When President Falk announced his decision to move out of Sloan House to somewhere more suitable to his family’s needs, no one was shocked. My memory of helping restrain my drunken friend to prevent him from ringing the Falk family’s doorbell one night years ago speaks to the perils of living in such a prominent, central location on campus.
While the College’s presidential house perches closer to snack bar than any other residence in the area, most Ephs would agree that, if you’re looking for peace and quiet from loud and rambunctious college students, nothing could be worse than neighboring the off-campus houses on Hoxsey and Meadow Streets.
Instructional Technology Specialist Trevor Murphy, who resides on Meadow St. with his wife and their 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, sums up the experience well: “I enjoy living on Meadow St.,” he said, adding, “Certainly, amazing things have happened – good and bad and humorous as well.”
Before the Murphys bought and moved into their current home in 2002, the residence housed students living off campus, much like the two Meadow houses where current seniors live today. “When we went in to see the house [for the first time] there were still students living there,” Murphy recalls. “We went in to the first floor and there was a pyramid of leaky cube fridges, and then there was an archway of photographs of students doing drugs of various types, like a Hall of Fame, and the dining room table had a pyramid of beer cans, and the kitchen had raw meat all over it. Then we went upstairs and that was pretty gross, too.” Needless to say, before moving in, they “did a lot of work on it,” Murphy said.
Although the students vary greatly in personality and communicativeness from year to year, Murphy says they have a few things in common. “They’re always so charming when you first meet them,” he said about his neighbors. Of his first year on Meadow St., Murphy said, “That was the year I found out [that] if someone brings you cookies, it means there’s going to be a big party.”
Another common trait Ephs share that Murphy has observed is their reaction when mistakenly entering his home. “Students walk into our house several times a year. They miss all the signs; they miss the little teeny shoes, and they miss the little bicycles and the little coats, and they just walk by all of that. They come into our living room, they see us, and we see them, everyone’s surprised, and they just start walking backwards real slow, without saying a thing. No one’s ever said anything but they all act the same way: They just walk backwards like they’re suddenly tour guides.”
Living on Meadow St. provides an interesting growing-up experience for Murphy’s kids. “There are things that the kids see that [prompt us to] talk about issues that maybe we would have waited till they’re teenagers to talk about,” Murphy said. “They definitely see things and we try to balance that out by taking them to college events where they can see students in a positive light and see some academics in addition to the parties.”
The Murphy children generally have good relationships with their student neighbors. The kids play games like catch, lacrosse and frisbee with the Ephs, and enjoy plates of food from their neighbors during the Turkey Roast and Pig Roast parties before the festivities take off. Still, Murphy says, “They know that the students are different when they have a big party, and they know when to stay away!” For example, once, “they saw someone hitting people with pizza boxes and it turned out to be someone who worked in the elementary school who helped them with science,” Murphy said. “They thought they were really awesome, but after they saw them at the party it just changed their perception a lot.”
Murphy’s kids also know how to mess around with their neighbors. They’ve even developed a game: “From one of our windows, you wave at a student going to the bathroom. If they ignore you, you get no points. If they move somewhere else, you get one point. If they wave back you get five points,” Murphy explained.
Dynamics between students at the College and children from the town have changed over the years. Lecturer in English Paul Park grew up in Williamstown, on Chapin Court, back when the College was an all-men’s institution with operating fraternities. “It was a really different kind of time. There were just huge parties at [the frats] and parties that sort of involved the town in a different way,” Park said. For example, Park recalled that during the home football games there would be “a torch-lit procession down the middle of the street and all the kids from the town would follow. There’d be a huge bonfire outside of Chapin Hall and people would sing ‘Yard by Yard’ and burn effigies of the opposing quarterback.”
While our football traditions have evolved, some things never change: “One thing that hasn’t changed is that if you live [near Route 2] you’re just sort of constantly picking up beer cans and half open bottles of beer and you’re constantly being woken up in the middle of the night by people yelling outside your window,” Park said, something his sister Jessica Park, student mail clerk, experiences living on Hoxsey St., in the house their parents bought in the late ’60s. Then, like now, the littering of cans was a big enough problem that, Park said, “After parties [my other sister and I] would go collect beer cans off the street and cash them in at two cents each, and for that to be worthwhile it had to have been many dozens of cans.”
Both the Parks and the Murphys recognize that living so close to students is a different kind of experience from the one most other members of the College’s faculty and staff have. “It’s a good place to live,” Murphy reassured, but with that said, he added, “But it’s totally not for everybody.”