Baker Unknown: The Enduring Tradition of Waterman Tea
Written by Klara Holscher
Friday afternoons in Waterman: Sounds of Cole Porter on the record player, the chink of china, and a fragrance of fresh scones. A group of friends clusters on the floor in one corner, listening to one girl’s account of living in New York over the summer:
“You get off the subway, and everywhere you’re surrounded by towering skyscrapers and people doing important things with their lives, and it makes you want to do things too. It’s so inspiring!”
Over by the fireplace there is talk of a 9:30 trip to the movies, and then conversation winds along to favorite TV shows and weekend plans. Someone is going to her brother’s wedding. She hurries out the door with promises to Snapchat pictures to the other girls in Waterman.
A more serious discussion of literary submissions crops up among the editors of The Tower Light. One of them just stopped by for a cup of tea on the way to somewhere else. She didn’t really have time; but then, tea is timeless.
Weekly tea at Waterman Dorm spans the last decade or more. No one quite knows when it began, but before the weekly tea there was an annual party at Waterman open to all of campus. A Collegian article notes that on February 9, 1964, MaryAnn Wright, Bev Ulbrich, Ruth Ackerman, and Diane Carlson served “Tea, coffee, and cookies for the annual open house.” Forty-nine years and ten days later, a caption in the 2012-2013 Winona Yearbook records: “Lemon bars are served at Waterman Tea. Baker unknown.”
As long as the tea keeps coming, so do the guests. “Some stop in every Friday, others bi-monthly. We’re glad they make it a regular part of their schedule,” notes Chloe, the dorm’s head RA. “We moved it from Tuesday, and I find that this is my favorite way to spend a Friday afternoon. It’s good to have the chance to talk one-on-one in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Too true. After all, “Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle and relax the studious,” observes Samuel Johnson in his 1757 Essay on Tea.
In the midst of taking on the challenges of serious study, it’s not a bad idea to rejoice in a few simple pleasures. “It might kill your GPA,” one student is known to have said, “but it will improve your soul!”
Klara Holscher, ‘17, is an English Major from Hobart, New York. She possesses a quirky sense of humor, an orange car, and a terrible sense of direction. It remains to be seen whether or not these elements will lead to a career in writing, but regardless, they should afford some amusement along the way.