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Three score and ten or more

Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day

I picked up a copy of the Georgia Southern University student newspaper today (the GeorgeAnne, if that's not a fun pun), and discovered that it was featuring the celebration of Earth Day. I thought back to the very first Earth Day. It was my first year at Georgia Southern, and I had originally come here as Scene Designer and Technical Director. To those of you with no clue, that meant that it was my job to design the scenery and lighting for the plays, and get both of these ready so that when opening day came, we wouldn't all be embarrassed. Our play at that time was one called Look Homeward Angel, which had a fairly complex setting with a variety of different scenes, both indoor and outdoor on the stage. We had, what could be called, a very small theatre staff (The director and myself) and a relatively small theatre program. As a result, the scene construction and installation involved every student who was taking a Stage Craft class, all the members of the cast and a couple of students who were paid minimum wage for ten hours a week.

At this time, there was no tradition of "Earth Day", it had never happened before, and wasn't part of the yearly schedule. It was instituted well after rehearsal had started for the play. When they announced that the University was going to join in the celebration of the day, all students were excused from classes and other activities, but the set for the play was far from complete, and we were supposed to start dress rehearsals that weekend. As a result, I found myself working all alone by myself on the stage beginning at about seven in the morning, and I carpentered and painted and cursed as I heard people running around out in the quad (here it is called the Sweetheart Circle) singing, and yelling and having a great time. My temper got shorter and shorter as I got more and more exhausted.

At this time, I need to insert some background. As an undergraduate I had attended Idaho State College (or ISC). Someone had created a mocking song about ISC sung to the tune of the Cornell University Alma Mater (Far Above Cayuga's Waters). The song went

Far above the Portneuf River
Standing here are we,
In an old abandoned outhouse
Known as ISC.

There was an equally disrespectful chorus that I won't bother to write because it was not only disrespectful but vulgar..

Back at Georgia Southern (then) College on earth day I was carrying a gallon paint bucket and a brush up a fourteen foot A frame ladder when suddenly, out of nowhere, I began to sing.

Far above Ogeechee's waters (we have our own river, as did Idaho State)
Slaving here are we (I couldn't think of a way to create a rhyme with "I", even though I was alone.)
In an old abandoned outhouse.
Known as GSC.

I had just begun the even more disrespectful chorus when I heard a roar out in the audience space (I was on the auditorium/theatre stage).


I looked out and saw an elderly gentleman coming down the aisle. I discovered later that he was a tenured history professor and the unofficial historian and all time most fanatic backer of the College.

He then proceeded to ask my name, my position, my parents names, the name and address of the rented hovel holding my wife and children, and who I worked for.

I looked him right in the eye and told him I was an Earth Day volunteer from the community, and that I had been stuck in here by those in charge of the holiday, and I was resentful that I didn’t have any help. I then offered to lend him a paintbrush if he wished to join me.

Knowing damn well that I was lying, but really unable to reach the authorities of the College because they were all out in the Sweetheart circle listening to the band play or giving speeches, he walked away muttering to himself.

In the ensuing days, I had occasion to explain my actions to the Department Head, the Division Head and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. To a man, they were mildly sympathetic, but at the same time warned me that I had offended one of the more influential men in the community.

We actually became pretty good friends over the next twenty years, and he often commented on the occasion of our first meeting. When he passed away, only a few weeks ago, there were several large articles about him in the paper, (along with an obituary), something I don't anticipate on my own passing (which I plan to stall as long as possible.)

Let's see,

Far above the river styxx -- That doesn't scan,,,,,Oh well, its late.


At 3:18 AM, Blogger Norma said...

Funny story. I've heard "Earth Day" celebration mentioned several times on the news. I suppose it is appropriate for those lauding high priest Gore and his religion of environmentalism. It has been interesting to see how this has evolved over the last 35(?) years.

Why weren't the students designing and building the sets?

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Michael Nielsen said...

Dick, I love this story! I know a few people who would enjoy singing the song now, although they would likely insist on having the words to the chorus!

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Norma, it was my first year there, and I didn't know of a student who could design anything. The students were supposed to build (under my supervision) the sets, but it was earth day, and EVERYBODY (including me) had the day off. Unfortunately I was working because I knew how many more days before dress rehearsal.


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