As part of Mount Holyoke's 175th anniversary celebration, alumnae shared their memories of MHC to personalize and preserve a new era in our legacy of leadership.
Playing squash with an amazing group of women for four years. We were ranked in the top 15 women's squash teams in the country for my whole time at MHC. We also won 7-sisters a record sixth time my senior year (we also won my other three years). Having great professors in both of my majors (chemistry and french). Spending all-nighters in the fish bowl rooms in Kendade with my best friends. Being convinced to finally climb the mountain on Mountain Day during my junior year! Attending three laurel parades/commencements and now in September I will be attending my first European Alumnae Symposium!
I just can't forget the wonderful year I spent at MHC as an Arabic language teaching assistant. Living in Ham was truly awesome. I got to know language fellows from different countries. We had a lot of fun together!!!
Lots and lots of wonderful memories! Still very close friends with Nan Perschbacher Gaulin, Mary Nee Connell, Lisa Wehrle Briscoe, Cathy Olds, Claire Ginder. Special traditions Sophomore elves, Senior "hazing", C & C's thanks extra 10 lbs - also remember "Tab" no wonder I had insomnia! typewriters - no lap tops or PCs, cell phones you were lucky to have your own rotary phone in your room, no debit cards - how did we live? $0.50 drafts at parties! and last but not least Mountain Day hear the bells and nuzzle under the covers for a few more hours of S-L-E-E-P!
MHC Memory? I have plenty. The best moments of my life come from this amazing institution that I have learned to call home. My mom and I visited MHC for the first time in 2011 and the look on her eyes let me know that I was going to be safe, that although her "princess" was going to be far away from home, she trusted MHC to take care of her.
I will never forget the day that my dad dropped me off after a 2 day drive and how we decorated my room together. When my dad left, I could not bare the potential solitude that I was going to experience, however, and before I started crying, two fellow students, appeared out of nowhere to hug me and comfort me. To this day, I do not know where these two girls came from and I can't really remember their faces, however, I remember the soothing feeling like it was yesterday.
My best friends, amazing multicultural perspective, first class education and most importantly, a place in which I can be myself, truly myself. Yes, the dorms are not the coziest, Blanchard food is definitely a two edge sword, but the human capital that MHC brings about is undeniably the BEST!
As I expect to graduate in December, I pack my memories of those long study nights with friends, eternal laughs at busy dinning halls, a busy planner and, fun trips to Boston and NY and most importantly, my professors' advice.
Whether I like it or not, MHC has shaped me to become the strong, independent and intelligent woman that I am today. I write my story as a true testimony of how MHC is a magical place that if you trust and let yourself absorb the best, it will transform you into the best you, a true you. I know that no matter how old I am and how far I am, my campus is my home will always welcome me.
Watching the live stream this past Thursday, November 8 from Chapin Hall on the occasion of MHC's 175th Anniversary I remembered sitting up in the right-hand balcony of the very same place in 1962 for a similar event on the occasion of our 125th anniversary! Could that really have been 50 years ago!
A wide-eyed freshman then, I was so thrilled and excited to be a part of the MHC community and the celebratory events of that year. I could hardly believe, just months out of high school, that I was actually looking down on (guess I always wound up in the balcony) and listing to the likes of Indira Ghandi and Robert Frost! I am awestruck still.
My time at Mount Holyoke College can not be captured in a paragraph...I met people who believed in me, people who helped me to find myself and people who encouraged me when I was flat out of hope....I was a Frances Perkins student, the single parent of 4 rambunctious teens...and I became a grandmother while a student! My granddaughter, who is 12, told me last month that she has decided that she is going to go to MHC...I know she may change her mind... but I love that she has been so inspired by the stories I have told her. I would never have imagined I would come so far in life as I have and there is no doubt I would not have without the MHC community!
Wearing my mom's MHC class ring when I graduated from high school, wearing my own when I graduated from MHC. Playing rugby for four years with a group of fantastic players who became my friends and then my family. Saying a prayer to Mary Lyon that Public Safety wouldn't break up my first party. Discovering new academic passions and being continually challenged by my peers in and out of the classroom. Falling in love. Drinking tea and talking late in to the night with my best friends. Walking in the Laurel Parade arm in arm with many of those friends. Moving my first-year plant from dorm room to dorm room to dorm room. Going sledding the moment after I finished my finals first year.
Women without voices singing in the dining room. Elfing. Mountain Days out in the sun. Passionate arguments regarding religion, politics, power and so much more. The sleep in during the board meeting to protest our investments in South Africa and learning the next day that the board voted to divest our investments. Frisbee on Skinner Green. Coming back after a weekend away to find my possessions had been sold in tag sale. And learning that when it comes to making room for friends there is always room for one more at a round table.
An unplanned trip to campus last weekend evoked memories of my own personal "wonder years." I looked at Abbey Hall and thought of all the shared meals, great conversation and many, many laughs at the "FP table," Walked by the music library with its gorgeous view and remembered my first work study job there and Joan who gave it to me. Past Mary Lyons grave where I said a sincere "thank you" and then to the top of the stairs that overlook the 1904 garden, greenery lining the stairway that was new in 2005 has now filled in and matured. Down the stairs and past the much enlarged gym and multiple tennis courts to my favorite walk, around upper lake.
Inviting faculty members to dinner was standard operating procedure. However, my junior and senior years we (the inhabitants of Carr Corner--my roommate and I and several other chem majors who had lab space down there) cottoned to the idea of inviting faculty members to lunch. Mr. Weaver and Miss Campbell were among those who shared a less formal (and far noisier) meal with us.
My roommate and I were, to the best of our knowledge, the first two Mt. Holyoke students to double major in chem and physics. I remember the physics dept. parties--and the donkey made of resistors that was Mr. Nicholson's gift when he drew my name in the holiday gift exchange! (Calculate the impedance of THAT!)
I have so many wonderful MHC memories, they are too numerous to put down.... Here are a few:
- Being gobsmacked by Jean Grossholtz in my Freshman (yes, we still said "Freshmen" in those days) 'Fundamentals of Politics' class, when she said to me: "I don't want to know what the author wrote in the chapter, I want to know what YOU think of it"! - the first time i had been asked for my opinion in a class: the start of 4 years of critical thinking.
- Getting a C in an independent with Penny Gill... she did this to teach me a lesson, and I've never forgotten (the lesson!)....
- Joan Cocks' "Cultural Politics" class - mind-blowing.
- Freshman tutorial in history with Michael Burns.
- Calling the President Elizabeth Kennan "Liz" and her smile.
- Shiela Murphy as Dean of Students and Kate Fahey as Asst Dean.
- Having the Deans actually listen to and take on board my suggestions as a Student Member of the Academic Policy Committee.
- Washing dishes for FinAid at Ham Hall Kitchen. We were paid $4 an hour and it helped us buy our shampoo and our second-hand books at Blanchard.
- Streaking with friends to Mary Lyon's Grave and streaking into Williston Library, breaking in to Williston at night thru the Audio Visual Dept window.
- Going to sleep due to sheer exhaustion in the stacks at the Library. Spending hours at the Stimson Room discussing world politics instead of doing homework...
- Hours spent at various Bell Desks, in particular, the one at Blanchard when it was redone Junior year > and hours of playing pool....
- Dancing every Thursday night at the "Rat" and going down weekends to the women's bar 616 on the road to Amherst....
- Being a techie at Mary Woolley Auditorium and nearly swooning at the Sweet Honey in the Rock concert. Suzanne Vega played once as well.
- Plastering the campus with all the amazing pink triangle signs Freshman year which had messages like "Heterosexism is a Social Disease" "Some of your Best Friends May be Gay"... I think there were 7 in all.
- Dickinson Hall in the Summer of 1987... falling ill with mononucleosis and Hepatitis BC, a strange mixed strain that had never been seen before in the US... a friend of Susan Staggers, Dean of Admissions, managed to get me admitted to Holyoke Hospital where they took so many blood samples that i became anaemic.... thru my case, we discovered that the college had no insurance coverage for international students who stay on campus in the summer.... The hospital told my mother (who was in Rome, Italy - where my father was serving at the Indian Embassy - at the time) that I was going to die, and that I would have to be deported from the US; President Kennan personally sent her limousine to drive my mother and myself right up to the airplane at Newark airport.....
- The anti-apartheid campaign and in particular our "Get COKE off campus" campaign. MHC was the first college to remove Coke from vending machines on campus. We got it replaced with RC Cola, which we all hated the taste of, but accepted because "the personal is political".....
- All the wonderful, amazing, passionate, discussions in Ham Hall dining room, tv room and common halls, staying up till all hours of the night..... with other students from all over the world.
- The incredible feeling of walking with the spirit of Sylvia Plath from Pratt Music Hall to the Bridge over lower lake at the Mandelles....
- All of those picnics on Skinner Green
- Being hypnotized by a fellow student (Grace Buchanan, '89) into thinking i was a leopard and bounding around the bell desk at Sappho's Isle (Safford Hall)...
- The first Catillion at the Betty Shabazz Centre....
And many many more.... Thank you, MHC, for the most wonderful, formative, important years of my life.....
Gosh - I have so many wonderful MHC memories. They started before I was even a student. Edwina Cruise, who spoke to a group of prospective students at the home of an alum in CT, literally gave me a helping hand off the floor - I'd given up my seat (always the chivalrous one) and was sitting cross-legged but when I stood up I toppled over because my leg had fallen asleep! I was mortified, particularly since I felt very out of my element as someone from a working class family, none of whom had gone to college, attending a MHC event in a mansion in Fairfield. Somehow Edwina knew exactly what to say to make us both laugh so hard that I recovered immediately.
Roadtrip to Cape Cod with Stan Rachootin's Ecology and Evolution class freshman year. Watching the ctenophore glow in the dark as we waded in the water at night. Thanks for 4 years of great teachers and friends who encouraged curiosity and enabled us to follow our dreams--it still remains with me many decades later, and for that I am grateful. And I do miss the M&Cs.
Fresh into my first year, I won the role of Johnny the Bellhop in "The Club," the first show of the 1986 - 1987 season of the Lab Theatre. The cast was comprised entirely of women, and all of us performed in male drag. I was one of the few who didn't have to have a beard! (But I did have sideburns!) Plus, I had to learn to fake my way through a tap dance. I still remember my big song, "Josette (a girl you never can forget!)," and thanks to Facebook, I've reconnected with some of my castmates and the Jim Cavanaugh, the director. Every couple of years I have a look at the pictures and laugh and laugh.
I don't know if it was formative but my strongest memory is being locked in the refrigerator in the Rockies. My roommate and I were the ones looking for more than milk and cookies when someone came in, so our friends closed the door and left us in there until the coast was clear. 5 minutes was an eternity.
I am most proud of being the sandwich filling of three generations of Mount Holyoke women with my daughter being a student now. My mother and my daughter are both women to be proud of.
Seminal influences : Joe Ellis, Chuckie Trout and Marvin Ott and the pleasure of looking up obscure facts in the library before heading off to the Stimson room for comfort and quiet.
I was interviewed by Clara Ludwig '37, after having missed the exit for MHC, and arriving 15 minutes late (thinking that would likely blow my chances for admission as a transfer). She quickly put me at ease with a humorous version of her own student disaster, giving me my 1st feel for MHC's caring community. I lived in what was called Pearson's Annex with 14 of MHC's best and brightest, who continue to inspire and make me laugh today. I was also influenced by my mother's OB/Gyn, Ruby Jackson who was a strong and independent Mount Holyoke grad and one of the few women in her time to be accepted at Harvard Medical School.
My major professor in Speech, Inez Haggerty, influenced my going to the U of Wisconsin for my Masters in Speech Pathology and my first career as a Speech Therapist...But the most profound influences on my life have been my lifelong friendships with our Mount Holyoke "group" of seven: my room-mate, Jean Carol Moody Crump, room-mates Sally McGonagle and Eulalia Medina Donoso de Conde (Chile), Joan Higbee, Caryl Filllman Kaplan, and from Vienna,Traudl Weinberger Langfelder. Both I and my now - grown children have visited all the members of our group and traveled across the world to stay connected. These close relationships have been a special Mount Holyoke blessing....these 60- year friends have influenced my life in more ways than I can say.
Wow, lots of memories! I arrived on campus with no clue what I should expect for the next four years. I had no friends of family in this country and everything was completely new to me. The first professor I talked to was Professor Lipman in the History Department. I was wandering in Skinner thinking about talking to someone at Financial Aid when Prof. Lipman walked downstairs and asked if I needed help. I told him I was looking for Financial Aid office and he said it's right in the basement but "they may not be open today, because today is Laodong Jie". I was totally shocked as he was the first non-Chinese who spoke Chinese to me in this country.
I quickly got familiar to the campus and really felt home there. I started to tell new students what they can do and what resources they should definitely explore on campus. Now I've graduated for a year and have attended grad school at two universities, I still find MHC the best. Dance studios in Kendall, *FREE AND OPEN* access to practice rooms in Pratt, golf course, equestrian center, free plants from the green house. They are amazing!
Of course, apart from those "hardwares", I cherish the memory I share with friends, professors, and some staff members. I remember those nights when I finish a paper at 5 am and find someone else in the computer lab downstairs when I went printing my paper. I remember having Thai food with a group of people at Psych Club meetings on Fridays. I remember going to dance and music concerts and being astonished by the talent of my peers. I remember scratching my head trying to make a program running. I remember having dinner outside of Prospect while Jorge pacing proudly next to us. Alas, I'll always remember those moments and always be proud to be a moho!
My parents had just dropped me off Freshman year and shortly, thereafter, I was riding my bicycle back to Buckland Hall, my new home. The wind was whipping through my hair and I was going down hill and all of a sudden I was enveloped by the thought that I was all alone - this was it, I was on my own, no other chums from my high school class had opted for Mount Holyoke, and now it was just me -- the adventure had begun.
Sharing two years with my daughter on the Mount Holyoke campus was the experience of a lifetime. She, Ann Croft '95, was a junior and I was an entering Frances Perkins student. Annie and her friends encouraged me to enroll, and when I was accepted in 1993, they were all so excited...and got a big kick out of hailing me from their various dorm windows as I bicycled across campus to my classes.
Being a 53-year-old matriculating student, was very intimidating at first. However, Carol Rodrigue FP'95 adopted me as her "little sister", and several other FPs in Abbey dorm took me under their wings. By the end of my first semester, I knew I had found Nirvana...so many interesting courses and so hard to choose. I wanted to take them all. Two years was just not going to be enough.
It was also pure luxury to have my own room, where I spent hours and hours reading and writing with no interruptions, except the occasional "Mom, come on out and have a beer with us. You are spending much too much time studying!"
The highlight of my Mount Holyoke experience was graduating in May of 1995 with Annie and her friends. My whole family turned out to honor us both on that momentous occasion. At last, I am no longer the only one in my family without a college degree.
Now, when I have been an alum for years, I remember having a difficult and challenging time at Mount Holyoke. A few weeks ago, while walking to work, I told myself that I felt fortunate to have been accepted as a student at MHC. (My parents had not been able to attend college because both had to help their parents.) More importantly, on the same day, I realized that I chose to major in English because of my love of literature and of people. Always, I remember Virginia Ellis, Marjorie Kaufman, Richard Johnson, and Mrs. Saintonge. They believed in me and respected me. Many years passed but before I understand their gift to me. Now, I am able to believe in and respect myself while also being able to enjoy what is possible each day of my life.
Two of my favorite places to spend time while a student at Mount Holyoke--in the library and among my classmates and faculty in the Philosophy department.
Among classmates and faculty in the Philosophy department.
It was Mountain Day, September 24th, 2008. I remember it as the most beautiful Mountain Day I spent at Mount Holyoke. In the morning, I climbed the mountain and in the evening I took my friend Allison out on a date. Right after M & Cs I confessed that I wanted to be her girlfriend. Luckily, she felt the same. We are approaching our fourth anniversary and planning our wedding, all thanks to Mount Holyoke.
In late 1972 I attended a panel discussion on the MHC campus. The panelists were addressing the issue of racial prejudice. At the request of the South Hadley Baha'i community, I had written about members of the panel in an article that had been published in Choragos. Years later I heard many of the thoughts expressed by those panelists, as a man named Barrack Obama ran for President in 2008.
- The first year I sang in Concert Choir I heard the "Hodie" solo ring through Abbey Chapel on the night of Vespers and felt chills run through my soul. I can still hum the melody 18 years later.
- My friends and I used to sit in the computer lab (when it was still in Clapp) until very late hours thanks to one friend who was a monitor there. We worked on papers, chatting in game rooms and laughed with each other each time someone from Williams or Dartmouth of Annapolis asked to "talk" to us. Those late nights are actually how I met my husband of 17 years!
- I was a sophomore in Porter Hall in 1991 & 1992 during the Rodney King riots. The next night we sat in the foyer and talked for some time about what had happened in California trying to understand what happened to Rodney King and why people were so furious with the justice system. Many of us were still very naive and sheltered and it was a hard subject. I am thankful there was a strong community to work to breakthrough that fear and anger to reach out to us who just didn't get it.
- My first year at MHC (1990-91) we learned we were First Years, not freshmen. What a surprise! My classmates discovered there was always room at a round table (there still is!) and we chatted with our friends who served us dinner. Waitressing ended that year. During 1994's search for a t-shirt we sat in our South Rocky dining room and threw out ideas. Lo and behold the memory of the Dick and Jane books came and the class of '94 t-shirt was born. I have attached images of the front and back and recommend you connect with Zab Johnson, Meredith Whitney or Jessa (Eisenwinter-Lake) Giordano for more details.
- Another memory of my first year class is sitting on the banister of the South Rocky front steps with all of the SRocky first years before the end of our first year, senior year, 2nd reunion, 5th reunion, 10th reunion, 15th reunion and I am sure every reunion from here on out. We fully expect our sons and daughters to lift us up there when we're 94 years old!
- I also remember why I became such a strong single gender education proponent. After having attended a coed high school and then MHC for 2 years I attended a Differential Equations class at UMASS Amherst. Of the 25 students there were only 5 women and I was the only one from MHC or Smith. For the first several classes, I was also the only woman who spoke up during class.
- 1994 was the year of the snow storm. Every Thursday morning we woke up to a foot of snow or more for a few weeks. PVTA was closed and if it wasn't running there was no traveling to an off campus class. I missed 3 laboratory classes at Smith in a row after I learned I shouldn't back out over that big mound of snow plowing my car in. Gotta love Mississippi drivers in Massachusetts winters!
Memory submitted by Anita's daughter, Margaret Clarkson '94.
My mother used to tell tales of college and one of my fondest is one I provided in her Quarterly obit... Mom lived in Ham in the years immediately following its opening while it still had language specific floors. Many nights she, who resided on a German floor, and her dorm mates would swap tables and learn words from different languages. She loved the night she sat at the Russian table and learned the word "морковь" which she pronounced "mar-KOV!" and means "carrot".
She also remembered walking proudly between Clapp and Carr during the mid-1960s with her friends in the freezing New England winter, arms around each others' shoulders, singing at the top of their lungs "I am a Rock, I am an Island".
It was Fall of 1964. I applied to Mount Holyoke College after visiting the campus for the first time. I wore white gloves and was accompanied by my Dad, who I called “Diddy.” Our campus tour was led by a very serious upper classman, who made sure that we knew that her family had “been in the Valley for 400 years.” I had no idea what Valley she was talking about... I thought my interview went well. I told the Admissions Director, Clara R. Ludwig ’37, that I wanted to go to MHC because there was less social pressure than at the Ivies. She actually howled in laughter when I called Mount Holyoke the “Girl Scout Camp of the 7 Sisters.”
FALL SEMESTER 1965:
The College informed me that I had been admitted into the Class of ’69 and placed in the brand new language dorm, Roswell Grey Ham Hall. I guess I was placed in Ham because someone in Admissions read that I was born in Venezuela. They did not know that I was born there by sheer serendipity of the Stork and my Mother, who were there at the time. My parents worked for the War Department and were posted to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas during World War II. They left Venezuela before I was two.
My father, mother and older brother drove me up to campus from New York City, where we lived. I didn’t have a driver’s license (as most kids my age there). We spent the night at Duffy’s Motel in Belchertown (a name that my brother felt justified him from burping loudly and often). The room had no air conditioning, and so nobody slept much that night between excitement and the heat. The next morning, we drove to campus and found Ham Hall. The building was so new, that the sign over the door read: “Roswell Grey Ha Ha.” The “m” and “lls” were missing -- added later, just before the inauguration of the building by Roswell Grey Ham himself (12th president of MHC until 1957) and his successor, Richard Glenn Gettell (13th President of MHC). I remember Mr. Ham as tall, thin, white-haired and very distinguished looking in a three-piece suit, beaming with pride at this beautiful building, the newest on campus, with its sweeping decks overlooking the spectacular vistas of Upper Lake.
Once settled into my room, my parents, brother and I walked up the hill to the village to buy a bike. Having a bike was an absolute must at MHC. Literally all the students rode one around campus and to classes, as evidenced by the rows and rows of bike racks in front of every dorm and classroom building. On the line with my parents in front of the one bike shop in South Hadley, I started chatting with the girl standing in front of me, another Freshman named Lyn. When Lyn’s Dad arrived, I “had a cow.” It was none other than John Glenn, and we found ourselves chatting with the first American to orbit the Earth. From this very first day, my Mount Holyoke experience was nothing less than magical.
Ham’s house mother, Mrs. Minnie Lobl, was the quintessential housemother of the ‘60s: maternal, sweet, and with an open door policy. The College was responsible for the students under the law of “in loco parentis” and Mrs. Lobl assured my parents that she was there “in the place of the parents.” Freshmen had curfews (10 PM weekdays and 11 PM Friday night and, I think 12 PM on Saturday night), after which the door was locked and only she could let you in – duly noting your tardiness and excuse. Freshmen were also only permitted 2 weekends off campus, coordinated by the house mother and after receiving written permission from your parents.
Mrs. Lobl also was also responsible for putting into practice the spirit of the new language dorm: only one designated language (Italian, French, Spanish, German, or Russian) was to be spoken in the Lounge (also called the Smoker) of each of Ham’s floors and at the lunch and dinner tables in the dining room. Despite the prohibition, I remember that the foreign languages were only exclusively spoken at meals.
For all newly arrived freshmen, the academic year was kicked off by Convocation at Chapin Auditorium before classes started. Speakers informed us about the Honor system, campus services, curfews, etc. Then there was the speech that President Gettell delivered, welcoming us freshmen to the College. In the middle of his speech, he declared that we were “Uncommon Women.” I remember that we really didn’t know what that meant. To begin with, few of us considered ourselves “women.” I was just a 17-year old girl, for example. And we were not sure that being “uncommon” was flattering. We would have preferred to have been called “special,” or “extraordinary.” Nonetheless, the “uncommon woman” moniker was born then and there and caught on. May it last forever!
One of the first things that we freshmen had to do was to go to the Kendall gym, strip down to our underwear, and have our photos taken from the side. I was told that this was supposed to show if we had scoliosis or other physical limitation for any of the 8 quarters of P.E. (physical education) that we were required to take during freshman and sophomore years. Years later, some of these photos were published, which was a great scandal in itself, and putting into question why they were taken in the first place. (Earlier Classes told me that they had to strip completely naked before their photos were taken.)
Before we could sign up for P.E. classes, we also had to pass the floating test. This required jumping in the pool and doing a dead man’s float for a minute. Although I am very buoyant, I kept rolling to my side in the water and, therefore, flunked the floating test. This meant that I had to take swimming. We were given standard blue swimsuits to wear, that got quite baggy when wet, along with white bathing caps. The very first day of class, the instructor made it clear that nobody would be excused from class for any reason, including “falling off the roof” (a term I had never heard before). She told us that whether or not we were still virgins, we had to use tampons (which at the time were blamed by some for a girl’s losing her innocence). Loaded with virginity jokes, like “it’s just an issue over a tissue,” we went to the little pharmacy in the South Hadley village and bought our first boxes of Tampax. Tampons came in one size, with a thick cardboard applicator.
Living in Ham Hall meant having to walk the bike up the steep hill to the Reese Psych building before pedaling to the classroom buildings, but the rides down were downright thrilling – particularly after zipping pass the Carr lab, where Park and Church streets meet. Even if you were squeezing the hand brakes all the way and hard, you could zip over the bridge and to the door of Ham without pedaling. We biked to classes regardless of rain, sleet and snow. Most of us students wore “swamp coats” – khaki green vinyl slickers that we could drape over the bike baskets carrying our books, which were located on either side of the back wheel. When the heavy snows finally came, we had to leave our bikes in the dorm basement had trudge through the drifts, which were abundant.
Food was a big part of our lives, because dorm life was such a big part of our lives. Lunches and dinners were already quite formal, sit-down affairs at tables in our dorm dining room with tablecloths, individual cloth napkins (changed twice a week) taken from our wooden cubby holes, meals served to each of us by student waitresses, and with Grace recited or sung (in harmony!) before the meals. Examples: “Bless this food to our use, and us to thy service. Fill our hearts with grateful praise. Amen.”; “For these and all God's gifts and graces, we thank thee, Oh Lord, Oh Lord.” There were also those prayers offered privately at the more rebellious tables, such as: “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub. Yay God.”
Little and Big Sister classes (Juniors and Freshmen; Seniors and Sophomores) also sang to each other, building the dorm and student camaraderie that marked those days. My freshman year, we Green Griffins would be interrupted from our meals by our Big Sisters, the juniors, who stood and sang to us: “Sisters, Sisters, we sing to you. Working, playing, we’re all saying, you have a winning way. Sisters, Sisters, we’ll always love you. On the square we’re proud to wear the yellow and the green today. Dear old pals, jolly old pals, always together in all sorts of weather, the Yellow and the Green shall blend into one, ‘67 and ’69.” The Freshmen would stand and sing back the refrain, ending with ’69 and ‘67.” I don’t remember the entire song that the juniors sang to the sophomores, but their refrain was the rousing: “Ach lieber lieber, Ach lieber lieber 1966 boom boom, “Ach lieber lieber, Ach liebre lieber 1966.” I hope someone can remind me of the rest of this song.
“Gracious Living” (Wednesday and Sunday dinners) meant wearing a knee-length skirt, dress, or even a long skirt, never wheat jeans (which is what we all wore to class). This also meant wearing stockings, which in these days before panty hose consisted of thigh-high hose that had to be hooked in place with garters. None of us used girdles, but we did use garter belts and “suspants” – elasticized boy short- style support underwear that had the garters tucked under the pants’ edge. As one friend told me, the suspantse gave her a better “line” under her skirt than a garter belt. Since we were mostly wearing A-line skirts, this was a consideration. (Panty hose were not invented until two years later, when the mini-skirt was invented.)
Students could invite faculty and guests to Gracious Living, who were also expected to attend wearing their best duds. Sunday afternoon was also the time for High Tea. Since I had not been exposed to this growing up, where tea preparation consisted of dunking a Lipton flow-through tea bags into a mug, I found this ritual a source of amazement. The silver tray was the platform in the middle, with the array of china cups, saucers, and demitasse-size tea spoons on the right, and plate with lemon wedges, sugar in a bowl, milk in a creamer, and tea napkins on the left (in that order), with the tea pot in the middle. Each tiny silver teaspoon had “Mount Holyoke College” engraved on the back. The tea was served by the house mother or honored student and carefully handed to the student or guest. Dissolving sugar in the tea, especially if it was in cube form, required patiently waiting, then gently stirring without touching the edges of the cup. Holding the cup and saucer (and tea spoon balanced on the outer edge of the saucer) while standing, walking and chatting was an art we all quickly mastered.
During meals at Ham Hall, the table talk in the foreign languages was a hands-on learning experience, as the menu and recipes were the first topics of conversation in our respective languages. One unforgettable moment was when carrots were served with dinner a few months later. The word for “carrot” in Russian is “morkov.” For reasons none of the rest of us understood, the word “morkov” was repeated in louder and louder voices and had the students at the Russian tables in stitches. They started ordering “morkov” with a thick Soviet accent, like Boris Badanov in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, and ended up imitating Nikita Kruschev banging his shoe on the table at the UN. Within a few minutes, all the tables were demanding “morkov.” These were Cold War days. You had to be there.
Each dorm had a chef, who worked in the dorm kitchen and followed the designated campus-wide menu for lunch and dinner on each of the week’s seven days. But the chefs’ cooking styles varied widely. Students would actually choose dorms based on the reputation of the chef. Most chefs, including the chef in Ham Hall, were of Polish decent and living in nearby Granby, Chicopee, or Holyoke. The Ham chef told us that we could come on Saturdays to dance the Polka in a big barn in his town, which we arranged to do. A story in itself.
The fixed College menus reflected the regional (Polish) favorites, so gaining the “Freshman Ten” was something hard to avoid. Everything sourced locally, homemade and fresh. Eggs and sausages were always on the breakfast menu, as were pancakes with real maple syrup or thick cinnamon butter. One dinner dish served at least every other week was New England Boiled: a hearty meal of corned beef, cabbage, rutabaga, turnip, parsnip, carrots, onions, and potatoes. We also had desserts baked with pumpkin, rhubarb, purple plums, and the fruits of the season in New England, in addition to rice puddings, bread pudding, and other dense confections. Of course, on Founder’s Day (November 8th) and Mary Lyon’s birthday (February 26th), we had Deacon Porter’s Hat – described as a traditional pudding served standing up (like the top hat of one of the College’s original trustees and namesake of Porter Hall). But, Deacon Porter’s Hat was actually a bitter molasses and raisin fruit cake cooked in a coffee can placed in a large kettle filled with simmering water. There was nothing sweet or even pleasant about this dessert, which was only salvaged by the butter-and-sugar hard sauce.
We also frequently ate asparagus. The reason for this was because, apparently, someone had died and left the College asparagus fields. Once, I volunteered to pick asparagus, thinking as usual that it would be interesting exposure to something new. I was picked up in front of my dorm by a farmer before dawn and shivered with other volunteer students in the back of the farmer’s truck on the way to the asparagus fields (but I could not tell you where they were). Very quickly, we students found out that harvesting asparagus was back-breaking labor, snapping off by hand each 7-9” spear that was poking straight upward from the soil line. We did manage to harvest a few bushels of asparagus that morning, and we got back to the dorm in time for breakfast and early classes, as promised, but that was one adventure I did not repeat.
Fridays, the dinner menu always called for fish – fish sticks, grilled fish, fried cod, clam chowder, or scallops. I had never had scallops before, and the first time I ate them, I got violently ill. I thought it was just a stomach virus. The second time I ate the scallops, I got violently ill again. That is when I assumed that I was allergic to scallops (which I later found out was true). So, every time scallops were on the menu (about once a month), I went to the CI to buy something to eat.
The College Inn (CI) was the place to go to get coffee and burgers and chat with the affable owner, Romeo Grenier. The exterior of the 18th Century wooden building was white, with a grey slate roof. On the second floor, there were simple rooms. My Dad stayed in one over Father’s Weekend in April 1966. The CI’s interior décor was rustic with walls, ceilings, tables and chairs of the same color varnished wood. Carved into a wooden ceiling beam separating two of the dining areas was a quote from the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” A few years later when I traveled to London for the first time, I brought a bouquet and laid it on the tomb of T.S. in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, whispering back to him those words that had meant so much to me. Even more moving was his epitaph, as if responding back to me: "The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living." It was truly a psychic connection.
Of course, after dinner, there were always milk and crackers stocked in the dorm’s kitchen. The only cookies were graham crackers and the milk was stored in pitchers in the large stainless steel refrigerators.
Everyone worked in the dorm with no remuneration, in addition to other campus jobs that they may have had. Chores included “Sitting Bells,” and washing dishes. Sitting Bells involved sitting at a desk near the entry doorway and logging in the name of all visitors. If a guy asked for a student, we would call the phone in the hallway near the Lounge (nobody had phones in their rooms) and announce “So and So has a male caller.” Sometimes, if nobody was around to pick up the phone, you had to go upstairs, searching for the lucky student while the guy would have to self-consciously wait for his date to come down. Guys were rarely allowed upstairs, and only in the Lounges. Bathrooms for guys were only on the first floor.
Another dorm chore was washing dishes, which involved putting on thick rubber gloves, scraping food scraps into big garbage bag for sale to local pig farmer, loading heavy dishes into the rack of a big stainless steel machine, pulling the big door down, loading the next rack while the noisy machine pressure washed the dishes with hot water and steam, pulling open the big stainless door and pulling the rack out the other end when done, and then stacking the clean dishes when they were cool enough to handle.
Most of the students on the Spanish Floor were upper-classmen who had spent a semester abroad in Mexico, Colombia or elsewhere, primarily because Mount Holyoke’s Spanish Department was too small to offer the number of credits needed for a major. Surrounded by these enthusiasts, and having to speak Spanish in the dorm any way, I decided to take Spanish Lit instead of French Lit, which had been my first choice. I ended up majoring in Spanish Lit doing my Junior Year in Spain – all thanks to this most fateful Freshman Year dorm placement.
Being a freshman in Ham Hall was a bittersweet experience. There were only 3 freshmen in the dorm that year. My roomie was a 20-year old sophomore from Ohio. I had just turned 17, and the age gap was evident to both of us. Karen immediately took me into the Lounge, stuck a cigarette into my mouth, and told me to smoke because I looked 12 (which was true). When another Freshman (who I had known since High School) left a note on the dorm room door addressed to “Bonesie,” Karen declared this hilarious and called me Bonesie from then on. (There are no obvious nicknames for Marilyn, so since Kindergarten, I was called “Mara” and then “Marrow Bones,” a big, shaggy dog character from a ‘50s TV kiddies show, which led to “Bonesie.”) Karen amused me as well. Being a New Yorker, I thought that everything west of Pennsylvania was the Mid-West. So, I thought that she spoke with a Mid-Western accent, saying “ruff” instead of “roof” and “meer” instead of “mirror.” The other girls on the Spanish Floor were more nurturing. One evening, sitting in the Smoker, they were talking about how each of our souls has a color. Quite accurately, Karen was assigned brown tweed, upperclassman Judy was determined to be a rose beige. I was assigned “sky blue pink.” How accurate they were! This has been my favorite color ever since, especially at sunrise.
When Lyn Glenn found out that there were so few freshmen in Ham Hall, she kindly took me under her wing. She was at nearby Torrey Hall, which included us in many of their activities, including my first mixer. I remember sitting on Lyn’s bed as she read fan mail she was receiving. After John Glenn’s March 1, 1962 ticker tape parade in New York City, Lyn (who rode in the car behind her father) apparently became the heartthrob of all the pubescent guys out there. Unfortunately, Lyn transferred out of MHC after her Sophomore Year.
Ingenuity abounded at the nearby men’s colleges. Someone published a printed handbook, called “Where the Girls Are,” containing each and every one of our High School graduation photos, our names, and which college we were at. How they got this info remains a mystery to me. But, this was the original Face Book! There was no question that the MHT (“Mount Holyoke Type”) was portrayed as less sophisticated than the Smithies. This didn’t bother me, since I was delighted to be at the “Girl Scout Camp of the 7 Sisters.” And, who wanted to be labeled with the motto, “Smith to bed, Holyoke to wed.”
Nonetheless, my social life did not suffer. Although Karen and Sue couldn’t understand why and actually tried to sabotage me by putting little velvet ribbons in my hair before I went to my first mixer, I met lots of guys and dated quite a bit, always careful to get home in time for curfew. Mount Holyoke arranged for buses to take freshmen to mixers at Amherst, Williams, Yale, Dartmouth, etc., and arranged to get us back before the dorms were locked. Amherst guys certainly cooperated. Every dorm and fraternity house had alarm bells that would go off at 10:15 on Saturday night as a warning, and again at 10:30 PM, giving you just enough time to hop into someone’s car, drive over the Notch, and dash inside your front door by the stroke of curfew.
Alcoholic beverages were forbidden on the MHC campus. Period. Massachusetts was a “dry” state and its Blue Laws prohibited drinking for anyone under 21. I was also told that, since the campus was within one mile of the Congregational Church in the South Hadley village, stricter restrictions were also imposed. So, leave it to the men’s colleges to procure kegs of beer and innovate an array of punches as refreshments. The punches were mixed in garbage pails lined with a clean plastic garbage bag inside. I made the mistake of watching the punch be mixed once. It consisted of Thunderbird wine, grape soda, grain alcohol and other flavors. The names of these concoctions were very creative – like Purple Passion, etc. Of course, the headaches the next day were dreadful.
I went to a mixer at Amherst and met a Herstie. He was, admittedly, not terrific, but it was fun to dance to the great rock tunes of the mid-‘60s – like Good Lovin’, Satisfaction, Turn Turn Turn, Devil in a Blue Dress, etc. After dancing for a while, this guy invited me to his room on the pretext of seeing his “hangings.” It turns out that he had suspended above the floor almost every piece of furniture in the room. His bed was also suspended by chains from the ceiling. No sooner had we gotten there, he looked me straight in the eye and said: “De-tog and up on the rack.” I got out of there immediately, finding this the least romantic line anyone could have thought of. I went back to the mixer and just waited around until it was time for the bus to take us back to South Hadley.
I will never forget my first mixer at Dartmouth. Even after the long trip to Hanover, New Hampshire, none of us wanted to get off the bus. The Dartmouth guys were lined up on either side of the bus door. As each of us got off the bus, the next guy in line would pick us up, throw us over his shoulder, and carry us into the Hop (Hopkins Center) for the dance. Remember, we were all wearing skirts with the garter situation. I guess that was the whole idea. I did meet a great guy at that mixer who invited me to Winter Carnival. I got permission from my parents and used up one of my 2 weekends per semester for this wonderful event. I stayed at the historic Hanover Inn at the edge of the Green and it was one of the dreamiest weekends of my life. My date was a computer science major, probably one of the first. He brought me to see a gigantic warehouse room filled from floor to ceiling, wall to all with a huge IBM machine. He typed in some commands and reams of paper spewed out of the printer. He had created with “X”s a picture of Snoopy and a calendar of 1966. Wow.
Girls in my dorm also “set me up” with guys they knew and I was invited on other weekends. They were usually fantastic, with dances, concerts, and performances by the most famous musicians of the day. I saw the Supremes, Sonny and Cher, Sam the Sham and the Pharos, the Animals, and some lesser known groups such as “Uranus and the Four Moons” both in auditoriums and in frat houses. I was fixed up on a blind date with Mike, a junior and a Yale Cheerleader, who was one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. The football game at the Yale Bowl was wonderful, particularly since Mike showed off his gymnastic talents, building human pyramids with this squad, barking out cheers with his huge megaphone, walking Eli, the bulldog mascot, around the field, etc. (This reminds me of the joke of the times: Where do all the toilets go for a mixer? The Yale Bowl…..) Anyway, Mike showed me a wonder time. We heard the Wiffenpoofs sing at Morey’s, visited the Harkness Tower, and showed me around his dorm, Silliman College. Mike gave me a blue pennant with white numbers “90” on it. This was apparently the pennant for the Class of 1890, which had not showed up for the last reunion and was going to be thrown out. It was a relic that I cherished for years. In the bus heading back to South Hadley, I told the girls about my adventures and heard about the activities dating freshmen, who all lived in the Freshman Quad. These activities included the “bladder ball contest”, “many legged race,” and “virgin carry.”
I also met guys through a computerized dating service – the first of its kind. One of my dates was named Eric Bond, a sophomore from Amherst. He was such a nerd that I finally asked him his real name. He admitted that “Eric Bond” was a name invented by a group of his friends. “Eric” was for the hunky Viking appearing on TV commercials, with the motto “Eric is here.” “Bond” was, of course, 007.
In January 1996, after we students returned to campus after Christmas vacation, a heavy snow fell again and the temps were at 20 degrees. In those days, we had first semester Final exams after New Years, so these were times of great stress as we crammed for Finals. Karen, her best friend, Sue, and I decided to do something to cheer up our fellow students at Ham. We went outside, boldly linked arms, walked on to the solidly-iced Upper Lake, and created gigantic letters in the snow spelling out “Clutch Not.” “Clutch” means “Stress” in today’s lingo, and Karen’s favorite saying was “Clutch not, for there is a fink in every profession.” Anyway, the message, which was visible from Ham’s dining and living rooms, lounges, and most rooms, was a great hit with the students. But it got the three of us in significant trouble with Mrs. Lobl, who “dropped her teeth” and fretted about how we could have drowned in the frigid waters if the ice had cracked on Upper Lake.
By the end of my Freshman Year, I still looked 12 years old, but I now smoked, was an accomplished swimmer, fencer and tennis player, had taken amazing classes, met great guys, and had been to thrilling on-campus lectures (by W.H. Auden and Buckminster Fuller), movies (A Man and a Woman), and a few live performances. When Marcel Marceau came to perform at Chapin, I was his designated host, accompanied him around, and sat with him while he took off his greasepaint—an hour-long affair. I remember that he had a wonderful voice and French accent, which one would have never known when he was performing as a mime, in his character of “Bip.”
The girls on the Spanish Floor surprised me with a party on my 18th birthday, just a few days before the end of my Freshman Year. I was in my room and they called out “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” This was my coming out party. Many of them were debutantes, so I guess they thought this was a rite of passage. They each gave me gifts that were the necessary items of a “vice kit:” a motel key, packet of the Pill (illegal for non-married women), pack of cards, phony i.d., etc. I was on my way to being an Uncommon Woman!
How different campus life was by the time I graduated. The revolution had hit. We found out what was going on in Viet Nam. Abbie Hoffman spoke at the Amphitheater. We wore white arm bands over our sewn-up mini graduation gowns. Men were in the bedrooms. We were the Class of ’69, and definitely wanted to change the world
Before ending this trip down memory lane, I must mention another life-changing thing that happened to me within my first weeks at MHC. I had my palm read by one of the other freshmen at Ham, Tanya, who lived on the Russian Floor. Tanya said she was part-gypsy, which added to the mystique of the moment. She took my left hand, traced the line that confirmed my optimism, rubbed the fleshy part between my thumb and forefinger confirming my passion, squeezed the outside of my hand under my pinkie confirming that I would have one child, and then stopped. She became white as a sheet and said she could not go on. She traced my life line and, clearly, it ends after about an inch, right after the point where my love line meets it. Tanya told me that I would not live to see my 18th birthday. I had attributed the short life line to my having a pudgy palm, but Tanya was in tears. This episode was important because it made me start evaluating each day of my life as if it could be my last. I decided to enjoy everything and everyone with the goal of seeing how far I could get and how much I could learn, dream, achieve, and contribute. I subsequently made decisions that may seem irrational to everyone else, but which made perfect sense to me in this context. Thanks to Tanya, I have crammed six careers into my one life, traveled to over 80 countries, and have lots more to do.
I still have scrapbooks somewhere of my years at Mount Holyoke, with photos, programs, etc. I also donated to the MHC Archives all of my letters home to Mom, Diddy, and Bro’.
Buckland, Massachusetts, birthplace of Mount Holyoke College founder, Mary Lyon