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Georgia Southern roommates renew friendship after 66 years

Still young after all these years

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Posted: January 31, 2007 5:12 p.m.
Updated: February 16, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Dell Merritt and Mary-Thomas King didn’t know what to expect when they decided to get together. The two, who were freshman roommates at Georgia Teachers College in 1939, hadn’t seen each other for 66 years, but the Georgia Southern Centennial gave them a good excuse to return to campus.
    “After all these years, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Merritt, “but we took up right where we left off!” Recently, the two enjoyed lunch and a campus tour with Del Presley, Georgia Southern professor emeritus and Centennial historian.
    King and Merritt explored their dormitory, East Hall—now Anderson Hall—and took a good look at the room they occupied as roommates. They recalled the young men who brought peanuts to their first floor windows and the good times they had at dances in the Alumni Gym. Dancing was a major pastime, with tea dances at the Women’s Club in Statesboro and formal dances at the Jekyll Hotel. Of the 800 or so students on campus in 1939, there were far more women than men.
    What’s different about Georgia Southern today?
    “The different way the students dress caught my eye,” said Merritt. “We wore skirts, blouses, sweaters—today it’s low-rise jeans and hi-rise shirts! And the cell phones—everyone’s on the phone between classes. And East Hall—all the dorm rooms are now offices!”
    “I’m impressed by the new buildings,” said King. “Everything seems large compared to the buildings I remember. And I think it’s more beautiful today than when we were here.”
    Merritt, who lives in Fitzgerald, Ga., taught high school English for many years, retiring from Screven, Ga. She has one son, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
    King, also a retired teacher, lives in Sylvania, Ga., and maintains an apartment in Decatur, Ga., near her daughter. She met her husband, John, at Georgia Southern, and three of her four children have graduated from their mother’s alma mater.
    How do these two Georgia Southern alumnae feel about their lives today?
    “I still feel 18 inside,” said Merritt. “Having good health helps.”
    “I still feel 16,” said King. “and today has been great.”
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