By Eileen Dettman
Editor’s note: Eileen sent us her story about her favorite birthday at Oberlin, featuring flying Jell-O.
It was December 2, 1949 and my birthday. My boyfriend, John Dettman ’50, had arranged a dinner date with two of his friends at the Quadrangle, now Asia House, I believe, and I dressed appropriately to show off the lovely corsage he had given me. John and I began the long walk from Johnson house to the “Quad” where we met his friends in the dining hall. We stood behind our chairs until the housemother arrived at her seat and grace had been said. We sat down to our family style dinner, where platters and side dishes were brought to the table to be passed. We watched for the person designated as “head of the table” to pick up his or her fork so we could begin eating. With good food, pleasant companions and lively conversation, my special dinner was delightful. Now I looked forward to dessert. Had John and his friends cajoled the cook into making something different just for me, like a cupcake with a candle?
Carrying their trays high, the waiters fanned out to their stations to distribute this dessert. Suddenly, they all reached up and took something red off the plates and hurled the stuff across the room. It landed on tables and bounced around. When it landed on our table, we started laughing. The red stuff was Jell-O, so dense that no one could stab it with their forks. The whole room rang with laughter. When we left, we discovered that the waiters were playing basketball in the halls with the rest of the Jell-O.
I had a surprise all right, but it was not ordered specially for me. Never mind. I will always remember the day I turned twenty.