College Life Replays: The Drop-Off and Wrong Way Home

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by
When “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales…

Bruce Hornsby  and Don Henley

It must be the time of year. Proms, graduations and summer vacation are a mere seven weeks away. That’s 42 days, folks. All this looking forward sentiment actually has me looking backwards.

Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nostalgia hit me back in March. A favorite vintner and business owner, Gerard Giacona (Filipo Marc Winery), chatted with me about his son’s anticipated graduation from Eisenhower High School; and his son’s plans to study journalism at my alma mater, Western Michigan University.

Then, last week a number of my fellow and extremely distinguished j-school peers began swapping memories on Facebook. The stories being shared about the years we spent as writers, editors, business managers and advertisers for the Western Herald, the student newspaper, took me back to September 1989, which was the start of my freshman year.

The Drop-Off

My parents had just dropped me off and helped me move into my 12- by-12, dorm room. For the next seven months I would be living at Ackley-Shilling, a residence hall in the Goldsworth Valley 1 segment of WMU’s campus. There was no telling what stories would unravel in the seven months that followed.

Illustration Credit: Western Michigan University,

Kalamazoo — my adopted city — offered a diverse mix of neighborhoods to explore; Ackley-Shilling sounded more like a foot disease than home, and no parental supervision meant freedom.

Wrong Way Home

After three weeks of learning the WMU/Kalamazoo party scene, my roommates and I earned a coveted invitation — from the hot guys on Ackley’s sixth floor — to a mega keg party. Some wannabe-Greeks hosted these lovely brew fests at their fake frat house on Lovell Street near Waldo’s Campus Tavern and Kalamazoo College.

At midnight a roommate, a couple sixth-floor friends and I cut ourselves off from the Milwaukee’s Beast (sorry Best) keg. The four of us exited the party and started to walk back to Ackley, which was to the west. Unfortunately, a collective decision was made to go east.

Photo credit: Google Maps

This flirty stroll was expected to take approximately 30-minutes or so to complete. One hour later we were wandering Kalamazoo’s downtown pedestrian mall, garden hosing, and cop dodging. Our walking tour also included a stop at the infamous Burger King — on South Westnedge — where Elvis Presley was allegedly sited after his passing.

More scenes from freshman year are coming soon. My 40-year-old memory can only remember so much. But, you can be sure, future scenes will include post-game riots during WMU-Central Michigan Homecoming weekend, Bonus Fries at Maggie’s Campus Cafe, and the student-lead, sit-in following an incident where a professor allegedly bit a student.