Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Off To College

srp ~ Class of '70 Posted by Picasa
"It is hard to convince a high-school student that he will encounter a lot of problems more difficult than those of algebra and geometry." ~ Edgar Watson Howe quotes (American Editor, Novelist and Essayist, He was known as the Sage of Potato Hill, 1853-1937)
The dreaded "senior picture" that dates you; see the polyester dress and the plastic rim glasses and the hair, my goodness, what were we thinking? There could be all kinds of critters up there. I graduated from high school 35 years ago. My graduation present, a new set of Samsonite hard side luggage, in bright variegated orange. I picked it out myself. Loved the color. Actually used it up until a few years ago when the lining finally fell out and the baggage handlers at the airport bent the frames. I must say it was more sturdy than luggage today and very easy to recognize as it came off the conveyor belt. New Brighton High School Class of 1970, a graduate of the small western Pennsylvania public school was heading for college.

Yes, I did go to Bethany Nazarene College in Oklahoma with its straight streets. It was about 1010 miles away from Pennsylvania. When I went away to school, I really went AWAY! The summer before college I was seventeen and didn't have my driver's license. Seven days before leaving for college where I would not have a car, I passed the driver's test. Most of my early driving experience was the actual drive to Oklahoma.

Mom was in the hospital with a back problem when we left so Stephen stayed with someone in the church and Dad took me and my junk to school. We stopped in at the farm in Illinois for a couple of days and then on to Bethany, a suburb of Oklahoma City. I know now how hard it must have been on my mother, but then, as a very young stupid kid, it never crossed my mind.

They had built the new girls dorm, Hatley Hall. Freshmen were to be on the fourth and fifth floors. There was only one problem; it wasn't ready. At the appointed hour for move in, they were still painting the freshmen rooms, that speckled spatter type blue and green on white walls. The other three floors would not be finished for several weeks. So we waited and waited. Four hours later, when we finally moved in, the fathers had to carry trunks and suitcases and other things up four flights of stairs, no elevators. Fortunately, I was on the fourth floor and not the fifth. The rooms smelled of fresh paint, because it was fresh paint and barely dry. The mattresses were still in their plastic coverings and sawdust was on the linoleum floors.

We went and bought an ironing board, iron, broom, dustpan and a dishpan. Dad and I cleaned that room from top to bottom before unpacking one item. I loved my college dorm room. Looking back and comparing it with the dorm rooms today, it was quite spacious and nice. Two built in twin beds on platforms that had storage underneath, built in but small drawers, small bookshelves on the wall over the beds, a sink in one corner and big closets with sliding mirrored doors were in the sleeping area and this was separated from the study area by a bulletin board partition. Two built in desks with bookshelves were on the study side along with an open sitting space. Nice hall baths, all girls, no men allowed.

Dad saw how small the drawers were so we headed to a furniture store where he found a four drawer chest, the kind you see in motels. In fact, these were leftovers from a new motel and were going for $50. They were not real wood, but would hold sweaters and I could share it with my roommate. An interesting side note about that chest. I used it all four years in college, then married; it went to Texas where we used it four years in med school and four years in residency; then it came back to Oklahoma where it was the master chest for seven years until it moved to Mississippi where it again was the primary furniture in the master bedroom until 1996. In 1996, I bought my first ever bedroom suite and as part of the purchase deal the furniture company gave $50 for trade in of ANY piece of furniture. I think I did well with that. Paid $50 for it, used it for 26 years, moved it (including different dorm rooms and apartments)12 times and traded it back in for $50.

While Dad was still in Bethany, I took the CLEP tests they used to give all entering freshmen. Parents had to be gone before the results came back. We had just enough money in a bank there for my first year and I had a personal account with $100 in it. I knew they would be pinching to get the money so I had some loans and a few scholarships.

Dad drove away and I watched his tail lights disappear around the corner. That was the first time the pangs of homesickness really hit me. We had no computers and no instant messenger so we either had to call or write. I knew long distance calls cost so I wrote. It took him a couple of days to get home and I imagine that was a long, lonely trip for him.

I went in to my counselor to finalize the schedule and she said we had to start over. The CLEP test results were in and I earned 30 college hour credits. All of the general requirements were taken care of so I had to pick new courses. I also had to pay for those hours. Even though it was one-half the regular price per hour, it was still more than we put in the bank. I had to call home for money, to me the most dreaded of all things. They were pleased, pinched a bit more and somehow came up with it.

I was determined not to ask for any more money that semester and didn't. Back then the room and board included all your meals and we ate on campus. There was no car and no money spent on extraneous food. I did some on and off baby sitting to get a bit of money for shampoo and such. At the end of the semester I had $95 of that $100 still in my account. I wish kids today had the same healthy respect for how hard money is to come by.

I loved college. I loved Bethany. I loved my dorm and new friends. I was homesick. People went home for weekends but I didn't. The dorms closed that Thanksgiving and I stayed at a friend's house there in Bethany. I couldn't go home until Christmas. But when Christmas finally came, I found that I was a bit sad to leave. At spring break, I really wanted to stay and by summer break, I cried because I had to leave.

Yes, there were things I didn't like. I grew to despise my first roommate, but it was my own fault. I chose her instead of letting the college match us. The food wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. It would have been nice to have a car, but without one I spent more time studying. All in all college was the best time of my life. I don't know if I would change a thing, well maybe one or two, but those deserve posts unto themselves.

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