Samford University The BelltowerMarch 2004

Mary V. Thompson Remembers the ’70s

"...It seems that we were all sort of misfits--either because we were non-Greeks, from out-of-state, not Baptist, weren't planning to get married right away, didn't fit the "Miss Alabama/Samford Girl" image...whatever. We tended to be noisy and irreverent and loved playing pranks..."

Mary Virginia Thompson ’77, a professional historian, read The Belltower call for Samford traditions and anecdotes, and responded with an irreverent but hilarious account of dorm life in the mid-1970s. Thompson works as a research specialist for the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association at the historic Mt. Vernon Estate. She is currently researching the subjects of Mt. Vernon and Food, George Washington and Religion, and Slavery and the Slave Community at Mt. Vernon. Here are a few highlights of her Samford memoir:

My roommate, Marcia Jones, and I lived in Lena Vail Davis Hall on second floor west, which had to be one of the most fun floors in the entire dorm. It seems that we were all sort of misfits--either because we were non-Greeks, from out-of-state, not Baptist, weren't planning to get married right away, didn't fit the "Miss Alabama/Samford Girl" image...whatever. We tended to be noisy and irreverent and loved playing pranks. We once took all the extra mattresses from the "Study Room" down the hall into Betsy Griffin's room and piled them on her bed, so that it looked like a campus production of Once Upon a Mattress. I once gave my friend Ella Garrett a surprise birthday party in the bathroom, about midnight, because that was the only time we'd be able to surprise her (I almost gave her a surprise wedding, too, but that's another story). One evening we were being particularly rowdy and one of the girls (Connie Smallwood) was roller-skating in the hall when whoever was on the front desk called out on the PA system, "Second West--would you hold it down--we're getting complaints from 1st, 3rd, 4th and the parking lot!"

Dorm Cuisine
In those days, the cafeteria wouldn't feed us on Sunday nights. This meant that we had to get creative with the limited supplies at our disposal. Betsy Griffin made some pretty great pork chops in the popcorn popper. Another memorable meal, courtesy of my roommate, Marcia, was canned chicken a la king over popcorn--it was...different. All I can say is, thank God for whoever invented Ramen Noodles! Cooking mishaps did happen on occasion. My last semester, Marcia was sharing a room in Women's C Dorm with Zoe Robinson, and they had me over for a farewell dinner. Unlike the rooms in Vail, the floors in Women's C Dorm had carpeting and the desks had fluorescent lights, covered with some kind of plastic fixture. Marcia was doing steak and baked potatoes in the toaster oven and something else in the popcorn popper. When the latter got too hot, she took the pan of the popper off the heating element and set it on the floor for a minute--it melted to the rug. Then, when we went to get the food out of the toaster oven, we discovered that the oven had gotten pushed up against the light fixture and, you guessed it, melted part of it.

Panty Raids
My first experience with panty raids took place around February of 1974, when a riot ensued after the football team was cancelled. The riot started at Crawford Johnson Hall, when the big tree in the center was toilet papered and the guys emptied their trashcans over the balconies. Once the guys started lobbing fire crackers across the verandas at one another, the toilet paper caught fire and things got wilder. The festivities moved up the hill toward the women's dorms. Someone on the football team lifted our water fountain out of its usual place and several people's underwear drawers were cleaned out.

Probably the most embarrassing aspect of this last fact was that one of the girls on the hall had her name written or sewn into her underwear, which meant that anyone who got them knew to whom they belonged. Later that night, after things had calmed down, I heard someone moving around outside the windows, whispering rather loudly. It was Johnny "Bull" Baker from the football team, who was returning some of the undies belonging to the person in question--she was mortified! Just to prolong the agony, not everything was returned. Several months later, there was a brown paper bag with her name on it at the reception desk in the dorm. Inside was a new bra, in the size she wore, with a note from one of the ministerial students stating that he was the one who had ended up with hers, which was hanging as a souvenir from the desk light in his room. He felt guilty about having it and got her a new one!

After that, it seems that there was a much less damaging panty raid, as a regularly scheduled event, on the Monday of finals week each spring. The girls would get ready for it by locking their doors (to protect the undies) and gathering in the common areas with trash cans filled with water, water balloons, etc. for the raiding parties. By the spring of 1976, however, the administration put out the word that dire consequences would befall any of the guys who took part in a panty raid that semester. The girls were so disgusted that the raid did not occur, that they planned a counter raid the following night. I am pleased to say that it was led by my old roommate, Marcia Jones.

We got covered in shaving cream and water, and Marcy later reported that things went pretty well until she and the others got into Men's C Dorm, and the tennis and basketball teams locked them in.

Sun and Snow
Let's see...other campus traditions...well, there was topless sunbathing on the Vail sundeck--an activity which several of us enjoyed, but was considered un-Christian or something by some of the residents of the other floors. There was also cafeteria tray sledding. I think it was probably the winter of 1975 that the temperature got below freezing and stayed that way, without snowing or sleeting, for several days. One night, we took all the ice from the bins in the cafeteria and used it to lay a trail down the hill between Vail and the student center. We then dipped the cafeteria trays in water, so that they would freeze and make a really slick surface. We must have been out that night for several hours, sliding down the hill. By the time I finally went inside, I had no feeling in my feet (I'd been wearing sneakers) and had to soak my feet in cold water in the bathtub for a long time, in order to get the circulation going again.

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