What is the one thing you couldn’t have survived at Rolla without?

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On October 25, 2012

Everybody has one. You know, that one thing that got you though school. For some it was a laptop, a calculator or a slide rule. For others, it was all about friends and family. Here are a few things Miners say they couldn’t live without during their time on campus.

“The one thing I couldn’t survive Rolla without was my WIFE. She was there for me all the time. She worked and reminded me that the professors were the best available, and MSM gave me the opportunity for a good engineering education, not normally available to students with only two years of high school. Her sincere confidence was always encouraging, and she remains my best friend after more than 60 years.”

James H. Johnson, EE’57, MS EE’60
Bellbrook, Ohio

“My wife, Jan. We were married the summer before I started and that gave me a purpose to stay focused. We celebrated our 41st anniversary in July 2012.”

Tom Mittler, CE’75
Longview, Texas

The one thing I couldn’t survive Rolla without was a roof-mounted FM dipole antenna. Perhaps you’re smarter than I was. Perhaps you always completed your homework and were snug in your bed by midnight. Not me.

KMSM (later KUMR and finally KMNR) played excellent music. I was a disc jockey myself and had two weekly shows. However, except on party weekends (do you still have those?), KMSM/KUMR/KMNR went off the air at midnight. Everything else in the area was elevator music, crop prices or Tammy Why-Not spelling D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

I was originally from the St Louis area (Wood River, Ill.) and whenever I was in range of its signal, I listened exclusively to KSHE-95 “Real Rock Radio.” The problem was that Rolla was at the extreme fringe of KSHE’s reception area under the best of conditions, and conditions were not good. There was a hotel on the northeast corner of the intersection of I-44 and U.S. 63 that hosted a local FM radio station. The station (can’t remember the call sign) played elevator music, had a frequency close to KSHE’s and was on the air until midnight. The analog tuners of the day (we’re talking 1969-1973) could simply not pick the weak KSHE signal out of the noise until the local station signed off. Even then the signal from a common loop antenna was too weak. I needed a roof-mounted antenna.

I vividly recalled the day I braved brisk winds and a very steep roof atop the old three-story Sigma Nu “White House.” I was able to secure an inexpensive dipole antenna to the brick chimney, after which I sat on the peak of the roof for what seemed like a long time. My prolonged rest had less to do with a fabulous view than it did with my appreciation of the danger of going down backward over shingles rendered smooth and brittle by decades of sun and rain.

The effort, however, paid dividends far in excess of the investment. For years I was able to listen to KSHE from midnight to whenever I finished my homework.

They say that among the senses smell has the most powerful ability to convey us to times, places and experiences in our past. Perhaps that’s true. But it is impossible for me to hear snippets of music–some that has survived the test of time, others long since forgotten by the rest of the world–without being transported in the most profound way to the middle of the night in that fraternity house. Entire albums like “Blows Against the Empire” by Jefferson Starship or works that include Country Joe McDonald’s “I feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag”, Mason Proffit’s “Two Hangment” or the most evocative song of them all, the Illinois Speed Press classic “PNS” (Paul’s New Song) induce a perfectly legal but nevertheless mind-altered state.

Who knows? Perhaps I could have survived without the antenna, have graduated without KSHE, learned to embrace music by One Hundred and One Strings or a coal miner’s daughter. Maybe I could have a useful and fulfilling life without the inextricable linkages induced by ”Hijack” or “PNS” or the frequency-modulated alchemy of the counter culture expressed as song; but I cannot imagine a better place and time to visit in my music-induced reveries.

Oh, please don’t tell my mother about the whole roof thing. Even though the event is over 40 years in the past, she still worries.

Ron Durbin, EE’75
Shalimar, Fla.

“What helped me survive in Rolla? It would be my HP calculator. I had an HP 28S in Thermodynamics. Without it, I would never have been able to graduate. I will always live in an RPN university. Shame on you, TI and Casio lovers. And also a beer or two, but that’s a given.”

Richard A. Geisler, EE’89
Indian Trail, N.C.

“My slide rule. Because God did not give me enough fingers and toes.”

Terry Wormington, EE’71, MS EE’72
Satellite Beach, Fla.

“A campus social group. I actually belonged to the Wesley Foundation, but any active group would do.”

Leland Charles Briggs, CSci’84
Fort Worth, Texas

“Nothing was better on a cold night after hitting the books, than loading up a bunch of guys from the gym in one of the old jalopies and heading out to Ramey’s for a cheeseburger, a cold beer and those greasy French fries, listening to that loud juke box.”

Dick Boyett, CE’58
Fort Smith, Ark.

“The one thing I couldn’t survive Rolla without was a great roommate and lots of good friends! There was never a boring moment.”

Emily Zung, GeoE’98
Lawrence, Kan.

“I thought about this and had to narrow it down to two things. Intramural sports were a healthy way to blow off steam and reduce the stress of academics. Also for an independent who lived off campus in private housing, it was a great way to meet like-minded people. And the Campus Club eating club provided necessary physical and social nourishment. I was the business manager my senior year and it provided some necessary income and great experience in dealing with vendors as well as planning and customer-service skills.”

Greg Tolcou, CE’83
St. Louis

It took God in my life, 24/7/365.  I prayed a lot.  I worked my tail off too.  But I just kept coming back, defying the odds, didn’t care what others thought of me, just kept working.  Eventually I made it. And it was all worth it!!

Bob Webb, EE’70

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On October 25, 2012. Posted in Fall/Winter 2012, Q&A