Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2006


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Bowling in Cro

Bowling in Cro
The Dale sisters, pictured in the early 1960s, enjoy a story in their home at 358 Mohegan Ave. From left are Monica, Karen, Melissa and Leslie.

Monica Dale ´79, daughter of the late professor of music William H. Dale, recalls the joys of living on campus as a faculty child.

By Julie Novak

Their stage was in the basement of 358 Mohegan Ave. and each member of the acting troupe was under the age of 10, but for Monica Dale Pantano ´79 and the other “faculty brats” who spent their childhood on campus, it may as well have been Broadway.

“There was a clothes-line stretching across the basement hitched to two poles, which was perfect for hanging a curtain,” recalls Dale, who goes by her maiden name. She lived in the house at the north end of campus with her family — her father, William H. Dale, was a professor of music at CC — from the early 1960s until the early 1980s. Her two older sisters made the scenery and her younger sister performed. “As playwright and director, I usually made myself the star,” she said.

The inaugural performance at the neighborhood theater drew a sell-out crowd. Dale´s mother, Claire, who was not admitted to the 2 p.m. show without paying the 10-cent admission fee, was surprised to find the chair of the CC music department, a dean or two, and a number of other professors who sat on rows of crates, boxes and child-sized wooden chairs in her basement.

“Let´s just say she paid more attention when we announced, ´We´re putting on a play!´ after that first experience,” said Dale, a piano teacher, dancer and choreographer who now lives in Ellicott City, Md.

Those weekend performances are just one of many fond memories Dale has of living on campus. Tucked away among the trees at the base of a hill, 358 Mohegan Ave. is now known as Earth House and is used for student housing. The sophomores, juniors and seniors who live there commit to earth-friendly living.

The Dales moved into Earth House when the two-family faculty home they were living in was purchased by the Coast Guard. The Dale sisters felt right at home in their new quarters, exploring every inch of the house from the basement to the third floor attic crawlspaces. There, inspired by the notations of a boy who occupied the house before them, and under the basement stairs, the sisters immortalized themselves in chalk.

“History will never have to wonder which Dale daughter loved which Beatle,” Dale said.

Dale remembers other incidents, like splashing around in galoshes with her sisters when the basement flooded and finding the occasional unwanted guest, such as bats and mice. Bee hives under the front porch once required the family to move out for a week while the house was fumigated, but it was the visit from a raccoon that excited Dale as a child.

“I could hardly sleep that night, thinking I was going to get a pet raccoon and was so disappointed to learn we couldn´t keep it,” she said.

Being on campus had other advantages, too — access to a bowling alley in Cro where the pins were set by hand (it was demolished and replaced by the dance studio), swimming in the pool, playing softball in front of Cro and sledding down the hill in front of the Lyman Allen Art Museum with other faculty families. The Arboretum ponds provided a great place for ice skating in the winter, and the Caroline Black Garden, with its pathways and hiding places, was the ideal setting for a game of “war” with other children.

In the anti-war spirit of the Vietnam War-era campus, the Dale sisters viewed their neighbors, the Coast Guard cadets, as uniformed representatives of the establishment.
“One summer as kids we took it upon ourselves to protest by sitting on the lawn in front of our house, where Coasties frequently jogged by, to harass them with the cruelest jest we could come up with: “Coasties Eat Post Toasties!” Dale said.

The cadets continued to jog by. The Dale sisters took this as a sign they had won the argument until one retorted, “No we don´t! We eat Captain Crunch!”

When it came time to attend college, Dale opted for CC. She majored in music, taking two years off to pursue an interest in dance before returning to finish her degree. (Her oldest sister, Karen, and youngest sister, Melissa, also attended the College, but each transferred to other schools.) Dale continued to live at home, but eventually moved into a dorm.

“It´s hard to justify spending money to live just a few yards away when home is free, but every 18-year-old knows the importance of being away from home, no matter what the geographical distance may be,” she said.

Dale was assigned to a former custodial closet in Branford that had been converted to living space. Her transition to dorm life was chronicled in the student newspaper under the headline, “Proof the lottery doesn´t play favorites: Professor´s daughter Monica Dale receives smallest room on campus.”

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