Larry Rosen, '84:
Since I began my freshman year at MIT on Random's 3rd floor 282 in the fall of 1980, this story should really be told by someone from the year or two before me, when the Clam was painted. But since they haven't written it yet, I thought I would.
The Brief History of the Random 3rd Clam
As told by Charles Benesh '82 to me, Larry Rosen '84
It all began, back in 1979 or early 1980. The students living on the 3rd floor of 282 decided that they would form a cooking group. The idea is that each person would only have to cook dinner once a week or so, by cooking for the rest of the people. Some people who were particularly bad cooks provided the best meals - pizza. One night, an eclectic student named Tom Hockey ('80) prepared steamed clams. Many members of cooking group were totally grossed out, not liking to eat steamed shellfish. This pretty much put an end to the cooking group.
Then people on the floor began making horrible puns, jokes, lymericks, and phrases where the word Clam was featured. Then someone covered the walls with long streams of toilet paper. The people began to write down their horrible puns and jokes. Someone then found a record by Arlo Guthrie in which he told the tale of Reuben Clamzo, the last great hunter of giant clams. And they began playing this record a lot. The papers remained on the walls for weeks until one extremely serious and logical student (think Mr. Spock), Josip Loncaric ('81), tore down the papers.
Feeling sadened at the loss of their clammy artistic outlet, a couple students got the idea of painting a mural of a giant clam on the wall. At the time, the Institute was against students expressing themselves by painting dorm walls, but somehow these students convinced the dorm manager to allow it (perhaps beer was involved). And so, James Theiler ('81) and Bart Goddard (dropped) sketched the clam and painted it there.
Why do the eyes look to the side? This is on purpose. The idea was that as you were about to enter the 3rd floor kitchen, if you looked in the large mirror over the fireplace you saw the reflection of the Clam. In the reflection you would see that the Clam was looking at the doorway you are passing through, ie. looking right at you. (The Clam is not looking into the mirror at your reflection, it is looking at you!)
Did any of the toilet paper with clam puns survive? Yes. I have them! These so called Holy Clam Scriptures were passed on to me since I was probably the most attentive to the stories of the "Great Clam Gods" as they called themselves. I hung out in the kitchen a lot, partly since I was living in 312 that 1st semester.
By the way, James Theiler also painted the UPC symbol on the wall. We were very heavily addicted to Coca Cola back then.