Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.
Torn down? Really! How could that be? The entire undergraduate dorm area, for women only, called ‘south campus’, was new when I was seventeen. My plaid skirt and white buck shoes felt ‘adult’ with the sweater-set. A beanie cap denoted I was a freshman, and I loved wearing that as my Page Boy hair swished along my shoulders when I walked. Curfews were actually comfortable, and a penalty was inflicted if trying to enter the dorm after 10:30 at night. We 66 girls rotated ‘desk duty’ monitoring incoming guests, where each girl signed out to be and when she returned and signed in, lateness at curfew, sorting mail, and paging a resident via intercom when any phone calls came in on either the only campus phone (in the lounge) or the only pay phone for long distance. There were no elevators and I lived, for four years, on the fourth floor! It was mandatory we all had dinner together, and rotated waitress duty in the dorm’s dining room. It was the Silent Generation. Memories are unaware of time; ‘south campus’ was razed for new buildings.
After turning his high school tassel, my oldest signed up to live in the co-ed dorm Quad at The University of Pennsylvania He wanted some noise and activity and spoke of that on the 400 mile trip from our house to Philadelphia where his pre-med studies began. After he seemed as settled in as we could provide, I went to use the bathroom in the dorm before the trip back, and a young man was at the urinal. Embarrassed, I excused myself and asked, with eyes down, where the girls’ bathroom was; he said this is it. Co-ed meant co-ed bathrooms as well, I found out. My mind flashed to the innocence of a panty-raid where the boys could not even enter the dorm but stood beneath windows at ‘south campus’ area waiting for girls to toss a panty or so down to the ground below. And panties were rather ugly, in those years, yet it was the ‘idea’ of such an event that seemed shocking-fun.
The following year, my daughter applied to live in a special dorm of only single rooms; she had to write an essay to be considered. Her acceptance to Penn was quicker than the anxious wait for Stouffer’s (dorm name) ‘yes’. When we moved her in, I did not check out the bathroom; I never did comment, to my older son, the preceding year about changes in social customs at his Quad vs my social situation entering a university. New to a generation is ‘new’ and the enforced dress code of my college undergrad time no longer existed either. Curfews were horse-and- buggy.
How she managed to make salads for the dorm’s eating facility, be a receptionist at a close-by hotel, volunteer at the university hospital, and make only A’s amazed me. Did she ever study on the grass with her blue eyes competing with the sky, and her slim frame pressed against a tree? She didn’t say. She found a job at the Jersey Shore cutting fish for summer work, and was determined to not only be Summa Cum Laude but Phi Beta Kappa as well. That happened.
“Mom. Stouffer was torn down. Was it an old building. How could that be?”
As I’d once witnessed dominoes being toppled with a precision that took a gifted person to create and also understand whatever was needed to make each fall with grace and ease, I ‘saw’ buildings in my mind also dropping. She didn’t think her dorm nor herself old enough to be in an aging category. Me, neither, from my own experience.
My younger son shorted the sibling legacy and chose a school within an hour and a half drive from home. Having season football tickets, he’s noticed changes so there’s no shock that a tangible part of his college life vanished.
The ties to graduate school aren’t as tight, perhaps because life takes on a specific goal rather than a transition period.
I had no answers for my daughter’s bewilderment about time and place. I am currently noticing how alumni magazines begin the ‘notes’ section with years far past my designated Class-Of number. When will she become aware of this herself?