Choosing a House: Some Bitter Truths

Food, Frolic, and Fate Guide Decisions Of Migrant Freshmen for Next Fall

Choosing a house is like getting married. You'll spend most of your time in other houses, so why worry? But all the poor, neurotic freshmen are taking what they think is the big step this week, and we might as well be sympathetic. So far, most of us have confined our help to such dinner-table remarks as, "Say' sonny, Lowell is the worst house, Hahahaha!"

But let's face it: these kids are scared. Why, when I was a kid I was scared, too. I even used to visit the guy who sold me my laundry contract, because he said he would always be ready to give me sincere advice. That's what these kids want--sincerity from us big upperclassmen. Well, it's obvious that you men aren't going to be any more helpful this week than you were last week, so I'll handle the job.


Actually, with my army experience and all, I'm pretty wise by now, and well worth listening to. The army is quite like the houses, except they call their places barracks, and the food is a little better. Nobody gets away with wearing a turtleneck sweater instead of a necktie, and the only way you can sleep through breakfast is by resting your chin in your tray. But the living quarters are roomier than in the houses, and people all speak to one another. The disadvantage is that the army chooses your "house" for you, which really isn't much of a disadvantage at all.

It would seem appropriate to point out that there are not--indeed there could not be--what are called house "types." Differences in "character" between houses are far exceeded by heterogeneity within each house. Nevertheless, it may be pertinent to note that Winthrop is full of sweaty athletes; Lowell is the poetry house; Dunster's drunks give that house its only spirit; Kirkland men are virtually invisible; Eliot is crawling with preppies; and Adams House consider no one who isn't both greasy and Bohemian. Aside from these variations, the houses are really quite the same.

All the misfits complain about other people's houses having this or that, but the resouceful type knows otherwise--he can get along anyway. Take sex, for instance. Adams House, of course. A beehive with trapdoors. The Gettysburg of the war of the sexes. The Casbah. Well, if you can't dress your girl in khakis and a raincoat, or climb out a street floor window, then you don't deserve even the concessions we've been able to get for you (necking from four until seven on weekdays, until eight on Friday and Sundays, and until eleven on Saturday, except when there are house dances, when you can't neck at all). And take my word for it, there are khakis, raincoats, and street-floor windows in every house.

Adams House, some claim, also has the best food around. This claim is exaggerated, but true. If you like food, you'd better try Adams. But don't be disappointed if you find yourself living with a lot of fat slobs. There is no unity to Adams outside the dining hall, but the food never sinks to the level of the dogmeat-and-pablum projectiles the central dining halls call "Salisbury steak." And Irene is the friendliest hostess.

Dunster also seems to provide adequate meals (which are made appetizing by the long walk which precedes them), but food in nothing but a joke in the other houses. The boys who run the grubwagons through the stream tunnels like Leverett best, though. It's at the end of a tremendous straight corridor which starts in the central kitchen under Kirkland. They say the best of them, if they take the first curve at a dead run, can coast all the way to Leverett. Of course the turnoffs at Lowell and Winthrop are festooned with multicolored blotches from power skids. Most of it washes off, but the artificial coloring in the cherry pie is indelible.

House Mores

The atmosphere is nicer in the house dining halls than in the Union. With wider tables, you don't have to shake hands with just anybody who drags his sleeve in you mashed potatoes. People soon learn the proper, vaguely distant expression, the limp handshake, the alert, interested way of seeming to listen to someone at the next table--all the marks of the development of really good manners.

Or if you feel like misbehaving, there is always the show. On weekend evenings at seven, dozens of fresh-young things with fresh lipstick are escorted into the dining halls. Here the grand art of judging by appearances approaches perfection. Several steps inside the door, every girl has revealed to the voluble connoisseurs whether she is wearing a girdle, and some virtuosos can tell you the brand name. Half a dozen steps further, and she has popped in and out of bed with every man in the room, and even the finicky ones are experimentally tipping their heads sideways. a few steps further, as she waves hello to some repulsive clubby, we all realize the hopelessness of knowing such an artificial girl, and compare notes until the next entrance.

If you'd rather live on bread alone, there are other ways to get your vitamins. For pure satisfaction, nothing beats sitting in the house library until the evening visit of the milk-and-doughnuts man. Lurch nosily to your feet at his whistle, and lope the length of the library with hunger in every movement. It drives the poor grinds nuts.


Or you can take in the teas at the master's place; if you don't like the sandwiches, you can always clip the silver for your hope chest. But for really tough silverware, you can't beat the Bick. Freshmen and other undesirables eat at the Waldorf, but the "in-group" gathers at the Bick at 4 a.m., when the fresh pastry arrives.

The houses, they tell us, have a purpose, which is not without its threatening aspect. They are a "community of learning." Durn tootin'. It's their sneaky way of packing the tutors and other helpful types in so close you can't breathe. The teacher-student ratio around here is 1 to 7, and the way to milk the most out of the ratio is to stack tutors and students in the same entries, like wildcats in a laundry bag. People think I run up and down stairs because I'm busy. Busy, hell. My tutor lives between me and the bottom of the stairs. Every time he catches me on the stairs it ruins my day.

Actually they've got you wherever you go. Just get some good roommates if possible, and match pennies for a house. Better yet, tell the dean you've worked out an arrangement with a young lady in Chelsea, and would rather not live in a house at all. Take my word for it, they're very understanding about these special cases.


Two or three times a year the editors of the CRIMSON allow their vociferous, if small, dissenting element to speak. While his opinions are of doubtful validity, his verbal power cannot be overlooked. Mr. Royce was raised on an apple farm, but ran away from home seven years ago. Since then he has served two years in the army and five years as an undergraduate at Harvard. He served in Korea during the recent conflict, but wasn't much use. His grandfather was a philosopher. His father had to be.

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