Infirmary Blues (?) Syracuse Style

Have you heard of the S.U. Infirmary? Recapping a bit, Roy and I roomed together at Watson in years 54-55.  I lived in G. Cleveland 55-56 and Roy took a year off.  We roomed again in G. Cleveland 56-57.  We lived in the Infirmary for school years 1957-58 and at least part of 58-59.  Here is a link to it.

I think it will be helpful to show you the Infirmary, and return  into how we got  there.


Syracuse Infirmary & Student Health Service


“Constructed: Prior to 1904
Purchased by SU: 1926
Location: 109, 111 and 113 Waverly Avenue
Cost: $45,000 for all 3 buildings
Materials: Wood frame
Demolished: 1971″

“The three neighboring structures served as the office of the Student Health Service, the Men’s and Women’s Infirmaries and housing for the Resident Physician or Nurse. Henry Health Center was constructed on the buildings’ former sites.

Sure looks inviting doesn’t it? We lived there about a decade after the photo was taken and it had been repainted when we lived there. The Infirmary mostly treated colds, sore throats, and minor cuts, bruises, and abrasions.  The usual treatment was giving  the patient a supply of APC tablets with instructions to take as directed. Come back in a week if necessary.  That did OK really, and the University Hospital was to our rear, facing Marshall Street.  They could handle more complex problems and procedures.

The car in the foreground is a 1947 Packard Clipper sedan, so the photo is from 1947 or a few years after. For you car lovers, here is a YOU TUBE video of such a model, fully restored. Personally, I preferred the look of the 4 door Clipper.  The somewhat larger and costly Packard model was bulbous by comparison.

When Roy and I lived there, our address was 111 Waverly Avenue, which is the center building with the sign over the entrance.  I do not recall there being a Resident Physician of Nurse. There was a director, an M.D. and a Head nurse during normal hours. The first floor was the admission office and waiting room, exam rooms, and offices and a small kitchen in the rear. 

On the second floor there was one large room facing the street, a hall to a communal bath down the center, and a smaller room on each side of the hall.  The large room housed two medical students who did work-ups and served as after hours emergency health providers, if necessary.  The other two rooms were decent sized and housed two students each.  Roy and I were in one, and different occupants in the other.  We got free board for duties such as floor polishing, snow shovelling, etc.  Not bad really, as it was close to the campus, and there were no RA types to watch us.  Of course we were expected to keep our area cleaned up and to respect each other as we were a small group living close together.  It was not unheard of for one of us (not me) to invite a girlfriend up to enjoy garret life in all its glorious fullness.  

It was ideal for Roy and I.  We were good friends,  got free lodgings, and in general were quite satisfied.  Occasionally we would swap Infirmary duties, double up etc. so the other person could have a weekend away.  We were both independent personalities, and did not feel the need to buddy up with someone just because we joined a group, such as a fraternity.  Ours was GDI and I think you can work that out by yourself.  For us at least, less was more.  Our first dorm, Watson was much like a barracks.  Grover Cleveland was an old apartment building and that was like teaming up with some buddies and renting an apartment which was OK, but had seen better days.  The Infirmary was more like living in your favorite old aunt’s Victorian home and sharing space with cousins you got along with, but didn’t see too often.  

How did we get the offer to come to the Infirmary?  I do not know, and have no written record.  The best that Roy and I can come up with is that it was through Al Peaslee as an intermediary.  Al lived in the Grover Cleveland apartment that I did in 55-56.  He shared the common room with the guy with the eyelid trouble.  Al was enrolled in the NYS Forestry College.  As a State school, the tuition was modest at best and many of the courses in the first two years were the same ones taught by Syracuse U.  There were a few Freshman forestry courses but by the time of the Junior year, almost all the advanced undergraduate Forestry courses were taught in the Forestry college, also on the Syracuse U. campus.

I think Al had some sort of job, I don’t know where, when he lived in Grover Cleveland.  He also did at the infirmary when we were there. I don’t know doing what then, but it might have been washing dishes or something like that.  I know I didn’t get asked by the SU Student Employment office due to my well known belligerence.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that is not still recorded somewhere. Another question is why did both Roy and I got an offer at the same time?  It is very likely due to someone who at least know both of us.

I can vaguely remember getting a ride to and from Syracuse in a summer, I don’t know what year, with the Dannemora, NY Methodist pastor.  I think, for me, it involved going to the infirmary for an interview, but am not positive.  The pastor had a meeting related to his church duties.  We had made arrangements for him to meet me and we would drive back to Dannemora. Even if this factual, and no way to verify this after 60 years, who would have invited me for my interview?  

For me, this is one of the great unanswered questions of life ranking with : Is there a God, What is the nature of Good and Evil, etc., etc.  However it happened, by chance or by the beneficence of the Great Unknown, we continued to room together. This time it was in the rickety assemblage of Victorian houses seen in the photo.  Perhaps our contribution to civilization was to polish floors on Friday and shovel as required.  Mindless tasks that led to meditation on Great Thoughts.  At least the undergraduate version of that. 

So, not so blue at all. Time marched along for at least 3 semesters.  What was life like there? What did we do?  More later. 








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).
This entry was posted in Relationships, Syracuse, Syracuse University and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Infirmary Blues (?) Syracuse Style

  1. Allan T says:

    Sounds rather neat, I like the idea of living with an Aunt & cousins, that you really didn’t have a lot of contact with, yet were able to live “free & independent” lives.

    • R.J.F. says:

      Yes, living there was not at all institutional, more casual. In a way it was sort of like a family. We all had our “chores” to do and were trusted to live resposibly with our other “cousins.” There was turnover in the room across from ours, but we got along regardless.

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