Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nancy Goes to College: Greeks, Freaks, and GDIs

I have not thought about my freshman year at college for decades. Recreating the year from diaries and photos, and probing a few friends, brought revelations. 

Mr. Botens told my freshman English class in fall of 1966 that we are three people: the person you were in the past, the person you are now this minute, and the person you will and want to become in the future. During my freshman college year I was making very important decisions about the kind of woman I wanted to become.

Adrian Freshman yearbook photo
August, 1970, I arrived at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan and moved into the second floor of Estes Hall. It was the dorm I had seen on my tour and had liked so well. As I unpacked the floral fabric suitcases I had received as a graduation gift, I was unpacking my past, a wardrobe and mementos from high school.
Carillon tower, Adrian College
The new album Crosby Stills Nash and Young  was blasting out of a men's dorm window near the quad where guys were always playing Frisbee. To this day, that music brings back the heady sounds of late summer, the joy of being young and on the cusp of new adventure. This year was a perpetual roller coaster of new experiences and new people.
Adrian College
Adrian College, with only 1,500 students, was half the size of Kimball High. Greek societies were important on campus, dorms were segregated, and girls had curfews. It was like living in the 50s.

There were four Kimball girls there: Me, Lynn Martin, Nancy Briggs, and Jan McDonald. Except for Lynn I rarely ran into any of them. Also, I knew a boy from my church and Sunday School class.

Lynn Martin
Nancy Briggs
Jan McDonald
Also in Estes Hall was my old friend Lynn Martin who was rooming with Marti from Redford.

My roommate Gloria was an extrovert and quickly made friends. I tagged along. She even organized 'dinner parties' which we jointly prepared in the dorm basement kitchen.

Our dorm room. I see my drawing on the lower left, art by my boyfriend,
 my lighted mirror and my guitar.

Our dorm room. The Love Story poster from my boyfriend.
When Gloria decided to run for class secretary she enlisted everyone in her campaign. She had posters made which we helped to hang in the cafeteria.

Me and Lynn, Adrian cafeteria

Lynn on the right, me on the left. Steve in the center
Working on Gloria's campaign.
I became friends with another Estes Hall girl, Elaine, and her high school boyfriend Tim. Elaine played the violin and mandolin. One night she used her Mary Kay cosmetics and gave me a makeover. Tim was in Phi Mu Alpha, a music fraternity, and I got to know many his brothers. For some reason we called him 'Uncle Tim' and his frat brothers were all 'Uncle' to me.

Gloria and Elaine
Tim and me
I took Eastern Civ because I already had a good basis in Western Civ  from Kimball from my Ancient and Medieval History and Modern History classes. I struggled with Freshman Composition and Lit. because of my lousy spelling and lack of skill in non-creative writing. Introduction to Philosophy was disappointing. It was all logic and not like what we had studied in Mr. Boten's Western Lit class.

I looked forward to Environmental Biology, having enjoyed Mr. Gasiorowski's high school class. Professor Husband was a great teacher. The class was held in a lecture hall for 100 students.

I sat next to Sendy whose father was a professor at Adrian. One day she told me she knew traditional Chinese palm reading and asked to read my palm. She said I had tapered, narrow fingers, which was unusual; I thought it because I had played piano since I was eight. Sendy said I would have a smooth life, have 'love affairs' but fall in love only once, that I would not have much of a career but I would have three children, and I live into my 80s before I had health problems. She also said I was intelligent but not an A student. I never had those three kids. I never had a real career. I did get A grades eventually. I'm still waiting to see about the long life.

Gym was required. I was OK at archery but lousy at volleyball. Then I tried Folk Dancing. My first partner was an artist--my type, I thought. I had a mad crush on him. Over the year we became friendly but not really friends. My second dance partner was a quiet, tall mountain of a man who was light on his feet and a better dancer than me!

Jim with his Smile pin
That fall I saw an ad in a magazine for Smile face pins and ordered them. I gave one to each new friend I made. I called it my 'People Collecting Club.' I gave out twenty pins over the year. By spring, the yellow Smiley face image could be found on sale everywhere. I was ahead of the curve!
The original order form for Smile face stuff
Over the next years people gave me all kinds of Smile face items.

I believe this year Adrian had seven African American students. Adrian was created by Asa Mahan, the first president of Oberlin College. He was an abolitionist involved in the Underground Railroad. Adrian now houses The Sojourner Truth Technical Training Center and digital archive on the Underground Railroad. I thought it was sad there was so little diversity on campus.
Friends finding out how many can fit into the Estes Hall phone booth

My parents' Halloween costumes 
At Thanksgiving break my old boyfriend came to visit my family with his wife and baby. I was very glad to be where I was instead of married with a kid. I went on a date with the boy I sometimes dated.
I am with my old boyfriend's baby.
I am wearing a wig, which were popular, and a peace dove button.
Jim few into town to visit me for a weekend. We had been writing all fall and he hoped to cement our relationship. His folks did not support his coming and I tried to dissuade him from coming. Dad took Jim, Tom, and me to Roselawn Cemetery at 12 MI in Berkley to fed the ducks at the pond there. I bet we are the only family that regularly went to the cemetery for fun!

I sang some Leonard Cohen songs I had learned including "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye." Jim became angry and asked if I was trying to tell him something. He had brought records to share with me. We were sitting on the floor in my living room listening on the high fi, the records scattered across the floor. My brother walked through the room near the records and Jim yelled a warning at him not to step on them. His response seemed unjustified. These flashes of petulance resulted in my realizing we had no future.

That fall The Association and Josh White Jr. performed on campus.

Marti, a lifelong United Methodist, took me to a communion chapel service before Christmas break. I was Episcopal and the United Methodist service was very different; I had a negative 'culture shock' first reaction.
Marti Boynton
At Christmas, I had a party with Kimball friends and my new friends Marti and Sam from Adrian. My friend since Jane Addams Jr High and fellow Girls Choir member Peggy D. and I played guitar. I also went on a date with the boy I sometimes saw.
Playing my guitar at the Christmas party
Second semester brought changes. Girls went out for Rush Week to choose sororities, including my roommate Gloria. She moved out to room with a sorority sister. Lynn and Marti parted ways and Marti became my roommate.
Marti in Estes Hall common area
I had decided to be a GDI--God Damned Independent--and not join a sorority. I did not like the exclusivity. I wanted to have friends from all kinds of backgrounds like I had at Kimball.
second semester ID
I was in the college choir, singing second alto. Marti was also in choir. Our concert piece was The Carmina Burana. We sang the opening piece O Fortuna in chapel!

I am front row center,
I was also was in the required Comp part two, Philosophy of Religion, Historical Geology, and Intro to History.

I loved Historical Geology class. In March the class went to a limestone quarry in Ohio to look for fossils. I loved rock collecting and thought it was great fun. It was a beautiful day. I wrote, "We all separate, diligently, eagerly, clawing at the rocks and crumbling rubble, coming up with brachiopods, trilobites, corals, and dirt, dust, and more dirt." I lost my boot heel in the mud.

That evening a friend, Tom, asked me to walk with him to the Spanish Inn in Adrian. I had never eaten Mexican food before coming to Adrian. The first time I saw tacos on the lunch tray I had no idea how to eat them. We walked across the College Street bridge talking about college and poetry. He ordered new food for me to try.

With Marti I made friends different from those I met through Gloria. George, Jack, Jim, and Dick and Marti and I had a lot of fun together, eating meals together in the cafeteria and hanging at the Pub. I taught lessons in Sugar Drawing. Basically, you pour the sugar out from the packets onto the table, and run your finger through it to draw. What a waste.
Jack, Marti and me at the Pizza Bucket in Adrian

Lynn, George, and Marti at Estes Hall
One day during lunch the guys threw sugar packets at Marti. When we rose to leave, George quietly picked up all the packets and put them back. I was very impressed and declared forever more the day be celebrated in his honor. Marti still remembers to celebrate George Quay Day. On February 21, 1971, George told me about meeting a girl back home, Nancy Hemmings. She would become his wife.
Jim playing in the student lounge
Like many Adrian students, most weekends Marti went home. I spent a lot of time in the library, reading Greek plays and the poetry of T.S. Eliot. I noted reading Art and Reality by Joyce Cary, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway, The Idiot by Dostoyevsky, Hawaii by Michener, and Beck: A Book by John Updike. I mention seeing the movie Catch 22 on campus. Looking at my grades this year, I should have been studying and not free reading!

I also spent a lot of time at the Pub, drinking coffee and reading. I had the idea that a book would magically attract 'the right sort'. The Pub had barrel chairs and tables, pinball machines, and a jukebox. The soda bar sold light refreshments including the first bagels and cream cheese I had ever seen.

People would sit down at the table with me to talk. One weekend Ed, a 'pinball wizard', sat down with me. He was joined by Chris who had long hair and a maxi coat. Chris invited me to come to his parties at his off-campus pad. Ed shook his head, warning me I would not like it. I was so naive I had no idea that these 'parties' were not like the ones my family held!

Chris was also in my philosophy class. He started calling me and we dated for a while. His friends thought that I was too straight and would pull him away from hosting parties. My friends worried that he would 'corrupt me.'

He took me home to visit and I met his mom. Something in him wanted to be saved, but then he'd try to persuade me to change who I was. He was interesting and different, played piano and guitar and had a faith in God, but I knew he was not right for me. I would not change who I was and he did not want to change either. Later he went out with Lynn and liked her, but she liked another boy.

I am wearing a top from Finland
I wrote that Jack and I went to the spring dance with Jim and George and their dates. It was completely friendly.
I am goofing off, playing Cousin It

I was thrilled when the college literary magazine accepted and published my poem The Remodeled Temple. The poem was inspired by my family trip to Niagara Falls the previous year when I saw the yellow foam from phosphate pollution.
Niagara flows over the jutting escarpment
anciently pushed upwards by monstrous
inward powers generated from below--
a long forgotten strength.
The mist rises like steam from a hot bath,
like rain...falling upwards
in billowing clouds of opaque moisture.
Water tumbles white bubbles at the foot,
and foaming, floating, spreading to the river's boundary,
creeps the current born brown-yellow scum.
Where once nature held a holy and secret temple
to the gods, in the midst of this, their handiwork,
celebrating with glorious roaring its own beauty,
man now divides with concrete
and steel-skeletoned buildings,
and populates the shore continually,
people holding cameras and ticket stubs
and souvenirs and pride ("I was here")
and pollutes the waters with his
competent, advanced, scientific, civilized
George and I flew kites on campus between Mahon and Dawson Hall. The kites got tangled up and kids stopped by to help, including a seven-year-old boy who made plans to met us the next day for more kite flying in the IM field. Lots of local kids hung around campus.

Jim had been depressed but now wrote that he had found a 'replacement' for me and I was glad. He also asked me to keep writing to him. A few weeks later he called because I had not sent any letters. A guy was waiting for me in the lobby to go see Tora Tora Tora and I did not have time to talk. (That was one boring movie.)

Over spring break I attended my home church, went to Great Scott and saw the Kimball boy I knew who worked there, and discovered that my first crush Mike was back on the block. He was as cute as ever and I was still too shy to talk to him. My brother and his brother became friends. Sam and Marti came to visit me.

A little-known singer, John Denver, performed at the college that spring. His song Leaving on a Jet Plane had been recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now he was trying to make it singing his own songs. After the concert, several of my People Collecting Club members and I went backstage to give him a smile pin.

Another May trip back home I went to Barney's in the morning and that afternoon saw my grandfather Ramer in the hospital. It must have been when he had his second heart attack. The next day, Sam and Marti and I went to Kensington Nature Park and "untangled fishing line." That evening we went to the Raven Gallery. On the way home, I got pensive and despaired, wondering if I should become a 'freak' since it seemed the all the creative people were. Sam asked Marti if I got that way often.

May 3, 1971, I wrote about man's imperfection and the resulting hypocrisy. "Man desires the love and esteem of his fellow men, but finds his faults only merit their hatred and contempt," I noted Pascal wrote in his Pensees.

I was determined that my "reach exceed my grasp" in trying to be better.

"We try to make ourselves helpful, useful; we try to reach in our bumbling way. We can't always see--if sometimes we're blind, well, what can we say? Admit the fact, try harder. We know we'll never reach perfection. God knows, he made us imperfect, yet we insist on trying our hand at it. No one can please all of the people. No one man can be universally loved, accepted, liked. I must and do take my enemies as inevitable. It makes me sad and guilty and forces me to take another look at myself--detect flaws to be changed. But I am confident that I am on the right track, I have made friends."

In early May when I was in the Pub a boy named Jim sat down with me. I did not care for him; he was a horrible flirt. Really, he had the worse lines ever. He said I'd make a 'good minister's wife,' which was the last thing on my mind. Then he was joined by a boy who had his head in a music score, waving his hands in the air. Gary was in conducting class and was just given the music he was to conduct for his final. I perked up, for it was rare to meet someone who liked classical music.

Jim and Gary went to Ohio that weekend to investigate a seminary. On Monday I had a sore throat and went to the school doctor; he said I had strep throat and perhaps mono. I was on painkillers and was unable to sing in the spring concert. It didn't keep me bedridden. I was at the Pub and hanging out. On Wednesday a bunch of us 'went raving' in Gary's VW, driving down the dark country roads.

Gary and I were getting to know each other. One of Gary's friends, Gwen, asked how I felt about him. I liked him. Elaine thought she should have met Gary first because she thought they were better suited for each other! Since Gary and Tim were both in Phi Mu Alpha it is surprising they had not met already.

Over Memorial Day weekend Gary took me to his home. His family made their annual trip to the cemetery and I waited while they cleared the grave sites and left flowers. His mom had packed baloney and butter sandwiches to eat for lunch. I hated butter on sandwiches. Apparently, our families had one thing in common: they believed in taking their kids' friends to the cemetery!

One Saturday night I woke up, hearing voices. Several drunk boys were outside my dorm window, trying to climb up to see a girl on the second floor. Usually, a girl would prop open the side door so a boy could sneak in!

Two ATO frats were killed in a drunk driving accident on May 22.

Sam and Marti broke up, then reunited. Elaine and Tim broke up. She had met a boy while visiting home.

Gary was taking summer school classes because he couldn't get work at GM for the summer. That meant he would graduate a semester early. I was going home for the summer. As we got to know each other over those two weeks I forgot about all those other boys. Gary seemed about perfect.

School ended and I returned home. I visited old friends. My family went to my Uncle Dave's home for dinner. We had ice cream at Howard Johnsons. I visited the McNab family.

I missed Gary. Then on June 1, there was a knock on the door and a VW parked out front. Gary had stopped by on his way from Grand Blanc to Ohio. He would stop by again on his way back. Mom liked him. When he returned, Sam and Marti and Gary and I went to the Detroit Zoo.

Over summer Gary would spend many weekends at my home.

No comments:

Post a Comment