The Kennedy assasination, the Vietnam War, the March on Washington, the Moon Landing, and Bonnie and Clyde. The 1960’s were an era of social change, technological innovation, and the Summer of Love. In Philadelphia, trolleys rolled over cobblestone streets throughout the city and notorious police chief Frank Rizzo was on the rise. In 1960, a year at Penn cost $1,250. By 1969 it was $1,950. Undergraduate women and men were educated separately, with women attending the College of Liberal Arts for Women.
Avrom Doft (W ’60), Barbara Russo (CW ’68), and Sidney Rodbell (W ’68) talk back-to-school 50 seasons ago. Avrom Doft (W ‘60) “When my parents brought me down to Philly, I had never seen the campus. They dropped me off on a Sunday, and later that night at 1:30 in the morning, a few of the guys in my dorm picked up and went to a nightclub to see the Will Mastin Trio, starring Sammy Davis Jr. He was an entertainer who hung around with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He was great. He went on at 1:30 and stayed on stage for two hours. I’ll never forget, that was my first night at Penn.
We still were a college for women, we had a Dean of women and we even had a women’s lounge at the top of Bennett Hall because in the forties and early fifties women couldn’t go to Houston Hall. By the time I came, of course, that was different.”
“[Freshman Camp] was the biggest new student orientation. A couple hundred women and a couple hundred men went to a camp up in the Poconos over labor day weekend. For me, it was really helpful because I was going to be living at home so I really networked with the women. We were in different houses, almost barracks, on the camp and each barrack had to make up a song. So we had a women’s cheer, as well as the men’s cheer, that was made up at Freshman Camp. Ours was, ‘68’s the great, we don’t even need a cheer, 68’s the greatest year.’ The men had something very male, something like, ‘First in class, first in field, 68 will never yield.’
“We had weekly coffee hours. Everybody, the whole university, had no classes on Tuesdays at 11. So every Tuesday at 11, there was an all university coffee hour at Houston Hall. That was a great place to go and mingle. We also used to go to pretend to study in the library and that was also a good place to mingle.”
“But you know, the university changed. Things changed so much while we were there. When I got there in 1964 it was really a lot more like the 50s. We had to wear skirts to the library and to breakfast and dinner. There were no pants allowed by women in dining areas. Of course, we dined separately from men. The women dined in their dorm and the men dined in the freshman commons, which was in Houston Hall where the Hall of Flags is. It was really like the 50s in the early 60s when I got there. But things were already changing, Vietnam was starting, protests were starting.”
“I remember walking onto campus. I had flown up from Atlanta. I arrived on my own, I remember walking into this dorm in the Quad and there was the crew team and they had a booth and they were trying to recruit people. They told me they started at 5:30 in the morning and I decided that was not going to be something I was going to be able to take part in. I was tall, so they wanted to talk to me, but it was a short conversation.”