Pillsbury Presently Past

1995 Graduation Day at Pillsbury College

Amilee, my mom Becki, Ginger, and me in front of Old Main

This morning I ran past my old college, which was also my dad’s workplace during my junior high and high school years. It closed last year, and beside the sign that proudly bore its name for fifty years is another white one with red letters proclaiming, “For Sale.” My grieving process about this is complicated. Some days I feel like doing as Jenny did to her childhood house in Forrest Gump, and throwing rocks at the buildings. This morning I just felt melancholy, nostalgic, in the perfect mood to write a poem.

Pillsbury Presently Past
by Julia Tindall Bloom, June 13, 2009

come my college compatriots
let’s wander the sidewalks of our old campus
silent sidewalks, stretching sleepily
vaguely remembering the sound and motion
of glory days.

come my college classmates
let’s head to class
once-modern Pillsbury Hall
still smells, looks, feels like the seventies
i prefer the creaky floors
the cracked chalkboards
the clunky doors and windows
of ageless Old Main.

come my college teammates
let’s set up the volleyball net
in the machine-shed gym
it never looked like much
we never won much
but we got sweaty enough
the crowds were moved enough
we had our shining moments.

come my college roommate
time heals wounds
i wonder what it’s done to our old dorm room?
maybe not completely erased the canned-tuna odor
maybe a few sound waves from late-night talks
are still bouncing off those concrete blocks.

come my college sweetheart
let’s sit at that library table
where two child-adults fell in love
(dust is spreading there
over the remains of that flirtatious conversation)
then we could move to the stone bench by the flagpoles
where we fell out again
and gaze across the vacant campus
where we faded apart

years ago
a lone pianist in Kelly Hall
sent practice notes out the window
onto the breeze
some caught in branches of the old enormous trees
some floated up to Old Main’s bell tower
where they rest quietly now
along with the hollers and cheers of a hundred football games,
the ringing “Amens” of a thousand chapel services,
and every last whisper and sigh
breathed in this place.

rain still falls on these gracious lawns
water patiently drips from battered downspouts
life courses through this world
but not like it used to.


  1. My emotions haven’t been quite as mixed as yours, maybe because I wasn’t so involved with the college for so long as you were. But your poem reminds me there were quite a few good times tucked away in there and also that the best things about those years were/are the friendships that have lasted.

    Incidentally, one of the things I remember most about you was helping you burn your dress from touring (drama? singing group?) during a downpour. It was an ugly green thing with a white blouse. Oh, and I think I have a picture of you sitting on that stone bench with a college sweetheart. 😉

  2. Ha! Yes,i remember burning that dress – it was after a spring break touring with the drama team. And it WAS ugly! Yes, it was raining. I remember soaking it in a puddle first.
    Would love to see that picture sometime!
    Do you remember the baby squirrel you snuck into the dorm and kept there for a few weeks?

    • I will see what I can do about the pictures. My collection also includes photos of the dress-burning.

      That squirrel’s name was Squelch. He kinda chose me–I found him near a tree outside the library, and he ran up my leg before I knew what was happening. (A bit of little-known PBBC trivia–Mrs. J. gave off-the-record approval for me to keep him in my room). I kept him in a hamster cage supplied by one of the faculty wives, and fed him milk from doll bottles I bought at Walmart. My plans were to take him home after the end of semester and let him go in my parents’ woods; however, he died after he was accidentally slammed in my dorm room door when I left him with a babysitter while I was at work. Guess that’s what I get for naming an animal “Squelch.”

  3. Very nice. I like your work. Want to buy the campus and start a commune?

    • Thanks Keith – great to hear from you.YES! i totally want to buy the campus and start a commune. Actually, Nathan and i have a pipe dream about making it a big mixed-income mixed-age housing complex. So if you know any millionaires looking for ideas . . .

  4. I didn’t realize you and Amilee were friends…probably because I went to a different college with no football games but the same required chapel services. But, Amilee is my cousin and she’s wonderful!

  5. I had the opportunity to drive by/through it about 3 weeks ago. I have very fond memories of the campus and a few not so fond. Over all, my college experience was one that I would want to do again if I could. Good times and Bad Times helped begin the shaping process to form me into what I am today. I met many friends there. Most special was the McKelvey family, of whom I boast my two best friends in the world. My Wife, Karin and her Brother, John.

    Though not all rosy over the years, I am very grateful that I was able to leave whittle my small mark on the tree of time at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College!

    • Thanks for your reflection, Brian. I so agree with you – my years at Pillsbury were actually some of the most fun and memorable years of my life, definitely my best years of college, and all of my experiences there, good and bad, have shaped me more into that new creation I was meant to be in Christ.

      Pillsbury is also the indirect influence in bringing my husband and me together – his mom and my dad both attended there, and both of our families settled in Owatonna because of Pillsbury. Now Nathan and I are living here in Owatonna bringing up our own children! All rooted in the influence of that little Bible college that only lasted a bit more than 50 years.

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