More Dorm Memories

In response to our request for readers’ favorite memories of dorm life, we expected to receive some great responses—and boy, were we right. So right, in fact, that we couldn’t include them all in the story, featured in our November/December issue. Instead, we’ve compiled 12 more stories (some with photos) here. Enjoy!



Cave Men

In McKean Hall, once a year, we had a “cave” party where the halls were covered in crinkled, brown butcher paper with stalactites and stalagmites. We once coated the hallway with dish soap and ran and slid on our stomachs down the hall. We also had “King Arthur” dinners at the cafeteria with no utensils on spaghetti night and used our white t-shirts as napkins. A student showed a few of us how to shoot a tennis ball down the long dorm hallway using several empty soda cans taped together. Lighter fluid was put into the last can, the can shaken to vaporize the fluid and then you place a match near a small hole on the bottom. The fluid exploded and launched the tennis into the air. After several cannons were built, we formed the Cannon Team (above). I am on the far left. Of course, our motto was: “If we’re up … you’re up.”

Joe Smisko ’79 Eng
Fountain Valley, Calif.


(Not-So) Cool Cat

Life in Simmons Hall French House was a dream come true for French majors, providing opportunities to practice French outside the classroom, guided by the loving assistance of a native French speaker. Our obligation to speak French in hallways and bathrooms and to dine “a table” twice weekly was heaven for budding Francophiles.  Another perk was sole access to “Chez Nous,” a lounge which became our beloved venue for informal gatherings and parties and a quiet place to spread out study materials without disturbing roommates. One spring, a French House resident agreed to cat-sit for an off-campus friend. Although a violation of dorm policy, it seemed harmless to let this sweet, quiet kitten reside in Chez Nous for a few nights. Planning for an all-nighter during finals week, I thought I had the perfect environment to cram with this docile feline companion. My studying was going surprisingly well when, without warning, the kitten started frantically scurrying around the room, climbing curtains, hissing, and acting like a wild thing. After 15 minutes of unrelenting craziness, my focus was destroyed and study momentum gone. When the kitten’s owner returned we learned his sweet young pet was in heat—a fact he had failed to share.

Debra Yost Christensen Young ’73 Lib
Carlisle, Pa.


Mixed Signals

As female freshman in 1967, my roommate and I got lots of calls on the hallway telephone on the second floor of Schulze Hall. We got the most calls early in the week, when the young men on campus were setting up their activities for the weekends, but we were also quite surprised to get a very large number of calls for the State College cab company. It seemed the last four digits of our phone number were the same as the cab company’s, and folks who didn’t pay attention to the difference between the campus and town exchanges just called us. We did talk about making a game out of this, promising cabs to people, etc., but as very serious, very law-abiding freshmen, we just explained that the callers had dialed the wrong number.

Susan Newcomb Boyer ’71 Edu
York, Pa.


Put a Lid on It

The first floor of Snyder Hall was home to a rather rambunctious group of freshman for the 1996–97 school year. The group’s favorite pastime, a game that became known as “Tron” (named so after the movie), was accidentally discovered when one of the guys noticed the lid from the recycling can on the floor­—and thought it would be fun to give it a Frisbee-like toss down the hall. With a hole in the middle to accept bottles and cans, these lids were uniquely aerodynamic, capable of traveling nearly the entire length of the hallway while in the air. Soon, the building’s entire collection of recycling can lids were in our possession and lengthy Tron battles ensued with several guys at each end of the hallway tossing the discs back and forth and attempting to grab them out of the air. In a tribute to Wayne’s World, any time a round was restarted after a disruption in play, cries of “Tron on!” could be heard throughout the floor. Needless to say, our RA later had a full collection of recycling can lids in his room as they were confiscated over the course of the semester.

Joe Knaus ’00 Bus
Melville, N.Y.


Surf Wars

In keeping with the surfing music of the mid-1960s, “Surf’s up!” was an oft-heard, but dreaded, cry in Tener Hall in 1966–67. Pranksters would half-fill a metal wastebasket with water in the shower, bring it to the door of the unsuspecting victim, and then tilt it until it balanced against the door. Since the doors opened inward, a phone call to the victim would bring him scurrying into the hall to answer the phone. The sound of “Surf’s up!” would accompany the gush of water that cascaded over his feet and across the room, soaking everything in its path.

Vincent Magyar ’68 Edu
Morrisville, Pa.


Songs of the Times

During my junior and senior years in Wolf Hall, singing, dancing, and movie watching (“Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”) were a big part of our lives. My floormates and I would often sing Mr. Big’s “To Be with You” or REM’s “It’s the End of the World.” I spent many a shower singing Mariah Carey’s little-known “Vanishing.” At least once or twice my friends joined in. Or so I like to think. My other partners in crime just humored me, I am sure. The rest of the floor was probably just annoyed. I am happy to say that I have keep in touch with almost all of my dorm “sisters.” It is a tough bond to break.

T. Faith Milazzo ’93 Edu




Nuclear Family

I lived in Harrisburg House in Brumbaugh Hall during my sophomore year. March of 1979 was the nuclear leak at Three Mile Island, and in the spring, for the East Halls talent show, our RA (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Elvis Costello) lipped-synched “Accidents Will Happen” while my housemates and I danced around as mutants (above). I can’t remember if we won first place, but I think we won something. Also, I remember the RA was looking for something to slick her hair down. I suggested Vaseline. Oops. She wasn’t too happy with me after the show, when it took several days to get her hair clean.

Gwen Kaufman Nese ’81 H&HD
State College


Calls from Above

I was living in East Halls B in 1965, well before the age of cell phones. Individual dorm rooms had no telephones, but there were wall phones in the hall for six or eight rooms. A student named Dave Moses lived in the room next door. He played in a band and always left a little note pad by the phone when he was out. Written at the top was, “Messages for Moses.” One day someone scribbled on the pad, “God called but he said it wasn’t important.”

Jack Sell ’67 Eng
State College


Ring of Fire

I lived in Hamilton Hall in West Halls in the early 1970s. One late night my friends and I decided to play a prank on a hallmate who lived in a single room. We decided to paper him in his room, which meant we’d tape paper across his doorway while he was sleeping. We planned to call his room (telephones were out in the hallway back then) and wake him suddenly so he would rush out and break through the paper. As we were quietly taping the paper across the doorway, someone got the bright idea of putting shaving cream on the paper to make his breakout even funnier. Turns out he heard us doing all of the work outside his door, and when we telephoned his room, he decided to put a lighter flame through the bottom of the door to surprise us. Well, you can imagine what happened. The paper caught fire and the whole front of the door was a giant flame. We had to rush and get the fire extinguishers, which fortunately were close by, to put it out before it spread anywhere making a huge mess in the hall. This of course brought out the RA, who was livid. We had to spend the rest of the night cleaning up the hallway. I will never forget seeing the flame at the bottom of the door and knowing what was going to happen. That was a scary moment I will never forget. Scary, but funny.

Daniel P. McMahon ’74 Eng



Safe Haven

Transferring from the Hazleton campus in the fall of 1967, my roommate, Elaine Maddon Curry ’69 Lib, and I considered ourselves extremely lucky to be assigned rooms in Simmons, a convenient and coveted location. No hikes in the blustery cold to East Halls for us. Our room was ground level, tucked in a corner directly below the stairs to the main entrance. We had a foot-level view of everyone coming and going. Instead of standing in line for the phone, dates would often announce their presence by tapping on our window. Luxuries in our room were an immersion coil for tea/coffee, an iron, a wine-bottle lamp, and a radio. While the tragedy of Vietnam waged on and when Dr. King was assassinated, our room was a safe, warm, insulated haven, and Elaine (above, right) and I became lifelong, cherished friends.

Marcia Churilla Nicholls ’69 Lib
Mountain Top, Pa.


Female Firsts

My dorm memories are of being among the first women students to move into two of the Nittany barracks across from Pollock Area. We were a close-knit group of women who lived on 7th floor Ritner in 1970–72 and then jumped at the chance to move across the street when the Nittany “barracks” allowed women to move in our junior year. Four of us—Sally Aurand Ryan ’74, Jan AuerbachSherman ’74, Barb Clark O’Hare ’73—and I moved in, and we recently reminisced through email about those times 42 years ago. Among the memories that stand out is that the walls were very thin in the rooms so we always knew who was “entertaining” a guest, much to the chagrin or surprise of a visiting parent. We thought of converting the urinals to planters. Jan actually went to talk with one of the biology professors for ideas. After his laughter subsided, he was quite helpful. Due to lack of sufficient sunlight, we settled on potted plants. We put up curtains on the windows to keep the guys from “checking to make sure we were okay.” But the male students surrounding our two female “dorms” were very helpful, offering to escort us if we needed an escort at night and often having cars (or in one particular case, a motorcycle) to take us around. We picked up linens in a separate building. The ratio of males to females was great, and even though the rooms were not in the best shape, they were single rooms at reduced rates. It was definitely a Penn State memory we all think back upon fondly, along with so many others.

Ilene G. White ’74 Edu
State College


One for the Books

When I first came to the main campus in the summer of 1978, I moved into East Halls, and I neglected to bring fans along, so the room was very hot. I spent much of my time at Pattee. One night I was so much into my work in the cool library that I didn’t notice it was closing. I had quite a fright when I realized I was locked in Pattee. It was probably the only time I didn’t have to open my backpack on the way out.

Alfred Galat ’80 Lib/Sci, ’82 MEdu, ’84 MBA
Bensalem, Pa.


Reliving Shunk

How to narrow down memories of two years in Shunk Hall? Would it be playing frisbee or football or street hockey in the hallway? Taking a chair from the lounge to help “furnish” my room at the beginning of each trimester? Winning the intramural softball championship and celebrating like we won the World Series? Walking back from the Ice Pavilion in full gear after midnight IM ice hockey games? Suntanning with a beach towel on the grass of “Shunk Beach”? Or playing hours of mud football at the IM fields, and everyone coming back and intentionally making a mess of the hallway and bathroom that words could not do justice? To paraphrase a T-shirt I saw at Homecoming last year: I wish I could do it all over again. Not because I’d do anything differently. Just to do it all over again.

Andy Gutman ’80 Bus
Roswell, Ga.


Cuties for Life

In the fall of 1969, I settled into Curtin Hall with my best friend from high school. We had a pact that we would part ways at Christmas if living together didn’t work out. Three years later (both making the sad decision to graduate early) we still lived in 713 Curtin. Our entire floor had bonded instantly. Many of us stayed together our entire time in school. None defected to sororities; few moved or got apartments. By graduation we were certainly the only upperclassmen in East Halls (and maybe the only ones who ever stayed that long!). We made shirts declaring us “Curtin Cuties.” We pulled all-nighters together. We had water fights in the hall. We staged epic pinochle tournaments. We were excellent students. We loved and supported each other unconditionally. Those friendships endure to this day and are timeless.

Coreen Steinbach ’72 Edu
Pompey, N.Y.

3 Comments Add your own

  • […] you hungry for more, our associate editor Mary Murphy has compiled a dozen more that you can read online. They run the gamut from pranks gone badly awry to heartwarming recollections of friendships made […]

  • 2. Anna Mary McHugh  |  November 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Simmons Human Interest Team

    When I was a junior, I transferred to Simmons Hall and became a member of Simmons Human Interest Team. (We thought we were so cool!). I can’t recall any specific human interest activities while there; however, I was fortunate to meet some fellow students from Hazleton. I also met my husband while visiting friends in Simmons. Over the years I lost touch with my Hazleton friends. But, when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, we reconnected. And, it was like we “never lost a beat”. I now know what Simmons Human Interest Team means. Thanks to Marcia, Elaine, and Cooki.

    Anna Mary Gaydoscik McHugh, 1970, Lib

  • 3. Ellis Whitby  |  November 4, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I was pleasantly pleased to see the “Kaiser” mentioned in the Penn Stater article on dorm life. His room was on the 6th floor (as was mine) and his late night treats were very welcome, especially in February when I didn’t want to go out to brave the walk to the east halls café, let walking alone downtown.

    I know we also had a (very) low powered unlicensed radio station which one of our classmates built and ran. I think the Kaiser had commercials on that. Unfortunately I cannot remember who ran the station.

    Ellis Whitby ’74 Arch Eng

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