Skip to main content

My Ups and Downs in 1963

Paul attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison 1962-66. He took a pre-med course of study and majored in chemistry.

1963-1964 University of Wisconsin Sophomore Dormitory Group Photo

UW Sophomore Dormitory Picture

UW Sophomore Dormitory Picture

My Ups and Downs in 1963

1963 was like riding a roller coaster. There were so many ups and downs in my life.

As a University of Wisconsin Madison freshman and first-semester sophomore, I encountered both success and a lot of disappointment at school.

Outside of school, I got a summer job to help pay for college expenses.

I had to deal, however, with my grandfather's death, President Kennedy's assassination, and my parents' farm auction to get out of serious debt.

Each major up and down is recalled in this article.

Remembering University of Wisconsin Freshman Year Ups and Downs

In the first semester of my University of Wisconsin freshman year, I quickly learned that college was a lot tougher than high school. Although I finished with Bs in zoology, chemistry, first-semester calculus, and English, I got off to a horrendous start in calculus. It was so bad that I was failing after the first six-week exam.

Fortunately, I did better during the last nine weeks of the course. After getting a B on the 12-week exam, I prepared for the final exam in January 1963 by studying with two of my classmates. This did wonders because I "aced" the final and wound up with a B in calculus.

During the second semester of my first year, I enrolled in two chemistry courses, second-semester calculus, sociology, and English. Although I made Bs in a chemistry qualitative analysis course, second-semester calculus, and sociology, I disappointedly received Cs in a chemistry word problem course and English.

My final Grade Point Average (GPA) could have been higher if I had maintained the A in calculus that I had had after the 12-week test.

I only had a B minus GPA after my freshman year. It certainly wouldn't look good when I later applied to get into a medical school.

1962-63 University of Wisconsin Dormitory Picture

1962-63 University of Wisconsin dormitory picture.  The author is second from the left in the third row from the bottom.

1962-63 University of Wisconsin dormitory picture. The author is second from the left in the third row from the bottom.

First Semester Sophomore Year Ups and Downs

The first semester of my sophomore year had more downs than ups. I was enrolled in chemistry courses for chemistry majors and a calculus course that I didn't need to get into medical school. An English literature and psychology course completed my schedule.

After the first six weeks of the semester, I was doing poorly or failing many classes. I remember having Ds in organic chemistry lecture and lab and an F in third-semester calculus. My C in English wasn't much better but I did have a B in psychology.

By December 1963, I had raised my D in an organic lab to a C and my D in organic lecture to a B. In calculus, I had improved from an F to a C. Although I couldn't raise my English grade, my GPA was at least over a C with the Bs I had in organic lecture and psychology.

My overall GPA after three semesters of college work was now down to a B minus. Academically, I had never felt more down in my life.

My Undergraduate College Transcript

My University of Wisconsin undergraduate transcript

My University of Wisconsin undergraduate transcript

1963 Ups and Downs Outside of School

I had a lot more downs than ups in 1963. My major ups and downs included the following.

  1. Finding a summer job
  2. The death of my paternal grandfather
  3. The assassination of President Kennedy
  4. My parents' farm auction to get out of debt

Finding a Summer Job

Finding a summer job was probably one of the few ups or high points for me in 1963.

I didn't find a summer job myself. It was through a big assist from my dad that I was hired by the Racine County Highway Department. When dad found out that the superintendent of the Highway Department was the father of one of my high school classmates, he immediately got in touch with the superintendent. Mr. Skagen, fortunately, arranged for me to work for the Highway Department during my summer vacation months of June-August.

My dad bought grandpa's old car and that was my transportation to and from work a few miles from our farm.

Later in the summer, I took mom in the old car to attend Aunt Mary's wedding reception in the Milwaukee area.

The only downer was getting assigned to work with a man who was a perfectionist. It was extremely hard to please Red. Many times I had wished I were working with someone else.

The Death of My Paternal Grandfather

After I arrived home for one week of a break between college semesters, I sadly learned that my paternal grandfather had passed away. Grandma had wanted all of the grandsons to be pallbearers at the funeral. Along with cousins Dickie and Alan, I helped carry grandpa's casket into and out of the family church and out of the hearse a the cemetery. Grandpa had always been good to me so I was very disheartened.

The Assassination of President Kennedy

President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, was also a downer or low point for me. I liked Kennedy very much and he inspired me. When I found out he had been shot, it was a little after noon on a Friday and I had just returned to my dorm after an organic chemistry lecture. Some of my classmates were crying and I remember the University of Wisconsin had a ceremony for Kennedy on the day of his funeral.

My Parents' Farm Auction to Get Out of Debt

After I returned home for Christmas vacation, it was a big shock when dad told me that mom and he were having a cattle auction a few days before New Year's Day.

I couldn't believe it until dad took me to Mukwonago to see a posted auction bill in a hardware store. My parents had sacrificed to send me to college. With four younger siblings and only relying on a milk check for income, mom and dad were badly in debt. They had no choice but to sell out to make ends meet.

I had had problems with grades in school at that time and never had realized the severity of my mom and dad's financial situation.

My Siblings in Probably 1963

From left to right-- seated are Philip and Patty.  Connie is standing next to Patty and Beatrice is standing in the back.

From left to right-- seated are Philip and Patty. Connie is standing next to Patty and Beatrice is standing in the back.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

Related Articles