It’s almost time for the kids to head off to college and this always makes me think of when I left for my Freshman year at Washington and Lee University in September of 1977.
I start this post with a sense of trepidation as I fear it may turn into one of those “I walked 5 miles each way to school in the snow and you children have it so easy” posts….
Still, thinking back over this, I’m amazed at how much things have changed since 1977. So, at the risk of making myself seem ancient, I’m going to try to revisit the list of things that were essential to our college life at that time:
- Sheets from the Dan River Cloth Store- I lived in Danville, Virginia and the local textile mill had an outlet store that every single person in town used to go to for sheets, comforters, bedspreads and fabric. That was one of the first stops to getting ready for college. Now gone. Both the Mill and the Outlet. Long gone….
- Towels from the Downtown departments stores- I remember hitting a sale at Thalhimers on Main Street for my college towels with several of my friends. Thalhimers and Main Street Departments stores- long gone….
- Clothes- Khaki pants, Lacoste alligator shirts, crew neck wool sweaters, button down oxford cloth shirts, bass wejeens loafers- well, the shirts are now Polo and the loafers Cole Haan, but this hasn’t changed that much!
- A fan for the Dorm room- we did not have air conditioning in the Dorms then….
- A small black and white TV with rabbit ears antennas- no Cable TV in the dorms.
- A stereo with an 8 track player and a Peaches Records crate full of albums
- Bar ware…
- Hair dryers- hair was big for both boys and girls
- Smith Carona Electric Typewriter-there were no computers or “word processors”….
- Posters for the walls
- A 1972 Chevy Vega for transportation to and from other colleges for Parties and dances.
That’s about it….
Oh, and Washington and Lee was then an all-boys school. It would not go co-ed until 1986 or so….
We shared a pay phone in the hall and all chipped in to share another direct dial phone in one guys room. Cell phones had not yet been invented. One of our major expenses each month was long distance phone calls to our friends at other schools and dates at the “Girls Schools” like Hollins, Sweet Briar, Mary Baldwin and Randolph Macon Woman’s College. Most of us made our families track us down at the pay phone in the hall and didn’t give our parents the shared phone number. We wrote letters and notes home via snail mail. Mainly to ask for money….
To get said mail, we had to open Post Office Boxes at the Post Office and go by there daily- or sometimes twice daily- to check our mail for checks. We also had to open checking accounts at the local bank as large state-wide- not national- banks were just starting up….
We shared a refrigerator in the hall. Thanks to the Honor Code, it was no big deal and nothing was ever stolen.
Note what we did not have:
- No Cell Phones
- No Computers
- No E-Mail or texting
- Facebook was an actual book published by each college with pictures of each Freshman. These were traded so you could shop by mail for your dates and have friends at other schools set you up…
- No iPods or iPads
- Microwave ovens were too new to think about having one in our rooms
- No air conditioning-it was the Virginia mountains before Global Warming, so no one thought much about this….
- No Personal refrigerators (but these were starting to catch on)
- No Private Bathrooms- our whole hall shared a communal bathroom and shower on the hall.
- No Helicopter Parents- the best part! We were free!
When we look at the rising cost of education, I can’t help wonder what the breakdown is and how much is driven by the increased amenities today’s students “need”…
We also did walk to class in the snow. We didn’t cancel classes back then as schools did not have the liability issues they face today…..
It was a different time and place….
And, sometimes, I kind of miss the simplicity and slower pace of those days….
I don’t miss the lack of air conditioning…