The 1970’s version of the University of Oklahoma included fame for not only powerhouse football, but also Playboy magazine ranked it as the number one partying school once or twice during the decade. Sadly, as most STEMs can attest, partying of any kind dwindles to nonexistence after sophomore year. I know we all tried it, but with dire consequences: bad grades, all-nighters to make up study time or missing class altogether.
So you shrug off the invitations to bond with your non-STEM friends, the good old work ethic kicks in, and with an eye on making up for lost time after graduation, you buckle down to complete your studies You spend many nights and weekends keeping up with the curriculum, and finally get out into the world. Free of studies, living on your own, time to fly.
Enter the F4WPA.
I landed in St. Louis working for the Monsanto Company. My new apartment was in the new Westport area, filled with rented furniture and I settled in to explore new friendships. My first St. Louis summer, I joined a company softball team; Monsanto was one of if not the largest St. Louis employer and provided its own league of both coed and women’s teams. The players on our all-women team, the Bombers, created quick bonds that we’ve maintained on some level over thirty years later.
After game celebrations, well, in our case we celebrated just getting through the gamed, were held at local watering holes where we would meet members of the other women’s and coed teams. Summer flew by and we were left with the prospects of the cold St. Louis winter. The F4WPA began sometime that fall.
OK, so what’s the F4WPA? The F-4 West Party Association, of course. The Monsanto office buildings were identified by an acronym that consisted of the building letter, floor, area of the floor (hence, building F, 4th floor, west side, yes the wicked engineering building). Talk about organized chaos. A group of guys, mostly engineers, ran this ‘organization’ complete with newsletters and flyers announcing various parties. These parties were typically held at one of their houses or apartments. They never failed to provide a bathtub full of purple passion. (Everclear, you naughty, invisibly intoxicating beverage of choice.) After a purple passion experience at one party, I stayed clear of the Everclear.
Of course we had no email back then, or cell phones, and our computers were the size of master bedrooms. We did have the intra-company mail system. Slow, but sure, letters, reports, all those things that we now keep on tiny, thin machines, fit into these 9×12 inch brown wrappers. The sender wrote the intended recipient’s name and mail code on the outside of the envelope, placed it in the mail basket and two times during the day, someone would pick it up for delivery in the next day or two to the addressee.
The F4WPA newsletter arrived through the company mail. I looked forward to receiving the newsletter. Handwritten, it contained some ‘day in engineering’ reason for the party, the date and time and a map. Here are a few shots of a couple of the newsletters that I’ve kept.
The F4WPA followed me, as they did most of us ex-patriots, to my new assignments in North Carolina and then South Carolina. What a great group and what fun times we had!
Was it worth the wait of some two years or so to put the party on hold? Oh yea!