September 7th, 2017

Howard Street

Following up - first dorm mate

My first year at the UW, 1968, I started by living at home and taking the #7 bus, which passed by our house and conveniently went up University Way or maybe 15th (parallel a block east) about an hour later. More or less. It got old fast, especially when it kept me from being in shows because the last bus was before final curtain.

A lucrative summer job at KOMO-TV gave me the means to move into a dorm the next year. Terry hall. Those of us who did not have a friend to share the room with were assigned someone. When I checked in, a young blonde guy was there, he had pinned a poster above his bed which was very impressive - a Mercedes Benz luxury car completely disassembled and all the parts polished and shiny silver. It was a beautiful poster photographically, and he said it was what inspired him to become a mechanical engineering major. His dream was to help design and build Mercedes cars.

On his night stand was a phonograph and a stack of records, which he said "don't worry, I won't play them while you're here".

As the quarter progressed, he changed from the happy, relaxed guy to more and more stressed and paranoid. The first clue he was nuts is he accused me of being homosexually interested in him. He said he heard me talking in my sleep, coming on to him. Soon after that I came back to the dorm to hear German coming out of his phonograph. He was supposed to be in class at the time. It turned out his stack of records were all songs of Hitler Youth from the late 30's.

The next day I talked to the dorm councilor to change rooms/roommates, and he told me I was too late, Nazi boy had flunked out and would be gone by the time I was back from classes.

And he was.

Normally, they would have moved in someone from the waiting list, but luckily for me, they had already accommodated everyone on the list, and I had the room to myself for the rest of the school year.

Having a solo room was very good for my love life, Terry Hall was really two dorms, a woman's and men's pair, separated only by fire doors between them. The doors were locked between 2 and 6 am, because (as a UW Daily editorial snarked) it's a well known Scientific Fact that conception can only occur during those hours.
Howard Street

Following Up Again - second dorm mate

My junior year I moved up a notch to lofty McMahon Hall, which had two-person rooms in clusters of 4 rooms around a shared common room, several of those per floor. There were men's and women's clusters, I can't remember if they were on separate floors. I know the cafeteria was co-ed.

This time my assigned roommate was a very shy guy. He was very slightly built and mostly kept to himself.

This time they didn't assign my roommate blindly, the councilor met with me to tell me the person they had in mind had been in some trouble with the law, and was in a program to rehabilitate him by releasing him to the recognizance of the University. The way he put it, it sounded like the fellow was not violent, and maybe had stolen something from the bakery where he worked. Or something like that. I said that sounded okay, and I would alert them to any issues.

We got along fine. I was taking a full class load plus directing a play plus working on the yearbook and newspaper as a photographer and writer. I wasn't in the dorm much.

One evening as I am coming in from my shift at the newspaper, the head counselor for McMahon hall, a Jesuit priest in full uniform, is waiting for me, guides me into his office, and the first thing he does is points to the soprano recorder in my belt and asks if it's a knife. Weird. I take it out and play a few notes, which puts him more at ease. The reason he was waiting for me is my quiet, shy, unassuming roommate had been reported by others in the cluster - he had been in the common room, finished a 5th of Jack Daniels, and had a Bowie knife out, which he told the others he was going to kill me with.


Turns out they had lied to me about why he was "on parole". The truth was his older brother was AWOL from Fort Lewis, after being courtmartialed for passing out anti-war flyers on base. They were hoping AWOL guy would come out of hiding to visit his brother.

And that's where the world got incredibly small. The summer I was working at KOMO, summer before this one, I became friends with their ace investigative reporter, Don McGaffin, who had interviewed that AWOL soldier, and had given me a photo of the guy to use in a UW Daily article. I was the layout editor for the paper, and I had taken the photo to be halftoned, and had left it on my dorm desk, intending on returning it to Don.

Roommate saw the photo, and had asked me how I got it. I told him "Don McGaffin at KOMO" gave it to me.

The councilor said roomie had thought I said "Tacoma" not "KOMO", knew Don was not from Tacoma, put 2 & 2 together, and knew I was a spy planted there to find and arrest his brother.

Once again, roommate was gone before I got back to the room.

But this time there was someone on the waiting list. To be continued...