Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The University of Wisconsin: Graduation

(click here to read previous story: Snowstorms and Cross-dressing)

In 1950, the U.S. became involved in the Korean War.  As long as Dinon was in college he had a deferment, but the moment he graduated he would be eligible for the draft.

He finished his final exam in the spring of 1953.  At that time, he was engaged to a girl named Dorothy Brown.

"I really don’t remember a lot about Dorothy, but we were engaged, and I actually proposed.  She had a ring and my mother helped pick it out, as a matter of fact," he said.
"She was from Wisconsin Rapids ... I don’t remember an awful lot about Dorothy. I don’t even remember what she looked like."

University of Wisconsin graduation in Field House
Class of 1953 - UW's 100th Commencement Ceremony
The graduation ceremony did not take place immediately after his final exam. The gap was large enough between exams and commencement (scheduled for June 19th) that Dinon took a position teaching 'camping skills' at a nearby lakeside summer camp.  He even headed out there to work for a while until the ceremony.

"I had to hitchhike to the camp, and then hitchhike back for the graduation ceremony," he said.  According to Dinon, hitchhiking used to be a common method of transportation at the time.  "But in my senior year of college, it was getting harder to hitchhike.  There were just a few [bad and publicized] incidents, but it was enough that the public was starting to get concerned about picking someone up, because there were some [hitchhikers] that would do something to the driver, rob them, or whatever.  So, people were a little more cautious, so I made sure I looked well.  I had to wait longer for my rides but I'd eventually get one."

"So, I came back and went through graduation.  At that time, Wisconsin was one of the largest universities in the country, and the graduation ceremony was in the stadium," he said. "After the ceremony, and after all the pictures were taken, I was walking back to turn in my cap and gown."

A 1955 photo of Camp Randall Stadium,
where Dinon's graduation ceremony took place
On that walk back, he ran into his first-year roommate, Kip, the Norwegian.  Kip had just graduated as well, with honors ("He took an easy course for his degree, some kind of 'Studies'").  While catching up, Kip looked over at Dinon's bundled-up commencement robes and asked where his honor cord was.

"I said, 'What are you talking about?', and he said, 'Didn't you go up to Bascom Hall and check the list of who’s eligible to be graduating with honors?'  Turns out I was eligible ... but I didn't know it!  So here I am, I'm on the way back to turn in my cap and gown, and Kip tells me that I was on the list because he knew he was going to graduate with honors because he got good grades all along.  I had had five D’s in chemistry to overcome ... So, I found out just by accident that I’d graduated with honors, but on my transcript it does show 'honors'.  So, you send away your transcript to companies that you want to have hire you, why, they’re gonna see that.  But my parents, of course, didn't have the ability to take the nice pictures with the cord."

Even though his deferment ended with his graduation, he waited to be called.

"I think it was in August or something like that, that they caught up with me," he said.  "At that time, I was working at the camp.  They knew it was a possibility I might be drafted, but they didn't know when.  So, then I got the call from friends and neighbors, so I went back home.  I had to leave the camp, even though they weren't quite done with the season, but it was pretty well advanced, and I didn't have any choice and they knew it.  I wasn't afraid – was too dumb to be afraid, probably.  That would've been in 1953."

Dorms, Food
and Studies
and Cross-

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Snowstorms and Cross-dressing

Snow at the University of Wisconsin, 1958
(click here to read previous story:

Dinon's transcript proves that he did well at college, showing that he graduated with honors.  But from the stories he tells, it's clear that he also had a lot of fun along the way.

"The University of Wisconsin is very hilly, and when we had a snow storm, we liked to get on the hills and make them really icy to slide down before the maintenance crew came out with the sand and the shovels," Dinon said.  "I had an early class, so I’d just get up a little earlier and we had a BALL sliding down the hills.  As more guys and gals slid down the hills, it became more icy and it was really fast!"

He also said, with a wink and a smile, that he went out on a lot of dates with a lot of girls.  When the occasion was there, some of those dates were enjoyed at the college's school dances.

"We oftentimes had different contests for king and queen of a dance or something like that, and we’d put on skits to try and attract people watching the skit to vote for them.  There were several people vying for the same honor of the king and queen," Dinon said.  "One year, they were [vying] in the place where we were eating, and one of the guys took a tray and he put a bunch of silverware on it, and then partway through the skit he emptied that tray on the terrazzo floor, and it made a racket.  A lot of people interpreted the noise that, he was going along, just watching the skit, and he wasn't watching, and then he dropped the stuff on the floor accidentally.  Everybody just laughed about that.  But it was on purpose and it had its effect, that’s all we were worried about.  So, it was fun."

But it was the antics of the Haresfoot organization that amused him the most, even as just an outside observer.

Haresfoot actors backstage: Feb 27, 1961
"Haresfoot was an organization of men only, and annually they always put on a show over a weekend where they’d have the chorus line, like The Rockettes, y’know, and the guys would dress up as women and get wigs and so on and ... y'know ... stuff their braziers ... and they were good," he said.  "[Haresfoot] was a good organization and some of the guys were quite creative in using that for something else ... and one of the fraternities decided that they’d like to play a prank on their fraternity president."

A big dance was coming up ... and one of the guys had a buddy in Haresfoot.

The fraternity members went to the president's girlfriend for help pulling it off.  "Just before the dance, tell him you're sick," they said, "Since he's the president, he'll have to have a date, and we're going to fix him up."

The day of the dance arrived, and the president received a call from his girlfriend: she was too sick, he'd have to find someone else to go with.  Now he had to scramble to find a suitable available girl at the last minute.  "We've got a girl for you," his fraternity brothers said.  "She's in the dorms, we'll give her a call and set you up."  The president agreed, and arrangements were made for his date to meet him at the fraternity house.

"When the fraternity president came downstairs after dressing for the dance, well, here’s this girl, standing at the fireplace, kind of leaning on the mantle and really nice-looking, and, well, he was really pleased.  So they go to the dance together and, oh, he has a good time," Dinon said.

Like a gentleman, the president walked his date back to the girls' dorm after the dance.

"Now the practice at the time was to give the girls a curfew, the University thinking that if you control the girls, you control the guys ... it’s not quite true, but maybe largely so.  So, on Fridays and Saturdays the curfew was 1230 or something like that," Dinon said.  "So then it comes the time, because of the curfew, to take his date back to the dorm so she can get in.  Well, everyone kisses right at that time, right before the girls go in the door they kiss them goodnight."

So, the president - still oblivious - tells his date what a nice time he had, and leans in for a goodnight kiss ...

" - and then the date whips off his wig – so that you could see he’s a guy – then he SPLITS down and gets out of Dodge!"

A Haresfoot production: 1946
Dinon began to laugh.

"The fraternity president - he didn't know what to do!  Because he realized he’d been HAD," he said, laughing.  "That was REALLY funny."

There were plenty of other gender-bending pranks that the Haresfoot boys loved to pull as well.

"On another day, some of the guys were swimming naked in the pool," Dinon said.  "Well, a couple of the Haresfoot guys got dressed up and walked into the pool area.  And, the other guys SPLIT, man, they couldn't get out of the pool quick enough to get away from these 'girls' walking along the pool!  And then, they walked into the shower area – I mean, it was CHAOS until they revealed that they were from Haresfoot.  It created quite a stir at the time ... but, it was funny, it really was funny."

Their fun contrasted against the events of the outside world: in June of 1950, the end of Dinon's freshman year, the Korean War began.  Each year, more young men, like those from Haresfoot, graduated from The University of Wisconsin ... and, in so doing, lost their college deferment and were drafted.  

Which is exactly what happened to Dinon in 1953.

(Next story: Graduation)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dorms, Food and Studies

(click here to read previous story: Wisconsin Rapids)

When Dinon arrived at the University of Wisconsin in 1949, he lived in the dorms and started out studying Chemical Engineering, just like his father.  

"I was in a dorm, and the men's dorms were at the far end of the campus.  I was in Gregory House and I was in the end room on the first floor the whole time I was there, in the same room all four years," Dinon said.  "The first year, I had a roommate named Kip Thorsen - he was from a Norwegian family - but he only was my roommate the first year, and after that he stayed in a private room in the dorm."

There was also plenty of comfortable public space for the boys to study and spend time together.
Dinon still has a pennant with
UW's Bucky Badger on it


"There was a door from my room to another room that was used as a 2-room suite for the house mother during summer school, so one year we decided we’d set up one of the rooms as a study, and the other one to sleep," Dinon said.  "On the first floor, there was a den, and we’d play cards in there usually – we didn’t have any machines for soft drinks or anything like that – but that was the place to gather.  Sometimes we had what’s known as a house meeting, because there were, I think, four floors in the house ... The window ledges were very wide, so that you could get a pile of papers or some of your books on there if you wanted to."

The young men in Gregory House lived in comfort and were well taken care of - for example, maids would tidy the boys' rooms on weekdays.

"On weekends we had to make our own beds," Dinon admitted.  "Now, for some guys, this was out of the realm of possibility, they didn't make beds, but I made mine because I was used to it."

They also never washed their own laundry - they mailed it back home for their mothers to wash.

"We had a post office right next to our dorm room, and we didn't have any washers and dryers, so every week we mailed our laundry home in a box with a strap to be washed and ironed," Dinon said.  "And then my mother would wash it and everything and then send it back.  And she oftentimes included some cookies or something like that in addition.  Everyone sent their stuff home – there was no other place to wash it."

He chuckled.  "I was very spoiled," he admitted.

Even the boys' cafeteria food was good.

"We had a chef who came to the University well-recommended, and he was the one who was in charge of the food for the dorm guys," Dinon said.  "We got used to lining up, getting a tray, and then just going through the line lickety-split, and quickly eating so you could get to class."

But that efficiency was disrupted when, during his junior year, one of the men's dorms was converted into a dorm for girls.

These might have been some of the
girls holding up the food line
"Well, it may have sounded OK, but the very first day when they were serving breakfast, the line, instead of just moving right along, was at a stand-still," Dinon said, still exasperated by the memory.  "The girls, I don’t know what they had in their mind, if they were looking at all the food and wondering if they were going to get something else, but the line hardly moved and the guys were all upset because we were used to going through, 'OK, you want it, put it on your tray, and off you go.' But, well, the girls kind of dawdled, and they dawdled the whole way along the line, and, well, it really created some chaos.  It probably took a good week or more before the girls finally realized that you weren't going to get another choice or anything – if you want it, take it, otherwise, move your tray, y'know?  So they finally got to the point where the line moved rapidly, and the guys were happy about that.  I mean, at first it was terrible, but the girls finally learned, if you want it, take it, if not, keep on going! Zip zip zip!”

While living in the dorms he attended full-time classes, pursuing a degree in chemical engineering just like his father.  However, after receiving five straight 'D' grades in chemistry classes, it seemed pretty clear that he was not destined to be a chemical engineer like Ralph.  His father permitted him to switch his studies to Business.

He did well in Business courses, eventually graduating with honors in 1953.  He not only kept up with studies, he made sure to enjoy all the social fun the campus had to offer, such as pretty girls, king and queen nominations, and ... cross-dressing fraternities?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wisconsin Rapids

(click here to read previous story: Wausau, WI - Middle School in the Midwest)

In 1946, my 15-year-old grandfather, Dinon, moved with his family from Wausau, Wisconsin to Wisconsin Rapids, just in time to start high school.  In Wisconsin Rapids, he also continued his efforts in the Boy Scouts and even picked up a part-time job as well.

Young Dinon, sitting in a chair that his son,
Todd, still has today in his home office
“I became interested in radio in high school, and I started working part-time for a radio repair place," Dinon said.  "Of course, this was before TV and everything like that.”

As a kid, his only way to get around town was to walk.  And, since there were no school buses, that included his commute to school.

"I don’t remember ever staying home for a teacher’s conference day or something like that, and we never had a snow day," he said.  "Why have a snow day?  You’re walking to school!  You aren't being picked up by the school bus, you walked.  I remember when we lived in Wisconsin Rapids if it was bad enough, why, you just walked in the street because the plows always were out ... If it was bitter cold, ok, you better bundle up!"

Since there was no cafeteria at the high school, all the kids walked home for lunch.

In case you wondered what a
lettuce worm looks like...
"Dad came home for lunch also, from work," Dinon said.  "So we ate breakfast in the breakfast nook, and then lunch and supper were at the dining room table."

Dinon's mother was a stellar cook and, with the exception of that one time a lettuce worm hid in his brother Daryll's salad, their meals were always excellent and almost always included a homemade dessert.  After eating lunch, his father Ralph went back to work and the kids walked back to school.

After school, Dinon participated in Boy Scouts and learned everything from hiking to first aid.  And it's a good thing he did, too.

“I can say that I broke Daryll’s arm," he said with a smile.  "It was summertime, I was in high school, and we’re out in the yard, and we’re playing Catapult.  So I’m on my back, and holding up my legs, and catapulting him off my legs.  And it’s fun! ... until you come down wrong."

Daryll landed badly on his right arm and, from his Boy Scout training, Dinon could tell that it was broken.  And he couldn't just run in and tell his parents - they were out shopping and had left the kids home alone.

A young picture of handsome Dinon
"Being the boy scout I was, I knew to go ahead and immobilize it, and had him hold it as we went into the house, against himself so it wouldn't move, so he was good about doing that," Dinon said.   "So I put him in the house in the den on his back, I put his arm across his stomach and waited for my parents to come home.  When my folks got home I told them what had happened, and I don’t know if they took him to the doctor or to a hospital or what ... I don’t remember getting in trouble particularly, it was just one of those accidental things that happened, we weren't doing anything we hadn't done before.  That was unfortunate, but that’s what happened.  That’s the way it goes!  Things happen!"

Dinon continued to be active in the scouts right up until the point of becoming an Eagle Scout.  However, due to allergy problems, he could never swim well enough to earn a Swimming badge ... and without a Swimming badge, he was not eligible to pursue Eagle Scout status.

"They have alternatives now for Swimming, but back then they didn't," he said.

1958: Grandma Henness holding her first great-
grand-child, Diann; Dinon's wife, Liz, is
standing behind the chair
Breaking their previous pattern of frequent moves, the Boyer family stayed in Wisconsin Rapids for many years to come and Dinon's parents, Ralph and Alma, ultimately retired here.  Several years after Dinon moved out on his own, his maternal grandmother, Grandma Henness, who had lived with the family since their home in Nahant, finally passed away.

"I can't remember when Grandma died, but she lived with us for a long long time," Dinon said.  "She died when we lived in Wisconsin Rapids ... but I don't recall exactly when she passed."

As his high school days drew to a close, Dinon prepared for the next stage of his life: college.  With a father that earned a master's degree in chemical engineering in 1930, and parents who planned their children five years apart so they could pay one college tuition at a time, there was no doubt about where he was going after his high school graduation.

So, in the autumn of 1949, Dinon packed up and moved to his father's alma mater, The University of Wisconsin, to study chemical engineering.