An Attempt to Blend in at The Harvard Rugby Club Ball

August 1, 2020
An Attempt to Blend in at The Harvard Rugby Club Ball

We were having breakfast in the lovely Boston home of Jen, David’s sister, and Rob, her husband who was an Orthopedic Surgeon at Mass General Hospital. He was also President of the Rugby Football Club at Harvard University.

Fiona and I were both students at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and we had come for the summer with our boyfriends, David and Mark (who were in 2 different men’s Oxford colleges) on the British Universities North America Club Charter plane from London to New York. David and Fiona spent much of their first 2 months with his sister, Jen and her family in Boston.

Mark and I had gone north to Toronto on the overnight bus from New York the day we arrived. We both found jobs there as a waiter and waitress for a month before I had to do a dissection course which I chose to do in McGill university in Montreal. Then Mark and I went canoeing in Algonquin National Park, Ontario.

We camped under our sheet of heavy-duty plastic and portaged the canoe over hillocks between the lakes, often spending 6 or more hours a day paddling.

Boston seemed a good place to buy the car.

The four of us had arranged on our flight from London to New York, that we would meet up for our last month, buy a car between us and travel to the west coast and back. Boston seemed a good place to buy the car and Jen was able to take David and Fiona to second hand lots to find one. They drove the rusty ’55 Chevy Station Wagon up to Canada and picked us up on the roadside in Algonquin Park. We then headed west on the Trans-Canadian highway which was finished in the Rocky Mountains while we were driving west on it from Toronto.

11,000 plus miles later we pulled into Jen’s home where we were invited to spend our last weekend in North America and enjoy the glorious New England Fall in the latter part of September.

Soon after we had sat down at breakfast the next morning, Rob announced,“Tonight is the Harvard Rugby Club Ball and you are all invited.” A silence followed as Fiona and I looked at each other wondering what we could wear.

A silence followed as Fiona and I looked at each other wondering what we could wear.

Jen noticed our concern and made some remark to change the subject, glancing at both of us in a reassuring way. After eating, when Rob had gone off to the hospital, and we were all helping to clear the table. Jen told Fiona and I she had an idea for what we could wear tonight. She would take us on a shopping expedition. That caused some anxiety as neither of us had much money left. I had earned enough in my month as a waitress to pay for 2 months of subsistence living, but all we carried could be fitted in a backpack.

My wardrobe had consisted of 2 pairs of short shorts, 2 sleeveless blouses, one tank top and a long-sleeved cotton blouse, one sweater and a very thin dralon skirt and top which folded into almost no space, but had worked as my “best” outfit. I had flip flops and a pair of black, flat slip-ons for shoes, basic underwear, a swimsuit and an anorak. All our clothes could be washed out when we camped and spread out to dry in the car the next day.

An Attempt to Blend in at The Harvard Rugby Club Ball.

We need not to have worried. Jen took us to Woolworths and we followed her to the tea-towels. She held up a couple of pretty blue ones. “You would look good in these if we make you a dress, Margery, and how about the yellow and orange ones for you, Fiona – they would be stunning with your dark hair. “

Jen was right. We chose the designs we liked, draped them around us, and were very pleased with the price tags. We decided to surprise Rob and the boys and not tell them of our plan, but Fiona and I needed to spend an hour before we left to go down to the boathouse on the Charles River where the Ball was being held, sewing each other into our tea-towel ball gowns under Jen’s supervision. Rob never noticed we were missing for a while because he had to go early to make sure all the arrangements were in order for food, drinks, tickets etc. He met us as we entered and I could see he approved of our creative, and quite striking dresses.

I think we all had a good time, and Fiona and I may have the distinction of being the only people ever to attend the Harvard Rugby Football Club Ball clad in tea-towels from Woolworths.

About Dr. Margery Franklin

After 40 years of practicing pediatrics, retirement has afforded Margery the opportunity to travel more extensively and pursue her interests in photography and writing. She often travels alone, but sometimes with one or more friends as when she walked 90 miles on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2016.

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