Although I still go back once a year or so to my alma mater, the University of Georgia, for a football or basketball game, I am often rushing to or from the athletic venues and have little time to reminisce.
Well, last Wednesday, Feb. 8, I decided to stop and smell the flowers – literally. I had set aside a day to visit and to go to the Georgia-Arkansas game, so I spent a couple of hours scouring nearly every nook and cranny of my old haunts on the campus.
And I had a genuine blast. The temperature was mild, and some early spring greenery was already coming out. Thankfully, I had brought my camera to savor the moments for posterity.
About the only reminiscing activity I did not do was lie down in the grass on old/North Campus and look up at the limbs of the pretty and old trees. But I probably should have.
After meeting my old college pal, Dave Williams, for what I called a training meal at the tasty Varsity fast-food restaurant, he dropped me off in front of the famed Arch landmark by downtown Athens for the beginning of my trek southward.
Old Campus is considered the prettiest part of the University of Georgia, with several quadrangles full of hardwoods and other landscaping surrounded by historic buildings.
My first stop was Old College, which dates to the early 1800s and sits in the middle of Old Campus. The building has long been used for administration – even when I was a student there in the late 1970s and early 1980s – but right after World War II, it was a men’s dorm.
And one of the residents during that time period was my father, Dr. Wayne Shearer. He has proudly told me that his room was on the third floor on the right as one views the building from the north, or downtown, side.
While admiring Old College, I decided to open the door, travel up the two flights of the historic stairway as he once did, and see what was up there. I found two women working, and they kindly greeted me and listened as I told them why I was up there.
They even let me take a few pictures of the area where his room once was in the remodeled building before I continued on my way.
After coming out of Old College, I decided to backtrack and take some pictures of the Arch and buildings I had missed earlier.
Although a few students were walking past me as I clicked away, I did not feel the least bit self-conscious. I was now in full reminiscing mode.
I then headed past the main library and stuck my head in the front door – remembering when I had entered those doors so many other times, probably to check out the girls who were there as much as I was checking out the books.
I then walked in front of LeConte Hall, remembering when I took a history class there from a Dr. Spencer, whose magical way of lecturing gave me an interest in history that has lasted to this day.
Located a few feet away is Park Hall, where I had several English and classics courses. While many of the buildings at Georgia have been greatly remodeled as new ones have been built, Park seems to have changed little.
And I loved that about it. Only the addition of a few computers seemed different from how I remember the building. In fact, I think I may have even seen my hand print on the aged front door.
Inspired, I walked into the campus bookstore by Sanford Stadium a few feet south and bought a black T-shirt with words proclaiming me as a University of Georgia alumnus. My reasoning was that I already had a red one and a gray one from two years before, so now I needed a black one.
After going back outside and seeing countless students waiting on campus buses – just as I had done 30 years earlier – I visited a couple of other places and then walked across the campus bridge and into the Geography-Geology Building, which holds a special place in my heart.
I was a geography major and had a number of classes in the circa-1960 building, which was known as the Geography-Geology-Speech Building when I was in school.
I walked around checking out all the familiar classrooms and feeling thankful the building had changed as little as Park Hall had. Some of the stenciling on the doors even appeared to be the same as when I was in school, and I think I found my fingerprints on a couple of doors there as well.
I then continued walking south toward the Myers Hall complex, where I had lived toward the end of my college career. It was a coed dorm that gave one the feeling of being at a much smaller college, and it was no doubt my favorite place to live while a student.
On my way there, I saw Rutherford Hall, which I have sadly heard will be torn down because of its apparent poor condition. I wanted to stick my head in the lobby and see if the wood paneling is still there as it was when I used to visit friends working the night desk there. But some students were sitting on the front steps and I realized I could not be very inconspicuous.
I then walked over to Myers to check out the new lobby that has been built since I was in school, but I was saddened to learn you needed a pass to get into it. And I did not see any signs that said former residents were welcome.
But I did not give up so easily. I walked around the front toward Lumpkin Street, and happily found a door open.
I walked up to the front desk and told a girl student I had lived there 30 years ago and had not been in there in a while. She smiled, and for some reason I started feeling emotional.
I guess I was just happy to be back in the place where I had enjoyed so many happy memories. And, even though it had been changed greatly, the old pillars and layout of the lobby were still familiar enough that I knew I had come back home.
I went back out the door from which I had come and snapped a few outside pictures of my favorite old dorm, with the sun perfectly sitting at my back.
I continued southward and saw where I had once practiced football and track as a struggling walk-on.
I then met up with Dave, an athletic department employee, who gave me a tour of the updated Georgia Coliseum and Butts-Mehre Hall. At the latter I saw Herschel Walker’s Heisman Trophy as well as Frank Sinkwich’s 1942 Heisman, which formerly sat in an area of McWhorter Hall that I frequented.
But nothing could match the feeling I had experienced a few minutes earlier of being in beloved old Myers Hall for the first time in years.