“The Cabots Speak Only to God”

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View From My Room In Cabot Hall

When I got my dorm assignment for my first year of Radcliffe College(now totally part of Harvard, then separate housing), it was for Cabot Hall. My grandfather, ever the wit, promptly told me a little ditty:

“Here’s to the town of Boston, The land of the bean and the cod, Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots, And the Cabots speak only to God.” He was quite amused that he finally had an audience for that poem. It took me a while to realize that it refers to the deep snobbery of the Boston elite.

I had a double room on the corner of the 4th floor. My roommate and I shared a bunk bed and a closet. We each had a dresser, a desk and a chair. We needed pole lamps, since there was no room for a floor lamp. The dorm had been built for single rooms, but had been changed into doubles, hence the bunk bed. The two sets of windows on the corner made positioning the bed challenging. We moved it around from time to time anyway.

The bathroom was down the hall with four stalls and three little rooms with bathtubs. I had shared bathrooms and bedrooms for most of my life, so it wasn’t too hard of an adjustment. However, some of my classmates were extremely wealthy, and I imagine it was a major step down for them.

Many aspects of dorm living were new for me, and I will post more about it. Suffice it to say that my first jolt came as I was moving in and heard a girl yell,”F____k” at the top of her lungs. I had never heard a girl use that word, and I knew I wasn’t in Oregon any more.

 

“Fight Songs”

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Before I move into the music of my more adult life after college, I am backtracking to include the songs I learned to sing at sporting events throughout school. The proof of how enduring these songs are is that when a dear friend of mine went into early labor, I drove her to the hospital regaling her with these tunes. They worked, by the way, and she held onto the baby until full term. She has never let me live it down, but that was the encouragement that came out of my deep brain at 2 in the morning.

The grade school song went “Fight, fight, fight for Riverdale. For colors blue and gold. Fight, fight, fight for Riverdale for teams both brave and bold.” Then, more realistically, the verse went,”If she loses, if she wins, you may be sure it can be told, To our colors we’ll be true all hail the blue and gold.” How often does a fight song even suggest that the team might lose? At least we would still have our colors!

Our high school’s mascot was the cardinal, particularly ironic since there are no cardinals in Oregon. Here the push was “We’re loyal to you Lincoln High, We’re red and we’re white Lincoln High.” (Colors play a big part in fight songs.) No wimping out here, “we expect a victory from you Lincoln High.”

Finally at Harvard I was treated to the loud, but incomprehensible,

Illegitimum non carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Illegitimum non Carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Gaudeamus igitur!
Veritas non sequitur?
Illegitimum non carborundum — ipso facto!

Your guess is as good as mine. But it was fun to mumble along with everyone else!

“Parlez Vous Francais?”

perce

In the spring of 1969, a good friend and I took a road trip to Quebec. At college, there were three full weeks of what was called “reading period” to  allow time to study for end of the year exams. That year the reading period was in May for the late May exams. My friend and I had one course in common, and we each had only one other final. At that time, a full load was four demanding classes, but two of ours did not have finals scheduled.

Reading period was usually extremely intense. That year was even more nerve racking. Students had gone on strike at Harvard to protest the Viet Nam War and had occupied University Hall. Harvard had called in the Cambridge City Police, an unusual cooperation between town and gown. Tension on campus was high and everyone was expected to have a stance about the political situation. Sally, my friend, and I were ready for a break and decided to hit the road in my beloved Ford.

Sally was from Montreal so she suggested we start there, then drive out the Gaspe(forgive my English keyboard) Peninsula, then drive a loop through New Brunswick, Maine and New Hampshire back to Cambridge. This sounded wonderful, so we set out. We had the settlement money from the Cambridge Small Claims Court which we figured would be sufficient. We had no other plans.

In those days, Quebec was solidly French and few people spoke any English. We each had schoolyard French, so we muddled along all right. The rock above is in Perce, a lovely town on the north side of the peninsula. We had lunch in a little hotel there, then drove on. Gaspe at that time was very isolated and not designed for tourists. Each little town announced itself around a bend with a church steeple. Outdoor bread ovens abounded. We stopped at one farm and bought some from the housewife using our broken French. We spent that night in the car, stretched out on the very comfortable seats.

Driving further on the route, we stayed at Acadia National Park, which was warm for May and we studied for our mutual exam at a picnic table. Later we bought lobster from a Maine pound and ate it by the ocean.

By the time we returned to Cambridge we were rested, well prepared for our exams and had a perspective of a larger world than that of the insulated university. What more could you ask from a road  trip?