Pit Stops on The Road Of Life
SENIOR YEAR 1967-1968
Thanks to my Social Security checks and a full-time job all summer long, senior year found me again in great position financially. For the second consecutive year, I needed to borrow no money at all. In fact, having worn myself out in junior year with 32 hours a week at the Boston Store while carrying 18 hours at school, I decided the store could do without me this Christmas.
First semester transcript
First semester saw me get a break. For the first and only time after failing the 4-credit Calculus course my initial semester at King’s, I got by with taking only 15 hours. As it turned out, it really didn’t make that much difference. Without Boston Store hours eating into my schedule, I had more time to study, but did I? Noooooooo! What the hell? I’d made it through three years with hardly any work at all, and carried a 2.24 cumulative GPA into senior year. ‘twould seem that, with the same minimal effort, I could maintain the status quo over just two more semesters without flunking out. [In fact, now that I cut my transcript into smaller pieces to scan, I notice something at the bottom of it that I hadn’t noticed before. Right below “Dean’s List” is a space where “Probation” COULD have been noted for any given semester. In that it wasn’t so-noted, I guess I couldn’t have been all THAT bad.]
French 45 saw me with Father Boyle for the sixth consecutive time but, this time, things had changed. No longer was it conversational French, which had come sooooo easily to me, much as had Spanish in high school. Now I was actually expected to READ, as the course title suggests, French masterpieces! I did dabble into “Chanson de Roland” (Song Of Roland) but was quite soon bored by encountering words that translated into, say “helmet”, or “spear”. I wouldn’t choose to read such tales even in they were in ENGLISH! Golly, how often would I ever use such words in daily life?
In the realm of accounting, I guess I did nearly NO homework at all to earn my “D” in Advanced Accounting 1. Federal Income Taxes, on the other hand, were a lot more interesting since we ALL have to deal with them, and my “B” there gave me a “C” average over both courses.
Of the two Bus Ad courses, one may have been required while the other was an elective make-up for Theology, but I can’t say which was which. Real Estate Principles was taught by a local real estate agent whose name I’ve forgotten. In it, I learned such things as “riparian rights”, “adverse possession”, and “joint tenancy”. Joe Repa, a local insurance agent, taught Insurance Principles. There I learned about co-insurance, the distinction between an owner of a policy and its beneficiary, and term life versus whole life. I recall asking Repa “If Jayne Mansfield took out a policy to cover her boobs, would that be called ‘extended coverage’?” Although I earned only a “C” in each course, they both helped my considerably later on in my career as a Loan Officer with SBA.
The Players put on the standard two shows that semester. The first was a children’s show: “Dr. Coppelius”, about a doll maker whose creation seems to come to life. Based on an original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann (“Der Sandmann (“The Sandman “). Dating back to 1815, it has also seen life as both a ballet by Léo Delibe and an opera (“The Tales Of Hoffmann” by Offenbach.) None of that pedigree meant much to me, for I was again a stagehand. The second show was T.S. Eliot’s “The Cocktail Party” and I am totally blank about that one.
Socially, senior year was little different from my first three. While I did now have the Jawa, it pretty much remained parked and I used it primarily only to go to see Dad. I could have gone to Scranton to see Lee but, golly, dating on small motorcycle is hardly any better than walking to a movie. I don’t think I even called Lee all that year but I certainly didn’t forget her. Oh, I did continue to go to dances held at the school, much as I did my first three years but haven’t yet mentioned. I had, probably starting with junior year, shown up a wee bit drunk at most of them, but I was now old enough to buy my own booze in lieu of paying an upperclassman to bring it. There was a PA state liquor store on North Main Street, so access was easy. I took a liking to Catawba Pink, a cheap wine only a few steps above what winos hide in their brown paper bags. My usual outfit for attending dances was a sight to behold. I had a nice pink shirt which I offset with a tie depicting yellow roses against a “bird shit blue” background. I KNOW there is no such color as “bird shit blue” but that’s what the guys took to calling it. Completing my outfit were a conservative gray sports coat and a white Stetson hat. A goodly number of the gals at the dance were from College Misericordia and who were bused into town. Not all the gals who wanted to attend could afford the $1 round-trip fee, so our Student Council offered to contribute half of that. “NO WAY”, cried the nuns in charge of” Misery”. “You’re NOT going to buy our girls!” A fair number of Kingsmen had also imbibed some spirits prior to the dance and whichever gal we’d choose to dance with would sometimes turn around to find us missing. We’d be up on the stage, “helping” the band sing along, especially when it came to contributing jungle bird sounds on “La Bamba”.
Second semester transcript
My final semester at King’s turned out to be my BEST! A 2.67! In French, I continued what I had begun just months earlier – not reading any masterpieces but still getting my second “B” in a row. [For those of you keeping track, that’s an overall 3.75 for four years of French.] In Accounting, though, I think I benefitted a wee bit from John Davis’ generosity. He had a habit of awarding slightly-better-than-deserved grades to seniors who had made it that far, more or less as a “going away present”. In Advanced Accounting, I moved up from the previous “D” to a “C” and I also got a “B” in Auditing. Accounting 45, “El Data Proc”, was my introduction the world of computers, which were quite rudimentary compared to today’s wonders. It was taught by Angelo DeCesaris and we used paper punch cards to sort data. We also learned how to set up fields to collect data and then, by swapping wires around on a board, set up a printer to output the data as we wanted it. We had about twenty guys in that class at any one time and, with only one machine to work on, it was quite hard to see through the gathered-around crowd exactly WHAT he was showing us. One guy figured out how to print his data just the way he wanted it and a bunch of the rest of us copied what he had done. I’m pretty sure DeCesaris knew what we had done but he recognized the physical limitations we had to endure. Most of us got a “C”. Money and Banking, taught by Russ Singer, was an interesting course that stood me in good stead for my future career as first a bank examiner and then a loan officer and I did well, with a “B”.
The bottom of that transcript shows where I ended up after four full years of higher education: much closer to the BOTTOM of my class than I was upon leaving Lake-Lehman. LOL! Back then, 18th of 134 meant I was in the top 13.4% of my class. Alas, I had now slid way down to the bottom half of my college class (216th of 331). Aww, shucks. Looked like I should have had a rather dim future, didn’t it? Well, in the long run, it made no difference whatsoever. Getting that sheepskin just opened the door to my future and what I did AFTER that made a huge difference. Not to spoil your future reading, but I retired at 47.
Players-wise, we did our usual two shows that final semester. The very final one was Moss Hart’s “Light Up the Sky” which, like “The Cocktail Party” has left me with no memories at all. I reckon I was just a stagehand again. The Shakespearean production in March DID see me in costume for the final time. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, I played Egeus, father of Hermia. I was a nasty old man who wouldn’t let my daughter marry her swain and insisted she marry another fellow. In one of the opening scenes, I drag her (literally) in front of Duke Theseus (portrayed by Dr. Loomis, our Academic Dean), seeking his ruling on my predicament. I forget the name of the gal who played my daughter but, although we “choreographed” our movements, ‘twas a wonder I didn’t yank her arm out of its socket as I forced her along with me.
Midsummer’s dress rehearsal.
Looking into my yearbook, I see that Santo Loquasto was there to help out, even though he had graduated from King’s two years earlier. I had completely forgotten about his being there at that time. I can only judge that, having attained his post-King’s degree at Yale, he had a bit of time on his hands around his home In Wilkes-Barre before getting into his lengthy career.
Santo and Mrs. Godwin at work on “Midsummer”.
Some of Santo’s handiwork.
Santo, the lucky fellow, as a Costume Designer, got to hang out in the girls’ dressing room. In addition to sewing and making adjustments to costumes, he also advised the gals how to enhance their bust lines by adding darkening in the right place. LOL.
I worked my customary hours in the cafeteria and, in so doing, eventually discovered the final part of the scheme of the infamous “JA”. To refresh your memory, they were the two dormies who always seemed to have items of winter clothing to sell around the dorm, items they had had most likely stolen from skiers’ cars in the Poconos. JA also worked in the dishroom during the dinner shift. I initially thought they hadn’t made enough money selling stolen items and needed more. They weren’t part of my crew washing the dishes. Rather, they were the “pot scrubbers”, wearing long black rubber gloves and immersing their arms up the elbows in hot water as they cleaned the pots from the kitchen. It was a lot more labor-intensive than my job with the dishes but they were paid the same as I was. I noted that they never seemed to be in any hurry and always were still at it when my crew left. From time to time, one of the college’s evening janitors would stop by to BS with them. That didn’t seem strange until, one night, I saw them pass some money to a janitor. Back in the dorm that same night, I heard some Motown music coming from their room and dropped in to listen. They were engaged in studying for an exam and had, in their hands, mimeographed copies of the exam! It finally became totally clear to me: they’d steal clothing, sell it, and pass the money along to the janitor who had obtained the exams from secretaries’ waste baskets in the professors’ offices!!! Having figured it all out, I was still reluctant to say anything to the school authorities, so I kept my mouth shut. I have no idea what became of “A” after graduation but I did, much later, come across “J”’s name on the Internet. He had become an executive at a major newspaper, which goes to show that crime DOES pay.
For my first three years at school, I had gone back to Dad’s Sweet Valley shack during holiday/semester breaks. During freshman and junior years, Hafey Marion Hall would totally shut down during those periods as both Father Campbell and the night time elevator operator would be off. With the place totally shuttered, going to Sweet Valley was my only option. Sophomore year found me in the Sterling which, as a public hotel as well as a dorm, couldn’t close. I don’t believe I came up with my brilliant idea until senior year. Father Simeon Gardner ran the hotel dorm but I had, up until that time, had extremely limited contact with him, perhaps only saying “Hi” in the elevator. I was aware that some of the guys would do some drinking in his apartment. I, as a devout atheist, had no interest in being “buddy-buddy” with a Holy Cross priest and, besides, I was only a social drinker at best. The infamous “JA” WERE habitués of his little drinking circle.
Excuse me, but I have digressed a bit. My brilliant idea senior year was to stay in the hotel during breaks. To do that, I needed Father Gardner’s permission and he granted it after asking several questions. “The caf will be closed. Where are you going to eat?” “There are restaurants in town.” What are you going to do for money?” “The library is open all the time, even during breaks, for students researching papers. “I can use the work/study program to earn bucks working there.” I think what really convinced him was realizing that, back at the shack, I had no running water and the hotel was a far more inviting place.
The library work was easy. A lot of the time was spent re-stacking books that had been returned and, in so doing, I got quite familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. From time to time, I’d do some typing for the librarians, preparing lists of textbooks to be ordered for the upcoming semesters.
At some point during one of the breaks, Father Gardner, missing his drinking buddies, invited me into his apartment. Aside from him, I was the only King’s-related person in the entire hotel. I wasn’t really gung-ho about joining him but I agreed lest he decide I couldn’t stay for the rest of the break. I don’t recall what small chit chat we exchanged but he did offer me my first taste of tequila and I tried it. It gagged me. I probably only spent maybe 45 minutes with him and then thanked him and returned to my room. It must have taken me THIRTY YEARS to, for some unknown reason, decided to Google his name to see what had become of him. What I found astounded me! See http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news3/2002_04_22_Barrs_MarkedBy_James_Lara_etc_1.htm (He is the second priest cited in that article.) Holy hell! I am SO fortunate that I gagged on that one shot of tequila! There’s no telling if he would have made some moves on me.
Career-wise, for the best accounting graduates the highest paying jobs were with the “Big 8” national accounting firms. If I’ve researched correctly, they were: Deloitte, Haskins and Sells; Peat Marwick; Touche Ross; Ernst and Whinney; Lybrand, Ross Brothers, and Montgomery; Price Waterhouse; Arthur Young; and Arthur Anderson. None of the “Big 8” were interested in hiring a goof-off like me with a 2.29 cumulative GPA but I wasted some of their time for the helluvit, signing up for an on-campus interview. Zartman tells me that he had an offer from Ernst and Whinney but it would have involved considerable travel and he turned it down.
Several Federal agencies also came to interview on-campus. I opted to listen to the fellow from the Treasury Department’s Controller of the Currency. They were hiring Assistant National Bank Examiners as GS-7’s, with a starting salary of $7.162. The “Big 8” were paying more on the order of $8,500 but I was totally satisfied with $7,162. The benefits seemed quite magnanimous: retire at 55 after 30 years of service, 3 weeks’ vacation annually from the start plus maybe 10 days of sick leave. I gratefully accepted their offer, as did Mike Murphy, (a fellow dormie from Syracuse NY) and a couple of “townies” from my class.
The examiners seemed to have openings in various locations. They had “offices” in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and maybe one or two other places as well as in Wilkes-Barre. The “offices” were that in name only, consisting of just small groups of employees living in close proximity to each other. The “jobs” involved examining national banks all over Pennsylvania. Some were “day jobs” at banks near to home while others would require week-long travel with stays in motels. For big jobs like Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh we would even fly out to help the local crew.
I COULD have chosen to work in the Wilkes-Barre “office” and, had I done so, maybe my entire career would have turned out differently. (I may have been welcomed back more warmly following my short “Navy career”.) Instead, having only been outside of Sweet Valley and Wilkes-Barre for my summer jobs, I decided to experience the ”big city” and chose to work in the Philadelphia “office”. Given the ever-present threat of the military draft, I had no idea how long the job would last, so I may as well try a place not that far from home.
The BIGGEST need I would have for my job was transportation and, in that respect, I was quite fortunate. My Mom had died when I was only 6 and she had left behind a $1,000 life insurance policy with me as its beneficiary. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company had been holding that $1,000 for me until I turned 21. Over that span, it had grown to $1,800 (roughly 4.5% interest, compounded annually.) Dad’s boss, farmer Renold Morris, had a brother Glenn who was in the car business. He would buy 5-to-8-year-old cars that had been in accidents, then repair them (chiefly just body work) and re-sell them at auction in Manheim, Pennsylvania. I asked him to keep an eye out for one in my price range that HADN’T been damaged too severely. It only took him about a month to find a cute little 1962 blue-and-white Chevy !! Nova and I was quite happy with it.
I seemed to have all my ducks in a row but, at the last minute, realized I’d overlooked one important detail. What was I to WEAR on the job? My wardrobe would need a substantial upgrade but I had failed to foresee that need and had failed to save up enough money to cover it. Lucky again, I contacted my future employer and caught another break. The examiners, when traveling to away-from-home jobs, were on per diem and they’d later submit travel vouchers for reimbursement. I was able to draw a $500 travel advance and, with that, was able to buy 3 suits and the attendant dress shirts and ties.
Life at King’s drew to a close and, upon reflection, had been the best time of my life to that point. I had gotten all set up for a career way beyond what would have been expected of a dirt-poor farmer’s kid who’d had no running water, phone, or TV. My overall college experience had been an enjoyable one. Admittedly, I had “missed out” on many of the things that a lot of the other fellas who got money from home had enjoyed. I attended absolutely NONE of the concerts sponsored by the Student Government or the various classes. Among those were the Four Tops and the Cowsills, both of which occurred during senior year. Simon and Garfunkel had been there my junior year and a “new” fellow named Neil Diamond had come, I think, in 1966. At some point during my 4-year stay, King’s had built a brand-new gym but I attended not a single basketball game. The games were free, having been paid by my student fee but, as with most events, I was more interested in assuming shifts in the cafeteria from guys who DID attend. My constant work with The Players, as well as the innumerable pinochle games and BS sessions in the dorm provided me with all the extracurricular activity I needed.
Graduation was held down Franklin Street from the college, at the Irem Temple, on Sunday, June 2, 1968. Throughout my four years, Dad had gotten copies of my grades and had always said “I didn’t think you do very well”, for he knew how lazy I was. I guess that was his way of prodding me to do better. Now that I had made it, he sat proudly in the audience, smiling from ear to ear. Half of his boys were now college grads.
Ronald E. Hontz
33 Whitcraft Lane
cell phone (717) 309-1402