Requiem For A Dormitory

This post may have limited appeal if you didn’t go to college with me. Consider yourself warned.

A couple of Saturdays ago I went to an alumni event at my undergraduate institution. Entitled “Farewell to Forrer,” it was a chance not only to see old friends and acquaintances but also to bid adieu to what had been the women’s dorm back in my day—it’ll be no more within the next several months, after they strip it down and perform various abatements. In its place will rise an expansive campus center.

Forrer Hall is/was a C-shaped building, with four stories of dorm rooms and a lower/basement level on two of its sides—the high-ceilinged front lobby eats up what would be one level of rooms on, well, the front. Several of the halls were traditionally occupied by members of the four sororities (each group also had a chapter room on the lower level). The campus cafeteria forms the fourth side of the square, and there’s a courtyard in the middle. It had opened in 1958 (which means my era came in the first half of its existence—yikes!).

Transy has done a lot of dorm-building over the last few years. One of the first pieces of that puzzle was to take down Clay-Davis, two men’s dorms that sat at right angles but shared a common lobby. I don’t remember there being a similar event held before their demolition (but who knows if I’m right?)—I would have enjoyed attending that immensely, particularly if I could have toured where the old WTLX studios had been one last time.

I had an overnight visit to Transy during my senior year of high school (my friend Frank also came along), somewhere around November 81. I’d guess my first trips through Forrer happened then, heading across the back circle from Davis to see the academic side, grabbing lunch in the cafeteria. The next time would have been move-in day the following September; I still remember my confusion when one of my new classmates told me that our mailboxes could be found over in “Foy-er” (at least that’s what I thought I heard through his Eastern Kentucky-ish accent).  “The foyer?” I responded.  We got it cleared up and I soon found Box 78 in Forrer’s back lobby.

It ordinarily takes me less than thirty minutes to get to Transy from where I live now. Festivities that evening started around 6:30pm, but I was delayed more than a little by a torrential shower on the way. James, Judy, and Suzanne were already on site. After we signed in, I went with James and Judy to take a gander at the now mostly-empty rooms on the first and second floors. Sometime since our graduation, they’d retrofitted them all with air conditioning (insert image here of old man complaining about how easy kids today have it). Judy found a couple of the rooms she’d lived in, though one was still being occupied by a student working on campus over the summer.  The event’s planning committee decorated a few rooms with memorabilia from each of the various decades of the dorm’s life. It was a game effort, but how can one possibly capture the feel of YOUR four years out of a ten-year span in a 12 by 12 space?

Suzanne eventually caught up with us—she’d eaten first—and we all soon headed back downstairs for the rest of us to get our dinner. How long had it been since I’d had a meal in that space? We sat in the “back” part of the cafeteria, a section I didn’t use all that much way back when (except for the spring of my freshman year when the front was closed, while construction of the current campus center was going on). The rest of our remaining time together was spent catching up and reminiscing, with an emphasis on the latter. At one point we walked across Broadway to the academic side of campus, to a courtyard where we sought out the bricks honoring my father and our friend Stacey.

It still surprises me on occasion how simply being in a place can transport one back in time. Several of my friends spent lots of time in the front lobby, so I was there plenty. In January 84, they opened a computer lab in one corner of the lowest level—much of the programming I did over my last five semesters happened there. Transy’s visitation policy in the 80s was maybe a little liberal for its day—curfew was 11pm during the week, 2am on the weekends—so I was upstairs in Forrer from time to time. All those spots, from so long ago, but yet…  For a short while that evening, it felt like I could have been a 20-year-old all over again.

But am I sad that Forrer is coming down? Not really. That time of my life is long gone. I didn’t live there. I’ve seen several (admittedly model) dorm rooms over the last year on college tours—the ones in Forrer are plenty dumpy now, relatively speaking. It’s fine for it to go.

Plus, the new building looks like it will be swell. It’s scheduled to open in about two years. It’s against the odds that Ben will wind up at Transy, but if he does, that’d be the fall of his sophomore year, which was the semester the Young Campus Center opened while I was there.

Well over two hundred alums, spouses, former faculty, and staff attended. I had a great time and appreciate the efforts of the organizers. It’s nice for those of us who live reasonably nearby to get opportunities like that to reconnect.

Not surprisingly, I took pictures that night.  Some of those and a few more short tales are over the flip:

I took the photo of the front entrance that’s at the top of this post on the Thursday before the event; I’d had an appointment nearby. That worked out well since rain hit soon after I got there on Saturday.



Part of the front lobby. If you turn left at the end of the hall, before you reach the staircase, you’ll head toward the cafeteria and the current campus center. Needless to say it’s been remodeled at least once since the mid-80s.



Judy modeled for us how she’d climb on top of the dressers each morning to do her makeup. I think this was taken in the room where she lived her first year. My freshman room had a similar floor plan, but most of the rooms in Clay-Davis were oriented 90 degrees from this, with the door in between the closets and (narrower) dressers.



Suzanne and James. In honor of the old days, we hung out in the front lobby for a good while. Check out the swag!  There’s a t-shirt in the bag; I elected not to get one, but I do own one of those cups now.



I met Judy in the winter of 85 when we both took U.S. National Government. She could regularly be found sitting in a chair in one of the nooks of the front lobby, smoking and doing homework, feet swung over the arm of a wingback chair. This one was for old times’ sake.



Everyone except me immediately noticed how large the trees in the courtyard had gotten. After I got home that night, I looked through pictures from my graduation that were taken in that very spot. Here’s one I had in a post this past May:


The trees on either side of my parents are the same as those in the picture above it (the pictures were taken from opposite directions).

Had I taken the time to think about it, I certainly would have realized how big those trees had gotten. My last semester at Transy coincided with the most recent visit by Halley’s Comet. I didn’t make any serious effort to try to see it, but I can still picture myself one cold February 86 night, walking through that courtyard, looking up in the direction where I thought the comet might be. There’s a clear view of the sky from that spot in my mind’s eye, one that I wouldn’t have had three weeks ago.

The four of us recognized that the trees would be coming down soon, along with all the cinder blocks, wood, and bricks.



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