First Day at Rutgers

First Day at Rutgers


In the fall of 1962, my parents and then-girlfriend Geri Pashley (okay, also now-wife) took me to the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University. 

Dormitory housing was at a premium it seems and I had been assigned (as well as my friend, Walter) to a complex known as "The Heights". This was located on the opposite side of the Raritan River and wasn't even in New Brunswick, but in Piscataway Township. The distance to the main campus was 7-10 miles. 

The Heights was a series of four one-story buildings, each shaped like a large "H". Each building had of four sections (the bottom and top of the H) that were housing and the center cross area was a common room with phones, vending, etc. Between each upper and lower section of the H was a large bathroom, effectively separating top from bottom. So, each building had four living areas and two bathrooms. Also along one side of the bathroom were two large dorm rooms for the dorm proctors. 

Our "so-called" rooms were actually a single piece of furniture about 7 feet tall and 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. One end was a full length closet and to the right of that was a set of drawers and a lower two door cabinet all starting at floor level and reaching about four feet up. On top of them and to the left of the closet was the bunk. Its base was the top of the drawers and cabinet and it contained a mattress and pillow. The piece of furniture was then about four more feet up to afford privacy. At the pillow end there was a reading lamp. Under the bunk on the far end was a pull out desk (piece of plywood) and we had a single chair. 

Each cubicle faced a similar one that ran in the opposite direction and there is where my roommate was housed. There was no door, so the two were open to the hallway. Since my "roommate" and I were closest to the bathroom, traffic was brisk on our end completely offsetting the advantage of quick toilet access. In fact, I was the last cubicle and thereby on a corner of two hallways, guys were always rapping on the wall, etc. as they went by.

The interior of the section contained some small rooms where up to four could study and we each had a very small desk with a lockable drawer in there. These were very claustrophobic and rarely used. I tended to go on campus after dinner and use the library until 11 PM for my study times and so did my roommate.

The sections were designed to hold 40 men each (Rutgers was not coed in those days), so each building could house 160. Since there were 4 buildings, the maximum population was 640 for the Heights. We had our own separate cafeteria on site, but our meal ticket worked on main campus as well. The bus ran every 10 minutes up to midnight starting at 6:00 AM. 

Needless to say, this was a horrible environment in which study and the likelihood of success was poor. However, I was lucky since my building "C" (lots of academic thought went into naming), was only half full and we had, as it turned out, the more serious students. 

At Rutgers, attrition of freshman was about ⅓ in those days, in the heights, it was over one half. We only had 60 guys in my building and about 10 didn't make it but the fallout in the other buildings was horrendous. Of course, none of this was known on the first day of my arrival. So let's get back to that. 

After all the tearful goodbyes and I was unpacked, it was time for dinner. Of course, our cafeteria was not open yet, I mean why would it be, there were only 500 guys needing to eat? Oh yeah, freshman had to be there a day  or so early so why plan on feeding them? But, the buses were running, so we figured we would have to go to the main campus. About 25 of us caught the bus heading for the other side of the river and the main cafeteria. After we had proceeded a mile or so and neared the stadium and sports complex {which was not very prestigious in those days, but still Rutgers was an NCAA school}, the bus was held up by a group of large men who boarded and ordered us all out with mock severity. I think the driver was in on the gag, since he didn't do anything to stop the kidnapping. Some guys refused, but about 20 of us did as we were told.

This was the Rutgers football team and they had been in camp for about 3 weeks and their living quarters were a regular pigsty and we had been selected to clean it up since we were lowly freshman. A few guys balked and left, but the rest of us (about 10-15) pitched in {I need to add that they made participation voluntary and it was really all in good fun}. The football players also helped clean up. It seems that now that the semester was beginning, they would be inspected by the coaching staff and many laps of discipline action were on the line. This team went on to a 5-5 record following a 10-0 record the season before. {During my stay at Rutgers, only once did the team have a record over .500!}.

We spent almost two hours cleaning and since we had missed the dinner time window, we ate pizza ordered in by the players with them. We had a generally good time talking with them and then they held up the bus once again to return us to our dorm. A pretty exciting start to my college career!

Davdan @ 2008-2018