Goodbye, Animal Dorm

I went to a little college in the middle of nowhere. I’ve written about it a time or two; it nearly followed a hundred other small rural colleges to extinction in the eighties, but bounced back in a huge way (and, in this environment where people are starting to take the higher ed bubble seriously, provides an excellent value for the educational dollar, especially for science majors, nursing majors, pre-meds (!), teachers and a fewer other areas.  Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you, alumni office!).  Back then, it was known for a top-flight nursing program, athletic programs that fought waaaay above their weight, and a concert choir that was pretty internationally famous

But I come today not so much to praise Jamestown college The University of Jamestown, but to razz it.

(And not for changing its name to University of Jamestown, although I could).

Among Jamestown’s salient virtues – it never had fraternities. No vapid insipid Greek blar-di-blar ever poked its nose onto the campus. We used frat boys for firewood at Jamestown College.

What the college had were dorms. Three of them

Up on the far north end of campus (at that time – the campus has grown as the student population has doubled), New Hall dated from the seventies; it was basically an apartment building for married students (and, sometimes, groups of 3-4 upperclassmen who got along really well). 

Also on the north side of campus, Kroeze Hall (pronounced “Cruise-y”) was from the sixties: it was full of modern amenities, like shower stalls, telephone jacks, water pressure.

And then there was Watson Hall.

Built in 1930 on the south side of the campus, on the edge of the hill overlooking Jamestown, it was old, and it showed. The rooms were…rooms. That’s it. 14 feet by 10 feet. Two beds – twin-size.  Two closets, big enough to hold just barely more than the pre-grunge wardrobe I had. Two desks. In-room phone not an option even if you DID want to pay for it (and I did not); there was one phone per floor. Two shower heads and three toilets per floor, housing 40 or so guys (or gals, after 1982 when the third, top floor was ceded to the women, not so much to cut down on the partying as make it less violent). And if you flushed while someone was in the shower, you yelled “SHOWER” at the top of your lungs, because with the cold water flushing the toilet, anyone in the shower had to get clear before getting scalded. It was all on the same run of pipes.

Rodents were not strangers. Hot and stuffy in warm weather, its ancient steam heat system was incapable of subtlety, either chilling the residents or clankily steaming them into sweaty indolence.

But there was a chummy esprit de dorm about the place. People either stayed in Kroeze (or tried Watson and moved across campus at the first opening), or stayed in Watson their whole time at JC. The resident assistants were generally low-key and laissez-faire about rules; if you had a few beers or a girl in your room after hours (it was a dry, nominally-Presbyterian campus – no alcohol allowed, and the genders were supposed to get off each other’s floors by 11pm, or 1am on weekends), as long as you didn’t make a ruckus, it wasn’t a federal case.

The inmates hated and loved the old building. It’s petty hardships gave the locals a crude cameraderie. It was Jamestown’s Animal Dorm.

I don’t miss much about college – but i do get a little nostalgic over that old dorm.

But as the man said, everything dies, that’s a fact:

Christmas break will see the demolition of the building’s west annex, and construction will begin on a 3,100-square foot addition to the west side of the building.”Our plan is to work on the addition while the University is in session and work in the main building over the summer,” says Tom Heck, Vice President for Planning and Administration [and my Econ teacher]

The addition will include the building’s new main entrance, an elevator, a Resident Director’s office, new restrooms and shower rooms for each floor, and expanded lounges with kitchenettes on the second and third floors.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Other work will include aesthetic improvements in the hallways, new electrical lines and upgraded lighting, and installation of air conditioning and a sprinkler system. Work will be completed in time for the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

Have these people no respect for tradition?

Hope all you epicurean punks learn to appreciate what you’re missing!

6 thoughts on “Goodbye, Animal Dorm

  1. Well, Mitch, you’ve pretty much described military barracks, but most were concrete block structures, cheap ass aluminum windows in some, old double sash in others (the barracks that I was in while in tech school at Rantoul, IL, dated back to 1947, and had the wooden jobs and hardwood floors that we had to keep polished to a slippery shine) large latrines with gang showers, linoleum tile floors in the rooms that could accommodate up to four people, at least that’s how many lockers were in each room serving as “closets” and that old steam heat. Many a sub zero NoDak winter morning I awoke with my teeth screaming anchor’s aweigh and as bad as I had to go, I still hesitated before getting out of my nice warm bed and to run down the hall to the latrine. At least, it was warmer in there IF everyone remembered to shut the doors at night. Ah, memories!

  2. Are you sure you’re not describing Tommy Hall (St. Thomas Aquinas Residence Hall), where I lived freshman year? Sounds darn similar.

    The skinny kid who lived across the hall from the phone, Brian, hated to answer it because the calls were never for him and he had to walk down the hall to pound on your door to yell “Phone.” So one day as it was ringing and ringing, I walked down to answer only to find the call actually was for him and a girl besides. Just as he stuck his head out to ask “Who is it” I told her “I’m sorry, he’s down at the weight room working out, call back in a few hours.” Jerk.

  3. I had a similar experience at the freshmen dorm where went to school. Of the three multi-story dorms at the time, it was the only one that lacked A/C. It had windows that functioned to let a breeze in year round though. It also allowed us to imagine living in a War on Poverty public housing high rise like the family on “Good Times”. The elevator rarely worked so you know could I-D an outsider by watching them stand outside the elevator doors for an elevator that was never going to show; nearly every Monday, most of the hallway lights were busted out by the weekend revelry; and the urine smell in stairwells had its own name inspired by the buildings name.
    About a twenty years later I was back for a nephews graduation. They had put in all new windows, the building had A/C and the tribute to public housing was lost to the ages. Progress.

  4. Bosshoss-
    I have a picture somewhere of my grandfather posed in front of the quarters he was assigned by the army as a married man with a child. Granddad was a non-com and this was Fort Leavenworth in the mid 1930s.
    It looks just like those gruesome pictures you sometimes see of slave housing in the old South. A long, wooden, ramshackle, one story building, subdivided into apartments, with sagging porches and metal chimney pipes for coal burning stoves every fifteen feet or so.

  5. PM; Yup! I’ve seen those, too. Right here at Fort Snelling are several examples of those types of things. We have several of the enlisted quarters building simply being left to turn to a pile of rubble.

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