On Facebook a phenomenon has been circulating recently called “Throwback Thursday.” People post pictures from “back in the day.” Being the kind of person who enjoys reminiscing (I have been accused of wishing I could be stuck in time in 1962) I obviously enjoy perusing the pictures my pals post on Facebook each Thursday.
Last week my lovely wife, Lisa, and I enjoyed a “Throwback Sunday.” I was invited to speak at a lovely event at the Classic Center on Saturday night, which was sandwiched between two spectacular performances of Disney’s “Tarzan,” the stage musical, at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. Naturally we took advantage of the opportunity to stay overnight.
Sunday morning, instead of getting up and attending church, as has been our habit since we were born, we slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast and then took a long walk across the UGA campus — and back into time. I hope you won’t think me too sacrilegious when I say it was almost a religious experience, and I spent a lot of time during our two-hour stroll giving thanks for all the precious memories I enjoyed.
We left our room at the UGA hotel and headed north, right past Myers Quadrangle. I stayed in what was called Center Myers during orientation in 1970. (See, I did move past 1962.) It was there that I met Julie Blair and Teresa Vinson, and they would both become important fixtures in my life throughout my college career. It was in front of Myers Hall, during that very orientation session, that I would accomplish perhaps the greatest athletic feat of my limited athletic career.
“Get the picture.” With my high school buddy and orientation roomie (who had fallen ill with mononucleosis) looking on from his upstairs window, I was at bat in an epic coed softball game. The bases were loaded with two out on the last inning. My team trailed by three. Yes I did. I hit the ball across Sanford Drive and onto the steps of Soule Hall for a walk-off grand slam.
At least that’s how I remember it.
Three years later I gathered in that same quad along with Lady Godiva and with 1,500 of my soon-to-be closest friends in preparation for what would become a world record “streak,” never suspecting for a moment that some three decades later I would move two of my own children into Myers Hall. The third spent his freshman year at Oglethorpe House, which we also passed on our walk. I lived there for a year myself and if the walls of that old dormitory could talk — well, I’m just glad they can’t talk.
We continued on across campus and, naturally, had to stop on the bridge and admire the classic beauty of Sanford-Dooley Stadium. (UGA has its timetable; I have mine.) Wow. If I had a dollar for every memory that venerable old arena has afforded me — well, I would be way in the hole because I have spent way, way more than a dollar each time I have entered into its gates with praise. What I paid was cheap in comparison to the joy I have derived.
I glanced down to my right and those same concrete steps, up which Sam Mrvos made me run when I was a lowly P.E. major taking weight training, are still there. I am pretty sure there are 102 of them and I chased Sylvester Boler up those steps three days a week for a whole summer in 1974. I glanced wistfully behind me and remembered when the Tate Center— named for one of my heroes, Dean William Tate — was a parking lot. I could almost see Stegeman Hall, where I spent so many magnificent hours under the tutelage of Red Lawson, Big Jim Whatley, Lewis Gainey, Mike Castronis, Eugene DeTullio, the late B.J. Clemence and the great Earl Fales, standing once again. What a faculty!
We headed past the P.J. auditorium, where I once sat among upwards of 300 of my classmates listening to lectures that, while required, would have little impact on my later life, and up to the fringes of North Campus. That is where I learned to appreciate academia.
In Park Hall Rosemary Magill helped me to appreciate poetry as I never had before and in LeConte Hall, Jim Cobb showed me that learning about the history of our great land could be more fun and intriguing than I had ever imagined. He cannot imagine the number of lives he has touched — in person and by extension.
We continued on to Old College and, once again, I wished I could have been a fly on the wall and listened to the conversations between Crawford W. Long and Alexander H. Stephens, who roomed together there before the Recent Unpleasantness between the North and the South.
Yes, we went up to downtown and walked around. I paused in front of the Nowhere Bar to pay my respects to my dearly departed friend, Sky. I could go on and on and on, of course.
There is a reason we call the colleges and universities that helped form our lives “Alma Mater.”
I will never forget mine, and am so thankful that all of my children and I will always share a special love for her.
Georgia, Hail to thee.