99-year-old from Class of 1936 among those visiting for Reunion 2016 | SUNY Plattsburgh
Alba Chilton ’36 G’69 remembers fondly dancing in the living room of the Clinton Street boarding house she shared with her best friend, classmate and class secretary, Joyce Magoon.
“It was lovely,” the 99-year-old native of Ellenburg said at the Saturday picnic during Reunion 2016 July 9. “Joyce would play the piano; she couldn’t dance and didn’t seem to mind. The rest of us girls would dance. We’d make her father, Mr. Magoon, mad because he would be trying to sleep up on the third floor.”
Joyce was among those in attendance at Reunion 2016, a special time for alumni of all classes to gather in Plattsburgh — on campus and in the city.
In addition to the picnic, the event included tours of residence halls, a Naked Turtle barbecue, 50th Anniversary Class dinner and a bus tour with retired Dean of Students Bill Laundry. The rain and threatening thunder didn’t even stop the annual Mayor’s Cup and Regatta, which drew alumni downtown for on-water and landlubber events that included live music, farmers market, children’s activities and a fireworks show.
A residence life reunion-within-Reunion saw res-life alumni return for events geared especially for them, culminating their celebration at a banquet at Valcour.
‘Big City of Plattsburgh’
Joyce’s family originally lived across the street from Alba in Ellenburg. When the Magoon family moved to Plattsburgh just down the street from Hawkins Hall, called the Normal School at the time, and suggested Alba board with them, she said it was “perfect for me.”
She wanted to venture to the “big city of Plattsburgh.”
“You had to be careful crossing the streets,” she said. “It was so big for a country girl. But I loved it. It was a great life after living in the country to come to the city.”
In the early 1930s, a family sending their college student spending money was no small feat, and Alba’s mother would send her 25 or 50 cents a week.
“Can you imagine getting 25 cents to spend? What’s 25 cents now? But back then, we’d go down the street to downtown and come back with a quarter’s worth of something. You could come home with quite a bit. It was quite a treasure to go down to Margaret Street to spend that quarter,” she said. “We’d stop at St. Peter’s Church to get warm on our way downtown. Talk about the ‘good old days.’”
Rain Didn’t Dampen Reunion
Alba, who lives across the street from Hawkins Hall now at the Vilas Home, expressed amazement at the Angell College Center, where she sat in the atrium waiting for the picnic lunch that had been moved into the Flynt Commons because of Saturday’s rains.
The weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the more than 300 alumni and friends who returned to campus to celebrate their class anniversaries. This year, Reunion celebrated those who graduated in years ending in 1 and 6. Alba was the sole representative for the Class of 1936.
But her daughter-in-law, Kate Chilton, director of conference services at SUNY Plattsburgh’s College Auxiliary Services, was on campus Saturday celebrating her own milestone graduation year. Chilton, originally from Syracuse, N.Y., came to SUNY Plattsburgh to study behavioral science with Dr. Roy Malpass and graduated in 1976. Although she considered occupational therapy after graduation, she met and married Alba’s son, Terry and remained in Plattsburgh.
Office Overlooks Former Dorm
“I worked a few different jobs before coming back to the college,” she said. “I worked at the Monopole for a while. I worked at the (defunct) Center for Lifelong Learning. In 1990, President Charles Warren asked me to work for College Auxiliary Services. I’ve been there ever since. My office window looks out onto my old dorm, Wilson Hall. I’ve come full circle.”
About her mother-in-law, Chilton said, “She’s quite the stalwart soul. She likes to get out every once in a while. When I asked her today if she was ready to go, she said, ‘I am more than ready. Let’s go.’”
Alba earned her teaching degree and moved to Bolton Landing where she taught for a year before returning to teach fourth grade in Ellenburg. At that time, women couldn’t teach if they were married, so she was forced to take a sabbatical when she married her husband, the late John Chilton. The couple was married 55 years when he died in 1995. They adopted two children, Kate’s husband, Terry, and daughter, Linda. She returned to teaching and earned her master’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh 33 years after attending the Normal School.
“We used to laugh at the name, the ‘Normal School,’” the nonagenarian said with a quiet laugh. “We’d say, ‘Of course, we had to go to the NORMAL School’ because we were NORMAL.”