Letters

Readers have their say.

RE: Spring 2018

I read it cover to cover. Great articles, especially the cover photo and accompanying story about Bruce Springsteen.

Barbara Levitt Grapka ’72

 

Building on last issue’s “Name Game” piece celebrating the late Jane Freed’s support for the field hockey program, I’d place her among the most important alumni in Monmouth University history. The Freed Foundation and Jane’s estate have endowed several scholarships for the next generation of students, and the Honors School would not exist without Jane’s vision and leadership. The Freed Awards for Honors School students embody the transformative impact of student research, reflecting years of advanced academic work that creates leaders in every industry. Her commitment was a key element in the emergence of Monmouth University as a leader in 21st century higher education.

Walter D. Greason, Ph.D., Dean of the Honors School

 

Howard Lapidos ’67 (far left) and Anthony “Stomps” Tramontano ’69 (far right) pictured with The Four Tops and the group’s guitarist in 1967.

The spring issue mentioned great concerts at Monmouth. I’d like to add one that wasn’t on campus, but was a huge success. It happened on March 31, 1967, at Asbury Park Convention Hall and was put on by Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. I was the fundraising chairman and wanted to put on a rock and roll show to raise enough money to buy a new frat house for a growing group of men then numbering 104 brothers and pledges. We hired the fabulous Four Tops with an opening act of Percy Sledge, who had a No. 1 hit in 1966, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” There was a big financial risk to the fraternity, so to make it work financially, each brother had to agree to sell $84 worth of tickets or be responsible themselves for that amount. In 1967, that was a great deal of money for a college student. Ticket prices for our show were $4 for orchestra and $3.50 for the balcony. Fortunately, not only was it a sellout of all seats but of all the standing room areas as well! I remember, Monmouth President Dr. Van Note attended and praised our fraternity for its achievement. In 1967, the $6,000 profit bought us a fraternity house with over 30 rooms on a couple of acres close to the school.

Howard Lapidos ’67

 

Summer memories

My wife Alice and I have not lived in the shore area for decades, but we spend at least a few days every summer at the beach in Belmar, New Jersey, where we met 53 years ago. As a strawberry blonde sensitive to the sun, she was not a frequent beachgoer, but had joined her younger sister for an ocean swim. I was just days out of what was then Monmouth College, and she was just days out of the Peace Corps having served as a nurse in the midst of a bloody revolution in the Dominican Republic. Our return to the site of our meeting always brings back great memories.

Ken Dalecki ’65

 

Five for the road

Last issue, we asked readers to share stories about the road trips they took while in college. Here are the responses we received.

In 1972, I desperately wanted to go to Florida for Spring Break one last time. Our plan was to pile into our friends’ van and motor down I-95. Unfortunately, the van had other plans. The transmission died, so we purchased one-way plane tickets instead (round trip was not in the budget). We had a lot of fun in Florida, but as the week went on we had to figure out how to get home. Somebody suggested we take a “destination car”—a vehicle owned by a senior citizen who wants it driven north while they fly home. We expected a luxury car but instead got a ’58 Chevy. The trunk was full of the owner’s possessions, so we gave our luggage to friends who were flying home. By the time we got back and delivered the car to its owner, the exhaust system needed to be replaced and the directional signals were broken. My first two Spring Break trips went a lot smoother, but this trip was memorable!

Joe Di Marco ‘72

ELEVEN’S A CROWD: Michael Lodato and crew with their 25-foot Winnebago, which survived a straight-through drive from New Jersey to Florida during Spring Break in 1982.

In March 1982, Sal Strano ’82, Anthony DiLieto ’82, Bill Introcaso ’82, Tim Haider ’82, Chris Tummey ’82, and I headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in a rented, fully loaded 25-foot Winnebago. We drove straight through with only a few hiccups. (We mistakenly drove the RV through the Baltimore Tunnel in violation of tunnel regulations. That was nicely explained to us by the police officer who pulled us over and ultimately decided not to ticket us after we promised to come back using a different route.) Upon arriving at our destination, we were met by other Monmouth students as well as thousands of Spring Breakers from colleges all over the country. The Winnebago served as our home for the next several days as we experienced the crazy scene. We had a blast on the beach, at clubs such as the “world famous” Elbo Room and The Button, and at the various events throughout the week. On our ride back, we stopped at South of the Border to load up on fireworks—at least the few of us with any money left (or their parent’s credit card) did. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

Michael Lodato ’82
I believe it was 1968, my friends and I went to Fort Lauderdale in an ambulance. The owner, a guy, sat up front with his friend, and five of us girls sat in the back. The looks we got in the South when we stopped to eat were priceless. Not only because of five girls piling out of an ambulance, but the girls all had Sassoon short haircuts and the guys had shoulder length hair. Ah yes, to be young again.

Kathy Guercioni Eovino ’69
I believe it was 1962, maybe 1963. I had become close pals with a number of guys I pledged Alpha Theta Chi with. One of them was Frank Richardson, a guitar strummin’, folk singin’, cigarette smokin’, card playin’ cowboy from way out west in Neptune.

Anyway, practically at a moment’s notice, the two of us decided to jump in a car and head to Fort Lauderdale over Spring Break. Naturally, it was my car—a VW Beetle—because ole Frank had gambled his heap away in a go-for-broke game of Texas Hold ’em.

Since I was eager to experience Fort Lauderdale for the first time I readily agreed. But before we headed south, I took my bug in to a garage to get the spongy-feeling brakes adjusted. After that, it was off to sunny Florida.

Well, we weren’t more than a half hour out of town when Frank  had a brilliant idea. “This is my last cigarette,” he declared. “This is the perfect time to quit smokin.’” With that, he rolled down his passenger side window and tossed out a practically full pack of Marlboros, bellowing: “Whatever I say or do, do NOT pull over to let me buy another pack!”

“Are you sure,” I replied, “I heard you can buy cigarettes in Virginia or North Carolina for about 18 cents a pack.”

“Don’t matter,” Frank answered after a short pause, “I want to quit smoking and this is the perfect time to do it. So do not let me change my mind. Do not stop this car for anything.”

So I’m thinking to myself, that’s not happening. I know my VW gets good gas mileage but, eventually, I’m going to have to stop to fill up. And you know what they sell at gas stations? Gas … and cigarettes.

Anyway, didn’t matter. I had barely reached the outskirts of Trenton when Frank started sucking his thumb. By the time we reached Delaware, Frank said: “You know, Chuck, maybe this isn’t such a good idea. It’s a long way to Fort Lauderdale; I don’t think I can just go cold turkey.”

“Uh-huh,” I replied … and kept driving.

But by the time I reached Maryland, Frank had the jitters. His thumbs, both of them, were all wrinkled and gnarlly. “OK,” he confessed, “this is no good. I’ve gotta have a smoke. Pull over next place you see.”

“No sir,” I replied. “You told me not to stop no matter what you say or do. So, I’m sorry.”

But after another hour or so I started feeling bad for the guy. The sobbing, and shaking, and outright crying got to me. So, since I needed to re-fuel anyway, I pulled into a station and watched Frank tear into the store before I even got my hand on the pump.

Then we headed off for Fort Lauderdale, my tanked filled up and Frank stocked up with a fresh carton of Marlboros.

Hey, Fort Lauderdale was great. We had loads of laughs. Met lots of college kids from up and down the East Coast, … and that was the first day we were there.

The second day? We started to figure out how we were going to make our combined revenue source of $143 last for six more days.

We limited ourselves to one meal a day. And, by meal, I mean a seat at a drug store lunch counter where they had a big bowl of pickles, pickled tomatoes, and cole slaw for the taking … by paying customers. But we were paying customers. We both ordered an icy, cold glass of Coke. And we paid cash on the barrel.

I think it was the third or fourth night we “dined” this way when an elderly gentleman seated nearby sidled up, said “excuse me” and asked: “are you boys hungry?” Frank looked at me. I glanced back. And both of us answered rather sheepishly: “Yes.”

Seems this kind fellow was eating by himself at the same counter every evening and had noticed our meager subsistence. He then proceeded to buy each of us a pork chop dinner.  We appreciated it oh-so-much … and the gesture meant that we could afford a couple of cold ones at the Elbo Room.

Anyway, after a great week of sun and laughs we got back in the VW and headed for West Long Branch. But not so fast. We hadn’t got far up US 1 (this was pre-I-95) when we suddenly drove under a typical Florida cloud burst. The rain fell so quickly, and came down so hard, I decided to slow down. I tapped my brakes … and the car with the tightened-up brakes skidded across the river of a highway. We hit some soft earth off the shoulder of the road and the car flipped … three times before skidding to a stop on its side.

To this day I don’t know if I was knocked out. But I soon came to my senses, climbed out of the window, reached back in and pulled Frank out the same window. I actually suffered a 1-inch cut on my right hand from the broken window glass when I was reaching in to extricate Frank.

The car was not salvageable. Roof mostly caved in. Windshield smashed. We hauled our belongings out of the bug and Frank also was able to retrieve his guitar. Good thing. We wrote: ”N.J. or Bust” on the back of the guitar and within a half hour we were picked up by a couple of college kids who drove us all the way to Hightstown.

Yes, it was a road trip I’ll never forget. And I was back at Monmouth in time for my 9 o’clock class Monday morning.

Chuck Hassol ’61A
It was Spring Break 1998. Our junior year at Monmouth University. Most of my friends were going to warm locales—Key West, Daytona Beach, Cancun. Instead of the obvious destinations, my fellow students Karen Van Etten ’01 and Dave Yablonsky ’01 joined me and former Monmouth student John Pompilio on a road trip to Nashville and Memphis. And this was years before Nashville became a trendy destination!

So, off we went—traveling in style in a brand new Dodge Caravan. We ate at exotic restaurants such as Shoney’s, Waffle House and Cracker Barrel.

THEY’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN: From left, Karen Van Etten, Marisa Bodner Strauss, John Pompilio and Dave Yablonsky during their Memphis and Nashville excursion in 1998.

Our first night was spent in Bristol, Virginia. While we were there, we paid a visit to “Mysterious! Majestic!“ Bristol Caverns, which is in Bristol, Virginia’s twin city of Bristol, Tennessee. Apparently, Bristol (either one) is a Good Place to Live, according to the giant sign I photographed while we were there.

Next, we were off to Nashville, the country music capital of the world. It was in Nashville that our foursome began calling ourselves the “Bell Family” after seeing the BellSouth (now AT&T) skyscraper that resembled Batman.

Did you know that Nashville has a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens? We discovered the Tennessee Parthenon housed an art museum.

The only meal I can recall eating in Nashville was at the psychedelic Have a Nice Day Cafe (now closed). The food wasn’t as memorable as the smiley faces that plastered the eatery. Apparently, it was before its time—or, at least, the famous emoji’s time.

We were most excited about “walking in Memphis, walking with our feet 10 feet off of Beale.” Our hotel was the ritzy Days Inn, which boasted about its Elvis memorabilia, guitar-shaped pool and 24-hour Elvis channel—less than 1,000 feet from Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Spending time at Graceland was really a surreal experience. (Some of our group actually spent two days there!) It was pretty amazing to see the home where Elvis lived and allegedly died.

One of my favorite things about Memphis was seeing the famous Peabody Ducks. The Peabody Hotel has ducks that live in the hotel fountain. Every morning, the Peabody Duckmaster (yes, that’s a real job) marches the ducks from the roof to the fountain. At the end of the day, the duckmaster marches the ducks back up to the roof to spend the night. (I actually once met a real live former duckmaster, soon after this trip, closer to home in Secaucus, New Jersey!)

We also toured the legendary Sun Studio, where artists such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their hit songs. You had to feel like a real rock star posing with Elvis’ original microphone! We bought a pair of CDs, so the second half of our trip was spent listening to the greatest blues and country hits of Sun Records—timeless songs like “That’s All Right” by Elvis Presley, “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

It was on the trip that we realized that, while we may have been stretching our legs farther than we had before, we were still kids. While we were all permitted to tour the Coors Factory in Memphis, only two members of our “family” were permitted to sample the brews, as two of us were still underage!

This was also the trip when one member of our party (who shall remain nameless) had to buy snore strips because his incessant snoring kept another member of our party awake all night long.

It was on our way home, at the scenic Natural Bridge in Virginia, that another member of our party (who shall also remain nameless) tossed his Elvis Presley sunglasses away into nature during an argument. It may have been the 40th or 400th argument over the past week. I’m not sure, as I wasn’t the one who was recording the arguments.

We may have had arguments and sleepless nights due to snoring, but the most important thing was that this trip cemented Monmouth friendships that continue to this day.

Marisa Bodner Strauss ’00

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