The Right Stuff: Dorm-Room Essentials Through the Decades

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Whether they come to campus from near or far, there’s one thing almost every resident student agonizes over each summer. Their packing list. Like most other things, this list of dorm-room essentials has evolved. Here we take a look at how students from different decades decided what to bring with them to Fordham.

Hal Cody today

Cody, a retired pilot, majored in psychology and was in the Air Force ROTC program.

A Portable Record Player

Hal Cody, FCRH ’58, started out in Queens Court. “Then later I moved to Martyrs’ Court, where they had the suites—it was fabulous,” he says. Cody came to Fordham from Stamford, Connecticut, and went home on weekends.

“My father dropped me off with a suitcase carrying a week’s worth of clothes. I brought one sports jacket and a couple of ties and shirts,” he says, noting that his mother would do his laundry at the end of each week.

“I brought a radio and my portable record player with my LPs—33-and-a-third RPMs! I brought old country-and-western records—Hank Snow, Hank Williams—and maybe a show tunes record. And I brought the table I built in shop in junior high for the living room. That’s all we needed.” Posting things on the walls was not allowed, he says.

Later on, Cody shared a suite with seven other guys. “I checked around off campus and I found out that for 88 dollars we could buy a TV. Eleven dollars each! We had it in our common living room for three years,” he says. “As we were finishing school, we drew lots for it. A guy who was getting married real soon got it.”

After freshman year, Cody also brought his car—a ’52 Ford convertible. “It was maroon—go Rams! I parked it by the tennis courts,” he says. “But those of us that had cars, we didn’t really use them during the week. If you went anywhere you took the el (the elevated train) or the subway.”

David Langdon is carried off the football field after a big victory.

On November 7, 1964, Langdon is carried off Coffey Field after coaching Fordham’s newly formed club football team to victory against NYU.

Sports Coats and Ties

In fall 1961, David Langdon, FCRH ’65, was part of a small group of students moving to Fordham from outside the Northeast.

The Joliet, Illinois, native says packing was a challenge since he would only be going home once before his freshman year ended, during the winter break. “Knowing that I had to wear a suit or a sport coat and tie to class,” he says, “most of my packing was dictated by those simple facts.”

Langdon says he left his athletics gear at home.

John Stevens grabs a basketball mid-air

Stevens goes for the skyhook against St. John’s.

“I was intent on becoming an intellectual. Funny,” he says, “since I later became the captain of the rugby team and the coach of the return-to-football team in the fall of 1964. My mother had to mail my cleats. My dreams of being an intellectual had already been compromised and I made room for some jock time.”

Langdon’s roommate for all four years, John Stevens, was another talented athlete. “He was Fordham’s best basketball player during those years,” Langdon says of his friend. For his part, Stevens made sure to bring his record player with 78s and 45s, a briefcase, and a typewriter. When the roommates moved into a suite, Stevens also brought the TV and antenna.

Langdon says there were only four dorms on campus at the time—three for freshmen and Martyrs’ Court for upperclassmen (now there are 14 at Rose Hill and two at Lincoln Center). The prospect of living in the suite-style rooms at Martyrs’ was one of the things he was most excited about when he came to Fordham. “I loved the sound of the word ‘suite’.”

Lori O'Connor sits behind her tall rubber plant.

O’Connor kept her rubber plant in her grandmother’s antique vase.

Flora and Fauna

Following a growing trend on the campus, Lori O’Connor, FCRH ’79, brought several plants and flowers to her dorm room. “I’ve kept plants since I was four years old,” she told FORDHAM magazine in spring 1976.

Her college collection included hanging flowers, creeping ferns, and even an impressively tall rubber plant in an antique vase that once belonged to her grandmother.

In fact, O’Connor’s assortment was so impressive that many of her fellow students knew her as “the plant lady,” including some male students who would stop outside her blooming window in the early morning to serenade her.

Other students, like Gigi Cidino, FCRH ’78, kept their plants in less conspicuous locations—like the women’s bathroom. Cidino told the magazine she was inspired to keep her plants in the unlikely location by “the heavy moisture buildup in the showers; it’s better than misting and spraying all the time.” 

Glitter and Safety Pins 

Sally Benner, FCRH ’84, who came to Fordham from Buffalo, New York, says she packed just a little too light for her first year, in Queen’s Court’s Robert’s Hall.

“I think I brought enough for a week,” she says. “I thought I could stretch it for an academic year, forgetting about season changes. So a winter coat was shipped to me.”

Sally Benner on stage during her time in Fordham's Mimes and Mummers

Benner (left) on stage with the Mimes and Mummers. In 2004, she started the the group’s alumni association.

Once she arrived on campus, Benner says she and her mother went to Courtesy drugstore on Fordham Road to buy an electric kettle and an iron. “That was really important to my mother. I was going to college and I needed to look like a crisp college student.”

Benner also brought items to decorate her room, including photos of her family and her cat, and a Beatles poster, “even though it wasn’t a group of my era,” she says. “It just seemed to me that it was something a college student should put on their walls. And I loved John Lennon. He was alive during the first part of my freshman year. My dream was that maybe I’d someday cross paths with John Lennon in New York City.”

Lennon was shot and killed during reading week in December of her freshman year. “We were all sitting vigil,” Benner says, “listening to the radio.”

Anticipating that she would get involved in theater, Benner packed some items that could be transformed into costumes, like a princess skirt and a tiara. “It was the punk era, so lots of glitter makeup and safety pins for looking tough.”

Schwab with her husband and son during reunion.

Schwab and her family at the Lincoln Center Reunions in 2016.

A Big, Bulky Desktop

“I started college in 1999, before [everyone had] cell phones,” says Kristin Schwab, D.O., FCLC ’03, GSE ’06. But the natural sciences major brought plenty of other electronics with her when she moved into McMahon Hall.

“I started out with a VCR but then ended up getting a DVD player. Everyone had their own digital alarm clocks. Most people had computers too—it was before laptops, so pretty much everyone had a big, bulky desktop,” Schwab says.

“And I made sure I had my CD player,” she says. “I was a big 98 Degrees fan. My part of the room was plastered with 98 degrees posters.”

Schwab, originally from Ozone Park, Queens, was also very big into New Kids on the Block and Dirty Dancing. “My room was a shrine to 80s pop culture,” she says.

Schwab also brought another throwback with her to college. “I had straight hair—to give it a curl, I used hot rollers every day,” she says. “That’s what everyone knew me for was the hot rollers. I still use them to this day.”

A Blender, a Steamer, and a Coffee Machine

Kate Carney is one of 1,344 freshmen who moved onto the Rose Hill campus this past Sunday. “I severely overpacked,” she says. “I needed about 100 little hangers for my clothes.”

Carney’s priority was making sure she felt comfortable in her room right away. “My room at home is really decorated, so I didn’t want the walls here to be empty at all.”

Kate Carney shows off her new dorm decorations.

Kate Carney made her new dorm-room feel like home.

So Command hooks were essential. Carney immediately hung up a garland, string lights (with built-in Bluetooth speakers), and a sign above her bed that reads “The City Never Sleeps.” She also brought framed pictures of her home on Long Island and of her family and friends.

“A lot of my room is New York-themed too,” Carney says, “to keep me reminded of where I am and all the things I can do here. To keep me ready to go and explore.”

Carney also brought some household appliances, including a vacuum, a mini steamer, a smoothie maker, and her Keurig coffee machine. Her roommate, a friend from high school, brought the printer.

Carney is already settling in. She says she loves her residence hall and how spacious the rooms are. “And my roommate and I didn’t coordinate the decorations, but our beds look really good together anyway.”

—Nicole LaRosa contributed reporting to this story. 

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