Pages past tense #17

By |2012-07-26T09:00:00-04:00July 26th, 2012|Opinions|

Parting Glances

My first non-matriculated class at Wayne University in 1959 was English 101, held in a Quonset hut, one of several such make-dos behind what is now State Hall.
The Quonset huts were processing centers for World War ll U. S. Army draftees. I learned from my partner Ernie that his dad Dr. Sam Gilbert was there serving his country (1941 to 1945) as a staff member giving physicals.
Instructor for English 101 was Miss Isabel Graham, who was also the administrative assistant to Department Chairman Dr. Herb Schueller. On our reading list for discussions and term papers were Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” and J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” the latter published 1951.
(Over several months I became friends with Miss Graham – who I learned years later had a gay nephew – and Ernie and I invited her and Dr. Schueller for a convivial evening of long-play record classical music listening with festive finger food at Ernie’s home.)
At a time when homosexuality was a little discussed topic, suspecting – or establishing by guarded conversational ploys – that your prof might be “a friend of Dorothy” could become a grade point plus at final marking. (Not that I ever used being gay to obtain browning, er, brownie points.)
I recall two instances of professorial comments about homosexuality. In Social Psychology 101 homosexuals were referenced by an apologetic prof as “sadly unfortunate;” and, another time, at a popular drinking spot on campus, Lou Walker’s, I told an instructor I might be gay.
Said he, “Sorry to say, Charles, I don’t envy you. So many doors are closed to you. Career wise you’d be better off to seek psychoanalytical help. Just my professional friendly tip on life, love and learning. Drink up!”
If homosexuality was little referenced or clinically spoken about in social sciences classes, there was certainly a lot of undercover activity going on in Old Main, State Hall, Mackenzie Hall, if one intuited where, when, how to map the convoluted lay of the land.
The basement of the 12-story Mackenzie Hall, student and administrative center, was seemingly nonstop in use as an assignation venue for cubicle, tap-tap activity. (I once received a folded note requesting me to escort its sight-unseen scribbler outside of the men’s room for a stroll down the nearby swimming pool corridor – while he was nude! Lacking a stop watch and chlorine bleach I diplomatically declined.)
It was no exaggeration to observe that there were daily, weekly – presumably monthly celebrants – who came for adventuring under the rubric of “in house sitter” (or, is that “out house”?) These were frequently monitored by security, two former cops in their late, potbellied, huff-and-puff, 50s.
Once, as I was studying, I looked up and chanced to observe how they operated at State Hall’s exit street men’s room. One sneakingly held its door open. The other stood a few feet distance away, bent down and peeked earnestly for any under-the-stall acrobatics. They made arrests solemnly. And emphatically.
I must assume that such erotically untoward activity is these days a thing of “flaming youth’s hormonally imbalanced past.” Extra curricular while it lasted. But draining all in all. Now camera monitored for posterity and/or head count.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander