Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deerpath Was Nothing Like This

Not Deerpath 1989. This is Purdue 2009 via the Tribune.

When I arrived on Lake Forest College's picturesque setting that scorching August day in 1989, I was a wide-eyed 18-year old away from home for the first time, except for a couple trips to Nana's and one week at summer camp.

I moved into the freshman dorm, Deerpath, where I believed I'd have the best chance of building relationships with the men and women I'd spend the next four years with. Deerpath was a long rectangular nondescript 3-story red brick building. There were no elevators and only the halls were carpeted. It was a co-ed dorm with women living on the first two floors and the men on the third. The halls, along with each dorm room, were painted a light beige. Each room had a cold tile floor, 2 dressers, 2 desks, bunk beds that could be taken apart, 2 chairs and a small closet with a cabinet above. My roommate and I considered ourselves lucky because our furniture, albeit old, mostly matched.

Each floor had a communal bathroom. The sinks each had separate faucets for hot and cold water. In the basement, we had laundry facilities and a couple of study rooms with a computer or two. The dorm lounge, on the first floor, had a TV, although I don't think it had cable, a couple of tables, a few chairs, and a couch or two. To say it was sparse would be an understatement.

Oh, and we had to walk about a 1/2 mile each way to reach the cafeteria. That was fun in the warm weather, but during a snowstorm, it wasn't so cool. We made the walk anyway, because freshmen weren't allowed to have cars and we were hungry. The only delivery option was Domino's.

It wasn't much, but I thought I was in Heaven. I had never expected dorm life to be Taj Mahal living. I figured my dorm room was basically a place to lay my head when I got back from the library.

Twenty years later (OMG! It's been 20 years since I was a college freshman!), my inner circle of friends is still made up of those friendships forged in Deerpath and on the campus of Lake Forest College. I look back on the three years and a summer I spent in Deerpath (I went on to be a RA in Deerpath for 2 years) fondly and with many good memories.

Imagine my surprise when I opened today's Chicago Tribune online and the top story (it must be a slow news day) was titled "Swanky dorms lure undergrads" and it's all about the palatial dorms of today. Maid service. Tanning beds. Flat screen TVs. Private bathrooms. No roommates. And that's just the beginning. Nothing is too posh for Millennials.

Yes, these dorms are cool. But what happens when these students move out into the real world and discover that they can't afford such luxuries?

I remember after I graduated, my first apartment had some serious flaws (read: roaches), but I could afford it on my salary without financial help. I didn't have a TV, much less cable or maid service. I garbage picked my dresser and vacuum cleaner. My towels had been "bought" by saving my mom's grocery receipts at Dominick's (spend a certain amount and receive a full set of towels for free). My dishes were "bought" the same way. My pots, pans, kitchen utensils were hand-me-downs from my Gardner grandparents who had recently moved into a nursing home. My silverware was from a garage sale. I had a plastic 3-drawer nightstand. The only two things that were new was my double-bed and sheets. Eventually, I bought a loveseat, but I paid it off over 6-months at 0% interest. When a friend came to stay with me for 3 months, we garbage picked a single mattress and box spring for her to sleep on from someone in my apartment building. I held onto those until I left DC because that was the perfect guest bed. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

What a difference a generation makes.


  1. My parents took me to visit the downstate campus I was considering attending. When I raised my head from the backseat of my parents car and beheld a campus dorm for the first time, I said, "It looks like a housing project." My dad reponded, "It is."

    The struggle to get by and make due are two of the most important lessons of college. They build character. Too bad the schools have opted to drop those courses in an effort to market to kids and their parents who are scared of life's little difficulties.

  2. You are so right, American Girl! Learning how to get by and make due are important life lessons. I'm glad I had them.

    That said, I completely feel old reading the Tribune article with the basic attitude of "when I was in school, we walked 5 miles up hill both ways in 7 feet of snow without shoes so you've got nothing to complain about, Missy!"

    How do they make friends though if they have private rooms and private bathrooms?

  3. One other thing, we had a nickname for Deerpath. We called it "Deerpit," affectionately, of course.


Thank you for leaving a comment on Little Merry Sunshine. Due to the volume of spam comments, all comments must be approved to ensure they are not spam or spambots. Thank you for understanding.