A transition period is always needed whenever we move into something new and foreign. Be it a new school, a new apartment, a new country and a new language or just a new class schedule. Some time to adjust and settle into the swing of things is necessary.
Just like us, the first class of Unionites had to have their own adjustment period. That first class, as described by Dr. Dick in his book “Union: College of the Golden Cords”, was what we might think of as a rather wild bunch. Most of the young men had never worn ‘proper’ dress clothes such as suits, white shirts with collars, or neckties.
They were farm boys, more comfortable taming wild horses than sitting in lectures and writing papers. One young man, on at least one occasion, had his father ship out a train car of wild mustangs for his friends and him to break and use at the school. The girls were in a similar position to the boys. These young women had no knowledge of how to set a table properly or even use a napkin, and yet here they were, trying to tame wild mustangs on campus grounds while they themselves were being tamed.
And if you think the cafe food is a challenge today, imagine these wild ranch and farm kids coming to an organized and regimented Adventist school where there were two meals a day and snacking was absolutely forbidden. Keep in mind, formal dining was the rule of the day.
The students would then assemble into the dining hall, stand in front of their seats and wait until a bell had been rung. Sitting together, they would wait for the meal to be served by an older female student. Quite the transition for these early Unionites who were used to three hearty meals a day and a very casual family dining experience.
Professor Prescott (yes, that Prescott) was a true “Old Fashioned Scholar and Gentleman” who held a degree from Amherst College, wouldn’t have any of this behavior from his students (and that’s old fashioned by 1890s standards). He and the other teachers set an example for them by calling them “Mr.” and “Miss” in the classroom and requiring them to do the same with each other.
It must’ve been shocking to their parents that first Christmas holiday. Their formerly wild children, who would’ve leaned the chairs back on their two legs, run up stairs two at a time indoors now suddenly sat up straight, used a napkin and referred to their peers as “Mr.” and “Miss”. It must’ve been a quite a surprise to say the least.
We too tend to shock our parents when we return home from this place. I’m a first-generation college attendee, and my own mother is endlessly impressed at the depth of knowledge I gain each semester, but also in the way I carry and conduct myself. The friends I have back home also see these changes.
Your parents and friends will see a change too. For many of you this might be your first time away from home, or having a completely independent identity away from your family. You’ll go home during break and you’ll look at the world differently, you’ll conduct yourself in public differently. Much like the Unionites of 1891, you’ll have a long, and maybe rough, adjustment period. But they made it and became the “original 72”, and you’ll make it too.
Bry Galloway is a junior studying history.