Dorm Rooms, And How Av And A Bunch Of Other Drunk College Kids Moved A Shanty Into Theirs

It has been so much fun seeing the dorm-room displays in some of the shops here, since it’s time for everybody to start thinking about getting back to school. Some places have very boutique, dreamy custom bed linens for those extra-long beds, and other places are all about organization. It’s had me daydreaming about how I would decorate if I had to do it all over again.

My dorm room was in Clements Hall at Troy State. I was lucky that my roommate was a sweet girl named Kelli, who was from Lincoln, and practically right across the hall was my other best-friend, Erika from Clayhatchee (they were bridesmaids at my wedding too!). The building was co-ed, and downstairs was my boyfriend from all the way back to middle school, Jeff.

Y’all, we all had the biggest time in college. And one of the nice things was that Troy was close enough to the beach that every weekend, big groups of us would drive down to Panama City and spend the whole time on the beach. I don’t remember how many people we could fit in a hotel room but it was always just the very best fun. Aaaahhhh….

Anyway, Kelli and I were really good friends and roommates, and we wanted our dorm room to be fun and cheery too. We weren’t allowed to paint the metal cabinets in our room, but we were allowed to use contact paper. Oh did we ever contact paper that room!

Ginger's Decorated Dorm Room Troy State 1995

Av’s brother went to CMU – Carnegie Mellon. He had done a summer run of ‘Dracula’ at his high school while also working for a local theatre group during the day. That year, in his dorm room, he constructed a raised platform about two feet tall and at night he would open a trap door in the platform, under which was his mattress. So during the day, he had extra floor space and at night he was in something straight out of ‘Dracula’ – it wasn’t supposed to be goth or anything, he just thought it was a good way to use the very little space in his dorm room. Pretty smart!

When Av was at UVA, after winter break, some group had built a shanty near the Rotunda. It was to protest apartheid in South Africa, in the late 80s. Late in the evening, Av and his suitemates were sitting around having a few beers, talking about how ugly the shanty was, especially with it next to Mr. Jefferson’s masterpiece. Someone said “what would happen if they came back tomorrow, and the shanty wasn’t there?” and everyone got a good laugh and said “nah…” and then there was silence.

And the next thing heard was, “let’s do it”.

So they sent out a team to scout the area. At 2am, they marched in pairs down Stadium Road dressed in dark clothes and then went off by teams in different directions to positions around the shanty. At a given signal, they all converged on the shanty. Several of them lifted it up – it was about the size of two outhouses – while four or five people fanned out in a circle to look for police or security. They carried it up toward the Lawn, which is UVA-speak for the long stretch of grass between the Rotunda, Mr. Jefferson’s original dorm rooms, and some later academic buildings. It’s basically the center of Grounds, which is also UVA-speak. They never say “campus”. And they never call T.J. anything other than “Mr. Jefferson”. So much to learn for us commoners.

Going through the wind tunnel by the Rotunda to get to the Lawn, the corrugated metal roof of the shanty slid off and clattered on the brick sidewalk. Students live in those rooms along the lawn – this is also the stretch of rooms where they keep Edgar Allen Poe’s room preserved. They dropped the shanty and dove flat onto the lawn in the dark because they knew it was going to wake someone up and they were all going to get caught, etc.

But no one emerged.

So after a few minutes, they picked up the shanty again, and Av wound up carrying the roof. They slowly made their way down the Lawn, down behind Cabell Hall, across US 29, then back up Stadium Road, to their dorm. They brought it up the front stairs but the shanty was too large to fit through the door to their suite. Av remembered that he had a hammer, so they started taking the shanty apart. Their R.A. came out and said “it’s 4am, you’re making too much noise. I thought for sure the cops would have gotten you” and went back to bed.

They reassembled the it inside their suite, where it stayed for the rest of the semester – and it became *the thing to do* for people to visit their suite and have a drink in the shanty! The group that built the shanty still did their protest – they even planned a couple more shanties.

There was absolutely no political statement being made by taking the shanty, it was just one of those things that (intoxicated) college students think of at 2 in the morning for fun. Later, an anonymous call was made to the Honor Committee and Judiciary – neither of which claimed any jurisdiction so there was no disciplinary action. At the end of the semester, they took apart the shanty and put it in the woods behind the dorm, where it still may be today.

So my husband’s record is clean. Thank goodness. Can you imagine telling people you spent a night in jail in college for moving something that looked like a big outhouse?

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