• Correcting Memories in the Blink of a College Eye

    • Posted on Aug 08, 1980

    Newspapers not only bring the daily news, they also preserve the past with shocking accuracy. Long after the news is forgotten, newspapers provide a record of the values and concerns of the time, far beyond what memory provides.

    For the past two nights I’ve been immersed, utterly fascinated, in copies of The College Eye from 1961 to 1965, copies that I’d saved from my undergraduate years. It’s been odd to relive those days from the newspapers because my memory has completely distorted what it was like.

    [The College Eye was UNI's student newspaper while UNI was still "State College of Iowa."  -Ed. note.]   

    I had no idea, for example, that 18 to 21-year-old females in college were almost invariably called “girls” instead of women, while the males were called “men.” And these men sponsored beauty contests constantly: the Associated Men’s Residence Hall contest, the Old Gold Beauty contest, the Homecoming Queen beauty contest, the Dickinson Relays beauty contest.  

    The girls would wear short shorts or bathing suits, then evening gowns, and they would usually sing or recite poetry in a talent contest. The lucky winner would get her picture in The College Eye, and would be known all over campus for her well-rounded talents. Some famous beauties at SCI were “Bunny” Gieger, Kay Kaiser, Bonnie Euhler, Debbie Noland. Girls all.

    Hardly a week went by, it seems, without some of these beauties getting ready for, or winning, or thinking about what to wear, in a picture in the College Eye. Amazing how these silly little events are both gone and forgotten.

    And a week never went by without some mention of Professor Joe Fox. He wrote a lengthy column, “Obiter Scripta,” in which he argued the causes of personal freedom and responsibility, humanistic general education, the need for a strong teachers’ union, and dealt with virtually every local campus issue. He was also attacked regularly by students and faculty for everything from radicalism to senility, but never for meekness or not speaking out.  

    I had almost forgotten what immense local campus stature Joe Fox held.

    But the real surprise, the truely forgotten events, were the issues that concerned most students. The only issue that tis still around is race, and beginning in ’64 or so, UNI students began noticing that there were “Negroes” asking for their rights down South.

    SCI students began wondering where the local Negroes were. As Phil Pirages wrote in the May 8, 1964 Eye, “There are 2,300 students residing on the SCI campus. Three of them are Negroes. There are no colored faculty members.” How long since anyone has called blacks or Afro-Americans “Negroes” or “colored?”

    No Vietnam, no drugs, no co-ed dorms, no talk of sexism, or even much about sex, and certainly nary a word about energy or the environment.

    THE BIG protest on campus in the early ‘60s was—get ready for this—about dress codes. Male students, it seems, were regularly wearing sweatshirts and jeans to eat in the Commons. The girl students found this offensive, so they decided to insist on a dress code for eating in the Commons. It all came to a head on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1961, when a group of rowdy SCI radicals (for those days) came to eat in the Commons “wearing everything from swimming trunks to pajamas to brightly colored sport shirts with neckties.”

    These far-out freaks proceeded to eat their Commons dinner sitting on the floor, and most of them smoked big stogies between bites. It must have been guerrilla theater, early ‘60s style. And the radicals won; they were told they could wear clean jeans to dinner.

    Who would have guessed that less than 20 years later, the faculty would show up, not just for dinner, but for classes, wearing everything from swimming trunks to pajamas to brightly colored sport shirts with neckties. Not to mention sweatshirts and jeans.

    The times, they really were a-changin'.
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  • The Mild Ones

    • Posted on Jul 18, 1980


    Remember Marlon Brando in “The Wild One,” with his studded black leather jacket, his wicked slit-eyed grin, his nasal twange voice, his thick body matched to his big Harley? That image shouts macho, man.

    Or recall Steve McQueen, roaring up and over a sand dune in “On Any Sunday,” bike and rider airborne, both perfectly under control, soaring as though gravity were a minor inconvenience.

    And who can forget Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider,” ripping down America’s highways on their choppers, their faces serene, their minds lost in reveries of the Road.

    Soaring macho Road-reveries: that’s the image that Hollywood has given us of motorcyclists and motorcycles.

    Now let me tell you it really is. There may actually be a few Brandos, McQueens, and Fondas out there, but from what I’ve seen, most cyclists are more like the mild crew that took the motorcycle driving test in Cedar Falls last Saturday morning.

    I was there because recently I bought an old Honda 350 to save gas on weekend trips, and for quick trips to local parks. Also for fun; a well-tuned motorcycle can be a joy to ride.

    Iowa used to let any maniac with a driver’s license roar around on motorcycles. Then some highly observant official noted that steering wheels and handlebars have nothing in common. Since then, Iowa has required a separate licensing process for motorcyclists, consisting of both a written and driving test. Not something you can imagine the Wild One or Captain America doing, really.

    This driving test consists of a slow drive, U-turns, shifting, and a “serpentine” around several close pylons. The nervous Mild Ones weren’t to put a foot down, or to pop wheels, or even to flash a slit-eyed grin at the D.O.T. Examiner.

    So instead of macho, there was a nice little lady on a tiny Honda 100 who kept killing the motor and putting her foot out. She flunked.

    Instead of Road reveries, there were about five high school boys on 100 and 200 cc dirt bikes who kept cussing and yelling at each other and to themselves about their wobbly riding and pylon dumping.

    Instead of soaring, there was me. And Arnold. Me, I wore my helmet (three of the 13 Mild Ones did wear helmets) and putted around the course like grandma Cawelti, rest her gentle soul. But Arnold was something else again. He wore a red bandana, a backwards baseball cap, and a sleeveless green t-shirt. He had big arms, too, but no tattoos, mildly enough. He brought a Honda 350 to the test (“Paid seventy-five bucks for it,” he told me later) that looked as though it had been used to deliver messages from Tokyo to Berlin for the Axis powers.

    When Arnold revved it up, some of the exhaust actually came through the rear pipes, making the motor quieter than when it idled, at which time the exhaust roared out from somewhere beneath Arnold.

    So another Hollywood myth bites the pavement. If you should happen to see Brando or Fonda screaming across your late night television screens on their roaring hogs, remember the reality: grandma Cawelti and Arnold wobbling over the pylons on their old Hondas.

    At least we passed.

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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