Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Recalling 1967-1972 The City College Years


The college years are difficult for anyone since you enter them at age 18 when you are a boy and leave at age 22 when you are not quite a man.  I see students that age every day at my job at NJIT.  Certainly times have changed since 1972 in terms of circumstances, values, styles, and technology.


City College of New York (CCNY) was always the college for immigrants.  My parents were not wealthy and could not afford to send me to a prestigious college with high tuition.  I chose CCNY because it had better science and engineering programs than Queens College which was closer to home.  Back then a student had to pay only a $57/semester fee plus textbooks. Like Forest Hills High School, the student body at CCNY was mostly Jewish at that time.  It was known as a subway school since there were no dormitories, thus students had to commute from home within the 5 boroughs of New York City.  I will spend most of my discussion on social issues of that time.  I’d rather not get into academics.


I came to CCNY without knowing anyone since my high school friends went to other colleges.  There were fraternities and house plans that were actively seeking Freshmen.  One had to pledge a fraternity while he can just join a house plan which was more informal.  I received a letter from Mike G. who lived a few blocks away from me in Rego Park inviting me to visit Sigma Beta Phi fraternity which had a “house” in a loft on 6th Avenue between 27th Street and 28th Street in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.  Many of the fraternities had houses within walking distance of the CCNY campus, while others were in the outer boroughs.


I decided to pledge Sigma Beta Phi which promised not to haze its pledges as was done at other fraternities.  Very often pledges had to wear beanies and had to wait hand and foot on the brothers.  I remember very well in December 1967 having my very first date.  I was totally afraid of Louise who was about 4 feet 10 inches tall. On the night of my induction into the fraternity, I was “kidnapped” by two brothers.  They took me to the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.  Luckily, I was able to figure out how to get home by subway.


Since I was very new to dating I really had some difficulties.  It was tough for me to find a young lady and even harder to maintain a dating relationship.  There were several misadventures with dating back then.  One time my when I was using my Dad’s car, I got stuck on an ice patch with a date.  A few weeks later, the car’s transmission failed while I was double dating.  My friend’s mother had to come and pick us up.


Back then we would often go to singles dances on Friday nights.  Most of the time I was unsuccessful in meeting a young lady.  El Caribe was a country club in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn which had Jewish singles dances.  In November 1970 I met Karen L., my first real girlfriend.  This was not the Karen that I married in 1983.  I dated heruntil August 1971 when we broke up.  When looking back at that relationship, I realized that it was immaturity and inexperience on both of our parts which did us in.  I was told by several people back then who thought we were going to become engaged soon.  Back then it was common to become engaged in college and be married shortly after graduating.  I observe today that many college students are afraid of commitments and don’t marry until their late 20s or 30s.


Let me talk about some of my friends back then.


There was Eugene who was Puerto Rican who looked Italian.  He had the gift of gab, but in his case it was more of a curse.  He had a talent for meeting Jewish girls.  He could probably meet one in Vatican City.  Bi-cultural dating back then was very much frowned upon especially among Jews.  He would date a Jewish girl who would dump him before the relationship could get serious.  We had a joke back then “Hello, I’m Eugene, I’m an electrical engineer, can I have your phone number?”


There was Bill who was tall and heavy set.  He was just afraid of girls and would play cards every Friday night.  Half the fraternity would play cards while the others would go to dances or parties looking for dates.


There was Joel who lived in Co-op City in the Bronx.  I dated his sister for about a month in late 1968.  He eventually married in 1973 and later moved to Kinston, NC.


Alan A. was the world’s biggest mama’s boy, but for a few years he was my best friend.  I remember his mother wouldn’t let him have a television set because she didn’t want it to interfere with his studying.  Back in the early 1970s there was an organization called Come Together which ran Jewish Singles Dances.  In May 1972 he met a Jewish American Princess (JAP) at one of their dances. (JAP was a very popular term back then which has since died).   A year to the day that he met her they were married at a very fancy wedding.  I was best man at his wedding.  He really looked down upon me because I wasn’t married nor had a girl friend.  I last saw him in 1974.


Lastly, there was Mike H.  He was a top rated student with close to a perfect 4.0 index in Electrical Engineering, but lacked common sense.  He met his future wife Heidi at one of our fraternity parties.  We doubled dated many times in the early 1970s.  He actually became engaged in a bowling alley.  We had a joke about that since Heidi’s middle name is Pinn, her mother’s maiden name.  We said Mike became engaged in a bowling alley because he wanted to get some Pinn action.  He wanted to strike at a spare moment while Heidi was in the right frame of mind.  They were married in June 1973.  I kept in touch with Mike until late 1976 when I moved to New London, CT.


I graduated from CCNY in January 1972 after 4 ½ years.  Back then it was unusual for people to graduate in 4 years since by staying in college longer, one could evade the selective service.


Enough said.



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