The gate to memory lane this time was unlocked by a note on another blogger’s site encouraging her to tell more stories about herself, and was opened by running across the name of a teacher from my college days. The teacher was the faculty sponsor for the Drama Guild and directed most of their productions. I took part in several of those productions, either on stage or operating the lights. Most memorably for me, I was given the part of Tom Wingfield in Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie.” That’s right, your grandpa was a “thespian.” Probably I was not a very good one, especially since I was terrible at memorizing, but it was a lot of fun and a chance to be friends with some of the more eccentric people on campus. “Campus” was Aurora College and at the time it was a small, conservative, church related college, so “eccentric” is a relative term. We were very much not the local chapter of the student protest groups that were beginning to claim national headlines around that time, mostly we were just more interested in fun than scholarship and possessed of exaggerated opinions of our own cleverness. Rebellion was mostly nothing more than breaking curfew and drinking rules and "protesting" about the cafeteria serving mystery meat..
College for me was much more about the extracurricular activities than about the accumulation of classroom knowledge. Dorm life, sports (cross-country and wrestling) and campus social life added more to my education than any course or lecture series. Participating in Drama Guild and working on a student newspaper were two experiences that are still a part of me. The newspaper experience actually did begin as a form of student protest. A group of us felt that the official on-campus paper was so dominated by the administration that it was incapable of raising even small issues of student body discontent, so we started an alternative paper. Looking back, it seems we were playing at dissidence, but at the time we felt daring and independent. However little we may have accomplished, we did learn a great deal. Deadlines to be met and column inches to be filled required us to work hard for goals we had put in place ourselves. Voicing unpopular opinions and sometimes making mistakes provided real learning opportunities, mostly to learn that actions have consequences.
I can relate to those people who look back at their college or high school days as the best years of their lives. I have been so fortunate as to spend the last thirty-nine years (and counting) with Grandma B, so there is no question in my mind that the best years of my life are still in process. Even so, those years at Aurora College were filled with youth, aspiration, camaraderie, emotion, belonging, immersion and intensity that no other time can match. I don’t know what “the college experience” will look like for you, my grandchildren, but I hope it can bring to you some of what it brought to me.