One of my favorite professors at Georgia Tech was Dr. Roscoe Arantan absent-minded industrial management professor who adorned his portly form with a three-piece suit and color-coordinated tie.
I only had one class with him at 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. As he lectured, he wandered about the room, peering through his glasses at the notes he expected us to record.
I was working my way through school as a night clerk at a small hotel in a residential area. Usually, I was able to grab five or six hours sleep, but on a busy night, that might shrink to only one or two. On those nigh-sleepless nights, I would be "plum tuckered out" during my eight o'clock class.
To give the appearance of rapt concentration, I had learned to entwine my legs in the rungs of the student chair, place my left elbow on the desk arm, my left hand shadowing my forehead above my eyebrows. In my right hand I held my trusty Scripto pencil, poised over my notebook so that I would be ready to write if the need arose.
What I was really doing was applying the engineering principles of construction and strength of materials to be sure I didn't fall out of the chair should I doze which I often did.
When the professor felt that I was off in dreamland, he would walk behind me without breaking his leisurely stride and give me a sharp rap of his knuckles en passant. I would sit up, move my left hand to rub my chin, and write down any words he might be saying.
A year or so after his class, I saw him walking on campus during the lunch hour. After a few moments of reminiscing, he said suddenly, "I really must go." He looked both ways, clearly puzzled, and asked, "Which way was I heading when you stopped me?"
"You were coming from the direction of the Economics Building."
"Oh, good," he said merrily. "Then I've had lunch."
The hotel, which catered to salesmen, was owned by a wealthy real estate broker who had refurbished it. I worked the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.and received the princely salary of $75 per month and a room in the hotel. Not really a bad deal in the early 1950s.
I had many interesting experiences in the hotel and didn't realize at the time that it was fertile ground for some of the characters who later would inhabit my plays and stories. Only one experience made the papers.
One of our regulars was a market researcher for a major New York stock-brokerage firm. He and I often talked during my shift. In July 1952 I had just finished my sophomore year my mother came to visit. I mentioned her coming to the market researcher, who offered me the use of his car to squire mother around the city on Saturday. He gave me the keys and said to leave them in his mail box when I finished, and not to worry about the gas; it was a company car. "It's a black car that'll be parked across the street."
The next morning, mother and I started early. He hadn't told me the make, but the key was to a General Motors car, and we got into a black Chevrolet parked across the street. I drove all day around Atlanta. I showed Mom the Tech campus, the state capitol, the Cyclorama in Grant Park, several other tourist draws and the Varsity drive-in if you knew Atlanta before the expressways, you know why the Varsity was an attraction.
Back at the hotel that evening, I put the key in my friend's box and took a nap before my shift. Later, he walked into the lobby and asked, "Didn't you want to use my car?"
The whole story came out in the newspaper.
My friend owned an Oldsmobile. But his key fit the Chevy I had driven all day. We found out later the Chevy belonged to a man who also worked a graveyard shift and slept during the day. He never missed the car. And, unless he read the paper, nobody ever told him.
After graduating from Tech, I had a career in the Air Force and had a role in George P. Burdell becoming a Vietnam veteran as a U-10 aircraft pilot at Pleiku in the central highlands.
What he really did was make life a little easier for four U-10 pilots and three weather officers.
The seven of us shared a 20-man barracks or "hooch," a single building about 20 feet wide and nearly 60 feet long, without any interior walls. By placing lockers on one side of a six-by-eight space, you could achieve a modicum of privacy.
When I arrived as a FNG (Funny New Guy), the FOGs (Funny Old Guys) had rearranged the
furniture, fabricated hanging lamps and used midnight-requisitioned (stolen) plywood to
partition off a bar and lounge area in front of the hooch.
Each of us had considerably larger private space than had been originally planned.
We lived in relative luxury until the arrival of a newly assigned housing officer a brand-new, gold-bar, second lieutenant. Hurriedly we rearranged our hooch to appear as if it housed 20 men instead of seven. We put sheets and blankets on extra bunks, shoes and boots under them, and name tapes on the lockers. I put "George P. Burdell, Major" on one of them.
When the new "second balloon" made his inspection, he carefully noted that we had 20 spaces in the 20-man facility, all apparently occupied. He paused only once, in front of Burdell's locker.
"Burdell," he muttered. "That name's familiar."
I broke in nervously. "He and I went to college together. Georgia Tech."
"Georgia Tech," he repeated as he looked me fully in the face. "I see."
He left, and we returned our quarters to their former spacious conditions, and were never again bothered during the remainder of my tour.
The day I left Pleiku, I checked out with the billeting office. The lieutenant saw me, came from his office to shake hands and bid me farewell. "If you see Maj. Burdell, tell him hello for me," he said.
I looked into his office. On the wall behind his desk was a large, gold pennant emblazoned with white letters that shouted, "Georgia Tech, Class of '64."
Yep. I had really put one over on the young lieutenant.
Ralph Baber, IE '54
Air Force lieutenant colonel (retired)
Ralph Baber is an award-winning, weekly columnist for The Picayune. At Tech he was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and Air Force ROTC. He retired from the Air Force in 1977 and spent 10 years in real estate in Norfolk, Va., before moving to Texas and beginning his writing career. He has written several plays, including "The Sesquicentennial Pageant," for Llano County, Texas, in 1986; "The Last of Rose Summer"; and "Siamese Twins," an award-winning comedy. He began writing his column, "It Happened This Way," in April 1997.
The Alumni Magazine staff is to be commended for that wonderful 75th anniversary issue [Spring 1998] and also the space issue [Fall 1998]. They are real gems.
I have enjoyed the stories you have published by alumni about incidents that occurred during their Georgia Tech years. This prompts me to offer my own memories about a great institution where I spent four eventful and rewarding years, and which had such a profound influence on my life.
In September 1924, I caught a train to Atlanta to enroll as a freshman. I carried with me dreams of becoming an architect, and to show that I was a man of the world, my golf clubs all wooden shafted in a white canvas bag. A fraternity rush committee met me at the station and took me to their house, where I met the one-and-only Bobby Jones, who had graduated from Tech just two years before in 1922. I knew that he also played with clubs with long wooden shafts (because there was no other kind then), but I don't think that he ever saw my golf sticks or knew that I also had visions of becoming a great golfer. It wasn't long before I found that architecture at Georgia Tech and serious golf did not mix. Those golf clubs stayed in that canvas bag most of my college career.
A lot of work was crowded into four years. I had also had four years experience working in an architect's office, which gave me a distinct advantage over my classmates. I completed the entire freshman drawing requirements in a few months, making the highest grades. My instructors were astounded because nothing like that had ever happened before. I got a job working in the afternoons as a draftsman for an architecture firm, when otherwise I would have been working on freshman design projects. I was paid well, but what was more important, I gained valuable experience.
When my wife, Helen, and I were in Atlanta for my class reunion in 1978, we stayed at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel on West Peachtree. I went out on the balcony that overlooked Spring Street and I had to laugh. Down the street was a building that I helped design as a freshman way back in 1925.
I pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and stayed in the Knowles Dormitory [which has been replaced by the Bill Moore Student Success Center]. My roommates were Jake Lawo of Memphis, Tenn., and Red Wallace, a track man from Statesboro, Ga. Our room faced Grant Field, and we could look out our window and see practically everything that was happening on the field.
The Knowles Dormitory had been completely renovated. The high-ceiling rooms had been newly plastered, but the walls were left unpainted. On the door of each room was posted the dormitory rules or as they became known, Armstrong's Laws, for Professor Arthur Armstrong was in charge of all the dormitories. Rule No. 9 stated that the walls should not be damaged by nails, screws, picture hangers or thumb tacks. This meant we would have to look at those stark white walls for the entire school year.
But one day there appeared on the wall a picture not pinned, tacked or nailed, but pasted. I do not remember which of us did it, but it started a trend. Soon other pictures appeared on the walls.
As we made friends with freshmen from other dorms, we would invite them to visit our room. There were comments about what would happen when we got caught which seemed inevitable.
Our friends began bringing their own pictures, and soon the walls began to be covered with best-girl pictures and pictures from hometown newspapers, magazines and Rotogravure sections of various Sunday papers neatly pasted on the wall. When there was no space left, the ceiling became the target. We thought it was a beautiful room. Anyway, it was warm and different.
In the spring, the blow fell. The word of our picture gallery got back to Armstrong. My roommates and I received invitations to visit the awesome Armstrong. His secretary ushered us into his office and closed the door. Professor Armstrong, with a stern look, got right to the point. We were guilty of defacing the walls of our room. We were to remove the pictures immediately and report back for punishment. When he finished, I asked Armstrong to see a copy of the rules. I read Rule No. 9 aloud.
"Professor Armstrong, sir, that rule does not say anything about not pasting pictures on the wall," I said. "It says not to use nails, screws, picture hangers and thumb tacks. We didn't use any of those."
Armstrong sat there with his mouth wide open.
When school was over and the dormitory began to empty, all the walls were stark and white except room 104. I hope Professor Armstrong's curiosity got the better of him and he went to see the room. I believe he would have liked it.
Thomas F. Faires, Arch '28
The dog, Sideways, was such a celebrity to the Georgia Tech people of my era that I thought you might be interested in my remembrance.
My freshman and sophomore years, before entering the service, were 1944 and 1945. In those days, the Alpha Nu House was on the north side of North Avenue (between the Varsity and Grant Field). There were three or four rooming houses on the street, too.
A roomer moved off and left his dog at the house next to us. We operated a dining room at our house, so our cook started feeding the dog. Heavy traffic being what it was on North Avenue, the dog got hit by a car. After he recovered, he could still walk, but his front legs did not line up with his rear legs. He had a definite "sideways" walk.
This was totally a people dog who never met a stranger. He naturally started following us to the campus each day, but he always came home for his meals. In short order, other students started to notice this dog on campus that had a strange walk. I have no idea who named him "Sideways," but the name stuck. After a while, other students were feeding him so much during the day that he did not always come home. He was adopted by the whole school.
When I came back from the service, Sideways was a campus fixture. When he died, he was buried next to the old Post Office behind the old Administration Building with a proper marble marker. With all the campus changes, I'm not sure it is still there.
Ken Cormany, EE '49
Sideways is not forgotten. The marker is still there.
When I was in the seventh grade in Washington, Ga., I determined that I was going to attend Georgia Tech, take chemical engineering and work for DuPont. That's exactly what I've done. I retired from DuPont after 33 years.
The catalyst may have been a chemistry set I received as a boy. I liked chemistry and played with it. I always had some kind of experiment going on in the back of our house.
I came to Georgia Tech as a freshman in 1940. But in 1942, with our country at war, we went to school all year 'round. I finished in 1943 and served in the Navy. I returned to attend graduate school after the war, and Georgia Tech had gone through a big change.
Tech's student population was only about 3,000 before the war. But after the war, the student population had jumped to 6,000. We had so many freshmen, some of them lived out in the old Navy Base in Chamblee. They held classes there, but would come to campus for labs.
The war years also saw a changing of the guard.
Dr. M. L. Brittain, a gentle man who could also be very firm, retired as president. He was succeeded by Col. Blake Van Leer.
Dean Vernon Skiles, another giant at Tech, died shortly after I returned. As an undergraduate student, I had Dean Skiles in a calculus class. He wore a hearing aid, and if the conversation drifted away from the lesson, he just turned it off. A student once complained about receiving a bad grade for missing a decimal point. Dean Skiles replied, "Young man, if you miss the decimal point, the bridge will fall down!" We once questioned Dean Skiles concerning the proper nomenclature of logarithms. He did not use the same symbols as the textbook. His reply was short. "I have been teaching it my way for 36 years, and this is how we will do it."
On one occasion, an ROTC unit built a small cannon to shoot dummy shells at a paper target that bore the likeness of Tojo, the Japanese general. The target range was the length of Rose Bowl field. However, there was an error in the ballistics calculations and the shell landed in the O'Keefe school yard. Fortunately, it was not during recess. A call from Dean Skiles to the ROTC commandant ended that project.
Dean Skiles was known as the unofficial chairman of the Fulton County Draft Board. If you had a student deferment, and he felt your grades were unsatisfactory, one phone call and you were on the way to the Armed Forces.
Dean Floyd Fields, the long-time dean of students nicknamed "Billy Goat," probably because he had a white goatee was at many of the orientation lectures when I started as an undergraduate student. But when I returned as a graduate student, he was no longer there and George Griffin (right) had begun his tenure as dean of students. Through all this change, I have always considered George Griffin a stabilizing influence.
Dean Griffin was the best friend of all Tech men. I met him early because I went out for his freshman cross-country team. The only race I ran was against Boys' High. After finishing dead last, I told coach Griffin that I should quit. "No you don't," he said. "The exercise will do you good and keep you off the street!"
Our friendship continued the rest of his life.
I was visiting with Dean Griffin just before he retired as Dean of Students in 1964. While I was there, a young lady came in and repaid him $20, which probably was for bus fare. Then a student came in. "What do you want?" Dean Griffin asked in a gruff voice. The student said he had witnessed an automobile accident and the hearing had been set for the same time as his math final.
"Go down to the police station and tell Sgt. Jones that I said for him to change the hearing," Dean Griffin commanded.
The last time I saw Dean Griffin he was in his 90s and in a nursing home, propped up in bed reading a book about the World War II Solomon Islands naval campaign.
Dr. Jess W. Mason was a brilliant and caring professor. He was a department head at the age of 30 and a dean at 40. He had a phenomenal memory, and could do slide-rule calculations in his head. In 1966, I visited him at his home, having not seen him for several years. He looked at me and said, "Johnson, Washington, Ga., 23 years ago."
He would prepare our schedules, assigning us to different sections of his class and on the first day he would call the roll from memory.
In the spring of 1947, Dr. Mason was "resting his eyes" in his office. Some of the graduate students saw him. They went down to the lower floor where many of them worked. One of the fellows called him on the phone, and, imitating President Van Leer said, "Jess, this is Blake. We all need to stay awake around here." In a minute, Dr. Mason called downstairs and announced, "All of you guys are fired." Happily, he did not carry out that threat.
I had the privilege of being the first of Dr. Waldemar T. Ziegler's graduate students. I completed the work on my master's thesis under his supervision in 1947. He was a true genius who had the ability to make complicated problems simple.
Professor John Lawrence Daniel was head of the chemistry department for many years. He was very demanding and always required our best effort. I took both quantitative and qualitative analysis under him. When I entered graduate school, there were no fellowships available in chemical engineering. Professor Daniel gave me one anyway, and I helped teach freshman chemistry lab. That year there were so many freshmen that Professor Daniel would hire any senior or graduate student in chemistry or chemical engineering who was willing to work. We ran both labs in Lyman Hall for three shifts every weekday and once on Saturday. It was a great experience for me, and having to make presentations every time was very helpful to me later in industry.
Georgia Tech taught me how to solve a problem. We learned how to look at the whole problem and how to think it out. It is a lesson that was taught to me by many very special people, and one I will not forget.
William Lloyd Johnson Jr.,
ChemE '43, MS
Many alumni returning to campus for Homecoming must have noticed the change that is taking place at Georgia Tech. To be sure, there are boundaries, yet the environment surrounding the campus reflects change. To the east is the I-75, I-85 interstate connector and a subway line. To the north, Home Park. To the west, a run-down industrial area. To the south, Techwood.
Techwood went from being the nation's first public housing for middle-class folks to being a dangerous area, both for its inhabitants and its rare visitors. It is now the site of new townhouses and apartments, and a new YMCA and elementary school that just opened (the school has high speed Internet access, thanks to Georgia Tech).
This housing complex now separates Georgia Tech from Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia World Congress Center, the CNN Center, the Georgia Dome, and the soon-to-be-built home for the Atlanta Hawks. What is now within walking distance of campus was barely dreamed of a generation ago and (for the places that existed) was unreachable by foot a mere three years ago.
West Campus as we know it used to be part of the mill village for Atlantic Steel. In addition to the small 70's-style dorms, Tech now has 2000 new beds in apartment-style dorms (all with ethernet hookups), a late-night hang-out and digital recording studio, a new parking deck with a diner, a convenience store and more basketball courts. Atlantic Steel is about to be developed into a large entertainment complex and technology park with an apartment complex thrown in for good measure. Between the dorms and Atlantic Steel we have the new, super-high-tech GCATT building (each of the more than 200 seats in the main hall has an ethernet connection and two power ports), the new Graduate Living Center, the Tech softball fields, and soon-to-be-overhauled Home Park.
Tech used to be a regional school of white males. Now it is now highly ranked for the number of minority engineers that graduate. The percentage of our students who are women continues to climb. All three of Tech's Truman Scholars have been women, and two were African-American.
The number of cultures at Georgia Tech is represented by the flags that fly in the Charles Smithgall Student Services Building, which is part of the Dean George C. Griffin Student Complex (along with the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts and the Fred B. Wenn Student Center). The Callaway Student Athletic Complex is a long stone's throw from the Dean Griffin statue. Few of these buildings were here before I started at Tech in 1990.
The application for undergraduate admission now includes two pages for activities, sports and leadership, and room for an essay. This information will now be used in conjunction with standardized test scores and high school academic performance to determine which students are admitted to Georgia Tech. Because of these changes, Tech's top merit scholarship is now much more inclusive, as the artificially high test score cut-off has been eliminated.
Students interested in Georgia Tech's rewards, value and reputation now have several more choices for majors, double majors, minors and certificates. The Ivan Allen College, in particular, is growing rapidly. Even non-Georgia residents are beginning to select International Affairs; Science, Technology and Culture; and History, Technology and Society as their majors, and they will soon be able to add Public Policy to that list.
On bright, sunny days, these students will congregate on the shaded steps near the Kessler Campanile and its fountain. They will be drinking espressos or slushees from the Cyber.Cafe in the Frank K. Houston Bookstore Mall, which now includes a Hair Cuttery, College Optical and an expanded convenience store, along with the BuzzCard (student ID/meal card/key card) office.
Students now register for classes online using a Web interface, and select their dorm rooms the same way. Before they register for classes, they can check the on-line course critique (and possibly submit a few evaluations while at the site). "Word" for these classes is available, not just through the vault in a fraternity house, but again, online (or at the Library, for the Web-challenged). How do you know the word will be available? The honor code guarantees it, thanks to student initiative and faculty approval.
Clearly, this is not your father's Georgia Tech.
Randolph McDow, IE '95
The Summer 1998 issue of the Alumni Magazine showed a Marilyn Monroe picture on page 8 wearing a White and Gold [Georgia Tech sweater], which reminded me of a People magazine issue (early '80s). It features Brooke Shields wearing a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football jersey. I thought I had saved it, but I couldn't find it. Maybe you can.
Mark D. Rambeau, IE '84
Atlanta, GA 30327
The photo appeared in the August 10, 1981, issue of People. Brooke Shields' publicity agent said the jersey was a gift from an admirer "and she really does like it."
You've hit another one out of the park with the Fall 1998 Space issue of the Alumni Magazine. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.
However, not all Georgia Tech alumni with a passion for space exploration are astronauts or make their living in that field. Many of us are involved in membership organizations that bring space enthusiasts together and promote space development through education, community outreach and grassroots lobbying efforts. For example, there are many Tech alumni active in the National Space Society www. nss.org, whose mission is to promote a spacefaring civilization one in which people routinely live and work in space.
NSS has many chapters, including one in Atlanta www. offworldsolutions.com/nssatl/ which sponsors monthly lectures at Fernbank Science Center. I encourage all Tech alumni with an interest in space science and exploration to get involved you don't have to be an astronaut to make a difference.
Jerry Samples, Phys '86
In response to the "Horse Sense" article in the Fall '98 "TechNotes," I appreciate the cost of a college education. I am the wife of a 1962 master's degree graduate, and mother of a 1983 graduate. I am also a professional horseman and a Purdue University graduate.
In 1898, a horse was a very necessary part of life. The cost was a real necessity. Today, the fees for ownership are no more than that of a boat, airplane or high-level sports equipment.
But a horse is not just a frivolous expense. The horse provides self-esteem, physical therapy, psychological uplift and dedication to a living being that teaches self-control and responsibility. And, yes, a horse is a source of recreation. This fills free time and provides diversion from less wholesome activities. Attending a football game is great social activity, but hardly comparable.
Perhaps we should recommend that horseback riding be a suggested activity for Georgia Tech students. The cost looks like a bargain to me!
The Long Grey Line Farm