The Roanoker September/October 2017 - RVA18
Fred and Carolyn Eichelman taught school for four decades each and discovered science fiction
was a good teaching tool. They're still collecting evidence. STORY AND PHOTO BY DAN SMITH
ONE OF THE MAJOR concerns for many as they ap-
and he and Carolyn put their heads together to help
proach retirement is just how they will use that time
found RoVaCon, the Roanoke Valley science fiction
that they've spent so many years working toward, in
convention, with a bunch of science students. It had
hopes they will be "golden." Fred and Carolyn Eichel-
a long run.
man have never been especially concerned.
They have both been movie and TV buffs all their
They are both 81 now and Fred has been retired
lives and Fred, especially, used the movies to help
26 years, Carolyn 20 years from teaching in the Ro-
teach several subjects. Fred's interest in entertain-
anoke Valley public school system. The teaching and
ment came naturally: his father was with the Paul
what went with it has continued to provide not only a
Whiteman orchestra, a trend-setting big band in the
hobby but a near obsession.
1920s and 1930s. Their home these days in Salem
Fred, who has a PhD, taught "as many as 11 differ-
(where it has been for 52 years) is all but paved with
ent subjects" in his career, which spanned more than
memorabilia, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, but in such
40 years, mostly teaching juniors and seniors in high
logical order that it could be a library. "We need to
school. "I could have taught college, but the money
work on the house to make it friendlier," says Fred.
wasn't nearly as good," he says, smiling. Carolyn taught
It is easy to get lost in a series of "Oh, wow!" ob-
elementary and kindergarten kids for four decades, as
servations as you tour the two primary floors of their
home, never moving your eyes more than a few inches
Fred's hobby, begun when he was 10, was collecting
at a time from display to display. One of the keepers is
autographs. He has about 10,000 now. The collection
a 1943 No. 4 edition of the "Wonder Woman" comic
blossomed until it became a teaching tool, one where
book series, one where she is predicted to become
Fred brought in famous people to talk to his classes
president in 1,000 years.
Both have written extensively in retirement, Fred
putting together three books to go with the three text
books he wrote while he was teaching. One of those
was a film memoir and another was about their rescued cat, the proceeds going to animal rescue groups.
Carolyn's impressive piece on melanoma has been
published in health magazines.
They have made a number of good friends in the
entertainment business, primary among them the
red-haired beauty Rhonda Fleming, a 1950s star, and
Deanna Lund of the TV series "Land of the Giants,"
who appeared at RoVaCon one year. Fred has interviewed people like Jayne Russell and Pat Boone for
fan magazines. He continues to review science fiction
writing and film.
Their lives are so full these days, says Carolyn, that
"I don't know how we managed to do some of the
things we did while we were still teaching" and raising
their two children. Carolyn is even considering jumpstarting her long dormant interest in art.
It's all part of avoiding retirement.
18 | RETIRE-VA 2018