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Brett Tomlinson: In this episode of PAW Tracks we talk with Wallace Good ’72, who had his first exposure to Princeton — and Reunions — early in his life.
Wallace Good: My Princeton path began when I was five years old, and I marched in the P-rade with my grandfather down Washington Street behind the elephant, so that was very exciting. I can still remember the ledges of the stone walls as we descended down Washington Street, and they just were high over my head. Then we came out probably just below Guyot and into a playing field at that point, and that’s where the tents were set up. That was my first experience at Princeton.
My father died when I was 15, and he was a Princeton grad, and he lived in Blair Arch. He married my mother, who was his roommate’s older sister, so it was a whole series of interrelated Princeton events that weave through my life. I knew that it was the place I wanted to go to try and experience maybe something about my father and his past.
BT: Good would find a niche with a club that wasn’t part of the campus scene when his dad was a student in the 1940s.
WG: I had noticed that there was this Outing Club and that they did trips, and I was interested in sailing, and I was interested in skiing. It looked the only way I was going to get off campus to do those kind of things was to join the Outing Club, so I did, and became a pretty active member in my first year. So active that at the meeting at the end of the year in the spring, when they were electing officers, I was elected vice president.
I came on campus freshman week the second year, and this time, I was greeted by a proctor and he said, “We have news for you.” I showed up pretty early in the week. I might have showed up a couple days before the week started, because we had to get set up for the Outing Club and for the presentation we make right at the beginning.
At any rate, he said, “The President has been arrested, and he’s been taken off campus for being probably one of the major drug dealers on campus, so he will not be the President anymore. You are now the President.” He handed me the keys to the Outing Club office, and I became, with no preparation, the President of the Outing Club.
We struggled through that year, and the only asset — we had a couple of assets in a storeroom down below Wilson College. The next set of buildings down were still dorms at that time, and in the basement of one of those dorms they had a storeroom for us.
So there was a little bit of equipment in there, and the only other asset we had was a VW Bus that had been donated to the club by former members that got together enough money to buy an old VW Bus. This would have been 1969, so you can imagine, it did not have a lot of power. It had had a lot of rough use, and it was very hard to keep it mechanically sound. After a trip it would usually break down, and would have to be repaired. Usually, the clutch was gone because, for some reason, Princeton students didn’t seem to know how to drive a standard transmission, especially a VW standard transmission full of people going on some trip, fairly distant. We’d go to Northern Vermont around Stowe to go skiing, and we went down to the Chesapeake Bay eastern shore to go for the sailing. It had seen a lot of miles or a lot of heavy use.
By the end of the year, it couldn’t be maintained anymore. I told the university that I was sorry, and also that I did not see how it could possibly be replaced, because there was no money to do that.
At the end of the year, the group decided that there wasn’t a reason to proceed, because we didn’t have an asset for travel. Some time during the next year or two, it folded as a club, because this was just a club run by a bunch of volunteers.
The University, they took over that concept, and that is what Outdoor Action is now. That’s how the transition happened from the Outing Club to Outdoor Action.
BT: Outdoor Action built a lasting presence on campus, with some 800 students — leaders and freshmen — involved in the annual frosh trip program. For Good, that happy ending speaks to his overall feelings about Princeton during his student days.
WG: The University administration really supported the students. We were really cared for and worked with the administration,and didn’t feel like we were at loggerheads. Certainly, there were lots of opportunities to have disagreements and some demonstrations, but really overall, it was a very cordial and life-giving place.
BT: And those two years in the Outing Club? They had a lasting impact on Good’s life after college.
WG: I live where I live because of Princeton. I fell in love with Vermont and I thought, if I ever get to pick a place to live, I think I’d like to pick Vermont. I would never had seen Vermont if it hadn’t been for my experience here at Princeton. In 1985 when I was coming out of the military, I got a position in a little town in Northern Vermont, Saint Albans, Vermont. I’m an anesthesiologist, so I was the Chief of Anesthesia there for five years, and was on staff for another ten. Now I practice in Plattsburg, New York.
It’s very interesting. I live on a ridge at the top, overlooking Saint Albans, and I can see as far as Middlebury to the south and Bread Loaf, and I can see Jay to the north, and on the other direction we can see Montreal lights, and we can see as far south as Mount Marcy, which is the tallest mountain in the Adirondacks. We live right on Lake Champlain and I have sailing. I have skiing. I have cross-country skiing out my back door. We have hiking right out my back door on those cross-country trails during the summertime. It’s a wonderful place.
BT: Our thanks to Wallace Good for sharing his story. Brett Tomlinson produced this episode. The music is licensed from FirstCom Music.