Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mennonite Employees at the College of Wooster

The College of Wooster is in Wayne County, Ohio, which had, and still has, a large population of Amish and Mennonites. Two stern-looking Mennonite women, probably on the college's housekeeping staff, often sat at the front desk of Wagner Hall, where all the women of the class of '62 lived during  our junior year.  They would watch us sign ourselves in and out. 

Perhaps because their first language was a German dialect, their English was sometimes a little strange. When one of our classmates apparently abandoned a suitcase in the parlor, a warning note appeared on the front desk: "Whose suitcase this is better take it upstairs." 

One very windy March day, while I was signing in,  one of them observed, "Days like this, little folks like you get blown away." ( I weighed about 100 pounds then. )

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.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Walk in the Park

Last week, Andrew invited his classmate, Katie,  to go swimming today at our community pool.   Today was too chilly for swimming, so Andrew suggested a walk in Laurel's Riverfront Park. We bought ice cream cones at the Laurel Meat Market and walked down to the river. Andrew, already a "compleat angler" at age nine, showed Katie all the likely fishing holes in the river. 

I've told you about Andrew's obsessions. Fishing is one of them. The best fishing hole, in his opinion, is down an embankment strewn with boulders. He scrambled down to the river while Katie and I watched from above. As he started climbing back up, Katie said, "Andrew, there's a perch near the top where you can sit and rest." 

Reaching the top, Andrew asked, "Where's the perch?" Katie looked puzzled. She pointed to a rocky ledge. Now Andrew looked puzzled. Disappointed, too. The only perch he wanted to see was a yellow perch, not some stupid rock. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Obsession Du Jour

Our nine-year-old grandson develops intense interests for short periods. Well, sometimes the periods last for several years. This was true of his Shark Period. In kindergarten, he bolted from Circle Time and rolled on the floor, protesting, "I am not a boy who's interested in books about penguins."

During the past year, it's been aquariums and the fishy dwellers therein ("Can we get a red-tailed shark?"), then lizards,  GameBoy, backyard ponds and koi. Last week it was crayfish traps.  Every so often, his interest in specific breeds of dogs kicks back in. He's read up on the various breeds so that he can campaign more effectively for the kind of dog he thinks his parents should get when their 15-year-old mutt crosses the rainbow bridge.  This changes from week to week. Past favorites have included Boston Bulls, French Bull Dogs, Siberian Huskies, Dobermans, Minpins, and Puggles. Oh, yeah, and Pomeranians. 

During his most recent Dog Period, he was reading aloud from Lynne Reid Banks' The Secret of the Indian.  A horse's leg appeared "titanic" to a time-traveling two-inch-high English boy who'd landed in a frontier Texas town in the late 19th century. I asked him if he knew what "titanic" meant. He said, "Yes, it was a huge ship that sank after World War I." We talked about what "titanic" meant in the book's context. He listened, but he was clearly itching to tell me something. "Do you know that one of the three dogs that was rescued on the Titanic was a Pomeranian?"