A chance encounter with my grandfather

Earlier this morning I was searching the Penn State Library archives. Specifically, I was searching for the earliest possible student newspaper articles on the creation of WDFM, which was the Senior Gift of the Class of 1951.

After a bit of searching, I found what I was looking for. And just as I was about to close the browser, a something struck me.

“Pop graduated only about a year before this. Why haven’t you ever looked for him in these archives?”

Starting a new search, I typed in “John Shakely” and two small results revealed themselves. The first, a minor May 1949 news brief noting my grandfather’s role on the Earth Science Club’s steering committee.

The second and final result from April 1952, two years after his graduation, was the better one:


I wrote earlier this year about my discovery of my grandfather John Shakely’s Penn State junior class book, and his poetry on the sea.

Discovering this Daily Collegian article exactly 63 years later to the day (and on Blue White weekend) is meaningful to me. He died when I was barely a teenager. I’ll never have as many personal memories of him as I’d like. Thanks to the Penn State Libraries, I have a bit more of him:

Greenhorns to Sail Across Seven Seas (Apr. 18, 1952)

It’s one thing to go around the world in a 30-foot sailboat, the smallest ever to attempt the feat. But when you’ve never sailed a boat before, people may begin to question your sanity.

John Shakely, an alumnus of the College and of Sigma Phi Alpha fraternity, is now in Florida preparing to take his peapod across the seven seas.

He has just purchased his sturdy galleon, the “SKOAL,” and with a companion, who never sailed a boat either, is getting ready to embark just after the typhoons quiet down, which will be sometime this summer.

Shakely is a fun-loving fellow who used to keep three and one-half foot snakes, lizards, and various crawling and jumping animals in his room at school.

He’s been planning the trip for about six years. He intends to spend three years sailing around the world collecting material with which to write a book.

Little things don’t stand in the way of John Shakely and his stalwart companion. John quit his job and his friend quit college to make the trip.

On the voyage Shakely will enjoy the true comforts of a Penn State student. He says he’ll carry only “philosophy books and liquor.” What food he’ll require he intends to obtain through various and sundry means from islanders.

Our later-day H[?]urtons will weigh anchor at Elkton, Md., and follow a course through the Panama Canal, the South Pacific, Australia, the Suez Canal, and Mediterranean areas.

You’ve got to know Shakely to realize the significance of the venture. Imagine natives all over the Pacific singing “Hail to the Lion!”

His book, should his 30-foot boat successfully battle 60-foot waves, will no doubt make interesting reading.