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Coming Back To Cambridge

Alumni Invasion 1990:

By Carolyn J. Sporn

Females now abound and the lack of maid service means messier dorms. But despite these changes, returning alumni said yesterday that Harvard looks much the same as it did did 25, 35 and even 50 years ago.

"The only thing different is there are more women," said Joseph S. Stern '40 of Cincinnatti, Ohio. "Otherwise the scene hasn't changed that much."

"I just ran into Master Heimert who was the master of Eliot House 20-odd years ago and he is still the master now. I lived in Eliot, I had a son who lived in Eliot, and we are staying in Eliot and that hasn't changed either."

While official Harvard had prepared a full day of speeches and symposia for returning graduates, many alumni seemed interested in their own informal activities as well.

One of the most popular hangouts of the day proved to be Elsie's Delicatessen on the corner of Holyoke and Mt. Auburn Sts. One worker at Elsie's said that in the past few days, the sandwich shop has been deluged with alumni coming in and ordering what they used to 50 years ago.

Roger H. Vaglia '55 of Springfeld, Ohio, who said his favorite item was a steak sandwich with mayonnaise, stopped briefly near the store to survey the changes in the Mt. Auburn St. neighborhood.

A former resident of Leverett House, Vaglia observed the absence of Cahaley's grocery store--now occupied by the Tennis and Squash Shop--and Kronin's bar, which has been replaced by the Holyoke Center. "That was the place for us to hang out," he said of the erstwhile establishment.

"As long as Elsie's is here, the place will do all right," Stern said.

Like the physical environment, the members of the returning classes have undergone some changes in the years since they left Harvard--a fact which caused some minor complications as the day progressed.

"It's a good thing we all have name tags in big letters," commented Christopher T. Bever '40 of Chevy Chase, Md.

But James D. Lightbody '40 of Pepper Pike, Ohio, said that "once we can identify each other we can almost pick up where were communicating before. We all have a little less hair and a little more weight, but many have the same characteristics."

"It looks 50 years older," said Luke K. Cooperrider '40, of Sun City, Ariz., as he observed the area outside Winthrop House.

"So do you," replied Joseph R. Beever '40 of Potomac, Md., who roomed with Cooperrider 50 years ago in Dunster House. The two are housed for the week in Kirkland--generally known now as a haven for athletes.

Although Beever said he did not remember Kirkland having a stereotype in his day, he said he was not surprised by the current reputation of his new environs. "I always thought it smelled like a gym room," he said.

Among the other changes Beever noted since his undergraduate days was a marked decline in quality of dining halls. Offering words of qualified praise for his lunchtime repast, he said, "I guess it was better than McDonald's."

Other returning alums directed their criticisms toward changes in College accomodations.

"The houses were built to be an alternative to small cramped, grungy apartments," said Daniel J. Donahoe '55 of Scottsdale, Ariz., "and now it looks like they are turning into small, cramped, grungy apartments."

"I don't know how you guys cram yourselves into those rooms," Donohoe said. "It is a little appalling. I hope the administration will start putting money back into the houses. They are in terrible shape."

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