by Pat Edwards
While a senior at Lebanon Union High School in Lebanon, Oregon, I, with my two friends, Bev Williamson and Jan Parsons, became obsessed with the idea of attending Linfield College in “far-away” McMinnville, Oregon. We, at first, thought that Oregon State College would be our choice for higher education. We paid a weekend visit to OSC and found it BIG. There were lots of students, lots of campus and lots of just about everything and it was a bit daunting for three rather immature small town girls. One thing that we did learn, too, was that making college visitations also allowed us to skip classes at school. We had “senioritis” and any excuse to adventure out on our own was fun.
So, after looking through other possibilities, Linfield, appealed to us. It was much smaller than OSC; the pictures of the campus in the brochures were gorgeous and it was only a two-hour-or-so drive from home. We signed up for a campus visitation, staying the night in one of the dorms and going to a dance.
Dances usually… always… meant ‘BOYS,’ too. Just as we frequently did at our own high school dances, we tried huddling in the corner to watch, but miraculously, we were actually asked to dance! These many years later, I wonder if, even though we were new faces at the dance, the campus gentlemen had been encouraged to show the newbies a good time. Regardless, we loved it, and at the end of the evening, we each had the name of our most frequent dancing partners held close to our hearts. Mine was Chuck Mahaffy. I believe that he was from Coos Bay and was a freshman at Linfield that year.
We returned home and began working on our parents to allow us to attend Linfield. The three of us girls made one or two more treks up to McMinnville, going through Albany and making our way north to Salem and west to McMinnville on Highway 99W to visit Linfield and attend a couple more dances there. For the rest of the school year, it was all that we could talk about. It had become our dream.
My parents, although not prepared to cover the more expensive tuition at Linfield, told their spoiled child that if she was able to find a summer job and obtain work-study funds, that she – meaning me – could try it for one year. Unfortunately, Bev and Jan’s focus changed to thoughts of marriage to the local guys they had been seeing, so the dream became mine, alone.
In early September 1960, my parents and I loaded the family car with suitcases full of clothes, shampoo, toothpaste and other necessities including my assortment of the tortuous brush hair rollers and bobby pins. I had boxes of typing paper, notebooks, pens and pencils, and occupying a special place in the car was my graduation gift… a brand-new portable typewriter in its sturdy silver-colored case and a supply of typewriter ribbons and erasers. It was an exciting time as my parents drove me over that now-familiar route to McMinnville.
After registering – probably at Riley Hall, the campus student center – we were directed to my new lodging – Campbell Hall. It was a pretty, three-story brick building with white trim that faced – or was more like, catercorner to – the oldest building on campus, Pioneer Hall. Pioneer has the white spire on top of it, reaching for the sky. My roommate was a shy young girl from the Portland area named Karen Thune.
My parents left for their return trip home and I began to settle in to our second-floor room. Karen and I immediately met two girls across the hall from us. Connie Michael, whose family farm was nearby in Dayton, and Helen McManimie, who was also from Dayton. The four of us eventually became close friends and to this day, Connie (who is now Connie Ruhlman) and I are best friends despite the fact that she has lived in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana for the past several decades.
In 1960, Campbell Hall was an all-girls’ dorm and Pioneer Hall was an all-boys’ dorm. There were no coed dorms at that time… it would have been unheard of! We had a room-mother who locked the door at 10:00 p.m. sharp each night and if you weren’t in by that time, there were serious repercussions. There was a pay phone on each floor if we needed to make a phone call, so we had to have a bunch of dimes and other change on hand to use them.
After signing up for my classes, I went to Dillin Hall, the beautiful brand new ‘commons’ where meals were served, to interview for a work-study job. I was hired to do secretarial work for the manager, but there was never a set schedule or duties and my boss was seldom in her office, so I frequently just ‘hungout’ until someone gave me a job to do.
To earn a little extra cash, Connie and I put out the word that we would take in ironing. Chuck Mahaffy immediately assigned me his starched white shirts to iron at some atrociously low price per shirt. I probably charged 25 to 50 cents a shirt, but at this late-date, I don’t remember exactly how much it was.
In those days, we wore casual-but-nice clothes to classes and around the dorm, but on Sundays, we were to dress up in our Sunday best… thus the starched white shirts for the boys, and dresses and high heels for the girls.
Unfortunately, I was a good worker in the bean and strawberry fields at home, but I wasn’t domestic in any way. Ironing was not my forte, so my extra income from ironing soon dried up. I don’t think Connie lasted much longer than I did.
I didn’t see Chuck much after that and dated only occasionally. My attention had been redirected to a senior star football player that year by the name of Jim Clifton, but though very nice, his was just a friend. Dating anyone was secondary and all but non-existent. My friendships with Connie, Helen and Karen, however, were constants.
As I mentioned, we had to dress-up on Sunday mornings to attend chapel and at noon, to have a scrumptious sit-down fried chicken dinner at the commons. I vividly remember hurrying down the stairs at Campbell one Sunday morning in my 2″ spiked heels. One of my heels caught on the metal trim on a stair-step and I went crashing down the stairs head-first, putting a dent in my shin that kept me in the campus infirmary for several days with my leg elevated. I can still feel that dent when I run my hand over my right shin-bone.
In the strange workings of campus life – at least in 1960 – alliances seem to be formed between certain girls’ and boys’ dorms. Campbell Hall’s alliance was with Pioneer Hall. We seemed to have more activities and friendships with the guys in Pioneer than with any of the other boys’ dorms. One of those activities, however, caused a bit of ruckus on campus and, unfortunately, I was involved. I don’t know who the instigators were, but a challenge was issued. Secret plans were made between the two dorms to meet one night after dark for a water-fight. Preparations began in earnest. Some of the girls had a bunch of balloons which we began filling with water. Others armed themselves with squirt guns and pitchers and jugs of water. Anything that would hold water was filled and readied for the fight. The site was to be outside Pioneer Hall, I believe. Once in position, water balloons and streams of water were flying everywhere and we were all soon soaked. I then noticed that someone nearby had hooked up a water hose to an outside faucet and I ran over to help hold on to it. We were hosing everyone down and soon there were only a few people left and I found myself holding the streaming hose all by myself. When I looked around to see where everyone had gone, I looked right into the eyes of Dr. John Boling, the Dean of Men, as someone else turned off the faucet. Embarrassing? Oh yes!
We girls were all marched back to Campbell. We were dripping-wet and left wet footprints wherever we went. After a stern lecture about how something like this was to never happen again and threats of what would happen if it did, we marched up to our rooms to change into dry clothes and spent the rest of the evening mopping up the puddles that we had left on the floors and stairs.
Even though it may not sound like it, college was not all fun and games. I drowsed through World History lectures, and awakened and enjoyed my Appreciation of Music and Art classes. Even though I wasn’t particularly religious at the time, I absolutely loved the required “Life of Jesus” classes, comparing the gospels and taught by Dr. Paul Little. He brought the story of Christ to life for me. Even then, I loved to write, so I looked forward to the compositions that I was assigned to write on my trusty little portable typewriter. I went through quite a few typewriter erasers that year, if I remember correctly.
Oh, how I loved college life! But, towards the end of the year, when my friends were making plans for their sophomore year, my parents informed me that there was no money left for another year’s tuition. It was with a heavy heart that I said my good-byes and left Linfield for the last time. I only spent one year there, but I made lasting friendships and special memories that have continued throughout my 71 years of life.
Included in OREGON’S MAIN STREET: U.S. Highway 99 “The Stories” by Jo-Brew (2014)