Those first two years at Palm Beach Atlantic University were, as I relayed, fairly uneventful. Went to class, hung out in the Student Center playing pool and listening to Amy Grant, etc. In some ways, it was merely a continuation of high school, minus the keg parties. Ha! So I thought. As I walked to classes I nonetheless heard stories of beer blasts taking place in some of the same neighborhoods as that of my hs buds. At a Christian college?!
PBA was/is a Christian institution, but of course it did not exclude those who were unbelievers, quite the contrary. There was certainly a large evangelical component to the school's mission. In regards to the alcohol, I have to recall at this point that during the application process, a pledge to not consume had to be signed. By all students. I cocked an eyebrow at that as I scribbled. I'm sure others had to conceal their laughter.
But the school was serious about enforcement. A rulebook mentality evoking Prohibition-era tactics was adhered to. A wine cooler could mean suspension. There were rumors of spies who roamed parking lots of the local Bennigan's and Houlihan's, looking for PBA parking stickers and their owners who may have dared to down a Bud Light with their jalapeno poppers. Several folks felt the justice. I was spared.
I did not have the need for a parking sticker. I did not have my own vehicle until halfway through my junior year. I made do with my father's Escort wagon and rides from others. Sometimes, I had to take the city bus. Ugh. It was humiliating. Convenient (when it showed up on time; WPB's public transit was never known for its reliability), but still a drag. I felt like I was still a kid, riding the Co-Tran to the Palm Beach Mall. Getting that midnight blue Cavalier in January 1990 was like getting the keys to Adulthood.
I also went to work, about a month before I started at PBA, as a pharmacy clerk/tech at an Eckerd Drug store. I only worked 20 or so hours a week, but it was enough to get me out of what was known as "Workship", a program of voluneteerism, required of all students not holding an outside job of 20 or more hours per week. It is with some shame that I admit that I was quite happy to get out of Workship, despite my regular volunteering in the church: beach clean-ups, gardening and painting for the elderly, singing at nursing homes. Maybe it was because I just didn't have any more time to spare.
I did not get out of going to weekly Chapel services. Several students skipped regularly, and there were consequences. I don't recall skipping more than once or twice. It was usually an enriching hour of praise and worship, with school announcements and the occasional skit thrown in. There was also the annual American Free Enterprise Day, a grandoise parade of capitalism that always seemed wrong for a church sanactuary. Each year, it got bigger. The keynote speaker was usually a CEO. The most notorious episode in my time at PBA involved a student yelling "What does this have to do with Jesus!" after several minutes of relentless patriotic display in the First Baptist Church. Such a great moment. I bet many wanted to applaud. It was a moment frozen in time. Sadly, I learned that the young man (whose name I can't recall) recently passed away.
I mentioned Eckerd Drug. My store was in a shopping center on the border of Lake Worth/WPB. Years before, the Skydrome Drive-In sat there. I worked at the drug store the entire time I was at PBA, plus change. I liked and hated it at various times. I'm not sure what to say about it, though there are some significant parallels/overlaps with PBA. The pharmacist with whom I worked was the mother of someone with whom I grew up. A lovely Southern lady who taught me much about pharmacy, a career that would last for the next 20 years. She was very conservative, often remarking that PBA was, even in 1987, becoming "too liberal". This was despite the fact that until sometime in the 1990s the school still wouldn't hold a dance. Old Baptist thing.
At Eckerd I also met a few girls who would make my junior year quite interesting. Until next time.....
TO BE CONTINUED