Idyll Reflections - Memories of life on the Hill

Idyll Reflections - Memories of life on the Hill
Talk of the Walk - Summer 2017

Watching alumni, friends, and family members
reminisce at Reunion is one of the best parts
about summer on the Hill. This year, Sam
Armacost ’61, shared a poem with his classmates.
Though Granville offers a few more shopping options
these days, and the town is no longer dry, Armacost captures
the memories, the laughter, and the life lessons in a way that
only a Denison grad could.

 

So long ago, it seems here today,
confused by memory in time’s slow decay.
Episodic events, where was that place?
What was her name? I can still see her face.

Do reflections dim as a geezer recalls
days blissfully spent in fair college halls?
Or is it just fate’s own singular claim
that dwells in Denison’s pleasure domain.

One first glimpses Granville through arched elms on fire.
The campus not seen yet, save for Ambrose’s spire.
New England-type streets, charming and neat.
The shopping’s not great; with choice incomplete.

Aileen Dunkin, a post office, Peoples State Bank.
James Store stands opposite on Aladdin’s right flank.
It’s Gregory’s for hardware and Taylor’s for sundries.
A church on four corners gives options for Sundays.

Sally Jones’ Granville Inn and one named for Buxton
provide campus guests with an in-town selection.
But search as you might, a bar you’ll not spy …
puritanical founders chartered it dry.

Then a first breathless trudge up The Drag, through the bridge,
 a campus revealed is perched on the ridge.
Upper-class women reside on one end,
while over the vale, encircled Greeks can offend.

We were High School Harry’s young and so green,
to Licking’s hills we came for the whole college scene.
Homes left behind, some full of dread …
some brought their moms to make up their bed.

Ties strong to home, some just couldn’t sever.
Laundry sent home in a box for a mother
to do, and return. It was cheaper that way.
For me … l just sent mine to the old L & K.

The first week on campusa vortex of action,
of placement tests taken and courses selection.
It ends with a mixer. On Stone’s steps so clutched
Jesus, her Baby Book’s picture’s retouched.

Just here for a week and the Greeks swooping in
with parties and fetes and glittering pins.
There was lore yet to learn and Hell Week to weather
before becoming a permanent brother.

Conservative values as rules here, the norm.
Women locked up by 10 in the dorms.
Leaving time for the men, to study, the darlings,
at Rizzo’s or Tony’s or Blamer’s with Carlings.

Here’s a conundrum I’ll venture to mention.
Did you see Blair Knapp after orientation?
Oh, his minions we saw, our plots they deterred.
Mark Smith seemed to know them before they occurred.

“Hold that Tiger” rang clear, no time for the weak.
Our heroes pulled sophomores across Raccoon Creek.
An appropriate fate for upper-class weenies,
now we could doff those dreaded red beanies.
Then grinding away to mid-terms’ revelation.

For some, a warning of impending cessation
of a college career, if one’s grades don’t improve.
Less time at the frat house; get your butt in the groove.
We worked on the Quad, the academe’s home.

In Barney, and Talbot, and two buildings named Doane.
The library ruled by that cute Mrs. King.
Visited one night by Angels sans Wings.
On arriving at work, the library crew
Found a live horse relaxing on floor number two.

The library steps, Times Square between classes,
watching the dog pack nosing the lasses.
Pedantical icons supreme on the Quad.
Preston and Seeger and some who seemed odd.

Collins was shaky, Pollack the Pointer,
the great Silver Falcon taught guns versus butter.
Shannon was great, while Mahood seemed to mutter.
And Cowboys and Indians from Wild Billy Utter.

You all have your favorite champions of choice.
Pedagogues giving your knowledge a voice.
Seasonal coats mark the calendar’s passing
from fall’s color riot to a winter depressing.

In a mantle of white, a view without rival
turns quickly to slush and leather soles suicidal.
As Ohio’s foul clime invokes major whining
the pink slash of dogwood says spring is arriving.

With the weather now fair and turfing in fashion,
it is home for the summer. We’re now upperclassmen.
Then the cycles repeated, semesters flew by.
Our classes were done, only comps to survive.

A last Chapel walk with friends there to share,
and the Field House for sheepskins in hats that were square.
With a hug and a “See ya” to conquer the world,
we scattered to here and to yon.

Some to careers, some down the aisle,
some with the Uncle signed on.
Now, we’re all gathered here at two score and ten,
With hairlines and bustlines not now as were then.

We are shorter and weaker, life’s inexorable will,
hoping for Pharma’s next magical pill.
These are facts that I mention with no seeming malice.
No turfing for this crowd except with Cialis.

Looking around and being so bold,
how can we possibly all be so old?
For we are the people that knew us back when.
Shedding teenagers’ skins, adults growing therein.

What draws us back across time and space,
rekindling youth in this bucolic place?
You can visit this scene where adulthood began,
but life rarely offers a free mulligan.

Are you seeking old friends, whose bonds here first sown,
with souls still on fire but steps feeble grown?
For memory dims as backward we cast,
seeking a less hectic time in our past.

But do you forget the Cold War’s eruption
and Khrushchev’s crude test of Camelot’s gumption?
Or Sputnik and Russians exploring in space?

Even Elvis was marching the Army’s droll pace.
A recession just ending, job markets a quandary;
Keynesian theories, like now, doomed to founder.

When you value it now, measure for measure,
was it worth all the fees paid to Denison’s treasurer?
Was it wisdom or knowledge, key lessons for life?
Or finding a well-matched husband or wife?

Preparing for jobs or profession selection,
liberal learning is more than just work preparation.
Education’s not based on the fees that one pays.
It’s value progressive with life’s applied phase.

From history’s lessons, mistakes of the past,
quadrivium and trivium are tutors that last.
It’s not just rote facts or the trend of the season;
it’s learning to think and the rigors of reason.

It’s freeing our spirits for life’s future themes,
no boundaries applied to our own Field of Dreams.
Sound morals and ethics and critical thinking,
defending ideas from trendy convention.

It’s producing great people, non-judgmental peers.
Living good lives, confronting life’s fears.
It’s lifelong companions, I can see some from here,
and some who’ve passed on to necrology’s bier.

These are the gifts that Denison keeps giving,
and asking for checks  as long as we’re living.
It’s now time to end this poem so ragged,
the meter’s unbalanced, the rhyming’s gone jagged.

The Bard has extended his style not unique.
What’s missing is any of Ovid’s technique.
So we’ll keep coming back, our thoughts here still dwell,
on scenes of happy college days—the Home we all love so well.

Published July 2017