At St. Olaf in the early sixties, we had a dry campus, no cars allowed, and the boys and girls were rigidly separated by dorms. The opposite sex was limited to the lobbies of the dorms, and only once a year was there an open house on a Sunday afternoon.
The women had a monitored curfew of ten o'clock every week night and around eleven-thirty on weekends. They had to check in at the door, as they returned and the population was logged in as safely abed each night. Since the girls were all locked up, we men had no curfew at all and could come and go as we pleased, stay out all night, bum around. If we were twenty-one we cold go down to the muni (the municipal liquor bar, the only place in Northfield to get a drink).
The curfew made dating an interesting adventure in planning. To go to downtown Northfield or over to Carleton College, we had to make the long walk down St. Olaf Avenue. Say we wanted a pizza at the Safari (where the Mamas and Papas would be singing "Monday, Monday" on juke box), we had to plan the walking both ways and the return in time for curfew.
As ten o'clock neared, you could see all the couples in the dark as they squeezed out the last moments together before the doors got locked in Melby, Hoyme, Kittelson, etc. Over by the bandshell, you could see intimately osculating couples taking advantage of the last moment. There were consequences. The women would get punished for being late (I can't recall what it was, probably being dormed for an evening). The men got hit, too, because for every minute a man kept a woman out after curfew, he had to give her a red rose. And that added up.
And you know what? I look back on those days with some real nostalgia. The custom gave all of us a chance to separate a bit from the opposite sex, a chance to live with our own gender, to get to know what it meant to be a guy or a gal before the immediate bonding that takes place now. I think it was a transition period that is sorely missed in the lives of today's college youth. (I am in close contact with may of the Salt Mine grads, so know their lives well.) Besides, a kiss under a full moon on the beautiful St. Olaf campus is a memory to cherish, especially when it takes place at 9:58 p.m. and the clock is ticking.
By the way, the long walks downtown from Manitou to Northfield, over the Cannon River, into the smell of the Malt-o-Meal factory started my lifelong habit of reading as I walk, something most of you have commented on as you see me walking around the SMHS campus today.
I think women should have curfews again.. Yup..