Forward … To The Past (Part One)

… with apologies to Doc Brown and Marty McFly. ūüėČ

Last week I flew to Dulles International Airport, rented a car, and drove to Penn State for a few days of work on the Drill Team / Honor Guard alumni reunion I’m putting together. I stayed in a Super 8 Motel this time, in contrast to the Nittany Lion Inn where I stayed in July during my big trip. (The NLI is *much* nicer!)

I got to the motel around 7 PM and had dinner at the next-door IHOP. As I relaxed in my room that night, I had the oddest sensation – of belonging but not belonging. It’s difficult to explain, because this is the first time I’ve really had that feeling at Penn State. All my previous visits have been with friends somewhere in the mix, and as a result it was easy to slip back to the ’69 – ’73 era when we were all students. This time, though, I wasn’t seeing anyone I knew from “the old days,” and I felt somewhat disconnected from everything. It was very odd.

After a good night’s sleep, though, I felt more normal and not so disconnected. My first appointment was with one of the Events coordinators at the NLI. She took me on a tour of the meeting spaces at the hotel and explained how their pricing works (it’s not like I thought – the price of the meal includes the room fee and everything), and we discussed what I want to do during the reunion – meals, events, and so on. She left me with a nice packet of information to plow through now that I’m home.

My second appointment was lunch with a former AFROTC instructor who is now employed in the IT group at Penn State. He has a wealth of contacts from when he taught the cadets (and even more from when he was a student at PSU), and I’m sure he will prove to be invaluable as the reunion gets closer and things get more hectic. He also invited me to dinner that night, and there I met the current Honor Guard commander and a previous commander. The four of us had a good, long conversation about a lot of things, but mostly about the HG and their plans for the Spring Semester. (The HG is hoping to host a competition this year, in addition to attending one or more competitions in the Northeast. Right now, they’re waiting for a response from the PSU Athletic Department to their request to use Rec Hall for the competition.)

In between lunch and dinner, I spent the afternoon at the Detachment, poring through old AFROTC (and multi-service) annuals. I collected a whole bunch of new names for our contact list, and as I skimmed the yearbooks and wrote down names I wandered off into the past multiple times. I also had a chance to introduce myself to the current HG adviser and talk with her for a bit. She proved to be very warm and friendly; I hope that having my face to go with my name will result in a good working relationship as plans for the reunion mature.

The Detachment also has 8 or 9 loose-leaf notebooks full of¬†old newspaper clippings from the ’50s and ’60s. I hadn’t planned to go through those at first, both because they seemed to be more general in nature and not Drill Team-specific and also because most of them had been attached to their backing pages with cellophane tape and the tape wasn’t doing its job any more. So I had lots of loose clippings to go through if I wanted to take that route. I decided to go ahead and look through them, though, and I’m glad I did. There were a lot of clippings from the ’50s about whether ROTC should be mandatory on campus (it was finally made voluntary in the early ’60s), and even more from the late ’60s and early ’70s about whether ROTC should be on campus at all. Skimming all the news articles, editorials, and letters-to-the-editor brought back some memories about life on campus as a cadet during that time.

But in the end, I was also glad I went through the clippings because I struck paydirt – twice! One item I found was a program for the 1959 Eisenhower Trophy drill competition between the three services on campus, which contained the names of every cadet participating in the meet. (No, not Ike. His brother, Milton, was Penn State’s president in that era.) So right there I had a full roster of the 1959 Drill Team. The second item I found was an undated, untitled clipping mixed in with some from 1955. This little gem included the names of all the Drill Team pledges who had been inducted onto the Team that year. So that gave me another group of 36 new names. And then I found the occasional reference to one or more DT members in other articles. I was even able to find the names of some of the advisers through the years.

All in all, I found 322 new names for our contact list, so the trip was definitely worth it from that perspective. I also made some good contacts while there; these should help a lot when I need answers to the inevitable questions I’ll have as the Reunion planning goes forward.

One Comment on “Forward … To The Past (Part One)

  1. Pingback: I’m Officially Reuning! … Reunioning? … Reuniting? | The Peripatetic Traveler

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