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Cloyne Court, 1966 - 1970: a Personal History

This history takes up 75 KB. I broke it into three pages to make it managable. Here is a list of pages and sections.

Introduction & Warning

Cloyne Court was (and is) a Co-op, a unit of the University Student's Cooperative Association. The students own it. Every student owner/member does five hours of work a week. The students do the cooking, cleaning, locksmithing, painting, plumbing and so on. The main office had about 11 full-time non-students; a general manager, three cooks, a baker and some accountants. We students did everything else. In 1970 the University dormitories cost $1,000 for a school year, with no workshift requirement. The Co-ops cost $600 a year. The costs have gone up, of course, but the Co-ops still cost 40% less than the dorms. When I was there Cloyne had 155 residents. There were about 1,100 students in the co-op system as a whole.

I've been back to Cloyne Court a couple of times since I left Berkeley in 1970. Whenever I introduce myself as an alumnus, the current residents ask "What was it like ?" This is a long answer to that question. Every time I go back I remember more stuff and add to it.

It is anecdotal instead of chronological, for two reasons. First, 90% of the time Cloyne was like any other living group in any other era; we studied, ate, did our workshifts and slept, with boring regularity. The exceptions to the routine, the anecdotes, be they funny or sad, are the most memorable events. Second, a list of who was president and who was house manager, budget levels and dates, would not answer the question - "What was it like ?"

It is specific; it was written for people who live (or lived) in Cloyne Court. You can get a feel for what life was like in Berkeley in the late 1960's from it, but some of the references will be confusing.

It is personal; what Cloyne was like for me wasn't necessarily what it was like for others. I liked it enough (and disliked cooking and dish washing enough) to stay for four years, 1966 - 1970. In my senior year only 12 or so residents (out of 155) were 4-year men. I can't "compare and contrast" (as they used to ask in English classes) Cloyne to other student living arrangements because I went straight from home to Cloyne, with just five days in a dormitory for freshman orientation between the two.

(Related anecdote: I was once driving with my wife's nephews. Their radio was tuned to a "golden oldies" station. I told them not to base their impression of the music from that era (1960 - 1979) on the songs they heard. For every record that made it into the top ten, a dozen others had failed to even make the charts and ended up being sold to a skeet club for six dollars per thousand. The music they play on the oldies station represents the top couple of percent of the whole. In the same vein, these anecdotes are the high (and low) points of four years, not a representative sampling. Most of the time it was like I suspect it is now; eat and sleep, study and work, a little fun, not enough time, not enough sleep, not enough money. Histories of the Civil War don't usually devote much time to the hours the soldiers spent cooking, washing, foraging for firewood or cleaning their muskets.)

Historical Background

Lyndon Johnson was president until 1968, when Richard Nixon took over. Ronald Reagan was Governor of the great state of California. The war in Vietnam divided the nation. In 1967 lot of teenagers went to San Francisco looking for a summer of love and discovered you couldn't get something for nothing.

The University was on the quarter system. A standard academic load was 15 units a quarter for three quarters, which would be, in the upper division, three five-unit courses. Most 5-unit courses met MWF for 1.5 hours or Tu-Th for two.

Money - What things cost, what we earned.

Things cost less back then, but we earned less. The minimum wage was around $1.45. Room and board was just over $200 a quarter, or $600 an academic year, in 1966. Most of us would leap at a job which paid $2.50 an hour to do heavy, unskilled labor. For instance, three of us once spent a pleasant Saturday in the hills, carrying three tons of sand and two tons of bricks from the front of a house, where they had been delivered, to the back, where the owners were building a patio. We used 5-gallon buckets, and they gave us lunch to boot.

Someone who didn't have to pay out of state tuition, worked full-time in the summer and 10 - 15 hours a week during the school year (plus his five hours for the co-op) could pay his own way through school. About a third of us were financially independent.

You could get a seat in the nosebleed section of the San Francisco Opera House for $5.00 for the ballet and the symphony. Giant Hamburger would sell you a 1/3 pound burger with all the trimmings for $1.39. If you went during off-hours, they'd grill the onions.

House makeup - A great mix of guys.

Cloyne was the co-op across the street from the engineering college, and tended to attract skinny kids who hadn't dated much in high school but were good at math. A good half to three quarters of the men who lived there did so because it was cheap and close. We had lots of architecture, physics and chemistry majors in addition to the engineers.

It was all male, and Hoyt and Stebbins, two co-ops on the next block downhill, were all female. We traded a certain number of hours with Hoyt and Stebbins. The women would work as waitresses for our Wednesday and Sunday afternoon dinners, and our maintenance crew would work on their problems. All three houses were co-ed in the summer. Cloyne went co-ed year-round a couple of years after 1970.

We had a goodly number of Asians, both Asian-American and foreign students, a trace of Hispanics, no blacks. "Jewish" didn't count as a minority, save when we had ham for dinner. We used to get twenty hamburgers for the guys who kept kosher.

The people you see in the history books - "Hippies", long-haired flower children, lived on the south side of campus and majored in Sociology. Cloyne had a few, but it always had spectrum of people. At any given time we had three or four ROTC students, a Vietnamese, and a member of the steering committee for the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), a militant leftist organization.

We usually elected short-haired engineering types to positions that would matter (house manager, kitchen manager), feeling "do your own thing" was fine until it began to impact on our comfort; then we wanted a drill-sergeant type who'd make sure the food was hot and the bathrooms were clean.

There were a couple of men every year who could afford better (one of them drove a 1966 mustang, back when it was only two years old) but preferred to live in the co-op because it was easier than living in an apartment, freer than the dorms, and the people were nicer than the fraternities. Fraternity men, in the late 1960's, were assumed to be rich, well-dressed, thick necked, thin skinned, racist morons who took easy classes and didn't care about anything beyond Friday's keg party. Most of the frat men didn't fit the stereotype, although the men in the Beta Theta Pi house, directly across the street from Cloyne, did.

Physical layout

Cloyne was always a warm, shabby, friendly sort of place. You only noticed the smell after you'd come back from a week or more spent in a different place, and after a day or two you stopped noticing.

The large, sunny room directly opposite the front door was called the Council room. The house council met there Monday evenings. It had a baby grand piano, usually out of tune, but serviceable.

The public room opposite the dining room had a stereo and our record collection. We had several hundred records. The collection ranged from drinking songs to rock and roll to classical. The house budget would have money for 15 or 20 new LP's per quarter. This room had our magazines, too. We subscribed to all magazines under the name "Cloyne Court Jr." (This comes up later in the story.)

The television (black and white) was in the basement. The majority of the house felt if we made TV viewing too easy we'd waste too much time watching it.

The room to the immediate left as you come in the main door was for newspapers. It had an enormous table, big enough that six people, three on each side, could lay their newspapers out flat and have room to turn the pages without interfering with each other. We got two SF Chronicles and an Oakland Tribune every morning. The candy, coke, cigarette and ice cream machines were in this room.

The student's rooms did not connect across stairwells. Each suite of apartments had one and only one stair. The central corridors were added about 1973, for fire safety. Security was looser. The front door was never locked, and there were no doors on the stairwells.

First Impressions

I moved into 15A, a large double on the third floor, on a warm weekend late in September, 1966. The room has since been re-numbered and split into two singles. At the time it the largest double in the house (12' x 24') because two people walked through it to get to their singles - 15P, a porch, and 15C.

The authorities at the University dormitory, where I'd spent five days being oriented, had posted large signs in every room warning of severe financial, social and academic penalties if you even thought of altering a room with anything more permanent than a plastic headed push pin. The first thing I noticed in my new room was the noise Harold Wong, in 15C, was making as he tore down walls. He was changing 15B's closet into a foyer so he would not have to walk through our room to get to his. This involved building two short walls and repainting some holes. He offered to show me how to hang sheetrock if I'd like to help.

As we worked he told me a lot of the guys hung their beds from the ceiling, put in short partitions, added bookshelves, and otherwise made use of their creative and practical talents. The rule about alterations at Cloyne was that it shouldn't require a building permit, and we should get authorization from the maintenance manager first if we wanted to be reimbursed for materials. This set of rules left more leeway for individual creativity than the rules at the dormitory.

A second "first impression" anecdote, focusing on academic skills rather than carpentry and architecture: At dinner on the third night of Registration week I happened to be sitting across from another freshman, and mentioned that college courses were going to be a quantum jump in difficulty from high school courses. He said he thought it was going to be little harder but he didn't foresee any difficulty because he had been a CSF seal bearer.

(Back then you made the California Scholarship Federation honor roll by grades. An "A" in a college prep course gave you three points, a "B" one point. If you got 10 or more points in a semester, you made the honor roll. You got a gold seal on your high school diploma if you make the honor roll four semesters out of six in grades 10 - 12. My graduating class of 500+ had 22 seal bearers.)

I said that was interesting and asked the rest of the table how many of them had also been seal bearers. Five of us had been, and the other two would have been, based on their GPAs, but they hadn't gone to high school in California. Then I asked, since we were comparing high school honors, how many had been National Merit Semi-Finalists. Five of us, but not the other freshman, had done that, too. He got a lot quieter.

[Ed. Note: I was destined to make a lot of stupid mistakes during those four years, but even then I knew I shouldn't brag about how smart I was in dining room of the co-op across the street from the College of Engineering.]

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[This is one of my Miscellaneous Essays. There are more; you may enjoy another section of my web site, too:]

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