Sunday, January 13, 2013

Furman 1954 Chapter Two

Mandatory Freshman Beanie

Furman Campus 1954
It's was late fall 1954 and my girlfriend from Central High had come down to Greenville to visit her Prince Charming  What she found was a sad looking kid with a bad haircut wearing a purple beanie.  The only thing missing was a propeller on top.  I swear I could see in her eyes exactly what she was thinking: “Prince Bozo.”

I don't think I even bothered to show her the Furman campus. I just wanted to get away from there before we encountered some smart a-- senior with nothing better to do than embarrass a plebe. We spent the day driving in the nearby mountains, talking and enjoying the scenery.

Of course, the scenery I enjoyed most, was her.  I was one homesick puppy. During our journey through those beautiful mountains that afternoon we paused at a couple of overlooks and even bought a gallon of fresh apple cider which looked delicious, but turned out not to be very practical since it was only being sold by the gallon, and after a few sips, there was still most of it left.

That wonderful break from my life as a freshman at Furman was over much too soon; she was on her way back to Charlotte, and I was heading back to the dorm...with the almost full gallon of apple cider.  After a couple of days, I knew I was never going to drink any more of that stuff, since  there was no refrigerator in the dorm room, but I just didn’t have the heart to get rid of something that reminded me so much of those few hours I spent with those beautiful blue eyes and my mind totally free of thoughts about stupid beanies, upper classmen, and dorm rules.

Speaking of dorm rules, we were treated like children.

 Freshmen had to be in the dorm by 10 pm and lights out by 11!  We even had what we called a “den mother” (captain)… an upperclassman who checked the rooms at night to make sure the lights were out, etc. Ours was a fellow-named Henry Bair. He was a senior and pretty good guy who, under different circumstances, could very well have become a friend. But as it was, I was becoming so fed up with so many things that ...well, my days of making friends and being "Mr. Nice" had reached its tipping point.

This was college?

The Monday following that weekend mountain respite was when I began writing.
First, a letter to UNC requesting to transfer to Chapel Hill.
Bair Facts Newsletter 1954
Next, I suppose as a way of venting and maintaining my sanity, I began my first attempt at what could loosely be called journalism; a dormitory newsletter I called THE BAIR FACTS.

It was very primitive and pretty silly, featuring satire and what I considered humor, and distributed at first to only a select few of my like minded dorm mates. However, It apparently struck a chord with many of the dormies because, as we say today, after the first couple of issues, it went viral.
I’m sure some of the issues came to the attention of the Den Mother who seemed to go out of his way to avoid speaking to me.
Until…until…..that morning I got a knock on my door, and it was the Den Mother himself.

Furman Founders

He informed me that the Dean of men, or some such muckety muck, wanted to see me in his office right away.
Well, I thought, that can’t be good news.  And it wasn’t.

As I was ushered into his office, I noticed a burly man sitting on his right side who the Dean introduced as the head of the school’s security and inspection department, or something like that.
“Mr. Myers,” he inquired, “does this belong to you?”
And he held up my gallon of apple cider.
“Yes,” I replied. “I bought it a few weeks ago from a roadside stand. It’s Apple Juice.”
 “Well, not any longer,” the burly one replied, “I was in the Marines and we used to make this stuff out of potato peelings.”

By then, I realized what was going on, and what I was being accused of:  


Or at least a form of it.

My defense was simply the truth. I told them that I knew very little about fermentation and if there had been a refrigerator available I would have put the apple juice in it. Plus, I don’t drink. It’s certainly obvious that I didn’t drink much of that since it’s almost full.  (In fact, with the foam that had formed on top, it was).
The meeting ended with the Dean saying something about a letter going into my file etc. but apparently it had no effect on my acceptance at UNC, where I enrolled for the second semester of my freshman year and graduated in 1958.

But I was pretty steamed as I left the meeting with the Dean that day …mumbling to myself about putting a damn letter about him and the entire school and my less than joyous experience at their so called college… in some file of my own somewhere.

Or, better yet, tell the whole world about it.

Which I just did.


(Author’s Note:

Readers, keep in mind this was in 1954. This story in no way reflects on the Furman University of today. In fact if I were choosing a college NOW, I would probably pick Furman over the University of North Carolina in a heartbeat.

In all fairness, two of the finest and most competent people I’ve ever known graduated from the “Old Furman” and apparently loved almost every minute of it:  Francis F. Fitzgerald, the founder of Radio Station WGIV , one of the first  radio stations to be licensed after WW2, and the best and most competent boss I ever had in the broadcast business and Ed Sanders, Central High School’s much loved Athletic Director, History Teacher and later Principal.

The graduation class of 1958 also included many good and successful citizens, such as Ernie Bolt, Clarke Jones, Gene Parnell, and Cliett Alewine.

Founded in 1826 by a group of South Carolina Baptist Convention leaders, Furman Academy and Theological Institution was named after Richard Furman, the first president of the first national gathering of Baptists in the United States. )