For a long time, a set of blue chairs has been sitting outside of my office. They look a little worse for ware, but they have become a fixture in this part of the building. They have become a gathering place for students waiting for class; for faculty looking for a place to meet outside of their offices; for History majors to sit around and complain about the books that we assign to them. In fact, the History Department, both students and faculty, have come to think that the chairs are our territory.
One semester, we returned to school to find the blue chairs missing. I sent our students on a mission to find them and return them to their rightful place. How dare someone attempt to redecorate without consulting us. It too a few days, but the chairs found their way back.
Since the chairs are outside of my office, I get the full effect. As students filter through, they have all spent time in the chairs. They have gone on to different paths, but they all have one thing in common. The blue chairs. Our current students sit in the chairs and talk about all kinds of things, and they do not realize that there have been generations of students before them who have sat in those same chairs and talked about the same things.
From my office, I have heard enough information to fill volumes. Relationships. Parties. What happened last night. Complaints about teachers. Complaints about me. The list goes on and on. However, I recently heard a conversation that shocked me. I sat stunned as the conversation progressed. Are they really talking about that? Did I hear what I thought I heard? I stopped what I was doing to make sure my ears were not playing tricks on me.
I have heard things from the blue chairs that would make your ears bleed, but, until this week, I was never this surprised.
Our students were talking about Bonanza. Yep, they were talking about Ben, Little Joe and Hoss. Heck, they were even talking about Adam, who left the show in its early days. They had the entire Cartwright gang pegged. On top of that, it was not that they had heard the name of the show and the characters in some far off conversation with their grandparents. They knew that each son had a different mother. They also thought Little Joe was cute.
As a person who specializes in the history of the American West and a mental collector of trivial popular culture, I could not have been prouder. Our students are going into the world with the knowledge that they need. I know that people worry about the time when the younger generation will take over. There is no need to worry. The world is in good hands, and the Cartwright’s will live on for another generation.