A heat wave blanketed the Denver area, but I was not on the radio doing a Johnny Carson bit on “how hot was it.” It was crazy, I was no longer a DJ in Denver, yet I wasn’t sitting and staring at the walls. In fact, I wondered how I had been able to pull it off as long as I had; Full time DJ-college-dating and some ad work. With this break, I knew what I needed to do.
So, just a few days after my unceremonious departure from Denver radio, I flew to Memphis, rented a car, drove an hour south into Mississippi to pick up Lisa and Laura for their journey to live with me in Colorado.
I was surprised and concerned when I saw Momma. She stood with a slight hunch, looked tired and older than her age of 66. She appeared to have aged 10 years in the four years since I last saw her.
Laura said if she were allowed to stay, and she wanted to, could help take care of her Grandmother. There were tears all around as we helped them pack for yet another move. Momma’s reaction — appalled at my full beard and Afro — momentarily lifted us from an otherwise forlorn affair.
A short time before I left Colorado to pick up the twins, I bought a house in an upscale neighborhood in the Denver suburb of Littleton with a VA loan. The split-level, 1,700 sq. ft. 3 bedroom, 3 bath, featured a wet bar in the basement, and a moss rock fireplace surround in the family room. Lewis Ames Elementary school was within walking distance.
The Twins at the start of 1st grade. (Bonnie Parham)
Having left Tacoma, Washington for Germany, then moving to North Carolina, Kansas City, and the journey to Memphis, the twins could have qualified for frequent flyer miles. Now they were moving once more, from Mississippi to Colorado, so flying into Stapleton was no big deal, although Laura was still sad at having left her Grandmother.
We had an uneventful flight on a United 727, unlike a recently hijacked United 737 that landed at Stapleton, where it remained for 90 minutes before the malefactor surrendered.
We grabbed our luggage from the carousel, loaded it on a shuttle to long-term parking, threw it in the car, and commenced the 45-minute drive southeast to our new home. As for the big cities they remembered, (Kansas City and Memphis) Denver was surely different, with the Rocky Mountains framing the skyline to the west.
Similar to our house (below) in the same neighborhood of Littleton, 1978-80. (ReMax™ Realty)
Now they would finally get their separate bedrooms in our big house in suburbia with a fenced backyard. It was a world away from Mississippi.
The children in our neighborhood laughed at their southern accent and the types of clothing they wore, which they brought with them from Mississippi. I took them to nearby Southglenn Mall for new wardrobes. I had no luck. Frustrated, I asked a single mom who lived next door to accompany us. It still wasn’t easy, but together we made it work. Then I enrolled them in elementary school for the fifth grade.
There were lots of women, and people in general, who found my single-dad-ship of two girls quite virtuous. They gave me even more respect as they spent some time with the twins and saw how difficult they actually were.
We went to counseling a few times, and I determined it wasn’t helping; besides, the twins hated it. The girls promised — if they could stop counseling — to be more attentive and less difficult at home and school. Then I enrolled them in a Calvinettes group at a local church, along with an after-school recreational program in swimming, horseback riding, gymnastics, and the like.
I had a platonic live-in young lady, a fellow student who stayed at our house rent-free in exchange for some help with the twins. Thanks, Jan. I also had a girlfriend in particular, who was especially supportive and was a taxi for the girls on many occasions. Thanks, Marilyn.
Now that the twins were occupied with school and the other activities, I needed to concentrate on my studies. I had long ago realized I needed a profession more secure than radio, especially now with my daughters depending on me.
How about something like a government job? That would be about as far from radio that I could imagine. But any job would be more secure than the radio broadcasting profession. Another One Bites The Dust played on KBPI.
Graduates of the Communication Department at DU (where I studied) had among it alum, members of the Hollywood film industry, and a graduate who started The Hard Rock Café, and one was credited with the music video concept.
Professors in the department created a work-study program with an adventure that would take us to the studios in SoCal. (That meant, shortly after the twins came to live with me, I had to find a sitter for a week.)
In Hollywood, we got an up-close look at the motion picture and TV industry. Boring. The setups for a scene and the takes is a very slow process. There was plenty of standing around between takes, then more time for setups, and actors back and forth to their trailers.
We watched an early taping of Dukes Of Hazard, (a few months before it made its debut), a live taping of Alice, and The Tonight Show where (surprise) Letterman was the guest host. Most interesting to me was an early screening of The Deer Hunter.
Despite that fun trip, sometimes I thought college would never end, I needed credits here, credits there. I was carrying a heavy academic workload. My VA counselor kept me on a tight schedule to ensure that I graduated within the time allowed for my Vocational Rehabilitation training program, paid for by the VA.
DU was (and continues to be) a private, intense, and very expensive school. Professors took their jobs seriously and were quick to discern mediocre work in any assignment. Going to class unprepared could be especially embarrassing. I never made less than a C, but I worked harder for some of those as I did for an A.
One such challenge was an astronomy course taught by Professor Everhart — who naturally had a comet named after him. Class was occasionally held at his house, high in the Rockies, where he had his own telescope to view the heavens. A professor of that stature has high expectations. There was a surprising amount of math, science, and photography. I studied hard and barely squeaked by with a C. Then, there were other especially challenging courses like quantitative analysis, statistics, and mass communications law.
I graduated in three years with a double major, a BA in Speech Communication, and a BA in Public Communication with a final GPA of 3.2. The twins were ecstatic — very proud of me. At graduation, I was given the venerated University of Denver Community Service Award.
The next logical step, for my education, was a Master’s degree. Having finished my undergraduate degree a year early, my VA counselor determined I still had another year of benefits, which I would use for graduate school.
The good news about DU’s Master’s program; it’s possible to get one in less than the usual two-years. Bad news; it comes with a tremendous workload, a mini-thesis every quarter. I chose the fast-track program and was a Graduate Teaching Assistant while studying for my advanced degree. I completed my Master’s in 18-months. My final thesis was “Cybernetic News,” and I was awarded an MA in Public Communication.
Now to find a job.