There are some people who are truly made for college and I was one of them.
As a commuter who lived with her parents I got to enjoy about 75% of the college experience. Seventy-five percent because I had a part time job twenty hours a week and carried a full sixteen hours a quarter. I majored in Graphic Design with a focus on illustration and took several four hour art classes each quarter, many of which started at 7:45 a.m. I loved my world though I envied those that lived on campus who had plenty of time for crazy fun and didn’t have to work.
In high school I experimented with drugs and alcohol, but in college my time was managed like a well-oiled machine. Yes, life was different now. I had no time for sororities, football games, extra activities or 3.2 beer from the many dives in Kent.
I DID enjoy those hangouts BEFORE I attended thanks to a fake ID. But as my mom always reminded me then (and until she forgot who I was sometime in 2018), SHE was paying for college. My job was to spring for books, art supplies and any entertainment I could fit it. Oh and getting good grades was also part of the deal. Partying was truly out of the question most of the time. But Thursday nights were special. They were usually spent at the Townhouse or the Wild Life in Akron. Disco and Funk were some of my favorites and I loved to dance. Since my first class on Fridays wasn’t the usual 7:45 am but 12:30, I boogied down on Thursday nights.
I wasn’t half bad on the dance floor. Most of my moves were gleaned from Soul Train which I couldn’t catch too often since I worked from 12:30-9:30 every Saturday at Winkelman’s a small department store in Chapel Hill Mall
I don’t think that Miss Sliter, the manager, would understand taking time off to watch Soul Train. A New Yorker, she had a thick accent, a thick bun on top of her head and thick calves. She was so proper, so authoritarian and always worried that I wasn’t wearing a bra. (I was. It’s just that they weren’t too padded and let’s just say, ‘my headlights were showing.’)
Miss Sliter seemed not to like me and let’s face it, I could be an arrogant snot back then, but as a part timer who sold more than most of her full time employees, she couldn’t part with me. I connected recently with someone from high school who had also worked there. She confided that she adored Miss Sliter. Hmmm, I can’t see it. Maybe it was that retail vibe that just rubbed me the wrong way. I worked there in the early 70s just when department stores were veering away from private dress presentations to each customer. Women not long before my time were instructed to wear solid dark dresses so that when an option was held up for the customer it wouldn’t clash with what the salesperson was wearing. Wow. Miss Sliter was steeped and stewed in that atmosphere. I was eighteen and a proud member of the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll generation. Winkelman’s was a means to an end for me and I was just passing the time while in college. It was HER end, though. Yes, I was an arrogant snot.
As I’m writing this I realize what a contradictory person I was/am. I loved fashion, wearing it, selling it and drawing it. Disco was my raison d’etre complete with gold lame, platform shoes, palazzo pants and rabbit fur jackets.
But yet when I think of one moment that sums up those four years, it is a kinder, gentler memory.
It was late September without a cloud in the sky. Clear and crisp, the temperature was perfect for walking to an afternoon art class with a big portfolio under my arm. Near my destination was a dorm and someone with his window open was blaring the song “Amie”. I stopped in my tracks to soak up the moment and absorb every drip of the music, the weather….this specific spot on the planet. And I realized…..THIS IS IT. This is what it’s all about. I AM IN COLLEGE!
My flashbacks are always embellished and seem to be directed by Scorsese or Jarmusch. I even dream in camera angles, slo mos , lighting and mostly in black and white.
That said, picture this:
“The camera follows me as I’m walking towards it and the Art Building. I struggle somewhat holding my portfolio, looking towards the ground as slow and steady I come uphill. As I near the building I stop to hear the music and make a twirl like Julie Andrews in the Alps, succumbing to unbridled joy.”
Every time I hear “Amie”, the above scene rolls in my head. Somehow, it just wouldn’t have been the same if “Turn the Beat Around” by Vicky Sue Robinson was playing on that turntable that day.