In 1984, many Americans feared an eventual nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and President Ronald Reagan seemed to take little action to dispel their worries. He favored continuing a nuclear weapons buildup until the Soviets gave in, a hard-line stance that disturbed political moderates, who felt that such a strategy could lead to disaster.

In lieu of a nuclear freeze, Reagan put staunch faith in the development of a missile defense system, nicknamed “Star Wars,” which experts derided as a science-fiction fantasy. Nevertheless, he easily won a second term as president against Democratic challenger Walter Mondale that fall.

Theater department offers smut and sluts

A lengthy letter to the editor from Roger L. Holton raged over USM’s production of the play “Talking With,” written by Jane Martin and directed by Prof. William Steele. “The slut that [actress Kathleen] Potts portrayed” used obscene language that could be heard “in any low class beer joint or house of prostitution,” he wrote.

He urged that if universities continued to expose students to such “dirty… insidious slime” and “mind-degenerating… diabolical dirt,” we should “cancel the whole education system.” He wrote of the “rotten core” of that system, and called for the firing of the USM professors who were responsible for the production.

Freshmen “angry” at computers

America’s college freshmen were angry at computers in 1984, according to a survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. The survey found that 80 percent of freshmen were “surprised” by the subject matter in computer courses, and 70 percent said the courses made them “frustrated” and “angry.”

WMPG ignores students

Campus radio station director Ernie Freeberg was accused of seizing “dictatorial powers,” steering the musical format away from student tastes, giving preference to non-student volunteers, and generally “ignoring the student body,” in several letters to the editor. Freeberg was said to believe that students weren’t sufficiently “responsible” to control the station themselves.

Some of the writers felt strongly that the increasing airtime given over to folk and blues music betrayed the much larger demand among students for “alternative rock” on the radio. They pointed out that the station could not operate without direct funding from the student activity fee, and argued that WMPG should serve the students who support it.

Coming up: nuclear war

Convocation speaker Thomas Powers lectured to a somber audience in the Portland campus gym, saying in part, “The United States and the Soviet Union have been preparing for 40 years to fight a big war with each other, and eventually they’re going to do it.”

Spiritual realm? No way.

The question of the week in one issue of the 1984 Free Press was, “Do you believe in the spiritual realm?”

Political science major Tim Markwood replied, “No, if there was anything after death, it would probably be affecting me now, and it sure as hell isn’t doing anything now.”

Americans favor image over competence

Chris Hawkins argued in an article that Walter Mondale was clearly a more competent candidate for president then Reagan.

However, judging by the debates, he wrote, “the smooth Hollywood grandfather image of Reagan, who gushed forth carefully rehearsed platitudes and childish jokes, appears to be more popular” than Mondale, “who lacks charisma that Americans desire in their statesmen.”

One question of the week in the fall of ’84 asked, “Do you think the presidential election will be decided on personalities or issues?” Every respondent said “personalities.”

“Ha! Ha!” Reagan won.

Christopher R. Masure wrote a letter to the editor gloating about Republican victories in 1984 elections, adding that he felt sorry for all the people who now “must live month after month ashamed of their Mondale/Ferraro bumper stickers.”

Good luck, sucker

“For a nonexperienced, entry-level graduate, it’s like a shark tank out there” in the ’84 job market, an article quoted Mary Ann Denson of the USM Career Development office as saying.

No heavy metal at UNC

A College Press Service article reported that the University of North Carolina banned “heavy metal” bands from campus after Van Halen fans left the University grounds strewn with garbage following a Saturday concert.

The mess couldn’t be cleaned up until the following Monday, when groundskeepers came back to work. Exasperated administrators decided that they didn’t want to attract such delinquents to the campus anymore.


Service Merchandise in South Portland advertised the Commodore 64 home computer with 64K of RAM for $197.82. A Smith Corona Electra XT typewriter went for $178.82.

Carolyn G. Bailey wrote an article analyzing cigarette ads in magazines. One of them was full page essay/ad by R.J. Reynolds, which dismissed the supposed hazards of secondhand smoke, citing scientific facts to bolster their case.

“Ladies and gentlemen, experience the poolroom of the ’80s,” read an ad for Port Billiards at 24 Preble St. in Portland.


Movies playing in Maine in 1984 included Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, All of Me, The Karate Kid, Supergirl, Repo Man, Amadeus, Purple Rain, The Last Starfighter, Revenge of the Nerds, Gremlins and Terminator.

Brian O’Keefe can be contacted at [email protected]


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