Friday, January 15, 2016

Flashback Friday

January at Iowa Wesleyan College was an oddball month.  I suppose it is elsewhere, too.  Nestled in between two semesters, it was the month that came right after a long festive Holiday and just before the long slog to Spring.  Real classes wouldn't start until February to give it the same numerical value as the Fall semester,  the powers-that-be started what was called Responsible Social Involvement.  Those powers-that-be would actually come from Dr. George E. LaMore, my main man, or God, which I prefer.  RSI was a filler program for a filler month.  

RSI required students to attend lectures at the Chapel which involved trying to make us heathen students into, well, responsible boys and girls.  Those classes usually, and if my memory is correct, were on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month and, yes, they would take attendance.  If you successfully attended they would take on some small amount of credit time onto your record.  

Thankfully these classes weren't interactive so one could drag themselves in almost any physical condition, continue being passed out from the night before, and still earn college credit.  Nice month.    During your Senior year you would be required to spend a month at a place related to your major and serve a brief apprenticeship.  But before that, January's kind of served a as major recreational month.  Some of the attractions we went to during the month were Gulfport strip joints, Pzazz in Burlington, parties in Iowa City as well as our home bar of West Side Tap and, of course, the frat house.   And before you knew it, January was gone and real classes were starting.  

Naturally, we told the parents that the month and RSI was a great program and how much we learned and couldn't wait till next year's slate of instructional and inspiring lineup.  Oh, and please send more money, somehow, the account has been emptied. 

The far above picture is mindlessly posed, of course.  Clutching whiskey, gin and vodka bottles, pipe firmly clenched, jaunty hat, this was pretty much what we did in January.  I'm sure the good Doctor LaMore thought Responsible Social Involvement was a great idea, and it may have been, but for some of us, it is a foggy, mostly forgotten month that gave us a chance to be irresponsible social drunks. 


My eventual RSI project was with my girlfriend, Pam Patterson, at Woodward State Hospital/School in Woodward, Iowa.  That's not too far from Des Moines.  Woodward started as an asylum for the "epileptic and feeblminded".  When I was there the enrollment was around 1200 people.  I helped out in the wards and went with them on outside recreational actvities.  

Old picture of Woodward State Hospital - School

It started poorly when Pam drove the car into a giant ditch near Newton on I-80 during a snow storm (shortly after I told her to slow down).  From that point on, however, I loved how I spent that January, albeit far more soberly.  I worked with developmentally disabled kids and adults and always said that when I got down or homesick the best remedy was to go see the guys on my wards.  Fun people - loving, funny, not the least bit sad, my month at WSHS was a real eye opener.  My supervisor was effusively happy with me and actually wanted me to come work with him after graduation.  And it was tempting, too.  Had things not worked out, I probably would have gone to work up there.  Great people, great supervisor.  Sadly the place isn't the same as it was.  Now it is a Resource Center, whatever that is and I think there is a young male behavioral academy on the grounds as well.    Probably therapy, teaching and the like, but whether or not they house people, well, I don't know what with the nationwide de-institutionalizing that happened in the 70's and 80's. 

Funny how life works.  You do what you do and it seems things fall into place all the way through.  I stayed at Mary Davis for a full career while if I'd gone to Woodward, I would have been in trouble - it closed and became somethign else.  My old supervisor died about 15 years ago, too.  No pithy way to end this other than to look back with wistful joy at the memories, and my supreme luck to get asked to go by Pam and my willingness to do it.  Often "yes" opens more doors than can be imagined.  


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