Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate
Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
November 5, 2003:
and their hazards
Pyne Hall, past and presentWhen room draw came around last spring,
I chose to live in Pyne, a venerable old building in the southernmost
corner of the so-called Junior Slums. I chose Pyne because of an
ongoing love affair with collegiate gothic stemming from
two years spent in Butler Residential College and because
I thought it would be quiet.
Last year I knew several juniors who lived in Pyne. They were
bakers of chocolate-chip cookies and translators of medieval Latin,
and if they had any complaints about the noise level in Pyne, they
didn't tell me. As for me, living in 1901 and having already resolved
to spend my senior year in Pyne, the only faults I foresaw in my
future home were the twin magnolia trees in its courtyard. The trees
are elegant and symmetrical, beautiful in summer, autumn and winter,
but especially so in the spring, when Asian-American brides and
grooms come to have their pictures taken perched on the balustrade
of the courtyard. Problem is, when those pretty pink leaves turn
brown and drop off the trees, the bride and groom go elsewhere for
their photos and all that is left is a slippery, treacherous carpet
of putrefying petals.
I could blame my frequent falls last spring and the inevitable
ones to come on Mrs. Beatrix Farrand, who installed the trees
in the 1920s, when she served as the university's consulting landscape
gardener. Or I could blame myself for falling in love with a dormitory
without fully considering the ramifications of living in a building
with an enclosed courtyard.
Turns out the magnolia trees aren't the worst part.
When the weather was still warm, there were nightly barbeques
in the Pyne courtyard. A grill was brought out, followed by frozen
hamburger patties and Wawa hotdogs. The real attractions, though,
were the drinks Franzia in a plasticized cardboard box and
hockey player beer, lots of it. 1 a.m,, 2 a.m., 3 a.m. came and
went. And then, through Pyne's gorgeous paned windows, came an interchange
between a resident of the second floor and one of the courtyard
"Hey, @#$%^&, toss me up a #$*#@!@ bun!"
"Come down here and get it, you lazy @(#$%*!"
"Did you just call me a @(#$%*?"
"Yeah, and your mom thinks you're a @(#$%*, too!"
Now that it's colder, the hamburgers have disappeared and the
beer has moved into Pyne's interior. The only difference in the
noise level is that now it sounds as if the medieval army has breeched
the portcullis and is despoiling the ladies on the first floor,
rather than merely clamoring at the gates. An occasional raiding
party en route to the privies passes my room on the third floor.
After releasing prodigious streams of liquid with the door
open they return downstairs to imbibe some more. I suppose
I should be glad that most of them are finding their way to the
"Someone peed in the trashcans on the first floor of the
third entryway, and I had to go to the fourth entryway for the whole
weekend to avoid the smell," one resident complained. "Pyne
reminds me of an English lord's manor or a castle, but in a really
In the morning, bottles of Molson and Miller Light overflow the
trashcans like gutted carcasses. The gray carpet that lines the
hallways is sodden with beer and vomit. And somewhere, someone is
During the major league baseball playoffs, it only got worse.
Howls of jubilation and disappointment filled the courtyard while
the games were in play; when they were over, the spectators performed
capella selections that invariably culminated in a beery
Star Spangled Banner. On the night that the Yankees beat the Red
Sox, "New York, New York" blared tauntingly, interminably,
from a second-floor window.
Given its somewhat indecorous present, one might be surprised
to learn that Pyne has a dignified past. One of the largest undergraduate
dormitories at Princeton, Pyne was built in 1922 with funds given
by alumni. Like many buildings/prizes/streets in the Princeton area,
the dormitory was named in honor of Moses Taylor Pyne 1877.
In the 1940s, the Princeton undergraduate radio station WPRB was
headquartered in Pyne Hall, in room 441. Founded by Henry G. Theis
'42, WPRB used the University's electrical wiring system to deliver
sporting news and recorded music to campus listeners. In 1941, the
Saturday Evening Post ran a story about it called "Radiator-Pipe
In 1969, Princeton's first class of women students was housed
in Pyne, which took on the sobriquet "Pink Hall." At the
time, administrators believed that consolidating the women in one
dormitory would alleviate isolation in a predominately male environment.
The policy backfired by drawing even more attention to the new Princetonians,
and in order to make the women feel at ease, the administration
refurbished Pyne and furnished it with sofa beds, off-white bureaus
and desks, and built-in bookshelves. Campus phones and emergency
door locks were also installed, and a proctor was stationed in the
Would that there were one here now.
You can reach Kate at email@example.com