WWII Memoirs – 1943 – I Go To College

As basic training was drawing to a close, I began to wonder, “Whats next?” I didn’t have a clue, but I knew that somewhere in all those tests and evaluations administered to me during the induction processing back at Fort Lewis, my fate as a member of the military had already been determined.

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Eugene Neubauer returns to Franklin Institute of Technology, circa 1996.

So, as this phase of my service career ended, I was surprised and elated at my new assignment: I was ordered to report to Franklin Technical Institute in Boston. I was assigned to go to college!! Back in Portland I had deferred college because of my impending military draft, and now the military was ordering me to college, at least for ten weeks.

When I got, to Boston, the good surprises continued. The first place I was taken was to the us “students’” dormitory. And directly across from my dorm was Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox Professional Baseball team. I could hardly believe my good fortune!

When I was growing up in a small rural village in North Dakota, the only professional sports we enjoyed was through radio then. There was no NBA or NFL. Only Big League Baseball, comprised of two leagues, and those two leagues had only sixteen teams compared to today’s thirty. And one of those teams was located across the street! To cap off the good luck, admission to the games was free to servicemen and women.

To add to the good baseball news, Boston had two of the sixteen Major League teams, one in the American League (the Red Sox) and one in the National League (The Bees). That meant that there was always baseball entertainment available during the entire season.

I appreciated all of the classroom work, but the most meaningful and challenging part of the program was the “field” projects, in which we mapped a section of of one of the citys’ parks and then a strip of road. It was a simple form of mapping, using crude survey instruments, and a rudimentary knowledge of map concepts, symbols, and geographic features. That instruction also included the use of lettering sets, contour pens and measuring devices.

We used our “stride” to measure all the distances that went into our two maps. A “stride” was two steps of normal walking. We had spent an afternoon walking a pre-measured distance on the esplanade of the Charles River, determining each students’ stride. I don’t know how many time I walked back and forth on that strip of ground, but the concept of “stride” became very important once applied to our mapping.

Though most of Boston’s weather was sunshine and blue skies, I remember only one instance when it became very unpleasant. I had been warned about the humidity of the Eastern Seaboard, and it took just one experience to realize it was not a myth. It began like any other evening, but as night came on, the atmosphere in our dorm became “close” and stifling. The dorm was not equipped with air conditioning, and fanning the air brought no relief. Eventually I was lying in soaked bed clothes, the moisture coming from my own perspiration.

As the evening wore on, several of us took our mattresses and went up on the roof, to take advantage of the open sky. A beautiful moon-lit night greeted us, but so did the humidity! It was the same atmosphere as in the dorm.

There was no other place to go, so we spent the remainder of the night tossing and turning (and perspiring) in one of the most fitful, sleepless nights in my life I can still feel the sticky underclothes and the wet bedding.

By morning the humidity had dropped, and putting on dry clothes, went to breakfast.

I till think Boston was a wonderful city, and 1943 was a great summer.

 
Next Entry: WWII Memoirs – May 1943 – A Squadron Takes Shape
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