In Response to: Firestone Reborn

At the time of my last big reunion, I saw the renovation of Firestone in progress, and it was nice to read it is now complete. Viewing the photos brought back memories of certain experiences it would be impossible to preserve through artifacts of a kind that have been preserved.

For me, one such memory involves the elevators just off the entry lobby. Students rarely used them as lifts, but some nights, you could find a special breed of undergraduate hunched in the corner of a Firestone elevator grasping . . . a telephone receiver.

At that time, the elevator emergency-communication system was a simple dial phone connected to “Centrex,” the internal system through which we could make intra-campus calls free of charge. At our offices at 48 University Place, Prince reporters used Centrex all the time to reach students, faculty, or University administrators we needed to interview.

Unless assigned to a story or sports event that ran late, Prince reporters typically finished and handed in their stories to the editors before dinner time. We went off to eat, but we weren't done yet. We were also responsible for writing our own headlines. A headline had to be clear and accurate, and it had to "fit" the layout. The trouble is, the layout editor was rarely finished by the time we’d checked out. Usually the layout was done by about 7:30 or so, and so we’d have to get back in touch around then to get the character count so we could write our headline in time for production deadlines.

I suppose some reporters called in from their dining facility or from back in their dorm rooms, but student journalism had put me pretty far behind on my studies, and I was often in Firestone catching up. Using a trick our elders taught, I’d head to the Firestone elevator, grab the Centrex phone, call in for the “count,” curl up on the floor with a notebook and take a few minutes to work out the right words and character count, and finally call the Prince back to phone it in (literally). Sounds silly, but it worked, and I could get back to nerding with minimal disruption.

Sometimes ordinary library patrons or even the proctors would find us talking to the emergency phone and ask if everything was OK. But most nights that I had to do this, I was uninterrupted.

David Hochman ’78
New York, N.Y.