POV | A Life of Letters

"The Shriner Shiners" at Commencement in 1973.

Alicia Parlatore Payne ’73 recalls more than 50 years of correspondence with a tightknit group of Hood friends.

Hood Magazine Fall 2023

I first visited Hood in the summer of 1968 with my parents. Even though the campus was devoid of students, as we strolled the beautiful grounds, I knew this was the college for me. And I was right.

When I arrived at Hood for Move-In Day in September 1969, I was assigned to a room on the first floor of Shriner Hall. As soon as all the parents departed, the first-years on our floor got together for dinner. We all became friends pretty quickly, and some of us have stayed that way to this day.

At this point, our group comprises seven women, who all live in different states. We call ourselves “the Shriner Shiners.” We are Toni Lucia, Patt Henry Montgomery, Jill Schonek Pollard, Patti Suydam Ritter, Sally Parkhurst Van Why, Sherry Bronski Waltz and myself, Alicia Parlatore Payne.

As we prepared to leave campus for the final time in May 1973, Jill suggested we keep in touch through a round robin or chain letter, which we started right away. Originally, our letters were handwritten, then written on early computers with pin-feed printers, and this tradition continued evolving as technology advanced. We all moved around a lot, so our master address list had to be constantly updated.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Patt suggested we could continue to connect via Zoom calls, first weekly when we were in total lockdown, then biweekly. We continue to meet in that format in lieu of letters.

Through regular contact, we have kept each other up to date with marriages, divorces, births of children and then grandchildren, deaths of parents, new jobs and relocations as well as the ordinary events of our lives. Sherry has commented that our close friendship was only possible because of the common thread of experiences and memories developed at Hood.

We have had numerous reunions, initially just with husbands, then sometimes with children, until it became too challenging to arrange. When our schedules and commitments started to free up, we began meeting yearly in different places. Patti has helped scout out locations and Sally keeps us supplied with group photos form each event.

Because of this connection, I annually send contributions to Hood. For me, it is important to show appreciation of the people, institutions and events that have shaped my life in positive ways. Without Hood, I would never have known these wonderful women, who all supported me when I was very ill four years ago, and whom I too support when each is in need. They are an essential part of my life. Not incidentally, I met my husband of 50 years in the Shriner desk room.

As Toni said, “This is what 50 (or rather 54) years of friendship looks like.” Our story provides a wonderful example of what makes Hood special. It is not only a place to get a first-class education, but also a place to build enduring, lifelong friendships.

Read the full issue of Hood Magazine here.