3-Nice Girl’s College Stories
During my three years at Fresno State College, I see that I was a small sloop, bobbing on a vast sea of challenges, rather than being a solid house on a rock able to weather the incessant storms that came against me—and everyone—in that era.
Liberal philosophies threatened my conservative political base. And I caved in to them. The new social movement embodied the antithesis of my religious morality. And in time I embraced it.
Time magazine’s cover in April, 1966, asked, Is God Dead? Theologians were debating God’s existence. Professors and students were questioning the meaning of life and many concluded that ‘anything goes.’
Up until the mid-fifties, average Americans read the evening paper and listened to the news on the radio. Occasionally they would go to the movie theater and see the visuals of uprisings in other countries and hurricane damage in Florida. With the proliferation of television, families were daily watching heart-wrenching civil rights demonstrations, assassination reports of beloved and revered personalities, violent university riots, and devastating warfare footage from Southeast Asia.
It is appropriate for children to separate themselves from their parents during the late teens and twenties and to form their own opinions and choose their own lifestyles. I was not odd or unusual in my quest. Yet in this decade of the sixties the ground was shaking under all societal pillars. Some people tenaciously held on tight to what they knew as truth, and others began bravely questioning the old ways of thinking and started actively seeking a new reality. Most of us did not really know what we were doing and we floundered.
After spending my first year in the dorms I moved with three good friends across the street from the college campus into an apartment. We had fewer restrictions which meant we had lots of freedom. We did not have a curfew and we did not have to sign out and sign in at the dorm desk under the watchful eye of the Resident. We were not accountable to anyone but each other.
My roommate Candy and I thought smoking was cool, and I became a dedicated smoker for the next eight years. We partied with fellow college students on the weekends at school dances. We were always home in our own beds at the end of the evening, but we loved to flirt and dance and giggle and drink beer.
Tara and Dorrie were conservative and didn’t entirely approve of Candy’s and my loose behavior. We all shared cleaning and cooking responsibilities, divied up all of the household bills, commiserated with each other on school projects and deadlines, and were able to stay good friends though relationships were at times strained. We all studied a lot because we were pretty stressed about keeping our grades up in the classes we needed for our major and making sure we at least got C’s in the rest. We were supportive of each other and had regular meetings to discuss domestic details and issues that came up.
One Saturday morning in the middle of winter a neighbor and I headed to China Peak, a nearby skiing resort. My friend was showing off, driving too fast through the turns on the two lane road. We passed a sign—Icy when snowy or wet. Speeding around the curve, Tad’s VW Bug hit a frozen patch, took air, and sailed off the mountain road. A perfectly placed tree caught the car as it landed upside down and held us tight. We found ourselves hanging upside down by our seatbelts. The glass beer bottles stowed in the backseat broke on impact and white pungent froth swirled around our disoriented heads.
Passersby scrambled down to help us, and eventually the police and a tow truck arrived.
We were uninjured, though I remember I was extremely shaken and my whole body trembled for hours. I didn’t go out on a date with my friend again. I’m not sure if I thanked God for the narrow escape at the time, but I have done so many times since. It was a tall mountain.
One of the fraternities on campus invited me to represent them in the homecoming queen event. What??? I was so tense and so far out of my comfort zone I did not enjoy any part of the process. I was too much of an introvert to say, “No way, are you crazy??”
It immediately became an ordeal and I was stressed out. I had to find an appropriate outfit for my first interview with the judges and had no money and no time and no interest in pursuing it. Candy was excited for me and took me shopping, and we found a cute blue suit that I felt comfortable in. I also had to come up with a funny but clean joke. For days I asked everyone I met to tell me their favorite jokes. (Google wasn’t invented.) I was eliminated early in the contest, on the first or second round, and full of relief. My self-concept could not handle that sort of attention and tension.