Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another Father’s Day

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is my father, Walter Suvier Bralley, left, and his father, Walter Suvier Bralley, right. They were graduates of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia. These are their class pictures; my grandfather was a member of the 1901 class and my father, the 1941 class.

I have been giving them a fair amount of thought since the horrific events of April 16, 2007.

I never knew my grandfather. He died April 16, 1943, six years before I was born and 64 years to the day from the campus rampage. He graduated with Electrical, Mechanical, and Civil Engineering degrees. He worked for the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York.

My father, initially studied Mechanical Engineering, like his father, but changed his major to Business Administration.

VPI was a military school with the majority of students as members of the corps of cadets. Though technically an all male school, a few women from the Blacksburg community were admitted as day students.

Virginia Tech, as it is commonly referred to these days, is located in mid western Virginia. Its buildings are made of gray granite that was quarried locally. The corps of cadets marching band is called the Highty Tighties. School colors are orange and maroon. Their mascot is a male turkey called a Hokie. Graduates have always sported the biggest class ring in the country. Texas tried to get a bigger ring one year, but the manufacturer told VPI who then upped their ring size by a pennyweight. The ring is defined as a deadly weapon in several states. It is a quirky institution: the school’s colors, by themselves, have to be the ugliest possible combination, with the strange names and weird mascot; it is hard to imagine the pride and strength of loyalty that the school engenders.

In the last few decades, VPI has had a tremendous athletic program with winning teams in basketball and more recently football. They are much more competitive than they were in 1964, when my dad took his three sons on a road trip to visit the campus. We watched the traditional football game against rival Virginia Military Institute of Lexington on Thanksgiving Day at Roanoke.

My father’s yearbook has gold stars that he placed next to several pictures of students; they represent young men killed during World War II. There is a large monument on the campus, overlooking the central drill-field, with the names of alumni who gave their lives in battle for the United States.

My father told a gun story about his days at VPI. The college used a steam whistle mounted on the power plant to announce times, including reveille. Apparently, it irritated one student so much that he took a hunting rifle and shot a hole in the pipe leading to the whistle where it extended above the roof. The humor in the story came from the fact that VPI, having an engineering program, turned the investigation into a class project. A transit was set up to sight through the gunshot hole and track back to the room where the shot came from. The sleepy student was discovered.

Now, the issue of guns on campus takes on a whole new meaning, with 33 dead.

I am glad that my father and grandfather didn’t have to experience this grim event, as it is not what they would have wanted to remember.

Yet it has not changed the thinking of the next generation. My 15-year-old nephew, Steven, who looks a lot like his forbearers, had expressed an interest a couple of years ago in attending VPI when he graduates high school in about three years. The tragic events had not dissuaded him. I asked him, while he was showing his pig, if he was interested in pursuing an agricultural degree. He answered that he wanted to attend because of the reputation of their athletics department.

My dad would have been pleased.

Now I preach. As I said last year, honor your father or his memory, tell him how you feel and thank him for every thing he has done for you. Even if all he did was be your father. Amen!

Yes, I do miss my dad, for he was my best friend.

1 comment:

Ched MacQuigg said...

you've made me recall some things I haven't thought about in awhile; nice piece.