Memoires 10


The dorms at BYU were fairly new – they had only opened the previous school year so our group comprised just the second year residents of each dorm room. Each room was a mirror image of the others; each had two sleeping beds against opposite walls. At the head of the bed was a desk and bookshelves attached to the wall above the desk. Every room had a telephone with free campus and local calls but no long distance service, although incoming long distance calls could be received. On the outside wall between the two desks was a locking push-out window for ventilation in the warmer months. At the foot to each bed was a built-in set of drawers below a door with a mirror on one side and built-in shelves for toiletries on the other, and a hanging closet. The rooms were nice but Spartan. Each dorm was three stories tall with two wings. In the center, on the ground floor between the two wings was the apartment of the on-site dorm mother as well as a study area, lounge, and milk and snack vending machines.


Several such dorms were built in a semi-circle with the dining commons in their midst. Also in the dining commons were assigned mailboxes, recreation area, TV room, and the like. The architecture was both efficient and aesthetically appealing. The dorms were collectively called Helaman Halls.


Many parents would send their offspring “care packages” of cookies, meats, and other edible goodies from home. Some of the items were perishable, which presented a problem as there were no individual refrigerators permitted in any of the rooms. The problem was solved during the long, cold Utah winters by hanging the perishable items on the locking handle of the push-out window. The food would dangle outdoors and stay cold. Outside the window was a ledge of about three feet wide, probably designed for maintenence workers but should one so desire, one could squeeze out the window, walk along the ledge, and inspect the booty that hung outside the various windows. There were stories of meats being taken presumably by hungry college men, but for some reason nobody ever took the pungent pepperonis or salamis that my mother sent in the care packages from home. Back home most of my friends were also second generation Americans whose grandparents had emigrated from Eastern Europe. We derogatorily referred to English and other Anglos as "Cake Eaters" as their homes did not waft with the aromas of heavily garlic-laden foods. The same held true about the majority of Anglo Utahns who cared not for our food stash.


Sandy, who at this time lived in the dorm room next to mine with roomie Lonnie Carter from Houston, TX, (in photo top row first one on left) one of the very few African Americans on campus, had received a Christmas ham from his family. It was fairly large – certainly too large to eat in one or two sittings, so he hung it outside and we pulled it in occasionally for late night snacks. As luck would have it we had a couple of Indian Summer days and most dorm residents brought their perishables inside and either ate them or tossed them. Not so Sandy. The ham had been outside for some time when I got hungry one evening, crawled out my window and helped myself to a generous portion of the by then rancid ham. The following day was to have been a dorm open house so I had made my half of the dorm room neat and orderly, probably for the first time that semester. The bed was made and I slept on top so I would not have to remake it in the morning. I had the keys to a dorm mate’s car as I had a breakfast date the following morning, and planned to bring her back to the dorm to show off my room. But sometime during that night I remember beginning to shiver. I staggered into the bathroom and began to vomit. Of the rest of the night, I have only a foggy memory. I apparently staggered out to the car wesring only my underwear (it was a very cold winter night and had been snowing) and somehow drove the car to the Student Health Center on campus. I remember forgetting to close the car door and walking in bare feet through the snow to the emergency entrance, vomiting, shivering, and with acute stomach pain. It would be days before I would be conscious and coherent enough to remember anything more.

It turned out I had a severe case of food poisoning from the ham. I spent several days in the infirmary promised myself over and over to never again steal food from anybody!

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