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Monday, January 14, 2013

OSU IS NUMBER ONE, ROSE BOWL HERE WE COME

I worked my butt off  in the Post Office the summer of 1954. I sorted, delivered and relieved vacationing mailmen, taking as much overtime as I could. By summer's end, I had accumulated more than $600, enough to get through the next two quarters without having to strain myself. I couldn't wait to get back to school and hitched a ride back to Columbus, saving the train fare. I had adjusted quite nicely to both campus and fraternity life. When the movie, "Animal House", was released in 1978, it was based on a 1962 fraternity at Dartmouth, and I realized I missed the opportunity to capture what I had experienced in the mid 1950's. The AEPI  brothers were an eclectic group geographically. Though they were primarily Jewish (we had a couple of Italians) about one third were from Cleveland, a like number from the New York area, a group from Washington, D.C. and Maryland, as well as some from nearby Midwestern states. I had finally moved into the fraternity house and had three roommates, one from Mount Vernon, NY, another from Washington D.C., and the third from Troy, NY. The fraternity boasted several athletes, the president of the student body and the manager of the Buckeye football team. I  found two other journalism majors, Jordan Fogel and Bill Schecter. Bill preceded me as the sports editor of The Lantern, and was also the second string catcher on the baseball team that include Frank Howard, who  would become a major league player and manager, Howard "Hopalong" Cassady, who would,win  the Heisman Trophy in 1955, and Galen Cisco who pitched in the Majors.

The AEPi house was located at 1943 Waldeck, at the corner of 17th Street. It was a large white structure with a mamouth old fashioned porch. There was a large den, featuring a bridge table (always occupied), two  large couches and a record player that continually played Frank Sinatra's "Swing Easy" album and then in April, 1955 was replaced by the "Wee Small Hours" album. We had a large living room and an enormous dining room. the bedrooms were located on the second and third floors, with additional rooms in the annex next door. Alcoholic beverages were banned, and we had a house mother, Esther Goldsmith, who spent 10 hours a day making sure we didn't stray. We constantly pranked her, but that's another story. There was a television set in the living room, but the only time it was turned on was for a major sports event. The 1954 World Series was one of those events. The highly favored Cleveland Indians met the New York Giants.  Most of the brothers jammed the living room with every seat taken, and dozens of us sitting on the floor. Half the house was rooting for the Indians, the other half favored the Giants. Sports fans will remember "The Catch" by Willy Mays of a line drive off the bat of Vic Wertz in game one, turning the tide. After his back-to-the-infield grab, the Giants won four straight games to sweep the series.

On the football field, we had plenty to cheer about. The Buckeye eleven had an undefeated season, sharing
the National Championship with UCLA. It would have made for a great Rose Bowl game, but in those days, there was a no repeat rule and UCLA was not allowed to go. As a result. OSU was to face USC. During that season, Carol and I continued to date, and our friends began to identify us as a couple. Carol's mother wasn't that excited about  her 17-year-old daughter having a relationship with a poor kid from  Cleveland, and though she had not  yet met me, arranged for Carol to  spend the holiday season in Florida. Maybe shel would meet a more suitable guy. The news was upsetting, but the disappointment was erased when I learned the school had organized the Ohio State Rose Bowl Express to travel to Pasadena. The cost of the trip was $163 (including meal tickets) and despite my parents'objections I cashed in several War Bonds I had accumulated as a kid and joined more than 500 other students who boarded trains labeled, "Scarlet", "Gray" and "Buckeye", all singing "California, Here We Come." We left on December 26th. It was the first time I had traveled  to the west coast.The train featured one car with a Vista Dome. When we weren't partying, we were watching America pass by.

Ohio State won the game 20-7, but it was a miserable day. As we lined up for the Rose Parade, it began to rain. People around us called it "California dew", but by game time, it was pouring. The  biggest selling item at the event was a hooded poncho to protect us from the inclement weather. I vividly remember  the players uniforms caked with mud, and a photo of Bill Costello, the head cheerleader, squeezing the water from a rain drenched rose into his megaphone. We made a number of stops on the trip, including Las Vegas, and arrived back in Columbus on January 4th. The trip was  the greatest adventure of my young life. (In Wednesday's post I meet Carol's parents.)