Bob’s glad he attended college when burgers cost 5¢

Bob's glad he attended college when burgers cost 5� By Bob Karolevitz I just heard about how much it costs to go to college these days, and it dawned on me that I came along at the right time.

When I arrived on the campus at South Dakota State College in Brookings in the fall of 1940, there were 1,427 students. Now there are more than 8,000, and it's a university and not a college.

Tuition was $35 a quarter. Now it's figured on so much a credit hour and can run to more than $600 a semester. Even at $105 for the year, I still owed a few bucks in June which I managed to work out during the summer.

I had a good job while going to school. The National Youth Administration (NYA), a carry-over from the New Deal, paid me 15 cents an hour to write sports publicity. I could work between classes, and if I piled up 10 hours during the week, that amounted to a big paycheck of $1.50. Wow!

I also got a dollar a week for delivering the school paper � then known as The Industrial Collegian � to off-campus students. Man, I was flush!

I don't remember what it cost to eat at the boarding house, but it was worth it to walk the 10 or 11 block to Main Street to buy two hamburgers and a glass of milk for three nickels at Nick's. Now, almost 60 years later, Nick's is still in business at the same old corner, but the cost of hamburgers has skyrocketed by about 200 percent.

We walked downtown because at the time there were maybe a dozen cars on campus, give or take a few. The only occasions when there were more were on special weekends, for a prom, the Little International or the military ball. Guys hitchhiked home to borrow the folks' auto for a couple of days. My parents didn't have one, so it saved me a trip.

Speaking of military, Sate College was then informally known as "the West Point of the Prairies." (Before he became a general, Omar Bradley was once the professor of military science and tactics at Rabbitville.) Two years of ROTC were required of all able male undergraduates, so I got my first uniform which saved on my regular school clothes.

When we were freshmen, we all wore green beanies and had to buy a cowbell. I don't remember where I got the money, but 59 years later I still have my bell. The cacaphony of more than a thousand cowbells clanging during a basketball game at the infamous Barn is still an eerie auditory memory for me.

We guys all wore neckties for our yearbook pictures, and we dressed up in suits for the dances. We were really square by today's standards. The juke box in the Union Building Jungle featured records by Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman and other big bands. Rich kids who had a nickel played them for the rest of us.

We never did our own laundry; we sent our dirty clothes home to mother. I still have my mailing case with 26 cents worth of cancelled postage stamps on it. Sometimes cookies would come back with the clean socks and underwear.

Ah, those were the days!

Now all I can do is sympathize with parents and students as graduates come out of college with whopping debts. I'm just glad I came along during the nickel hamburger era.

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