silent Generation, 1925-1945, mainly for his family.

A retired hospital administrator, Bob Henger lives with his wife, Jan, in Birmingham, Alabama. They have two children and four grandchildren, all living in Birmingham. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1963 from Indiana State College, now Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He also completed graduate work in school psychology at IUP in the 1970s. His experience includes teaching at public schools in New York and Pennsylvania and working as a counselor and clinical psychologist. He said he wrote The Silent Generation, 1925-1945, primarily for his children, grandchildren, and other family members.

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