A very memorable English course.
At Texas A & M College, as it was known, then, I placed out of freshman English. “Big deal”, you might say, but in 1954 it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. I don’t regret it, because it’s fuel for a story or two. At that time, if you placed out, you could choose any course out of the catalog, and maybe even freshman English! I chose Shakespeare, the first semester, as I had enjoyed studying Hamlet and Julius Caesar and MacBeth in high school. I didn’t get into Midsummer Night’s Dream. I did O. K. in Shakespeare. I think I got a B. Then at registration, I asked a prof, “Pappy” Morgan, I believe, what he would recommend. He looked at me and said. “I think you would like Great Books", in a professorial voice. So I signed up for it. It turned out it was a course that was required for architecture majors, and many of them saved it for their 3rd, 4th or 5th year. As a result, there were two freshmen and the rest, mostly juniors and up. On the first day, Dr. Morgan read the last paragraph of Anna Karenina, and said, “Page 925. You might want to start reading it, now!” Well, I did. The other tome we read was Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley, about 500 pages. In addition to that we read “Cato” and another life out of Plutarch’s Lives. We read one Shakespeare play, maybe King Lear. Dante’s Inferno was thrown in, and Candide by François-Marie Arouet deVoltaire, sometime. That’s all I can remember, now, 56 years later. I read it all, except the latter half of Point Counterpoint. I did all right in the course until the final exam. The final had an emphasis on the part of Huxley’s book I hadn’t read. Oops. So, instead of cruising through freshman English, I had a “B” and a “C”. I regaled a friend who had graduated from Princeton with that story, and she modestly said I was more well-read than she was. But I don’t believe it. The summer after I took that course, and brought all of my books home, our (Sam’s and my and Martha’s) mother had erysipelas, and had to soak her foot. So, to pass the time, she read all of the “Great Books.” She was quite a reader, and could really get through a book lickety-split.
Our dad, who shared his first name with me, was quite a reader, too. He tended to read like a proof-reader, as I do. Sometimes he would catch an item in a church bulletin, or something, that mom had missed because she read so fast. When he was a young man growing up in Florida, he was befriended by a wealthy lady who trusted him with another set of great books. She lived across Lake Lenore, near Orlando, and he canoed over to her house and back (with one book at a time, I'll bet). He said he read all of the great literature. Dad was self-educated. He “didn’t proceed” in Latin in 10th grade, so his dad put him to work in his office. Dad took correspondence courses from LaSalle Extension University, and kept abreast of accounting practices, and finally took the CPA exam. On his 10th time he passed it. It must be tough, as an accountant who worked for him, Jim Ramsey, who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in accounting, had to take it twice. Nowadays, I understand, a bachelors degree is required.