I opened my memory bank to search for another first—my first date. As I mentioned to all of you before, I was very shy during most of my early years. As a result, I did not go on a single date during high school. Choosing to attend an all-girl college did nothing to improve that situation, although my classes were sprinkled with a few boys from some of the other campuses.
I went to Douglass College, which was one of several colleges of Rutgers University. We were able to take courses at the other colleges, and students on the other New Brunswick campuses took classes on our campus as well. Still, most of my classes were primarily attended by females.
My roommate for most of the first year was from Hawaii. Her Army father wanted her to attend an East Coast school, which is how she ended up at Douglass. Stephanie was dating a West Point cadet, so one weekend, she arranged to bring several of her friends on one of her trips to visit her boyfriend. Each one of us was “fixed-up” with a date.
We took a train from New Brunswick to West Point. I don’t recall much of the ride, but I am guessing we had to ride into New York City and transfer to a second train at Penn Station. Looking at the schedule today, it appears that the trip took a total of three hours. By car we could have gotten there in half that time, but none of us had a car back then.
We stayed at the Thayer Hotel, which is located on the West Point Campus. I believe there were four of us who traveled together and shared a room in the hotel.
My memories have faded, but I recall several snippets of that weekend. I particularly remember the name of my date, because it was such a pretty name—Paul Melody.
We ate in a huge dining hall with the uniformed cadets. The whole experience was quite unique, and at the time, kind of bizarre. The plebes, which were what the freshmen were called, had to sit at attention while eating. I found a description online which matches my fuzzy recollections.
The plebes had to get the food from their plates to their mouths in three rigid movements. They didn’t just scoop it off their plates and shovel it into their mouths like we all do. Imagine a robot eating dinner. That is what it looked like to watch those men at the other tables eating. They could not look around the room. They had to stare at their plates and could not speak. When they had visitors like us, the rules were relaxed, but I observed this mechanical behavior at the other tables.
I remember walking around the campus with my date. West Point is located high above the Hudson River, so it is very scenic, particular in the fall, which is when I think we visited. I know he was very well-mannered, but I don’t think we had much to talk about. There was no further contact after that, although I seem to recall that one of the other girls did hit it off with her date and return for another adventure or two with Stephanie.
I have not spoken to her since I left Douglass, but I recently looked her up and see that she is now on Facebook. I think she married her West Point cadet. I think it’s time for me to reach out and see if we can reconnect.