Friday, March 25, 2011

Hawkes Hall

Quarterly, I get a magazine, Columns, from the old hallowed halls of my alumni with mostly articles and information of which I am uninterested: “Professors’ Work Selected by Education Council,” “Storytelling Event Garners Honor,” or “Students Learn by Serving.”


This Spring Issue, however, had a two page article on the freshman dorm, Hawkes Hall, which turned 100 years old.

“Happy Birthday, Hawkes” reads the headline and then an unnamed author proceeds to give a short history of a very old building with interviews and comments from former occupants.

Aww. Hawkes Hall. I did some time there. Nine months -- got out on good behavior and moved to the New Dorm; yes, we called it the new dorm because it was NEW and had freakin’ air conditioning.

I’m sure the New Dorm had a name. Maybe.

Some old rich alumni?

Manget? Turner?

I dunno. Long time ago.

I attended LaGrange College from 1972 to 1976. In those days, the college years averaged four -- or maybe that’s just how much my parents budgeted. I was told I had four years to get it done.


LaGrange College is a four-year liberal arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Located in the booming town [except not “booming” when I was there] of LaGrange, Georgia, the college is the oldest private institution of higher learning in Georgia and averages an enrollment of about a 1,000.

That includes Townies, but that’s for another blog.

When I moved in to Hawkes Hall Room 214 as a member of the freshman class in the fall of 1972, I looked around in amazement. The place practically wreaked of a by-gone time.

Really? No air conditioning? Toilets that far down the hall? Roaches? Maybe mice? Ghosts? Argh.

Where am I? I stepped out of Atlanta into this?

But. There was room.

After having seen the door rooms of my siblings at University of Virginia and Mercer, these seemed like, well, rooms -- not sleeping cocoons from 2001 Space Odyssey.

Two tall windows flanked the south end of the room I was assigned, and by those windows was a functioning sink and mirror. Since the room was on the east end and an end room, right outside my room was a metal fire escape.

* fires? *

Looming hugely in that room on that east end was a glass blocked window with wavy patterns, its insert leaving a small ledge, for right outside hung those metal steps of the fire escape. Many a night, I would hear its light clanging as a girl sneaked stealthily up those stairs after curfew.

Not me, of course.


Two single beds, with flat mattresses, Army issue, lay end to end under the glass blocked window, and two built in closets without doors were on either side of the entrance door from the hallway.

On the west wall -- two metal desks and two rickety chest of drawers set ready to be filled with the nonsense of two, giggly freshman girls. [Gosh, I'm writing like Hemingway with all those twos.]The floors, hardwood, were noisy as our wedge heels and platform shoes, so fashionable at the time, clomped back and forth.

Regardless, our assigned dorm room, seemed humongous with its ten foot ceilings and floor space --- enough room in 214 to do the Virginia Reel with Rhett Butler. The hallways, painted a light yellow, boasted crown molding and wide pine plank flooring, and its girth --- wide enough to drive a Volkswagen Beetle. In the middle of each hallway was a single pay phone and a bathroom with three showers and four stalls.

Hawkes Hall is an edifice -- the appropriate word for a building of this size and stature. Its brick fa├žade, like a fading film star, sat on a top of a hill and showed wear and tear around its edges.

Its front entrance, with its wide veranda, led to a foyer which housed on the left the apartment of our kind, but vigilante, Mrs. Glynn, the house mother. On the right, the parlor, a worn out room with seedy sofas and ratty, overstuffed chairs worked as a combination common room as well as an appropriate place for freshman girls to entertain “gentleman callers.” Circular stains from the popular Coke bottle marked the occasional tables and showed a less than kind treatment by a girl who had absent-mindly left her drink there as she gossiped or pretended to study in its cool environs….

but the suggestion of decorum and behavior, with its heavily draped windows, reigned in that old parlor. If a freshman girl was to meet her date for the first time, that was the room. When the young man arrived, announced and greeted by the house mother, another freshman girl or even our house mother would use the in house phone to call up to the lucky girl‘s floor: "Your date is here."

*holds moment of silence*

In respect for this ancient ritual, those of us, with no date sitting in the common room and commiserating with other dateless gals, would gather up our books, the detritus of us, and scamper out -- dare we be seen gaping or spying on that desired event.

Hawkes Hall belonged to a by-gone era, but its historical presence on campus with its airy rooms, its metal fire escapes, its outdated parlor, and grand entrance made it a memorable place to begin my life as a college student.

Happy Birthday, indeed, Hawkes, you old girl.


  1. Wow, we sound like we were right out of Gone w/ the Wind! Yes, the New Dorm had no name when we were there. It was later named for Dr. Waights G. Henry, President Henry in our days. I'm so glad you never had to sneak into the dorm via fire escape. Cough, cough, snicker, snicker.

    Nice Bday wish, friend.

  2. My freshman dorm at LSU was Johnston Hall, which backed to the football stadium and was across a small side street from the powerhouse. The powerhouse whistle was my alarm clock - it went off every morning at 7:30, giving me just enough time to wake up and rush to my 7:30 German class (which started at 7:40).

  3. 1974, Brumby Hall, Athens, 2nd floor, 24 hour open to men and women. Now you know I took advantage of all of that!!

  4. Your description of Hawkes Hall reminds me a lot of West Mary Hall at Berry College. West Mary was part of the "Ford Complex" that included East Mary Hall and Clara Hall, named for Henry Ford's mother and wife respectively (since Henry was the one who donated the funds to build it). I knew the minute I set foot on that beautiful campus for a visit that I wanted to go to Berry and live in that huge "castle-like" structure which was so grand to behold from the outside. On the inside, it was your regular old dorm... matching your description of Hawkes.

    In hindsight, perhaps the beauty of the campus was not the optimum reason to choose a particular college, *shrugs* but I enjoyed my freshman year there.

  5. Your dorm makes me think of how different experiences can be within the relatively close proximity and time of the Southern College experience.
    I lived in Hess Hall freshman year at the University of Tennessee. It was not so affectionately known as the zoo. Men were housed on one side and women on another. It was supposed to be the largest college dorm east of the Mississippi River in 1979, when I entered school.
    It had no air conditioning and communal showers. There were three forms of visitation for our co-ed dorm. "A" housing was the top floor with no visitation at any time from the opposite sex. It was called the "Virgin Vault." For students in "B' housing the opposite sex could visit on Friday and Saturday only. Visitation for "C" housing (my only option), was limited to Wednesday -Sunday, from something like 4:00-11:00 pm. Of course, if you could talk a female into a visit anytime, the rules were completely ignored and you would gladly risk the punishment.
    Once, on a Friday afternoon, a couple of girls from my hometown called me from the lobby.
    They asked my room number and before I could say anything else they hung up. Within a few minutes they were at my door. I lived next door to the Resident Assistant who heard the girls voices, came over and wrote me up. When I went in front of the Head Resident I explained the mix up. She laughed but put me on some kind of double secret probation anyway.
    It's funny how when kids are thrown together they learn how to get along, cope and even thrive. I had friends on the floor from Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina and Atlanta. There were lots of other places represented also. (And l'il ole me from Chattanooga.) I met two of my best friends in life that year in the zoo, and still get together with them from time to time.

    Gary Jackson

  6. Seems like I remember that you went to LaGrange College.It has an beautiful array of buildings.The new dorms are huge and they have a football team.My daughter grew up across from the west side of campus on Broad street.One of the big brick homes bordering the Callaway property.

  7. Gosh-did you bring back many memories. The article talked about MY room. Yes and I recall we were expected to finish in 4 years.I remember all the cold times-with the radiator heat,hanging out your windows to talk to the guys!but most of all the milk stool by your bed--oh wow. Thanks for sharing

  8. Wow, this was my dorm, too. Jennie Murphree Hall at Florida State University in the 1970s. Iron beds, thin matresses, group showers separated by curtains, and no air conditiner! My roommate brought her entire wardrobe, which of consisted of four halter tops and two pair of cutoffs, in a paper grocery bag. We had a curfew and the dorm was strictly girls only.