College Roommates [second daily dose of Freshman Year]

Later I pledged that fraternity, not because they had can openers, but because the president of the frat was also the student council president, a good student (and a prominent Minnesota politician to this day), and this frat house had a thing called “Project Give-A-Damn” where every Tuesday afternoon we all went and tutored inner-city grade school kids. AC We knew how to have fun, and get good grades, and be kind to others.  (Of course pledging the fraternity, and some of our antics, make for a great story, but for another day.)

After being accepted at Hamline, I received a questionnaire in the mail asking to mark my housing preference:  all men’s dorm, co-ed dorm or “honor housing.”  I checked honor housing not expecting they’d put me in one – given my needing-a-new-leaf background – so I was surprised when the next letter I got said I was assigned to live freshman year at the Herman House Honor House with seven other freshman, three sophomores, and a senior R.A. (Resident Assistant).   Turns out all the locals knew the “honor houses” were just a bunch of run-down houses the school had bought across the street from the campus, slated for demolition the following year to build new dormitories, and so mostly only us out-of-staters, who didn’t know better, had picked that as our choice for where to reside.

Us Herman Housers were quite an assemblage from all over the country, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and one kid from Bird Island, MN.  Me, the New Jersey kid (also named Andy), and the Bird Island kid were assigned the large second floor bedroom overlooking the big lawn by the girls’ dormitory.  Bird Island was still unpacking when I arrived, and I was dismayed to see he’d already placed a pen and pencil holder on the desk he wanted, not because I wanted that desk too, but because the holder was emblazoned with “In God We Trust.”  There being two Andys, one of us had to pick up a nickname quick.  Nobody took to my suggestion that they call me “Dirt.”  (Why I was called “Dirt” since third grade is another story.)  Second Saturday of the Fall, O.J. Simpson was coming to play the Univ. of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and after we went to that game, played our own tackle football game.  When the other Andy tackled me, he said “Take that O.J.,” and so in college I was known as O.J.

OJ and J.J. in the same mud?

OJ and J.J. in the same mud?

Even the sophomores were impressed that I arrived with my own set of fake IDs and pretty quickly our R.A. gave up on us as incorrigible and moved in with his girlfriend off campus, giving us free reign to decide What Is Fun.   Only problem was that too many of my roommates were just getting their first taste of fun and went slightly overboard, forgetting they had to study too.  One of the sophomores and four of the freshman in Herman House flunked out that year having too much fun.  Fortunately I was in the habit of getting up early, getting to class on time, reading the assignments, and asking intelligent questions in class.  That’s all it took to get above average grades, with plenty of time left over for fun.  The thing that got my grades to law school admission level was never missing Dr. Marsh’s Saturday morning freshman class on the Great Depression.  (By my sophomore year the school had decided that asking freshmen to wake up before noon on Saturdays was improvident and discontinued Saturday classes.)

Dr. Marsh was impressed with my genuine interest in history and got me a job being a Tour Guide for the County Historical Society, where I got a reputation for personalizing the tours with anecdotes about the individuals the places were named for:  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s home, J.J. Hill’s mansion, the Gibbs’ farm, and so on.  I enlisted Dr. Marsh for help on the research, and of course after that, could only get A’s from him.  Took as many of Dr. Marsh’s courses as I could.

The first week back after Xmas break it was really cold in Minnesota.  Good timing for our “Herman House Purple-Passion Body-Painting Bathing-Suit Party.”  We went to St. Paul’s “Worn-a-Bit” shop and secured enough mattresses to spread across our entire attic floor, covered the walls with shiny tin foil, borrowed some yellow-flashing traffic safety barriers, bought maybe 50 tubes of body paint, mixed a purple passion punch in two big milk canisters from a Bird Island farm, and invited a half-dozen other guys telling them they could only get in if they brought two or more dates, and everybody had to be wearing swim suits underneath.  Until I got married I used one of the brightly splattered sheets as a curtain in my several bachelor pads.

Tomorrow:  On the Way to Mardi Gras


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