Paul VI Catholic High School now occupies what was once the university’s North Campus and before that the old Fairfax High School. I started my freshman days with Mason in 1975, shortly after leaving the air force but still remembering the days when Fairfax High was one of my high school’s rivals. At first, I did not want to attend classes there. I had fresh memories of the days spent walking the constricted hallways of James Madison High School, and I just did not want to return to that feeling. I made sure the bulk of my classes were on the main campus.
Well, from the start this arrangement was impractical since I was a business major, and business and music studies were both housed on the North Campus. But after about three weeks into the semester, I grew to at least like the place. It turns out that parking was easy. I could park my car five minutes before my first class and still get to my seat with two minutes to spare before the lecture started.
Besides that, the ladies in the cafeteria were very friendly. One day, well after the cafeteria had closed for the day, one of the ladies custom-made me a Spam sandwich (my first ever and it was good!). Besides if you weren’t in the mood for what was being served in the cafeteria, the fence outside had a convenient gate to the McDonald’s next door.
The parking lot was next to the old WEEL radio station. The DJ was a Howard Stern wannabe, but he often included his proximity to Mason in his dribbles. This added to the sense of belonging to a community and a great university. It became easier to spot other business majors by default, and my best friend was a music and history major, so after a while the place became home, a place to love.
After the first semester, my routine changed so I would park on the North Campus for early morning classes and hop the Mason shuttle to the main campus for afternoon classes and to hang out at the Student Union. No fighting for parking spaces at the outer rim, a sport I think still happens at Mason.
—Shelton H. Cartwright Jr., BS Business ’78, works for the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He holds an MBA from James Madison University. He met his wife of nearly 32 years, Janice (Tucker) Cartwright, BSN ’78, in the Student Union.