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Living in a College Dorm During the 60s

Updated on July 5, 2020
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the 60s and also served in the Navy during America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

My Old College Dormitory - Adams Hall

Entrance to Adams Hall.  Picture taken 6-12-19
Entrance to Adams Hall. Picture taken 6-12-19 | Source

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.

Tarrant House

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' mailboxes were kept.

Upon entering the house, there was a tiny entranceway 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. Except for 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 classmen 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.

Front of Tarrant House

Entrance to Tarrant House is on the right in the rear of the picture.  Picture taken 6-12-19
Entrance to Tarrant House is on the right in the rear of the picture. Picture taken 6-12-19 | Source

Rear of Tarrant House

Picture taken 6-12-19
Picture taken 6-12-19 | Source

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 before 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 the 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.

Residents of Tarrant House in 1962

Residents of Tarrant House during my 62-63 Freshman Year
Residents of Tarrant House during my 62-63 Freshman Year | Source

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 except for the Sunday evening meal in Van Hise Hall. The name of the foodservice 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 evening, 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 a personal 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 television. 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.

My Dormitory Dining Hall - Carson Gulley

The dining hall was on the second floor.  There was a snack bar on the first floor.  Taken 6-12-19
The dining hall was on the second floor. There was a snack bar on the first floor. Taken 6-12-19 | Source

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 many 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 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.

Coeds from Schlicter Hall

As a senior, we had social functions with the coeds from  Goldberg House who lived in Schlicter Hall
As a senior, we had social functions with the coeds from Goldberg House who lived in Schlicter Hall | Source

College Living

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn


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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Amelia, it was an amazing experience. Looking back, I cannot believe some of the things that we did. Thanks for your comments!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I never had a dorm experience, but this is exactly as I imagined it! Boy, did I miss out...

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. Glad to hear that dorm life hasn't changed much from the 60s.

    • Elisha Jachetti profile image

      Elisha Jachetti 

      7 years ago

      This is so fun!! Though I went to college recently, it still makes me nostalgic. Not much has changed!

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      Thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. These were certainly fond memories. Living in the college dorm taught me a lot about people and life.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      Yes, living in a dorm was an entirely different experience when I went off to college at the age of 18. Besides being a place for a lot of study, it was also occasionally a place of fun where I met a lot of interesting people. Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing this hub.

    • truthfornow profile image

      Marie Hurt 

      7 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Sounds like a really good time. Nice that you have such fond memories.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Very interesting Paul. Living in a dorm was different and fun. Voted up, interesting, shared, pinned and tweeted.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Writer Fox,

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. Dorms are a lot different today than they were in the 60s. Back then, we couldn't have coeds into our male dorms. Today, male and female live on the same floor.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      7 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Things were so much different then! Kids expect so much more today, but then it costs a fortune to go to a major university in this day and age.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      8 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Wow this really shows how things can change! I will share this on twitter, google+, and with followers.


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