Eagle Tale: Heat Wave
Remembering hot, hip days in Bruce Hall -- By Cynthia Boyd Guidici ('85, '86 M.Ed., '97 Ph.D.)
Ten years ago my husband and I left campus, bound for full-time teaching jobs. Every time we get back up to UNT and drive around, we see growth. And we get a little envious. Case in point: If I could have used the new Student Rec Center, perhaps I wouldn’t still be battling an unspecified number of extra pounds today.
However, there’s one change to the campus that I’m glad I missed. When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it: air conditioners, clogging the windows of Bruce Hall. It pains me to think of the grave disservice done to today’s Brucelings by these window units.
I will admit that I didn’t ask to be a Bruceling. I signed up for Maple Hall, with its suite baths, AC and feminine graces. Some housing guru knew better and assigned me to sweat, general baths and the co-ed camaraderie of Bruce. I dreaded the two years that now provide some of my favorite memories — memories that would be quite different with AC.
When Bruce Hall opened in 1948, to women only, the rooms didn’t even have doors — just curtains, to keep the breezes moving. In 1981, doors stood open all day. We leaned on doorframes and discussed serious matters: temperature humidity indexes, rain chances, the symptoms of heat stroke. We fled to the air-conditioned, social areas of the building, the café and the lobby. We were in danger of becoming lounge lizards, but we knew each other. We couldn’t sequester ourselves in our muggy rooms. We were in it together, sweating, griping and generally having a grand time.
Without AC, Bruce Hall hummed. It hummed with fans (the preferred arrangement included two box fans and an oscillating fan). It hummed with activity — people coming and going, showers running all day long as students cooled off. It hummed with music — lip-bruising licks from the Maynard Ferguson-wannabe across the courtyard, vocalises from the Met-hopeful soprano down the hall, the latest inspiration of the band using the small group room. It hummed and buzzed and vibrated until the first good cold fronts blew through.
Melodies swarmed through the halls and flowed out windows, inspiring practice, or guilting us into it. The heat itself drove us to practice, because the practice cubicles in the musty, shadowy basement of the dorm had AC. Getting overheated? Sign out a cube and conquer Clementi in comfort!
But the greatest benefit of two years in pre-AC Bruce Hall is that I learned to ignore the noise and heat when it was time to study. Today, I work from home with two kids in the house. But that’s no problem: A celebrity home makeover team could redo the house from foundation to roof, and as long as they didn’t spill my coffee or trip over computer cables, I’d stay on task.
Would pre-AC Brucelings have complained if window units had shown up on the loading dock one day, ready for installation? OK, probably not. But the unique community of my Bruce Hall years was made possible by heat. I wouldn’t recognize today’s Brucelings, who don’t have to worry overmuch about pits, who can keep curl in their hair and sweat off their homework.
So I invite the Brucelings of the past, bonded by the badge of perspiration, to remember the heat fondly and say, with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare: “We few, we sweaty few, we band of Brucelings!”