Confessions of a Brody Girl

Mythcon 44 will be held at my undergraduate alma mater, Michigan State University in East Lansing, and I'm pretty conflicted about that. I have (mostly) good memories of my college days, despite the horrible weather—the 1967 snowstorm closed down the MSU campus for the first time in its 111 year history, and the Red Cedar (affectionately referred to as the "Red Sewer") River meandering through campus accentuates the fact that July is black fly season—but that's not the problem. The specific conference location is the Kellogg Conference Center, with meals across Harrison Road at Brody Square. You see, back in the late 1960s, I was a Brody Girl. I lived in Rather Hall (long "a", rhymes with "bather"), one of the complex's six dorms, for three years; back then students who were under 21 and weren't married were required to live on-campus, or in a fraternity or sorority. The reasons were economic (they wanted to fill up the dorm rooms), but it's not a bad idea since it allows new students to make friends, find study partners, learn social skills (!), and join in lots of different activities. At MSU, the dorm complexes all had distinct personalities: the older Tudor-style, ivy-covered West Circle halls were all-female and home to humanities majors, South Complex was mostly inhabited by jocks, East Complex had the pre-meds and lots of parties, and Brody was basically a band of misfits. (It wasn't a choice, at least for freshmen; you just ended up where you were assigned and tried to adapt.)

Like most university campuses today, dorms at Michigan State are now largely co-ed, but back in the day, Brody had four men's and two women's dorms, each with two wings, shared bathrooms down each hall. Freshmen started out crammed three to a room, because by spring quarter the high drop-out rate worked each room down to two students. Freshmen also had curfew, which meant that it was life-threatening to be in the lobby stairwells—locally known as the "Passion Pit"—just before doors were locked and dates tossed out into the cold. We gals did like the 2:1 odds, although in Brody there was a large contingent of the mildly wacko. Every night at 11 pm, a guy (always the same guy) would give a loud Tarzan yell in the courtyard, and on weekends the male dorm rivalry got drunkenly creative: I recall one Bailey resident who would yell in the general direction of a rival dorm, "Armstrong! When are your parents gonna get married?" East Lansing was dry, but that has never stopped college students. My roommate and I kept a bottle of cider stuffed with raisins stored on our window sill to ward off the winter chill. In Michigan, winter is actually three seasons rather than the usual one, so we went through lots of raisins.

Residence Hall Change RequestRather girls were more fun than Butterfield girls (hence the slogan, "I'd rather live in Rather.") And A425 Rather had somewhat of a reputation, partly based on the "Pray for Surf" sign in our window (two Jersey girls—we did not know each other before college—trying to cope with the lack of ocean). My roommate Jacque and I also instigated many of the hall pranks, like sealing our RA (resident assistant) Diane, whom we actually really liked, into her room, or moving all of her furniture into the bathroom. We also got our entire floor (as well as the Head Resident Advisors of both dorms) to sign a petition, for which we arranged a very public presentation, allowing a male friend of ours to transfer into our room from Armstrong Hall. Our very best April Fool joke was switching all of the lobby signage between Rather and Bailey (which of course we had to do in the middle of the night). The two dorms were mirror images, and we delighted in the looks of utter confusion from everyone entering either hall the next day.

Phil Frank cartoonWhat Brody was best known for, however, was the food, and not in a good way. The infamous 1965 spring food riot (on spaghetti night) lives on in Spartan memory. A follow-up riot was barely avoided the following year, when the cafeteria filled up on another spaghetti night and nobody left. The clever among us scheduled classes across campus during lunch periods, so we could score a pass to the Brody Grill where we could get something edible for our midday meal. Sundays were an oddity but also a relief: only two meals were served, breakfast (for those who got up early, meaning nobody) and a dress-up Sunday dinner that started at noon. We were young, hungry college students; everyone on campus ordered pizza on Sunday night. If any of us had had any money, we could have become billionaires by buying Domino's Pizza stock; it was the only place in town that delivered.

I have fonder Brody memories of spending entire weekends (usually during midterms) snowed in and playing non-stop pinochle in the Brody lounge. Or stealing cafeteria trays and sliding down hills onto the iced-over Red Cedar. Or watching cheap movies in the auditorium: one time my roommate and I looked around during The Great Escape and realized we were the only two females in the room—whoa! It will be fun to re-visit many old haunts on campus during Mythcon this July, but I will remain skeptical about conference meals, even though MSU claims to have torn the old cafeteria building down to the ground and replaced it with spiffy new food stations, until I can actually check them out. This Brody Girl still remembers spaghetti night.

Eleanor Farrell
Unrepentant Brody Girl