WOSTER: A memorable year in a big city schoolPretty much everything that first year of college was memorable to a naïve farm kid in the big city.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Three things I remember most about my year at Creighton University: the library, the observatory and the administration building.
Well, sure, also crawling out of bed at 4:10 a.m., pulling on an overcoat and stumbling across the street from Wareham Hall to St. John’s Chapel for 4:15 Mass on Sunday mornings. Hard to forget something like that. Father Renard often said the 4:15 Mass, and it took him about 20 minutes, opening prayer to final blessing, all in Latin in those days before Vatican II.
The altar boys who drew Father Renard’s Mass had to be quick on their feet and quick to respond to the Latin phrases. The guys from Wareham just had to be in the pews for, as I said, 20 minutes. By 4:40, most of us were back in our racks, sound asleep and planning to stay that way until noon or so.
So, yeah, I remember that Mass — and that priest. I took “Philosophy of Being” from him, and he authored the textbook we used in that class. I still have the book on a shelf in our family room. I probably should have asked Father Renard to autograph it — or not. A passing grade was enough, perhaps.
Pretty much everything that first year of college was memorable to a naïve farm kid in the big city. Omaha may not be the big city to you, but it was huge to me.
Creighton may not be the big time to you, but it was to me that year. The more I saw and learned, the more I knew I didn’t know.
My first trip to the library brought me face-to-face with a reality I’d never confronted back in the Chamberlain city library or the one-room library at Chamberlain High School. When I entered the place, I had to walk through a turn-style device, and a library employee was sitting nearby with nothing to do, it seemed, but watch the people entering the building.
I thought she stared at me longer than necessary, and I figured it was because she knew I was a farm kid and didn’t belong on that prestigious campus. It took a while to understand she had better things to do than figure me out.
When I left, my satchel was searched. Well, not searched, exactly, but I had to open it so the worker could see that I wasn’t taking any books except the ones I’d checked out. Unworldly me.
It had never occurred to me before, and it came as a shock that first day, that some people would try to steal books from a library. I mean, what if somebody else wanted to read that book? The whole point of a library — and sometimes it seemed I lived in the one at Chamberlain and later in the ones on campus — is to give people access to books. You take them, you read them, you return them for others. What low-life would break that chain? I could only imagine.
The first observatory I ever visited was at Creighton. On clear nights, an intense but entertaining Jesuit named Father Vaske sometimes let it be known that he’d be at the observatory. It was pretty fascinating for a prairie kid who saw distant stars on clear-sky nights to see the same heavens up close and to have a guided tour of the sky given by someone who knew the material.
Last in the memories, the old administration building. It was nothing special, just an aging multi-storied place of offices and classrooms, with cracked, yellowing tile floors and desks that creaked every time you moved in them.
On fall weekends before Monday tests, students would go there, pick an empty classroom and do their booking. Wasps buzzed around the lights in the high ceilings, flies from the inside and falling leaves from the outside whispered against the window panes, the settling age of the place made it groan now and then, and distant doors opened and closed, sometimes accompanied by footsteps, sometimes not. I loved that old place on warm October Sunday afternoons.
I left it all after a year, but some things about it never left me.