The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Class of change


When Stan Wylie remembers his time at A&M more than 50 years ago, he first recalls the lifelong friendships formed as a student. Like many members of the Class of 1964, Wylie said the time between stepping on campus as a freshman and donning his senior ring is characterized by much more than just classroom lectures.
Wylie and other members of the Class of 1964 are convening this year for a 50-year reunion. For many reunion participants, their college experience was characterized by the death of John F. Kennedy, the beginning of limited enrollment for women and A&M’s name change from college to a university.
The JFK Assassination
While almost everyone on campus – cadets and non-regs alike – participated in Bonfire, Lee Grant, Class of 1964, said Bonfire was not burned the year of Kennedy’s assassination.
Wylie said this was because the assassination of Kennedy made ripples across campus.
“The most significant thing that changed our senior year was that President Kennedy died,” Wylie said. “That changed all our lives. The Bonfire was cancelled for the first time in forever.”
For Wylie, tradition was everything. By today’s standards, Wylie said his generation was conditioned to reject change.
“Our senior year there was a lot of change, and thinking about it we didn’t accept change very well,” Wylie said. “A&M was about tradition, so we were steeped in tradition.”
With a class size of only 1,667, Grant said the primary sources of entertainment came in the form of formal balls and football games. Grant said other distractions came in the form of students protesting the re-naming of A&M and the inclusion of women on campus.
“The Vietnam War was starting up, so a lot of schools were protesting that, and here all we had to protest was co-education,” Grant said.
Grant, who has daughters who have attended A&M, said it didn’t take long to realize that integration was beneficial to A&M.
“We didn’t see much that A&M had to offer a woman at A&M in those days,” Grant said. “We felt like it would ruin the Corps and it would ruin the school, and obviously we were dead wrong, and it didn’t take us too many years when we were out of school to realize that that was the best thing that ever happened.”
Gogi Dickson earned her doctorate in educational leadership and was one of the first women admitted to campus. Because women at the time had to be married to a student or professor to attend, Gogi Dickson married John Dickson, Class of 1964, earlier than originally planned so she could attend A&M in 1964.
“All of the sudden, she wanted to get married. I thought it was my senior boots,” John Dickson said with a laugh. “But she was one of the women who broke the barrier.”
While some students were “grumpy” about the integration of campus, Gogi Dickson said she was widely respected on campus.
“They treated me like a queen,” Gogi Dickson said. “There were 27 of us. I didn’t know any other Maggies, as they called us, so I was on my own, but the first thing that impressed me was when I walked in the class the first day and all the cadets stood up.”
Gogi Dickson said her experience isn’t necessarily the norm and that women on campus were treated differently because males on campus didn’t quite know how to handle the fact that there were women on campus.
College to university
While transcripts from the Class of 1964 have stamps documenting the University’s name change, Wylie said his class still attended A&M College.
“Class of ’64 is the last class with ‘A&M College’ on their ring,” Wylie said. “Someone told me the other day that we had a choice, we could have had ‘Texas A&M University’ on our rings, and I don’t remember that, but that’s not where we went to school. We went to A&M when it was still a college.”
With a graduate school and a veterinary school, Grant said A&M was already a university with a college title.
“In retrospect it was kind of silly,” Grant said. “We didn’t want anything to change about A&M.”
Tradition on campus
With the enrollment size as small as it was, Wylie said fewer Silver Taps were held, but the likelihood of knowing someone who was being honored was higher than it is today.
“If you didn’t know them, then you knew someone who did,” Wylie said.
Grant said even studying after Muster was done in a way that recognized the importance of the event.
“The entire campus would be blacked out and if you were going to study when you came back. You had to put a sheet or something over your window,” Grant said. “The campus remained blacked out for the rest of the night.
Wylie said the Century Tree had no romantic tradition associated with it at the time, but said the Aggie handshake and “Howdy” were, and still are, traditions that he holds dear.
“You spoke to everyone, but when you were walking in the same direction as someone in the Corps, you whipped out and met them,” Wylie said. “You know, Howdy, fish.’ ‘Wylie is my name, sir,’ and it went from there.”
In his Corps unit, Squadron 9, Grant said he participated in many self-defeating activities because it was “good bull.”
“I don’t know if they still do it, but we used to have ‘drown outs,’ and that’s when a couple of freshmen got tired of getting hazed by a particular sophomore,” Grant said. “In the middle of the night, they would go and fill their trash can full of water and go in there and dump it on him when he was asleep in his bunk. Of course that was kind of stupid, because that just meant that the entire fish class in that outfit had to get up around 2 a.m. and be yelled out for a while and then the next day have to clean out that sophomore’s room.”
The infamous game
A sore spot for many returning Aggies is the football team’s loss to the University of Texas in 1963. Many Aggies attributed the loss to a bad call made by the referee.
“We were the first team to beat t.u. in eight years,” Wylie said. “Remember the score was A&M 13, t.u. 9, referee 6.”
Still, despite the football team’s overall poor performance – at one point Wylie said freshmen cadets were told to chant, “tie the hell out of them” – Wylie said a big highlight of attending games was bringing dates.
“We all went to A&M with high school girlfriends, so the first few games of your fish year you had a date with your high school girlfriend,” Wylie said. “I won’t say all of us, but a lot of us, and that was until you got that famous flush – that’s what we called the dear John letters – those would come in quite frequently the fish year.”
Wylie said students learned to go to Sam Houston State to find a date or get friends elsewhere to set up dates.
“You had to hustle, but girls really liked the uniform, and at least until we did some really crude or something, we’d get a couple of dates,” Wylie said.
While the A&M basketball team at the time met success, Wylie said football fans added an amendment to the touchdown kiss tradition to keep games interesting.
“Sophomore year or junior year, we had a really lousy football team, and we’d start kissing, or at least trying to kiss, after first downs,” Wylie said.
Stepping back on campus
Grant said A&M has been in his sights since he was a little boy and that visiting campus over the years and seeing all of the changes has been neat.
“Every little change, every time freshmen were going to be able to get their hair a little longer, they were going to cut out hazing, every time this happened or that happened, that was just the common response, ‘Old army’s gone to hell,'” Grant said.
Despite the changes, Grant said the spirit of Aggieland is not diminished and that he always laughs when he hears a senior telling a freshman, “You’ve got it easy.”

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