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Monday, October 22, 2012

Kent State memories

On Saturday, Ron and I made our annual sojourn to Kent State. Famous for many things, including black squirrels, many don't know that it was also the scene of our first date. In 1986, while I was working at the Library and Ron was visiting as a patron, Molly Carver introduced us mentioning that she knew we both were KSU Alumni. Boom. On the spot, we agreed to visit the campus together to pursue our separate memories of what turned out to be the exact same years. I was there from 1972-1977. Ron, though 8 years older than I am, was there from 1970-1975. Three years of intersection, passing on the same trails-we compared notes and were fascinated to note that we might have seen each other many times!

On this visit, we stopped to see where Ron lived in Hudson at that time. Being fresh out of the Navy at age 22, living off campus was an option for him and the GI bill made it possible.
It is now for sale, although, as most things are, it is diminished from its days of a farm with several acres and now sits alone cut by a freeway.Still, the Baker house was fun to see again.

I, on the other hand, was required to live in a dorm (see photo above). It did bear the distinction of being 3 towers of single rooms, however, and I was thrilled to score my 8X8 room on the 4th floor of Leebrick Hall. The coed dorm, on my floor, consisted of all senior nursing students who were gone all day at hospitals and studied all night. I didn't meet a single person except, Diane Vanecek, who was also a freshman that somehow ended up on that floor as well. One of the towers was empty, as was much of the campus during our years at Kent.

Here is where Ron and I can visit Kent and have very different emotions about Kent. First, Ron registered to start at Kent for the Spring quarter of 1970. Due to a disagreement with the housing personnel on campus (another story for another time) Ron abruptly left the school  and so was not on campus on May 4, avoiding the massacre and subsequent closing of the school.  I, on the other hand, arrived on campus in 1972, with the event still fresh and lessons to be learned a required course for all new students. We manage to walk the campus, one with a tour of duty in the Navy on his mind, the other the product of the antiwar movement and close friend of one of the protesters there that day, Chic Canfora. This year, I was impressed to learn that the area of the killings is now on the National Register of Historic Places and the university has finally accepted its place in history, opening a Center for reflection and learning about that time.

Brushing somber memories aside, we headed downtown to Ray's, the beer joint that becomes the center for alumni of all ages and stages during Homecoming Weekend. We met Paulette's brother, Tim Smith, there for a liquid lunch with Bob and Paulette. Tim works at the KSU radio station for NPR and so, as proud resident of the City (always a distinct difference from living and going to school IN kent) we toured the improvements of the downtown.

The new shopping area even boasts a sculpture of the infamous black squirrels seen on campus (see first photo above) and it was interesting to see the downtown and university working together, chipping away at the town/gown years of separation. One thing that Ron and I always passionately agree upon, our years at Kent were really some of the best in our lives.  We  love to walk the paths of our memories there, pointing out to each other where we lived ,repeating the same stories to each other that we shared on our first date twenty five years ago this month. JB, '76, B.A. English, '77, Masters, Library Science. RB, '75, Bachleor of Science,Nursing.