“In 1899 … when the telegram came to State announcing the results of the game, this is what it said: ‘Yale 40, State 0. The team played well.’ The telegram was sent by Kid Biller, Manager, and the words ‘The team played well’ became a slogan around Penn State.” —Dr. Francis J. Pond
“The past,” writes Ben Novak in his provocative book Is Penn State a Real University?, “because it was lived, cannot really be destroyed. It can only be covered over, like a lush jungle that gets condensed into a pool of oil or a vein of coal, just waiting to be drilled or mined to have its energy released. But you have to dig for it, and you have to know how to use it. When we don’t know what is in the past, we cannot use it, and we cannot release its power.”
In his Reminiscences, Dr. Francis J. Pond releases the power of an earlier era of the Nittany Valley’s story. As a student of the Class of 1892 and eventually a professor at The Pennsylvania State College, Dr. Pond was witness to a lively era of growth and change, spearheaded through President George W. Atherton’s vision and energy.
Before his death in 1943, Dr. Pond shared his memories of life in the Nittany Valley, from the establishment of fraternities, clubs, and literary societies, to the selection of the school colors, to student pranks, compulsory chapel and military drills, to the college football scandals of the day. In this short but significant book, Dr. Pond paints a vivid picture of a place both foreign and familiar.
Dr. Pond speaks to us across time through this short, but riveting, account of Penn State and the Nittany Valley in a defining time.
This short book is particularly worthwhile in that it serves as something like a template for any Penn Stater to record his or her own “reminiscences” of life on campus and in town. Dr. F.J. Pond’s recollections are illuminating not necessary because they tell a grand story, but rather because they relate specific facts, experiences, and people of the life of the community during his era.
After reminiscing with Dr. Pond, ask yourself about your own Nittany Valley experience. Who runs some of your favorite local stores? Who are particular personalities that make campus special? What victories and defeats have prominent students or campus efforts experienced? Which new buildings have gone up? What’s changed, and what’s stayed the same?
If Penn Staters — students, professors, and alumni — along with townspeople can take anything practical from Dr. Pond’s reminiscences, it’s this: We each have a story to tell. We can record it. We can share it. And in the years to come, our own reminiscences could be as fascinating, as strange, and as similar as those presented in this short book.
Own It Now
Special thanks to Onward State and photographer Hannah Lane.