Looking Back on My Senior Year

(1 of 2) Charlie, Ellen Kehoe, Ruth and Gus on a Sunday afternoon in the backyard of the Brailer home in Silver Spring in 1954.
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With the adventure in the Midwest finished, it was back to my senior year at Maryland. There was a lot going on and most of it had little to do with schoolwork.

Let's back up a little.Before the summer, while I was a junior in college I got a job with Radio Station WCFM in Washington. I learned from a college professor that the station needed an announcer to work three evening shifts a week. I auditioned for the job and then pestered the Chief Announcer until he finally hired me. Sometimes, I suspect he gave me the job just so I wouldn't bother him anymore. I arranged for a leave of absence during the summer but when September rolled around, I was back on the air three nights a week from 8 pm until signoff.

WCFM was non-commercial and ran on a shoestring. The heyday for FM broadcasting was still in the future. But it was a job. It paid money and gave me experience. It also provided entree to the broadcasting union.

Our programming was eclectic ... classical music, one newscast from the Mutual Broadcasting System, and various educational programs. Just by listening to the station I was exposed to a lot of new ideas and to classical music I had never heard before.

On campus, the student radio station was taking up a lot of time.I was the News Director and I also was involved, with several other students, in a project to build some new equipment and install new studios. Later on, that experience would serve me in good stead when I was an engineer with the Washington News Bureau of Group W Broadcasting.

With all this activity, it's a wonder there was ever time for classes. In candor, I didn't focus on schoolwork the way I should have.If I have any regret about my school days, it is the failure to study more. Since my life's work was heading into radio, the practical experiences were invaluable. But more academic knowledge would have been nice, too. If I had it do over, I never would have majored in journalism in college. Instead, I would have concentrated on history, politics, economics and some science.

There's one more important event to tell you about. In my last year at Maryland, I met and began dating Ellen Kehoe.

She was the cutest ... most attractive ... classiest girl I had ever known. I had seen Ellen on campus in my junior year. She worked in the Dining Hall and so did I. I didn't know her and I was too shy to just walk up and say, "Hello." But I couldn't take my eyes off her. I fell in love with her at first sight.

Eventually, as our radio station WMUC began adding girls to a previously all-male staff, Ellen joined our merry band. That's how I met her.

We became sweethearts. Our love story is private and it will stay that way. It lasted long after college and finally ended in the fall of 1957. Why it ended I'm not sure. But a lot had to do with my own lack of maturity and security. Whatever the reason, it was a sad day when we broke up.

At this point I need to tell you something important about myself as a young man. Despite all the people I knew and all the things I had done before I met Ellen, I had an overwhelming feeling of being alone ... completely alone emotionally ... without another person on earth that I could connect to. As a young adult, that emptiness was becoming more and more frightening.

Then came Ellen and it all changed. As the months passed, the vacuum began to fill up with friendship. There was someone to talk with ... someone to laugh with. We shared plays, movies, and concerts.And we shared our love. I still cherish the memory of that relationship.

It wasn't until years later, when I met and married your "Grandma" Carolyn, that I once again had such a close and dear friend.Carolyn and I have been married more than 31 years. We are growing old together and we can look back on a life filled with love and shared experiences. We have supported each other with encouragement through good times and some bad times. And it goes on to this day.

There's a footnote to this part of my story. In later years, Ellen and I have re-entered each other's lives as friends. She is married to a nice man named Ted Hays. They have their own lives and friends, of course, but we are becoming closer. Recently, when Carolyn underwent some surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Ted and Ellen came to the waiting room to keep me company. There was a concern that Carolyn had cancer. Ted and Ellen were there when the surgeon gave us the happy news that our fear was unfounded.

In her final years, Ellen battled lung cancer. Carolyn and I aren't doctors so we gave her the only thing we had to give --- our hope and belief that she could overcome the disease and share many more years of happiness with Ted.   I hope our love and support helped her in the struggle.  She also found a church group that was a source of encouragement.  But on June 29, 2005 Ellen went to her rest.  In her life she touched many people and all were better for it.

In case you hadn't noticed, this chapter spans fifty-one years of my life. I promise to fill in the gaps later on. But, the lesson here is important. The things you do as young adults will become your memories for a lifetime.

So treasure your lives as young people. Savor the experiences and the people you meet. The years of your life move along more quickly than you can imagine. One moment, you're a senior in school. The next moment, it's fifty years later and you're a senior in life.