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The Plastic Age

To Hugh the remainder of the term was simply a fight to get an opportunity to
study. The old saying, "if study interferes with college, cut out study," did not
appeal to him. He honestly wanted to do good work, but he found that the chance
to do it was rare. Some one always seemed to be in his room eager to talk; there
was the fraternity meeting to attend every Monday night; early in the term there
was at least one hockey or basketball game a week; later there were track
meets, baseball games, and tennis matches; he had to attend Glee Club
rehearsals twice a week; he ran every afternoon either in the gymnasium or on
the cinder path; some one always seduced him into going to the movies; he was
constantly being drawn into bull sessions; there was an occasional concert: and
besides all these distractions, there was a fraternity dance, the excitement of
Prom, a trip to three cities with the Glee Club, and finally a week's vacation at
home at Easter.
Worst of all, none of his instructors was inspiring. He had been assigned to a
new section in Latin, and in losing Alling he lost the one really enjoyable teacher
he had had. The others were conscientious, more or less competent, but there
was little enthusiasm in their teaching, nothing to make a freshman eager either
to attend their classes or to study the lessons they assigned. They did not make
the acquiring of knowledge a thrilling experience; they made it a duty—and Hugh
found that duty exceedingly irksome.
He attended neither the fraternity dance nor the Prom. He had looked forward
enthusiastically to the "house dance," but after he had, along with the other men
in his delegation, cleaned the house from garret to basement, he suddenly took
to his bed with grippe. He groaned with despair when Carl gave him glowing
accounts of the dance and the "janes." Carl for once, however, was circumspect;
he did not tell Hugh all that happened. He would have been hard put to explain
his own reticence, but although he thought "the jane who got pie-eyed" had been
enormously funny, he decided not to tell Hugh about her or the pie-eyed
No freshman was allowed to attend the Prom, but along with the other men who
weren't "dragging women" Hugh walked the streets and watched the girls. There
was a tea-dance at the fraternity house during Prom week. Hugh said that he got
a great kick out of it, but, as a matter of fact, he remained only a short time; there
was a hectic quality to both the girls and the talk that confused him. For some
reason he didn't like the atmosphere; and he didn't know why. His excuse to the
brothers and to himself for leaving early was that he was in training and not
supposed to dance.
Track above all things was absorbing his interest. He could hardly think of
anything else. He lay awake nights dreaming of the race he would run against
Raleigh. Sanford had three dual track meets a year, but the first two were with
small colleges and considered of little importance. Only a point winner in the
Raleigh meet was granted his letter.