CIRCLING THE SQUARE
The Harvard Union
"Formerly a Freshman dining hall and center of Freshman social life, this building is to be turned over to the Navy for men in the new communications school."--Harvard Crimson, June 15, 1942.
Thus briefly noted does habit become tradition, and tradition become legend. The transition from an everyday thing to a living memory and finally to a guide book legend is not yet finished, but when the class of '45, so registered, is gone the change should be complete.
Already, as far as the Union itself is concerned, the metamorphosis is thorough. It represents, perhaps better than anyplace else, the whole tenor of change that war has brought to Harvard. A casual glance shows things very much the same. Ivy still covers the walls, trophies still line the halls, Monty still stands at the door, Mrs. Murray still strives to separate order and chaos, Mr. Heman still reigns supreme. The only real difference, as Monty keeps saying, is that between meals there is no one around to talk to and during meals there is a stampede rivaled only by downtown Boston of a St. Patrick's Day. And Mr. Heman is almost flustered at times by the problem of feeding 1200 tightly scheduled navy men, and keeping them happy in the process. To cope with the latter emergency, the motherly waitresses of days past have been largely replaced by their faster-moving daughters. As for the mechanics of feeding so large a group, comfort has given way to utility and much needed dining hall space. Doors have been cut through walls, the first floor men's room is now a combination kitchen and serving table, the lower common room is just another dining hall.
For several hours at a time the Union stands empty and vaguely familiar, as during a leisurely Christmas vacation. Then suddenly there come a series of sharp commands from without, followed by a rushing and a buzzing and a monocolored blur. And for a brief period the hall in all directions is lined by row on row of identical black coats, at stiff attention even on the coat racks. Then again the rush and the blur, and the Union is once more its hollow and ever more hollow self.