Remembering Noyes on her 50th Birthday
by Margaret McCurry Tigerman, Class of 1964
(Written in 2008)
In September of 1960, when I moved into my assigned double – #226 – on the second floor of Noyes, the dorm was a mere two years old…all bright and shiny, with no sprinkler pipes to mar its pristine precast concrete ceilings. As a would-be Art History major and daughter of an architect, I knew the work of Eero Saarinen and could appreciate its modernist aesthetic. Looking back as an architect myself now, I realize that compared to Saarinen’s Stiles and Morse dorms at Yale, which took their cues from the towers of the Italian hill town San Gimignano, Noyes had no traditional antecedents and there was a certain cache attached to residing in Vassar’s newest dormitory. As freshmen, we were all placed in the double rooms that faced onto the circle. The triangulated window bays transmitted vertical sound quite effectively so we were often privy to dorm gossip from above and parlor talk from below.
The rules of dormitory life have certainly changed over a half-century, but in our “simpler, gentler” time, there were no encoded locks on our doors. However, a “white angel” guarded the entry enforcing a midnight curfew. No televisions broadcast the daily soaps or blared out late night entertainment. We watched Kennedy’s inauguration, the news of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the confrontation with Khrushchev on the family television that our Professor in Residence plugged into a parlor outlet. Bereft of male company the majority of the time, we still optimistically named the circular sunken seating in the parlor “the passion pit.” The upside of our celibate life was breakfasting in our respective robes in the in-house dining room, an especially welcome ritual on frosty winter mornings. What none of us welcomed was the institution called “scrape.” A left over from WWII when male workers were at a premium, female students were assigned KP duties in the kitchen; namely, scraping detritus off an endless number of dirty dishes as a parade of trays passed by on the conveyor belt. It was steamy work made especially onerous by the mandatory attire – hairnets, aprons and cotton socks – ensembles no one wanted to be seen in, especially when the weekends brought the opposite sex to campus.
By mid-fall of our freshman year, friendships had begun to solidify, some that have lasted fifty-plus years. But by the end of our first year, attrition had affected the comradely costumed group posed for this Halloween photograph. Barbara Reynolds Wiener ‘64 (in the beret) lost her roommate Carol Marchand Hope ‘64 (in the lamp shade), [who went west to the University of Rochester to be closer] to Cornell, the home of Rickey Hope, her high school sweetheart. I, with the bat on my forehead and arm draped over my suitemate’s shoulder, lost the brilliant Susan Strome ‘64 (or St. Rome, as she preferred to be called). Susy returned to campus for our Vassar graduation picnic with her first husband in tow and much later matriculated at Harvard. Jane Baum Rodbell ’64 (holding the pumpkin) joined our rooming group sophomore year citing freshman roommate incompatibility. Our guitar playing pre-hippy friend, Naomi Ware ‘64 brought musician Joan Baez to campus for one of her first concerts outside the Boston coffee houses where her mercurial singing career began. Some years later, standing under our maturing class tree at a distant reunion, we were saddened to hear Naomi’s name read off the necrology list.
Maine camp mates, turned roommates, Ellen May Galinksy ‘64 (left) and Karen Stein Diamond ‘64 (photographed sprawled on the lawn of the Noyes circle at the start of our sophomore year) rounded out the rooming group that remained together for the rest of our college years. Three of us reassembled in Chattanooga coincidentally on Noyes’ 50th birthday. Ellen and I, joined by fellow dorm mate, Virginia Caspari Gerst ‘64, traveled to Tennessee for a mini-reunion with Karen.
These last photographs record us celebrating the rites of spring at the close of our junior year. For spring weekend, we staged a mock escape of knotted sheets for the benefit of arriving dates. My single room overlooking the parking lot was a perfect venue for this escapade and of a size suitable for a quick toilet papering prank instigated by my so-called friends.
On that lazy Saturday afternoon of spring weekend, while sitting in the grassy circle that encompassed the fledging tree (which today would be shading the majority of the onlookers), we watched an impromptu coed soccer game which ended abruptly with a contact lens search. That Sunday morning, we woke to find that some of our bicycles had found their way on to the top of the “mushrooms.” Blame for this “desecration of the canopies” appeared to be attributed to students from Wesleyan and their alleged ring leader, roommate Barbara’s future husband, Alan.
Shortly after that spring weekend, our time in Noyes came to an end. Sometimes at class reunions, I stroll through our dorm on a summer’s day and remember a time when it and we were young.
On Noyes’ special April Saturday in 2008, some of us toasted a dorm that, for three of its fifty years, was our home.
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