Fall 1964 and dateless in Williamstown: a Tom Bell story

Some of us were savvy during our early days at Williams, cutting a swath through mixers, connecting with a different girl each week, never alone. No doubt you, gentle reader, were in that category.

Some of us almost got it right for homecoming weekend freshman year. One of us remembers a last minute Oh I’m Sorry from a Smith student, but many of us were just figuring out how the whole thing worked. So we convinced our JA, Tom Jack, to give us a ride to Bennington. Where else? We’d never been there but we’d heard a lot about it. There were four of us, and Tom Bell, being a football player with lots of muscle, offered to carry the 6-pack.

Bennington must have known we were coming. Almost no one in sight. We entered one or two of the quaint New England houses that served as dorms (Kilpatrick? Canfield?). In the third house (Booth?), also empty, we decided to take a break and crack open a beer. The noise of the pop tops must have alerted the sole student there that night to our presence because she came downstairs, sized us up in one glance, saying something Williams freshmen? Here for your Bennington experience? Well, we did offer her a beer, which she politely declined and then headed back up stairs to her room. I think she put on a Vivaldi concerto. We demurred. Bell shifted position, sitting on a small antique table, which in nanoseconds disintegrated with a loud crack onto the floor. Bell was ok, but the table was not and we knew that, despite Tom’s Cheshire cat grin, that it was time to move on, get out of Booth (Dodge?). We left silently, Bell in the lead with the remaining cans of beer in his grasp.

No alternative but to hitchhike back. We were lucky. The very first car stopped. But we were not lucky; it was a police car and they questioned our right to bear beer. Tom took the brunt of all this as the carrier of the 6-pack (well, 2-pack by then) and he handled himself admirably, promising to make a court appearance in a few days.

Phew. Now to get back. Out on Route 7, a sedan with two guys pulled over. They obviously had been drinking and probably doing something else as well. Bell took over. As the Pownal Race Track came into view, he cajoled them into reducing their speed from 100 miles per hour to a more reasonable 70. He listened sympathetically to their complaints and offered advice as needed and he guided us home. We got out the car at the junction of Route 7 and Route 2, three of us with knees trembling; Tom just taking it in stride. Next week, his name reached print in the North Adams Transcript; he’d kept his word and shown up in court. Having read that, one of the football coaches joked with him about being picked up for drinking in Vermont. No penalties for breaking training, that was just pure Bell.

Curious as to who Tom’s companions were that night? That’s what the comment box below is for. Go ahead and use it.

One comment

  • Two others on this adventure were Tom Stevens and Jim Barns. Jim and Tom had to appear in Bennington Court. Jim for drinking under age. It was Colt 45. Wonder what Dean Hyde thought seeing two freshman in court so soon?

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