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Monday, 10 November 2014


I was thinking today of the differences between university students' communication lifestyles and mine as a student. Now, I was an undergraduate in Iowa, but worked for a bit, then, went back to grad school at ND. Little had changed, however. My undergraduate room had the same furniture as this one. The bed was a settee in the day, and and then one pulled it out at night.

Some colleges did not even have phones in the individual rooms when I was in the dorm as an undergraduate. A few did, if one was in a top private college. Otherwise, everyone shared a public phone on the floor, and one had to use change, not credit cards.

For those of us who had private phones in the dorm rooms, one shared the line and number with one's roommate, and the number was an extension which came through a main switchboard at the college.

my phone as a teen at home...
Mobiles, or cells, had not yet been invented.

No one had a personal TV. One was in each floor common room, where we also did our ironing, made coffee, popcorn and pizzas.

Very large computers were used at my undergrad university for research only. By the time I was in graduate school, we were using computers, but only in the "computer rooms" of the university. The first PC I remember was a BBC. Of course, there was no Internet and the operating systems were interior to the university, with some computers, such as in the library, connected to other library databases.

If one wanted to talk with friends, one went either to the dorm floor common room, if these friends were girls, as I went to Catholic universities, which had separate dorms for men and women, or one went out. One could meet up in the on-campus coffee shop or in the cafeterias, until these closed.

Main floor common rooms allowed students of the opposite sex until eleven, because of parietals.

So, most of the time, if we wanted to be with friends, we went off campus to various places, either in groups, or on a date.

And, dates were sometimes made in person and not on the phone. Long phone conversations could only occur if one had a private room, not a roommate and definitely not on a hall phone.

Amazing, just imagine talking in person most of the time and not on a phone.

Imagine life without a pc or laptop or tablet or cell phone.

Imagine planning meetings in person,

Many of us did have private phones at home, but most girls my age did not have their own phone number. The phone in our rooms were extensions, and dad or mom would monitor phone time when we were home.

I remember having my own phone number as an extension number in undergraduate college and thinking this was so cool...not my parents' number.

Then, in grad school, I had my own number. Wow!

Living without a PC and a private phone meant we met up with friends daily, in little groups or even groups of ten or twelve, doing things together, the girls taking about boys and the boys, I suppose, talking about girls.

Meeting in the common rooms meant planning, as these were popular for group study as well as talking. And, really, if one wanted to talk with one's boyfriend, one had to meet outside the dorm either on or off campus. Of course, meetings were in public. Such was the life we led in Catholic colleges and universities.

We still practiced manners, in those days. Hall phones in the dorms, because they were shared, involved very public conversations. Everyone knew who was going out with whom. No secrets in the girls' dorms.....

We read newspapers, magazines, and periodicals, some in the dorms, and some in the libraries. Some of us thought we were so cool to subscribe to our own personal favorite mags. These were delivered in the mail room, where we all had mail boxes, the size of small shoe boxes. Those of us who got newspapers or mags picked these up from a pile on the table in front of the mail boxes. We had individual keys to our mailboxes.

I was so cool to get The Guardian in college delivered to me, I was so avant garde, an American getting a foreign newspaper. Most of the time, I read such in the periodical room of the library.

Life was simpler and more under one's own control. We have something called privacy. No GPS, no one looking at what we read or ate or how we spent our money. No groups anywhere followed our daily habits.

We had no parents spying on us on Facebook. And, because phones were scarce, we, maybe, talked with our parents once every two weeks and we called them.

Some campuses had credit unions, but we did not have credit or debit cards, only checkbooks and so much cash to spend. I would have had the student version of this exact ticket in grad school.

We went to stores now and then to shop, as shopping was not entertainment and we had to organize going shopping with the few students who had cars, or take either a campus shuttle bus or the city bus.  Many of us had bicycles and used these regularly.

One kept one's bike in the dorm room and I remember carrying mine up several flights of stairs.

I was devastated when my new blue ten-speed Schwinn was stolen. And, one just did not replace a bike. I had used money I won from a poetry contest to buy it. Sigh...ended up with a not-so-cool second-hand bike.

Other than the lack of electronic devices, college life resembled today's student lives, except that, as Catholics in universities with in loco parentis, most of us were pretty good kids getting on with studying in highly competitive environments.

I wonder at the long hours of study in quiet reading rooms in the library or in the quiet hours of the floor common rooms.

As grad students, we had our own "carrels".  In fact, I would say that student life was still somewhat "monastic" with study hours, and communal hours, strict rules regarding visitors and so on.

One must remember that universities began with the monks and nuns in Europe, complete with the cloister-like quadrangle architecture on many older campuses even today.

We obviously had more quiet, more privacy, and more chance for thinking and reflection, as well as long talks in the quads with friends about philosophy, theology and politics. We also were outside a lot, walking, running, biking, playing tennis or whatever. We even walked when on dates.  It was cool to walk around the lakes at ND with one's special boyfriend.

If we went out to movies or dates, these things happened on the weekends, and not on Sunday night. We had too much homework and some seminars were held in the evenings. I distinctly remember breaking up tete-a-tetes with the happy saying, "Got to go, have a paper due (or an exam), remember?." (Although, to be honest, I was never a last minute paper writer and usually had mine done early.)

Somehow, we got through life without cells and tablets. Somehow, we did lots of serious research without the Net. Somehow, our lives were quieter, simpler, and more conducive to actually learning and thinking.

Nostalgia day......