Mrs. Bonney Block arrived at BJU as a freshman in the fall of 1972, taught at the Academy for 34 years, and now works as the supervisor of the periodicals department in Mack Library. “I have a lot of good memories from here,” Block said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last 42 years here.”
One of her favorite memories is of the “note system,” the original night mail system. Asking a lady out in person was considered too forward, and, with no cell phones or computers, the note system was the most practical and respectable way to ask a lady out, Block said.
Block attended a weekly etiquette class — a requirement for all students — where she learned that if a guy asked a girl out, she was supposed to say, “yes,” at least once before turning him down.
However, a man could not ask a lady to dinner at the dining common. Instead, each student had a dinner table assignment, complete with a host and hostess, who took attendance. Every three weeks the table assignments would change. This system gave Block the opportunity to meet new people and to practice the art of conversation.
Since dinner seats were assigned, the guys would typically ask a girl to the weekly Sunday Vespers service. “One time, I went to Sunday morning church with one [guy] and Vespers with another, and my roommates thought I was so bad,” Block said with a laugh.
For Sunday dress, all the ladies wore hats. After lunch the man would walk the lady to her residence hall and wait outside for her to take her hat off, freshen up, and return for the afternoon Vespers service.
But the best way to spend time with your significant other was the “dateline”: the stretch of sidewalk leading from the dining common to the ladies’ residence halls. Lingering outside the residence halls was strictly prohibited, so couples would try to walk as slowly as possible to her residence hall. Hence the affectionate nickname, “the snail trail.” Outside of each residence hall stood a hostess to enforce the no lingering rule. For obvious reasons, Margaret Mack was the most coveted residence hall, and Georgia Creel the least (Mary Gaston was not yet built).
The ’70s weren’t all play, though. Block remembers having strict white glove checks. In lieu of carpet, all of the dorms had tile floors that required intense waxing. Some girls took this opportunity to place empty glass soda bottles behind their friends’ closed doors. The next time the door was opened, the glass bottle would clang and roll across the floor for the whole dorm to hear.
From playtime to work time, Block enjoyed her time at the University because the environment was, and is, a greenhouse for Christian growth. And anywhere that nurtures Christians and brings glory to God is a place that Block wants to be — including BJU. “I love it because I love the Lord,” she said.
First, Dr. Mike Gray wants to set the record straight. In the ’60s, there were no “snow days” at BJU. In fact, he remembers a two-week period of dangerously icy conditions, yet students still had to tiptoe to class. Everyone slipped at least once. “If a faculty member slipped, you just looked away and pretended you didn’t see,” Gray said, laughing.
Snow days may have been outlawed, but sick days became a necessity with the outbreak of the Hong Kong flu in 1968. Gray himself wound up in the small infirmary, which is now part of the Academy. But, after missing one day of classes, Gray decided he had to find a way out. His temperature was the only symptom that was betraying him. So, after his student nurse left on the second morning, he promptly took a cool shower and drank a glass of ice water. When the nurse returned and took his temperature, she said, “Huh? Your temperature is sub-normal.”
“Well I guess that means I can leave, right?” Gray asked innocently.
“I guess,” the nurse said. And Gray left.
Although Gray was committed to his studies, he met a welcome distraction at his first assigned dinner table. Although he was immediately enamored by his future wife, Gray didn’t risk asking her out until they switched tables a month later — just in case she turned him down.
But once she said yes, Gray had to master his penmanship through the note system. “I took way too much time writing my wife notes in the note system,” Gray said. “That was always my priority.”
Besides the note system, the two phone booths per floor were the only other means of communication. If you passed by one of the booths when the phone was ringing, you were required to answer it and locate the appropriate student. If the student wasn’t in his or her room, you had to leave a message on the booth’s notepad. Needless to say, Gray remembers students walking unnecessarily fast past the phone booths.
BJU students were kept busy in Gray’s time. Chapel was five days a week, including Saturday. Society was on Friday. Morning service, Vespers and evening service were on Sundays. And artist series was once a month. “There was this sense that you were busy all the time,” Gray said.
A lot of activities and a lot of memories. But Gray has no problem picking out his favorite. “Meeting my wife,” he said. “I can’t think of anything better.”