A couple of days ago I went with my son on his first formal college tour.
More tours are planned for this coming summer, including several in New England. I look forward to the chance to fill the trunk of my car with Narragansett Bohemian Pilsner — er, I mean, accompany the kid as he gathers information to help him make the biggest decision of his young life.
During Friday’s college tour, we saw just about the entire campus, with one significant exception: We didn’t go inside the dorms.
Perhaps they were left off the agenda because of the security hassles involved in bringing 30 strangers inside the building.
Or maybe it was because, well, kids are still living in ’em.
(You can never be entirely sure what you’ll encounter if you lead a gaggle of guests into an occupied dorm. At the very least, you might run into some kid who’s been up for 36 hours, cranked up on Mountain Dew and advanced physics, giving it his best Raoul Duke. Not a great vision for a tourload of kids and parents just in from Altoona.)
My grandpa never got the chance to go to college himself. Never drank Mountain Dew either, so far as I know. But he worked to send both of his kids off to college.
And this week’s calendar entry finds him in a college dorm.
Not far southwest of Stamford, a major American university was being torn by student revolt on Sunday, April 28.
My grandparents, and maybe even my great-grandma, were headed in the opposite direction, though.
They were headed to the campus of what was then Southern Connecticut State College in New Haven for a student event at Wilkinson Hall, the college dorm where my Aunt Elaine lived as an undergraduate.
This was not their only trip there. A previous Hope Street blog post makes passing mention of their going to Wilkinson Hall in May 1966 to see “Wilkinson Follies,” a dorm talent show fondly remembered by my aunt.
My aunt was involved in the ’67 Wilkinson Follies, too, earning her a brief mention in the Naugatuck Daily News newspaper. (The content is intentionally jumbled here, so’s to make you pay for a clear view, but you can make out what you need to in the article text box at the bottom of the page.)
I wonder if my grandpa got a chance to actually go up into the six-story building during any of his visits, and if so, what he thought of his glimpses of college life. Maybe there were posters, and music pouring out through half-open doors, and maybe even a shaggy-haired guy visitor here or there.
(I wonder what I’ll think the first time I go into my son’s dorm. It won’t be quite so much an excursion into alien territory as it would have been for someone my grandfather’s age in 1968 — I think — but it will remind me how old I am.)
Wilkinson Hall is still there, as it happens, retrofitted for the 21st century with microfridges, cable TV hookups and wireless Internet. Freshmen and sophomores live there now, and presumably, prospective members of the school’s Class of 2022 will soon be pouring in for summer visits.
You can also “tour” a standard double room such as those found in Wilkinson online; they don’t look any too large, but what dorm room does?
An online search for the phrase “Wilkinson Follies” suggests the dorm variety show may be an extinct tradition. Somehow I find that easy to believe: I imagine today’s college dorms are full of kids who are either staring at their cell phones or listening to music through earbuds.
I guess I’ll find out whether that’s true soon enough, when circumstances require me to make my own excursions into alien territory.