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Cloyne Court - Page 3.

Page 3 has 5 sections about my time at Cloyne Court, 1966 - 1970::

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Food - What we ate, and why.

Mrs. Ramos was the dietitian for the whole co-op; we had a Central Kitchen. Lunch and dinner were prepared at CK, put into rectangular "steam table" pans (18" long, 12" wide, 8" deep) and taken to each house in a truck that had special racks. This arrangement had disadvantages. For instance, Mike Burke (of Cloyne) had a "Truck help" workshift one quarter. One day he fell, spilling five gallons of apple lamb curry all over himself and the floor. Andre Castro rushed over, found Mike unhurt, then started scooping the glop off Mike (and the floor) back into the pan. Mike said he felt kind of bad for the guys who were going to eat it, so he made sure that particular pan went to Barrington.

Mrs. Ramos didn't have the world's greatest imagination, nor unlimited funds; in addition, every menu item had to hold up reasonably well during the truck ride. Mrs. Ramos had a repertoire of 21 menus, and after a quarter or so you could, if given the day of week and one item from the menu, recite the other items by heart. The choices for Sunday dinner, for instance, were 1) ham slices with pineapple, mixed vegetables and rice; 2) baked chicken, mashed potatoes, sliced carrots; 3) pork roast, applesauce, stuffing, gravy. (My memory hasn't given out; those were, with rare exception, the only meals we had on Sunday. Sometimes the vegetables were a little different.)

Wednesday evening and Sunday at 1:00 were the "company" meals; we had waitresses from Hoyt and Stebbins and didn't have to bus our dishes. Everyone had to wear a shirt and long pants. The menu was a bit spiffier, too; Wednesday was the only day we had roast beef.

Sometimes Mrs. Ramos experimented with the menu. One night we had potatoes au gratin, cauliflower in cream sauce, and halibut with white sauce. I looked at my plate, a dingy, institutional pink plate of thick, well-scratched plastic, and saw three semi-solid lumps, each a slightly different shade of grey. Heading out to Giant Hamburger wasn't an option, considering my budget. What do you do when you're 19, thin, broke and hungry? Laugh or cry ? I slumped down and ate it with a spoon; it went down faster.

Mrs. Ramos would set the menu for an entire month (sometimes by copying the previous month's menu), have it mimeographed and posted in all the houses as a guide. This way we could spend up to 30 days dreading a particular night, instead of having it surprise us. The menu would list vegetables as fresh or frozen. (Vegetables were delivered in the pans but each house cooked them itself; the frozen ones turned out soggy, the fresh, especially carrots, were woody.) This distinction led to grief one night. George Fan, newly arrived from Hong Kong and unaccustomed to western cooking, was the dinner crew chief. He saw "frozen broccoli" on the menu and served it that way - dished out of the CK pans and brought to the table still frozen, ice crystals glinting on the heads.

Breakfasts were even more regimented than dinners. We had eggs to order (so long as you ordered fried or scrambled) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, soft boiled eggs and cinnamon rolls Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday was special. It was the only day of the week we had orange juice and bacon. We had pancakes and cheese omlets, too.

Regimentation has its disadvantages; juice was an illustrative point. For the first two years I was at Cloyne (and presumably, for several years before that) Central Kitchen would direct which kind of juice the breakfast crew should open; Monday would be apple juice, Tuesday grapefruit, and so on. Once every two weeks the breakfast crew leader would open up 20 cans of apricot nectar, set out two cans to a table, then, after breakfast was over, dump 18 cans of apricot nectar down the sink; few of us wanted to drink something the color of carrots and the consistency of horse snot at 7:30 in the morning.

About 1968 someone had a brilliant flash. He opened four cans of juice, in assorted flavors, and put them on the toaster table. He had one of the crew replace the cans as needed. This idea took hold instantly; it cut down on waste and we all got the juice we liked. The fact it took several years to come up with the scheme shows how inefficient centralized planning can be.

Workshifts - What we did.

We all owed five hours a week, and most people did five. The most odious workshift, Central Kitchen pot wash, gave you 5 hours credit for 3.5 actual hours of work. The easiest job, operating the switchboard, gave you five hours credit for six actual hours of work.

About a third of the house worked in the kitchens, either ours or Central Kitchen. Each house owed CK a certain number of hours, based on house size. A CK shift wasn't as convenient as a Cloyne shift, but you got to meet women from the other houses.

In my four years I worked on the clean-up crew (my job was to sweep the main hall five nights a week; it was linoleum then), edited the Cloyne Crier, (a satiric fortnightly of extremely local interest) locksmithed, held a house office or two, worked on the bag lunch crew, and worked the switchboard. Most of the jobs were dull, with infrequent high points.

Take the bag lunch crew, for instance. I had stayed as far away from kitchen shifts as possible (that aversion to dish washing) until my junior year. Then one morning at breakfast there was a notice from the bag lunch manager; CK had send 100 slices of lunch meat for 110 sandwiches. 100 of us would get a sandwich with a thin strip cut off the edge of the bologna, the note said, and 10 of us would get a sandwich made of 10 little strips. This was much better than giving 10 people peanut butter and jelly, to my mind, and I thought it would be fun to work for such a creative and resourceful leader.

We never had occasion to repeat the great bologna slice solution in the two quarters I was on the crew. It was quiet, pleasant work, five nights a week. The four of us would get together at 9 pm, Sunday through Thursday, to make 100 bag lunches. (2/3 of the house opted for bag lunches in those days, some of them so they could watch the speakers at Sproul Plaza during lunch, others to avoid walking back uphill in the middle of the day.)

I learned how to use a rubber scraper to spread mayonnaise or mustard on 20 slices of bread at a time, a skill I never used afterward. The most fun we had came on the night of Easter Sunday, when we boiled and colored 100 eggs. This wasn't as thrilling as refereeing a nude volleyball game at Mills College, but you do what you can to make life interesting.

Fashion - What we wore.

Casual pants and sport shirts were the rule of the day; at any given time half of the residents would be in blue jeans. Blue chambray work shirts were a hot item too, especially if your girlfriend had embroidered something on the back or pocket. If a typical Cloyne man was going out on a date (especially if it was a concert in SF) he'd have on bell-bottomed blue jeans with a strip of embroidery along the side seam, a blue chambray work shirt, and a corduroy blazer with leather elbow patches. His date would have a blue denim mini-skirt, black turtle neck sweater, and black tights. If it was a rock concert, he's take off the jacket and substitute a paisley shirt, she'd wear a flowing blouse and a miniskirt.

I can remember looking at the audience one Saturday afternoon when Joan Baez was playing at the Greek Theater; it was a sea of blue, since virtually everyone in the audience had on blue jeans, and half of them blue chambray work shirts.

The fraternity men wore solid color oxford cloth button-downs or plain white tee-shirts, Levi 501's, white socks and penny loafers. Sorority women wore penny loafers, knee socks, wool skirts, pastel sweaters and white blouses with round collars. (Not every greek wore the uniform every day, but if you saw someone dressed like that it was a good bet they belonged to a fraternity or sorority.)

The Nickel Coke Machine

For years we'd had a Coca-Cola machine in the newspaper room. It dispensed a 7-ounce soft drink in a paper cup. The Coca-Cola company owned and maintained the machine. They originally gave the house a split of the profits, but, as prices rose, they reduced our cut while keeping the price down to 5. Towards the end the house was getting nothing, then, without consulting anyone, the company raised the price to 10 and promised the council 1.5 a cup profit sharing.

This wasn't the smartest thing in the world to do in a house of poor, but fiercely independent young men, many of whom were mechanical engineering students. Inside this particular machine was a large cylinder, rather like the cylinder on a six-gun, only it was a ten-shooter and loaded with paper cups. An anonymous person replaced one stack of paper cups with a softball bat, another anonymous person disconnected the power source, and four anonymous people turned the machine's face to the wall in shame. The house president called the company, apologized a bit and asked them to come and get its machine before someone reduced it to component parts.

As it turns out, you can buy almost anything used; the house council appointed a small committee, and I ended up at Honest Ed's used vending machine warehouse somewhere in the industrial part of Oakland, looking at a wide range of clean models with low hours. We bought a reasonable machine for around $600 (1968 dollars, remember), and had it delivered. The candy manager got a new responsibility, and our cokes stayed 5 for a long time afterwards.

(A related anecdote. Four years later, I was at "Round Up Days" in Loveland, Colorado. I'd served two years in the Peace Corps, where I had been almost tattooed by headhunters. My girlfriend at the time had waited two years for me, then dropped out of law school and my life to join the Moonies. I'd taken the bus a thousand miles to visit an uncle and forget. The same thing has probably happened to you.

As I looked at the carnival rides trucked in for the occasion, all of them old and needing paint, many of them patched with sheet metal, I thought back to the used vending machine company and realized that somewhere in the US was a newspaper devoted to the carnival business, and that in the back were classified ads, offering tilt-a-whirls with low miles and new tires.)

Further Reading

Calton Bolick edited the Cloyne Crier in the 1983. He has an entire site devoted to Cloyne Court at Cloyne Court History. They trace Cloyne's history from 1904 to the late 1980's.

The USCA keeps changing their site. It is sort of like the bylaws in any student-run organization; someone always has a better idea. Sometimes they have a page devoted to Cloyne, and sometimes they don't. The USCA is still the best housing deal at Berkeley, and a fine example of what students can do if they put their minds to it. How many multi-million dollar corporations do you know of that have been around for 67 years, with a board of directors whose average age is 20?

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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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This page updated: June 21, 2014