Going to a private Christian college was cost prohibitive to folks of our means - impoverished preachers! They didn't have much in the way of financial gain to call them to the ministry - it had to be a deep-seated conviction that it was where God wanted them to be - raising 5 kids in a parsonage that did not belong to them, on a salary that would be laughable if it were not so sad. But God never ever let us go hungry - or unclothed!
But trying to send kids to college was a challenge, to say the least. But I was convinced that I was where God wanted me to be. At the end of that freshman year summer and holding down two awful jobs, I didn't know if I was going to be able to return to school. I desperately wanted to. I loved it there.
In God's incredible timing, an amazing phone call came just in the nick of time. My dorm mom, whom I had not particularly liked (she was pretty cranky and old), realized how much I needed help. She had a heart that she hid pretty well under that gruff exterior. There were so many more girls coming to school as freshmen that year that there was not enough housing. The old war vintage boys' dorm that was targeted for demolition that year was brought back into active duty, even though it had been condemned! The college was asking me to be the resident assistant (RA) for the girls on the second floor of this antiquated dorm. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of living in old Fanning Hall, but I could not turn down this gift - room and 1/2 board paid, plus a cash job as receptionist at the front desk that fit into my schedule.
I think I had approximately 20 girls in my care that semester. We really bonded in a unique way, because of our less-than-desirable living conditions. I keep reiterating the same thing, but this was really a terrible place to live. If it weren't for the good memories I have of the girls, I would have no good memories of that semester. I had broken up with my boyfriend, I had no classes that I really enjoyed. I was away from my good friends from the year before, because I was in a freshman dorm and they'd gone on to bigger and better places to live.
So what was so bad about this place? For starters, it was a boys' dorm - it seems that boys don't mind showering all together in one huge, gross shower room. Add the fact that the drains didn't work well - are you getting the picture? Suffice it to say, I was physically and mentally incapable of showering with 20 girls. I chose to come back in the quiet of the afternoon, when they were in class, to gamble on showering alone.
The good news was that I had a nice large room to myself - my first room alone in my life. I had always roomed with my sister. I love my sister, but still craved solitude. The bad news - I had a bit too much solitude that year. I slept through my 7:30 class often, because nobody was there to make noise and wake me up. (I made the only C of my college career that semester because I missed that 7:30 World History class so often).
This old dorm didn't have a central heating system (and of course, no air conditiong). Each room had its own space heater. Each night I had to do a room check to be sure everyone was there and safely tucked in. The girl next door to me (who also had no roommate) was even more modest than I. There was no evidence that she ever availed herself of the community shower room - with or without company. And there was sufficient evidence that she did not - when she opened her door a crack each night to assure me she was there, the "aroma" coming through that crack was overwhelming - she must have been really cold-blooded, because she kept that heater going at full blast, and it was not a good combination with lack of cleanliness!
Those girls and I grew to know each other very well. I have notes from them that I discovered this summer in my old scrap book. Looking at the autographs in the yearbook for that year have also brought back great memories. It also brought back some less-than-fun happenings.
There were several unused rooms on our floor. Somehow someone planted cherry bombs, wrapped in girls' underwear, in an unoccupied room down the hall from me. They somehow lit them and escaped before they exploded. It was terrifying. All of us were concerned about the bizarre packaging and frightened that boys were breaking in and planting the devices. There was much discussion of "panty raids." There was great suspicion that the girls were helping the boys. There were all sorts of rumors rampant on the campus. One week-end the entire second floor was "grounded", or what was called "campused" in that setting. More punishment for me than for them! The other name for RA in those days was "floor monitor." My girls liked to call me "monster" instead at this time in our history together.
We eventually suspected an inside job, though nobody ever confessed and nobody was ever "convicted" of the crime. The case was never solved, but it certainly caused us to bond as partners in fear and trembling. I still wonder who did it!
The picture from my 1967 yearbook shows old Fanning Hall as it appeared before demolition. At the end of the first semester, enough girls had dropped out of their freshman year to open up spaces in the other dorms. I had moved into an upper class dorm. It was a strange sensation one day as I was walking by the old place and saw the door to my Room 127, still standing tall, as rubble lay all around it.
I only stayed in the new dorm for a few weeks before a similar RA job opened up in the dorm I lived in as a freshman. I moved onto the first floor and was able to continue paying my school bill. I have to say it was a much calmer second semester than the first had been. Almost to the point of boredom.
NEXT: ANOTHER DELIGHTFUL SUMMER JOB