“College Town” tells the story of four students navigating their way through the University of Georgia. Doug Vinson, the author of the book, is an alumnus of the university who taught journalism and public relations courses at the University of West Georgia. Doug Vinson and co-author June Vinson, his wife, tell a nostalgic story about the Classic City set in the 1970s.
The Red & Black spoke with Doug Vinson to get some personal insight about writing the novel, his relationships and growing up in Athens.
The Red & Black: What was the inspiration behind this story?
Doug Vinson: Well, I grew up in Athens. My dad was a history professor [at UGA] for 35 years, and I have a lot of special ties to Athens. There's a lot of unique charm about the city, especially in the '70s. Listening to the music is something I always enjoyed. Growing up next to fraternity row, I heard a lot of music from this genre and time period. There were always many concerts going on in the coliseum. For example, the Allman Brothers [Band], Three Dog Night, Elton John, B.B. King and lots of famous people from the '60s and '70s performed there. Later, after I retired as a journalism professor, whether I was teaching at other universities or working in public relations, my work was centered around Athens.
R&B: What character do you see yourself in the most?
DV: I'm Will, the average guy just taking in the scene. The other guys don't change too much, even though they are in college. You know you've got the cerebral type who actually goes to class from time to time, the artistic guy who wants to do music or art and really the rest of us are just ordinary people trying to figure out their way through life and college. You know, after you graduate with this piece of paper, what are you going to do in the real world?
R&B: How long did it take to write “College Town”?
DV: It took about two years. I wrote “College Town” after I retired and was working a series of blue-collar jobs. Being able to do manual labor sort of freed my mind up. There weren't as many things to think about. I wasn't trying to please people in PR or helping students, and I could think clearly. I would just come home and write three or four pages here and there and the writing was much freer because I was retired.
R&B: If you were writing “College Town” set in 2020, how would it be different from the ‘70s?
DV: Quite frankly, I don't get to visit Athens that often because I've lived in Newnan for 20 years. However, I know UGA was a smaller environment back then. I used to walk to school and the practice fields, and I could hear the Redcoat band practicing at night and the fraternity bands. It was a cool environment to grow up in. Everybody knew each other. Rich people have moved to the Oconee area, and when I lived there, there used to be more impoverished families. I still think there is a lot of charm to downtown Athens, but it has gotten a little too big for me. There were not as many bars when I went there.
R&B: Did you meet June Vinson, your wife and co-author, on campus as an undergrad student?
DV: We met at my first job, which was in public relations at the Medical College of Georgia. June was a nurse there. This is where we got started. We also went to the same church and were married within a year. People go to all sorts of places and meet people - you can imagine, going to a university. At this church, we went to a young person's group occupied by college graduates and young professionals. This was in the late '70s. June and I have been married 40 years now. This book was completed because of my wife's love and patience, she was a great help in keeping me focused and we were always bouncing ideas off each other. She would tell me if I needed a stronger plotline or needed some history in certain places.