Living in a College Dorm During the 60s
An Old College Dormitory
Living in a Dorm
From 1962-1966 I lived in one of the Lakeshore Residence Halls on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The dorm was called Tarrant House, and it was one of eight houses in the Adams Hall quad on the shores of Lake Mendota. I decided to stay there for four years because I did not want the responsibilities of apartment living. My room in the dorm was within 10-15 minutes of walking distance from classes, and, of course, three square meals a day were served in the dining hall. This article will reminisce about the general nature of dorm living, services for dorm residents, and the fun we had.
When I first arrived at Tarrant House in the fall of 1962, I was a college freshman living away from home for the first time. My first impression of the dorm building was that of a small, old red-bricked four-story structure within a quadrangle of seven other adjoining buildings. There was a small gatehouse at the entrance of the quad where residents' individual mailboxes were kept.
Upon entering the house, there was a tiny entrance way with five or six steps leading up to the first floor. No elevators made for a long jaunt up to the fourth floor where I had a room when moving in. On the first floor, there was a den for public use as a lounge. There were also seven or eight single and double rooms arranged in a U pattern around the hallway. With the exception of the den, this same pattern was repeated on the second through fourth floors. The total occupancy of Tarrant House was about 50 with 12 young men on each floor. During my first few days in the dorm, junior and senior class men living in other rooms on the fourth floor instructed me to answer the public telephones in the hall by saying, "Fourth floor Tarrant, home of the kings, the penthouse." Lavatories on each floor had three or four sinks, three commodes, and one shower. There were no bathroom facilities in individual rooms.
Room 409 Tarrant
During my first semester in the dorm, I shared a room with Max K. who was from the state of Illinois. The room was tiny and spartan, measuring two meters by approximately four meters with a window facing the door. We had two adjoining study tables with bookshelves and built-in lamps on one side of the room, and a bunk bed on the other side. There was also a small walk-in closet that we both shared. For heating, there were two steam radiators next to the window. Since there was very seldom any hot weather prior to June, the rooms had no fans or air-conditioning.
Tarrant House Dorm Residents
Our house had a good mix of both in-state and out-of-state students; however, there were very few foreign residents. I remember that most of the guys were majoring in traditional disciplines such as chemical and electrical engineering, pre-med, business, accounting, pharmacy, agriculture, education, and history. One senior class man was an army veteran majoring in engineering. Some of the residents were also active in the marching band, and one freshman who was called "animal" was a big tackle on the football team. Overseeing all of the residents was a residence counselor or "house mouse" as we all called him. Harlan H was a graduate student in education who had a suite of rooms on the second floor. He was responsible for counseling all dorm residents and making sure none of the guys got into trouble. Drinking was a big problem among some of the younger students who never hit the books and eventually flunked out.
All residents had to participate in dormitory government. Each house elected a social chairman, president, and a representative to the Lakeshore Halls Association which oversaw all of the dorms in the Lakeshore Residence Halls complex. The house president was responsible for administering a house budget and setting house dues. The social chairman working hand in hand with the president organized social activities such as picnics, candlelight dinners, and house parties for the dorm residents with coeds from other dorms.
Services for Tarrant House Dorm Residents
Provided services for all dorm residents included:
1. Dining Hall
Residents of Tarrant House and Adams Hall shared an eating facility with occupants of Tripp Hall, a men's dorm, and Schlichter Hall, a women's dormitory. About 1,200 residents of the three halls ate all of their meals with the exception of the Sunday evening meal in Van Hise Hall. The name of the food service hall was later changed to Carson Gulley Hall after Van Hise Hall became the name of a new building on campus in 1966. Meals weren't too bad, and I remember having to wear a suit and tie to every Sunday dinner. In the evenings Van Hise and later Carson Gulley were open to dorm residents as a study hall.
2. Postal Services
During my junior year, a small post office was built near the entrance of Tripp Hall. Postal services including the mailing of letters and parcels as well as the purchase of stamps were available for the residents of Tripp, Adams, and Schlichter. The post office also hired students for part-time work.
3. Laundry Services
Coin-operated laundry services were available in the basement of Noyes House which was in the Adams Hall complex. Coin-operated washers and dryers were available to all of the residents of Adams. There were also a few ironing boards.
4. Television Room
During the early 60s, most dorm students didn't have their own TV. When we wanted to watch TV, we would go to the basement of Siebecker House where there was a 27-inch black and white TV. A big attraction was watching Green Bay Packers games on Sunday afternoons. During the time of the World Series, Tarrant House would usually rent a TV and put it in the den for watching the games.
5. Snack Bar
Lakeshore Halls Association operated a snack bar in the basement of the food services hall. The Hideaway served fountain drinks along with hamburgers, sandwiches, and pizza. Having a jukebox and a very cozy environment, it was a favorite hangout for students who wanted to take study breaks from upstairs. Lucy Johnson, the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, once visited the Hideaway while she was dating a University of Wisconsin student.
University of Wisconsin Campus Tour
What We Did for Fun
1. Social Activities with Co-ed Dorms:
Picnics and parties with the coeds in the Lakeshore hall dorms were a big hit with all of the guys. Although we couldn't have hard liquor and only three-point two alcohol content beer at the parties on campus, we still had a good time. Since parties were usually on Saturday evenings, women did not have to be back to their dorms until the curfew time of 12:45 A.M. On weekdays there was a 10:30 P.M. curfew for coeds.
2. Socializing at the Badger Tavern:
The Badger Tavern or BT was a small student friendly tavern located on University Avenue across from campus. It was a favorite hangout for most Lakeshore Hall students because it was closer to the dorms than the other student bars on State Street. We would usually go there on the weekends to play pool, play the Palooka pinball machines, or drink pitchers of beer to get high and relax while playing drinking games like " Wales Tales" or "Fizz Buzz."
3. Playing Pranks:
We delighted in playing pranks on our dorm mates and also residents of other dorms. One thing we did was to remove all of the items from a person's room and scatter them in a number of other rooms. It was so priceless to see the reaction of a dorm mate when he turned on his room light and saw that his room was completely empty! Another thing we did was water fights. We first did this with water balloons, and later we would fill up a long surgical hose with water and raid other dorms. The janitors hated us for doing this!
Living in a dormitory during the 1960s was a unique experience and I will always remember it. I started to grow up during these years, and I made many friends who have influenced me in my life.
Where did you live when you attended college?
Another Hub Related to My College Life in the 1960s
- Joining a College Fraternity: Alpha Chi Sigma Initiation
Joining a college fraternity was one of the most exciting and memorable events of my college life. Alpha Chi Sigma initiation which included formal and informal activities was a great experience.
© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn