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CARE Member Contributions to The Next Thirty Years

Back When
Submitted by Helen Bridge
Chabot College

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 seat.

I had so many wonderful years! I truly loved Chabot College.

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2007 C.A.R.E.

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