A periodic column
by Steve Duffy ‘77
June 1, 2011 – When I was a “student” Antiochian, I certainly took advantage of co-op to get around the planet. One of the reasons I came to Antioch College was you were not required to be in Ohio throughout your college years. As a New Yorker, I sometimes thought there was only wilderness on the other side of the Hudson River and New Jersey. Who knew?
I think a black and white picture of the Empire State Building from the ’66-’67 Antioch College Bulletin may have been the ultimate hook that brought me here. Under the picture of the Empire State Building were the words “Learning in action.” It seemed to be an interesting concept – some kind of way I could be in Ohio, and yet still be in New York.
I did indeed take two out of my first three co-op in New York City. For the first job, I worked the evening shift at The New York Times as a copyboy. The pay seemed great and I saved plenty of money by living at home and taking the subway to work. Back then the subway fare was fifteen cents. That meant a salary of $105 in 1967 – miraculous as this sometimes included overtime. I later used some of the money I saved to backpack and thumb down the Pan-American Highway with some other Antiochians. When I got back to States, I found out that I had missed something called Woodstock. In retrospect, I think Macchu Pichu was more my speed than all that mud and that wild “carrying-on” at Woodstock.
My second co-op was an adventure to a hospital in the West Palm Beach area. After seeing those first coconut palms and a light blue and green ocean, almost every other co-op would involve places that had palm trees. When I got to a co-op at the Los Angeles Free Clinic, I found the area and the job so exciting that I decided to put Ohio and, yes, even New York, on the back burner and withdrew from the College. I spent my time in L.A. coordinating professional health-care volunteers. It was the era of all sorts of liberation. Even my own!
The times being what they were also meant that a large part of the clinic’s work involved birth control and testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases. By the way, that nomenclature had not yet been coined. It was the pre-AIDS era, so many people had the mindset that catching these diseases were like catching colds … nothing that 1.2 million units of Penicillin or Tetracycline couldn’t fix. The clinic also offered dentistry, counseling, draft counseling, and suicide prevention. After almost three years, I found that life in the big city was wickedly fast, especially in the area many of us called the “Swish Alps” or West Hollywood. With unusual timing, I retreated to “post-strike” Antioch, which had been forcibly reopened by Federal Marshalls.
I took a job at the Olive Kettering Library, which came with an $88 a week paycheck. And I waited a year to qualify for financial aid since things were very tight and all available financial aid for that year had already been dispersed.
Although I additionally did squeeze in a co-op in Oakland at a bi-lingual, free health clinic, I began to establish deeper roots in the Yellow Springs and Antioch community. After graduation, I took what I figured would be a temporary job at the Olive Kettering Library. Soon, this “transient-mode” home, a term used by students in the last decade for the campus community, actually became true “home” for me.
The front desk of the Olive Kettering Library was an awesome place for many, many reasons. Rivers of students, faculty and staff made life always interesting. The Olive Kettering Library was a watering hole and a place where folks not only studied or did research but also swapped co-op stories and talked of their trips abroad.
Folks either talked about where they had just been or where they were intending to go next. It seemed like everyone had places to go and things to do. And some folks also did research and their homework in between endless discussions. Indeed folks were “learning in action” and learning from each other.
The Olive Kettering Library was also blessed to have top-notch librarians, including Joe Cali, who worked at Antioch College for more than fifty years. I am currently working from an office where Joe checked in periodicals and often listened to Brahms or Beethoven. There is a calendar on the wall that is still turned to February 2007, the month he died. Maybe soon we will feel like we can turn the page or frame it as the College re-ignites and dozens of new faces come to a town in Ohio where much of the world can also be part of one’s campus.
To be back in the library is like continuing a relationship with a wonderful old friend. I shelved a truck of books recently to feel my way around this old friend. One of those book titles stuck with me. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World” by Brian Walker and David Salt.
To me, that title sounds very Antiochian – and useful.
Steve Duffy ‘77 is a library circulation specialist and special assistant to alumni relations at Antioch College.