Reflections

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Memories of '62

By Joe Saltzman ’62
Professor of Journalism, USC Annenberg

I was right out of undergraduate school where I was editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Trojan, at the University of Southern California and compared to my classmates extremely naïve. (When we introduced ourselves at an orientation luncheon, I couldn’t understand why everyone laughed when I said I had been editor of the Daily Trojan.)

If it weren’t for Penn Kimball, I probably wouldn’t have come back after Christmas break because as a native Californian I was miserably homesick and my fiancée was in Los Angeles. Penn counseled me more like a father than a teacher and said that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t finish up the year. I came back and had the best part of my year at Columbia.

I also remember Judith Crist’s film criticism class. For our first assignment, every body rushed out to find an esoteric film by Francois Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard or Michelangelo Antonioni or Stanley Kubrick that they would review. As I was walking around Times Square, I saw a theater playing one of those old nudist colony films that passed for soft-core pornography. I ended up reviewing the film and received the only A on that first week’s assignment. Crist said it showed imagination and creativity to pick such a film and that she enjoyed the review immensely. I was on Cloud 9, and everyone in the class hated my guts.

I didn’t have much money so I used to skip lunch. But I had a friend in the class, Mohammed –we called him “Mo” – who worked at an Indian restaurant. He knew I was always hungry so he sat me down at a table in the kitchen and said, “Wait a few minutes.” He then went to take an order from two elderly women. They asked him to recommend some dishes, and he recommended several items on the menu including one extremely spicy dish. When the food came, the women tasted that dish, said it was far too spicy and told Mo to take it away. He grabbed the dish, walked back to the kitchen, put the dish on by table and said eat away.

We did that about four times a week and since then whenever I eat Indian food I think of Mo and my year at Columbia. Several years after graduation, Mo was killed in a terrible accident when he fell – or was pushed – in front of a train in London.

Posted by: AlumniAlumni April 2012

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