By Lynn Moncus
Sometimes while awaiting the arrival of sleep, I let the mind wander in various directions in the hopes of relaxing and finding a thought that might be boring enough to allow a few hours of rest. Well, last night, I certainly found the dull subjects but had to spend more time thinking about them than in collecting rest.
As most of you know, I spent a number of years collecting college degrees for some reason none of us could ever imagine, and two of the degrees required the writing of theses.
Self-torture comes to mind as I think of those research and writing experiences. Because I wasn’t even sure where either thesis might be, I decided to go on a search this morning. Well, I found them and brought them out of the book room in order to do a little browsing. Of course, I have not read them since having to defend them and am not just about to read them at this time, but I am glad to know that they still exist in the event I should need a little kindling for a fire in the fireplace.
I wrote the first one in 1964 and recall that tortuous experience as if it were more recent. In those days, we had to present six copies and the original and had to make those copies the hard way by using a typewriter and carbon paper.
As usual, I was too broke to afford a typist and had to do the work on my trusty little Smith Corona portable electric typewriter. Before that, however, much work had to be done on the research and putting all of that into a readable form. Because my advisor knew I was weak in statistics, he decided I had to do a statistical study in order to improve my knowledge and to prove that I could do the work. The typing then took quite a spell because mistakes had to be corrected on each sheet of paper as I was typing all those copies at once. If I forgot to remove a scrap placed between pages to protect the surrounding area during the erasing exercises, I would discover at the end of that page that I could do all copies over again and would then try to remain alert enough to avoid mistakes as well as to remove all scraps.
By the time I finished that project, I wasn’t even in the mood to defend the thesis but had to appear in front of a committee to be quizzed.
By 1971, rules had relaxed a bit, and I had but to type the original of the thesis and have the other six copied by a magic machine. Although the research and writing were just as painful, the final writing was a simple exercise because I could erase the one sheet only and proceed with the typing on another Smith Corona electric portable. Needless to say the economic situation remained the same so I was privileged to do my own work, but the time involved was less taxing. As usual, the defense was the worst part of the experience, but I must have passed because all members of the committee signed the copies.
For many years after writing that last one, I had a major problem just remembering the name of the author about whom I had read so much and written quite a bit. I would have to find the thesis or call a friend in the event I needed to know that I had written about the American author, Charles Brockden Brown.
At least, I could remember the subject of the first one because I was privileged to do part of the research in the federal prison at La Tuna, Texas. I still wonder why I spent all those years collecting degrees, but I hope I won’t be thinking about them tonight so I can rest comfortably with the thought that such activities are not apt to be repeated in this lifetime.