Let Inga Tell You: How Times Change

LET INGA TELL YOU:

I've said it before: when you live in the same house for 45 years, you don't always get around to cleaning out filing cabinets as frequently as you should. My husband, Olof, who moved every three years during his Air Force years, said that he had a policy that if a box hadn't been opened for three moves, it went directly into the trash, unopened.

I probably should use that approach. But then I would have jettisoned such gems as my son Rory's age 10 Mother's Day card ("You've been like a mother to me"), not to mention the time capsule envelope that recently surfaced from my college days.

I went to college in the late 1960s, a time of tremendous upheaval politically and socially. In fact, one of the items in this envelope is an ACLU-issued sheet entitled "Demonstration and Arrest: Rights and Liabilities." Under "Demonstrations," it advises: "Have your attorney and a bail bondsman notified in advance and prepared to act immediately in case of arrest. Memorize the number of your lawyer." (Did I have a lawyer?) Suffice to say, this was not the first info I gave to my kids when they went to college in the late 1990s.

The ACLU pamphlet further advised demonstrating students:

1. Do not carry a weapon or anything that could be characterized as a weapon and do not have any trace of drugs on your person. If arrested, all your possessions will be taken from you by the police.

2. For your personal safety, wear good shoes to protect your feet and avoid pierced earrings which could be torn off.

3. It would be useful for some in the group to have inexpensive cameras, to take pictures of arrests for future evidence. (Where were cell phone cameras when you needed them?)

4. Avoid harassment of police which will lead to retaliation and hasty action, possibly causing serious injury.

5. You can be frisked if the policeman has reason to believe you are carrying a weapon. Make sure that you don't consent to the search of yourself or your car but don't physically resist. (A harbinger for airport security?)

Demonstrations in that era weren't just about civil rights and the Vietnam war. There was huge social change going on, even within college campuses themselves.

Given that I was attending a college rather than a reform school for wayward girls, there were some surprisingly strict rules, anachronisms leftover from the 1860s when the college was founded. You had to live on campus in a dorm.

Men were only allowed in dorm rooms during specific daytime hours and even then doors had to be unlocked, and "3 feet on the floor." (No specific mention was made as to what the fourth foot could be doing, but I recollect it was put to creative use.)

Pregnant? Gone the next day. Married? Not on this campus. All the dorms had their own dining facility which required skirts for girls at dinner, and a jacket and tie for male guests. A selection of (deliberately?) abandoned cheap sports coats and hideous ties were punitively available should your date show up without one.

In 1969, the school decided to go co-ed and the first 70 men — junior year transfers from other colleges — were added to our 900-student population. It became immediately clear that someone had not thought out all the details. Like dominos, a century of rules collapsed within two months.

First to go: the guys refused to dress for dinner.

The college was now even willing to consider letting students marry. I was engaged to my first husband at the time and got married just before my senior year, spending weekdays at school, weekends three hours away at the hospital where my husband was doing his medical internship.

Having men housed in women's dorms made the men-in-your-room hours pretty unworkable. So the college just gave up and abolished the "parietal" rules altogether. (Is parietal even a word in use anymore?) You could now be in some guy's room — and he in yours — 24 hours a day if you wanted.

Unfortunately, the new parietal rules didn't sit well with some parents who considered it a breach of contract. They sued.

So the college was forced to set up one corridor on the campus that still had the old parietal rules. It goes without saying that no one signed up.

So those rooms were assigned by a lottery no one wanted to win. Against all odds, I ended up in one. When my husband came to visit, he couldn't stay in my room. My manila enveloped contains the letter from the Dean of Students responding to my lament of the irony of all this. "It won't be the last one in your life," she said, turning down my appeal for an exception.

She was certainly right about that.

— Inga's lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com

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