Off to College with Dad – and Mic

• I went to my father’s 50th college reunion . . . and stuck my mic in everybody’s business.

• College life in 1934 compared to 1984

• Lionel Richie and gin & tonics vs. prohibition bootleg booze

My dad was born and raised on a farm outside of Ft. Dodge, Iowa. (That’s me above, with him, on a vacation trip to the farm from New Jersey, where Art Scheerer settled and raised a family.)

Growing up, Dad fell in love with aviation and joined a group of pilots who barnstormed around Iowa in the 1920s. They’d fly to a town, land in a pasture, put signs up advertising Air Show! Next Weekend!, fly home, return the following weekend to do loops, barrel rolls and stunts and pass the hat.

At the outset of the Great Depression, he scraped together enough money to enroll at Iowa State University in Ames (then Iowa State College), majoring in mechanical engineering. He became the drum major of the marching band, complete with the elongated headgear and ornamental staff, or mace.

In 1984 he was retired and living in Florida and told me he was going to attend the 50th reunion of the Class of ’34 in Ames that fall. I was a correspondent for ABC Radio News and I had an inspiration: a multi-part radio feature on the Class of ’34 and the Class of ’84. Then and now. The editors approved and off we went for a weekend of memories for Dad and some enjoyable radio work for me.

Breaking news! A college education was less expensive then. How about $1500 for . . . 4 years! Listen and weep:

Dating rituals in 1934 and ’84 differed, but some things seemed constant:

The Class of ’34 listened to big band leaders Herbie Kay, Jan Garber and Wayne King. The Class of ’84: Genesis, Dan Fogelberg, ZZ Top, and Lionel Richie. ’34 had curfews, ’84 had (gasp!) coed dorms:

Bootleg hootch during Prohibition was remembered fondly by the Class of ’34. The Class of ’84 was big into gin & tonic:

The consensus: college = good times:

If you listened, you didn’t hear my father in any of those features. It was deemed by my editors – and I agreed at the time – not a journalistically sound idea to include him. Too “personal”. . .might be seen as affecting my objectivity. Today, I wish I had. It would be nice to be able to hear his voice. Dad passed away in 1985, at age 77.

The 50th anniversary of my college graduation is on the horizon. (I was enrolled in the Class of ’70 but managed to cram four years of college into five, getting my degree in ’71. So I’m not sure which class I belong to.) It would be interesting to be assigned to do a radio news series comparing and contrasting the students of 1970 with those of today. In many ways, I think it would upend the dynamic of the ’34 – ’84 comparison. The older group being wilder, freer, more anti-establishment, more libertine . . the current student body being more conforming, career-oriented, conventional. But were I to report those findings, today’s college students might simply retort, “OK, Boomer.”


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