Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Opening And Closing

Whenever someone from the Department of Athletics had a baby, the joke was that everyone should go visit at 2 in the afternoon.

Why? That's when the hospital in Princeton would have free ice cream.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that it was called Princeton Medical Center at one point. Yesterday, it was the University Medical Center at Princeton.

Today, it's the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

The old hospital on Witherspoon Street had a good run, going back 93 years. For the last four years, construction on the new hospital has been ongoing, leading to today's opening on Route 1.

TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog were both born in the old hospital, as were any number of children belonging to members of the department and University.

At the other end of the road, the hospital was the last place TB ever go to see his old friend Jeb Stuart, who volunteered here in the OAC for years after "retiring" from running "Town Topics," the local weekly newspaper in town.

In between, TB had his own times in the old hospital, with a surgery here, a test there. Fortunately, it was never anything too bad.

He remembers every detail of the two times he went there for the births of his children, both of whom decided the middle of the night would be a good time to get the process going.

When TBJ was born, TB had gotten his hand caught in the garage door while leaving the house and had essentially crushed his fingers, not that anyone seemed to care.

As for LMTB, she made a quick appearance on the scene, leading to a nurse yelling out the window down the parking lot to the doctor to sort of hurry things up, all the while asserting that she had delivered hundreds of babies on her own before a doctor could get there, something that was later admitted to have been fabricated to keep everyone calm at the time.

Anyway, the hospital ceases operations today, with the entire show moved out of town and across Route 1 to the sprawling new campus.

When TB looks out his window, he sees Princeton Stadium, specifically the upper deck and press box that rise beyond Weaver Track and Field Stadium.

When TB first started working here, the view used to be of Palmer Stadium, actually into the old horseshoe stadium that was built five years before the hospital on Witherspoon Street.

Palmer Stadium was the home for football and track and field, and all there was between Jadwin and the stadium was a huge patch of grass. When TB stood on the balcony of Jadwin and looked out, there was an unobstructed view of the field, the goal posts and the rest of the stadium.

TB ran into Bob Cornell, the longtime SID at Colgate who has since retired and who at one point worked in athletic communications at Princeton, this past Sunday at the men's lacrosse quarterfinals at PPL Park in Chester, and when the subject turned to his old place of employment, the first thing he mentioned was carrying a ditto machine up to the Palmer Stadium press box.

For those who don't know what dittos were, they were rudimentary - and messy - copy machines that would make barely readable copies with blue ink. They were mostly used, as TB recalls, to recreate tests for 1970s students and to make copies of stats at games. They were known mostly for their amazing smell, which fascinated every kid who ever had to take a test but first held the paper up to his or her nose.

Palmer Stadium in its glory days was a wondrous place for college football. By the end, it was, well, a dump, a crumbling one at that.

Still, it had its charm.

Every now and then, TB will see a highlight of a game from Palmer or a still picture - maybe even the one with horses parked outside the stadium in its earliest days - and get a bit nostalgic for the old place.

It's the same with the hospital.

Buildings come and go.

One day, Princeton basketball will have a different home than Jadwin Gym, which, if TB's math is correct, has been the home for the Tigers for longer than any other facility the team has used.

One day, Princeton will have to build a new basketball arena, leaving those who competed here in Jadwin or who simply watched others do so to remember those times, those great games, those great events. And to share those memories with others.

Hospitals. Athletic venues.

The experiences in both will remain, long after the buildings are gone.

So best wishes to all who work in the new hospital and all those who require their care. May the good memories far, far outweigh the bad.

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