Alumni Days stir memories

It’s been 50 years, but Oren Skinner ’68 still remembers the hootenannies.

No, not the 1960s television show “Hootenanny!”, although it was the inspiration. Manchester’s “hootenannies” were singalongs on the Mall that were one of first-year students’ initial exposures to their new school, and they served as an ice-breaker for those new to campus.

“Just a chance to get together,” remembers Skinner, a retired school system superintendent. “More or less a way to get to know people and get to meet people.”

Reconnecting with those people, on the other hand, is what Alumni Days are all about. This year they take place from June 5-7, and for Skinner and his classmates they will be especially significant because they’ll be celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Theirs was a time of excitement and upheaval, Skinner remembers, marked by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

“It was a great time to be on campus, but at the same time it was a challenging time because our parents were coming out of World War II and going through the Depression and (it was) the government right or wrong type of thing. And we’re starting to think ‘Oh, maybe it’s not the government’s right or wrong all the time’,” says Skinner, who counts the people he met, and the visits of such dignitaries as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Howard Griffin and the Kingston Trio as part of what made Manchester a special place.

“These were things you wouldn’t have had an opportunity to be involved in and to see (if you weren’t here),” he says. “It was really a neat time.”

By Benjamin Smith