By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/20/2020
Posted: 4/6/2010
Topics/Keywords: #UniversityofWestFlorida #Pensacola #Florida Page Views: 2858
I recall attending the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

In January, 1978, I did something very scary, especially for a guy with a wife and four kids. I quit my job at the Florida State Division of Forestry, and enrolled full-time at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, aimed at a degree in "Systems Science" which was what the folks there called their computer studies program at the time.

The University of West Florida; Dottie in front of the sign.

The change included a move to another house, since my job with the DOF had come with a house on the tower site, where, obviously, we could not continue to live if I weren't working there. Besides, the tower site was in Panama City and UWF was in Pensacola, about an hour away. So I found a mobile home for rent; we moved our stuff in a U-Haul and, just like that, I was a full-time student.

Please note, this would not have been possible without the VA benefits I got from my stint in the Navy. But, with them, plus the various grants, scholarships and student loans I was able to get, we were able to afford the rent and food and my tuition.

I enrolled in January, in time for the winter semester. Winter in Pensacola was chilly but not brutal. However, when Spring came along, the trees and flowers bloomed enthusiastically and we were surrounded by every color of the rainbow.

Dogwood blooms added to the Pensacola color and scent.

I studied the quaint computer languages of the time, such as COBOL and FORTRAN; learned how to encode programs on punch cards, and how to represent and solve real-world problems using mathematically logical structures. I often found myself in the coding lab at 2 or 3 in the morning, creating decks of punch cards for assignments at a time when the line of students waiting for the card punch machines was less dense than during the day.

Johnny sits on the sign for the back entrance of the Systems Science Lab.

Since I was at school so much, I encouraged Mary to bring the kids to the UWF campus as often as possible, both so I could spend some time with them, and because it was beautiful and we could make it our personal park. Mary and the kids came to visit almost every day. They were permitted to use the Olympic-sized pool; they could play amongst the flowers; we often went hiking along the nature trails and ate the blueberries that proliferated alongside them.

The kids were at their most visibly stair-step ages: Dorothy (6), Karen (5), Jenny (3) and John (then called Johnny) (2).

All four kids parading at UWF.

It's amazing how much fun kids can have when you turn them loose in a large area where's there's no traffic…in other words, a park.

Jenny jumping off a garden wall. The kids playing at the UWF campus.

Mary had a lovely blouse she liked to wear. For some reason, we didn't notice when the photos were being taken…but it matched the color of the azaleas perfectly!

Johnny and Mary by the azaleas. The azaleas were unusually profuse that year.

In addition to possessing exquisite grounds, UWF possessed beautiful and architecturally unique buildings. I hoped that spending time there would help the kids develop an appreciation for good design concepts and pleasing forms.

Karen appreciating the archetecture at the University of West Florida.

More active play might be interspersed with quieter times spent looking at picture books.

Jenny and Dottie 'reading' on the lawn. Reading time for Karen, Mary, Johnny, Dottie, and Jenny.

All of this, of course, was designed to give me a chance to get in some studying while seeming to the kids as if I was playing with them. Thus the kids (hopefully) didn't feel neglected, while I was able to ensure their future.

I am nothing if not efficient!

Your blogger studying.

And yes, I can't deny that I also enjoyed bringing the kids to school to show them off. I was, and am, proud of all four of my little ones, no matter how big they get.

Dottie, Paul, Johnny, Karen, Mary, Jenny.