Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome to Lumberjack Country

That’s what the Interstate billboard said – and with the snow-topped San Francisco Peaks up ahead, I found a place to pull over and take a photo. And I rolled the windows down to enjoy the fragrant pines; bringing back memories of my three years in this northern Arizona city, attending what was then named Arizona State College (ASC).

I parked at Black Bart’s RV Park that is just about 3 miles from campus. In space 27 with tall pines around me, this will be a super place to spend the next few days.

Speaking of memories, they continue to flood back into my mind:

n I attended ASC because I was given a scholarship - $44 a semester! And I was able to work part time in the Public Information Office to earn money for my meals and miscellaneous expenses.

n Mom and Dad (and I think some younger siblings) brought me to college, and when they left I sat on my bunk and cried. This was a huge step for me – also I was the first Anderson – siblings, parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents – to attend college. As soon as my roommate, Sue Ballard from Snowflake, Arizona, arrived I felt much better and soon we were laughing and heading out to explore the campus.

n Feeling more confident I jumped right into college life, dating a few guys and even trying out for the cheer team (didn’t make it, but met lots of people and had fun in my attempt).

n I met my first husband at college. He was a handsome upper classman, and I only knew his first name: Rick. I found out from my roommate (who worked in the cafeteria) that he went to breakfast every morning, so that’s where I went, too, trying to be noticed. Then I learned that he studied daily in the library, so that’s what I did, too. As I walked by his study table one day, I noticed that he had the words “PRAY” written in bold printing on his paper. Hmmm! Eventually he invited me out for coffee and I found out that his last name was Pray: Richard Huse Pray, and he was from southern California.

Northern Arizona University (NAU) has an interesting history. Founded in 1899, it was originally named Northern Arizona Normal School until 1928 when the name was changed to Arizona State Teacher’s College of Flagstaff, in 1945 the name was changed to Arizona State College (ASC) and that was its name when I enrolled in 1956. It became NAU after the 1964-65 academic year.)

ASC was a small college – we celebrated having 1,000 students my freshman year. Student population grew to about 2,000 by 1960, and there were just over 300 students in my class. Classmates had some heart-warming incidents to share as reminder of how special and personal our small classes were.

Here’s what a campus plaque from 1961 says:


To become educated is to become more human.

Recognizing this principle, we of the Arizona State College Faculty dedicate ourselves to maintain the highest standard of professional efficiency in a campus atmosphere of scholarship and friendliness. Furthermore, we feel that, within and without the classroom, the line of communication between the student and the faculty must be kept open and the individuality of the student must be preserved. (From a plaque placed on campus in 1961.

Finally – “my” college commencement ceremony

Well, not actually mine – it was for Northern Arizona University’s 2010 graduates. So why was I there leading the procession and sitting on the front row? And why was it “mine”?

By attending the regular semesters and attending summer school, I finished college May 1959 - in three years instead of four. By the time my commencement ceremony rolled around, May 1960, husband Rick, our 1 ½ year-old son Ricky, and I – very pregnant with child #2 – were living in St. Johns, Arizona. So, no commencement ceremony for me; they mailed my diploma.

The Golden Graduation Ceremony

A few years ago I found out that NAU has a special ceremony for alumni 50 years after graduation – for the Golden Graduates. I was determined to attend when my year came along and made NAU, in Flagstaff, Arizona, the first stop on my Great Summer Adventure.

I had volunteered to co-chair the event and arrived a couple days early to help with last-minute details and also walked around the old campus buildings to reminisce. Most of the women’s dorm and the men’s dorms are now coed – with alternating floors for the sexes – unheard of in the 50s. Room and a 5-day meal ticket was less than $40 a month! I have fond memories of the Student Union/cafeteria building and Gammage Hall that housed the library on the second floor because that’s where I regularly went hoping to catch the eye of a handsome, blond guy – I succeeded and we were married December 1957.

Golden Grads arrived on Friday afternoon and, with exception of one woman, I did not recognize a soul. What fun we had surprising each other. Twenty Golden Grads and some spouses made the most of our reunion. We received a Class of 1960 memory book – complete with photos from the yearbook and bios of Golden Grads.

After the initial get-together, we were bussed around the campus, taken to the historic Riordan Mansion for a tour and reception, and enjoyed a cloudless night sky at the campus’ Atmospheric Research Observatory and Lutz Telescope. Last stop was Mars’ Hill – a popular place to see the downtown area.

We participated in Saturday morning’s commencement for the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences and the College of Arts and Letters. Golden Grads donned their gold robes and caps and led the procession in the Walker Sky Dome. I was given the great honor of leading them all, carrying the Golden Graduate’s banner.

After commencement and a lovely luncheon, it was time to head for home – or in my case, to Jeremiah and Cat. I intended to spend Saturday night, driving on to Albuquerque on Sunday/Monday.

However – there was a “serious wind” warning

First thing I did upon arriving at Jeremiah was to check the weather forecast – and learned that super high winds – gusts up to 50+ mph along I-40 in Arizona and New Mexico – were predicted for the next day. Oh, dear. It was already 3:30 p.m. I made a quick decision to unhook and at least get part of the way to Rio Rancho. A tailwind whisked me along as I considered options for the night. Gallup? Grants? Go all the way to Rio Rancho (about 300 miles)? By Grants I was ready to call it a day. I ended up spending the night in the Walmart! My first time. It was just fine and enabled me to get an early start to finish this leg of my trip.

I’ll close this blog entry with a poem my #1 Sister (Elaine Hardt) wrote for my 2010 adventure. She is a prolific writer and I’m blessed to have her as one of my sisters.

Where is Carol? Lord, You Know!

Father, like the sun which never stops shining

Let your love embrace my sister

With your light and warmth and security.

As she begins her morning reaching out to you

Let her day be put into perspective.

She will see new things and new people.

Keep her eyes fresh and clear.

Let your Holy Spirit fill her refreshingly

As she reads Your Word and meditates.

The world out there is so big

And she is only one person

And the road seems so long,

Yet you have a blessing and a purpose

And a new day for her.

We ask for your provision and protection,

For your wisdom and your joy.

When storm clouds advance

Let her see beyond the obvious

Into the spiritual realm of Your great plan.

Give her a confidence that continues.

Keep her on the right road, all the time.

Keep her from confusion, weakness, sickness.

No accidents nor incidents, no tickets, no trouble,

Not even see an accident, a safe trip.

Her example will be noticed by many along the way.

Let others see You by words she says

And what she writes to share.

by Elaine Hardt ©2010