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Dulcey Amargo: Warm memories, gentle snow

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By Lupita Gonzales

Let it snow!    It’s glorious and we need the moisture. The various “inconveniences” notwithstanding, the snowy conditions have created a nice, seasonal ambiance; the cold, white stuff is welcome.

Back in the day, when I was a student at Highlands University, the snowfall made little difference to our daily workings. I truly can’t recall that classes were ever suspended when it snowed. Most of the student body was residential, either in dorms or homes in the community. Since most of us from out of town didn’t have cars, the biggest worry was whether the Greyhound would deliver us home at the end of finals week.

Like clockwork, finals week, generally the second week of December arrived, and so did the snow; it just meant we’d have to trek a snowy block or two to get to our designated finals classroom, then walk back to the comfort of the dorm. I remember that our Native American dorm mates would take their throw rugs outside, cover them with snow, and perform the natural way of cleaning the rugs, merely sweeping the snow with brooms and draping them over a wall, letting the sun do the rest.

Life in the dorms was usually uneventful. There’d be the familiar warning: “Man in the hall!” to let us girls know that we needed to wrap up before venturing next door or down the hall to visit a dorm mate. Lucy Duran, our dorm mother at East Kennedy, would drop in on us every night at 10 to make sure we were safe and sound. The doors were locked at 10, so there was considerable scurrying around the front porch to get in before lockdown.

Inside the dorm hallways, we girls waited until the maintenance men did their duty, buffing the halls to polished perfection. Then we’d have fun riding each other up and down the halls on the buffers. Good, clean fun, eh?

Some of us students remained on campus until a week before Christmas, working at our various work-study stations. The University would herd us all into one dorm, usually Monte Vista (now Archuleta) Hall, so there were opportunities to congregate in the student lounge downstairs to watch “Laugh In” or simply to get to know another group. It was a mellow time.

Because the cafeterias weren’t open, we’d go to Columbia Supermarket down the block, buy some frozen TV dinners and find someone with a portable toaster oven (there were no microwaves then), and have a nice repast. The more affluent among us would congregate at the Spic ‘n Span or the Home Café. A few of us with Las Vegas friends were invited to dinner at their homes. I fondly remember my fellow Registrar’s Office work-study, Diane Ortiz (the current mayor’s sister) taking me home to have some of their mom’s homemade fare.

Generally, close to Christmas time, we’d already found some transport to our home communities, be it Greyhound, the train, or some fortunate friend with an extra space in his/her car. For me, that meant getting home just in time to get a short-term job over the holidays to make a few bucks to buy some fabric and make myself some “new” duds for next semester.

Back in those days, we girls always wore dresses, skirts, hose and heels, etc., even to the football games. Woe be it to any girl who tried to walk the campus in her rollers!

I recall one of my professors, Gordon Patterson, directing a “brave” young lady who wore cutoffs to class to leave and return when she was properly attired.

We attended “high teas,” and weren’t surprised to see Dean Ann Nanninga hanging out on the Kennedy porch around 9:30 p.m. to discourage PDA (public display of affection). It was a mellow time.

Occasionally, there was a reason to “check out” of the dorm, meaning that our parents had provided the University with a signed permission slip for us to travel to a special event. I recall that one weekend, after my having attending such an event, the bus arrived in town before 6 a.m. It was a cold morning, so I walked a block from the bus depot, wanting the comfort and warmth of the dorm. You guessed it! All the doors were locked, but I spied a second floor entryway window a bit ajar, clambered up the wall, opened the window and soon was safe in the dorm. I shudder now to think of what would have happened had Campus Security caught me sneaking in, albeit innocently.

So with all these warm memories and the gentle snow falling outside, I sit at my computer watching the Ferrelgas truck entering my property to fill up my propane tank.

Yeah, it’s all good!

Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at lupitagonzales2002@yahoo.com.