By Marilyn Crockett
It was a relief to return to school. I had broken up with Jim but who or what would be next? Actually I had thought I had broken up with Jim even before I left for college but now I had broken up with him again for good this time, I guessed. There was a coke date with Bill Hemphill. It was nothing, but then again it must have been something because I did remember his name.
He was nice, attractive, tall, bright, I could tell, so why was it almost nothing. Well, a coke date is nothing. He was a Freshman as I was. We met in the student union at a specified time in response to what? A phone call? Probably it was a note in the mail box in McMichael Hall. The student union was not that large but had booths and a jute box, pop tunes for a nickel or a dime. By now June had cut my bangs and I looked good, I think, and he looked good but what? He must have been interested, he had asked for the date. But I think I was not responding. It was nothing. It turned out it was the could-have-been.
I hadn’t noticed anyone from the tenor section. After all I was an alto. The audition had been easy. Mr. Nott, the conductor, had asked each of us to stand in the curve of the piano and he played simple patterns – three notes, five notes, more. I sang them back. He did some scales and asked me to sing them on ‘ah’. He was pleased I had had some background in piano and would know how to read music. He announced I was an alto. This qualified me for the college choir with one semester credit and would I like to join the Messiah choir, for no credit, which met one evening a week, Mondays from seven until nine. The Messiah choir would perform the complete Handle’s Messiah, just before the Christmas break and included some people from town. The college choir would go on tour over Spring Break.
Dick Crockett approached me not in the choir, but in the library. He was in both choirs also, and he had red hair and an aw-shucks grin. He was a Junior, a history major, a townie. His father was in the Messiah choir as well, another tenor. The father was not that tall, round and even more cheerful than the son. I don’t think I paid too much attention at first, but Dick kept up the approaches, a bit of talk, a smile. His red hair was in a “Flat Top” a little longer than a military haircut, basically a crew cut. He was about my height.
He had an old car, fewer students had cars at that time. He didn’t make formal dates, calling up for Saturday night. He just managed to bump into me a lot and then offer – did I want to go out to Melling’s for a tenderloin sandwich, go for a dairy queen? He would walk me to the dorm after the Messiah choir practice.
I was busy with a full load of course work, as many hours as I could take on my scholarship. I took silk screen and an art history survey in my major. I liked the silk screen class, June was taking it as well. It met on Tuesday and Thursday. We cleaned up the oil based inks with kerosene in red metal cans. The kerosene smelled, my, did it smell and on Thursday nights we had to dress for the formal dinner in girdles (I skipped those, using a garter belt to hold up the nylons; it was before pantyhose.) dressy dresses and heels. It was fun however to sit with June and laugh over the Kerosene Number 5 that the two of us reeked of. June called me “Hansen” and for a relatively short time was a very good friend.
“Hansen,” she would say. “Are you doing Jesus or Paul?”
“Jesus, I don’t like Paul. He thinks women should wear long hair and not speak up. I know I have long hair and I like it, but lots of girls have short hair and there is nothing wrong with that.”
In the silk screen class, I was doing multiple color small editions, seven or eight prints, on Basenwick paper, using a sheet or two of newsprint to test out the registration problems of multiple color printing. One of my favorite painters at that time was Roualt, a French expressionist painter who used religious themes and harsh, black, enclosing lines, somewhat stain-glass like. I used similar religious themes without the black lines but with the heavy, somewhat gloomy color palate. I would now describe them as sort of “Goth.” probably a necessary adolescent step. I was understanding that fine art was serious, but I made it heavy.
I was taking the course “Jesus” to fulfill part of the religion requirement. I wrote an A paper on something using a small color Roualt reproduction to illustrate it. It went over well. Later on, I would take a course in “World Religions” fulfilling the rest of the requirement. I also signed up for the “Gospel Teams.” The volunteer students were assigned to four member teams and sent to hospitals and old folks homes to conduct a simple service on Sunday afternoons. I knew I didn’t want to preach, even five minutes worth, which was recommended, but reading scriptures or leading hymn singing was fine with me. I don’t think we went out more than once. My particular team was not that active. I realize now that the gospel teams were a training ground for future Presbyterian ministers.
I had wanted to maybe study the bagpipes. The college provided the instruments and bagpipes were part of that Scottish Presbyterian heritage. Harlow Blum, my studio art teacher, discouraged me. He pointed out that at the University or the Art Institute of Chicago, an art student would have ninety hours of work in art but at Monmouth I would get only forty-five or so. I did not sign up for bagpipes.
Meanwhile, I was informed that Dick Crockett had gotten sick with Hepatitis and would be out of school for three weeks or so. I’m not sure how I learned of this, through a friend of his perhaps. I had never heard of hepatitis but was moved, by a sense of knowing about his illness and that he would be out that long, to visit the sick. I was thinking about it as a good deed, sort of like an extension of the visits of the gospel teams. His house was only about five short blocks from the college, an easy walk in good weather. The whole town was very Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell, at least to the eyes of an outsider. The address was easy to find, I saw a small green house with white trim, a hanging swing on the large front porch, big trees, a black sedan in the driveway. It was very pleasant.
His parents and Dick himself were overwhelmingly welcoming. His parents were both shorter than I and quite round. His mother only four feet and eleven inches. I can’t remember what Dick and I talked about, classes, no doubt, when he would be back to the college, if he would miss too much work. I did find out maybe then, or maybe some other time, that he was a bit older. He had dropped out of college and fulfilled his military requirement with a six month training period with the National Guard and would have five and one half years of reserve duty, which included a two week reserve camp each summer. He had also gone with some friends to Los Angeles to explore California and had picked up a job as a house-painter. He was a member of the Brotherhood of Painters and Wallpaper Decorators and his father was a contractor. His father insisted that he would drive me back to the college and marveled that I had walked so far to visit his son. I did not realize at the time that I was making a “grand romantic gesture” I thought I was just visiting the sick.