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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Chatting with Grandpa about USU, then & now

By Kandice Crompton

April 22, 2009 | As a soon-to-be graduate I was recently talking to Grandpa, the only other member of my family to graduate from college, who also just happens to be a USU alum. He has told me anecdotes about school for years, and I finally decided to share some of his thoughts with others.

Clifford Crompton attended USU from September 1946 until he graduated in 1951. He and my grandma, Fae, were married just six months before he started attending school and by the time he graduated the two had two sons.

Crompton graduated with a bachelor of science in civil engineering, and he says he majored in "highways."

"I took most of my classes in the old engineering building on the south side of the quadrangle," Crompton said. "I took 18 or 19 credits a couple of semesters, but usually only took 15 or 16."

The first year Crompton attend USU the couple lived in Brigham City, in an old hospital that had been turned into an apartment building. He took the bus to school daily, riding through the canyon in the winter.

"I was going to school on the GI Bill, and they paid for my schooling and gave us $90 a month to live on," he said. While he can't remember how much they paid for rent, he knows it wasn't much.

For the rest of his schooling the Cromptons rented a government-owned trailer on the east side of campus. Again Crompton said he didn't know how much the rent was, but knew it was very little compared with today's rental prices.

Fae worked at The Bluebird Restaurant while Clifford went to school, although it was not the Bluebird as the locals know it today. Fae said the restaurant was on the northwest corner of campus, and this job brought in some extra money to help raise the two boys.

Because the two didn't have a lot of money, Clifford says he doesn't remember them spending a lot on fun, although he did take a skiing class using old Army surplus equipment.

"The class was taught on the hill by Old Main. After my class Granny (Fae) would bring her equipment down to the hill and I would try and teach her what I had learned."

The thing Cliff talked about most was the feud between the foresters and the engineers. Many have heard of the giant Paul Bunyon that the engineers steal from the foresters, and Cliff has many stories of participating in this longstanding tradition.

"We hung his head off a flag pole one time. We greased the pole so they couldn't get it down" he said with a laugh. Ultimately firefighters had to be called to get the head down. "Another time we stole their wooden horse form a summer camp up the canyon," Crompton remembered. "We were up all night mixing concrete to fill it, and left it in the middle of the quadrangle."

When asked how the horse was removed, Crompton said a stick of dynamite had to blow it up, as it was too heavy to move.

Yet another story that is too good to leave out is the time a cow was stolen from the dairy and given a laxative.

"We took it up to the third or fourth floor of the forestry building and left it there overnight."

Although he doesn't remember much about what the foresters did to get back with the engineers, he said it was a great rivalry.

The Cromptons participated in activities current students can relate with as well.

"We always went to basketball games," Crompton said.

Cliff said they would often go with other guys that were there on the GI Bill.

"We would go into the games and one guy would gather all our ID cards, take them outside, and let our wives in." Although he admits that practice was wrong, Cliff said he and Fae always enjoyed the games together.

"We used to get ice cream at the creamery on the north side of the quadrangle," Clifford said. For those that aren't aware, Aggie Ice Cream used to be on the first floor of the Animal Science Building.

Crompton said he remained friends with fellow students for years. "I worked with one for a year after graduation in California, and then for 30 years at Geneva Steel in Orem as well."

Clifford says he has only been back to the USU campus once since he graduated 59 years ago.

"I could find my way around!" Clifford exclaimed. "I couldn't find a place to park without getting a ticket."

USU may have changed a lot in the last six decades, but Crompton said it's still a great education. It's important to remember those before us who made the school what it is today. Who knows what those engineering and forestry students would do for fun if my grandpa and his friends hadn't kept that tradition going!


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