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Wholesale Observations: Athens, Ga.
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

One of the great adventures in my life was the five years I spent in Athens, Georgia, with a brief summer sojourn in Athens, TX, in-between; more on that later. My first year in college was spent at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, my mom’s hometown and my dad’s alma mater.

For a lot of reasons, I made the happy decision to transfer to the University of Georgia my sophomore year, and found it a much better fit. I stayed five years there, three completing my undergraduate

degree, and then two more years for my master’s. It was a period of enormous growth; and I was very lucky to have that opportunity.

I stayed in university dorms, those three undergraduate years and my first year of graduate school. That was partly because of cost; partly because of being in the middle of campus and close to my main building; and partly because my only means of transportation at the time was my own two legs, so other options weren’t really options.

I spent three years in Clarke Howell Hall, in two different rooms, next door to Stegeman Hall, the main athletic facility of the day, which was right across the street from Sanford stadium. That brought a variety of complications when the Georgia Bulldogs played home games; but those really affected most of Athens, being a big school in a small town, and one just learned to adjust.

Clarke Howell closed for renovation, after my senior year, so I moved across the street into Hill Hall, a former girls dorm, for my first year of graduate school. Clarke Howell was an older dorm, very basic, but it had thick brick walls, which helped keep the noise down. The newer high-rise dorms up the road on Baxter Street were much noisier, I had heard, so I never considered living there. I had too much studying to do!

Back then, we had no air conditioning, computers had not yet been invented, and no cell phones, either! My freshman year at UVA, the dorms had one wall pay phone at the end of each hall, so there was no privacy when making those rare phone calls. When I got to UGA, phones had been installed in all the dorm rooms, and the cost was minimal, only $10 a quarter. That was a major improvement!

I always had a heavy course load, and being in the drama and theatre department, rehearsals were a constant; some of them short, others all evening. So fitting in studies was important. As was being close to the Fine Arts building.

One thing I quickly learned, when I got to college: you couldn’t wait until the weekends to do all your studying! There were always too many interruptions to contend with. So I learned to set aside 2-3 hours every night to go over my class notes, rewrite them into more readable form, and keep up with daily class work. That paid off in the long run, as I then had better notes to review for tests; and I found that aided in my retention, so I got better grades, too.

One unexpected advantage to moving across the street to Hill Hall, my fourth year at UGA, was that that dorm was right next door to Legion Field; and my second-floor room overlooked the campus swimming pool. The view in spring quarter was especially nice!

My last year in graduate school, I did find a small apartment off-campus, just a few blocks west of downtown, and I did enjoy that. It was one-half of the first floor of an old sub-divided two-story house (with two basement- level apartments) that I found out about through a friend in my department, who was already there.

It had a nice wide front porch, with a handful of white wicker rocking chairs, which made a great place to sit outside with a cup of coffee, before class in the morning, or after classes in the evening, So I did get to experience a little bit of life off-campus, there. And it was only a short walk from campus. And cheap!

Besides the wide variety of friends I made at UGA, and the major knowledge transfer that occurred during those years, one of my greatest pleasures was in walking, all over campus and all over that central part of town.

(Athens was much better for that than Charlottesville.) I would often go for walks after finishing studying, at night, and enjoyed it immensely.

It was not only good exercise, it also exposed me to many of the wonderful old houses in the area, and many hidden treasures which one would never see, riding by in cars.

To be continued … 

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of (“the original”) Savannah High School and the University of Georgia. He and his wife live in eastern Liberty County, and are long-time Rotarians. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at rafe_semmes@yahoo. com.

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