BACKGROUND – It all started with a letter that my Mother received from the principal of my high school in January 1957. I had just turned 17 that January and was eager to start school again after being out for Christmas holidays. The letter stated that since I had completed all four of the required English courses (by going to Summer School), I would be eligible for graduation at the end of the current semester, in May of 1957. In essence, I would be entering my Senior Year – right now. I would graduate with the class ahead of me, who were the real Seniors. They were not exactly thrilled that I could just waltz in at the last minute, grab a diploma and start work on a college degree with only three years’ worth of effort.
Then a post card came directly to me, stating that I had been accepted as a freshman at Millsaps College for the Fall semester of 1957. In just a few months I had gone from being a high school junior to being a high school senior; would graduate a year early; and would enter college as a freshman at the end of the summer. How great was that? And finally, a telegram arrived:
“CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING FIRST PLACE IN YOUR DISTRICT FOR THE MILLSAPS COLLEGE SENIOR DAY SCHOLARSHIP.” It was signed H.E. FINGER, JR., PRESIDENT MILLSAPS COLLEGE, JACKSON MS
That was a lot to look forward to, and I was excited by all the challenges posed by this chain of events.
THE SETTING – The actual story is set at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi from 1957 to 1961. The world outside the College was in turmoil but all was fairly peaceful inside our campus.
THE CONFLICT – Russia sent up its first satellite (Sputnik), and the Space Race was on. The Cold War was in full swing. The threat of Nuclear War was very real, race relations were heated, and the Swine Flu Pandemic was just beginning.
THE BEGINNING – I decided to start this book with a poem I wrote during the summer of 1957 when I worked at Blue Ridge NC. Dr. H. E. Finger, Jr., who was President of Millsaps College, was at the host camp for a seminar while I was there and we got to know each other. During the summer, prior to enrolling at Millsaps, Dr. Finger wrote me a letter welcoming me to the College. After I arrived on campus, he asked me to read my poem at the opening worship service. The poem appears at the end of my book Murder in the North Carolina Mountains and I re-created it in the previous blog below.