Back in June, I sat in the amphitheater at Eastern Kentucky University and watched the final concert of the Stephen Foster Music Camp for 2010. It was especially poignant for me as my sister, Jane Hall, was the oldest performer in the alumni band, which was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the camp. She attended the camp back in 1937 and 1938 and can still play the clarinet. Wow!
I was just thinking how lucky I am to have lived in a town that had a college in it. Over the years, I have had so many wonderful times at EKU, it is hard to remember all of them.
Back in the 30s and 40s, life in Richmond would certainly have been a bore if it were not for all the activity in athletics, homecoming parades, concerts in the old band shell downtown on the corner of Second Street and Main, and other things at EKU that breathed life into the community.
There were very few organized activities for kids in Richmond back then. We had to create our own or hunt the action. A lot of that action was the ball games at EKU, namely baseball, football and basketball.
A lot of kids would attend the baseball games as they did not charge admission. Richmond native Joe Reeves was a frequent umpire of these games. Turkey Hughes, who wore many hats at Eastern, was an excellent baseball coach and produced many good teams. Baseball was a great source of enjoyment to all of us during those lean years.
Football and basketball were also important to us. We could generally come up with the 15 or 20 cents it cost us to go to four football games a year. If Eastern won, we would double-time it to the power plant building where they would let us blow the shrill, steam-powered whistle that would wake up the town. That same whistle was used to signify the change of classes.
It was a little different scenario for the basketball games which were played in the Weaver Health Building. There were so many games, we did not always have the money to attend. When that happened we would slip into the games by climbing in a window in the men’s restroom and sneak by the ticket taker at the foot of the stairs and hope we didn’t get caught!
What little culture I’ve acquired in my life mostly came from events that I attended in the Hiram Brock Auditorium. I have listened to choral groups, recitals, speeches, band and orchestral performances and operatic singers. I have watched plays, ballet performers and degrees passed out. Yes, this building has meant a lot to me.
I participated in a few things at Hiram Brock. The first was in 1934 or 1935 when I was in a Madison Grade School Choral group that sang in a Christmas play there. Later in 1947 and 1948, I was in ROTC at Eastern and ushered for the performances of Helen Jepson (a famous opera singer) and later the Golden Gate Quartet. Those were great moments in my life.
I also have had the pleasure of watching some of my family perform at Hiram Brock. My sister, Jane, playing in the band and orchestra, my nephew, Wayne Smith, in a piano recital and, lately, my granddaughter, Allison Jones, in ballet and dancing with Laura’s School of Dance. I’m proud of them!
Last, but not least, is my own education. If I had not lived in a college town, I probably would not have gone to college. I did get a commission there and was in the National Guard and Army Reserve for 14 years. Army discipline helped make me a better person. I also played on the golf team from 1947 to 1950 and had many great times. I regret that I did not get a diploma, but dropped out of school and went to work. Ouch!
Yes, living in a college town has brought me many, many moments of joy in my life. I’m thankful Richmond is the home of Eastern Kentucky University. Long may it live — aloha and mahalo!
Until next time … Live, love, laugh and learn.