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College Friends are Lifelong Friends

As eighteen-year-olds from towns across Tennessee – Rockwood, Sparta, Nashville, Byrdstown, Jasper, Lawrenceburg – we came to Tennessee Technology University in 1965.  Seven coeds, two from one town.            

We lived on the top floor of Unit A dormitory.  Shared a hallway community bathroom, pink sponge hair rollers, poor boy sweaters, math homework, dictionaries, stories of the worst dates ever, and we swooned over Richard Burton’s pictures. 

            We practiced writing each other’s signatures, in case someone might be late returning to the dorm before it was locked each night: weeknight at 10:00 p.m., weekends at midnight. The sign-out and sign-in sheet was near the dorm front door, but one of us could distract the graduate student office worker while another signed the sheet. 

            We heated tomato soup in two-piece electric popcorn poppers – the only cooking appliances allowed.  But the bottom heating element heated a melted cheese sandwich when it was wrapped tightly in aluminumfoil.

We donned two-piece bathing suits, rubbed baby oil on our bodies, climbed out a dormer window, lay bedsheets on shingle roofing, and sunbathed.

            Typical dorm dress was baby doll pajamas.  Pajamas that could be hidden under knee length monogrammed London Fog rain coats, or knock-off London Fogs, and were acceptable attire to walk around the corner to the Midway Restaurant to get meat-and-three takeout suppers. This attire was also acceptable for an 8:00 Saturday morning class. 

            One of us dropped out of school to return home after her father’s death.  Two married while still students and lived across campus in married student housing; they brought home-baked cookies and cinnamon toast and stories of married life to the other four of us who lived in the dorm, two-by-two roommates. 

            We graduated. We hugged and promised to keep in touch. To write letters. To call, although phone calls were expensive and charged by the minute.  Within a few years, we’d all married, some living a short drive from each other, some in other countries.

            But we kept our promise.  We called to share news of jobs and babies and new homes.  For a time, we wrote a chain letter. When I received the seven-page letter, I read everyone else’s page, took out the page I’d written previously, wrote a new page, and mailed it to the friend who was to receive it next. 

            We wanted to celebrate our 40th birthdays together and five of us did.  To save money, we stayed in one hotel room that had a king bed and a pull-out couch bed and a commode that overflowed in the middle of the night.

            Since then, we’ve gathered most every year, usually all seven of us. One has told her children, “When I’m old and lose my mind, put me in a nursing home with my friends.  I’ll think I’m in the dorm and I’ll be happy.” 

            Last week five of us Sisterfriends spent three nights together here in Cookeville, and we toured the Tennessee Tech campus.  Memories flooded – fodder for another column.