Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
Just yesterday: My First Day in College
May 16, 2008
Recently a friend said, "Tell me about your first day at C. U."
How in the world could I remember how I felt 798 years and 245 days ago, give or take a few?
But I started wondering whether there might be shreds of memory in my aging brain.
I can see the campus quite clearly - the grassy quad, several buildings and the lovely wooden bridge over the pond. But how did I feel that first day?
Briefly, I was scared silly. I was 16 years old, I had just left my home and my loving parents, and there I was
standing on the grass in my new "for college" dress, thirty miles away, surrounded by strangers and all
Only women of my generation can even vaguely comprehend how na´ve young women were in 1930. Smart
maybe, a bit cocky maybe, but knowledge of the world? Not yet.
Look at college freshmen today and what they know and expect. And compare them to us.
Liquor? Well, there was coke. I was to learn that cherry coke was the drink of choice, and available at the
college hangout, The Sink.
Drugs? What were drugs? I saw an ad once for Jaynes proprietary cures. Are they drugs?
Sex? Well, I did know where babies come from, but not much about the details. We were told that was to
come when we got married.
So what was I doing here? I was here because I wanted more than anything in the word to be here. My parents had sacrificed a great deal for my education in those depression years. A scholarship paid the $22 a quarter tuition, but there were room and board and books. By the way, what is a dormitory? I kept hearing the word.
As I stood there that day on the quad I must have been wondering what was in those buildings for me?
I recognized Old Main from pictures. Its bell rang every hour.
Not far away was the Library, a square brick building. I suspected that I would spend many hours in there in one of the little cubicles with my L. C. Smith portable typewriter.
And there was a little building almost out of sight. I found out later that it was Woodbury, and it contained the classroom of the most ferocious Freshman English teacher in the world. She was tough. A split infinitive was a felony. I probably owe her whatever writing success I have had. But I didn't know it then.
A bit further away was another building that I found out was the women's gym. I knew I would spend a lot of time there. In fact, I earned a letter, which I received 70 years later after Title IX.
As I stood there, a tall, dignified man approached. He introduced himself as Dr. Norlin, President of the University. He liked to wander around on the campus and talk to the students. He was a true scholar and a fine President.
The years that followed that day were four of the greatest years of my life. When I stood on the quad and said goodbye, I remembered a poem I had found, written by Grace V. Watkins:
A college goes on forever
In the hearts that having
And afterward understood
Bear its mark forever.