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-

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