I was certainly disappointed when Lafayette College did not accept me as a transfer student. I soon learned their policy was widespread, since all of the colleges were bursting at the seams because of the GI Bill. I could have enrolled as a freshman by dropping the credits I had earned at NYU during the summer of ’43, but I was in a hurry and not really sure I wanted to be an engineer. (Sour grapes?) I felt that enough time had been lost by my service in the Army. I wanted to get a degree as quickly as possible and get on with my life.
Army service qualified me for all of the goodies in the G. I. Bill and what a bonanza it was! As I look back at that package, it amazes me that anything so generous could get through the Congress. Tuition and books were completely paid for and, in addition, I received $65 monthly in “subsistence.” That was later increased to $75. And in the months before I started school in the Fall of ’46, I qualified for unemployment insurance known as the 52-20 Club; it was part of the GI Bill. Veterans without a job I could sign up to receive $20 a week for a maximum of 52 weeks. I managed to collect the full amount by the time I graduated. The money came in very handy during the Summer months when I was not attending school and therefore was not getting the $65 monthly subsistence. Translate all of that into 2003 dollars and the amount of money boggles the mind.
The financial aid I received made it very comfortable for me to live at home and commute via subway (five-cent fare each way) to the Washington Square College of Arts and Sciences, especially since Mom and Dad did not charge room and board. The big decision still confronting me was what courses to take. I ended up choosing a major in Journalism and minors in History and English.
Why Journalism? I still wonder. Part of the answer, silly as it may sound, is that when in high school I had seen the Broadway production of “Front Page” and thought the reporter in the play was the greatest. Worldly wise, fedora tilted back, cigarette dangling from his mouth, working at his typewriter in shirtsleeves, punctuated by dramatic shouts in the newsroom of “Stop the presses” and “Copy boy!” What an exciting job that appeared to be! However, in light of the fact that I really had no particular career preference, Dad and I after much discussion decided that a liberal arts education would be of great benefit and Journalism courses would serve to sharpen my writing skills, an important capability no matter what direction my career took.
Written 27 December 2002 – 18 January 2003