The President's Daughters
It was the day after Labor Day in 1962 when we drew up to the big, white, so American looking house across the street from picture book brick buildings. The street was empty. The only sounds were our own voices and the wind in the trees. My 9-year-old sister Jane looked around, puzzled. Dad, is this it? Is this all?
Where were the rickshaws, the bicycles loaded with entire families, the bullock carts, the camels? Where were the people? Coming home from ten years in India, where my father was the cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, we had some adjustments ahead of us. New London, population then 1,500, was beautiful, quiet, orderly and, a few weeks later, implacably snowy and icy.
Colby Junior College and the town, on the other hand, gave us a warm welcome. My sisters and I entered the local school and I met my 12th grade classmatesall 30 of them. Our roots were in New Hampshire, our relatives were close. The President's House, with its gushing hot water and central heating, felt like the epitome of American comfort. In some ways, it was an easy transition.
We did, however, live in a goldfish bowl. In India, we children had been little ambassadors, and in New London, we were still on show. These are not our dress-up clothes in this picture! It was a more formal era, when incoming students, also dressed to the nines, came for tea served from a silver samovar. We kept our rooms nasty neat, too, to show visitors who might arrive at any time.
I benefited hugely from having the college right across the road, especially the library in the Ware Center and the brand new Sawyer Center. One of the perks for the president's family was entertaining the entertainers back at the house. I can truthfully say that I have danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and eaten scrambled eggs in the kitchen with comedian Dick Gregory.
My sisters and I picked up summer jobs at the college, too. Lee and Jane waitressed for the Gordon Research Conferences while I was a gofer in the Admissions Office and later in the Development Office. I lost my connection with the college for a while, but after moving back to the area in 1998, I discovered with joy that I could get a card to the Susan Colgate Cleveland Library. I've been a Friend of the library for years now, but it's been an even better friend to me. Hardly a week goes by that I don't draw on the Cleveland Colby Colgate Archives for family photos from our India days, or watch (on YouTube!) the digitized movies from my dad's collection. College Librarian Carrie Thomas and Archivist Kelli Bogan have been hospitable way beyond the call of duty.
Recently, Tom and Susan Galligan showed Lee and me around every inch of the president's house, bringing back even more memories of 50 years ago. To them, and to my other friends at Colby-Sawyer, I say a huge, huge thank you.