Friday, June 22, 2012

50th Class Reunion at the College of Wooster

In early June, I was one of 108 College of Wooster alumni attending the reunion of the Class of '62. We now know that someone amongst us must be a millionaire, because the class gift came to an astounding $8 million.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a panel discussion of the changes in women's lives over the past 50 years. Back in our day, the college acted "in loco parentis," keeping the "girls" in purdah, but allowing the "men" come and go as they pleased. Elaborate and detailed rules dictated when, with whom and for how long we could leave the dorm and what we should wear when we did. For instance, girls had to wear long coats over shorts on their way to the tennis courts. Although everyone changed  the sheets on their beds on Wednesdays, it seems to me that the girls had to dust and vacuum their rooms prior to weekly inspection, while the men received maid service.

We all recalled the thrill of seeing the Scots Band, in their MacLeod tartans, cresting the hill above the footfall field, bagpipes skirling.  Another fond memory was "Faculty Sing." The college was loosely affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and everyone attended compulsory chapel four days a week, a custom probably copied from the WASPY prep schools of New England. Other than an opening hymn, the programs rarely dealt with religion. Once a year, the word would quietly go around before the first bars of the hymn:  "Faculty Sing Day."  This meant that the faculty sang, but the students didn't. The faculty sat in the choir, facing the kids in the pews. The hymn on "Faulty Sing Day" was typically an unfamiliar lulu. The organist would play every single verse, forcing the faculty to gamely soldier on in full view of the students smirking in the pews.

We had a dragon of a Dean of Women. A formidable woman in her sixties, she was all decorum and intellectual rigor. She once told me that I had a "second class" mind. How encouraging. Anyway, on Sundays we wore dresses and heels to dinner at 1 PM. As a freshman, I lived in Holden Hall. Behind Holden was a WW II-vintage dorm called "Holden Annex." The two buildings, which each had a dining hall,  were connected by a passageway known to all as "the Esophagus."  Students not living in either dorm but  assigned to those dining halls were required to enter the dorms through the Esophagus. However, they usually just trooped in through the front door of Holden.

One Sunday Dragon Lady came to dinner. She wore a tasteful grey-green dress and a rope of pearls. After grace, she stood up and fixed us all with a cold and steely eye. "I understand that many of you are accessing this dining hall by entering the front door of this dorm," she said. "You know that you are to enter this building only through the Esophagus. If you continue to ignore this rule, you will lose the privilege of taking your meals in Holden Hall. You will be reassigned to Lower Kenarden." Wow! How bad was that! Lower Kenarden was the epitome of ungracious living. We called it "Squat and Gobble." Thirty minutes and you were up and out. Still, how funny to see the Grande Dame in her elegant pearls fuming about an "esophagus"  before sitting down to roast beef plated on china and set on a starched white tablecloth.


Nancy Chisum said...

I would have loved to have seen you and your college back in the day and met the Dean of Women, though she does sound intimidating! What a contrast to read of someone dressed just so and talking about an "esophagus"! I probably would have cracked up and gotten myself in worse trouble!

Roger Chittum said...

214I was just checking to see who recently created a link to my Realitybase blog and discovered the Wooster connection. Congratulations on your high turnout--our Class of '61 had only 98 or 99 returning.