American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/4/85: Rick Springfield, “Celebrate Youth”

Submitted the last of my grades on Friday night. Doing so in any semester always feels like a burden being lifted, but the relief is greater than normal this go-round. It’s Saturday evening as I start this, and I’m totally beat. I commented earlier to Martha and Ben that it’s almost like a mild case of whiplash. Again, I know the stress for many of my students has been higher, but I am glad this most unusual semester is now in the rear-view mirror. I’d like to think I adapted reasonably well at least some of the time. I’ll debrief myself at some point; right now, though, I need some time off from thinking about the college professor life.

A part of that will be (I hope) paying more attention to this venture. There have been a few thoughts that seem partially related to one another chasing around my head over the last couple of weeks; let’s see if I shape something semi-coherent out of them.

My alma mater traditionally hosts its Alumni Weekend at the end of April (one casualty of not fielding a football team is being able to hold a Homecoming celebration in the fall). Unsurprisingly, this year’s model wound up being a virtual event. Prior to the cancellation of in-person festivities, the class of ’85 had invited the graduates from ’84 and ’86 (my year) to join in on their 35th reunion reception. Even if there aren’t (m)any folks from the class ahead of me with whom I’ve maintained contact, I would have given some consideration to attending. I’m sorry they missed their every-half-decade shot at a reunion; at this point, though, I’m wondering about the likelihood of my 35th being online, too.

There are a few artifacts from the spring of 1985 in my bin of college goodies. That May Term (Transy has a short, four-week term at the end of the year) I took Environmental Philosophy, from a faculty member in his first year. Our text was a collection of essays on environmental ethics; while I don’t seem to have the book any more, I do have the booklet from an essay exam (though not the questions) and a five-page paper I submitted on The Necessity of Establishing an Environmental Ethic. Hardly original thoughts being expressed, but I feel like maybe I had synthesized something decently in the first paragraph.

Comments by the instructor were few, but for what it’s worth, I got an A on it.

I enjoyed the class and the professor. There was a kerfuffle a couple of years later when he was denied tenure (he’d come to Transy with credit for previous service). I was in grad school by then, but was still in touch with plenty of folks still there who weren’t pleased. My understanding is that he eventually landed on his feet at a school in the Northeast.

I guess I was also on the production staff that spring for The Transylvanian, “the oldest university literary journal west of the Allegheny Mountains.” I don’t have any recollection of doing the slightest bit of work for it; I have a feeling it might be connected to having taken creative writing the previous fall. But hey, my name is there on page one for anyone who still has a copy to see.

The contents are mostly student work: poems, very short stories, sketches, etc. There are a few pieces by faculty as well. One poem was by George Ella Lyon; an adjunct at Transy at the time, she’s had several books and collections of poetry published in the decades since, and served as Poet Laureate of Kentucky five years ago. “How It Is” in part expresses the frustrations of teaching students who don’t have the same appreciation for the subject matter as the instructor. I can relate.

I also hope that Editor isn’t right in that second stanza.

I spent the last day of April 2016 at my 30th college reunion. It was an all-day affair, including a couple of afternoon receptions, a group photo (though only fifteen members of my class were there for it), and a class dinner at a downtown Italian restaurant. The weather didn’t cooperate much; it rained much of the day. Nonetheless, I had a grand time, re-establishing connections with some folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

The most enjoyable part of the day was getting to be with a smaller group in the morning and early afternoon. We began with a breakfast that was in part a gathering of alums from across the years who’d been recipients of a generous scholarship offered by the school. I had been in the first cohort, a group of ten. The program quickly turned into a public relations windfall for the college, expanding in subsequent years and becoming a significant factor in the growth of Transy’s enrollment throughout the latter half of the 80s. Back in the fall of 1982, though, the scholarship program was a novelty; no one quite knew what to make of it. Several of us became good friends from the start, though over time our social circles and interests diverged in various ways. By the time we graduated, fortunately it felt like we stood out less than we had at the beginning.

Five folks from that first group, now in our early fifties, were among those who sat together at the breakfast. Conversation was plenty lively. Some of it was catching up, and some of it proceeded as if the intervening years had never happened. Afterward, we wandered around campus some, celebrating our youths and reliving old glories, eventually winding up at a deli a few blocks away for lunch with James, my roomie.

Before I left the house that morning for those reunion festivities, I heard most of the opening hour of that weekend’s 80s AT40 rebroadcast; I doubt you’re surprised to learn it was 5/4/85, which got played again a week ago. Even though a show from 1983 would have been more appropriate given who I was going to be seeing, 1985 turned out to be a very good choice for setting the mood for the day. For a while, I could see the older man looking at the younger man he’d been, the college junior who apparently was involved in putting together a journal, and who was thinking about how to think about the environment. 

Thirty-five years on, it’s clear that enough, or maybe the right, people weren’t/couldn’t be convinced of the deficiencies in our approach to the environment. Eventually a price will be exacted. Some days I conclude that’s just how it is.

(Rick Springfield’s star was beginning to wane by this time. I’ve always liked this song, but it stalled out at #26 a couple weeks later. It was #32 on this show.)

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