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Circling the Square

Life in a Match-Box


It's Tennis Courts, family style, over at Jarvis these days. The neat lines of nets, the umpire's high chair, and the solemn cavortings of short-haired racqueteers has changed to ten long, prefabricated "dwellings," black drums of kerosene, and the mystical contortions of two-year-olds in a sand-box. Spirited undergraduates wearing white wool sweater and mouse-colored sneakers, and frothing for a furious afternoon of net-play, are apt to find nothing more athletic at Jarvis than a slow set of Bean-Bag with a law student's heir. And not only are there law students' heirs. There are law students' wives. There are biologists' wives, and spouses and issue of veteran students from most of the University's departments, including undergraduates. When the University opened the project last April, preference was given the veterans with the largest families. Without hesitation, the two couples with children--three each--wrapped up their ikons and moved over. For the large families it was an apartment with three bedrooms at a monthly rental of $35, and for the less prolific tenants, a double-boudoired affair at five dollars less. Furniture, which many of them didn't have, was available for rent at a few dollars more.

When the veteran housing problem developed, the University managed to purchase, through the Federal Public Housing Administration, these six-family units. The Government transported them down from Maine, where they had been occupied by war workers, erected them, and left the Harvard Housing Bureau on its own. The University handles all the repair and necessary maintenance, pays the light bills and tampers with the plumbing. The students have only to sweep the steps and water the lawn. The veterans' opinion of the Court was summed up by a family man who had served overseas as a colonel with the Army of the United States. "Good deal," he said.

When the casual observer, having overshot Langdell Hall, lands in someone's back yard and mutters, "It's not much, but it's a roof over your head," the occupants smile and retort: "It doesn't look like much from here, but wait till you get inside." In one corner of a large living room, paneled in something resembling oak, is a sink, a stove and a refrigerator, amounting to what real-estate merchants call a "kitchenette." The bedrooms run off the main room, and the bathroom, which contains, among other things, a shower, is discreetly hidden. The whole place is kept warm by a single circulatory kerosene heater, and a few of the tenants are wondering what's going to happen when winter comes.

Jarvis Court has solved a number of problems. It's a home, and it's a community. "It may sound corny," a young wife confessed, "but we had a song-fest here the other night." There is no "sitter" problem: a roster for "night watch" has been posted, each couple taking a turn.

Call down Bronson Alcott, Jack, here's Brook Farm.

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