Brown Memories

By The Editors / November / December 2004
June 14th, 2007

In the July/August BAM we promised to publish a sampling of your college memories. Below is the first installment. Keep the submissions coming, either by completing the form in the middle of the July/August issue or e-mailing your replies to

On December 8, 1941, during my junior year at Pembroke, I was in the cafeteria in lower Alumnae Hall. A radio was turned on and conversation ceased; President Roosevelt was addressing the Congress. In that familiar cadenced voice he described the events of the previous day, that “date which will live in infamy.” He told us that a state of war existed. As the end of his speech we went quietly to our afternoon classes, our lives forever changed.

Ruth Bains Hartmann ’43

In response to a Brown Daily Herald editorial titled, “Hey, You, Burn Your Couch Day,” which criticized the proposed imposition of rental fees for dorm-room couches inherited from previous occupants, my roommates and I arose at four  one morning and stealthily carried our couch to the lawn in front of University Hall. I would like to say that we thereupon set the couch on fire, but we chickened out and left it with a copy of the editorial and a pack of matches. The next day the couch was gone. I don’t know if the rental fees were ever imposed.

Carl P. “Pete” Swenson ’60

During freshman year i caught my hands and forearm on fire in organic chemistry lab. I put the fire out, turned off the gas burner, and ran my arms under cold water while the TA went into shock. My friends walked me down to the Pembroke health center, where the nurse wanted to put Vaseline on my burns. I wanted to soak in cold water with baking soda to neutralize the acid in the mixture that had burned me. The doctor told the nurse that because my friends and I were chemistry majors, we could do whatever we wanted.

While I was recovering, my roommate, Sue Dodd, helped me to undress and dress. Friends even helped me to take out my contact lenses. My mom thought I should quit being a chemistry major because it was too dangerous. I figured I would be fine. I went on to graduate school in chemistry.

Marlys Page Henke ’65

When I entered Brown in 1966, Providence was the largest city in which I’d lived. Few students ever ventured downtown, as the campus area, including Thayer Street, provided, as still today, for all our basic needs. Except one. French pastries. We learned that an excellent patisserie was situated on Hope Street near Blackstone Boulevard. So one day an intrepid fellow freshman and I boarded a Hope Street bus (bus riding was a new experience for me, too), bound for the shop Les Petits-Fours. Once there, we purchased our treats from the suitably surly French proprietress, planning to have them at dinner that evening. Alas, the pastries never made it to Sharpe Refectory!

Richard Funk ’70

I lived in the first coed dorm at Brown during my sophomore year. A lottery had taken place in the spring of 1969, at the end of my freshman year at Pembroke, a year that was characterized by curfews, parietal hours, and semiformal sit-down dinners with a skirts-only dress code. We who were selected in the coed housing lottery were assigned to Diman House, known that year as Coed College. Immediately free of the restrictions that governed the other women in our class, we were able to come and go as we chose and to eat with the men at the Ratty.

The coed living experience was so successful, and the times were changing so quickly, that by the following year coed housing was available to all who requested it. Parietal hours, curfews, dress codes, and even Pembroke College itself were abruptly abolished.

Ruth Hanno ’72
Human biology

Lying on a blanket at midnight in Sayles Hall, eyes closed, I listened to organist Fred MacArthur play “‘O Blessed Death, O Sweetest Rest!” Isn’t that what we all longed for at exam time?

Joseph Copeland ’87
International relations

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Related Issue
November / December 2004