Bob’s tale of escaping from The Towers to a much better room in the Horseshoe reminds me of my own experience a few years earlier. Ironically, I tried to get into the Towers, and later strove to get out of the Horseshoe.
When I was accepted at USC in the summer of 1978, I listed The Towers as my first-choice dorm on my housing application. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I was an idiot. I hadn’t actually visited The Towers and had no idea of how squalid they were. I picked them solely on the basis of their central location. Fortunately for me, there were no open slots in The Towers. In fact, there were no open slots in any dorm, and for a while it looked as if I wouldn’t be able to go to USC.
But a couple of weeks before classes were scheduled to start, I received a letter telling me that a housing slot had become available, and of course I took it without quibbling about which dorm it was in. Purely by chance, I ended up in the Horseshoe.
Specifically, I was in a room on the second floor of Legare, the building next door to Pinckney (where Bob would end up living a few years later). But Bob’s Horseshoe wasn’t the same as mine. In 1978, the dorms on the Shoe were better than the Towers, but they were shabby and in need of renovation.
My suite in Legare housed three people, including me. It consisted of one bedroom for two people (which I shared with George), another bedroom for one (occupied by Bubba), and a common room. The common room had three built-in desk/bookshelf units with chairs, a washbasin, and some empty floor space that Bubba filled with a sofa and a stereo set. No other furniture was provided. There was no kitchen, no bathroom (we had to go downstairs for that), and no air conditioning. Heat was provided by a radiator located against the front wall of the common room, as far from the bedrooms as possible.
Despite these flaws, my Horseshoe suite might have been an OK place to live. Bubba was an excellent roomate, very friendly and easygoing. But George was the opposite: unpleasant, disagreeable, and drunk most of the time. I was stuck sharing a room with him. (Why couldn’t the housing gods have put Bubba in the same room with me, and George in a room by himself?)
I gritted my teeth and put up with the situation for my first year at USC, but when it came time to apply for housing assignments for the following year, I was determined to move. I checked out the other dorms to see what the possibilities were. By this point, I knew to avoid The Towers. The men’s dorm called Preston was also not an option. If anything, it was worse than The Towers. There was actually a T-shirt that said “In Preston, no one can hear you scream . . .”
Bates West was one of the newest dorms on campus. It was located on the periphery of the campus, but I no longer cared about central location. The rooms were actually suites for four people: two double-occupancy bedrooms with desks, a full bathroom, a furnished common room, and a small but fully-functional kitchen. The building was a 14-story high-rise with elevators, central heat and air conditioning, a trash chute, and a laundromat in the basement. What more could you ask for?
I didn’t have to camp out like Bob did, but I requested and received a reassignment to Bates West. I lived there for the next three years, leaving only when, in my senior year, I obtained rent-free living quarters near the center of campus. (But that’s another story.)
The year after I left the Horseshoe, the university closed Legare and Pinckney, gutted them, and rebuilt the interiors. The renovated Horseshoe dorms were similar to Bates West internally, except that each four-person suite had four private bedrooms. Each suite had a balcony, too. So I can certainly understand why Bob was as eager to get into the Horseshoe as I had been to get out. His timing was much better than mine.