Sometimes you have a flood of memories, rather than just one or two significant events that stand out. My classmates and I put together a long list of what we remember most about our time at Rowland Hall (though some of it is not fit to print!), including:
- Going to Snelgrove’s after school, and when we were in our pastel spring uniforms, the customers always thought we were waitresses. We giggled and said we were!
- All the skits we did, with Vicki Adams playing the piano. One time Jeff Moffat played cool jazz guitar next to Vicki on piano. Our senior play was Twelve Angry Women - we got a standing O.
- We used to tickle each other’s backs while watching movies in the gym. Then Mrs. Corr outlawed tickling backs.
- We weren’t allowed to eat pomegranates at lunch because they stained the tables.
- Chapel was one of our favorite traditions - we used to sing Johnny Mathis songs in our choir robes as we dressed. We also thought it was hilarious to sing “A-women” instead of “A-men” during chapel. On Fridays, all the boys came to chapel, and we could stare at them for 30 minutes, or try to flirt (as best we could).
We learned innumerable life lessons at Rowland Hall. I can’t imagine the person I would be without them.
Of all those good times during my years at RHSM, my favorite memory took place in ’61 when I co-starred in a school play called “Dear Wormwood” along with my twin brother, Roger and the sensational Stephanie Papanikolas. The play was directed by Tony Larimer, my favorite teacher, who sternly admonished me once for being late to rehearsal and taught me a life lesson that resonates to this day: Don’t ever think you’re too cool for school. You can be replaced in a heartbeat. My love and respect for him were such that I preferred to call him Mr. Larimer throughout his life. At an impressive height of 6’ 5” he was literally someone I always looked up to!
The thing I remember best is the Magic Owl game. For those who don't know, Magic Owl was a game we would play if we had finished our art class assignments with time to spare. I didn't start at RHSM until the sixth grade, so the first time Mr. Fox announced that we were going to play the game, I was mystified by the commotion this caused. My classmates' excited whispers, the muffled squeals of 11-year-old girls, and the boys trying to look cool and calm while squirming in their seats. All this made me think that either we were in for a special treat, or this school was a really weird place.
Well, Mr. Fox had a small statue of an owl, about four inches tall, that was sort of an all over tan color with dents and scratches and paint marks covering its surface. It looked to us like it had been around for centuries. He would tell us all to put our heads down on the tables, close our eyes, and then he would go around the room making mysterious noises: moving chairs, ruffling papers, opening and closing cabinets, and the like. When he told us we could look up, we knew that he had hidden Magic Owl somewhere in the room. However, there was a twist that only Mr. Fox could have put on this game of hide and seek. The owl was hidden in plain sight! All we had to do was walk around the room and use our eyes. Oh, there were subtleties to this simple game. For example: you couldn't jump up and down yelling "I found it" or everyone else would know exactly where to look. You had to be clever. When you found it, you didn't even want to let your eyes stop on it. You kept moving, acting like you were still looking, kept walking around the room until you got back to your chair and sat down. That was the signal that you had found Magic Owl.
I remember when Rowland Hall did a parody of Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." The school was making a video to thank donors, and my dad—the upper school principal at the time—was featured in it. It was so funny to see him goofing off, singing and dancing with all the students and teachers. You can see the full video on the Rowland Hall Youtube channel!
Ice Block Kissing was an event during Battle of the Classes several years during the 90’s and 2000’s. A couple was selected by their class to represent each grade. The object of the challenge was for each person to stand barefoot on a square block of ice while keeping your lips glued together in a kiss, not falling off the ice and not letting your lips lose contact with each other. This was extremely challenging because your bare feet would get cold, the ice would start to melt and get really slippery, and you were disqualified if your lips lost contact with your partner. Who thought of this crazy event?!?! In any case, it made for some hilarious memories.
The blending of Rowland Hall and Saint Marks seemed a natural progression as we all belonged to a larger family, the traditions and institution of Rowland Hall. Ever present was an anxious anticipation, up the stairs to the Middle School classroom, and then high school and freshman initiation.
Opportunities were given and expectations to add your voice and individual experience to the ever-expanding traditions and successes of the school were always present. There were certain limits. No off-campus privileges. Uniform regulation.
As students, we matured with the academic excellence of the school and the diversity of the student body. The active boarding department provided an element of diversity which I am not sure we all appreciated at the time. And the attitude that you were able to, if not expected to, pursue any path you chose. You were given the tools to follow that path. You never heard, "Girls can't do that."
After having taught middle school for thirty-one years, I appreciate what all my teachers— Mrs. Carey, Mrs. Brobach, Mr. Koetter, Mr. Purdy, Mr. Larimer, Mr. Anderson, and so many others—had to do to help students. To this day, I remember Mr. Purdy's intonation "a desert is defined as an area where evaporation exceeds precipitation," Mr. Koetter's futile attempt to teach me abstract math - that man had the patience of Job, and I actually used Mrs. Brobach's eight parts of speech material, from memory, twelve years after her attempts to drum it in to us stupid junior-high types. I am certain that I recall less than 5% of what occurred at RHSM, but what I do remember had a profound impact upon me as a person.
The venue for the Christmas Dance in 1997 was the Mark Miller Toyota showroom in Salt Lake City. As part of the photo backdrop, the dealership offered to set up an area with a car. We were all surprised when the car turned out to be a red pickup truck! Lots of opportunities for creative poses around the truck were ensured.
Mrs. Dalrymple, especially, must have been frustrated with me. For almost an entire year, I declined to turn in my verb conjugations, regular or irregular. Je pense, tu penses, il/elle pense, vous pensez, nous pensons, ils pensent. At length, we came to a compromise: I composed whimsical stories in French, stories in which I tried my best to deploy the vocabulary at hand, but in which, I am sure, I often forgot myself. Every story featured a dog; I made loose-lined illustrations to show his unmanageable ears. Le chein ne pense pas. Of course, Mrs. Dalrymple couldn't give me an A for refusing to do what everyone else did, but we got along well enough, and I passed, and now, when we run into each other at Smith's, we recall that year fondly.
My late mother, Susan Freed, was killed in a car accident when I was three. She was a Rowland Hall graduate (there is a bench in front of the beginning school in memory of her) and was one of Nancy Borgenicht's closest friends. Fast forward to 2004(ish) when I then taught Jonah, Nancy's grandson in 4 Prek. It was quite the morning when we put two and two together and realized the connection (she had never known what had become of her friend's children after the accident 40+ years ago). Not only is it pretty special teaching at my mother's alma mater, but being able to learn more about her through her friends has been priceless. My mom's letterman's sweater sits in the cabinet in the library breezeway, and I get to walk past it every day. Lucky me!
I was playing tag on the lawn at recess in 3rd grade. Carol (Felton) Capitani was it. We stood off, facing each other about five feet apart. As much as I secretly wanted her to, I insisted over and over that she couldn’t catch me. She couldn’t catch me. She couldn’t catch me. She lunged at me, and I turned to escape, directly into the largest oak tree on campus. My glasses went everywhere and the bark of that tree formed the scar I still bear over my right eyebrow. I’m pretty sure Carol touched me—not sure if that was out of sympathy for all the blood running down my face, or if she was just tagging me because after all my taunting, she indeed could catch me. I’ll have to ask her sometime.
Marie Newman held a rag over my face until my parents came to pick me up for the ER. Strangely, I remember talking to the doctor who was stitching me up about my favorite episode of the 6 Million Dollar Man. I returned to Susan Culbertson’s third-grade class the next day with an old pair of glasses and butterfly tape over my right eye and still aced the spelling test.
Reprinted from a 1986 Review
Margaret Ryan and her sister, Ruth, first boarded the train from Reno to Salt Lake City where both would attend Rowland Hall School for Girls in the fall of 1918. Margaret (now Margaret Ryan Sampson), recently visited the school and recalled her years here with fondness. She and Ruth were boarders at the school, which meant they spent their school years, and many times their holidays including Christmas, on school grounds. "My years at Rowland Hall have stayed with me all of my life," recalled Margaret. "The faculty, who were usually always around on holidays, took us in and spent time with us. They were wonderful years, and I will always be proud of the excellent training I received at the School. Ruth and I both, even after we graduated, always felt of ourselves as Rowland Hall Girls. For us it meant living up to a standard, maintaining a personal sense of responsibility and never doing anything that wouldn't make the school proud of us.”
What memories, as there are many, I ask, are worth sharing? What organizes our memories, good feelings, painful experiences, or the learning moment? When they were teenagers my daughters laughed in mocking disbelief as I shared my high school transgressions, demerits for uniform violations, studying in my closet with a flashlight after lights out in the dorm, and being late from a date that sentenced me to the "milk run" (i.e., picking up preschool children with my dorm mother). More socially precocious young girls than I, from the surrounding states, were not used to the cloistered boarding department life of the early 50s. Try as they would to outsmart Aunt Henri and Principal Betty Corr, many an adolescent plan for escape was preempted.
One day Misha Cappecci's bird got loose on the way to being transported home in the car for the weekend. Pat [Ammon] was determined to help Misha as the bird flew from one high rooftop to another. Many who started the chase drifted off as Misha's bird flew against the skyline, over the rooftops of apartments and the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I went back into my room to work on something thinking that would be the end of the bird and Misha's hopes. When I came out an hour later, Pat had climbed to the roof of one of the apartments and somehow had coaxed the bird back to a finger perch.
I remember the separation of the girls' school by a large fence. The experiences with older classmen, and those blazers, slacks, dress shirts, and ties were challenges I'll never forget. Dressed up like this made "slaughter ball" games and fist fights expensive for our parents. I remember thinking, was college going to be like this?
St. Mark’s occupied buildings "B" and "C" adapting a complex series of small rooms and tin shed into classrooms, labs, lockers, and fire escape. The fire marshal must have been looking the other way. Study halls were part of our everyday life and gave upper classmen the omnipotent power of proctor armed with a shot put readily thrown towards anyone who was disturbing the peace. Tough on furniture and walls. Chapel was mandatory every day and was an excuse to sit across from the women of Rowland Hall and pretend we weren't communicating. Small classes, Latin, French, longer school days, skiing, soccer, basketball games, mid-terms and finals, the river trip - all molded us for the future.
For PE we had to wear bloomers and midi blouses. We were taught proper classical ballet steps. A talented upper school student would play the piano, and we would march to the music.
Miss Brooks taught the swim class. She had a sling that we would lie in to learn to swim. It was hooked to a trolley, and she pulled the trolley along the side of the pool, pulling us through the water. The girls with long hair dried it over a kerosene stove that Miss Brooks kept for that reason.
Tour buses would come by the school, and we could hear the comments of the drivers. They would say: "This is Rowland Hall, a girls' finishing school. The only male allowed on this campus is the U.S. Mail."
When I attended Rowland Hall (1950-58), many of the school traditions begun in the 1800s were still thriving. Spring functions included the lower school operetta, the Prom, and all of the graduation functions - father-daughter dance, Baccalaureate, senior breakfast and awards, graduation, and reception.
Our dads, corsages in hand, took us to the Hotel Utah Roof Garden for dinner and dancing. One dad had a full-leg cast, but in true heroic cowboy style (and in one cowboy boot), he danced with all of us.
When my father and I arrived home at almost 2 am, my mother looked very worried. "Where have you been?" My father said, "Well, it's hard to have dinner, go dancing, and get a snack in any less time." That was the night that my father understood why it was unreasonable to set a midnight curfew on dance nights.
When I was in fourth grade, I had Mr. Dalgliesh as my teacher. I remember thinking he was like Abe Lincoln without the beard——a tall, stately, serious, but gentle man whom I loved having as a teacher, and never wanted to disappoint.
One day we were talking about the solar system and the planets, and conveniently I had just watched a program about the planets on PBS the night before, so I was ready for the discussion. The discussion took a surprising turn, however, when Mr. Dalgliesh began to talk about the rings around Saturn. I raised my hand, ready to share an interesting bit of trivia that I recalled hearing the night before.
“Mr. Dalgliesh, I heard last night that they found rings around Uranus.”
The class burst into laughter, and Mr. Dalgliesh turned red. “Very funny, David.”
But I had no idea what was so funny—I had actually heard that fact. There are rings around that planet that we can’t see. (I have since checked, and it’s true: Wikipedia confirms it). And back then there was no YouTube to explain to the innocent 10-year-old what the joke was.
“No, really—I saw it on TV last night!” More laughter and more redness. “Good one, David,” I heard someone say behind me.
“OK, OK, very funny——let’s move on.”
Later that night I told my parents about the incident and asked my dad what was so funny. He explained the joke, and now I was the one turning red.
I felt bad for seemingly cracking a joke (no pun intended) at Mr. D’s expense—I think I apologized the next day. If not, I’m extremely sorry Mr. Dalgliesh—you were one of my favorite teachers at RHSM and I never wanted to make fun of you. I’m grateful for your sense of humor and composure and learned a lot from you that year.
But I did hear they found rings around Uranus.