My Happy Valley

A photo of  Penn Stater, eyes glued to the Collegian, brought back strong memories of the HUB (Student Union Building) and my time in Happy Valley.

State College was home to me for 4 years. Happy Days. The Wall. The Corner Room. Beaver Stadium. Best ice-cream at the Creamery.

In the Spring, at outdoor concert , we heard  “Here comes the Sun” as an opening act. I saw Bruce Springsteen at a concert in the HUB Ballroom, and remembered thinking, “that man got juice”  (Born to run).

I too was on the run. From the burning monk and burning napalm. From the war last day (7th Fleet spanned the horizon as far as the eyes could see) I too was born to run. The road took me to Native American geography (Susquehanna River and Indian Town Gap). Most memorable was when  I ran into and received kindness from a fellow refugee I met on a  Harrisburg snowy night.

Across from campus, at the Corner Room, we had many coffee refills without getting dirty looks.

Raymond Brown, the Penn State Choir Master, drilled it in us to “Breathe” and “Think”.

His football counterpart, Joe Paterno, had turned Head Coach a decade before I got there.

When I left for a TV internship, he was still there. Today, as of this writing, he is still there (sneakers and Tootsie glass).

(Latest news break announced this would be his last season).

I never came back to Beaver Stadium for commencement. I was an intern at an ABC-TV station in Wilkes Barre on my last quarter.

We got a call to cover nearby Three-Mile-Island incident.  As usual, we set out with our battery pack and a fresh roll of tape.

Then the story broke, and we ended up in a ghost town (people rushed to withdraw cash from ATM”s) again, with lots of coffee refills

and still with no dirty looks, only worry ones. It’s the second time within the span of 4 years that I was stuck in one set of clothes for days on end.

In the span of those four years, I was insulated from a changed world outside of Happy Valley. That world had turned more cynical, and more sexually aggressive (Last Tango in Paris).

But I managed to take courses in Science, Technology and Society whose premises stay with me until today.

We invented the Machine, but in the process, the Machine reinvented us (I am a BMW driver, an I Phone user etc…).

What I saw before Happy Valley (7th Fleet on the War last day, B-52 bombers overhead at night etc…) and after (nuclear power went wild) served as two bookends, with near fairy tales in between (We went singing at nursing homes on Sundays, or performed with Andre Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall).

We were still using punch cards at the only two computers accessible to students. All of us used manual type writers to write term papers and produce newspaper, the Collegian. My dorm mate worked as an Editor  there.  Right after we saw Bruce Springteen, Jeff’s eyes lit up when he saw I could play the solo part of  “Born To Run”.

It must have been a trip for them to experience a foreign student first hand, as opposed to viewing characters like Sixteen Candles’  Luong Duk Long “what automobile?”, and to find out I shared  delayed curiosity and hidden aspiration (Deep Throat shown on campus? Is this Bob Woodward’s idea of a joke?)

Seeing today’s students holding up the Collegian warms my heart, despite the sad circumstance surrounded it (sexual abuse and institutional cover-up scandal).

I know next to nothing about football besides coming into contact with a few players who dozed off in my Speech class and Jimmy Cefalo who served as an intern at the same time I was at WNEP-TV.

But for years since, I haven’t found a place, and a time, that shaped the lives of so many, mine included,  for the good.

When the Lion, our mascot,  did one-hand push ups, we and alumni counted out loud, you could feel the stadium rock. We all felt mighty proud. And rightly so, because WE ARE…and still are PENN STATE.


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