I have been reading
the June issue letters including those about the "candy striped cannons."
I was on campus at the time and I thought the original prank was possibly
a little out of line, but when the ROTC people went hysterical I laughed
my head off. Rumors at the time were that the prank was triggered by rude
remarks of an ROTC officer to some veterans. I have no idea of whether
or not that was the actual trigger.
the motive was, I resent ANYBODY thinking that because they put
on a uniform they have a right to judge whether others are patriotic or
not and to declare others to be "misguided" or "mocking the military".
There are times when the military deserves to be mocked, particularly
when they get up on stump and spout nonsense.
would any reasonable person expect to have happen on a campus 80 percent
veterans, many of them drafted, many of them with combat experience, many
with every reason to resent petty actions by officers? ROTC was lucky
they didn't have a more serious incident as a consequence of their reaction
to the original incident.
am not in any way against ROTC; I think the protests in the '60s were
stupid as in my opinion our best defense against wrong-headed military
brass is the large number of junior officers who come out of ROTC, NOT
the traditional military schools. The professional military schools have
their place but I believe it would be a mistake to see the whole officer
corp coming out of those schools.
am a WWII veteran and I worked on military bases for some time as a civilian
with equivalent rank of Lt. Cmdr., complete with uniform, BOQ room, and
special ID cards to let me into all sorts of places besides the officer's
club. I later worked for over 25 years on classified projects including
access to many government agencies, labs, test areas, and military bases.
met and worked with some very competent and very professional people,
both officers and high-ranked civil service, who most certainly deserved
respect. I also met a very large number of narrow-minded bigots of limited
intellectual ability who saw a plot in every minor incident and who really
did not know what was going on around them even in their own commands
or on their own bases. Those people seemed to totally lack a sense of
humor or perspective.
officers I ever knew, men with excellent combat records and proven administrative
ability, would have laughed privately and made at most a formal "protest"
for the record, and if they suspected that a lack of manners on the part
of subordinates was in any way involved, there would have been at the
least some very pointed reminders to those individuals that they were
not in charge of the world or even the campus.
R. Erwin '53
Regarding the candy-stripe
painting of the NROTC's gun in the early '50's: I read Jim Merkel's letter
saying this act was not comical but an abhorrence of the U.S. military.
The funny thing is that I can clearly remember Jim's smiling face--as
it looked back then--but I have no recollection of the incident. (Jim
was a jovial, likeable youth before he turned into the grumpy old man
that he obviously is today.)
don't I remember? I probably didn't think it great, funny, or horrible.
Just a weak attempt compared to the welding of an I beam across the bridge
one night in the late '40's--using thermite bombs as I recall (being no
chemist)-- that stopped all trans-Hudson Troy traffic. This happened before
I arrived at RPI and was the work of the older WW2 vets, I believe. Now,
that was a great prank! No sacrilege, just a pain in the butt for our
beloved city. Has it ever been bettered?
I enjoyed Mr. Mayer's
recount of his time in Tin Town in the referenced issue. I too was an
inhabitant of Tin Town beginning in August 1947 and can offer a couple
of tales that you may find interesting.
by the time Mr. Mayer's residency began in Tin Town, the post war production
of boiler controls had spun up to the point where suitable devices were
available to allow full automatic operation of the Tin Town boilers. Such
was not the case in the winter of '47-'48. The boilers had to be started
manually by an attendant who would douse a rag wound around the end of
a long pipe with kerosene, light it with a match, start the oil burner,
and thrust the lighted rag into the combustion chamber thus lighting the
main flame. (And if the timing of this procedure was not quite right,
a loud earthshaking "WHOMP" would result!)
burner would then run until the pressure sensing device would determine
that the maximum pressure had been reached at which point the oil burner
would be turned off requiring the above-described manual procedure for
restarting when the pressure dropped again.
whole affair would have been transparent to the students except for the
annoying fact that the Administration did not see fit to provide personnel
to start the boilers between midnight and 6 AM.
particularly cold nights when studying was required after about 12:30
AM, and they were numerous, the rooms became very cold. To remedy this
oversight, my roommate, whom I shall protect by not naming, would pick
the lock on the boiler room, and I would light the boiler in the manner
described above having previously observed the procedure through the boiler
this way, we managed to keep warm and studying.
while Mr. Mayer remembers walking to the campus in the rain, I remember
walking the same route that winter in snow and wind at temperatures measured
by a new Taylor thermometer mounted outside our Tin Town window which
read for a solid ten days at lower than 20 degrees below zero. One morning
it was minus 26! Students were being regularly hospitalized for frostbite
of noses, ears and cheeks.
have lived in sunny California for over 25 years and wouldn't touch another
New York winter with a pole as long as the one we used to light the boiler.
San Mateo, Calif.
"Tin Town," Mort Mayer's
contribution to the June 1999 issue of Rensselaer brought back many memories
of 15 Peck Drive and environs. Mort did an excellent job of the physical
aspects. Mort must have had one of the end rooms – a 6-foot window? We
low-lifes along the corridor had only a 3-foot window. But what about
the subtleties of those dorms? The wind generated great sound effects
as it rumbled the aluminum sheeting that made up the outside skin including
the roof. If you had the bunk next to the corridor, the plywood floor
sagged as someone walked by and your bunk went with it. The boiler rooms
may not always have kept the rooms hot, but the jugs of fermenting beverages
"worked" very well close to the furnace. And after the Christmas recess
with those windows closed throughout, many students found their wax LP
records in a lump in the bottom of the jacket.
The creativity of
the budding engineers was impressive:
- Buying scrap newspaper
from the Salvation Army and wadding it carefully made it possible to
fill a room to capacity, using the window as an exit for maximum cramming.
- A lighted cherry
bomb dropped into a paper bag with about a pound of flour and tossed
through an open window from the outside caused instant white-out.
- One cycle enthusiast
tried a ride in the front door, down the corridor and out the back door.
Unfortunately, he forgot there was a four foot drop from because of
a grad assistant's car and reassembling it in a vacant room probably
indicated a coming ME.
- A potential EE
had adapted Spike Jones classic "Beetlebaum" to bellow out "Faigenbaum"
across the metallic community. (No disrespect to our chemistry lecturer,
- That single glass
globe in the center ceiling also substituted for a fish bowl-made an
excellent multi-wall screen saver. (No doubt recognizing the future
of color television developed in the attic of Sage by Dr. Babbits.)
Ah, the memories of
"dear old RPI!"
A. (Mike) Smith, '52
Painted Post, N.Y.
Since I also resided
in the now famous (or infamous) freshman dormitories described by Mort
Mayer '53 in his article under "I Remember" of the June issue of the Alumni
Magazine, many of the same memories came flooding back. In my case, I
have mixed feelings of that experience. The major advantage of those dormitories
was the camaraderie that developed between incoming freshmen due to the
geographical separation from upper classmen and the knowledge that we
(freshmen) were all in the same boat. However, as anyone who was there
at the time can attest, it was really brutal walking to classes at the
main campus through the cold and howling winds of a typical Troy winter
day with all of the books of the entire day under your arms.
I couldn't wait to move to the regular dormitories on campus in order
to be closer to classes and other activities, I must admit that the experiences
at TIN TOWN are now some of the most vivid I have of my years at RPI.
I really appreciate all of the varied articles that appear in the alumni
magazine; keep up the good work.
N. Anagnos '51
In the 1950 Class
Notes section, James Moore writes "Here we are half way through the last
year of the 20th century" and "It is mind boggling to think that the Class
of 1950 will be the first class to celebrate its 50th reunion in the 21st
I find really mind boggling is that an RPI graduate could think that the
21st century starts in 2000! How could he not have learned enough history
to know that there was no year zero.
B. Priest '50
Time to up the ante.
I also remember having a beanie as a freshman at RPI. That was in the
fall of 1969 (Class of '73). What say the freshmen of the '70s?
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