The Beatles are forever linked in my memory with my freshman year in college.  I was 17 when I left for Oklahoma State University with very little preconception of what the experience would be.  I picked that school on my own, probably because of friends going there, and was adjusting to all the freedoms and adventures that go with it.  I had never lived anywhere like the dorm with a stranger for a roommate, community bathroom, little privacy, and a whole lot of new and old friends.  In that time, there was a phone in the hall and pay phones on the first floor.  We did have a sink in our room, but no big technology or major appliances other than a lamp, hairdryer, popcorn popper, clock-radio and record player.  Yes, record player.

In November, just as we were settling in, President Kennedy was assassinated.  I can’t tell you what a shock that was to kids away from home who had never felt unsafe before.  I heard about it in badminton class and we sat in shock.  Don’t laugh at the badminton class.  We had to have four gym credits for our well rounded education.  I did quite well in badminton.  Anyway, the assassination made us call home to check in with our parents, stay up late discussing it with our very new friends, and watch it over and over on the television set in the basement of the dorm. Our world had changed forever.  Looking back, everything changed that day in ways that became more pronounced every year since.  From a life of innocence and tranquility (at least to us), every year brought more violence, more disruption.  Nothing was ever the same.

After the holidays, we heard about a new musical group that was going to be on Ed Sullivan.  I think I read in the paper about The Beatles and the uproar they were causing in England.  The only thing close in our lifetime was Elvis, but we had been younger when he was starting out.  The boys we knew had crew cuts, the Twist had been popular the year before, and we had embraced folk music, listening to the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez.  We went from coffee shop to rock and roll.  The Beatles came at a good time.  We needed a pick me up after the darkness of fall.

On the Sunday of that Ed Sullivan show in February, someone brought a portable TV from home.  The closest station was out of Oklahoma City, so we balanced the set on the window sill of a fourth floor dormer window and wrapped the antenna with foil for better reception on that tiny screen.  All the girls who could cram in that dorm room, girls from towns of a few hundred to girls from the cities, were waiting to see.  Our first view brought exclamations.  Their hair was long!  I remember commenting it looked cute.  We all thought they were cute…wonder what the guys who were watching thought that night?  And there was the music and the girls in the audience screaming and the boys singing to that seemingly simple beat.  We loved it.  We somehow knew that this was another historic night, another milestone we would talk about in terms of where we were when we first heard them.

Could two events be so different and so important in such different ways?  That was the year I went from being 17 to 18.  That was a year to remember and learn from.  My freshman year in college was an education of a different kind it turned out.  I remember it well.