Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt highlights beautiful architectural elements such as domes and arches. When my grandaunts Violetta and Velma Davis attended Harrisonburg Teachers College in the early 1920s, the signature Bluestone and Roman/Greek revival architecture had been the hallmark of the school for ten years.
|These were the first two buildings, built in 1909 as they looked in the 1920s. |
Maury (center) was the first academics and administrative building.
Jackson Hall (right) was the first dorm and dining hall.
|A pass-through arch connecting Harrison Hall and Jackson.|
The opposite arch leads to Ashby Hall.
Twenty-five years later the 6 buildings Violetta and Velma knew had grown to 13, with the arches and columns providing architectural coherence.
Violetta and Velma made great alumnae assuring that my mother would attend their alma mater too, which had been renamed Madison College. (Today it is known as James Madison University. Go Dukes!)
Throughout my childhood, every visit to Harrisonburg to see the aunts included a ride through the campus. Certainly it must have been part of my parents’ secret plot to brainwash me into following in the footsteps of my mother and grandaunts. My dad would always say, “You’ll go there one day.” It always sounded more like an order than a shared dream. But that was ok. It became my dream too.
I went through the motions of sending my SAT scores to several colleges, just in case Madison didn’t want me. But as luck and the Davis women would have it, come September 1969, my parents proudly moved me to Madison College. My high school friend Pat and I elected to room together – a little added security in having SOMEONE familiar close by. Our dorm was a small dorm, all freshmen women. There were no co-ed dorms then.
Johnston doesn’t possess the best example of the arches, but those staircases on the ends are handsome. Those stairs were used mainly as emergency exits during fire drills, which were a test of our nerves. They were always scheduled in the middle of the night. When the resident assistant (aka “R A”) banged the bell with her hammer, we were to grab a raincoat and flashlight and quickly head for the exits. Then we stood shivering in the cold until given the all-clear to return to our beds.
That’s my room, third set of windows from the left on the top floor. Each room had two bunkable twin beds, 2 desks and chairs, 2 dressers, 2 bookcases, 2 sizeable closets, and 1 sink. There was a large shared bathroom with enclosed stalls and private showers. While students who lived in suites dorms felt sorry for us, I liked this arrangement because we didn’t have to clean the bathroom. Housekeeping did it.
Pat’s and my room was painted a sickly pinky-brown. That is, until the pipes froze. Pat and I returned from class one afternoon to find her side of the room soaking wet with water running down the wall. We reported the problem and soon we heard those much-awaited voices calling, “Man on the hall.” That was the polite way for men to enter women’s dorms back then. They assessed the situation and left. Pat and I were on our own to deal with wet bedding. And no heat. We stayed in the room one night freezing to death. The next night friends at the end of the hall pushed their beds together and the four of us piled in together.
It was miserable. Fortunately heat was restored quickly although new plaster and paint came much later. The good news was the pinky-brown was replaced with a fresh sky blue.
Aside from that miserable incident, living in a freshman dorm was a great deal of fun. We made friends quickly with the girls living around us. There was a beauty queen, a girl legally blind, girls from New York and Pennsylvania and Maryland, Celeste Holm’s pen pal, and LOTS of phys ed majors. When our friend Nancy made the field hockey team as a FRESHMAN, we saw it as a time to celebrate an amazing accomplishment and honor. How? We hung her underwear all over the place.
|Nancy - one proud field hockey player!|
She thought the pair taped to her wall was funny.
She didn’t think it was funny when she found her panties on poles around campus. It’s a wonder she didn’t beat us all with a hockey stick. (Granted, we would have deserved it.)
Judging by my photos from that first dorm experience, we must have been in one continuous silly contest.
|Pat and Eileen -- onesies and pigtails|
In moments of boredom, what could be more fun than letting a floor fan blow up your nightgown?
|Pat, Nancy, and Eileen|
|Nancy's head and Pat's feet|
This was our idea of superior creativity. Yeah boy, we were destined to be Madison’s shining stars, for sure.
My husband and I try to be good alumni, but we couldn’t convince our own daughters to even LOOK at our alma mater. I wonder if viewing all that beautiful Bluestone and Greek Revival architecture would have made a difference.
For more stories of architectural features, please visit Sepia Saturday.