Life at K-State as a GDI
- Bits and pieces of my adventures as a student at KSU
In my previous story about living in an independent boarding house off the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan in ’57, ’58 and ‘59, you got a general, broad brush picture of life at Kasbah. There were other aspects about that life that are worth telling, although the memories may be a bit hazy more than fifty after the fact. Kasbah was located at 1707 Laramie Street one block south of the KSU campus and just two houses off 17th Street, one of the main access roads onto the campus. As mentioned in my earlier story, the place burned down years ago, and during my last visit to Manhattan in the early 2000s, nothing had been built to replace it. What follows are a few short vignettes about things I remember about life at Kasbah and KSU.
Laramie Street graded slightly uphill westward of Kasbah, which stood at the east end of the block. There were several sorority houses up the hill, and that allowed us sit on the front porch when we didn’t have class to watch the girls go by as they came and went to and from classes. There was one particular girl, Marilyn Kratzer, who got most of our attention. The good Lord had blessed Marilyn with spectacular mammary endowment and she presented a quite top-heavy appearance. She was a very attractive, dark haired girl, and this just added to her allure. But she was just one among many fine looking girls enrolled at K-State. The thing that made Marilyn stand out was that she was habitually late to class. Thus we would see her running down the hill of Laramie Street trying to catch her friends who had left on time and were enroute to class. When Marilyn ran she bounced, and it was an astounding sight to see. When one of the denizens of Kasbah saw her coming down the street he would shout out the alarm and we would gather on the front porch or the windows. I don’t think we made catcalls or anything like that. More than likely we just drooled. Since I left K-State after two years, I don’t know what ever became of Marilyn, but she certainly left enough of an imprint that she resides in my memory after all these years.
When I attended K-State physical education was a requirement for freshmen and sophomores. I don’t think juniors and seniors had to take PE classes. The classes offered were what one would usually expect to find: basketball, softball, volleyball, trampoline, swimming, etc. During my first semester I enrolled in swimming. The classes were held in an ancient gym on the south boundary of the campus that had a heated indoor pool. I can’t remember most of the activities that took up our time other than water polo and some impromptu races, but I suspect most of it was just general grab ass. This was made easier because we all swam naked. Don’t ask me why. Maybe the instructor was light in the loafers and liked to watch young boys running around naked. Since the first semester ended in mid-January, as winter approached we would leave PE class and enter our next subject with frozen hair.
Smelly Nellie the Jelly Belly
In my previous K-State story I mentioned that we had two Korean War veterans living at Kasbah. Tom Hale was an Army veteran. I don’t know how old he was, but he was going bald. He was quiet and reserved and often served as a mentor to us young, brash, and often confused freshmen. I can’t remember what his major was, but when I think back on my days at Kasbah, I always remember Tom favorably. He was just an all around good guy. The Navy vet was a gent named Garret E. Nelson from McCook, Nebraska. He went by the moniker of “Nellie”. He had served on a destroyer during the war and had participated in shore bombardment by naval gunfire during that conflict. While Tom Hale didn’t say much about his war experiences, Nellie gladly shared his with us youngsters. In addition to the war stories he also regaled us with tales of liberty in Japan and other exotic oriental places. After reading my stories of places like the Filipino port of call Olongapo you can imagine the impact Nellie’s stories had on us freshmen…like “Wow! I can’t wait to join the Navy and get my hands of one of those oriental babes.” Nellie was enrolled in the School of Agriculture and habitually wore blue jeans and checkered flannel shirts. He was short with a low slung body and a beer gut. Although his personal hygiene was good, he still picked up the nickname amongst us freshmen of “Smelly Nellie the Jelly Belly”. He didn’t smell, but the words ran together so well that we just couldn’t resist. I don’t think we called him that to his face, because he was a pretty good guy, but the name stuck and is impossible to forget after more than fifty years.
When I was a senior in my little 100-student high school I was one of the hot shots…star athlete, good student, stud with the girls. Sort of. I dated two members of the sophomore class that year. The first one’s parents made her quit seeing me after several months, and the second one was my steady girl for the rest of the year and until I left for K-State the next September. I was basically pretty shy around girls until I got to know them, but I got to know them and that placed me in, at least the semi-stud category in Claflin High. When I got to KSU I was a slow starter again. Most of my involvement with females was limited to watching Marilyn run down Laramie Street. But there was a girl in several of my freshman classes that offered possibilities if I hadn’t been too stupid to recognize the signs. Her name was Deanne Albright. She was an attractive girl from Ottawa, Kansas with short brown hair and piercing brown eyes. I would find her intensely staring at me and smiling during our times together in class. She unnerved me to say the least. Maybe “scared the shit out of me” would be a better description. I must have talked to her or I wouldn’t know she came from Ottawa. But although she offered, I stood around like a numbed galoot, and she finally gave up. But to this day I can still see her staring and smiling. What a dumb shit I was. There it was, served up on a platter, and I just let it sit there. I wonder what kind of Marine wife Deanna would have made.
Saturday Night Adventures
You read about the Saturday night penny ante poker games in my previous story. We drank a lot of beer during those sessions. One night my high school buddy and room mate Wes Mathis imbibed too much during the festivities. Before the game was over he staggered to our room and passed out. We had just returned from a trip to the Laundromat that afternoon and there was a cardboard box full of clean, neatly folded clothes beside our bunk bed. Wes slept in the lower and me the upper bunk. When the game wrapped up and I returned to the room I could smell the barf. I turned on the light to find that Wes had leaned over the side of his bed and puked directly into the box of clothes. I think I put the box in the hall so I could sleep without the odor, and hit the sack. The next morning I found a very hung over Wes in the head sitting on the edge of the bathtub with his feet in about a foot of water, and the puke covered clothes floating around in the tub. In any case another trip to the Laundromat was in the offing for that Sunday. To top the morning off, Wes reached for his toothpaste to help rid his mouth of the foul aftertaste, and grabbed the tube of Wildroot Hair Cream instead. He actually got several strokes of the toothbrush done before he realized he was using Wildroot.
You Failed Phys Ed?
During the second semester of my sophomore year, which turned out to be my last at K-State, I took the trampoline class for the required physical education. When I got my second semester grades I had received an “F” in Phys Ed because I had cut too many classes. I was embarrassed but didn’t give it much thought beyond that. Then several weeks after my return home from KSU, while working my summer job in the oil fields, I got that fateful phone call from my congressman informing me that a Naval Academy appointment was mine if I wanted it. I immediately accepted the appointment. Suddenly it occurred to me that if the Naval Academy ever found out I had an F in my college transcript, they wouldn’t let me in. I sweated bullets waiting for the phone call from Annapolis telling me to forget about showing up and kicking myself for cutting too many classes. Of course the call didn’t come and I graduated from USNA four years later. Come to think of it I doubt that USNA ever saw my sophomore transcripts since I became a Midshipman only weeks after the end of my last semester.
The food served at Kasbah left a lot to be desired, but wasn’t probably much different than most boarding house food at the time. In fact we called the kitchen at Kasbah “The Pukeatorium”. Of course we bitched about it, just like we did at Navy and in the Marines. As that anonymous Marine said about the chow aboard a Navy troop transport crossing the Pacific, “The chow is lousy, and there’s not enough of it”. But there is one incident that explains the quality of Kasbah chow better than any words I could use. I can’t remember what the dish was, but it was so horrible that one of the diners surreptitiously dumped it out of the window. Normally some animals or birds would quickly consume food dumped onto the ground anywhere. But the Kasbah food sat on the ground untouched for days until the weather finally washed it away. That is the definition of bad.
And there you have seven pieces of inane history as remembered by an old Marine who was at one time a dip shit college freshman at Kansas State University, or Silo Tech, as it is known by the sophisticates who attend that other school down the road in Lawrence.
Dirck Praeger sends