Dorm History

Ron Michener '71:

I just visited the Random web page for the first time in a year or so and discovered not only my own recollections of Random posted there, but also my brother's!

Just for the record, Jim has mangled one story, and setting it straight might help some current residents, who are, I imagine, distressed at the recent suicide of one of their friends.

The story Jim tells of a freshman committing suicide after discovering his grade on a math test is not an incident from Random Hall's past. Rather it was a story I was told in my first week at MIT. I am pretty sure it was Dan Fingerman who told me the story, in fact. Dan was telling me about something that had happened in a previous year. At the time I heard the story, Random Hall hadn't even opened.

As for Jim's story about the duck -- well, I don't remember the incident, but it has a ring of verisimilitude.

Since it looks as if you are actually going to use my stories, I will contribute another one.

In January 1969, on the night Richard Nixon was to be inaugurated, some of us were playing cards on the third or fourth floor of 290, and got an idea for a joke. The war in Vietnam was very unpopular, as you might imagine, and Nixon himself was none too beloved at Random, even back in 1969. Someone had a low power FM transmitter. We decided to fake a radio broadcast, in which a fairly ordinary music broadcast would be interrupted by a news bulletin that Nixon had been shot by an unknown assassin while leaving an inaugural ball. Jim Coughlan was in on the gag. Afraid we'd make some mistake in our "broadcast" we rehearsed and taped it. Then we began playing it back. Jim carried a radio tuned to our "station" over to 282, and joined a card game. Jim drank a considerable amount of beer in those days, and it wasn't too difficult for him to fake intoxication -- making it appear he was in no condition to be playing a prank. When the news report came on, the card players in 282 bought it hook, line, and sinker. One got so excited he ran down the halls banging on doors, yelling "They got him, They got him!" There was only one TV in Random at that point in a public area -- the lounge on the third floor of 290, and the card players ran for it to get more information. Anticipating their reaction, we'd disabled the TV. However, after trying for 15 minutes or so to get the TV working, and seeing some of us choking on repressed laughter, they finally realized they'd been had.

Yours,
Ron Michener


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