Girls' Week Out
Thanks, "Good Morning America": Madison roomies win Caribbean cruise
By Darcie Roberge (’06)
Ten Madison College roommates who met as freshmen in 1966 sailed off to the Caribbean in February — all expenses paid — thanks to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. The Madison roomies entered and won an essay contest for a “Girls’ Week Out” cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel.
One of 15 winning teams
When the roomies attended Madison, dust bunnies were a major campus offense, according to the winning essay by Linda Armistead (’70). The group was selected as one of 15 winning teams and appeared live from aboard ship on GMA.
The roomies have kept their 40-year friendship going “by keeping in touch year-round — by phone, in person, in thoughts and at annual reunions.”
Good Morning America’s Caribbean Cruise chicks include 10 Madison College Class of 1970 roomies: Linda Chester Armistead of Virginia Beach; Kristen “Kris” Keller Clark of Alexandria; Rhonda “Ronni” Bilotti Miller of Alexandria; Carmen Wray Warfield of Richmond; Nancy Franklin of Denver; Helen Schaumburg Quinn of Denver; Bonnie Back Berner of Rye, N.Y.; Carolyn Schutz Bowman of Amherst, N.H.; Christine “Chris” Cruse Butcher of Chester Springs, Pa.; and Karen Doane Davenport of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Late night card games and dust bunnies
The women first met in the winter of 1966 during their second semester at Madison College. “When I first got to school, I didn’t know anyone,” says Carmen Wray Warfield (’70). Six of the women lived in Spotswood, and the other four lived in Ashby. After Christmas break, the girls living in Spotswood were called into the dean’s office and told that they were being exiled to the new residence halls “down the hill.” Apparently, their late night card games and dust bunnies under the beds had almost caused their housemother to have an anxiety attack. They needed three more roommates to share a suite, so they asked the girls that lived in the neighboring residence hall to join them.
“We all just had a good time together,” says Bonnie Back Berner (’70). “We had fun and laughed a lot.”
Close quarters build relationships
Living in close quarters also aided in building the relationships, according to Warfield. The roomies also participated in similar activities: Eight of the girls were involved with Sigma Kappa, and two were members of Tri-Sigma.
Madison College was just embarking on co-ed status, so Berner says, “During the weekends, boys from nearby colleges would rent trucks or vans and come for the occasional blind date. There were so many rules that sometimes you didn’t know when you were breaking a rule.”
Warfield was dismissed her junior year because she got married and didn’t inform the dean within the proper time frame. Even though she and another classmate left Madison College before graduating, the 10 remained tight. “We were in each other’s weddings, and some of us lived near each other, so it wasn’t too hard to keep in touch,” says Warfield. The roomies kept in touch individually through phone calls and various road trips. However, it wasn’t until their first reunion in 1969 that the women really began to focus on getting all 10 together.
From that point on, the group has met annually in October. “Our reunion trips and friendships,” Armistead says, “include hiking, kayaking, white-water rafting, beach walks, kids, grandkids, surviving abuse, cancer of a young sibling, health issues, parents’ deaths, kids’ weddings, master’s degrees, professional careers; and turning 20, 30, 40, and 50 — together."
The group’s favorite activity, however, is simply sitting, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Future reunion trips being planned include stops in Las Vegas and New York City.
“We were a support group to each other during our growing up years at college,” says Berner. “As you mature, you figure out what’s important to you.”
Warfield adds, “We’ve been through a lot together. We aren’t going to let this friendship die.”
Good Morning America crusie winning essay, "The Roommates"
By Linda Armistead ('70)
It all began one day in August 40 years ago. Our first day of college. How nervous we all were. First time away from home — Madison College, Harrisonburg, Va., a small girl’s school now known as James Madison University. We were about to meet the strangers we would be living with and little did we know, the people we would be sharing the rest of our lives with. We all managed to survive our first semester, grades and all. It was right after we came back from Christmas that we were called in to the dean’s office and informed that our housemother was on the verge of a “nervous breakdown” and of all things, it was our fault. Something about late night canasta games and too many “dust bunnies” under the bed. Remember this was 1966, and it seemed that “dust bunnies” were a big deal. Our only choice was to be exiled “down the hill” to new dorms. We needed three more to share our suite with us. We asked the girls who lived next door if they would consider it even though they thought we were the wild girls who broke rules and skipped classes. They agreed and then asked six of their friends from high school who lived in another dorm to join us and share a bathroom. Anyway, we all moved.
We all shared joy and laughter and were in each other’s weddings and cried about things that happened in our childhood. Eight of us joined the same sorority, two others joined another. Some dropped out and finished college later but we never lost contact. The things we have been through in these 40 years: 18 marriages, 10 divorces, premature death of a spouse at 27, kids, grandkids, sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse by a spouse, cancer of a young sibling, a spouse struck by lightening, sibling suicide, and early deaths of our parents from breast cancer, AIDS, lung cancer, heart attacks. It goes on and on. But, alas, the good times are too numerous to mention, kayaking, ski lodges, white water rafting, hiking, beach walks, kids’ weddings, Master’s Degrees, professional careers, raising great kids, turning 20, 30, 40, and 50…together.
We have lived and loved each other for 40 years. We meet once a year somewhere to laugh, cry, help each other through life’s issues. We stay in contact throughout the year by phone, in person, and in thoughts. We never end a phone call without saying, “I love you.” There is nowhere too far to travel. We live in six states from East to West. We just love each other so much. Our only concern is when the day will come when one of us is not around. This submission is the greatest gift I could give to these women who have shaped my life. They have been there for me and for each other. Please let us win; we are really cute and fun. We would make great contest winners.