North Hall’s Wells and Belles

A Periodic Column by Steve Duffy ’77

Steve DuffyMay 31, 2012

Here on campus, we’re halfway through the first co-op. This first co-op for students is local—Yellow Springs or in nearby communities like Kettering, Dayton, and Springfield. This gives everyone a chance to sink extra roots into campus and each other before heading to places more distant. So right now we are “enduring” blue skies, warm days, and cool evenings! The horseshoe on campus resonates daily with the pounding sounds of drilling for North Hall’s geothermal wells. Luckily enough, McGregor, South Hall, and the Tall Pine Stand by the library provide a great acoustic buffer to all that “wellness.”

As always, there are many joys in this tiny oasis; some new and some old. Some are based on research and some are based on the heart and memories.

Students, faculty, and others drift through the Olive Kettering Library every day. We have been counting feet daily—so even as tiny as we are in year one, around 3,000 pairs of feet have come by for research, socializing, to revisit the past, or possibility visit a future, since October of this year.

Some of the former faculty are now known as “resident-scholars,” and truly embody that term. Peter Townsend, former professor of environmental studies and geology, will spend hours in the library doing research, but also spends time reading academic journals with participatory glee. Who knew that reading the current issue of Scientific American and an article about “How plants smell their prey” could be accompanied with giggling and a “Come here and get a load of this!”? Between professors emeriti Robert Fogarty, Bill Houston, Walt Tulecke, and Al Denman, there is a lot of wry humor and deep conversation here.

May also brought a wonderful visit by former residents of North Hall known as the “Bingle Belles.” They were wonderful to be around, and you could tell they certainly had enjoyed life and each other over the six decades since they had first been freshman in the late 1940s. It is good to chat with Antiochians like the Belles, since there might be the possibility of learning the secrets of their joy.

Penny Jones with Steve Duffy

Penny Jones and I socializing at the reception held for the Bingle Belles.

I imagine the Belles will be the source of legend. One of the Belles is Penny (Hartshorne) Jones ’52. I first met her a couple of years ago and we seemed to connect instantly. Penny had come a Volunteer Work Project and managed to find her way to the Antioch College booth at the twice-annual Yellow Spring Street Fair. She worked with us in thunderstorms and torrid weather like a real trooper.

Penny and I would love to share her words with Antiochians of all decades:

Did you have a good freshman hall experience? This is just to say that the ‘Bingle Belles’ met once again, this time at Morgan House, for our eighth reunion.

We entered Antioch in 1947, coming from all parts of the country and all different backgrounds, and we bonded like soldiers in the trenches. We shared life reclining around the ironing board in our Bingle hall corridor (no one had yet invented perma-press fabrics) or in the Bingle common room, located handily just as you entered our hall. With one telephone for both us and Breton hall, the hall next door, we pretty much knew what was going on, and whose parents or boyfriend was trying to connect with whom as we yelled messages along the two corridors. We traded around roommates in upper grades and we expanded our friendships as we divided into, or overlapped, A and B Divisions. We periodically bumped into and casually kept track of each other as we progressed through Antioch. And then we graduated and misplaced each other for 30 years. What seemed like family was fading from memory.

One day, turning 50, two of us, on finding how exciting and memory-exploding it was to see each other again, conceived the idea of inviting everyone from that 1947 Bingle Hall to a house party. We wrote to all addresses we knew and even advertised in the Antiochian. Amazingly, ten of sixteen replied, including one who had dropped out after the first year. They all said YES. Two offered to be hostesses. So we had a house party in Columbus and in Xenia, with a schedule for museums and movies in case things didn’t work out. Instead we only left the living room of each offered house to eat, pee, and sleep—and with the admonition, “Don’t say anything important till I get back!”—as we methodically went around the circle to ask each person what happened to her over the last thirty years. It was mesmerizing, mind-boggling, and like entering a time machine. We finished with plans to do it again in five years or so as a “continuance.” We branched out from living room floors to beaches, woods, and mountains. And for the next thirty years, whenever someone would volunteer to host, we convened in New York, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Santa Fe, and now Yellow Springs at Morgan House Bed and Breakfast. From ten we are now seven.

One of us, a quilt maker, over a three-year period, got each of us to make a quilted square commemorating our Bingle Freshman Friendship, which she then transformed into a full-sized quilt (now donated to Antiochiana). She also put out a newspaper, contributed to by others of us.

Another woman wrote a poem about us which was read at three memorial services. And in these eight “continuances” we have discussed as a group and individually everything which was preoccupying any of us—from marriages, affairs, divorces, children, mothers-in-law, and careers to illness, old age, and death.

If anyone out there has lost some valuable friendships forged during the Antioch years, now that Antioch has come back from the dead, it’s worth trying to reconnect. For us it has been invaluable, warm, and fulfilling.

–Penny (Hartshorne) Jones ’52

Well, well, that’s pretty deep—as one might say as they walk past the big geothermal dig! Hope to see many of you when you visit, and don’t forget to come see us at Reunion!