A letter from a reader about Refrigerator deals

April 11, 2007

I was amused by the March 7 From the Archives item showing students selling refrigerators to other students. The article asked, “Did any PAW readers ever buy one of these refrigerators?” I, for one, certainly did – and sold them as well. The item states that the Bureau of Student Aid and Employment conducted the sales, but there was also a thriving underground market where individual students would “sell by owner,” as I had occasion to do.

In the 1950s, students had to furnish their own rooms. There was nothing in the rooms when one moved in. At the end of each academic year the rooms had to be emptied unless one was remaining in it for the following year. All furniture, including refrigerators, was placed in storage in the labyrinthine hallways beneath the dorms.

Between my junior and senior years I moved from a five-room suite in Henry Hall to a seven-room suite in Lockhart Hall, the latter already having a refrigerator. My Henry Hall refrigerator thus went into the bowels of Henry for the summer, to be sold by me when I returned in the fall. That September, together with my map-of-Ireland-faced roommate, Mike Dwyer, we corralled a couple of freshmen, persuaded them they needed a refrigerator, and led them into the depths of Henry. To my momentary shock we were greeted by a platoon of refrigerators, lined up like soldiers against the stone hallway, and all looking very much the same.

Certain, however, that I could identify my own appliance, Mike and I led the freshmen to a box that I quickly recognized as mine, struck an immediate cash deal, and watched them haul it away. As we were leaving, we walked past the remaining “soldiers” and there, to my absolute amazement, I spotted my real refrigerator, identifiable by its myriad dings and dents that I had grown to know and love during my junior year.

Since that was in 1958, and I can now be comfortably certain that any statute of limitations on fraud or misappropriation has run (albeit honest mistakes do happen), I can unburden my conscience (my roommate Mike Dwyer already having untimely gone to his reward). We immediately found two more freshmen, and sold them the second refrigerator!

Nellysford, Va.


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