Thursday, March 12, 2009

A trip to the past... but it had changed!

I first went to Texas A&M in June 1962 to take a 5-hour summer school course in calculus so I could hit the starting line at full speed when the fall semester began in September.
Close your eyes and imagine this picture:

Right out of High School; My first commercial flight (an American Airlines Electra - look that one up airplane buffs – first class, of course); Philadelphia to Dallas Love Field (DFW wasn’t even on the drawing boards in ’62); change planes at Love Field to a Trans Texas DC-3; three stops down to College Station.
At Texas A&M’s Easterwood Field, the plane landed and taxied up to the one-room terminal. There was no-one there, and the pilot didn’t even shut down the engines – the stu (not “Flight Attendant” - they were young, good looking, and single back then) just opened the door and handed me my suitcase, pulling the door up as I stepped off the air-stairs.
I watched as the plane taxied away and took off, leaving me standing all alone in the middle of nowhere, with the campus looking like an island in a sea of prairie grass, about a half mile away.
I picked up my suitcase and walked over to the campus, and found the office where I needed to check in and get a room assignment.
I went to Building 10– a sandy-brown brick dormitory in the ‘quad’, where in a couple of months a cadet squadron would be housed, and claimed the bottom bunk of my assigned first floor room. I had to open the window to get a breeze, since there was no air conditioning.

After a brief nap, I wandered around the nearly empty campus to orient myself to my new environment. One of the places I ‘discovered’ was the MSC – the Memorial Student Center – one of the few air-conditioned buildings on campus.

College Station was a pretty small town in 1962; I remember only a few small stores and businesses just outside the campus boundaries called Northgate: A movie, a storefront restaurant, a drug store, and “Old Army Lou’s” Bookstore. Needless to say, other than going to the “flick” on Friday or Saturday, or to Aggie sporting events whenever, there wasn’t too much social activity to distract one from the Corps or academics.

Jump to 2009 – 47 years later:

I was lost when I walked the campus. First of all, when I was a sophomore, Texas A&M underwent a significant change – they admitted women, and made the Corps of Cadets an option. So the university went from 8000 students in 1962 to nearly 50,000 today.

The campus was packed with new and expanded buildings, some of which replaced the old buildings where I had my classes. The ‘Quad’ was still the home of the Corps, but there are only 1700-1800 cadets anymore. I found my old dorm, and talked to a cadet that was living in the same room that was my “hole” as a cadet… same fundamental lifestyle (although I’m sure that the corps doesn’t condone some of the stuff we used to do – Bab-O Bombs; booby traps when the upper classmen opened their doors; skinning deer and other game in the showers; stuff like that.)

College Station is now a major town, packed with fast food joints, bars, hotels, bookstores, law offices… AND LOTS of traffic.

It was good to go back, but my memories of A&M will always be of the campus that I knew in ‘62.