Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Back to School, My Two Best Schoolyears...Ever

Aviator C

If you are of college age, you probably are getting ready to head back to school.  Or maybe you are a parent getting your kids ready for another school year.  This time of year, Southwest Airlines acts like a big blue and red school bus taking college students back to their campuses.  You are also creating memories that will be important to you when you are an old codger like me.

Isn’t it funny how little things can transport you back to an earlier time?  This weekend I was listening to XM Sirrus’s 70s channel, and they were replaying Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 show from the last week of August, 1971.  The songs were the anthems of my youth, and I got to thinking about where I was when this show was airing live.

I was in Dallas, and a few weeks after the original show ran, I would begin my sophomore year at Southern Methodist University.  Little did I know that the year would be one of my two best school years ever.  The first was sixth grade in Room 2 at Center Street Elementary in El Segundo, California—next to Los Angeles International.  My family had moved there the previous year, and in fifth grade I was pretty much an outsider from Texas.  By my sixth grade year, I was an accepted part of the class.  (I even found other aviation geeks)  It was a tumultuous, fast-paced, emotional, and wonderful year.  Probably the high point of the year was a week away at Outdoor School in the mountains east of Los Angeles.  I still remember the night hike when the full moon lit the landscape like a street lamp.  During the day, our guides took us to see the San Andreas Fault, and they showed us a big crack in the land.  That year, our class even marched en masse to the principal to complain about a substitute teacher.  The Dodgers won the World Series in October, John Kennedy died in November, one of my classmate’s father was a Green Beret in a far off land in Southeast Asia, Vietnam, and The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Whenever I hear one of their early songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in my mind I am sitting with my classmates David, Ivy, and Martin in our group of four desks there in Room 2.

My sophomore year in college was a blur of self-awareness, and like sixth grade, bonding.  Because I was late to apply for housing on campus, I was assigned to the small former football dorm, Letterman Hall.  Besides holding no more than 100 students, if that many, it was SMU’s first coed dormitory.  This was my first time living away from home, and with the exception of a few short periods, I never returned to the “nest.”  The dorm became a tight-knit community, and in spite of 100 or so single early “twenty somethings” confined to a small area, relationships remained platonic.  It seemed like I was doing something every waking moment (well, except for studying—it wasn’t my best academic year, I’m afraid).  A large chunk of my time was spent as News Director of the campus radio station, KSMU, which used carrier wires to transmit to the dorms.  Like the Deltas from Animal House, we took road trips to Texas Tech and Baylor.  James Taylor, Carole King, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” are the immediate music memories of the year, but I also learned all the lyrics to Don McLean’s megahit “American Pie” under unusual conditions.  But, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

So, those are my two best school years ever.  Both years involved personal growth, bonding, and music.  I can hear a song from the early 70s and tell you what I was doing the first time I heard it.  What was your best school year, and what was the soundtrack of that year?