Students moving into the dorms at UW-Madison.

Roommate Reflections: The Bad

THE BAD

My freshman roommate had already moved in when my family and I arrived. He had taken the lower bunk but was not in the room. My mother insisted on making the bed for me — and imagine her surprise when she lifted the mattress and found the springs papered with Playboy foldouts. Quite a view from his bunk! I thought for a moment that she was going to take me back home. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to move next door at semester break.
Mike Sweney ’70
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

During the 1962–63 school year, a group of friends rented a house in the 500 block of West Mifflin (before the Nitty Gritty). Most had their own room. I shared a room with Dick H. After a month, when Dick H. had failed to do his laundry and my underwear started disappearing, I took all of his laundry and [the sheets] off his bed. He was kind of a goof-off but understood my subtle hint. Finally, he left for the nearby laundromat on University Avenue. I thought I had better check on him, [so I] went to the laundromat, where he was in a dryer showing off to some coed! Needless to say, between laundry, not attending class, and showing off, Dick H. was not in Madison when the 1963–64 year started. No fight for the upper bunk — just basic hygiene!
Charlie Herf ’65, JD’68
Paradise Valley, Arizona

I lived in Chadbourn Hall my freshman year. My roommate was from Verona, Wisconsin. She was not really interested in being a UW student … [She and her boyfriend] tried to sell his Plymouth Roadrunner Car with an ad to call our landline phone in the dorm room. Interested buyers would ask me all kinds of details about the car. She also had a handgun that she kept in a locked box in her dresser. Interestingly having a gun at the time in the dorm was not illegal. Also was entertained on the floor by a student with a loud boombox with a microphone. She sang only one song 24/7: Carole King’s Natural Woman. Only she changed it to “God damn natural woman”. When I went home at the holidays to tell my parents about my roommate, they were not happy. My dad made several phone calls later to the UW school administration and I moved into the Chi Omega Sorority house on Langdon for the second semester.
Kathy Suckow Murtfeltd ’75
Los Gatos, California

My first semester in the dorm was so awesome … met a bunch of girls who are still my best friends 45 years later! Unfortunately, [my first roommate] moved into Liz Waters in the second semester, and I was appointed another roommate. She was in bed when I left in the morning and in bed when I got home. Occasionally, I checked to see if she was breathing because I was scared maybe she had passed on. Nope, she just didn’t like to talk … or move, apparently. After one month, I finally convinced the powers-that-be that it would be in the best interest of both of us to have private rooms. Life improved dramatically thereafter!
Jenny Fass ’75
Madison, Wisconsin

My random roommate and I lived in Kronsage. I brought the bunk beds so I got the top bunk. Worked out well for me — from that vantage point I could rock the bed frame at night in an effort to try and interrupt the snore cycle. She had the most unusual snore — harsh and loud, like trying to remove a wooden peg from a hole. I’ve been in the sleep business for thirty years and I have never heard anything like it. One weekend, her mom came to stay with us. The apple did not fall far from the tree in that family. Her mom snored exactly the same way! After one night of dual action snoring, and very little sleep, I bailed to my sister’s apartment. I don’t know what was worse, the snoring or waking up to the pile of toenail clippings in my red shag carpet. That was my last year in the dorms. Loved the lakeshore dorms!
Barb Schwob ’81
Excelsior, Minnesota

My freshman year roommate thought it would be cute to hang a decorated toilet seat on the outside of our door. Not cute at all plus it banged around every time you opened the door. I moved across the hall at semester!
Sally Schmidt ’81
Brookfield, Wisconsin

She seemed like a demon, this new roommate of mine. She certainly wasn’t, but it felt like it in a university dorm in fall of 1956. The big choice offered if not arriving with one’s own roommate was: would you like a roomie who smokes, or definitely not, or you don’t care? She didn’t smoke when she got there but did by end of the month. She was casual with my choice of no smoking. “Gee, everybody does!” Soon she had a boyfriend and if they’d been allowed even 25 feet from the inside of the front door, he’d have been in her bed. So she just brought her bozzie self-upstairs. Her grades probably weren’t too bad and what would one expect from the amount she studied. Most food was not allowed in the rooms so it was no problem to me where and what she put in her stomach. For contrast, cross the hall lived, a young woman from a small town, best in her school, and we became friends. We included her friend-since-2nd-grade roommate, [when she let us,] she was very quiet and maybe suffering homesickness for her family and found classes overly challenging or intimidating. She went home at semester’s end and I jumped at the chance to move out from my unlucky random-no choice roommate. Who took a room (I never found out where).
Penelope Coffin ’60
Madison, Wisconsin