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Romance through the decades at YHC

February 8, 2011

By Ali Neese, Staff Writer

In today’s society public displays of affection are not uncommon, and with the fast approach of Valentine’s Day, they are sure to become even more prevalent. We are used to seeing members of the opposite sex interact through holding hands, kissing and talking. While many might agree that some couples can take it too far, for the most part nothing is done about it. We simply roll our eyes and move on with our day. There was once a time at Young Harris College where this interaction was not taken so lightly.

According to Debra March, associate library director and librarian for special collections as well as the chair for Ad Hoc Committee for the 125th Anniversary Celebration, there was a time in YHC’s history where male and female students could not even speak to each other.

They attended the same classes, but as a rule that was the extent of their interaction. According to March, this desire to keep boys and girls separate is the reason that the Susan B. Harris Chapel has two entrances and that Sharp Hall has two staircases leading up to it.

Although occasionally this no communication rule was dropped for a couple of hours on Sundays. This did not deter the male and female students from attempting to get to know one another or developing a “case” for someone, or better known today as a crush.

One way that couples tried to “keep the romance alive” was through the passing of notes. Now this might bring a smirk to our faces today, but these students had to take some desperate measures in order to make contact with the one they loved.

Oftentimes folded notes would be placed in books or hymnals and passed on until they reached their destination. Some members of the faculty were sympathetic to their students’ plight and would aid them in passing notes to their beloved. But others made it their personal mission to catch these rule-breakers and bring them to justice. March gave the example of one faculty member going so far as to prod through a woodpile with his cane in an attempt to find these forbidden love notes.

As mentioned earlier, sometimes male and female students were allowed to spend time together on Sundays. They were only permitted a couple of hours; but regardless of the short amount of time, it was a greatly looked forward to activity. An article in the Enotah Echoes dated October 15, 1927, talks about the joy felt by the student body when these rigid rules were lifted one Sunday. The writer says that “even the ‘dignified seniors’ were shaken out of their usual self control, and exhibited as much childish glee as the freshmen.”

Of course, students could not go just anywhere when they were given this freedom. While they could sit and talk to each other, wherever they were sitting had to allow a chaperone to walk completely around them, explaining why there are benches in the middle of patches of grass on YHC’s campus.

Despite the strict rules, many couples have met and continue to meet at YHC, prompting former college president Dr. Charles Clegg to say that “Young Harris is like a shoe factory—they start out as singles but leave in pairs.”

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