Ages and Stages – The “Hairy Arms”

“What in the name of God’s green earth is the Hairy Arms?  Well, the short form of the answer is the name of the place I lived in my Sophomore and Junior years in College.  It was a residence for male upperclassmen and of course, that was not its real name.  There was a time in the distant past when somewhat presumptuous apartments would be given a name such as “Westhapmton Arms.” Someone before my residence gave the name Hairy Arms to our apartment.  Rather sophomoric humor, but as many of us were in fact sophomores it did make sense, in a way.  The real name of the building was the Grover Cleveland.  The following S.U. photographs and notes are from the Syracuse website http//

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

Grover Cleveland Apt.Syracuse University

“Original Construction Date: 1926 built as an upscale apartment building

Purchased by SU: 1946 – converted to Grover Cleveland residence hall for men and named for President Cleveland who served on SU Board of Trustees 1883-1885

Purchase Cost 1946: $115,000
Renovation Began: 1997
Renovation Cost: $3.3 million
Building Occupied: January 1998

Location: 700 University Avenue
Space: 27,500 square feet”

It is hard to imagine buying an entire apartment building for only $115,000, but then, that was 70 years ago.  I believe the Renovation mentioned above by S.U. refers to is present usage by the continuing ed. branch of S.U. I don’t recall it being renovated by the time I moved there.

A brief digression.  I mentioned Archbold Stadium last post but neglected to give a photo, so here is one:

Archbold Stadium

Archbold Stadium Syracuse University

“The stadium was  in a natural hollow at the southwestern corner of campus. Much of the 200,000 cubic yards of earth excavated was used as fill for constructing Carnegie Library. A modern adaptation of the Roman Coliseum, the first football game played in the stadium took place on September 25, 1907 between Hobart and SU. At the time, the exterior of the stadium had not been completed. The final game played in Archbold was on November 11, 1978; SU beat Navy 20-17. The stadium was demolished to allow for construction of the Carrier Dome.”

While I am reminiscing, I also include some information on Winchell, which was the women’s dormitory where Marge lived, though a few years later.

Winchell Hall Dormitory for Women

Winchell Hall Dormitory for Women

“The first dormitory to be constructed on campus and occupied in the Fall of 1900. Winchell Hall and Haven Hall were placed on the north side of University Place, bookending the University Avenue axis leading down the hill from the Hall of Languages. This marked the first time that campus buildings formally crossed University Place. In 1918, due to the First World War, Winchell was used as barracks for the Students’ Army Training Corps. While in the process of being demolished to make room for the building of Schine Student Center, a fire, possibly arson, swept through Winchell in early February 1984 and hastened the venerable structure’s end.”

The last two buildings no longer exist, but Grover Cleveland has found new life, so let’s get back to life in those idyllic (?)  days.  University life brought not only new quarters, but a change in life’s direction for me.

During my Freshman year, I found the curriculum to be limited in scope and stifling.  My view of the Seniors I met that year was that they were blinkered, truly so.  I wanted to end my tenure with knowledge of more than thermodynamics (gag) and differential equations.  I am sure you get the concept without more details.  I wanted to have a broader education than strictly engineering.

Fortunately, Syracuse had a dual degree program involving both the College of Liberal Arts and the Engineering college.  This approach was, somewhat simplified, using the elective courses in one college for required courses in the other.  The result would be a Liberal Arts degree in 1958 and an Engineering degree in 1959.

I discussed this idea and wish of mine with my parents.  They could see the sense of it and understand my wish for a fuller education.  At the same time, my sister Karen had to be considered. Mom and Dad did not have the resources to even partially provide for the expenses of my 5th year.  I agreed fully and was confident that I could take care of the 5th year expenses myself in some way.

So, this being understood, I submitted my application for admittance to the College of Liberal Arts as a candidate for the dual degree program.  This was approved in September of 1955, although I was only credited with 27 credit hours and 48 grade points. I never noticed this until just now, after all those years.  I didn’t get Liberal Arts credit for the courses indicated as engineering, otherwise I would have had 38 credit hours.  It did not make much difference, really.  I did not miss a semester, was admitted to the program, and when I got my engineering degree in 1959, I would receive credit for those freshman courses.  There was one fringe benefit though.  I did not have to take a required Liberal Arts course with the description, “Citizenship.”  From what I could gather from friends who entered Liberal Arts as freshmen, that course was a real catch-all pain in the gluteus maximus. Also, a full course load was 16 or at most 17 credit hours, not 19 or 20.  A tasty piece of cake all around.

Now, life at Grover Cleveland.  There were several floors, I am not certain how many, perhaps 6.  One entered a medium-sized foyer which held the last stop for the one elevator.  With the elevator stopped, the interior was visible through the top half of the door.  Inside was a brass accordion style folding door which one opened and pushed a button for the desired floor, manually closed the door and up you went.  There was no elevator operator, not spot for one.  I do recall one building in Plattsburg that had such an elevator in my youth.  There was a little round stool for the operator to sit upon and a large brass control with a handle that the operator used to push for the desired floor, and then make a final adjustment to level the elevator with the floor prior to opening the door. There might have been one such arrangement in 1926 when built, but not in 1955.

Each floor had mostly 2 bedroom apartments, with a few  one bedroom units.  In 1955 I was able to get a single and claim the bedroom. I didn’t have the place to myself, oh no.  The living area was now furnished with two beds with room for clothes etc.  There was a bathroom, but no kitchen.  I don’t know how the original apartment dwellers ate their meals.  Perhaps they were well off enough to eat in restaurants. Or maybe they made toast in toasters and soup on a hot plate.  Not so high-class.  We were forbidden any hint of cooking food in the dorm. If the Food Nazis found some, we would be written up for our transgression.  No doubt, food would attract roaches and that would be a real problem.

So, I had two apartment-mates.  One was a nice guy in the Forestry school, Allan Peaslee. His home was in Hancock, NY, the home of Margery’s grandparents, also in the village cemetery, her ancestors from at least civil war times.

 I don’t remember the name of the second resident.  He was a scrawny sort of guy, I don’t know how else to describe him.  I believe he had some trouble with his coccyx that required medical attention.  In addition, his eyelids never opened more than half way.  He looked as though he was always on the edge of dropping off to sleep.  He was pleasant, friendly and a good fellow dweller, but we never became real friends. I hope that in later life he was able to get his physical problems corrected.

What happened to my friend and roommate from my Freshman year?  He decided to take a year off and get a job while he sorted out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.  A wise choice. In 1955 the U.S. manufactured about everything you can think of for both the U.S. and the rest of the world. Roy got a job making locomotives, as he called it.    ALCO, as I believe the company was named, made locomotives for the railroad business It was located. in Auburn, NY, a small old city not far from his home. Roy got a job in its engineering department.  His Dad, Leo was the manager of a machine shop in Auburn that made spark plugs,  I don’t remember the exact name, but the product was well regarded.

 That was typical of NY, and no doubt other states as well, big companies such as G.E., Corning Glass, Crouse Hinds, (the street light company) and many more as well as feeder companies such as foundries. My home town, Dannemora NY, was, and is a one industry town.  The industry is keeping criminals locked up, many for life.  Did you ever watch the movie “October Sky?”  If not give it a try.  Its one industry was mining but the atmosphere, and psychology, much the same. My birthplace, Plattsburg, NY was the county seat housing the county autocracy and bureaucracy.  In the summer Plattsburg did a big trade with Canadians who came down to enjoy Lake Champlain. Consequently, I knew nothing about manufacturing or engineering, but I thought I saw a future for myself in this.

After about a month at Syracuse, I decided to call Roy to see if we could get together and get in touch again.  This led to an invitation to spend a weekend with him which I was glad to accept.  I didn’t have such a killer course load at school and I welcomed the chance to get away for a few days.  Roy’s family was very nice to me.  His Mom told Roy, not me, though that I looked as if I had just been rescued from a concentration camp. At the time, I was a bit less than 6’2″ and weighed 150 lbs. Gravity had shortened me a little and I have put on 25#.  Roy and I were about the same height, but he outweighed me by maybe 50 lbs.  We were just built differently.  Mrs. Bates decided her role was to fatten me up.  She was a good cook and made a wonderful butternut cake.  In case you don’t know, butternuts are native to the Eastern US and parts of Canada. They are also known as a white walnut. They make a fine cake, but the nut meat itself takes more effort to extract than walnut nut meat.

Roy’s father, Leo, was built a lot like Roy.  He had risen through the ranks becoming the manager of the machine shop, I think the title then was Superintendent, a title now quite old-fashioned.  Roy had two sisters.  Pat was about 4 years maybe 5 at most, younger than I.  Cheryll  was 8 or 9 years younger than I. We all got along fine, and until I graduated their home was my home away from home.  A pleasant and positive experience that I remember fondly, hidden away, but not lost, in my synapses.  I hope that never happens.

I think this post has gone along enough for now.  I started my sophomore year a different person than I was the prior year.  I was certain now that I had made good choices, and certain that I could handle whatever was in the future.  I looked forward to my stay at Syracuse with confidence I didn’t have a year before.



About R. F.

I am a retired Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. I am now a volunteer instructor at the University Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
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4 Responses to Ages and Stages – The “Hairy Arms”

  1. Allan T. says:

    Interesting, I ( as I said before) wonder what my life would have been like, if I had gone ahead as my parents wished and went to college! Of course I am sure I would have stayed in New York, and never met Janice.

    • R.J.F. says:

      Yeah, sometimes I too wonder what would have happened if………..Fill in the blank. How is Janice doing? As I recall she was having some eye surgery in the future. I went to see the movie Woman In Gold at the Suncoast on Tuesday. Pretty good I thought.

  2. ingridmg2014 says:

    Hi, Dad, I’ve just been catching up on reading some of your recent posts as I’d fallen behind. Thanks for including the photos of relevant buildings. It really helps to visualize the scenes. Love you!

    • R.J.F. says:

      Thanks Ingrid, I think the photos, though not strictly my own, do help give an idea of the context. I was surprised to learn that the old Grover Cleveland building is still in use, though I am sure it must have been entirely renovated inside. I love you too!!

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