Posts Tagged ‘college’

One of my favorite years was 1974. I was 18 and a senior in high school then a college freshman. I was well liked at my school, by students as well as the Faculty and Administration. I had been so involved in extra-curricular activities over the past four years that everyone knew me. I had worked in the school office for three years. I was pretty much on top of the world.

I hadn’t done too much about college until it was almost too late and that had been only because one of the administrators had called me in to his office to speak to a recruiter from Stanford and promised to get me out of P.E. for a week (he knew I hated P.E.). The application deadline was less than a week away but the recruiter called the Admissions Office and got an extension for me and a waiver of the application fee. I didn’t think I would get in and I knew that if I did, there was no way my parents could afford it. My dad, a cannery worker all his life, had been disabled in a work accident in five years before and my mom had never worked outside the home. We were living off of food stamps.

That was the only school I applied to. I didn’t even apply to San Jose State (now Cal State San Jose) which was where everyone from my school went. I had just figured that I would get a job and work. I didn’t think I would be going to college. Not only was there no money but my parents needed whatever money I would earn at a job.

One day in very early April, I got home from school and my mom said there were a couple of letters for me. They were both from Stanford. The first one I opened was the thick one, full of all sorts of forms. I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it. I was happy to be accepted, but I knew I wouldn’t be going. Then my mom waved the other one in front of me and said it was from the Financial Aid office. Maybe, she said, there was a way to go. If they gave me scholarship money and loans, maybe I could go. Neither one of us knew how much tuition was, we just knew it was a lot! I opened the second envelope and had to read it several times. I wasn’t sure I was reading it right. My mom took it and read it. She wasn’t sure either. I got on the phone and called my counselor at home and read him the letter and asked if he thought it meant what I thought it might mean. Yup! I had read it right. They were giving me a full scholarship. No loans. I would have to get a work-study job as part of my financial aid package but my expected contribution was very small and very doable.

The next day, at school, it was announced over the P.A. system during our morning announcements and when I got to first period, my teacher gave me a big hug and called me “Money Bags” then sent me away. He said he knew by the ear to ear smile on my face that I was not going to be able to concentrate so he said I should go visit all my teachers and let them congratulate. I don’t even remember what I did or who I saw that day. I was just floating along about ten inched off the ground!


This was what I came up with for this prompt: “Pull out a coin at random and write a story about something that happened in the year the coin was minted.”  My coin was a 1974 penny. I’ve used this prompt before. It’s a good one when you have no idea what to write and the year will be different almost every time!

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I like posting “throw back Thursday” pictures on Facebook and I’ve posted a couple here but I get tired of posting pictures of myself and I don’t like to post pictures with other people in them unless I have their permission so when I saw Trent post a throw back Thursday memory on his blog today, I decided I could do that, too!

As most of my regular readers know, I’m originally from California but have been living in Oregon since 2008. Today, in Portland, it is one of those days we’ve been waiting to have for a long time…our summer-like weather. The sky is a beautiful blue with a few wispy clouds and the temperature is 80 degrees. Not horribly hot like it can get but a very nice change from the 50 degree weather we’ve been having!

To me, nothing says summer better than music by the Beach Boys! I love their music. I taught it to my kids and I also taught it to my inner city students the year I taught fifth grade! Now that was a scene but I’ll save that for another day. Today, I will tell you about the first time I saw the Beach Boys in concert. It was on May 24, 1975 in Oakland, California at the Oakland Coliseum for A Day On the Green (a series of all day concerts organized and promoted by Bill Graham in the 1970s).

I had looked forward to the concert for weeks. There was a group of us from the dorm going but too many for the two cars in the group so I was riding the Greyhound with three friends (Laura, Jose, and Ramiro). The night before the concert, there was an impromptu dorm party and, while I enjoyed the party, I did enjoy it a little too much via drinking a lot of booze. I was a freshman that year and at 19 years of age, I had not ever had alcohol other than a sip from my dad’s beer or wine, so during the late part of freshman year, I was drinking too much (not often but still too much). The next day, I was so hungover that I didn’t even hear the alarm. One of my friends got the RA to open my room door and she got me out of bed and got me dressed, including some very hard to keep my feet in “flip flops”. My friends knew that there was no way I would want to miss the concert which was being headlined by Chicago, the Beach Boys, and Riders of the Purple Sage, with a lot of other local groups performing as well. So off we went for our LONG walk to the bus depot which was about a mile northeast of the campus, not too far but we were starting from our dorm which was in the far southwest part of the campus so we had to walk about four miles, maybe more. Well, they walked, I sort of dragged along as they pulled me along. The bus ride from Palo Alto to San Francisco was about an hour then we had to walk to the local city bus stop to take a bus across the Bay Bridge to the Oakland Coliseum for the concert. We finally made it and found our friends in the block of tickets we had purchased. The warm up bands were great but my head was pounding. Someone bought me a beer, saying it would settle my stomach and make me feel better. So by the time Chicago came on, I really was feeling much better, but I had a horrible headache. I enjoyed Chicago and then a couple of small bands then the Beach Boys came on to a wild reaction of standing, clapping, singing, and dancing California fans! Including me, headache and all.

By the time the Beach Boys had played, I was exhausted and still had that horrible headache. One of the car drivers was leaving early and asked if I wanted to go back with her because she had an extra seat. I agreed, having seen the two bands I most wanted to see, and off we went back to Palo Alto, to the dorms, to the dining hall, and to my bed for sleep.

That was the first of about ten times I was lucky enough to see the Beach Boys perform in concert. I’ve only ever seen them in California so I wonder what song they open with in other places because in California they always open with California Girls. (I hope that link works…my plugin for sound is not working on my laptop so I can’t check.)

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Note: For part one, click here.

…My escape route emerged like an early Christmas present.

I was always getting called to the office for Student Body business or some club function.  At times, when the office staff was short-handed, I would be called in to help run the switchboard, which I had done since my sophomore year.  One day, about two weeks after the Junior Miss Pageant,   I was called in to see Mr. Cordova in the office.  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me so I went to the front office to see the Assistant Principal in charge of Student Affairs, which in my case meant my Student Body job.   I liked Manny Cordova.  He was one of my “pals” at school, although I didn’t know him as well as I knew some of the other administrators and teachers with whom I had positive relationships.  Manny Cordova’s  office door was always open and he always said the kindest and most appropriate things to me.  He was the only Latino administrator at the school and as such, he was often the only one who understood me and my family and the cultural aspects surrounding us.

I walked into the outer office and Mr. Cordova stood there with five or six other students, all Juniors.  I was the last one there and they were waiting for me.  He told us all, “I know this is short notice but I have a couple of recruiters from Stanford University in my office.  They want to talk to our best students and you’re it.  They’ll talk to you all together then to each of you separately.  I’ve already given them your transcripts so just go in and listen and ask questions.”

The others started to walk into his office but I hung back waiting to talk to Mr. Cordova.  “Mr. C, I’m a Senior.  This is a waste of time.  It’s too late for me to apply.  Besides, they only want really smart people there and it’s too expensive.  My family doesn’t have the money for Stanford.  I don’t want to talk to them.”

“Go listen to them.  Please.  As a favor to me.  It’s not too late.  The deadline is January 5.  That gives you the Christmas break to fill out the application.  Your counselor and I will help you, even over the break.  And as for money, haven’t you ever heard of scholarships?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to waste my time.  Mr. Cordova persisted. I couldn’t believe it.  He was usually so easy going but now he was actually kind of strong arming me!  “Come on.  I’ll make a deal with you.  I know you don’t like P.E.  If you go in and talk to the recruiters, I’ll give you a pass so you can get out of P.E. for the rest of the week.  Deal?  That’s three days of no P.E.  Okay?”

“Okay.  You’ve got a deal!  I’ll go in but I’m telling you, it’s a waste of time.”

Within half an hour, the recruiters, who were both current Stanford students, had called the Admissions Office at Stanford and the January 5th deadline to turn in the admissions application had been extended to February 15th and the fifty dollar application fee had been waived.  I still wasn’t sure it was worth my time and effort but I did take the application packet home.  I did not really intend to apply but I had promised Mr. Cordova that I would take it home and look it over. That evening my mother saw the application materials on my bed with all of my books and homework.  She asked me what I had to do to apply and if it cost any money to apply.  I answered her questions.  She said she wanted me to apply.  In fact, she said, I had to apply.  She wanted me to have the opportunity to go to Stanford.  We lived in San Jose, a half hour away from Stanford and we had often driven on to the campus in the past, admiring the buildings and the beauty of the school site.  My mother said she had always dreamed of one of her children going to Stanford.  If I got in, we would somehow find a way for me to go.  Even if she had to sell the house, she would find a way for me to go.  She made me promise to fill it out.

My escape path pursued me and in April of 1974, I got the two most important pieces of mail.  One, the welcome to the Stanford Class of 1978 and the second telling me I had been awarded a full scholarship that would cover 100% of the tuition for my four years.

And escape I did.

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