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Inquiring minds want to know

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Our family hadn’t had a college student within its ranks for a generation, until this summer, when our oldest grandson went to LSU to settle in for the fall semester.

His mother and her brother had both attended local schools and chosen to live in apartments while pursuing their degrees, and his grandfather had gone to LSU in 1949 and lived for a year in the stadium before coming home, having, he says, “taught them everything I knew.”

I was the one who did it the “regular” way, moving into the freshmen girls’ dormitory in ‘53 and exiting college by way of the senior girls’ dorm in 1957.

Back in those days, female students were locked into their housing at 9 p.m. on weeknights and Sundays, and curfew was 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Nobody, even boys -- who had no curfews at all -- could live in an apartment off-campus.

We had a “house mother” who sometimes roamed the halls of our three-story domicile and came upstairs quickly when she heard suspicious noises --- like the ones garbage cans made when rolled down metal stairs or the ones cars beneath our dorm windows, filled with boisterous boys, made when they shouted up to the girls filling those trash cans.

That was 60 years ago, and life on campus was strictly regulated for those of the female gender. There were those of us, it is true, who had the nerve to walk in the front doors of their dorms at the proscribed hour, sign in, and then quickly and quietly depart through the back door and stay out all night. They would return after breakfast and grab their books for class, with no one the wiser except their roommates, who’d spent a wakeful night imagining the possible repercussions, should Miz Dorm Mother pay a visit.

I was fortunate in being a journalism student; we girlish scribes were awarded passes good ‘til 10:30 PM on weeknights so we could labor, putting together the student newspaper. In reality we spent the late hours partying in the department, with frequent forays to the other end of the building and the campus café/hangout, which was of course populated only by boys at that hour. It was irresistible!

And since my family lived only about two miles from the campus, I could simply sign out for home on any weekend that I had a date. Mother’s curfews were a little more lenient than the college’s.

I got to thinking about all this the other day, when my grandson was home and talking bout the girls who live on alternating floors in his dorm.  I’d known that in these modern times this arrangement was possible, but -- as I’ve said -- we haven’t had a college student in the family for a while, so I was a tiny bit taken aback.

Then he told me that if one of your roomies is “entertaining” his girlfriend at “home,” he puts up a pre-arranged signal to alert you to the situation so you can relax in the lounge or library or wherever for a while.  The couple could be playing chess or watching videos, of course, but my brain went into a bad place and I was a big bit caught off guard.

In this case, our grandson continued, laughing, the signal was a joke played by the boys down the hall. I don’t know if he said this to bring color back to my face, but the whole conversation taught me a lesson.

I’m going to have to be cooler in coping with this kind if information, or I’m never going to be told anything again! Inquiring minds want to know.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]