This used to be my playground: house pictures instill history

The struggle for posterity, even at a small school like ours, is almost always a losing struggle. Sure, you’ve got your Allens and Bronfmans, who surface years after graduation to share some of their millions with their alma mater. It is likely that future students will attend class and practice in facilities bearing the names of students of the present. A cheaper and quicker shot at posterity can be taken by the most athletically gifted, for sports heroes are not soon forgotten. However, it is a sure thing that these individuals too will someday fade from the College’s collective memory.

There is one way, though, for the common student to live on in perpetuity. Get yourself on a house composite picture, such as those hanging prominently in the Greylock houses, and you can be assured that your image will be gazed at, either lovingly or laughingly, by generations of future students. These framed pictures, composed of the individual pictures of a house’s residents from a given year, are basking in resurgent popularity among Greylock Quad residents.

“Having a house composite picture made has been the number one request from Bryant residents this year,” said Adam Grogg ’04, Bryant House’s House Coordinator (HC).

The same goes for Carter House, where the house pictures are the primary decoration for the first floor kitchen and lounge. Carter HC Sean Gillespie ’04 echoed Grogg’s sentiments on the high level of desire from current students to be featured in their own picture collection.

“There’s been a lot of interest from people in the house,” he said. “They’d like to see themselves down in the kitchen.”

Carter House resident Andrew Vinick ’04 looks forward to becoming part of a family tradition; his sister, Julie Vinick ’95, is featured on the Carter ’93 house picture. According to Vinick, it wasn’t a glorious moment for his elder sister.

“She had gained 20-30 lbs. when that photo was taken, and my older brother and I always make fun of her for that particular time,” he said.

Clearly, some pictures are held in higher regard by their subjects than others. Vinick, a Gladden resident last year, had his own bad picture experience.

“I have a problem with those pictures,” Vinick said. “When I posed to take one for Gladden last year, I had my mouth open making a funny face and said that I wanted that as my picture, and they put a photo of me looking regular (maybe the first one they took). But that’s garbage because my face was mad funny.”

Vinick has good reason to be disappointed that his original pose was replaced by a more pedestrian shot. The most intriguing photos found on the boards of the past are naturally the goofiest. While the pictures from the ’60s show rows of smiling, WASPish men in blazers, most entirely unremarkable, the ’70s were evidently a decade where it was entirely possible to cut loose. In addition to the appearance of female students, and the presence of actual ethnic diversity, the pictures from the decade of disco are remarkable for the quality of the ’fros present.

Consider, for example, the Carter House pictures from 1976, hanging in that house’s kitchen. In the bottom row, Leslie Hayling ’76 and Alain Ades ’75 sport dark, prominent ’fros. Their outfits are vintage ’70s style; the former is wearing a Hawaiian shirt with a strange, exotic pattern. The latter is decked out in a full disco suit, complete with flying collar. A couple of rows above, Irwin Rowntree ’76, with blond ’fro, looks surprisingly contemporary, his outfit bearing a fine resemblance to something that Lenny Kravitz might wear today.

A partial listing of transcendent photos from past Greylock house pictures fails to do the medium justice, but here are some personal favorites: from Carter ’82, two frat boy types sporting matching Dodgers batting helmets; Zoey and Carlos, dog mascots of Bryant ’77; a Stuart Deans from Carter ’76 who looks more than anything else like a young Doc Brown from “Back to the Future;” Kate “Cyclone” Brennan from Bryant ’89; and Erik Selesta from Bryant ’90 posing with Frisbee, a clear antecedent to today’s WUFO men.

House pictures can also be found in the Prospect House kitchen. At least one current resident thinks they’re “pretty hilarious.” But aren’t students worried that if they participate in the same ritual, they’ll be laughed at in the same way years later? In fact, most students don’t seem to mind at all.

“I think that people will be laughing at our style anyway,” said Payson Cushman ’05, a Prospect House resident.

Less humorous, however, is the fate that has befallen one Carter House picture board from the ’60s. The board, while still hanging in the Carter House kitchen, is in shambles. Pictures have become unstuck from their rightful positions on the board, and now lie all over the place, like leaves blown by the wind, most crooked, some upside down. What was the cause of this tragedy?

Late one night in mid-February, a Williamstown Police Department (WPD) patrolman, out on a routine cruise, “observed two males walking across Main Street. . . with what appeared to be a large construction sign,” according to a WPD press release. The officer, helped by the arrival of back-up, apprehended the two hoodlums, one of whom turned out to be a recent alum. In his arms the officer found the stolen Carter House picture board.

Everybody, it seems, is after a little piece of posterity.