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I can scarcely believe that there is an Upsala page on the NET. I'd been online for only a week and was stumbling around trying to learn this and that when my mind drifted back to Upsala. Such nostalgia is not an infrequent exercise. Even at age 52, I still think of Upsala. I wish any of our three, now grown children could have had the college experience my wife and I enjoyed. They all went to good places, but as I listened to them relate their college experiences , I have always thought, silently, "I wouldn't trade their memories for mine."
I attended 1962-1966 and like the author of this wonderful NET page felt they were the best years of my life. I loved Upsala and always will. In the late winter of 1995 I had read in the New York Times that Upsala was closing. I scarcely could believe my eyes. I made a couple of what were emotional and, in retrospect, dumb calls back to the place I hadn't visited in so many years. I felt shame, as if I hadn't kept up to date with an old and dear friend who was now in trouble. I protested the closing to some obscure people on the phone and tried to reach the then current President. He was not about. What was I trying to say? "Don't do it!" "Don't touch my friend!" "Don't tamper with my memories!" I told my wife I wanted to return, to visit. The pull was strong. She did not have the same interest and so, alone, one Saturday morning in April of 1995, I made the long trip from Marshfield, Massachusetts To East Orange, New Jersey. I wanted, in my own way, to say "goodbye" to Upsala.
The road got terribly familiar as I reached the Tappan Zee. How may times had I crossed that bridge to go to or leave what was the "center of my universe?" When I arrived, driving down Springdale Ave. and then through Bernadotte Gate, my eyes flooded with tears. Truth be it know, I began to sob. I parked immediately in back of South Hall and made my way up the familiar incline to Kenbrook. Groups of us had stood outside the cafeteria on November 22, 1963, the day Kennedy was shot. Clustered around car radios we heard that the President had been wounded and then that he was dead. Someone lowered the flag in front of Bremer and the world fell silent.
The world was rarely silent at Upsala. It was rather a world buzzing with thoughts and ideas. It was a world dedicated to the business of what liberal arts colleges were all about. It was a world of Calman, Ritzman, Rockwood and Perkins. They challenged us and broadened our horizons. It was a world where one had to do combat with the likes of Wallhausser, Zucker, Hjelm and Pauley. They presented the Old and New Testaments, the Greeks and the Enlightenment thinkers. These professors offered little compassion to those who had not done the readings or those who couldn't comprehend. In our minds and in our conversations we made legends out of Simmons, Lutz, Sellmer and Fanale. We struggled under the demands of Earisman, Faris and Smith. They had high standards and it was they who taught us how to write by turning our freshman essays back to us in seas of red ink. McKee, Washington, Welton and Willner and others like them shattered our comfortable high school mentalities and forced us to construct anew who we were and what we were about. We, each of us, with no exceptions, had to take a rigorous set of core requirements which challenged and stretched our abilities. Much midnight oil was spent preparing for the toughest of exams. I shall forever be grateful or that demanding world.
During my April 1995 return, I was immediately reminded that Upsala was also trees, shrubs and the seasons. Even then, a month before her closing, her greenery, mercifully, made her beautiful. As I took photos from her lawns, hills and Viking Field I remembered. In the fall my fraternity, Eta Delta ran the concession stand at the football games. We hawked hot dogs and soda to pay for our rushes. By Homecoming, the leaves had turned to rust, yellow and red and on that day the alums and the current student body would gather along Prospect St. and watch the parade which was uniquely Upsala. It was a Greek parade and each fraternity and sorority competed to win the prize for best float. These groups gave the college much color and a lot of its social life: the Alphies, Betas, Chi Delts, Gammas, Phi Oms, Taus, Thetas, the Owls, Gods, Alpha Phi Omegas, the Kappas, Otans, Rhos, Eta Delts and in 1964 a new group, The Camel Drivers. Winter brought touch football and we played in the snow in front of the admissions office.
Spring brought open windows in the Quad, and one could in those early years of the 60's hear stereos and radios blaring the first of "The Beatles" songs. Spring was undoubtedly Upsala's most beautiful season. It was then when a "young man's fancy turned to love" that mine and many others did so too as we held beautiful coeds in our arms and celebrated the warm evening breezes. I married one of these coeds and this year we celebrated our 30th year together. Summer meant returning home for many of us. There we took jobs and saved the money necessary to return to Upsala in the fall. It was possible in those days to pay for one's college education. I did from my sophomore through senior years. Few received grants and scholarships. Most of us were hard working kids, grateful for the extraordinary opportunity to attend college. We understood that we were lucky and by saving our summer earnings and adding to them the moneys made from campus jobs (I worked in the cafeteria, laundry service and was a dorm councilor) we paid in full for our own education.
Some of the dearest friendships of my life were formed at Upsala. I've lost track of all of those friends long ago, but in my heart they remain close. I wish them well. I see them as if it were yesterday. We are socializing, we are studying for finals, pulling "all nighters" by drinking limitless cups of coffee. We are smoking non-stop in the days before the Surgeon General issued his warning. When Kenbrook closed at 10:00 P.M., we by foot and in good natured groups, made the trek to Harris' Diner. That establishment rocked with our laughter. I returned in 1995. The diner was thriving. It seemed somehow inappropriate that it was doing well while Upsala was dying. Friends also bonded on the #88 bus which took us into NYC. This was high adventure for a young man from Brockton, Massachusetts who at 17 needed a phony ID to get served. My chest is heavy even now as I see the faces and hear the voices of all those wonderful friends in the dorms, in classes, at Harris' or on the #88. These, too, are Upsala memories. Springer, Potter, Fred, Liz, Cheryl J., Linda M., Andresen, Anders, Bengston, Tisch, Renate, Talviste, etc.; I'm grateful to have known you and pray that the years have been kind.
On that day I returned, I wandered about for five hours. The campus was almost empty. With quiet determination, for some buildings were secured, I made it into to many former haunts. It was so sad, the campus, once host to a steady 2,000 strong now was inhabited by a minuscule number of students. I wanted to reach out and save her but knew that such a dream was beyond my poor capabilities. I spent a long time in the library, touching books, some in the same place I had left them 33 years before. Disrepair was everywhere and graffiti was on the advance. I took home many mementos: a large rock from in front of Old Main, which sits today, painted white, in the front yard of my home, some stationary from overturned desks, slate shingles which had fallen off Nelsinius, etc. Such a piece of slate serves now as a coaster for my coffee. I sat alone in the bleachers in Viking Field and watched the baseball team, perhaps for the last time, practice. The blue, white and gray of their uniforms seemed comforting and familiar. The front of each shirt was emblazoned with the name "Upsala." Not wanting to leave, but knowing I must, I sat for one last time on the granite bench in the hollow in front of Beck and whispered a prayer. Eyes glistening, I returned home via the same Connecticut Turnpike which had so long ago guided me back and forth to what I will always consider to be one of the most wonderful places on earth.
"Long may her glory shine"
Peter Twomey, 1966 Class President
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