“…It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty delta day…”

Rarely do I look to the summer of ‘67 and wax nostalgic. Glancing back though through the prism of time, I see footprints in my path that summer, of steps I’d yet to journey.

The strains of Bobby Gentry dominated CKLW that June as, two weeks from Brush High, I started college. My muted urge to write for television melded with our dad’s unquenched desire to step up his game (he was living in Inkster, Michigan then) and before you could say Duffy Daugherty there I was at East Lansing.

(Ed. Note 1: My father’d announced one day that indeed, M.S.U. had “the number one radio and TV school in the mid-west”. Who was I to question it? It wasn’t like you could google it. If my Al Bogart said it was, it was.  Sort of like when Mr. Fenton stating his scar came from an elephant stepping on his stomach or when Mr. Hendricks spoke of wrestling alligators. These were our fathers.).

(Ed. Note 2, and this only in hindsight: I can’t imagine what went through our mother’s mind back then. Her ex had used mirrors to pay child support but had miraculously committed to pay out-of-state tuition to get me up north. Not to mention the minds of her brother or my Grandpa Irv. The family tree’d restructured post-divorce, with branches gravely splintered. In Ewing terms, Uncle Bob was J.R., Grandpa Irv was the rancher Clayton Farlow— and both eyed our dad as Cliff Barnes. Perhaps it was a blessing our Mom had only one good ear?).

I hated M.S.U., but played it well. Living in a four-man suite, I had but three friends.   (On all of campus).  High school pals from Farmington Hills, they’d told me the only way they could get in was to start in summer.  I remember how each feared the draft).

It was an epoch of perseverance not enjoyment — a time frame for growth drowned out by my groaning. We got along though…me for the first time out-numbered by Christians…and them them (discreetly searching for my horns).

We’d play gin on the weekdays and none of us studied. They’d drive home on weekends and me?  I’d be solo. Often my Dad would come up … or bus me to him. I had no social life—nothing to miss on campus—and truth be known, it was what I wanted. H was up July 4…and one weekend, when I knew the team had big games in Cleveland, I Greyhounded home.

(Ed. Note 3: Low point of low points. Donning orange and black tee shirts, the Cleveland boys were Waxman Plumbing Supply then. This was arguably before I learned to bleed singles, but imagine my angst when after 5+ road hours and my Dad schlepping me to Woodhilll, Wido sat me that Sunday. What I couldn’t see then but well see now is that he HAD a regular catcher. Duh.).

It was that kind of summer.

Stuey and Bobby came out once. Donnie and Pinky stopped. That was my social life. I did get straight A’s, but remember this was summer quarter — not the primest of talent pools…and they graded on the curve).

Once, when The Temptations were at Leo’s Casino, I wanted to come in, but my father killed it. “Your full-time job is being a student now,” he admonished.

And so it was: the summer of ’67. July came and went and August bled slowly. Homesick I was as back home they were.

—And the break between quarters assuaged nothing. The boys were readying, each of them, for what Fenton termed “real college—not YOUR summer detention”. Wied, Fisch and Stu would be rooming at Drackett;  “Desert Flower”‘d be down the hall. No dorm for Bobby (of course) as he’d stay on Iuka and no life for Raisin who sought married housing.   Ermine?  He headed to Ada as Kraut entered Oxford, moping all the way with Vicki in Cleveland and Joel in Wisconsin).

Ebbing, I was, as I bussed back west. It was not yet autumn but returning for Fall my heart wasn’t in it. “Outside”, as Smokey sang I was “…masquerading and inside, my hope was fading…”.

I called my father the Saturday night of my first weekend back. I was done with East Lansing and craving Columbus. He would be up in the morning he said, (and he was). We talked and we talked that Sunday — his only concern being my  student deferment.

I look back now, through life’s rear view mirror. It’s funny how things play out.

Was he right to let me bail like that? Would another father have made me gut it out? Accept responsibility? (After all, tuition was paid).

Maybe so.

I do know this though: It is the summer that comes back instantly when oldies stations play Bobby Gentry, and a summer I’d sooner forget.  Ah…but it is the summer also, that because one beautiful man not only listened but heard, I never felt like jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

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