Legend surrounds bench

I guess I should go into the usual spiel that gets written in this special issue about what it’s like to go to NIU and what to look out for as a new student. But since other people seemed to have already covered this territory, I’m going to do something a little different.

Besides, part of the fun about going to college is learning to deal with all these little annoying tidbits as they come. Being on your own for the first time is a challenge, a test to your independence, a time to decide whether to leap or crawl, a fight to follow your dreams—O.K., enough, I’m getting a little too melodramatic here. Anyway, I’ll offer one little piece of advice—don’t get discouraged, have some fun and always remember to keep a sense of humor (you’ll need it to deal with the Bursar’s Office).

Enough poor-little-freshmen advice. I’m going to tell you a little story I would have enjoyed hearing as a freshman. Coming from a small town, I really didn’t know what to expect when I enrolled in NIU. For me, NIU was this giant university with tons of buildings I would never find and strangers from areas like Chicago and the suburbs who were used to locking their doors and carrying mace.

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about going away to college, leaving behind the townie parties and meeting new and different people. But despite all this enthusiasm, I was still a small-town girl who spent Sundays with the family and knew just about everyone in her hometown.

As a freshman, I could have used a romantic tale about NIU to hold onto when things seemed to get out of control and I felt like I would never find my niche. So, for all of those freshmen that can relate, here is a tale to make NIU seem a little less frightening. Amid all the studying, bills and exams, there lies a little romance.

Planted between Swen Parson and Lowden Hall is a historic bench shadowed by two leaning trees. The bench was built in 1919 and nicknamed the “Poor Tired Out Freshmen” bench by famed “Chick” Evans whose name has been painted in history, honored in the title of the field house at NIU.

The tale behind the bench goes as follows. One day, a disgruntled freshman named Florence had come to the end of her rope. She wandered around campus worrying about a biology class which she seemed to be failing. A test was scheduled for the following day and Florence knew she would never pass. To give her weary feet a rest, she stopped and sat on the “Freshmen” bench. But the more she thought about tomorrow’s test the worse she felt. Her anxiety grew to sobs as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Along came George, who noticed this poor saddened girl sobbing on the bench. He approached her and pondered as to what was making this pretty girl cry. When he heard her problem, he suggested she get herself a tutor and he was just the man for the job. Florence welcomed George’s help and her biology grades began to improve as they continued to meet and study at that very bench. Throughout the rest of their college years, they remained together and upon graduation were married.

To this day, the tale still remains and has developed into a legend at NIU. According to the legend, every underclassmen must kiss their true love at the small bench surrounded by drooping trees in order to graduate from the university.

So, if you believe in a little romance or just want to get away from the crazy, every day business of the university, you can visit this historic bench and dream of your George or Florence. Then, one day you can bring your true love there and plant a kiss on his or her lips. If you’re a cynic, then I guess the bench is just a place to sit on a sunny day and escape the heat.