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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Hour

My previous post on the personnel changes in the Office of Residence Life at Notre Dame generated a few comments. Some reminded me that the folks at "Res Life" are good Notre Dame people who are just trying to do their jobs enforcing the rules. That's fair enough, but while I am not questioning the good intentions of the recently departed, I do reserve the right to question the manner in which they exercised their discretion and their authority.

Other comments were more in the nature of dancing in the streets. The recently retired Notre Dame Leprechaun (no, really) asked if students got "res-lifed" in my day? In "my day"? What the heck is that supposed to mean junior? I'm not THAT old. Am I? Get off my lawn you dang kids. By the way, you should check out the Leprechaun's new blog, Irish Creed, when you get a chance. Great perspectives from a couple of newly minted ND graduates and one current senior.

But seriously. Yes, students did get "res-lifed" back in my day. But you had to try just a little bit harder than today's students to get in serious trouble back in the early eighties. The story below should help contemporary readers understand where I and my peers are coming from when we bemoan the draconian approach the Administration has recently taken toward discipline generally, and alcohol in particular. The story is taken pretty much verbatim from a post I wrote several years ago over at Verminnet.com, a web page for Carroll Hall alumni. I'll admit that our experiences in Carroll Hall were not necessarily in the middle of the mainstream back then, but we weren't that far out of the norm either.

The story is called "Happy Hour":

I arrived at Notre Dame and Carroll Hall in August of 1982, having come all the way from California, alone. The bus from O'Hare dropped me and my trunk at the main circle, and I needed some help to find out where Carroll Hall was. I had seen it on the campus map the University sent me, and it seemed like it was sort of far from the rest of the buildings on campus. I didn't know the half of it. I was literally living a dream being able to attend Notre Dame, but I was a little bummed with the dorm I got.

No worries. I carried/dragged my trunk from the main circle all the way to Carroll, and the RA's greeted me and showed me to my room. It was a big cube of a room on the first floor, right across from the rector's office. My roommates were three New Yorkers (geeeeeez). John "Basil" Hayes and Jock Brody Mutschler were both from the Rochester area, and Scott Kiley was from Long Island. Basil, Jock, and myself were Navy, Army, and Air Force ROTC respectively. Scott was not the military type. Neither was Jock for that matter, but that's another story.

The most striking feature of our room was the plush wall-to-wall whorehouse-red carpet that we had inherited from the previous occupants. Those previous residents had dubbed the room "The Love Palace" and the name stuck, although I'm not sure we really deserved the tag. With four of us living there, and the rest of the Vermin wandering through because of our central location, it wasn't really a quiet place for getting to know that special someone. It might have been called the Insomnia Palace. I swear we never got a wink of sleep before 3:00 a.m. that whole year.

At any rate, I settled in with my new roomies. Before long, a couple of big bruisers came through the door and started demanding money from each of us. Turns out these were some seniors in the dorm, and they were collecting cash for the Happy Hour set for that Friday. I don't recall exactly, but they wanted $5 or $10 from each of us. At the time, that was a lot of money for me. My parents had me on a $50 per month allowance, and I hadn't been picked up on my ROTC scholarship yet. Plus, I wasn't much of a drinker, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go to some party. How naive I was. But these guys weren't taking "no" for an answer. After the shake down was over, some other dorm vets clued us in on what the Happy Hour was all about.

Here's the premise: On weeks of home football games, all during the week in classes, etc... you invited every desirable (or near-desirable, or at least breathing) girl you met to come on out to Carroll on Friday afternoon for our Happy Hour. Good music, free booze (and lots of it). A good time to be had by all. Chicks come, chicks drink, chicks get happy, maybe guys get lucky. The Carroll Happy Hour had a good reputation in some of the girls' dorms, and amazingly enough come Friday afternoon, the dorm was rocking! When you walked back up the drive to Carroll after Friday classes, the music was blasting across the lake. Inside (and often out on the front lawn as well) the kegs had been tapped and the beer was flowing. Inside, there were at least two bars set up. One was usually serving blender drinks (Sea Breezes made with ice, vodka, 7-up, and some sort of juice concentrate), the other was something else (I can't remember because I was usually working the Sea Breeze bar, and performed quality control as well.). These parties started at maybe 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. They would die down a bit as dinner hour came, and then as people left for the pep rally. But they usually went on at least at a low level until about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning (I think Parietals kicked in at 2:00 a.m. on the weekends, so the ladies had to leave at that time). Although the first floor was the epicenter of the action, the Happy Hour really encompassed the entire dorm. Some partied in big groups downstairs, other partied in more intimate groups on floors two through four.

I remember vividly one scene from my first Happy Hour. I was standing in the party room on the first floor, just down the hall from my room, talking to one of the RA's. He was drunk off his ass, leaning against the wall to hold himself up. He was looking a little ragged, and was quite a bit overweight. And he was passing on a little bit of wisdom. "I used to be like you. In shape, great high school athlete. But before long, you'll look like this too." He was commenting on the crop of young, naive, fresh-faced, super-fit freshman that had just joined the Hall. We thought the guy was pathetic and crazy and bitter. Little did we know.

The Happy Hour was the focus of social life in Carroll Hall, and it gave us our identity. It wasn't always pretty. Lots of guys (especially the freshman) got way too drunk and out of control or sick. Hijinks were common (water drops? Pizza heists? Often post-Happy Hour entertainment). Nicknames were earned. The best example of this from my group of friends was Steve (Last name withheld to protect the sloppy drunk), who was from Texas. One Friday afternoon, during a particularly good Happy Hour, a group of us decided that we wanted to go to the pep rally, and Father Steve was going to take us over to Stepan Center in his van. At any rate, sometime between leaving the dorm for the rally, and returning afterwards, Steve got very sick and blew chunks everywhere. Chunks. The name absolutely stuck. While people later meeting him might assume that "Chunks" got his name from being kind of chunky (he was a big guy), we all knew how he really got the name. Do you remember the show Cheers? When Norm walks in? "NORM!" everyone shouts. Everywhere Steve went for four years, his fellow Vermin would greet him with a chorus of "CHUNKS!"

Many of the stories posted on VerminNet have some connection to the Happy Hour. Of course, nowadays the University would consider our behavior reprehensible. Well, they did then too, but we were pretty much out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and Father Steve was very lenient with us.

I believe it was in my Junior year (1984-85) (Father Steve's last year as rector) that the University killed the Happy Hour. New University policy that year essentially prohibited any alcohol consumption by students under 21 (although they would tolerate drinking in your room behind closed doors if you didn't draw attention to yourself). Alcohol consumption at dorm parties was limited to 21 and older, and was relatively strictly enforced.

It was the end of an era. We held a funeral for the Happy Hour. Father Steve let us borrow some vestments, candles, etc.. from the chapel. We had a last party, and then we laid the Happy Hour to rest. We had a funeral procession, some words were said. And a couple bottles of booze along with some mementos were buried in a hole out behind the dorm. We even had a headstone with "R.I.P." on it. I don't know if the headstone or the grave is still there. I doubt it. But I know there are people out there in cyberspace with pictures of the event, and I think I've got a commemorative button in my trunk somewhere (the same trunk after all these years).

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

And so it was in the 70's too!!!!! everywhere I ever knew of. yes its illegal...bfd. give all a severe verbal tongue lashing and threaten to tell the parents. reslife..please get a life!!

TheNDleprechaun said...

Great story haha I'm already getting Nostalgic for Alumni Hall. Dorm traditions are one of my favorite aspects of Notre Dame. Hopefully future Domers will carry on what is left of them.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!!

Had I known, you would have had a $10/month allowance! LOL

Dad

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous....heck we had overt keggers in BP , when it was a male dorm in the early 70s.

During my freshman year, { in 1970} we had one of the better keggers at the end of freshman week. Indeed ,at all male ND ,it had one of the better male- female ratios in my four years there. Our rector was fully involved in the proceedings

Even though the advent of true coeducation happened during my time there, [class of 1974} ND was still overwhelmingly male.

Due to that factor alone, I believe the Administration felt less of a need for draconian rules.
Wabash College , down the road from us, was then and still is, an all male school.


Their basic rule of conduct was
that a student would "conduct himself as a gentleman at all times"
I sometimes wonder if the Administration of that era{rightfully } had the same attitude.

Indeed I think it is quite possible ND students of my era had greater freedom than even today.

Barack Obama aside, my encounters with current ND students have been overwhelmingly gratifying.

The Obama fiasco caused me to suspend donating. Indeed current events validate continuing my embargo.

If my mind is changed, it will be a current crop of students that changes it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent story. Seems like people used to have great times at ND.

Is Kirk really gone? Why was he kicked out?

Anonymous said...

OC Domer, I am certain your post will bring back memories for many alums. For those of us who were not fortunate to attend ND, it was a fantastic read.

Titus said...

Their basic rule of conduct was that a student would "conduct himself as a gentleman at all times"

This continues to be the sole rule of conduct at Washington & Lee University, and it ought to be the sole rule everywhere. It contains within it all that is actually necessary to conform conduct to an appropriate standard. The rules become simple: discharge your responsibilities faithfully, don't do something you would be ashamed of later, and don't burn the place down.

The problem isn't simply fun vs. control. The late 1970s and 1980s are not a good example for emulation anywhere. But at the same time, an administration petrified by liability concerns and obsessed with a laundry list of PC objectives is not a good change. The university needs to keep a lid on, e.g., sex, drugs, mistreatment of chapels, and blood alcohol poisoning. But at the same time it should care way, way less about variety shows, parties, controlled fires, and low-level hi-jinks. For instance, if you want a college kid not to drink himself to death, you should make him to learn to drink responsibly and intelligently, not act as if alcohol were some barely tolerable evil. But a lot of that is Elizabeth Dole's fault.

But with all the women on campus and no charitable immunity, I don't know what we expect. They never should have let the skirts move across the street.

Andy said...

Thanks OC Domer for the good memories. I believe Carroll also had an amazing, annual party on Halloween. The biggest on campus party I recall was at the culmination of the Keenan Revue. On Saturday night after the last show,the entire dorm was one gigantic party with people crammed from the basement to the fourth floor, and parties in every room. Because it was February, there really was nothing else going on and SMC and ND students all flocked to Keenan and were definitely in the mood to party after the hijinks the Revue was known for.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of how infuriating it was when the university banned SYRs from the dorms. A dance in SDH just isn't the same as the old in-dorm SYRs.

Jake said...

Wow. I graduated a few years ago. I wish we could have had these kinds of parties, at least every now and then. ResLife is ruthless. They don't treat students like adults.

Is William Kirk really gone?

TeamBrown said...

Love it. As a 98 grad I remember hearing stories of open-alcohol parties upon my arrival in 94. In the mid-90s alcohol was technically for those over 21 but the "behind closed doors" rule was very much in effect. If alcohol magically appeared in your dorm room no one was going to bug you about it.

Did they really ban SYRs from dorms??? That is so sad. Those are some of my favorite memories