1957 at ISS
by M.D. Smith, Class of ‘59
Having attended the Springs from ‘55 to ‘59, I saw changes in the early years. But from recent visits and talking to current students, not very much has changed. Even at the 40th Anniversary hearing from each decade of graduates, things changed a lot, but still stayed the same. Take this example from a spring afternoon from 3:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. going to dinner.
We had just heard a rumor that a hatch of baby turtles had occurred. I had seen them for sale at Woolworth’s downtown for $ .50 each. Four of us in the adjacent rooms in the “New Dorm”, headed to the lake. We already knew you had to sneak up on them at the water’s edge, and spring into action to catch them before they submerged in the mud. This technique proved successful and in less than 30 minutes, we had captured about twenty of them. (Later I found out that IF Woolworth will buy them at all, they only pay 5 cents each. A lot of work and going downtown for only a dollar.) Delighted with our catch, we make it back to the room by 4:00 p.m. The other three guys were boarders from out of town and since I lived in Birmingham, they donated their part of the catch to me, with an offer to split anything over $2.00. Bob Watson in the other side had been given smoking permission by his parents and we joined him in his room and had a puff each from his “smoke” while we laughed and talked.
About then, Billy Boy pulled out his genuine Bowie Knife he had bought at a pawn shop on 1st avenue the weekend before. It was huge and supposed to be balanced for throwing. As we passed it around, each of us pretended to throw it towards the wall, checking out the balance and gleaming blade. When it came back to Billy, he was just smiling ear to ear, pleased with OUR admiration of his prize. At this point the says, “Watch This!”, as he pitches it by the blade towards the closed outside door. As his arm came down, the door suddenly opened and Allen Hill was surprised to see the knife rip into the door facing at eye level, only a few inches from his face. We were all momentarily silent, and then nervous laughter filled the room. “Hey,” I remarked, “your dad’s going to have to pay some of that damage deposit to replace the door facing.” We tried to make light of the fact that a fellow student had nearly had his face parted at the nose. Would anyone find out what had almost just happened? Are you kidding? That was a secret that only now, thirty-five years later am I willing to divulge.
Bob was a big help with a bottle of Elmer’s Glue he had “borrowed” from the shop. We glued and pressed the door facing back, and with that sort of transparent white finish on the natural wood, it blended in real good. I don’t think anyone ever knew, save for the slight “filled knife point hole” that you had to know was there.
I had a wooden box I had built in the shop with a strong lock and hasp on it to store treasures such as popcorn and oil for my electric corn popper. We opened it and proceeded to cook a quart of popcorn. Dinner was almost an hour away, and we needed some nourishment from the turtle hunting and the scare from the knife demonstration. I put a couple of 45’s on the RCA Victor changer, coupled into my Knight-Kit Hi-Fi amplifier and into the big 15” triaxial speaker and belt out some strains of Bo Diddley.
Ah, could life ever get any better than this? If it just weren’t for the paper for English we all had to write that night, and the math problems. Plus, I had to work on my “enrichment project” learning how to use the slide rule. Well, no matter, if we didn’t get finished by 10:15 and “lights out,” we’d just work in the closet with a small light and the door shut. Boy, it sure could get hot in there after an hour or so.
We had to wait turns to wash up in one sink before dinner. The turtles were in the other sink. We mosey on down to the dining hall and take up positions to rush to our favorite table when the bell sounded. Each faculty member had their own assigned table and some filled up faster than others. On this particular evening, I was telling the turtle catching story outside and ended up with no where to sit except the French table with Mousieur Draper. I had sat there before and since they all spoke French it bored me a lot. I had learned how to say, "Passez-moi. ." and point to the food I needed. That usually worked.
Another free afternoon over and study time about to begin . . . for SOME students, but not necessarily me. Yes, some things just never change at ISS.