The Don of Nelles House

In 1956 I was a graduate student living in the grad students' residence, Cavan House. I did not have much money and thought it would be useful if I could be a don, with a free apartment and free board, in one of the Burwash houses. By then I'd lived in Stephenson, North, and Cavan Houses, so had lots of relevant experience. I spoke to the Senior Tutor, Chris Love, and he said there was an opening. Nelles House for the last year or so `had gone wild.' If I thought I could `clean it up' I could have it.

In September I moved into my two rooms (a small bedroom and a study) on the second floor of Nelles. After dinner in Burwash Hall on the first night of the students being in residence, I was reading in my room. In the hall outside my door there was a growing noise of guys starting to rampage. I let matters go, briefly, since the official quiet hours hadn't come yet. But things were getting wild. I went out and saw water from above pouring down the stairwell. Bodies and buckets were hurtling around. I shouted and the hubbub stopped immediately. I said, `OK, quit this nonsense right now and clean up the mess.' They looked sheepish and I went back into my room. The cleanup followed. Much the same thing happened the next evening or too but I was there and, each time to my surprise, they obeyed immediately when I told them to stop.

A little later in the term I was working late one night on an essay. It was about 2 a.m. and I heard a rushing sound and voices on the walkway down in front of Nelles. I looked out and could see people and furniture moving. I pulled on a dressing gown and headed down. Our common room furniture was being transported towards Gate House by the traditional enemies of Nelles. I ran up to the head of the procession and said, `Alright, this may be very funny but take it all back to Nelles.' To my amazement they did.

The men of Nelles House and I quickly developed a mutual respect. I learned which of the house rules had to be adhered to, for the good of all concerned--quiet hours in quiet hours, so that study could get done; no damage to furniture or the building--and these rules were adhered to. Others, it seemed to me, did not matter so much. If it became known, as occasionally it did, that a girlfriend secretly stayed after visiting hours in someone's room, I took the attitude that this disturbed no one, so said nothing. For a year and a half, until I got married and moved out, the men of Nelles and I got along famously. As a grad student in English, I became an informal tutor helping with essays and serving as someone to talk to about intellectual and other matters. I've kept track of many of the guys and am still friends with some of them.

Story submitted by: Alvin Lee 5T3

About Victoria