Principia College Revisited - Stephen's 50th Reunion

Principia College Revisited - Stephen's 50th Reunion

We attended Stephen’s 50th college reunion the last week of June. I had gone with him to his 45th & written about another earlier visit to the campus here:

This is not his yearbook picture! But I made this kaleidoscopic portrait of him dancing through the complexity of the history & memories of 50 years.

Principia is a Christian Science school located about 35 miles up the Mississippi River from Saint Louis on the Illinois side. The campus, perched atop high limestone bluffs, overlooks the broad waters between the confluences of the Illinois & the Missouri rivers. Floods of history!

The architect Bernard Maybeck planned & designed the campus during the 20s/40s using the concept of a rural English village in order to create an intimate atmosphere for students, who were well removed from the city. The result is effective & lovely. For me personally, the buildings are the best reason for me to enjoy returning.

I found this good film on the College’s site, so I’ll let it inform us about him & his process:

This view is of the living room of the dorm, where we found the room which we were assigned, looks like a baronial hall with massive carved wooden beams, but closer inspection revealed that those are cast concrete! The leaded windows are genuine, as are the lovely rugs & comfy furniture. Maybeck’s concept still works, becoming ever quite permanent, bringing one to at least some fantasy of home.

We were housed in Anderson Hall, a dorm with two wings…
With a rather dramatic interior stairway!
& a lovely, rustic exterior stairway down to a lower floor.

Yet, this was my second of his reunions, so I was better prepared for his disappearing, quite naturally, to spend time with old friends. That first reunion was early in the College’s more officially open acceptance of our being a gay couple. We had felt comfortable & I happily met many friends of his. This visit, I relished such opportunities to engage on my own, particularly with those lingering with me at the breakfast table. I found myself merging into what often became long conversations. Sometimes with other spouses, finding ourselves in similar situations, or with people who had known him as the editor of the student newspaper. I am seen… I am listened to. Not only that, but I am having a good time!

I got to meet & chat with Tom, married to one of Stephen’s deep friends, Wendy, whom I’ve met several times over the years. He also is not a “Scientist”. On another morning, I chatted with a classmate Joel Selmeier who is a designer of Peace Poles, one of which is installed in Tacoma, very close to the condo we are moving into next year. A third such encounter introduced me to a fascinating writer, Brad Newsham, who has two books published about his traveling lifestyle, but — more interesting to me — a book about his time as a cabdriver in San Francisco. I will write more when I can snag time with the copy he sent us to share.

This is the photo he chose for his original graduation photo in 1972.
This is our attempt to recreate that image for this reunion, as was suggested to add to the slideshow as part of the class party.

While Stephen had expressed surprise when I agreed to make this trip with him, I explained that I too was ready for a little travel as well… since the last time we’d flown together was our trip to India two & a half years ago. We have a great history of happily traveling together & I was looking forward to more of the qualities of potential closeness during this time. Some of that became true, even as he was never quite as ready for that as I. His capabilities to multitask also take to the air!

After the closing chapel service & a last lunch we stayed another night at a B&B just a mile or so down from campus in an old riverboat town named Elsah. Several classmates have become faculty members & bought homes in its historic precincts. We were treated to a walking tour guided by one classmate who introduced us to the local museum & a general store with dozens of “antique reproduction” soft drinks.

The collection of newly bottled “antique” soda at the Elsa General Store.

Eventually, our meandering through the village brought us to have impromptu tea with yet another classmate who had not attended the reunion. We found dinner at a casual dive on the river… certainly some sort of experience, but certainly not a memorable meal! It was, however, the first time after the morality of the campus that we could enjoy a celebratory cocktail & a glass of wine… albeit served in plastic!

There is another chapter to this trip. I will write about our next day & last evening in Saint Louis.

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