By Thelma Morris ’54
Music educator Art Becknell ’51 died in the 1990′s, after a distinguished career at the University of Wisconsin. I remember him as the large, amiable, headwaiter at May Cottage when I was a freshman there. May Cottage was a rambling brick dormitory, its two wings connected by a central dining room. It’s long gone, replaced by the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies.
Dinners at May, as in all the women’s dormitories, were, well, somewhat formal. The housemother, generally a widow with some pretension to serve “in loco parentis” was usually present. Lou Di Lorenzo ’51 was our dining room Chaplain. Lou was an English major with dark, piercing eyes, one of the Senior Class Wags who had a way with words. We stood behind our chairs while he centered our minds with pithy sayings: “A kiss that speaks volumes is probably not a first edition,” is one I remember to this day. Then the housemother was formally seated, a signal that we could sit. The waiters, upperclassmen all, brought in bowls of steaming food on large silver trays balanced on their shoulders.
After lunch one day in mid December, Art Becknell took me aside, and explained that the waiters had delegated him to ask me to take part in a holiday tradition sacred to dear old May Cottage. Could I, as the smallest, lightest resident frosh, be counted on to keep a confidence? And would I help out? My self-esteem soared. I was thrilled. I liked Tradition. I could do it.
Came time for the festive Saturday night dinner before Oberlin’s Christmas holiday break. Lou Di Lorenzo undoubtedly uttered a pithier-than-usual aphorism, then the housemother was seated and the students followed suit.
The doors to the kitchen were flung open, and through the darkened, expectant dining room paraded the waiters, in white serving jackets and ties, empty handed. In the rear came Art Becknell, his two sturdy arms supporting a large silver tray on his shoulder, carrying the Christmas Roast Pig through the length of the room, and back out to the kitchen.
That was me, in pink slacks and rosy sweater, doubled over on arms and knees which were folded up into my scrawny chest, my hands protruding below scrunched shoulders, porcine-like.
In my mouth I bit firmly into a shiny red Delicious.