"Where is Everybody?", the first episode of The Twilight Zone, is set in a town called Oakwood and features a guy in the Air Force. (Source: screen grab)

4 ways Dayton shaped 'Twilight Zone' creator Rod Serling's life

Long before he created one of the most beloved sci-fi series of all-time, Rod Serling was just a college student trying to figure it out in Yellow Springs after serving in the Army.

"(I went to Antioch College) because my brother went there. I just wanted a good school to get practical experience. I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do," the World War II paratrooper told writer Isobel Silden in an article tucked away in Antiochiana, the archives at Antioch.  

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This undated photo provided by the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation shows Antioch College graduate “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling. (AP Photo/Rod Serling Memorial Foundation)

Serling, a 1950 Antioch grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, figured it out what to do in a big way.  

The writer and producer went on to co-write "The Planet of the Apes" and create the groundbreaking and still relevant half-hour series "The Twilight Zone."  

His time in the Miami Valley had an impact for sure.  

It could be a coincidence, but "Where is Everybody?", the very first episode of The Twilight Zone, is set in a town called Oakwood and features a guy in the Air Force.  

During his long career, Serling wrote 252 scripts and won six Emmys, according to his Biography.com profile.  

Here are few facts about Rodman Edward Serling.

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Rod Serling, student at Antioch College, at Yellow Springs, won a nation-wide radio script contest, writes an original radio play every week on the kitchen table of a campus trailer, while his wife and fellow student, Carol, hits the textbooks or keeps the household running. Each week, too, he casts his play, directs it, plans music and sound effects for it and produces it over a Springfield radio station. His wife looks over his script. (Photo source: Antiochiana archive at Antioch College. According to the Yellow Springs News, this photo appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May, 23 1949)

1. HE FOUND HIS OHIO GIRL

Serling was born on Christmas Day to a Jewish family in Syracuse, New York and raised in nearby Bighamton, New York. His dad owned a grocery store. He met his wife, Columbus native Carolyn (Kramer) Serling, at Antioch. They married when Rod was a senior.

Rod Serling was a professor at Antioch in 1962 and 1963. Photo source / The Antiochiana

2. HE FOUND HIS WRITER’S VOICE AT ANTIOCH

It is a clear from transcripts of his 1963 interview with WYSO Radio that Antioch and its Co-Op program made a big impact in Serling's life.  

"I recall most vividly the experiences with my own co-op jobs here at Antioch, as a somewhat pathological 22-year old, quite unsure of himself, as to where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do. Antioch seemed almost a millennium at the time, a very special place which made the assumption of maturity on my part but which at the same time understood that, because of past experiences, because of the fact that four years had elapsed since my last schooling, there would, of necessity, be a time when many of us veterans would have to ponder a little bit in terms of what precisely we wanted to do. Now I could have stayed on the campus for four years and studied, and ultimately, I suppose, I would have found my way. But the strength of Antioch was very applicable here. I tried out a couple of jobs, first in the physical education field. I worked as a swimming counselor. I liked it very much, because I like kids. But as is so often the case, I found that little hole, that little sense of hunger, that all is not right, something is left out. And then came writing, first on a radio level, then television, and all very much associated with the Antioch plan.  

I worked as a continuity writer at a radio station, a part-time actor on a television station, I cut tapes, wrote dramatic shows, did awful commercials, and some pretty bad dramas at the time, too, as I recall. But from this I walked away with not just a diploma. I had a feeling not only of a college, but a fifty-state campus, a world outside, no insulation here, a real sense of reality, a practical collection of experience but the contacts made. It was through my Antioch experience that I eventually came to Cincinnati and of course from there went east and then west and began to function in the industry."

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Rod Serling was a professor at Antioch in 1962 and 1963. Photo source / The Antiochiana

3. HE FOUND WORK AT WHIO

According to Silden's article "Success By Rod," Serling was an announcer, actor and writer for WJEL in Springfield and Marion in Springfield. He wrote two drama shows for WHIO radio.

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Rod Serling was a professor at Antioch in 1962 and 1963. Photo source / The Antiochiana

4. HE FOUND COURAGE TO SPEAK HERE

Antioch had a lasting impact on Serling. Not only did he attend school there, but he taught there in the early '60s. He didn't shy always from controversial subjects on or off the screen and often clashed with TV executives over issues ranging from racism to censorship.  

This on Antioch from his interview with WYSO:

"Of course it is traditional with writers, ideas are months and sometimes years ahead of time, and before they ultimately find a spot on paper. I can, though not pinpoint, very roughly stroke in what are some of the conceptions of my writing even while here at Antioch. I know that, on occasion, Antioch is somewhat looked askance at because of the volubility and dissent that comes from this campus. It has always been a place of dissent, but I think of wholesome dissent. There is no fear thrusted at a student or a faculty member. He used his God-given and Constitutional right to bespeak what he thinks is wrong, evil, correctable.

“And this is what I learned at Antioch, that when something was wrong, that I could get up on my two feet and make comment on it. And I guess if anything, that's something that has carried with me over the years and has been, I think, fairly evident in my writing, that I do call the shots as I see them, and I don't often do them just emotionally, irrationally, because of the spur-of-the-moment thing. I do them because, in my own mind, after the application of some logic and some knowledge, that which I know, I feel right out a point-of-view. This I think is traditional at Antioch. The same freedom to speak, the same freedom to reason, and above all, the right to question. I think the idea of questioning is not only a right, it is a responsibility."

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1956 article by Isobel Silden from the Antiochiana archive.

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