Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, August 20, 2018


Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…    

Fifty thousand IU students moved into Bloomington last week. Just over eight thousand are “beginners.” That mostly means freshmen, but transfers, too, and others in their first undergraduate year on the Bloomington campus. I wonder what their first week memories will be…

My first week at IU, I met two people who were so important to me at the time that I have remembered them, and their names, for 63 years. I played football with Jerry Friedman. I took Marlon Phillips to a dance.

Roommate Tom Cone and I came out of Arbutus dining hall one night after supper. On the lawn a wiry kind of guy who talked like a New York gangster had a football and was getting up a touch game. “Come on,” said Tom. “Let’s play.” So we did, except I don’t think I ever got to touch the ball, because there were about 30 guys on each side, but it was fun to run around on the lawn with my new beginner friends.

I never saw Jerry again, but that seemed so much like college, to play a game on the lawn after supper—I guess that’s why I remember the name of the guy who started the game.

Toward the end of our week, orientation week, we were told that Linden Hall and Cedar Hall were having a mixer. We were to go over to Cedar, mill around in their lounge with their girls, pick one out, and walk over to the ball room in the Union for a dance. It never occurred to us that we had a choice. We probably didn’t. We dutifully went over and milled around. A cute little brunette with no sense decided I was her date. I was a terrible date. I had no idea how to talk to a strange girl. And I was a terrible dancer. Nonetheless, we did the whole thing—walked, talked, danced, walked back.

Girls had “hours” in those days, meaning they had a curfew. Most nights they had to be in by 9:30, but this was a special event, so it was probably more like 10:30. I know it was dark. When we got to Cedar, there was a scene straight out of Caligula. All around the doors to the dorm couples were standing and kissing like the soldiers were shipping out tomorrow.

Without warning, but apparently inspired by the scene, Marlon grabbed me and started in on my face like it was sweet corn and she had missed supper. I had no idea what to do. All the girls I had dated in Oakland City were demure church girls who were willing to be kissed, but who would never have made the first move. Mercifully, the dorm director blew her curfew whistle. All the girls went inside and all the guys started drudging forlornly back to Linden Hall.

I never saw Marlon again, but that seemed so much like college--to go to a mixer and a dance. I guess that’s why I remember the name of the girl who started the game.

So much like college…  That was the only touch football game I played in and the only mixer/dance I went to in four years.

John Robert McFarland

Yes, I’ve told much of this story before, including in my book, The Strange Calling. But my grandson, Joe, is in his first week of college, and I thought he should know that he’ll remember this week in a special way. Also, I really like that "sweet corn" line.

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