Ties That Bind
A GROUP OF ANTIOCHIANS HAVE BEEN GATHERING IN VARIOUS PLACES AROUND THE COUNTRY. THEY CALL THEMSELVES THE BINGLE BELLES.
Since 1980, a group of eleven Antiochians who graduated in the early 1950s have been gathering in various places around the country every few years. What these women have in common is their shared experience as freshman hall mates in North Hall (1947–48) on the Bingle floor. They call themselves the Bingle Belles.
“The Bingle Belles’ name came to me one Christmas,” Carolyn Shatz Rabson ’53, who is lovingly referred to as “Shatzie” by the other Belles, said. “They had been playing ‘Jingle Bells’ on the radio so much that I sent a red sheet with the Bingle Bugle [the group’s newsletter] that said ‘Bingle Belles, Bingle Belles, Bingle all the way.’ It just kind of stuck.”
Seven of the Belles returned to the College in May to present and dedicate a handmade quilt crafted in honor of their Antioch experience. The alumni relations team hosted a dinner in honor of the Belles and to accept their dedication on May 10, 2012.
The Belles first came together in 1980 in Columbus, Ohio. Reminiscing about their first “continuance”—they are careful not to call it a reunion—they had a lot to catch up on, having not seen or talked to each other in more than 30 years.
“We drew up an agenda of topics to talk about, and then sat on the living room floor talking until 6:00 a.m.,” Penny Hartshorne Jones Barbera ’52 said. “The topic list was something like this: sex, marriage, love, abortion, women’s movement, juggling everything. We were about 50 years old then. People you thought had everything, didn’t.”
MARCIA ILIFF PASCHKIS
said that while other schools might just prepare you for a career, “Antioch prepares you for life.”
“It was cheering to find out you weren’t the only one who didn’t have everything figured out,” Marcia Iliff Paschkis ’52 said.
Now, more than 65 years after meeting, the Belles talk about their lives, their Antioch experience, and the amazing connection that has stood the test of time.
Antioch in the 1950s
The Belles arrived at Antioch right after World War II, when veterans flocked to campuses around the country to attend college on the GI Bill. They agreed that Antioch’s reputation as a hotbed of free love and communism really wasn’t that far off.
“We weren’t very interested in 18-year-olds, but the 22-year-olds coming back from war were interesting,” Joan Linn Lenzer ’51 said.
Rabson agreed. “There were a lot of veterans living in West Hall, she said. They were all horny and looking for wives. It was a wonderful time to be at Antioch.”
The women came to Antioch at a very poignant time in American history and they say that their time in Yellow Springs during the 1950s shaped them for the rest of their lives.
JOAN LINN LENZER
said that “even with the bad jobs, you learned what you didn’t want to do...how to deal with adversity.”
“It was paradise,” Terry Harris Beresford ’51 said. “[We] loved every minute of it.”
They recall with pride their classmates’ early involvement in the civil rights movement.
“The Antioch men all went to the black barber in town, even though he didn’t know how to cut white people’s hair,” Rabson said. “They went there to show their support for equality.”
Though the era was exceptionally serious in many ways, the Belles and other students on campus were able to have a good time, in part due to the lack of rules at Antioch. The Belles recalled that there were only two ways to get expelled from Antioch College: violating state law or not maintaining a passing average. This subsequently led to a tradition of practical jokes on campus.
A classmate of the Belles, John Hoke ’50, was famous for them. In what’s known as “the Great Turtle Hoax,” Hoke apparently moved two box turtles to various locations around campus, calling people’s attention to them before moving to the next spot. He wrote an article for the student newspaper citing an invasion of box turtles. But in an even greater stunt, Hoke allegedly hoisted a car belonging to Edmund Churchill (professor of math and the director of anthropology), to the towers of Main Building.
TERRY HARRIS BERESFORD
—pictured with Micah Canal ’08, director of the Annual Fund [left] and Scott Sanders, College archivist [right]—once wanted to change her major from philosophy because, as she put it, “What was a nice Jewish girl supposed to do with a philosophy degree?” An Antioch professor changed her mind.
Many of the Belles had an 8:00 a.m. statistics class with Churchill. They said he often fell asleep during his lectures and always wore the same outfit—gray flannel pants and a yellow sweatshirt.
Members of the faculty were incredibly important, meaningful, and inspirational to the Belles.
“Our relationships with faculty were very different than at most colleges,” Beresford said. “They made themselves available to us.”
At one point, Beresford said she wanted to switch her major from philosophy to sociology because it had the fewest number of required courses and allowed the most flexibility.
CAROLYN SHATZ RABSON
with the handmade quilt crafted in honor of their Antioch experience. She thought up the name “Bingle Belles” while writing out a newsletter to the women after hearing “Jingle Bells” over Christmas one year.
“What was a nice Jewish girl going to do with a philosophy degree?” she said.
When she asked Manmatha Nath Chatterjee, professor of political science and sociology, what she should do with her life, he advised her to simply “do whatever you want.”
The Belles said Chatterje was effective because he didn’t lecture. Instead, he made provocative statements and let the students discuss. Once it was, “Does a rock think, and how do you know?”
ANN CANNON COOK
The Belles say that while their lives have changed throughout the years, the one constant thing they talk about when they get together is Antioch—and how much it means to them.
During another lecture, Beresford turned in a paper she wasn’t happy with and was surprised to have earned an A.
“I told him it wasn’t good,” she recalled. “He said, ‘It wasn’t an A paper, but you are an A student, so I gave you an A’.”
Beresford’s husband, Jack, also had Chatterje for an advisor.
“Before we got married, he told Jack that the secret to a happy marriage was to listen to what the woman said and say, ‘that’s right.’”
Jones said her aesthetics course with George Geiger, professor of humanities, emeritus, was particularly memorable.
“He wanted us to find our own personal concept of heaven,” she said. “Many years after that class, I was divorced, it was 1 a.m., I had a child sleeping in the other room, and I was making a banner. I couldn’t decide on the colors. I realized I could be trying to solve this problem forever and be happy. That was my heaven. I wrote to George and told him. He just loved it.”
Co-op and coping
The Belles all agree that co-op offered the ample opportunities for transformation. Beresford had a co-op at the Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware, a center that served alcoholic men and adolescent wards of the state.
KATHRYN “MIKE” DERNING TAYLOR
Some advice the Belles gave to new Antiochians included encouraging them to have the drive to “do just about everything [they] want to do” in their lives.
At the center, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse for ages 5 to 17, she said.
“It was very difficult and life-confirming,” she said. “After that co-op, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher.”
“Exactly,” Lenzer said. “Even the bad jobs, you learned what you didn’t want to do. You learned about diversity, how to deal with adversity. [Co-op] taught me how to cope.”
Rabson said she had two co-ops at the public library in New York City, enough to convince her she didn’t want to be a librarian. “But guess what I became?” she said. “A librarian. I didn’t know I could be an artist.”
Advice for new Antiochians
After more than 65 years as Antiochians, the Belles are excited about the College’s rebirth and the newest Antiochians, but they also had some advice.
“Take a class or do something in your wildest dreams that you wouldn’t normally do,” Lenzer said. “Give it time to see it through. You may hate it, but you’ll learn from it.”
PENNY HARTSHORNE JONES BARBERA
Rabson said: “Keep enough in touch with teachers so that in later years, when you realize what they contributed to your life, you can contact them and tell them. Make it a point to let them know what they meant to you.”
Beresford said, “Unplug from wireless stuff often and get to know people face to face.”
And with perhaps some of the most moving advice, Paschkis said, “If you live long enough, you can do just about everything you want to do. Maybe not in the way or order you want, but it can happen for you.”
always a belle
Today, instead of sex and marriage, the Belles talk about physical ailments, how many pills they’re taking, senior citizen homes, and glasses prescriptions.
But the one thing constant is that we always talk about how much Antioch means to them.
“Another school may have prepared you for a career, but Antioch prepared you for life,” Paschkis said.
Jennifer Jolls is the director of institutional effectiveness at Antioch College.