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HOMECOMING 2002: Old campus tour brings back tender memories

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 12, 2002 – Until 1975, Union University was on a different campus than the one that today’s students currently attend. On Fri., Feb. 8, fourteen members of the Class of 1952 returned to the campus as part of their fifty-year reunion celebration. The trip proved to be one that brought back memories and meant something special to these special graduates.

One of the most important places to students on the old campus was the area that they called “the circle” even though it was not really a circle at all – rather a place that all paths that led around campus met and crossed. In honor of all of the former students, a real circle made of concrete has recently been poured in this area with a plaque honoring it. As part of Friday’s tour, Union’s President David Dockery officially dedicated the area, calling it “hallowed ground.”

Dockery spoke of the circle as a way of connecting the former campus to the present one and to Union’s great history. On the current campus, there is also a circle with a fountain in the middle—a direct link to the circle of the past. He also noted that many of the new buildings being erected on the campus are being built in the traditional style of the buildings of the old campus.

The members of the Class of ’52 were moved by the ceremony and it was obvious that simply returning to the campus had triggered a flood of memories of their time as students.

“Who remembers the phrase we had to say when we were freshmen?” Virginia Conger asked.

Without hesitation, Margie Wadlington chimed in, “A freshman, sir, is so low, sir, that he can crawl under a snake, sir, with a high silk hat on, sir, without touching the snake, sir. Thank you, sir, for the privilege, sir, of sounding off, sir.” The whole group rolled with laughter remembering that intimidating first year in college.

“I had to wear an onion around my neck,” recalled Catherine Taylor, setting off more laughter. It was soon discovered that several members of the class still had the beanies that they wore that first eventful twelve months of their college experience.

Members of the Class of '52 that attended Homecoming 2002.

The group soon split up to wander around the campus and see all the changes in the last 50 years. Several buildings no longer exist while others are now being used for completely different purposes, some fairly humorous to the visitors. For instance, the girl’s dormitory is now used as a jail, a process that Virginia Conger insisted had its roots in her stay there. The New Southern Hotel where all social events and parties were held is now a retirement home, a twist that several former students jokingly said was “cruel.”

Amid all the laughs, there was also time for tender memories. 1952 graduate Margie Wadlington walked up the hill towards the former men’s dorms holding hands with her husband George who graduated the year before her.

“We met at Union,” she reminisced. “We both sang in the chorus, and one Sunday we went out to sing at a church in Bolivar. I’d seen him around school before but didn’t really know him. They’d packed sack lunches for us and my sandwich looked better than his so we traded. And that’s how we met, over a sandwich!” The two were married two years later, and still love one another to this day.

Some recalled throwing water balloons out dorm room windows while others remembered spectacular tackles they had seen out on the football field. There were memories of part-time jobs and friends that have passed. The stories of long ago continue to remain vivid. Fran Butler may have put it best.

“We love looking back at the past when we were young – but we also love everything in between.”

By Jody Webster,
Class of 2004

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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