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Reader Mail

Rock & Roll Memories Live On

What a pleasant surprise to see the back-page article in the current issue of Rensselaer [“It’s Only Rock & Roll and We Liked It,” Winter 2007-08]. The article — actually, the distinctive image of Roger Beckett, which I remember from posters on campus — really grabbed my attention instantly!

My eventual wife, Jill (Carey) ’84, and I showed up on campus in the fall of 1980, which I think was the start of a short “golden age” for undergraduates; not quite the crazy ’70s, but not yet the buttoned-down late ’80s and ’90s. One of my earliest memories is sitting just a few feet from Bill Staines as he performed his “Yodel Song” in the Rat; I had heard him on Prairie Home Companion, which at the time had just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

The article mentions many favorites and sparks lots of memories; for example, how many Fridays were punctuated by awesome Quad parties accompanied by the Basement Blues Band (dragging themselves out of the architecture building, from whence they got their name) and others cranking it up in the early afternoon? And yes, who can get “I-i-i, wanna be a lifeguard” out of their heads once they’ve heard it at a concert in the great hall of the Union? Or the Roches? Great times.

There was another aspect of musical life that I also remember fondly — for a while, there were talent contests, with the award being a two- or three-night gig in the Rat. Dave Smith (an amazing banjo, guitar, and mandolin player) and I (merely accompanying him on guitar) won it once as freshmen. A brief bit of fame! But it was a great way to kick off a college experience.

Finally, I’ll never forget when Cheap Trick came to campus during their Dream Police tour — my ears are still ringing from that one!

John Erickson ’84
Norwich, Vt., and Bristol, UK

The article by Rick Hartt ’70 was a terrific trip down Memory Lane. But what Rick was too modest to disclose is that he has been integral to bringing music to campus for nearly 40 years. Long before he became director of the Union in 1983, his avocation was managing rock bands (mostly comprised of Rensselaer students) and arranging for them to perform at fraternity parties, the Rathskeller, and even the McNeil Room (crisp acoustics).

More than anyone I know, Rick Hartt should be considered the “Keeper of the Campus Culture” for the past several decades. He is a walking repository of names, dates, and events that have a Rensselaer connection. Want to hear about Jimi Hendrix playing at the Armory or The Doors at the Field House? No need to google — just ask Rick.

Roger Mike ’70
Clifton Park, N.Y.

I read with interest Rick Hartt’s article. I played with Joe Salvo in bands both at RPI and after graduation. The gig I remember most was a combined show with another Tau Epsilon Phi-based band called Redneck Jump. After the electric experiment, some of us formed the folk-rock group Three Days Ride, playing at Mother’s Wine Emporium several times. We were based in Rhode Island for a while after graduation. The biggest gig we did was opening for Don McLean at MIT in the mid-’70s.

My biggest musical thrill came when Joe was invited to be the opening act for Joan Armatrading at Carnegie Hall. He got to include an acoustic guitar player and one back-up singer (me). It was pretty amazing.

Joe also was road manager for Tom Rush for a number of years. Since Tom put together several big shows, I would be recruited to assist. At these shows I had the chance to meet people like Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Richard Greene, and others I had admired for a long time.

Glenn Dewell ’72
South Kingstown, R.I.

The picture with Bermuda Triangle really blew me away! Really took me back; I remember them well. I guess I can safely admit now that I had a thing for the girl on the violin. Anyway, thanks for the brief trip back!

Steve Ruggiero ’75
Notre Dame, Ind.

I liked the article on Roger, Wendy and Sam; it brought back a lot of memories. I have two of their original albums — a completely black one and one that says “Bermuda Triangle.” I believe I got both from them at the student union concerts. Their concert in 1977 was broadcast live on WRPI and as I lived just around the corner on College Ave., I taped the concert on my reel-to-reel and at the break went home and turned the tape over. It is one of my favorite tapes!

Reed Winters ’76
Naples, Fla.

I just read Rick Hartt’s article. It conjured up lots of great memories of some headliners like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Silver Bullet, ELP (in a winter storm), and the likes of Pat Metheny in the McNeil Room. Music on campus was so vibrant then.

Wilson Francis ’79
Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Astronaut Ties

I was pleasantly surprised by the very well-done story on Rick Mastracchio on the STS-118 Endeavour Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. However, I was also very proud to see that Barbara Morgan, who was aboard as a “mission specialist,” appears in some of the pictures. Barbara’s name before marriage to Clay Morgan was Radding. Her grandfather and my father were brothers.

Barbara trained as backup for Christa McAuliffe, who was lost with her crewmates in the Challenger accident in 1986. Barbara has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford in human biology and teaches math and science. Her function on the mission was to operate the shuttle and space station robot arms and to spend time speaking to schoolchildren from orbit. NASA hopes Morgan’s mission will inspire youngsters to pursue science, math, and engineer careers.

Earl Radding ’33
Greenwood, Del.

Campus in Bloom

Please excuse my tardiness in writing to tell you how much I enjoyed the article “Campus in Bloom” in the fall issue of the alumni magazine. It is an excellent piece of writing and I hope you will extend my hearty congratulations to Scott Litwin and his team of 16 for such beautiful results. I’m sure alumni and other visitors are very favorably impressed with the overall effect. I hope I may be able to visit some spring myself.

Dan Ladd ’47
Winchester, Mass.

More Music Memories

I have fond memories of Joel Dolven [“Mail,” Winter 2007-08] and consider him one of my two mentors at RPI. I sang with the Glee Club and then took a music appreciation course in the summer of 1956. This was one of two non-technical courses I needed to graduate from RPI and, by far, the most enjoyable. I can’t remember just why, but Joel had to be away at exam time and, since I had aced the course, he trusted me to administer the final exam. What an honor!

Joel was an extraordinary teacher and conductor. I can recall some of our joint concerts with women’s groups and being asked, “Where did you get him?” This was a reaction to Joel’s unique ability to command full attention from the chorus.

Some may recall when the very first stereophonic broadcast came from the RPI campus in December 1952. The term used at that time was “binaural broadcast.” We were invited to the student union where there were two speakers in position to pick up the sound from two different sources: WRPI, a 60-hertz carrier, and WHAZ each had a microphone placed in the WHAZ facilities. I recall a string quartet performance and how amazed we all were that we could pick out the position of the individual instruments as we listened. Not too long afterward, WQXR, the classical music station of the New York Times, was broadcasting “binaural” music. During this time period, Joel directed the Glee Club in its first live binaural broadcast.

Gunther Winkler ’56
Bolton, Conn.

Radio Waves

In “Mail,” Winter 2007-08 issue, Bill Glaser ’53 posed the question: “Why not?” in relation to a campus radio station “at the birth of the technology,” around 1920.

Harry Rowe Mimno (Class of 1921) casually mentioned to me, during a conversation in the 1970s, that he had been a part of the establishment of the still-standing distance record for radio communication at 300 meters. This was done while students and faculty were in the testing phase of the radio transmitter and towers installed in/on Sage Hall by repeated communications with Invercargill, New Zealand, which is very close to the antipode of Troy.

Harry — as he told everyone to call him — went on to have a very productive and interesting career as a professor and researcher in the field of radio wave propagation. Due to his innate shyness, those who knew him felt that he never really received the credit due to him for his contributions to the field of wave propagation. His pioneering work, and the authorship of the (famous) Red Book, provided the foundation for many systems that came into being. There are, for those who have persistence and know where to look, bits and pieces of documentation of his contributions to the field of electronics.

To me he was one of those many unknown alumni that made great contributions to science, engineering, and society, in silence and with little or no recognition.

David Dobson ’52
Chevy Chase, Md.

We’d love to hear from you! To provide space for as many letters as possible, we often must edit them for length. Please address correspondence to: Rensselaer Magazine, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, e-mail to alum.mag@rpi.edu, or call (518) 276-6531.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.