Monday, June 29, 2009

The Track part 1

I had a choice of music school to become a music teacher, or Springfield College to become a YMCA director like my Dad. My Dad was much less neurotic than all the music teachers I knew, so I picked Springfield. Also Jerry S. was going there. Springfield told me I had to lose about 30 pounds and suggested I read Camus's The Stranger. The diet pills I started taking were my entry into the drug world. Camus was the entry into existentialism, which I never understood but I enjoyed it and it made me feel intellectually important. When I arrived at Springfield I was pretty disappointed that few had read The Stranger. I was also somewhat stunned about the hazing of freshman. My parents had taught me that such things were denigrating and I couldn't see what it had to do with academic growth. My Dad had gotten his masters at Springfield a few years earlier and I had studied his term papers. I'd only seen the academic side.
I wore a beanie without complaint and stayed off of "senior walk". I got a job in the cafeteria to help pay for my books. I enjoyed my first class when "Doc" Brainerd stood on the chair and yelled "Biology is the science of life!" and then got off and calmly asked "Did you put that in your notes?" It turns out that Doc Brainerd was the only faculty member who ever referred to Camus during that year.
During the first orientation week, the "girls" under our resident assistant lined up by height to meet her RA boyfriend's students, who were also lined up by height, and we walked to the gym where there was a banquet to welcome us to the college. My partner didn't seem too pleased to meet me and I thought he looked rather spoiled in his baby blue suit ... although I was wearing a baby blue suit too. We seemed resigned to put up with each other until someone in front of us started talking about skiing and then Jim and I discovered a mutual passion. We talked about skiing until we sat down. Across from us was a Japanese-American named Billy K. Billy was an immediate education. His let us know that his parents were civil rights activitists who knew Stokely Charmichael, that his parents had been interred in U.S. camps during WWII (I had never heard about internment camps in school history classes), and that he had smoked pot. Jim and I immediately asked if he could get us some pot and he said it might be arranged.
While I was getting tight with Jim and Billy, I was becoming increasinglly alienated from those in the college mainstream. My roommate took several showers a day, and if we had a fire drill, she'd take a shower after that. I showered less and less. We had an "initiation" where we were blindfolded and ridiculed and made to eat dogfood and such. This was and is known as "tradition". Springfield frowned on fraternities or sororities, but it was known that the Varsity students formed a fraternity and had a house off campus. I visited it when I was invited, out of the blue, on a date with someone I had never met. When I got there, I was pretty much ignored by my date and I chatted with the girls. One of them told me that she also had to lose weight to attend the school. Years later I saw the movie "Dogfight" and tearfully realized that I had been invited as part of a fraternity contest to see who brought the worst "dog" to the party.


Anonymous said...

Cathy, I am the Associate Dean at Springfield College, and the Advisor of NSO. I am so sorry about the experience you had in the you know things have changed on college campus around the world, and Springfield College is no different. However, we still have beanies, but they are optional for our incoming students. I'd love to hear more about your SC experience. Terry Vecchio

cathy b. said...

I hope I don't give the impression that the college was at fault for my unhappiness. Although later I will mention that there was one dean of something who was a problem ... he defended the Varsity S vigilantism as "if you can't take a joke...." but other than that it was more a matter of freshman adolescence, a clash of expectations, and most definitely the conflicts of the times. I'm writing these recent blog entries as a prelude to writing about "my hippy years". And I'm labelling it "the track" to indicate that was where I got off track. These are first drafts. I'll be revising these entries in the future.

I've been receiving the 40th reunion e-mail that "redbootz" is sending out and I'm reading it with interest. Lots of people, including my Dad, had a very positive Springfield experience.