Sunday, May 14, 2006

USMC : Photography = College Scholarship


Being a Marine Corps photog paid off big time! Toting around a camera during my military "career" for 4 years enabled me to be the first in the family to attend college.

In 1959 I had flown to MCRD in San Diego for a week with the Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marine varsity football team. I traveled as the team photographer, NOT as a player! The late 1950s were peaceful and many very good college athletes had enlisted as reservists meaning there were lots of young, talented players in the various services then. And rivalries developed.

As my East Coast team prepared to play against the Marine Corps Recruit Depot varsity team, they had to practice each day but I was free to roam around this pretty, laid-back southern California town that was similar to my seaside Charleston.

Eventually I looked up a priest who had taught me in high school and now was a History Professor at the young (11-year old) Catholic university. He introduced me to some of the senior faculty and he suggested that since they had no photographer maybe I would be a good candidate. I was experienced, had my own equipment, was now very interested in starting college and was about to end my enlistment in the Corps.

I accepted an offer of a photography scholarship to the University of San Diego and, as soon as I was discharged in 1960, I packed up my cameras and darkroom equipment and flew west. The sun-bleached blonde young man who met my plane and drove me up to the campus in his vintage "woody" asked if I were a surfer. I said I had body surfed at Folly Beach in South Carolina. He smirked.

So now I was a former Marine and a freshman in college, slightly older than my peers.

I started this photography blog two months ago and several people commented on the picture I posted of John F. Kennedy. Like me, they appreciated the crisp combination of the large, excited crowd and the speaker with his familiar face turned toward me. This was Senator Kennedy in the 1960 campaign and he had drawn a huge audience downtown in this supposedly Republican city.

With a few pals from the University, I pushed my way toward the platform and showing my USD student ID card, said I was the school's photographer and could I come up on the platform. Times were REALLY more simple then and I was given a quick ok by the policeman and I found myself in a great photo location.

A few years later, several months before he was shot in Dallas, I was a staff photographer with the daily newspaper and photographed President Kennedy again in San Diego. It took two weeks to obtain credentials this time through the Secret Service and the President's Press office. Times weren't as simple then.

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