Submitted by Helen Bridge
Now that a few, or several, or many years have drifted by since you
left your life at the college, what memories about that time stay
with you? Your students, of course, but what else? I think about
that question occasionally, even after nearly fourteen years of
retirement. Maybe my memories will remind you of some of your own.
My most vivid recollections are about some of the people, the
special characters I knew on the Chabot campus. Remember history
teacher Ray Stafanson in his red suspenders, shuffling along office
corridors in his big black shoes (which only occasionally had both
laces tied), mumbling about the latest trouble he was in because of
his politically incorrect way of teaching? Maybe you were lucky
enough to find one of Ray's "mee-mos," laboriously typed on green
paper, tucked under your office door once in a while. When I was
senate president and long afterward, I certainly received my share!
And what can I say about Ray's office? Truly a wonder to behold,
full of' books; newspapers, magazines, clippings, and other
esoterica stacked nearly to the ceiling. When Ray retired, it must
have taken a small moving truck to handle all that paper. Ray had a
heart as big as all outdoors, though, and always seemed to have the
best interests of the college in mind. I'll never forget him.
The only teacher I can think of who could compete with Ray in the
magnificently messy office category is Bob Harris. His office was as
full as Ray's except that it also had photos of Bob's Hollywood days
as well as memorabilia from his beloved San Simeon. Bob loved to
share some of his fascinating or naughty tales about both those
places. Students and teachers who were fortunate enough to accompany
Bob on a tour of Hearst Castle learned a lot of scandalous things
about the place--and about Bob as well. You could spot Bob clear
across campus just by watching for his chartreuse slacks and
matching patent leather shoes. His students loved him, and so did I.
There were many other larger-than-life teachers at Chabot, from the
brilliant-but-absent-minded Mary Lou Fitzgerald; Julie Bryson and
Esther Goldberg, who inspired students on both campuses; Larry Toy,
whose move into politics gave him statewide recognition for talents
that his local colleagues had long known about; feisty little Ellie
Meyer who knew where all the skeletons were buried; breezy trivia
expert Jim Healey and his partner-in-limericks, the classy,
consummate professional Bob Wiseman (then and now one of my best
friends), and so many others who influenced me. I also should
mention another sort of teacher: our magnificent, longtime trustee,
Dorothy Hudgins--wise, tactful, and always fair.
My memories of the classified staff require a separate paragraph.
What an extraordinary bunch! They made our work so much easier, and
did so much to create a positive work environment. Think, for
instance, about your division secretary. Here's how I remember mine.
Every morning when I arrived on campus (usually about 7:30 AM) the
first person I'd see would be a pretty blonde by the name of Gay,
who invariably welcomed me with a smile and a cheery greeting. She
was always efficient and helpful, particularly to our large staff of
part-timers. Only Gay knew the secrets of the temperamental
mimeograph machine which we called the Purple Paper Eater, and the
later touchy-but-nice-when-it-worked Xerox machine. Ham-handed
faculty were always interrupting her for help in the coffee room.
You all remember such times, don't you? Whether your division
secretary was Mary, or Elaine, or Heidi, or JoAnne, or someone else,
I'll bet you have a lot of reasons to remember her fondly. And what
about that great bunch in Media Services? Over the years they did me
so many favors I can't count them. Then there was Norma Kernes, in
Student Services, who had an almost magical rapport with students.
Last but not least, I remember with great affection Evelyn Youngman
in the Office of Instruction and Louise the switchboard lady who
gave my husband Les my phone number so he could begin courting this
English teacher he followed out of the mail room.
Certain times of year also carry a life of their own in my mind.
Think, for instance, about Convocation Day. I always liked that
buzz, the energy of people, greeting friends, talking about summer
and plans for the new year, murmuring about the quality of this
year's morning buffet spread. Even though our enthusiasm usually
dimmed as soon as the president started talking about Budget Woes
and the latest "Vision for the College," the morning bestowal of the
Buffington Award was always exciting. Meeting with colleagues,
sharing stories and ideas over lunch, seemed to start the new year
off on a positive note. I always thought the "workshops" in the
afternoon were a dreadful waste of time, however, for teachers who
badly needed that time to get ready for their new classes. In more
recent years, Chabot faculty were also treated to the sometimes
annual Parade of Presidents, meeting our newest fearless head guy
who, surely this time, would lead us out of the wilderness. That
leads to a question: what does LPC know that Chabot doesn't, and
does the answer have anything to do with gender?
When I was a beginning teacher in the early 1970's, I was fascinated
by the occasional faculty meetings in Building 600. A lot of
teachers would moan about going to these, but I always enjoyed them,
even if certain administrators were pretty long-winded. We often got
good information, and sometimes entertainment as well. Remember the
fiery Bob Whalen, or Pam Matthews, or more recently, gadflies Zack
Papachristos and Larry Beal, who would say things that made you
cringe? More than one administrator got an Excedrin headache from
them, I'm sure. Agree or disagree, our outspoken colleagues
certainly livened things up.
For more than one reason, my favorite time every year was
commencement. My excitement would begin as I watched our dedicated
maintenance crew lining up chairs, hanging bunting, and checking
speakers. I also liked to peek at our new batch of proud but nervous
grads rehearsing their big moment. I managed to go to commencement
nearly every year just because I loved the ceremony and the chance
to congratulate my students and their families. Chabot's
commencement is a particularly dramatic and moving ceremony. The
curving ramps from the library and the pageantry of the marchers in
caps and gowns or faculty colors never leave the crowd unmoved. In
nearly thirty years and many, many graduation ceremonies, I never
got over that lump in the throat when I heard Chabot's band play
"Pomp and Circumstance" and began that slow, stirring march to my
I had so many wonderful years! I truly loved Chabot College.
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