Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's More Than Just The News...

The Vanderbilt TV News Archives is a wonderful resource.

Not only has it captured for research and history, all the significant news events of the past 40 years (as covered by the major TV networks), it also has a great collection of TV commercials mixed in with the broadcasts.

The Archives weren't designed to do that, but nevertheless you can literally track the changes in our culture and in our marketing by looking at these ads.

Here's the first installment of what will be several collections of TV ads we will feature here between now and Reunion weekend.

You will notice several interesting things about the ads, which were broadcast on September 21, 1970. Unlike today's evening newscasts which are filled with spots for prescription drugs, all of these are selling consumer products (deodorant, laundry detergent, flour and cake frosting) and notice the emergence of black actresses in a couple of the spots, something just beginning to happen in the late 1960s and early '70s. Also I am not sure the first ad (Secret) would be as well received by women today as it might have been when this spot was created.

Our class is part of the TV generation, born and raised glued to the tube. What do you remember about watching TV while you were at Vanderbilt? Too busy studying or hanging out? Did you even have a TV set in your room and if you did, what did you watch? Did you have any favorite shows? Your comments, as always, are welcome below.

Monday, August 18, 2008

39 Years Later

Can it really be almost four decades ago?

This August marks the 39th anniversary of Woodstock, the rock concert held in upstate New York which came to symbolize, in many people's minds, the generation that came of age in the'60s.

39 years: that's how old comedian Jack Benny said he was every year when he celebrated his birthday. Ever thought you read Jack Benny and Woodstock in nearly the same sentence? But, if you think about it, unless you are our age, you may not really remember either one anymore.

Woodstock was held just a few weeks before the Vanderbilt Class of 1973 arrived on campus. Did any of us attend Woodstock that summer on the way to Nashville? What are your memories whether you attended or not? Please leave your thoughts below.

And in the meantime, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, enjoy these flashbacks to Woodstock:

Grace Slick & The Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit (recorded live at Woodstock)

Crosby Stills & Nash: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes (recorded live at Woodstock)

And finally, especially for the Vandy Class of '73:

Jerry Garcia & The Grateful Dead: Lovelight (recorded live at Woodstock)

The mainstream media in the Summer of 1969 had a lot of difficulty both covering the Woodstock story (the rain, the mud, the crowds, the traffic) as well as coming to grips with what it meant.

Here's how CBS News reporter John Laurence talked about it (in a coat and tie in his New York studios) on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite on August 18, 1969. Notice in particular, he never uses the word Woodstock.

If you'd like to know even more about Woodstock, check out this website:



Where Did You Eat Off-Campus, Volume Two

With Move-In Weekend having just occurred for the Vanderbilt Class of 2012, I thought it would be a good time to remember the long-gone Tex Ritter's Chuck Wagon.

The original building is still there. But today it is the site for a Qdoba Mexican fast food outlet, after also being a Pizza Hut location for many years.

But in our days at Vanderbilt, Tex Ritter's,located on the corner of 21st Avenue South and West End Avenue, was the place to go for a quick meal or late night snack.

It was very convenient, built just across from Kissam Quad, the freshman dorm of choice(not really) for most male members of the Class of 1973.

What do you remember about eating or drinking there? I remember hamburgers and, of course, the sarsaparilla (root beer), which was truly Tex's signature beverage.

What else do you remember about this favorite place for so many of us to eat during our early years at Vanderbilt?

Getting back to the most recent Move-In Day at Vanderbilt. It marks the debut of the new Vanderbilt Commons. Located on the back side of the Peabody Campus (now called the South Campus, I understand) the Commons are just beautiful and will provide an opportunity for all the freshmen to live together and be joined by some of their teachers.

Can you imagine some of our professors living in Kissam with us? How long do you think they would have lasted? Living in Branscomb maybe, it was (and is) a much nicer place to stay. But the Kissam Quad I remember was more like a barracks.

I understand the old Kissam Quadrangle is not long for the Vandy campus and will soon be torn down for something new. That's probably a good idea. That corner at 21st and West End needs to be a showcase location for the University. But I hope when they tear down Kissam, they take some time to do a forsenic dig on the site.

Can you imagine all the strange things they might find there? Maybe even some old take out bags,wrappers and cups from the dear-departed Tex Ritter's.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics, Then and Now

As the United States and indeed, all the world, seems totally absorbed in the current Summer Olympic Games now underway in Beijing, China, I couldn't help but note some interesting parrells between those games and the ones that occurred while we were at Vanderbilt...the 1972 Munich Games.

Much as the current gathering of nations in Beijing has become a showcase for the new, modern China, so the 1972 Games sought to have that same impact for the new, modern (West) Germany of its day, finally emerging from the rubble of the Second World War (this was long before anyone could forsee the collapse of The Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany).

At the Munich Games, when American Mark Spitz set the all-time record of garnering 7 Gold Medals in a single Olympics, most thought it was an achievement never to be surpassed. But now comes another American swimmer Michael Phelps, who appears to be on his way to winning 8 Gold Medals in a single Olympiad.

But, unfortunately, the Munich Games will always be remembered primarily for the tragic terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of a number of members of the Israeli Olympic team.

It was a terrible event that changed the Games and indeed, the entire world, forever. Little did we realize at the time how terrorism and the threat of such attacks would impact our years after leaving Vanderbilt; how it would become such an unfortunate and unwelcome part of our daily lives.

While most of us were busy beginning our senior year at Vanderbilt in that September of 1972 (The Olympics were held later in the year in those days),
no doubt the attached video above (courtesy of the wonderful Vanderbilt News Archives) will bring back some of the memories of that time.

The video, much like the Games, begins with a routine Evening News Report by Walter Cronkite about results from the Games, followed by a segment on NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor, the day after the tragic Munich massacre.

Please leave your thoughts and memories below, including your remembrances of our senior year at Vanderbilt, which was just beginning to unfold during the Munich Olympic Games.

There are more news videos to come in the weeks ahead, spotlighting the important (and maybe the not-so-important) events of our years at Vanderbilt.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


On Monday evening August 4, I had the opportunity to attend a send-off party for the Nashville students of the new, incoming Vanderbilt Class of 2012. It was held at the home of Class of '73 member Barry Banker and his wife Jean Ann.

It was a wonderful affair. New Chancellor Nick Zeppos was there to greet everyone. You could see the young people were excited and a bit anxious, as they prepared to take that next big step forward in their lives.

I also observed their parents, all very proud of their offspring's accomplishment to be accepted to attend Nashville's most prestigious educational institution. As it has been for many years, Nashville students make up a pretty large fraction of the freshman class, so the Banker house was filled to overflowing.

Having been in both positions over the years (an incoming student and a parent of incoming student) I could certainly relate to it all, especially remembering how it was 39 years ago (that's right, almost four decades) when we, as members of the Class of 1973, prepared to come to Vanderbilt.

But I sure don't remember any "send off" parties. Heck, because I was a transfer student from Peabody, I didn't even attend the Freshman Picnic at the Chancellor's Residence.

From the information posted at very top of his story, you can tell just how much things have changed. This is official Vanderbilt University information listing the estimated cost for us to go to school for the academic year 1969-70. Tuition was $1,860 for the year, room and board just over a $1,000, books and supplies around $100, laundry and cleaning between $70 and $100, activity fees $50. Add it all up, and Vanderbilt for a year was around $3,000 t0 $3,200!

You can't do doggie day care for that anymore. But remember, in it's day almost 40 years ago, $3,2000 was a lot of money. Now tuition is $36,100, add in room and board (about $12,000) along with books, supplies, fees and personal expenses and today you can do Vanderbilt for a year for just over $52,000.

Now I know that can be breathtaking number, making some of us wonder where has the time and (for those of us with current students or alumni) our money gone?

But I look at it this way. What a bargain we got! My Vanderbilt degree is one of the best investments of my life. The work and sacrifice of my parents and myself (hey, I had to pass the classes) continue to pay off and increase in value every year. So much so, that I seriously doubt I could even get admitted to Vanderbilt today, the competition is so keen, and the kids who go there are so smart.

But we got in early, you might say, and now we all have the chance to come back to campus October 24-25 to celebrate our good fortune and how much our Vanderbilt experience (especially the people and classmates we met here) still mean in our lives. Please share your thoughts below.

One other note: next week I plan to add video as a regular feature of this blog. The Vanderbilt TV News Archives has been one of the greatest resources in the entire University ever since it was founded in the summer of 1968.

Twenty years ago, as a part of our Reunion activities, I persuaded alumni officials to let me put together a video tape covering the major news events of our four years together. I also found some wonderful commercials that showcase the popular culture of the time and how much things have changed.

Thanks to the help, and most importantly the technical expertise, of some wonderful people at Vanderbilt, especially Lacy Tite and Cindy Wall, I can now begin to share these videos with you here on this blog.

I can't wait to get started!