Pat Krapf

LMU and Panama


Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) 1971-1972

As my first year at LMU wound to a close, I decided to stay a second year to complete my prerequisites for college graduation. Then I planned to transfer to another university to enroll in journalism courses. I had my sights set on the University of Oregon, impressed by the curriculum of their School of Journalism. However, I did question one of their requirements: typing twenty-five words a minute with no mistakes on a manual typewriter. What a waste of time. I’ll never use this, I recall thinking. Since LMU offered a typing class, I decided to get this basic under my belt. Between studies and my involvement with the campus newspaper, The Blue and Gray, my second year seemed to fly by. Toward the end of the semester, I applied to the University of Oregon, packed up for summer vacation, and said a sad goodbye to my friends and roommate at LMU.

Panama City, Panama

During 1972, my father had been transferred to Panama City, Panama, so in early June I arrived in the country to spend the summer. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Panama Canal, watching the massive ships pass through the locks as they made their way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In early August, I received good news: I had been accepted to the University of Oregon School of Journalism. I was now—officially—a Duck.

Next week:  “University of Oregon: Eugene, 1972-1974.”

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Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) and Maracaibo

Lake Maracaibo

Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) 1970-1971

After I left Puerto Rico, I spent two months with my paternal grandmother in Alabama, buying clothes and some accessories to brighten my dormitory room. The day my grandmother put me on the plane for LMU proved to be one of the loneliest days of my life. I had never been away from family, so I had never experienced loneliness. When winter set in, the cold weather only served to dampen my spirits even more. With little choice, I threw my energies into my studies and became active in campus groups, knowing the holidays weren’t far off and I would be spending them in sunny, hot South America. In mid-December, I left Harrogate for Knoxville and caught a flight to Maracaibo, Venezuela, via Miami.

Maracaibo, Venezuela

Maracaibo has a semiarid climate and is one of the hottest cities in Venezuela, so it came as no surprise that this was one of the driest and warmest Christmases I have ever experienced. But after enduring several feet of snow and the frigid temperatures of the Cumberland Gap, I wasn’t complaining. I passed the days swimming (in a pool or at the beach, not in the lake) and basking in the hot sun. My family lived close to Lake Maracaibo, which was definitely not suitable for swimming. The water could best be described as brackish from agricultural runoff and oil spills. The holidays passed quickly, and in early January I flew back to Knoxville, then caught the bus to LMU.

Next week: “LMU and Panama.”

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Sailing the Virgin Islands Aboard the Schooner Mistress

Virgin Islands

From late 1969 to early 1970, I lived in Puerto Rico for a span of eight months. In that eighth month, I had no choice but to face the inevitable—the dreaded algebra exam. I completed the course with a solid C and closed the chapter on my high school days, now ready for college. But before I returned to the States, we took a family vacation. My father, the avid fisherman, chose a cruise through the Virgin Islands so he could deep-sea fish. He chartered a sixty-foot sailing schooner called The Mistress for a ten-day voyage through the isles.

From San Juan we caught a flight to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, then drove to the marina where we met with the crew. On the first night of our voyage, we anchored off St. John and made stops at different bays every day for the next nine nights, leisurely sailing through the US and British Virgin Islands.

While my father spent his days fishing, we snorkeled the coral reefs, in awe of this underwater paradise of majestic stingrays, nosy barracudas, feisty moray eels, and brilliantly colored parrot fish. And although not as colorful, the puffer fish were quite interesting, especially when they puffed up their stomachs, a defense mechanism. But we did respect those long poisonous spikes covering their bodies.

When not snorkeling, we swam from the boat, diving off the schooner into forty-foot-deep crystal clear waters. Or we rowed the dinghy to shore and strolled miles of deserted pink beaches, content to sunbathe and bodysurf the waves—a day of nothing but blissful loafing. In the evenings, we relaxed on deck, watched the sunset, and drank in the aroma of the day’s catch wafting from the galley, where a feast sizzled on the grill, a hearty meal to satisfy healthy appetites. After a delicious dinner of fresh fish and vegetables, what better way to call it a day than to sack out under a star-studded, cloudless sky and let the gentle rocking of the schooner lull you to sleep?

After ten days in paradise, we flew back to reality, and I started applying to colleges. Being accepted wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. I should have begun the process at least a year in advance. Every university I applied to had already met its quota for “foreign students.” Nothing I or my parents said convinced anyone in admissions that I was not a foreign exchange student. Working through connections at Interpace, I was finally accepted at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), a small private college in Harrogate, Tennessee, and I became a Railsplitter.  The campus is nestled in the Cumberland Gap of the Appalachian Mountains about fifty-five miles north of Knoxville. I planned to complete my first year there, then transfer elsewhere because the school didn’t offer a journalism program.

The day I said goodbye to my parents at the airport in Puerto Rico, my father held me tight. When he let go, I saw tears in his eyes. Over the years, he had made no secret about wanting a daughter—boys run in the family—so the bond between us ran deep. Before that day, I had never seen him tear up, and I would never see tears again until many years later when we said our final goodbyes.

Next week: “Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) and Maracaibo.”

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