The move did not impair young Buchman's high spirits. At Allentown High School - three and a half blocks from his new home - he and a friend decided to explore the loft, which meant crawling around on the exposed rafters. Buchman slipped and one leg went through the ceiling of the classroom below, to the delight of the pupils and the annoyance of the master. As at Perkiomen, he contributed items of gossip to the school magazine. 'Why does a certain lass carry a picture of Athletics Team ‘95 to school?' he asked. 'She surely has a reason!' At the same time, he was telling a friend that, although he loved dancing, he would give it up when he was twenty-one because he was going to be a minister.
He duly entered Muhlenberg College, a liberal arts institution owned and run by the Lutheran Ministerium, whose prime purpose was to provide the church with a steady stream of ministers. Buchman himself ‘was pining to go to Princeton’, but his father was adamant that Muhlenberg, just a mile from home on 11th Street, was more suitable. The students wore black suits and ties; theology, together with German and Greek, loomed large in the Curriculum; and those who aspired to the cloth were expected to teach Sunday School and visit the sick. Buchman took a Sunday School class at a local mission and spent a good deal of time visiting hospitals and orphanages. But, in other ways, he scarcely comported himself in the accepted earnest fashion.
To begin with, he took painting lessons. He also attended Mrs Chapman's dancing academy on Hamilton Street and was not slow to put into practice what he had learnt. Sometime in 1897 a party was given by Mrs Chapman's pupils, to which each invited a young lady. Afterwards, said the local newspaper, they ‘repaired to Peters and Jacoby’s where they enjoyed oysters on the half-shell, fried oysters, chicken... ice-cream and cake’. On this occasion, it added, ‘There was only one toast, ‘Pitch in.’ Its repetition was not deemed necessary.’5
In the winter, there were sleighing parties to villages as far away as Nazareth. ‘We'd go and dance all night’, recalled Buchman, ‘and then drive home fourteen miles by sled in the early morning.’ On a visit to Allentown later in life, he pointed out the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity house where he had taken twelve girls to a dance: ‘I couldn't bear to disappoint them.’
At college, he was business manager of the paper, drew cartoons for the year book, the Ciarla - Prohibition appears as a severe and crusty old man - was an enthusiastic member of the tennis and bicycle clubs, won a physical culture prize, was class vice-president for the second half of his senior year, and amused himself writing dramatic sketches and poetry of a romantic character and acting in the freshman play.