The Sound of 50

By: Pat Bryson
By: Pat Bryson

I am hearing 50 everywhere I go

I am hearing 50 everywhere I go 

When I said, “Happy Birthday” to Diane Jones in late October, her husband quickly said, “Together, we’re 100 now!”   I replied to him, “By myself, I’m ALMOST 100 now.”

I could not believe that Diane is 50.  That means that the year we married and the year I graduated from college, she was born.  Unbelievable!  I met Diane as a very young “little sister” and we have traveled many youth group and Sunshine School miles together.  

That’s not the only “50” ringing in my ear. The “big 50” year means that all of my college friends have gotten old, and the big question in everyone’s mind (who headed for the reunion) is how do I hide these wrinkles and pounds(not quite 50, I hope), and how do I stack up among “the girls”?  It is absolutely crazy to think that those college days happened so long ago.  The young girls today would not possibly believe how different college days were in the 50’s; I went to a small Methodist college in Jackson, Tennessee, now Lambuth University, and it’s even unbelievable to me that college rules prohibited us from wearing jeans, or even slacks, to class.  Not only did we have to wear dresses and skirts when we ambled in to our 8:00 o’clocks, but that meant panty hose and not too comfortable shoes as well. I had one friend, Doris Jane, who had a car at school.  Because of her generous spirit, anytime she went anywhere, the car (our only escape from campus) was packed! We had simple tastes and pretty much simple lives. We had to be in our dorms or at the library every week-day after supper with the silly rule that we could go to the student center from 9:30 to 10:00 p.m. If we were one minute late back to the dorm we were locked out and in trouble. I always felt it was Dean Stella Ward’s              great joy to turn that key.  What a crazy adrenaline rush it was to make that mad dash in the allotted time. And the boys (whose dorm was not locked) always assembled in the girls’ dorm yard at this time which made the 30 minutes more interesting. 

As I think back, one of the things which would puzzle my classmates about today’s college students would be the frequency of phone contact of today’s students with their parents.  We knew that we probably wouldn’t talk with our parents until we went home; there might be a letter or two, but the thought of daily phone contact never occurred to anyone.  There was one phone on each floor of the dorms (pity the poor person who lived beside that phone, because she would have to answer it and yell out the name of the person wanted several times). I can’t really remember the location of our one wall phone, but the phone was important because of the coming Friday and Saturday anticipated date causing a hopeful jaunt to the wall phone when your name was called.  But if you weren’t there when the phone rang, you probably missed out on the date! And a call from someone’s parents usually meant an emergency.  Parents were not involved in the daily events of the college student; the “growing up” (the separation from home) started much earlier at that time.  A student of 19 or 20 was pretty much on his/her own, financially and socially. 

TV programs were also isolated, absent events for me because the one TV (with rabbit ears and poor reception) in our dorm was in an attic room; there certainly was no TV show, in my opinion, worth the trip to that dreary room. 

If you mentioned to today’s high school graduates that they were going “off to school” where they were told what to wear and that they would be stripped of their phone, computer and TV, I’ll wager that we wouldn’t have many parents worrying about the rising costs of attending college!!

50 years----an eternity in some ways---yet---- only yesterday. 

I read of Judy Hensley’s feelings about returning to her homecoming, and I could feel it with her, even though she is much younger than I.  Some people don’t go to their 50th reunion, I guess, because the thoughts of “how I look” are too scary, but I’m sure that the real friends are “sights for sore eyes” no matter how they look.  I never really had a hometown, and the one that I claimed, outside Memphis, has disappeared under railroad tracks, so I have not gotten to experience the luxury of exploring my childhood and college friends’ personalities over the years.   I would be really curious to see how close to the real person the youth of 10 or 20 years old is.  I don’t even know that about myself, because I feel that I wasn’t anybody “real” or original until I was an adult.  That is probably not true, but it seems that way to me.   

The real sadness to me about this 50th college reunion is that my true friend of college days, Joanne, died earlier this year.  I went to a college gathering two years ago mainly to see her, but she was unable to come because of illness, so we had looked forward to this reunion.  We had lots to catch up on, and I wanted to see her laughing eyes again and talk about the many crazy things we did as college students. The friends that I did see in 2007 carried on their faces and in their eyes the cares and the joys they have experienced over the years.  There is a certain beauty there that far exceeds the inexperienced, perfect “model’s” face. 

The other “big 50” this year is our coming 50th wedding anniversary.  That college, so simple and devoid of modern conveniences, brought into my life the greatest husband that one could possibly have. And to think that we have had over 50 years together is an amazing gift from God!  Our lives overflow with blessings and joys and dreams come true. We look back at the days 50 years ago when things were tight, and we realize that part of our real happiness comes from the lessons learned from the working out and the working through the financial and emotional and Spiritual challenges before us. 

It has been a fantastic journey, and we are so thankful. (You can reach Pat Bryson at

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