Grandson’s Penn State visit rekindles old memories
My grandson, Ian McCance, has just finished his junior year in high school in Fort Collins, Colo., and is beginning to think about college. So far, he had visited three universities in Colorado — Colorado State University, Colorado University and Northern Colorado University. This month’s agenda included a trip to my alma mater, Penn State. I was happy to accompany him, his sister, Claire, and his mother on this trip.
The drive up Route 22 and then I-99 was nostalgic, despite the fact that high-speed divided superhighways have replaced the winding country roads of the 1940s. The fact that we were staying at the Nittany Lion Inn reinforced the nostalgia; it certainly is a marvelous example of old time elegance and modern convenience.
We started the formal tour in an auditorium in the Shields Building, on the east end of campus, with a sophisticated presentation that focused on the merits of choosing Penn State as one’s alma mater and the intricacies of the application process.
We then split up into groups of about a dozen each and were assigned a tour guide. I commented to Sara that, at Pitt, the guides had to be like hockey defensemen (skilled at skating backwards) because they had to walk backwards while talking to their groups. Sure enough, our guide immediately announced that she had walked backwards into a signpost, two days earlier.
Our first stop was in the intramural building, one of her favorite spots. It was especially interesting for me, as one of our Senior Design teams had just done a hypothetical design of such a facility which will be built at Pitt in the near future. I am enthusiastic about providing opportunities for students to work out and play pickup games, to participate rather than be spectators at games in professional arenas.
We then walked west along Curtin Road all the way to West Halls, a distance of about a mile. This prompted me to recite an “old days” story. When I was a sophomore, living in the Nittany Dorms, I had an 11 a.m. “Phys Ed” class in Rec Hall that ended at noon. I then had to trek a mile back to my dorm for lunch, switch into my ROTC uniform, and dash back to the Armory, another three quarters of a mile.
Our walk on Curtin took us past the Creamery, prompting Claire to make us promise to return there in the afternoon. It is refreshing to realize that such a simple tradition is still extremely popular.
When the tour ended, we were treated to lunch in Pollock Commons, the dining hall for a complex of dormitories in that area. The contrast between that facility and the dining halls of my era is dramatic; Pollock Commons was easily as upscale as the “downtown” restaurant we had eaten in the previous evening — the Federal Taphouse.
We had a pleasant drive home the next day. We stopped at the Horseshoe Curve and were rewarded by watching two trains go through; it will always be a thrill to see the whole curve filled by one long freight train. A late lunch at Dean’s Diner fulfilled another revival of a decades long tradition.
It was a very enjoyable trip and a fine opportunity to bring back pleasant memories.