Do I have stories about Commons? Does a hobby horse have a wooden esophagus? 

You didn’t fully understand “Commons” unless you served as a waiter and then captain in the dining halls. The first or second day you were at Princeton as a freshman you spent “training” to be a waiter. You were taught by captains and headwaters who had been through the same experience and cut you no slack in the learning process. It was not easy and was one day only. You had to learn how to carry the tray on your left shoulder; how to lift it, which was problematic if the 2 gallon (?) pitchers for milk or water were full. You entered the kitchen on the door to the right (only) and had to watch out for people entering the dining halls from the other door. Two-way collisions could be catastrophic.

We had five dining halls: Upper Cloister, Lower Cloister, Upper Eagle, Sub Eagle (never found out why it wasn’t Lower Eagle), and Madison.

Two distinctly different experiences caused a ruckus resembling a prison riot with the banging of utensils on the tables. The first (and worse) was if you were the unfortunate dropper of a full tray. The second was if you had the courage to bring a female companion into the dining halls. This was generally a bad mistake.

Then there was the food. Very predictable and incredibly institutional. Breakfast always included cereal and some form of eggs. During my three years of laboring in the dining halls, I never once saw a single piece of bacon served.

For lunch, water was the beverage, and the food and was limited and very forgettable.

Dinner was generally a tray of “mystery meat,” or once a week, chopped meat  known affectionately as “elephant balls.”  Potatoes and vegetables always served family style.
If you were a waiter, you were allowed to snarl at anyone who asked for seconds or, God forbid, coffee. 

For those who like to linger over a second cup, it was not unusual for the waiter to take everything out from under the diner, in order to clean up the table (also the waiters’ responsibility).

I believe in those days (late ’50s) the University credited you $.50 for each table, which you never saw but was applied against your room and board. If you were an athlete, you had to squeeze in the necessary number of meals, which usually meant breakfasts and lunches if practices ran late (which they did).

As you can see, I am 70 years removed from my freshman orientation experiences with the dining halls. Clearly they were unforgettable.

Dave Fulcomer ’58
Naples, Fla.