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Back to Mac after 48 years

It started with an invitation for alumni members to volunteer for move-in day Aug. 31 when the first-year students, freshmen we use to call them, show up for their first day of college life.

I thought, "Why not?" It had been 48 years, since I was a prospective new student at Macalester College in St. Paul on a hot August day in 1964. I'd go back and see what it's all about these days.

The day started a 7:30 a.m. The aging alumni, such as I, were primarily used to guard belongings stacked by the side of the street where they were unloaded while parents parked their cars and students went to check in, get a room number and a key to their new domicile.

The bulk of lugging the necessaries of student life was left to some 150 students who worked shifts during the day, according to Daymond D. Dean, associate director of alumni relations.

The necessities for life on campus included some of the obvious -- laptops and cell phones. The lack of pay phones or a community phone in the lounge on each floor of the dormitory was a stark reminder of the new age of electronics. Those phones got a workout back in the day.

A number of women students had full-length mirrors stacked on their pile by the curb.

A plethora of mini-refrigerators were included, something that would have been very handy in my dorm room instead of a cardboard box perched on a windowsill that served as a freezer during the winter.

The arrival of football team members made quick work of hauling the mini friges to their intended spaces.

I asked the pigskin bunch if they volunteered or were they volunteered to help out. "We were volunteered, sort of," was the answer.

Apparently, Coach Tony Jennison asked team members if they wanted to have meetings or help the new kids move in. The choice was obvious.

Bright and early at 7:30 a.m., Lydia Gosta of Chicago appeared with her father and stacked her stuff by the side of the road.

The parade of states continued. A young man from New Jersey was next, then a student from Fort Worth, Texas, followed by representatives of Charlotte, N.C., Seattle, Wash., College Park, Md., Berkley, Calif., Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y., and Kansas City, Mo.

It was 9:30 a.m. before a native from Savage, Minn., showed up to check in.

I searched for representatives of Wisconsin and was introduced to Hannah Gemrich, 19, a sophomore volunteer from Cross Plains and a small high school. "I love it here," she said. She is considering a major in neuroscience.

Finally, at 11:30 a.m. an SUV pulled up with familiar gold license plates and the Green Bay Packer logo. When asked where in Wisconsin the folks were from the answer was...River Falls.

Abby Purfeerst, 19, with her mother Rhonda and father Jay were unloading and ready to check in.

Abby will join the women's basketball team for the Scotts, she said, which presents an interesting family dynamic. Her sister, Emma, is a junior on the Carlton women's team. It creates the possibility of sister vs. sister on the hardwood this winter.

The campus has changed a lot since my freshman year. Some buildings have been torn down and replaced with structures to serve different purposes.

The grounds have expanded into the surrounding neighborhood but there are still familiar places. The dorm I lived in and my father before me is still there, without much renovation, I was told. The dorm where my mother stayed is still there and has been improved.

The fresh faced young kids in their late teens and early 20s were enthusiastic and full of the spirit and energy of youth and anticipation of a new academic year.

I regaled them with stories of the "olden days" of men's and women's dorms (they are all co-ed now and have been for a generation or more), of house mothers and grace minutes in the women's dorm.

For the football players I recalled running wind sprints and stadium steps after practice when the current stadium was brand new. "Don't tell coach," they said.

It was something along the same lines as old timers telling youngsters of walking two miles to school in 20-below-zero weather up hill both ways.

The bottom line, however, was a general feeling of welcome and the extension of a helping hand to the frosh from the upper classes and alumni giving the whole day the feeling of a fresh start and bright future.