Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slip Sliding Away

Tillman Hall
The college I attended is somewhat of a tradition in our family.  My mother and her sister attended the same institution as did Deanie (DD2).  During the years my mother and her sister were at the college it was only attended by women.  The year I started was only the second year the campus had been co-ed.  By the time Deanie arrived men and women could room together.  Kidding.  But there are co-ed dorms.  None of us majored in the same things but we all had a good time at good ‘ol WU.  We have pictures of us all, taken during different decades, in some of the same places on campus which we think is kind of cool.  If you sat and listened to each of our stories, you would not put together the fact that we all attended the very same college.  Until you heard the one about the fire escapes.  Then you’d know not only that we were at the same place but that a certain thread of insanity might actually run through the women in our family.

Back in the ‘way-day’ the fire escapes were quite interesting.  They were tall, skinny cylinders with a metal cone or a small widow's walk on top and were painted a dark, forest green or a reddish-brown.  They had a door at the bottom, and one at each floor of the side of the building the fire escape sidles up against.  Tillman Hall, originally known as Main Building, was erected in 1894.  It is a five story brick building with a basement that contains stocks for locking up the convicts who built the structure, a tower with a clock, the ghost of Ben Tillman, and one of those fire escapes on one side (something like the one in the picture only green and taller.).  That’s right, I did mention a ghost.  And, one would think that the ghost would be the thing that appealed so much to a group of drunken stoned curious college co-eds once upon the wee hours of a Saturday morning.  But, one would be wrong.  Someone might have mentioned the fact that her mother and aunt attended the college and then might have continued telling the story of their late night fire escape escapades which might have led to the group deciding to embark on a fire escape escapade of their own.  During the wee hours.  With hardly any moon to light their way.  

We (yes, I was there) sneaked around in the bushes and behind trees, giggling the whole way walked stealthily across campus in order to avoid campus security.  Upon reaching our destination,  a discussion ensued as to the details of the ascent up the fire escape.  Up until our arrival we had only gotten so far as to make it to the location.  Nothing had been discussed regarding whowhatwhenwherehow.  Because there is no ladder on the outside of the fire escape, the door at the bottom had to be opened and we had to climb up inside.  No problem.  But there are no steps inside.  It’s a straight up (and down), spiral, metal slide.  There were 7 of us.  Tall Bill went in first and we were all right behind him.  The plan was to make our way up to the top of the fire escape and, once there turn around, make a train (remember when you were a kid and linked legs to slide down with friends?) and slide down to the bottom.  We started up and quickly realized that it was PITCH BLACK in that fire escape.  It wouldn’t have mattered if there WAS a full moon, there was NO LIGHT at all in there.  NONE.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  The only way you could tell whether your eyes were open or shut was to open and shut them and remember which you had done.  Seriously.  We couldn’t see a thing.  Did this dissuade us?  Hell no.  We giggled all the way up that thing.  And it wasn’t easy.  You had to use your hands on the sides and walk at a tilt and try very hard not to fall.  If one went, we all went.  We couldn’t see anything so we had no idea how far we had climbed or how far we had to go.  Finally, Tall Bill said he could see something.  It was the door at the top!  He pushed the door the rest of the way open and stepped onto the metal, netted landing between the fifth floor window and the fire escape.  Now, not a single one of us had entertained even the slightest of thoughts concerning the ghost of Ben Tillman.  And, for years, the 4th and 5th floors of Tillman Hall had been closed and deemed unfit for classes.  Guess which floors Ben Tillman was said to haunt?  That’s right.  Floors number four and five.  Now, I’m not sure what we actually saw.  But I do know that I saw a face.  It was a man's face and he was NOT smiling.  But he was there.  Was it a ghost?  A live person?  A painting?  Who the hell knows?!  We all turned around as fast as we could and slid down that fire escape (a very quick trip that spiraled straight down) and landed on top of each other at the bottom.  Were we scared?  Did we take off running speedy quick?  Nope.  We lay there laughing like a bunch of drunken stoned dumb ass  crazy college students.  
Thirty years later, another WU co-ed might have mentioned the fact that her grandmother, great- aunt and mother attended the college and then might have continued telling the story of their late night fire escape escapades which might have led to the drunken curious group deciding to embark on a fire escape escapade of their own.  During the wee hours.  With hardly any moon to light their way.  

Ah, tradition.

Mother on the steps of the Thurmond building
My aunt during Rat Week

Me, junior year
Deanie at graduation
Third generation graduate of WU


  1. Totally awesome story. Glad you could share the same memory over the years.

  2. What a wonderful story! I can just imagine your future grandchild standing in the same place that his/her mother, grandma and great grandma stood.

  3. Oh that is wonderful. I would love to have shared my traditions like that. Sadly 'Son' went to a completely different university to me and dropped out after a year anyway. Hubby hates universities for some weird reason and I can't remember much about my time there as I seem to either have up all night trying to write lengthy essays or partying heavily!
    Just a brief stop today to say hello and to say I'm off to Ted sit. I'll still post whenever I can get to McDonalds where there is wifi and I shall be reading yours but not commenting as Hubby refuses to sit in McDonalds for six hours while I 'chat' to my friends even if I buy him a dozen McFlurries :)
    Thank you dear friend for passing by today...give your GOM a pat on the head from me.

  4. So wonderful to have such a rich family tradition! bet you all have some pretty fun gatherings as you share your stories!

  5. You have a great way of telling a story. I can totally imagine this in my mind and was smiling all the way through it. Such a great memory.

  6. Great post! What a great tradition. When you said the men and women were rooming together. I thought to myself WHAT!!! then you said just kidding. You are a jokester :)

  7. How wonderful that the memories can be handed down the generations like that. Just give you a very special feeling.

  8. How sweet are your photo shares?!!! I love them. Y'know, from seeing your profile photo and your jr. year photo, you haven't changed much at all. Way to go!!! [you remind me of a gal on TV...what is her name? Now I can't think of her name...she was the girl lead in Rich Man Poor Man mini-series in the early 70s...dang, I'm gonna have to go look it up now.]

    Thanks for the visit. I really enjoyed your reminiscing today.

  9. I'm back...had to google. Susan Blakely. You remind me of Susan Blakely.

  10. You have the greatest stories! Love reading them.
    Have a great weekend.

  11. Tracy- Thanks! We do enjoy comparing tales--well, some of them. LOL

    Shawn- Yep, right in front of that fire escape!

    Carol- It's kind of disgusting to me that there are McDonalds' over there. Shoot, I'm disgusted that we have them. LOL I thought about y'all the other day when I found out that the college the girls attend has a rugby team! Who knew?! Enjoy your time away and rest up- so you can get to cleaning when you return. LOL

    Brenda Susan- We do! There's a lot of laughter around here...thankfully!

    Betty- Thank you! I was smiling just recalling it all!

    Denise-Yeah, I just couldn't resist putting that in! LOL

    This- indeed they do!

    Anni- You are just too sweet! I wish I still looked like her!

    Susan-Thank you so much!

  12. Great tradition. My son was the fifth generation to graduate from a college in PA....on my wife's side.

  13. What a wonderful story - I loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Jeff- That's awesome! On my mom's side, she and her sister were the first to go to college. My dad's side, however, is full of dentists and educators and business people so they go way back in school, but none around here.

    Kara- Thank you so much!

  15. Great story and I loved the photos!

  16. I went to WU as well!!!! I used to hate late night classes in Tillman! Housed in Margret We went back last fall for the 1st time 19 years and I could NOT believe the changes on the back side of was amazing but I was so glad that the front side still was a beautiful as ever!

  17. That is so cool. 3 generations, amazing.
    Thank you for sharing that Pam. It was heart warming.
    Take care and have a blessed day.

  18. Eva-Thank you!

    Bella- Never lived in MN- Wofford, Richardson, Phelps--Phelps was my favorite. When the movie 'Halloween' came out, we went to see it and then were scared to go back to our dorm rooom on the third floor!

    Julie- Glad you liked it!

  19. Not only are you all blessed with traditions but with some great genes. What a lot of lovely ladies in your family :) Pretty pretty!!

  20. What a wonderful story to be able to share and so special that three generations of your family have all gone there. It would be wonderful if the tradition continues.

  21. Corinne-How sweet! Thank you so much!

    Lindy-I agree that it would be wonderful if the tradition continues--gotta get some grands first! LOL

  22. LOL -- great story EN! Thanks for sharing -- I could completely picture the whole thing as I was reading it -- you are a very good story teller! :)


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