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Dorm Life at Kodai


The mention of dorm life in Kodai brings back a flood of memories - some good and some not so great. For many years my memories of dorm life were focused on how lonely I felt and how the homesickness caused me to feel pretty bad a lot of the time. I climbed in bed with Joanne many nights for comfort - we slept two in a single bed that sagged dreadfully in the middle. Being separated from Paul and only being able to talk to him by appointment was difficult and brings back sad memories.

Other memories are of Erky catching me sneaking across the hall to visit with friends in other rooms after lights out. She always seemed to know when I had these activities planned. (This skill she passed on to me when I became a school principal). Erky selling us candy one day a week for the few pennies we had, taking showers twice a week, watching the older girls downstairs do grownup things, snuggling in my bed to sew a large wardrobe for my doll, Peggy, going to the cafeteria to eat (oh, how we complained about the food!), hiding spinach in my pockets and shoes(we had to clean our plates), and going on those wonderful camping trips, are all cherished memories. I looked forward all year to the camping trips - can you imagine your entire 7th, 8th, or 9th grade class of about 20 kids on a four day campout together? Heaven!

I also remember "ganging up" on one other girl at all times, usually Eleanor. With seven in a room, there was always conflict. I made sure I initiated it when it died down as I learned that, if someone else was the target, they would not go after me. Of course, I was always famous for the nights I smuggled my boy friend, Bill, into my room. With seven girls as roommates, what could we do once he was in? Not that I knew what to do even given the opportunity.

The many escapades Mugwad and I engaged in were exciting. We vowed to commit one "crime" a day and signed to the effect in blood and buried the paper under a favorite tree. We put laxatives in the drinking water, climbed on the roof, left the compound numerous times, went boating on the lake after dark, and stole loaves of bread and sugar and butter and ate it at night under the bed covers. We also spent many nights reading Sherlock Holmes with a flashlight under the covers after lights out.

Bruton was a different experience and I resented being separated from my friends in the dorm on the campus. Being "different" was so much a part of our growing up that I resented adding one more division to the long list. Bruton was so beautiful! The house and the grounds - so upper class. We found old records and a machine to play them on and secretly practiced dancing - a forbidden activity.

Bruton was also the place where we were living when Lois was born. We spent a lot of time with Dad choosing her name. We would RUN home from school to play with her and fight over who was to hold her. While Mom was in the hospital I ironed Dad's white shirts, hoping he would notice how grown up I was- and he did. I think it was during that time that we were aware of the tightness of funds so Paul declared that we would all go to bed when it got dark and get up with the sun to save money. I was so afraid that Mom would allow him to dictate such a rule for us; fortunately she didn't.

You can see, the memories are mixed but plentiful--a book in themselves.


Dorm life meant Boyer Hall, Erkie, washing in cold water, beds that sagged badly in the middle, open showers, marking laundry lists each week hoping you got the same clothes back, handing out of mom's sweets from the locked room once in a while, flashlights under the blankets, clattering across the bridge to meals and school. Grace and I fought so much we couldn't stay in the same room--a small one where Mom once left us a shoebox of dirt with the radishes we had been growing at Tanglewood before they had to go down. I graduated to downstairs and then had the job of going back upstairs to braid Betty's hair each morning. I think she was keeping frogs under her bed. Paul was in Kennedy (?) next to Boyer. I mainly remember searching to get him to his piano lesson--he'd be playing with cars in the dirt somewhere. The little boys who had demerits had to march around their little quad on Saturday mornings.

Once the whole school came down with colds and we had to wear masks. One of those weeks my two roommates (Clara Cunningham and either Clarice Manley or Joyce DeBruin) and I were all sick at the same time and sent to bed--we were in the spacious end room with windows and had a glorious time playing Mah Jong and generally romping about. We rigged up a string to the light switch so that we could turn off the light from our beds. One night we got a scare from noises outside the door to the outside, but it was only cows chomping the grass.

I remember walking by the high school girls who were lying around on blankets outside listening to romantic songs. I thought they were being utterly stupid. MY preferred occupations were playing hopscotch, swinging on the Giant Stride, playing jacks or tops, and drawing paperdoll clothes. Some of us who could knit made long scarves for the cold Indians. Sunday afternoons were dull--I recall being in the room with the fireplace ( where Erkie sometimes read us stories) reading or drawing by myself. We had to write letters home on Sundays.

I suppose walks around the lake, church, study hall, hikes and euky nut fights will be in another section.


I have many vivid memories of life at Bruton (didn't have the pleasure? pain? of living on the main campus).

* Bruton--the big house and all the surrounding land with exotic flora & fauna--seemed like a fairyland to me. Disneyland is nothing compared to what Bruton was to me! I remember spending many long happy hours outdoors with the passle of kids around my age. Picking and devouring wild orange raspberries on a warm sunny day. Finding jack-in-the-pulpits, which seemed to hide mysteriously in the woods. Eating wild green pears and getting stomach aches. Mushroom hunting...the thrill of spotting the telltale mound under the pine needles and uncovering the huge white mushrooms. I don't remember if we ate any of them. The huge 4-cornered swing that could hold several of us as we flew way out over a hill. Sometimes we would have pretend dates and sit in pairs at dusk on the hill overlooking the lake, innocently holding hands--usually I was with Paul Warkentin...a bit my junior, but I figured he would do for our little drama.

The eucalyptus trees--which to this day I hold as my personal totems from the plant world. The heady smell of the eucalyptus oil. The absolute hugeness of the trees themselves. Finding a tree stump so broad that we played house on it. Discovering a trench of some sort that we laid branches over to make a secret hideaway. Constructing little houses with branches and twigs.

The flowers--huge red poppies, purple morning glories, snapdragons, and all that lantana. Still whenever I want to conjure up the sweetness of childhood I pick off a stalk of it from my yard and smell it and smell it. Pretending the poppy seed pods were salt & pepper shakers. Rolly-poochie hunting, and then making little box homes for them with moss and dirt and watching them roll up, then uncurl, or bury themselves under the dirt. Catching chameleons and wearing them like brooches to watch them turn colors. Having fuzzy bugs drop from the ceiling onto your bed.

The lake! Punting and rowing. To a small girl it was a magical outing. Trying to pull up the water lilies, getting a change at the oars, sitting so close down to the water and trying to see the bottom. And the little streams--finding pollywogs and minnows and frogs.

Games! Our favorite had to be "witch." Do you all remember this one? It had to be played at dusk or after dark. Someone was "it" and hid somewhere near the house while the rest counted to 100. Then we'd split into two groups and head different ways around the house, trying to meet at the back without the witch jumping out and catching us. Delicious terror. Also I remember making up plays and acting them out in the grand drawing room. Mostly Nancy Drew imitations. Another favorite pasttime was creating a witches brew of disgusting things--snot, dried scabs from old wounds, toe jelly, etc. And trying to think of a way to get some despised person to ingest it.

I remember being terrified of Mr. and Mrs. Krause -- they were the authority, and they were also rather large people. And it was so easy to get into trouble. The choice was get a spanking or notifying your parents of your sins. Tough choice. I think I always chose telling folks, because I figured by the time they heard about it, it would be a dim memory, and they loved me more than the Krause's did, anyway.

Food memories. Hating the cold lumpy gungi (oatmeal?) at breakfast. Looking forward to the treat of lunch carried to us at school in those brass containers all stacked up...curry, rice, pappadums. A daily feast. Then supper. Slimy spinach which we tried to hide in our socks. Once I mistakenly thought if I mixed it with my mashed potatoes it would hide the taste. Unfortunately all I got was a huge mound of green potatoes that tasted terrible, and twice as much of it to eat. Getting punished by being forbidden our dessert. But not minding because someone (or 2 or 3) would take pity and sneak one to the sinner. So you ended up with several instead of none!!

I loved the time Mom was our temporary housemother. She'd gather us into her little quarters, make hot chocolate with marshmallows, and tell us those wonderful Nutkya stories...really stories about herself, I think. Wasn't she just something extraordinary?!

Gosh, I've just gone on and on. Lucky for you I didn't write down ALL the things in my head! Clearly I cherish my childhood dorm life. As I think back..mostly these sweet memories come back to me. I know there was the terror of being separated from Mom & Dad so young. But somehow that part has faded and been eclipsed. Memory is sometimes a kindly, forgiving and protective friend.


I had just turned 10 when I went to Kodai, and was really lonely the first few weeks. One of the first nights I woke up and heard what sounded like a child howling. I was sure some kid was being kidnapped and was afraid I'd be next. It turned out to be coyotes.

At first Gwen and I were in the same room in Upper Boyer but then she was transferred to a room across the hallway. She used to be so homesick that she'd sneak into my room and climb into bed with me. Somehow Erky would hear her with her uncanny hearing. Then she'd come stomping down the hall and say in a very loud voice, "Gwen, I know you're in there. You go back into your room IMMEDIATELY!" And Gwen would have to go back, and I would cry. After awhile, though, I got used to being away from folks, and by the end of the year I had mixed feelings about going home to Shamshabad.

It was in those early Boyer days that I learned to get into mischief by following Gwen's lead. She would lead expeditions out of the dorm at night, down the fire escape or the rope ladder at the end room. (I don't remember ever getting caught.) During Sunday naptime we'd jump from the upper bunks to lower beds and have a great time. We'd also stuff our clothes under our mattresses and straighten only the top clothes in our drawers before inspection. Erky wasn't too fond of us. I remember her praying during our evening prayers, "Please, God, help the little girls who were naughty to come and apologize." We knew it meant us, so we muttered "Sorry" as we hurried out. One time Erky even came down to Lower Bendy when I was pitching (probably winning, too) and made me leave the game...right in front of David clean up my room. I was humiliated!

Other things I remember from Boyer Hall were: sharing parcels that the rich oil kids got---carmelized condensed milk, powdered milk and gum that we all shared; spending hours playing baseball with the boys and Marilyn Scudder in the Kennedy courtyard; walking on stilts and playing jacks under the canopy areas; trying to find Gwen (often under a bed) when it was time for her piano lesson; hearing about the older girls' trying to faint by putting their heads down between their legs for awhile and then standing up quickly. I remember that Barbara Rambo fell through the window.

Then came Bruton. I loved the bracken and huge tree ferns since I could hide down among them with my books and no one could find me. We had a piano and a phonograph with lots of records to play, which was neat. Again, Gwen led all sorts of expeditions out of the house at night and now we even went down by the lake and on the 3-mile road. We made a hideout inside a huge passion fruit vine and went down there when we were mad at the Krause's. We also knocked pears onto the ground so we could eat them since we weren't to eat any on the trees. On Sunday afternoons we sunbathed on the slope---and found out the boys at Boys' Block were watching with binoculars. They could even see that Mugwad had a hole in the back of her swimming suit. I really enjoyed Gwen and her friends more than my own; mine were much more tame. She certainly did lead me astray, though---and I followed, IF I wasn't too scared.

I loved having Margy there when she came. I'd always been the youngest at school, and now I got to be the older and wiser sister. I got really mad, though, when the Krause's would punish her. I never felt it was fair of them, so when she didn't get any dessert I'd save some of mine and sneak it in to her. Turned out I wasn't the only one, so she got a lot of dessert. I was always so proud of how smart and cute she was.

I can remember, too, when Loey was born. Folks were up at Kodai, staying at Bruton. We kept wondering if we were going to have a sister or brother---we figured another sister, the way things were. When Dad came to tell us that we had a little sister, I dashed off for the Kodai compound to tell Ann Gibbs, my best friend. Dad sent a telegram to Phyllis and Grace that Lois Kathleen had been born about 5 p.m., and the telegram got there before that time in Kansas-time. I thought that was neat.

All in all, I'm very glad I got to go to Kodai and that I had all the exciting times in the dorms. Most of the people I know now haven't had nearly the fun I had growing up!


I began dorm life at the tender age of 5 (going on 6). Paul was home-schooled a year so that he and I could go together to school. What difference that made I am not sure since we were so far apart on the campus and saw each other only in passing. I recall being very lonely the first night and crying into my pillow until it was sopping wet, but by the next week-end it was a chore to write home! But dorm policy was such that we wrote letters home every Sunday afternoon during an enforced quiet hour.

I lived with three other girls in the end room. I loved the window box under the circular window at the far end of the dorm. The window box was dark and dampish inside but we hid insects and other "treasures" in there.

After the early morning bell, we scrambled to get ready for school. Since I depended on Grace or Phyllis to braid my hair, I would ask them to make the braids very tight to last a week. I would then add a little "spit" and polish to get the ends out of my eyes and that was that. We often dwadled and had to dump our dirty clothes under the bedspread or bed to pass inspection.

Breakfast was "mush" all days except Sunday, when we got cornflakes or cinnamon toast. A high schooler said prayer and we all were to eat what was on our plate. A faculty member checked if we ate our food. This was fine except days when we got spinach for supper. I would put the spinach down a sock or under my hat to get it out of the dining room since I hated it so much. Lunches were stew or curry. Weused to say that curry was yesterday's stew with a little hot pepper in it. I don't recall evening meals much - except the spinach.

School in the quadrangle - high schoolers on the second floor and grade schoolers on the first. It was a great feeling to graduate up to the second floor. The library was also on second floor and we had enforced study hall there.

Life in dorms meant getting along with many different people. Most had more clothes and spending money than I did and that was difficult. I always felt poor.

Monsoon rains would pour onto the tin roof of the school and all were sent to the dorm to study because rain on a tin roof drowned out the teacher's voice. We loved those rainy days for that reason and we would huddle under a blanket to do our homework cooperatively and then play.

Erkie was dorm mother and she was a strict "old maid." Our room was next to hers so she heard us more readily She had a fixation about noise after hours, even if we were going to the bathroom, so we were scared to go by her door lest she hear us go down the hall. We set up a signal system to have one of us listen for her while the other tiptoed down the hall. One year we all decided to punish her by all wetting our beds the last night at school.

Discipline was a spanking by Erkie or restricted privileges or polishing shoes on Saturday forenoon ( missing out on field activities or hikes). I did my share of shoes and got my share of spankings. We found that by wearing layers of underwear and yelling "I'll be good" very quickly that we could significantly lessen the pain of it.

Dorms meant sharing but what a pain it was to lend clothing to kids who sweat a lot or were not careful. Nevertheless we did do a lot of mixing and matching.

Sunday evening Vespers were a pleasant hour. I played piano most of the time. There were some songs that we always sang, including "Now the Day is Over" and "Onward Christian Soldiers."


Dorm life was not the most pleasant of experiences for some of my sisters but, for me, it was a salvation. Coming from the States where Mom and I had lived in poverty and seclusion, Kodai opened up the world for me. I was no longer poor, just about the same as everyone else (well, except the Arabian crew and the tea planter kids) and, in fact, my clothes won me a "best dressed" award (can you imagine that in Fresno?). Having moved 10 times by age 11, Kodai seemed like a haven of stability. Even the fact that Mom couldn't (or wouldn't) drive was irrelevant--buses, hiking, biking got us everywhere we needed to go. Moving into the dorm full of girls meant friends, activity, and endless discussions about the dorm full of boys around the hill.

I lived in Lower Boyer for a year and Kennedy for four years. Kennedy was a wonderful dorm, constructed as a quadrangle of rooms around a grassy courtyard. None of the rooms had heat so getting up on frigid mornings and crossing the courtyard to get to the john was tough. There was never enough hot water for everyone to shower so cold face washes were usually the standard morning fare. The mornings were always frantic with 30+ girls scrambling to get dressed for school. The scramble was made worse by the fact that everyone's clothes were up for grabs--we were in and out of each others' rooms hunting up the "perfect outfit". Sometimes a good outfit was worn for a week straight--just by a different girl each day.

Life was totally organized--1st bell at 7:00, school from 8-4, tea at 4, games at 4:30, dinner at 6, study hall from 7-9, dorm meetings at 9:15, lights out at 10; canteen on Wednesday @ 9, activities on Friday and Saturday nights, hiking/games on Saturday, Chapel on Sunday AM and PM, walks after chapel. That left Sunday afternoon, when a letter home was due to the housemother each week. Everything was also monitored. I was the "dance" monitor--that awful person who had to make sure there was a full body space between the dancing couple (very popular role!). I was also a "TP" monitor--we were allowed one roll of toilet paper each week and the monitor had to dole it out, determining if there was a valid excuse to get more than one.

But dorm life was great--there was always a roommate with whom to discuss Buddhist philosophy, the path to happiness, what to do when back in the States, or how to entice the right date. We were encouraged to create, to study, to excel, to be both physically and mentally active. Of course, we furthered those skills on our own, figuring out how to get out of the dorm at night, escaping to the Budge for a curry dinner and/or the movies, sneaking out of a "group" activity for a more private one, making "wine" out of canteen juice, and smoking "beedies" without getting caught!!