(Wendy Maeda, Globe Staff/file 1996)
Balky furniture. Overheated radiators. Drafty windows. Painted-over concrete walls.
Readers who responded to boston.com's call for recollections about their freshman dorm rooms told tales of woe, and forbearance. Their stories resonate this week as tens of thousands of college students in the region lug furniture into their new homes away from home, including to a posh new Boston University: dorm that offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Here is a sampling of dorm life, in their own words:
MIT: Taming the 'elephants'
My MIT dorm room in the late '60s was typically a good-sized double with spartan furnishings: two beds, two desks, two bookcases and (since the rooms had no closets) two wardrobe units made of plywood that measured about 6 1/2 feet high by 4' wide by 2' deep with hanging space, a shelf, and small drawers. Because they were so heavy and difficult to move around, everyone called them "elephants!"
Roommates would usually position their two elephants to create a study area separate from the sleeping area of the room, aided by curtains and such. The bare plywood backs of the elephants were great places to hang posters.
Because the building had been converted from a hotel or apartments to dorm use back in the early '50s, some of the room layouts were odd. Freshman often were assigned "walk-through doubles," meaning the only access to an upper classman's room was through the freshmen's room! In this case, the frosh arranged the elephants to wall off a corridor to the upper-class room.
The floors were ugly dark brown vinyl tile, so colorful area rugs were prized possessions handed down from student to student. I also augmented the furniture in my room with grandma's old maple dresser, which my parents hauled up on the roof of their car. The dresser was pretty beat up looking by senior year but nonetheless stayed with me in various apartments 'til I was married.
-- Ken Pogran
Providence College: Bunking at 'Joe's'
I laugh when I watch these commercials with the moms taking their kids to college and setting up their rooms. I attended Providence College from 1975-79, three of those years in a dorm, St. Joseph Hall, affectionately known as "Joe's."
It was the problem dorm, where they put the hockey team for years, even [basketball star] Marvin Barnes lived there for a few weeks until he was driven out. Brian Burke, ex-GM of the Canucks, lived there for four years. Roman candle fights were a common occurrence until the fire of '77.
The dorm rooms had 15-foot ceilings, and were maybe 20 feet by 20 feet, and had one balky radiator and two huge drafty windows. We had four to a room, and we put two sets of desks facing each other, then two sets of bunks on top of that for room.
We strung a wire across the room then hung tapestries to create a "living room." A busted couch, an old no-longer-needed TV and it was home. If you got locked out, you could go into your neighbor's, go out the window along a 10-inch ledge and get in your window, something usually done after a night of very hard drinking.
Joe's was famous for holding sliding events. We would penny the priests into their rooms, then flood the halls, pour shampoo all over it and strip naked and slide along the 100-foot hall.
-- Matt Walker
Globe file photo
Emerson College: 'It looked romantic,' but...
I was in Emerson's Charlesgate Hall in 1988. We had a corner room on the sixth floor with … bay windows and a defunct fireplace.
It looked romantic, but there were three of us in there and all those architectural features did was make it more awkward to fit three beds, three desks, and three wardrobes in.
There was no closet space. It was not a large room. Two of the beds were bunk beds. I slept with my bed shoved up against the radiators, which lined the bay windows. The heat would blast all night, but you would still get a freezing blast from the windows, which were like, 300 years old. I was sick all the time.
The wiring was so old/bad we weren't allowed to have any hot pots, microwaves, hot plates or anything. There was only one bathroom on our end of the floor. It was a single bathroom, like you would find in a house, and there were probably 25 students, men and women, using it.
We were fortunate it was right next to our room, but my roommate would take our phone (before mobile or cordless) in there to have "private" conversations with her boyfriend from home.
It was pretty bad, but at least we were on the outside of the building. The second year I came in last in the housing lottery and I moved to a horrible little room on the second floor, eye level with "The Pit," basically the garbage-filled interior of the building. That room was tiny, but it was still a double, and they still charged us a record amount for room and board.
-- J. Boyle
University of Pittsburgh: Coming full circle
When I was a freshman in college, a measly two years ago, I moved into the most demeaning building possible: Litchfield Tower B at the University of Pittsburgh. I was shoved into a 23 story tube (not kidding) filled with around 700 other freshman.
The bathrooms looked like a war zone, the elevators were always broken, and the smell of Axe deodorant and dirty laundry filled up the hallways. My room was conveniently situated on the 6th floor, right across the hall from the trash room. My room resembled a piece of pie, considering the building is shaped into a cylinder.
Nothing could fit snugly against the wall because of the shape of the room. Also, my room sat above one of the busier bus stops in the city, and every morning I was greeted with the robotic voice of the bus screaming "DOWNTOWN."
My roommate needed classes in hygiene. He let laundry sit for weeks on end, he never washed his sheets, and showered only once and a while. Now, I am a junior, living in an apartment, which is not pie-shaped.
-- Tyler Jedrey
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more