Within These Walls I Hear Voices
I took my camera over to the old buildings the other day. I planned to take pictures of how they looked one last time. The lights really went out on these buildings years ago. That was when the College of Business moved to a new and improved location. The Haworth College of Business building today is equipped with all of the modern technology needed for students to learn in today’s world. Years later the old buildings still stand. The University tried through the years to find a purpose for them. It would have been nice if they were left to stand as a reminder of how it started. Yet, buildings have a life too and like us they get old. Maintenance bills are very expensive for buildings standing there with no purpose. Visiting them was like visiting an old and dying relative in a nursing home. One time I visited an old family friend at such a time. I was in my late 30’s and when I told her who I was she said my you have grown. In her mind I was probably ten. John Cougar Mellencamp had a song with the lyrics “life goes on long after the thrill of living is all gone.” That song typified my feelings as I looked at those buildings. East Hall in particular looked very rough as I took the picture. Not nearly the memory of it I had. It was always old of course but it’s age used to bring it uniqueness. It’s age used to depict all of the stereotype learning institutions we saw in the movies. Now it just looked like an old abandoned building that was falling apart.
The news came a few months ago that the old East Campus buildings would be torn down. All except East Hall which was the original one. East Hall was built in 1905 and was the first building of the university. East Hall will be renovated but the other buildings will be no more. East Campus was a big part of my life back in the late 70’s. It was there that I went to school for all of my business classes. It was our College of Business and it was our own little dwelling place apart from the main campus. I always thought it was cool with the old buildings! Almost like we were going to school out east with the ivy league theme. Although the buildings didn’t have the best heating and cooling systems and the radiators would creak for no reason it seemed like home. The temperature varied to downright cold to extremely hot depending on the season. The door knobs were still from the old antique lot and the rooms looked like they were in a time capsule. Here we were in the late 1970’s feeling like we were back in the 1930’s. Still it was unique and the experience we shared is in my mind forever.
In my mind I could hear their voices. Hey over there, don’t take our picture now! Remember us for what we were when students were walking our halls! Remember us for your experiences that made you a better person! I took three pictures but decided that I would use pictures off of the web. It would be pictures in happier times of building more like I remembered them. These buildings reminded me of an old relative that could remember events from thirty years ago with clarity but couldn’t remember what happened yesterday. “What is your name anyway your face is familiar.” It was a voice from the past and I played along. I let them know that my name was Hamilton and I got my degree in 1979. I also came back in the mid eighties to study accounting.
Hamilton hmmm let me think said North Hall thinking of the past where the memory was clearer. Hamilton, yes, you were in advertising weren’t you? North Hall was the place I spent most of my time. North Hall was built in 1924. It was the youngest of the three main buildings. It was the home of the marketing department and within that the advertising section I was part of. Years ago I had a dream of writing advertising. I always felt I could come up with really good ideas and enjoyed the process of analyzing what the consumer would go for! Basically by 1978 I had my general education classes out of the way. Most of my classes the last two years were in those old buildings.
It was Fall Semester 1978. Mr. Cannon, the head of the advertising department and my professor, let us know that we would all be entering a national contest for best advertising poster. One of the foreign auto makers, I’m thinking it was Nissan or Mazda had came out with a mini pickup truck. It’s benefit was that it had increased cab space and still had the bed of the truck to haul things! Our mission was to put the best ad we could come up with on a poster board, coloring in our poster for just that special effect the company would like. The winner would have their ad shown in the national campaign along with being given a large scholarship for the Winter Semester!
The contest was a chance for one or more of us to step out from the rest and I was ready! In my mind I was dreaming of the difference this single contest could have in my future. What if I could piece together an advertisement that would blow the competition away! What if my ad was picked as the national winner? I came up with my idea. The truck was a pickup with extra cab room and a lot of room on the truck bed. I would make an advertisement that would hit home with the students! How many times do students leave campus with their belongings jammed in a car and hardly room for them to be comfortable? This little truck could change all of that! My slogan was “Get Away From It All In Comfort!” I had two guys in the front seat with plenty of room to move around in the spacious cab! In the back I had everything that I could conceivably think of that they would be carrying home. I was picturing that the time frame would be the end of the school year and they were going home for awhile and bringing all of their stuff with them. I put in the back their bags, tennis racquets, clothes, sports equipment, and anything and everything I could think of! When the picture was done it had the cab part with room to move around and the back crammed with everything they possessed! There was one thing missing as I finished my picture. I needed to show where the copy of the ad would go. I took some white out and made four straight lines on the bottom of my picture to indicate the copy section. It was an awesome picture and one I felt confident had a good chance to win the big prize!
Besides the marketing department North Hall also housed Business Law. I remember having my first business law class. It was called Legal Environment and the professor was a man named Bliss. I don’t remember if he was Dr. Bliss or Mr. Bliss. I’m thinking he was probably Mr. Bliss because he seemed to come right from being a prosecuting attorney. I say that because he conducted his class like he was handling a case. Mr. Bliss did not live up to his name. Bliss means to be happy and satisfied and Mr. Bliss seemed to be neither. He paced around the front of the room making points like he was ready to condemn the guilty party. His voice crackled up and down in volume as if he had a witness in the chair and was trying to get a confession! It was theater at it’s best to be in his class! I think it was Mr. Bliss who made it a point to tell us that anybody can sue anybody at any time. Invariably a test question would be someone totally in the wrong wanting to sue the other party. The example was always so ridiculous that you were tempted to answer that the first party had no business bringing a lawsuit on the second and if they did they would lose. The question was could they sue?, and the answer was always yes. Anyway as I thought about North Hall and the Business Law section I heard the voice of Mr. Bliss doing one of his prosecuting attorney lectures!
Within that same building was of course Mr. Cannon and the advertising department. Mr. Cannon was a softer spoken man. He liked to bring in guest speakers who had been in the business to let us know what it was like. Unlike Mr. Bliss, Mr. Cannon was more of a friendly man. Although I never got the feeling that he really knew who I was, in his own way I think he cared that we comprehended what he was teaching. Besides the copy and layout class that the contest was a part of he also taught a class called advertising theory & ethics. In that class he stressed that advertising is a business where you can be deceitful. It was a class that many people in the field would just as soon forget. It talked about the right thing to do in situations and tried to lead us on the straight and narrow path. I can almost hear Mr. Cannons voice talking about the ethics of advertising.
I know I probably had at least a couple of classes in West Hall. West Hall was the home of Business Communications. West Hall was built in 1915 and is the second oldest building on the campus. I remember the business communications class that I had there. It was a class where we made resume’s and wrote cover letters and that kind of thing. It was a creative class that used the English language in the way it was intended along with the proper punctuation marks at just the right time. My professor was Mrs. Markovich or something like that. As I was standing looking at the empty west hall I could almost hear Mrs. Markovich talking about the proper way to write a cover letter.
Lastly there was East Hall. East Hall was the home of Accounting and Finance. Accounting classes were never easy for me. Although I was a finalist in the mathematics of merchandising contest of all of the area high schools accounting was different. In the mid eighties I went back to school and took some advanced Accounting classes. I did this because I was working in accounting and thought I would add a major to my degree. Once again I struggled some. One of the reasons that I struggled was that I committed Accounting suicide. I literally tried to take too many Accounting classes too fast. To this day I don’t know why except that I wanted to get done! “That is perfectly logical”, I heard a voice say. It was Cannon’s voice coming from the North Hall. The buildings were talking to me in the form of my former professors voices. The voice of East Hall wasn’t a particular professor. It was more of one of the accounting professors who I have to say presented the dullest lectures I have ever heard. In my mind the voice was in that same tone. “You know the assets have to equal the liabilities”, it said in that accounting matter of fact tone. Cannon from the North Hall piped in emphatically, “you were an idea person”, “you were a people person.” It seems there has been a debate all of these years between the two buildings. As different departments in companies have a hard time understanding each other, the marketing and accounting buildings were always at odds. North Hall applauded when I disclosed that I took an incomplete in my last two accounting classes and joined a friend in a part time business helping people with their finances. “At least you were helping people and using your people skills!” It was Cannon’s voice again coming from North Hall.
You know I never went back to complete those incompletes. After a year I got the failing grades in the mail. You can only have an incomplete grade for so long. It figures said the dull voice of one of the accounting professors. Your heart was never in it was it? I have to admit that accounting classes bored me. The one that interested me the most and that I did the best in was Fund Accounting. That was the same accounting system the university used and was very interesting because it was related to my job. Other than that accounting to me was mundane.
Another voice emerged from North Hall. It was the voice of Dr. Luqmani. Dr. Luqmani was my professor in marketing strategies and he had a foreign accent. In Dr. Luqmani’s class I wrote the best paper I have ever written in my life! I heard Dr. Luqmani’s voice say “that paper you did on frozen pizza’s was maybe the best I have ever read!” The project was to write a paper on the marketing of frozen pizza. We were a company trying to position our pizza in the frozen pizza world. We would be competing with Tombstone, Jack’s and all the rest of the frozen pizza’s. I literally went into explicit details on every item I could think of. Competition, consumers, pricing, the general market and uniqueness. I wish to this day that I still had that paper! When I got it back it was an A+. The people around me were getting B’s and C’s. It was maybe the proudest day in my college life and let me know what I was capable of!
I anxiously awaited the results from the poster as Mr. Cannon was handing them back! Suddenly he called out Hamilton and I took my poster. The comments on the back were not about the terrific idea I had come up with. The comments were about a foreign substance I had used for the copy lines. Paint is not allowed it said in big red letters. My poster was not going to be sent to the national contest because of it! It turns out that someone from our school ended up winning the national contest. I picture this person using his contest win as a springboard to be a big ad writer in New York or someplace today. I didn’t see his poster but in my mind it couldn’t have been better than my disqualified one!
I heard an old speech that Bill Russell the great ex basketball player gave to kids at a school years ago. He said, “you can be whatever you want to be as long as you want to be it bad enough.” I don’t think I ever really wanted it bad enough. As a kid I saw my dad so dedicated to his job at the paper mill that he worked 80-100 hour weeks. I vowed early on that I would not be like that. I would be around more for the people I loved. I also wanted something closer to where I grew up so I could do things with the friends I grew up with! I wasn’t overly excited about leaving my hometown for employment. I ended up getting a position at the university and have been employed there ever since.
As I relived the sad moment of the poster disqualification one more time I heard the voice of Cannon coming from North Hall. So what did you get into Hamilton? I told him that I stayed in town and worked at the University for the last 32 years. I told him that surprisingly I stayed in accounting. At this point the accounting professor’s voice from East Hall gasped in surprise. Cannon’s voice was comforting. “You know Hamilton, I’m not sure you would have made it in Advertising anyway.” “Too much breaking of the ethics in the industry.” “You seem like a very conscientious man.” “I think something would have come up that you would have objected to doing and you would have been fired.” “You are probably right”, I conceded. “I’m doing some writing now I told him and I’m really enjoying it! I’m trying to be an encourager to people in life’s battles!” “Great”, a voice came from West Hall. It was the voice of Mrs Markovich. “Make sure you put those punctuation marks in the right places.” “Wow”, said the voice of Cannon from North Hall, “Now isn’t encouraging people through your writing far more important than trying to persuade people to buy a product they really don’t need?” “I have grown to think so and I am enjoying every minute of it”, I said as I realized something for the first time. You know I used to think that college was about getting a job and finding a career. Although that is a happy byproduct the real gift of college for me was finding myself and learning about life! It was a time of growing up and finding the values I would live my life by. Surprisingly all of the voices agreed that the college experience was much more than just a career path.
In a few months the picture will be a lot different looking up here. Only one of the buildings will be left standing. My department may very well be housed in the new East Hall. That would be for me a path going full circle. The thought occurred to me that whether the buildings were still standing or not made no difference to their legacy. They would always live on in my mind and the minds of thousands of people like me! They will always be a vivid part of the history of the university. I was glad that I came back one last time to reflect on a path in my life so many years ago.
As I was walking away I heard the loud voice of Mr. Bliss coming from North Hall. In his best prosecuting voice he said, “You know you shouldn’t have used that white out”. “You should have known it was illegal!” “I didn’t know”, I conceded. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”, his voice rang out as I headed for my car. I thought about his condemning words. I had to admit that he was right. It had been years since I thought about the white out story. It had long ago been placed way in the back of my mind. I think that God allows things to happen for a reason. With the condemning voice from North Halls Business Law department still ringing in my ears I left feeling like everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to and Knowing that my memories of East Campus were firmly intact!