Picturing the past -- 11/29/12

Earlier this week I was commenting on a post by Eric Mayer and I mentioned an English professor I studied with at SUNY/New Paltz. This got me to thinking about the school and I dug up a college yearbook -- the 1996 edition of the Paltzonian. (Who thinks up these names for yearbooks? But that one dates back at least as far as the 1940s.)

Professor Marks was a first-rate teacher and a first-rate scholar. He was also one of those people who is fluent in multiple languages. He wrote haiku -- in Japanese.

He was a noted expert on Nathaniel Hawthorne. That is why I was mentioning him to Eric after reading a short horror story that Eric and Mary had written with a strong 19th century flavor and connections to the Grail Cycle legends about Glastonbury, etc. Dr. Marks had seen extensive Grail symbolism in Hawthorne.

There had been no Google when I took classes with Dr. Marks back in 1964 and 1965, but I was able to use Google today to find numerous citations to his work and opinions. And he is apparently still alive, listed as Professor Emeritus. (I would guess that he must be at least 90, assuming early 40s back then.)

If I had followed the archetypal pattern, having started college in the fall of 1961, I should have completed my undergraduate study at the conclusion of the spring semester in 1965 -- however, I had transferred schools half-way through and had changed my major (from social psychology to English). I had to attend the fall quarter in 1965 to take a required science course -- one, ironically enough, that I had enrolled in during the fall quarter of 1963 but the registrar's office had over-enrolled the class and the instructor noted that I was the 29th person enrolled in class that was limited to 25 students. Bye-bye. (Then, to my great annoyance, I had straight A grades that semester but the registrar's office failed to correctly process my withdrawal from the over-enrolled course so they marked me as failing it -- and it took almost a year and a half to get that corrected. I just love bureaucracy.)

I didn't bother to get my picture taken for the 1966 yearbook (nor for the 1965 yearbook). I did attend the graduation ceremony in '66 but only due to family pressure.

However, as I was flipping through the book, a dim memory rose of having been in some group shot on the steps of the student union building (a place where, as a commuter student, I spent many hours hanging out with other commuter students between classes). And there, right up front on the table of contents page, I found this picture...


I can't remember when the picture was taken other than that it was sometime in 1965, could have been late in the spring quarter, could have been early in the fall quarter. (New Paltz in those days followed a quarter system rather than a semester system.) In theory it could be during the summer quarter as well, because I did take an art history course, but that's not very likely because I was working 2nd shift in the IBM plant in Kingston, plus four hours of overtime every night, hit a diner with a bunch of co-workers about 5:30 a.m. (two eggs, toast, juice, coffee with free refills -- fifty cents) -- hit New Paltz for an 8 a.m. class -- and then go straight home to get some sleep. If I recall, this was a semi-staged picture. We were all in that general area and the photographer asked if we would mind being in a picture for the yearbook, okay, everybody talk to each other, don't look at the camera, okay, thank you very much. Only took a couple of minutes.

So here I am, age 22. I can't recall who I am talking with -- I mean she is someone I knew, talked with frequently, one of the group of commuter students (mostly from the three mid-Hudson cities -- Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Newburgh) who hung out in a student lounge area across the hall from the snack bar, but I am terrible with names under the best of conditions and this was long ago... 47 years and counting...

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