Fifty Summers In

By Steven Duffy ’77

Sometimes it is hard to believe that I first arrived at a place called Antioch College fifty summers ago and sometimes it seems like it was just a few minutes ago.

I remember flying here from New York City (the plane fare was $18.90, and the College cost $2,750 including personal and co-op travel expenses). As that plane began to put its wheels down and the clouds parted, I began to see a patchwork quilt of green and golden fields. How I got from the airport to Yellow Springs is no longer something I can remember. My brain may be at its neuron’s capacity, for each new memory perhaps a couple of old ones get tossed.  

I do remember meeting a bunch of other 18-year-olds and also remember being tested all week. The men in my first year group (in the Presidents) lived in one dorm and the women lived on the other side of campus in Birch. Everything was on the honor system. You were given tests that seemed to take hours and hours (the Level One exams). You sat at the desk in your dorm room and took what seemed like never-ending tests. They were done with a silver-gray number two pencil. That was the first time I saw the word “ethnocentric” in a paragraph, I think I figured what that meant as I went along. When you were done you put the sheet of paper with answers (after having filled in a jillion circles) and the accompanying pencil in a big envelope and the Hall Advisor (then known as a Preceptoral Fellow or PF) took them. The tests went to a place called the Testing Office where Ruth Churchill analyzed them. You could make an appointment with her and she could tell you a whole lot about yourself. Life was simple then. That office was called Testing, because that is what it did and did and did.   

I also remember getting before I even came to campus an almost 400-question packet with strange questions like “Do you want to see sunsets in Africa?” and ”Would you go past the bus driver without paying?” and what seemed like other many strange questions. With that questionnaire, I guess I got to keep the pencil but had to mail that Omnibus Personality Inventory back in the provided envelope.  

In between all that testing, my first-year group got to know each other and also started to explore campus and the village (we drank something called 3.2 beer at the Trail Tavern). I had never seen a place so neat and manicured as Yellow Springs. I may have been used to seeing broken glass and flattened tin cans on the sidewalk’s edge in my old neighborhood in NY, so this clean country village awed me in that it seemed so immaculate.  That summer was known as the Summer of Peace and Flowers for some and the Summer of Racial Unrest for others.  

I chose to go to New York City for my first co-op. I chose The New York Times as a copy boy, when journalism involved paper, teletype machines, pneumatic tubes, typewriters and giant noisy things like linotype machines. I went home because I had some homesickness for NY and figured if I stayed at home I could save lots of money. One of the things the Admissions catalog touted then was how the savings from co-op jobs could make Antioch’s five-year program cost less than four years at some other college. I did save tons of money, which kept me from having to take so many loans. I started taking co-ops in all the places that seemed to have palm trees, and when I got to Los Angeles and worked at the Free Clinic both NY and YS seemed to cease to exist, so for a while I dropped out. I later returned to YS right after the Great Financial Aid Strike of 1973.

During this past Reunion came there was a program called “You and the Seventies.” As I pretty much spent all the ‘70s here minus that two-year hiatus at that Free Clinic, it was fun and almost therapeutic to “re-peruse” 10 years of the Record and try to distill a decade into a picture show of headlines which would resonate with the masses.  Of course the ‘70s started with a booming College and the Kent State shooting and ended with the College having many campuses and having spent so much money that it missed its payroll. Bob Fogarty, Al Denman and I may be about the last people here to have been through all that. Even during the toughest times the College endured. It is good to make a “trip” through the Record, it makes for an interesting voyage through any decade. Imagine a world where a rock concert for Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix was a mere five dollars. One could see the world’s progress and cultural moments (civil rights, Vietnam, the beginning of the feminist and gay rights movements) through the Record editors’ eyes.

The bound volumes of the ‘70s Record are old now and almost seem like parchment, so to make Scott Sanders not worry current student Timothy Grant ’19 captured selected headlines using a great cell phone scanner app and also a Canon camera. Thus, the brittle paper took minimal wear and tear.  Besides wondering whether I had really lived through all that history, the fact that the pages were so old and brittle made me wonder how old and brittle I might be getting. Through Facebook, many folks from the seventies sent their awesome B&W pictures. So the slideshow had both a journalistic history and the people’s history.

The picture show ran as a loop as the Reunion program began. People spoke of their own experiences from their hearts and what they remembered and the conversation seemed intense and yet healing. There was a picture in the program of the Infamous Antioch Streaker. Streaking was a ‘70s thing where someone would just do something in the altogether. But at Antioch College the “streaker” was clothed while a multitude of people on the Main Building steps were all in their birthday suits. No one seemed to notice that picture go by! Perhaps people were so into talking with each other that the picture show melted away. One wonders what people will care to remember of their teen years in the 21st century, if they would ever want to capture the current era.

The Antioch campus and Yellow Springs are still vibrant and beautiful places. The world out there can still be problematic and one wonders whether there are enough jobs out there that pay well to help students defray the cost of their Antioch Adventure along with all that experiential knowledge. Much love to all; it was great to see 113 McGregor full of people from the seventies. Between that and the Record it was a great reality check.