Class of 1963
THE SPRINGFIELD CHRONICLES
Trying to distill the essence of the experiences we forged through during the four years we toiled at Springfield is a difficult task. Each venue presents of different prism and as the years pass the reflection is somewhat fractured whether by exaggeration or denial. Exaggeration because the fish always gets larger and it is fun to retell and regale those stories, and denial because of shame, humiliation, or most likely, regret that we were not able to be the person then that we are today.
Regret is the one state of mind that we all probably wrestle with as we move further and further away from those glorious years when it was all so simple. Regret that we didn’t study enough, train harder, achieve the goals we now know were possible, hug more, get to know all our classmates well, take every day on the campus as if it were the last, and realize how lucky we were.
Now that our 50th reunion is upon our doorstep, all the past is crystallizing before us. So many of the names jump out and a recollection flashes in our mind. The new campus and its new buildings are superb and over time will be the landmarks for the current and future classes of the Pride. However, for us, the Chiefs, the names Alumni, Pratt, Judd, McCurdy, the Dugout, Memorial, Cheney, the Field House, Lakeside, Abbey, Rally Hill, and Freshman Camp stir vivid and warm memories never to be forgotten.
How clearly I remember as a wide eyed, naïve freshman entering Judd Gym, going down the staircase to the locker room in preparation for practice, going to the equipment window and before asking, in as respectful a voice as possible, for a towel, Andy, the curmudgeon of Judd, barking at you: “What the hell do you want?” His pencil thin moustache, thin smile/sneer, rendering you speechless! “Now get the hell out of here and don’t bother me!” Andy was a treasure once you proved yourself and were no longer a freshman.
Part of the humiliation experience included getting caught on senior walk, being tossed into Lake Massasoit (Watershops Pond), and wearing that ridiculous freshman beanie that I secretly swore I would never wear but quickly became part of my essential everyday wardrobe.
Judd Gym, was for many of us, a second classroom where we learned square dancing, gymnastics, and swimming. Coach Parker was the square dance maestro, Coaches Johnson and Walcott focused on gymnastics, and Coaches Samulson and Sylvia left their indelible mark on our swimming psyche!
I can only write about Alumni Hall, my freshman dormitory. Lakeside was the new dorm and it was believed to house the “brains” of the class. But Alumni, if the walls could tell stories, they would be bestsellers! Sleep was probably the last activity that occurred in that dorm. The basement housed the bio and anatomy labs, and there was a steady smell of formaldehyde that rose through the floors. On Friday early evening, after bio lab, the walk to Cheney for dinner didn’t offer much sensory relief because the usual Friday dinner was some opaque looking fish that didn’t particularly distinguish itself from the bio lab odor! Cheney was a cozy dinning hall that by late April and continuing through May tended to lose its appeal! Let me just say that the atmosphere and etiquette degraded steadily and the semester neared its close.
The dugout, the procrastinator’s paradise, was the spot! Check your mailbox 10 times a day, hang out with your buddies, and check out the social scene, which it was! Students, coaches, professors, college administrators; we all shared the cozy space for some part of each day so we could catch up on the latest gossip, team result, and if there was a world going on outside the dugout, not many of us knew or wanted to know about it! Although that began to change in 1963, as we were preparing to leave, we could not have anticipated the cataclysmic events that would shape our lives awaiting us just a short time away.
Although most of us had classes in Marsh (and I think of Dr. VanderBeck), the year 1963 was the first time many of us discovered Marsh Memorial Library as a resource because the idea of immersing yourself in some serious research and study finally appealed to us. What took so long? Who knows but at least it did happen. What a beautiful and grand old structure it was. It was so quiet in the main section that you were reluctant to move in your chairs because they creaked, and the smell of books, old books, made you feel important.
Rally Hill, the site of the annual frosh-soph face-off, still remains and looks the same. The question I have is, is it still the site of an impassioned battle each spring that no one can remember if it was about anything significant? Or, was it just an excuse just to burn off some spring fever energy and a prelude to the annual Sti-Yu-Ka (Nee panty raid! Abbey Hall was the only women’s dorm at the College)? Access was tightly controlled so few were able to overcome the barriers to socialize unfettered! But it was special when you waited in the lobby for your date to meet you in spite of the signing out business!
Pratt Field was, in a way, iconic because it was the field that witnessed so many great football players and teams, as well as track and cross country teams, compete. The names of Tiger Dunn, Vern Cox, Irv Schmidt are still remembered, and the athletes they mentored and coached probably number in the thousands and thousands. Each one left his imprint. As a freshman, and in subsequent years, it was impressive to be competing on that field. It is regretful that the magnificent entry gates were removed because they provided a sense of inspiration, and I wonder if they are the very same gates penned into the lyrics of the Springfield Alma Mater.
From Pratt it was a short walk to the Field House--part classroom, part gym, and the hub of the winter months at Springfield. It was such a vital component in the whole picture of athletics at the College that we could easily overlook its flaws. It was the showpiece for basketball, gymnastics, and wrestling, and each team and event always drew large and supportive crowds. The gymnastics winter home coming show was spectacular.
For me, as a wrestler, it was special. The loft was our practice site and it witnessed many great champions in epic wrestle-off battles with teammates. Doug Parker was our coach and he will always be remembered by all. I was lucky to be given a brick from the original field house after it was demolished.
Freshman Camp, the alpha and omega of our freshman year, was a trip! After a year in a men’s dorm to then have to tent for a week with another bunch of guys was, let me say, a head scratcher! We did learn lots about canoeing, square dancing and camping. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
We all know that we can’t go back but nothing stops us from looking back with admiration, appreciation, gratitude, and thanks for the gift we were given.