When I was in high school a teacher called me in, asked me if I was going to college and when I told her "no'' she said, "Fine, you're in the general class.''
She told me I could then leave. She never suggested — even though my parents couldn't afford college — that I could still take college classes and maybe someday go to night school. She just said I was allowed only in the general class. I walked out kind of numb by her attitude.
In those days, however, it was not necessary to get a college education in order to be a success. Now, a college education is absolutely necessary. Today, we have graduates who can't get a job commensurate with their education. Four or five years of college, earning a degree or two, and some can still end up in a job in a restaurant.
At one point in my broadcasting career, before I did an early-morning radio program in New York City, I wrote a weekly column called Today's World At Large. When a new manager asked me to do the morning show, he asked if I could do Today's World every 15 minutes. I told him, no way. I could barely write the weekly commentary. He said, "Well, do something.''
I did. I invented the Aylward Notebook of short, unusual items followed by a funny punch line. I gathered material from the overnight wire supplied by United Press International.
At our station, no one used the wire stories except for "The World in Brief'' just enough to fill a five-minute news period. The other stuff spewed out all night long and was tossed away. I began to go through it and found what I called "Things No One Ever Tells You.''
For instance, I found an item that said if you take a test in July or August, you wouldn't do well on it. If you take the same test in January or February, you'll get a higher grade. I paused, then said, "You're dumber in the summer.''
The ratings went up and the show was a success. One morning I received a phone call from a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said he loved the show. He listened every morning and found the material fascinating. He wanted to know what college I had attended. I told him I didn't go to college. He was stunned.
Actually, I told him I did go to college, but only momentarily. They threw me out.
Earlier, before getting a job at a radio station, I found a night course on broadcasting at Boston University. It cost $25. I enrolled and went to the first class and discovered it was only for professionals. The teacher began by asking each of us to talk a bit about our accomplishments. When it got to me, I said I wasn't in radio, but I wanted to be.
The teacher said the class was only for professionals and I would have to leave immediately. Embarrassed, I crawled out, went to the main desk and asked for my money back.
The woman said I had attended one class and therefore I was due only $20. I said, "He threw me out. And, your prospectus never indicated you had to be a professional.''
"Twenty,'' she said.
I took it and stormed out. For years after, I added a phrase to my resume, "Attended Boston University.'' Well, it was actually true. I attended for a few minutes one night before they tossed me out and kept a fifth of my money.
Not too shabby for a kid from the general class. But, I'd still recommend staying in school and getting a degree.
Jim Aylward, of New Port Richey, was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City.