When I was writing Sixty-Eight Years of Hair, I poured through my scrapbooks and photograph albums. This week I went back and looked through the college scrapbook again. I found it primarily focused on the non-academic part of my freshman year of college.
There were two letters I had written my parents and a letter one of my classmate’s mother had written my mother about me in the scrapbook. Looking at the photos and reading the letters was like standing in front of a mirror, one which reflected that year of my life.
In August or September of 1966, I left my home in West Palm Beach, Florida to go to Seattle Pacific College (SPC) in Seattle, Washington. SPC was a small Free Methodist Christian college. At that time in my life, my goal was to become a missionary and I had decided to prepare for that endeavor by getting a nursing degree. [Note: By the time I graduated, I considered myself to be somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic so my career goals definitely changed during those years, but I did earn the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.]
I arrived in Seattle too late at night to go to the college, so I checked into a downtown hotel. The next morning, I walked the city streets in awe of the tall skyscrapers. I remember purchasing a small typewriter in a red case that first morning. Later in the day, I took a taxi to the college and moved into the dorm that was to be my home for the next year.
The housemother on our floor was Mrs. Austen. She told me that her husband had died six years earlier of a heart attack and that six months after his death, her daughter had died of appendicitis. If she had lived, her daughter would have been our age. Mrs. Austen said she loved working with girls and was so happy to to be a housemother at SPC.
[Note: In reading the letters and notes in the scrapbook, I remembered that all adults were addressed by Mr. and Mrs. in those days, even when they were talking to each other. Addressing adults as Mr. and Mrs. was natural for me having grown up as an army brat where formality was the rule. During my Senior year of college, I attended the University of Washington for two quarters. My Public Health Nursing instructor required us to call her Elaine. I was very uncomfortable doing that; it felt plain WRONG.
I also remember another custom that was expected at that time, one that seems so foreign now. When a woman wrote out her full name, she used her husband’s first name instead of her own given name. For example, my mother would have been referred to as Mrs. Norman Smith rather than Mrs. Ida May Smith.]
I enjoyed looking at a list that itemized the expenses for my first week in Seattle. The SUB I referred to in the letter below stands for Student Union Building. I was amazed to see that I bought breakfasts for 35 cents and 85 cents, and somehow was able to purchase one breakfast and lunch for 45 cents.
There was a note in this same letter where I informed my parents that there was nothing wrong with the typewriter, I was just too tired to fix all of the errors. It was interesting for me to remember that I attended college before word processors or computers that made fixing errors easily were available. I think it may have even been before the invention of correction tape. I probably used a correction liquid to fix errors. If I remember right, I often typed letters and school assignments multiple times before I had a copy that looked decent.
The second letter had a list of my classes and the cost of the text books for those courses. It, of course, was a tiny fraction of what text books cost today.
I soon discovered there were many rituals that freshmen were expected to participate in. For example, we all had to wear a beanie. My letter said that the it cost 90 cents, adding that nothing at the college was free. A friend commented that the beanies were something we would keep forever. I guess that statement was true since it has been in my scrapbook for the last 50 years!
If anyone started singing the school’s Alma Mater, everyone had to stand up and sing it. That happened at least once during every meal for awhile.
One of the first things I learned when I arrived at the college was that we were not allowed to wear pants outside of the dorm except on weekends. The rest of the time we had to wear dresses, or skirts and blouses. [Note: We also weren’t allowed to dance or play cards. In fact, this was the first year that students would be allowed to go to movies.]
In Florida, we only wore stockings to church on Sunday or when we were going somewhere fancy. I soon discovered at SPC we were expected to wear stockings anytime we wore a dress or a skirt. I wrote my parents that I got a one inch wide run in my stockings the first time I wore them and commented that this stocking requirement was going to be expensive.
I don’t think we wore girdles very often back then but I believe 1966 was before panty hose were common. I think we were still wearing nylon stockings held up by a garter belt. These photos are the closest I can find to what the stockings and garter belt were like.
Pulling pranks on each other was part of dorm life. I remember putting shaving cream under friends’ doorknobs in a way that they wouldn’t see it before they tried opening the door. We short-sheeted beds and removed mattresses. I had this photo in my scrapbook. The handwriting looks like mine, so I must have been the instigator of this prank.
As I look at the above photo, I realize many of you reading this post have been raised with menstrual pads that are sticky on the bottom and attach to underwear in that way. In those days, we used sanitary belts to hold the pad in place. I found a photo of one from 1933. I think the belts were thinner in the 60’s but they weren’t that different!
We weren’t the only ones in school who were pulling pranks. There was an article from the school newspaper in my scrapbook. After a basketball game, a group of students removed all of the seat cushions from the seats in the chapel. I wasn’t part of that group but I must have been impressed with their work since I kept the article.
New freshmen had an 8:00 o’clock curfew on school nights for a period of time and then it switched to 10:00 p.m. I suspect that this photo is of one of my dorm mates coming in or going out after-hours!
Since I lived so far away, I did not go home for Christmas holidays. That first holiday, a friend that lived on Whidbey Island invited me to spend the holidays with her family. In the scrapbook, there was letter that her mother wrote my mother after that experience. While it is a very nice letter, I rolled my eyes when I read it. I think it is a good reflection of the way women thought back then. [Note: I chose to use initials rather than my hosts full names when copying the letter. Also, know that my name was Carol in those days.]
Dear Mrs. Smith,
First of all I’d like to thank you for the lovely candied fruit tray you sent us for Christmas. It was very thoughtful of all. We did enjoy and appreciate it.
Now I know you would like to know our viewpoint of your daughter Carol’s stay with us. You can rest assured she shows a very good up-bringing. She made herself right at home and it seemed to all of us that she belonged with us. M. had said she was easy to have around and we found that true. She even liked to sit and talk to me like the other kids. I found myself forgetting she was a guest and treating her like any member of the family.
She seemed particularly taken with our little baby. Her mother instincts are very strong. She is welcome here anytime.Than you for letting her come to spend this time with us.
Reading the letter reminded me of something my mother said to me in 1970, just before I graduated. I was 21 years old at the time. I think we were having a phone conversation. Out of nowhere my mother said, “You do know that young ladies who aren’t married come home to live after they finish college don’t you?” I was stunned. I don’t know how I responded, but I know that I at least thought, “NOT A CHANCE!!!”
I will end this post with a copy of my 1967 plane ticket back to Florida. It is interesting for me to see the cost of airfare at that time.
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse of my life in 1966-67. I imagine it brought back memories for some of you and perhaps gave others of you insight into your parents or grandparents lives.