I realized this morning that it has now been ten years since I walked across the stage of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and received my BA in History from Auburn University. Ten years since I had the golden bars of a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army pinned on the shoulders of my Army green Class A uniform. It amazes me to realize just how much can change in ten years. Perhaps more importantly, it amazes me how some things don’t.
“After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.” So says Paul Simon in the “missing verse” of The Boxer (which does appear on the Live From Central Park album). This is a theme I hit on with my History of the US Army class I teach at Auburn, now. If there’s one constant to the military, it’s that it’s always changing. The Army I signed up for when I contracted as a cadet in the fall of 2000 was vastly different from the Army that existed a little over one year later, and even more different from the Army I commissioned into in May of 2004. I wore the green Class A uniform in 2004, and when I went to my Officer Basic Course I was wearing the woodland camo Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). When I deployed in 2006 I was wearing the horrendous UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) Army Combat Uniform (ACU) and now wear the modified Dress Blue uniform when we have to get fancy. The Army has been through multiple changes in regulations, strategies, force structure, etc. But this is, more or less, the same as it has always been. We change, we complain about changes and the loss of tradition, and then we adapt our traditions to the changes, until they become grounded in tradition themselves. We get used to the changes. We go on and continue doing the things we love and enjoying what we still have.
“After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.”
When I started my freshmen year at Auburn, Wire Road – after a turn by the old aircraft hangar – ran directly by the Nichols Center up to the intersection at Magnolia. The parking lot was one giant rectangle of concrete paved over the old Max Morris Drill Field. The Eagle’s Cage was still on the concourse near the Quad dorms. That had all changed by the end of my first spring semester when the new parking lot, and the course of Wire and Magnolia had changed to its current configuration. By my senior year at Auburn, Fall 2003, the Science Center Lab Building wasn’t finished yet, and the area where the Engineering buildings are now was just being cleared off for construction to begin. The Village Dorm complex didn’t exist (and a good thing, too, or else there’s no telling how much I would have eaten at the Village Dining as a Cadet; I eat there too much now as an instructor with my office in the Nichols Center) and was just an ugly grass field or parking. Foy was still the Student Union. You could still drive all the way up Thach from the red light at the bottom of the hill by the Village Dorms all the way up to Samford Hall. The eagle statue was still in front of Beard-Eaves, which was still the home of Auburn basketball. The Auburn Arena was C-Zone parking (as was the entirety of the residence parking for the Village Dorms, which I’m sure sounds glorious to many students who complain of lack of parking, today). Some of my precise details may be off, but for the most part this was the way things were. Auburn’s campus was noticeably different when I graduated from the way it looks now.
And at the corner of Magnolia and College Street, two beautiful live oaks still stood tall and showed green no matter the season, other than Saturdays in Fall when they were covered in white, of course.
“After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.”
Those trees are gone. This campus has changed dramatically in just the ten years since I graduated. Old buildings have – and continue to – come down. Except Parker Hall. Somehow Parker Hall is STILL THERE.
New buildings go up. A deranged man killed two beloved trees that have been the site of Auburn celebrations for decades. But those trees weren’t always the focal point. It has been pointed out numerous times that the exact origins of the tradition are in doubt. Originally the power lines were rolled and not the trees. This past year we’ve had to return to rolling wires (and all of the other trees remotely close by) across from Toomer’s Corner since those two beautiful trees are now gone. Toomer’s Corner is undergoing a large renovation as I write this. New trees will be planted for us to roll in the future. The campus looks different than it did ten years ago, which is different from ten years before that, which is much different than a half century or full century ago. But the things we love to proclaim have not: we’re still the Auburn Family. We still believe in a Spirit that is not afraid.
It doesn’t matter what traditions may be slightly changed or disappear altogether. It doesn’t matter which buildings remain or what new buildings spring up. The more things change, the more things stay the same. It has been ten years since I graduated from this wonderful place in the Loveliest Village. I still believe in Auburn. And love it.
Walt Austin graduated from AU in 2004 and currently is a Senior Military Science Instructor at Auburn University. He teaches the Military Science and Leadership II course, along with History of the US Army. He still serves as a Captain in the Georgia Army National Guard, and still enjoys a good cigar whenever possible.
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