This weekend Dave is traveling back to a small Iowa farm town to attend his 35th college reunion. While he corresponds with a handful of classmates mainly around Christmas time, he’s only been back to the college once since he graduated in 1971. Dave is looking forward to the weekend, but his memories of those four years on the rolling hills of Iowa have humored him for many years. Like many church-sponsored colleges that were established in the 1890’s, Dave’s college was purposefully located in a small Iowa town, far from the temptations of the big city. There was no smoking, no drinking, and the women were locked in the dorms after 11 p.m. to protect their dignity.
This rule-based environment discouraged most of the students, but amidst the written rules and stifling bureaucracy, Dave flourished. He did well academically, winning the respect of his professors and peers. But Dave was a perfect chameleon, capable of saying a prayer during church while at the same time plotting a clever trick on his roommate. What really delighted Dave was to examine the “spirit” of a rule and then figure out how to bash the spirit of the rule without actually violating the rule!
For example, freshmen could drive their cars to campus, but then had to place them in “the pound”, an isolated, cabled-off parking lot where they could not be driven except during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. This policy was in place to encourage freshmen to study more and drive less. The “pound” fees were cheap, about $5 a semester, so Dave purchased a big old station wagon from a junk yard for $20 and had a friend tow it to the pound. The car didn’t even have an engine, but Dave didn’t care. He legally registered his car in the pound and paid $5 a semester for four years. While all of his buddies were snuggling in cold, dark corners with their girlfriends, Dave took his girl to the station wagon to make out! He even had a small propane heater in the vehicle. After Dave graduated, college administrators wondered why he hadn’t taken his car with him. That’s when they noticed that it had a propane heater and no engine! They had to pay a wrecker to haul Dave’s car back to the junkyard. The owner of the junkyard had a good laugh over that one!
Once Dave was on a “double date” with his girlfriend and another couple. Dave had a skeleton key that got them into “Old Main”, the college administration building. Old Main had lots of turrets and balconies, so Dave keyed them into fourth floor office of the Dean of Students, where they walked through another door to an outside balcony. The only way out of the balcony was four stories straight down, or back through the Deans’ office. William, the sixty year-old night watchman and lay minister at the college-sponsored church, heard the four of them talking on the balcony. This became apparent when William turned the lights on in the Dean’s office and Dave realized that they were Bill had trapped them with no possibility for escape. As the night watchman threw open the door to the balcony, Dave glanced up at the kindly old watchman and with an innocent look said, “Bill, would you be willing to offer the closing prayer?” Bill didn’t know what to do at first, but he thought for a moment and offered the closing prayer! He then told Dave and his friends that he wouldn’t say anything about the incident, as long as they promised never again to hold prayer sessions on the balcony.
To avoid any possibility of “hanky panky” among members of the opposite sex, men’s dorms were off limits to females, the only exception being the fourth Sunday afternoon of each month from 2-4 p.m. One of the rules was that room doors were to be “open”, but this rule was vague. Most guys left their doors wide open, but some fellows left their doors open only one inch, causing a controversy about what constituted the legal definition of “open”. This was such a big problem that the student government held a special session to legislate an exact definition of “open”. Legislation was passed. “Open” meant that the door had to be ajar wide enough to accommodate a shoe. Dave read the law carefully. Hmmmm. Wide enough for a shoe! The next time an open house was held, Dave’s door was completely shut with a thin bedroom slipper slammed into the door jam! It stayed that way for the next two open houses until the student government went back to the drawing board and determined that a standard “hard” shoe had to be used! Ah, the “letter of the law”, said Dave. He contemplated becoming a lawyer!
On another occasion, during the wee hours of the morning, Dave noticed a rival Resident Assistant cutting through a padlock on the entry door to the school’s water tower. The Resident Assistant was trying to be a “big man on campus” by showing his freshmen how to climb the water tower. It took the RA and the freshmen about twenty minutes to climb the ladder to the top, where they threw open the hatch for a nice view of the campus. While they were climbing the ladder, Dave jammed a stick in the hasp from the outside so that they wouldn’t be able to get out of the tower when they returned. After looking out of the hatch for a few minutes the fellows climbed down the ladder and realized that for some reason the door wouldn’t open. They were trapped! The Resident Assistant then climbed another twenty minutes back up the ladder and popped open the hatch to try to find some soul to rescue them. He saw Dave walking down the road and yelled and yelled. Dave pretended not to hear him for quite some time. Finally, when the RA’s voice grew raspy from yelling, Dave suddenly looked up. “Gee Dave, get us out of here”, the RA yelled. “Sure”, said Dave. Dave walked over to the door, removed his stick and said; “Golly guys, it was just stuck, why didn’t you push a little harder?” The RA was so impressed that Dave helped them that he did Dave’s laundry for the rest of the semester. If Dave sees the RA this weekend, he might tell him what really happened. After all, 35 years is long enough to keep a secret.