Back In My Day: Interviewing Members of the Loomis Chaffee Community About Life Before the Pandemic

Janus Yuen '21, Columnist

A week ago, I had a curious interview with Ernest Richardson, a member of the Loomis Chaffee Class of ’21, about life before the pandemic. The following is a transcript of our conversation.

Hi Ernest, thank you for answering my call. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you?

Greetings, my name is Ernest Richardson, and I’m a four year senior from Simsbury, CT. I’m involved in the Log, the yearbook, and the Darwin Club. I am currently off-campus, but I used to reside in Taylor.

Tell us about life at Loomis before the pandemic. What did you do? What was it like?

Ah. Before the pandemic. You see, back in my day, Loomis was a much harsher place to live than it is today. We were crammed into rooms 19 students apiece. We didn’t have any heating, so we huddled together like penguins to keep warm whenever it snowed. Every morning at 5:30, Mr. B would storm into the quad with his bagpipes and wake us up for breakfast. Now, they don’t make breakfast like they used to. I’ve seen it: you guys get eggs and cereal and oatmeal and bacon every morning. Back in my day, everything we ate came straight off the farm. Now I mean straight off. We learned to wash the dirt off our potatoes every morning before biting in. You think Flik broccoli is raw? My freshman year roommate, Benjamin, lost all 60 of his teeth trying to bite into a single floret. Now that’s real fiber. For protein, meanwhile, we would crack eggs––fresh out of the hen, by the way––into our bowls before gulping them raw…
… is everything alright?

No. I’m fine. It’s just… I’m sorry. Wow. I just get emotional when people talk about the before times. I’ve been quarantining in here for too long. I’ve lost track of the days, the months, the years, writing discussion posts on an act of King Lear every night and ritually refreshing the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard every ten minutes. I’m–I’m so sorry. Please continue.

Anyways. So after breakfast, we had classes, of course. For some reason, English would always come first. We would start each class with a quotations test on Pride and Prejudice before moving on to a nineteen paragraph in-class essay. Every sentence had to be an LC interpretive sentence, by the way, and I almost failed some of my classes because I couldn’t integrate enough epistrophic antimetaboles into every paragraph. Mind you, this was back when the average grade was a D, though this didn’t prevent many of my classmates from being accepted to Yale, Harvard, or Princeton. Now that I think about it though, those were our safety schools. Anyways, back to classes. Next would be Math. We didn’t have Desmos then, so we had to learn the graphs of every function by heart. Not to mention the unit circle, which we memorized down to every 180th of a pi-radian. We also had to prove every theorem from scratch––every morning––before we could use it––including the postulates. I can’t remember too clearly what we would do for the other classes, though. I do remember, however, that school was dismissed at 2:15 AM, and then we would have practice. I was on the cross country team and we had to run uphill both ways to practice. We would then jog to Boston as a warmup before doing 100-by-99 Dillinger Circuits up and down the Appalachian Trail. Then we would jog back to the Island in time for supper. For supper, we ate the shells of the eggs that we had gulped down for breakfast. Why the eggshells? For the calcium, of course. It’s not like we had any cows we could drink from. After supper, we had 5 hours of study hall before going to bed by 10:30 PM.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Uhh… Thank you so much for your insights, Ernest. I guess, because I came as a new sophomore, I… never heard of many of these things. What difference a year makes! Now, turning our attention back to the present, how were you affected by the pandemic?

They don’t make pandemics like they used to. I haven’t seen COVID turn a young man blue. Last pandemic, my brother, who had been serving in the Ardennes, came home sick––and with blue skin. I got sick soon after and they threw me in the ditch.

What do you mean by “last pandemic”? And why did you get thrown in a ditch?

Back in my day, we didn’t have any of your fancy masks or socialist distancing.
When someone got sick, they threw them in the ditch.

That’s awful. Why though?

Quarantine! Mr. B’s policy!

Who’s Mr. B again?

Mr. Batchelder, the head of school!

Wait. What year are you graduating again?

I graduated in 1921.

This is why I don’t interview people over landline anymore.
Uhh… sorry, wrong number.