Students at Slippery Rock, and college campuses all across the country, are gearing up for Valentine’s Day. The holiday represents a celebration of love and affection in it’s purest of forms. While SRU students flock to local restaurants and enjoy the nightlife, it is poignant to look back at what dating was like on campus 50 years ago.
Chuck Banas attended SRU when it was known as Slippery Rock State College from 1967-72, graduating with his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education. At a time in American history where young people were expressing themselves through political protest and controversial films like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” were redefining our culture, Slippery Rock was a quiet college town with little to offer in terms of entertainment.
“I recall Slippery Rock being a pretty sleepy town during my time there,” Banas said. “There were no restaurants in town, only a small hot dog shack on campus. You’d have to drive to Grove City or Butler if you wanted to go to take a date somewhere nice to eat. If you didn’t have a car, you were very limited with what you could do in terms of dating.”
It is more common now for students to connect over social media and to go to popular restaurants like North Country Brewery, or go bowling at Coffaro’s. For Banas, the town Slippery Rock is far different from the one he once called home, who spent most of his time competing on the wrestling and soccer teams. Vincent Science Center had only recently been constructed and less than 4,000 students attended SRU.
Banas was a member of Phi Sigma Epsilon, a fraternity that merged with Phi Sigma Kappa in 1985. It was through fraternity/sorority mixers that relationships were commonly formed at the time. These mixers were often supervised by the administration at SRU and were held at a dance hall on campus called El Gato. The hall stood between Weisenfluh and Rhoads Hall in what is now the Art Building.
“We had dances at El Gato, or sometimes North Hall, every weekend. With Slippery Rock being as quiet as it was, those dances were often the highlight of the week for us. Our fraternity was involved and was associated with many sororities on campus. The dances on Friday and Saturday nights were the best way to meet new people.”
Rules regarding dating at the time were far stricter than now: All residence halls were separated by sex. Banas lived in Patterson Hall when it still housed students, while North and Rhoads Hall housed only girls at the time. Curfews were very strict for female students, having to be back in their dorms each night by 11 p.m.
“When you went to pick up your date, you weren’t allowed to head up to their room,” said Banas. “You waited in the lobby while the front desk paged the girl’s room so they knew to come down. If you were out too late and didn’t get your date back before curfew, you were in deep trouble.”
Slippery Rock now has several restaurants in town and “co-ed” dorms where male and female students regularly interact. School dances have been replaced by weekend parties and messaging each other on social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram. However, one thing hasn’t changed over the last 50 years: love is in the air at SRU, and Valentine’s Day will serve as a celebration of young love here on campus.