Then and Now: Inside the dorm rooms

A freshman baseball player residing at Trenton State College in 1977 is prepping for his date with a girl he met in history class. While dressing in his sharpest leisure suit, he sets the tone for the big night out by spinning his 45 record of the Bee Gees. Toes now tapping and a Marlboro hanging from his mouth, he struts down the hallway, pops a dime in the pay phone, and calls his date to see if she ’s ready and will let him into her residence hall. He moseys back to his room, puts out his smoke, winks at the Cheryl Tiegs poster on the wall, and heads out.

©John Davis

©John Davis

Fast forward 30 years. A freshman lacrosse player at TCNJ is going out with a guy she met in her forensic chemistry class. She’s decked out in her skinny jeans and Forever 21 top, grooving to the sounds of Usher emanating from her iTunes playlist. She text messages her date to see if he’s ready, grabs her lip gloss, and walks across the hall to knock on his door.

Times have changed, and what you’ll find inside a current college student’s dorm room has changed dramatically. While the rooms inside Travers or Decker still have the staple dressers, beds, desks, and shelves, today ’s quarters are marked by the latest technological devices.

Radios were replaced by stereos before they were replaced by computer speakers blaring music via MP3 files. Penmanship gave way to typewriters, word processors, and, now, laptop computers. The hallway pay phone became obsolete with the advent of room phones, and now cell phones. Ashtrays went bye-bye when cigarettes were banned in the fall of 2005. One is more likely to find an air purifier in Centennial.

“Many of the changes we’ve seen in residence hall rooms over the years involve the ‘appliances’ a student now brings—cell phones and chargers, iPods, Webcams, televisions, an Xbox, refrigerators, and microwaves, ” said Magda Manetas, director of student life. “But in many ways, not a lot has changed. You still have posters on the walls, but the poster is of Green Day, not Billy Joel.”

©TCNJ Archives

©TCNJ Archives

Alums may be slightly envious of the convenience provided by current gadgetry. Reheating or cooking food for a late-night snack wasn ’t an option until microwaves began surfacing in dormitories during the late 1980s. Mark Olszak ’91 lived in Cromwell and recalled there being only one student on the floor who owned a microwave. That student quickly gained popularity with his dorm mates.

“First, you had to hope he was in his room and in the mood to answer the door,” recalled Olszak, an economics major. “If you were lucky enough to use the microwave, you likely had to hook him up with a portion of whatever you were cooking. You had to give him his cut.”

Internet access, a foreign concept little more than a decade ago, is also a necessity for current students. As Jeff Mollinelli ’09 remarked, “Man, I would hate to have to go to the library every time I had to look up something. ” Tell that to alumni who spent hours inside the walls of Roscoe L. West Library.

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