June is the month when we recognize the many students who have spent 13 years studying to prepare for college or work. Many students have sent in their applications and made the decision for the college of their choice. Many do not know what they really want for a career, but some work in the summers before graduation at what they think they want. If they do not enjoy it, they work at another job and find one to study. When parents have money, some students stay in college for years, to avoid working in the real world.
When asked about their college days, the stories are varied. I knew of one student's experience that was really very different. The student had high ranks, but during the Depression money was scarce.
Mary E. Taylor was an excellent teacher and principal of the nine grades in the “Brick Building,” as it was called before they named it for her.
She told her pupil, “Don't let anyone talk you into those business courses; take a college course.”
The student explained that she would love to become a teacher but knew there would be no money available.
Miss Taylor emphatically said, “Take the college course anyway, you could learn the other “stuff,” if you needed it.”
She did, because for 13 years she always obeyed Miss Taylor.
When she graduated, there were no scholarships for girls except for $20 given by two local businessmen. The job she found was in an office, and she did take correspondence courses, practice books and stayed at her job for many years.
When she retired and had saved money for books, etc, she drove to Thomaston two days a week to attend the University of Maine Community College.
She was a little apprehensive about the students, who might wonder if she were their grandmother, or maybe a professor with her white hair.
Two students were right behind her when taking the placement tests, and she heard them talking. “I am petrified, as I have been out of school a whole year!” The other replied, ”What do you think I feel like? I have been out seven years.”
The white-haired student turned around and said, “I've been out more than 50 years.”
They were stunned and began asking questions like: “Are you really going to take it? Did you study for it? Aren't you frightened?” She calmly replied: “Yes, No and No.” “They only have to find out how you stand, to know where you should begin.” Soon it was over and everything was fine.
The white-haired student quietly took any seat in the classes and did not try to actively make friends.
She just smiled and soon they were talking to her. It was in a communication class, that broke the ice. One had to sit in the middle of a room and express things you should not say in conversation. Of course, no one wanted to be first, but with age comes confidence.
So “grandma” volunteered.
She showed up that day wearing a skirt made of neckties, sewed together, and with a fake rose between her teeth. She started by saying to a good-looking young student: “Well, I have been waiting for you to ask me out to dinner, but those pretty girls surround you all the time. Are we ever going to have a date?”
He was so surprised and polite, he said, “I would be glad to take you to lunch.” She answered, “No! I want a dinner date and go to the movies, and see 'Robo Cop' or something.”
The students believed she was serious. The young man was so flustered he kept saying, “I would take you to lunch.”
After a while the professor said, “You should have been an actress!”
Then they all came to that she was just kidding and saying what shouldn't be said.
All classes after that, students wanted to sit near her and laugh and joke, because she was not the typical “grandma” nor student. She received a letter from the UMA, inviting her to join the Phi Theta Kappa Society, an International Scholastic Order for the two-year college level. She still loves to tell about the learning late in life, but also the great times that she enjoyed.
Some of the classes had professors, while some were done over Television in the classrooms, but it was two-way, like Skype, so many students would sign in and leave the room to go to the computers. In one class only three stayed, but the rank was for the whole class. One day, “grandma” told them to sit and stay, as it was not fair to the others, since the class was ranked as one.
She did not realize the TV was on until the professor said: “That is correct, and if you are taking the class you should stay. Thank you for telling them; you remind me of my Mother!”
They stayed and the whole class received an A for the course.
We know college is needed today, and it is never too late. It might even be fun.
Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all her life, so far.