Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Cold Dorms

Posted December 15, 2009

Have you ever heard of a cold dorm?

Elizabeth Gardner and I were intrigued by Kelcey Carlson's memories of her cold dorm at Indiana University. She shared those memories during a recent commercial break on WRAL's Morning News.

Kelcey described a cold dorm as a large room where sorority members slept. The windows were left open and the heat was turned down. Students piled blankets on their beds to stay warm. The theory is that the cold fresh air and circulation curbs the spread of germs. I thought that was interesting. I'd never heard of a cold dorm.

I found an essay from another Indiana college student who talked about cold dorms with a sense of reverence. Here's how Chris Daly described his experience at DePauw University:

“Over the past few years, I've come to treasure the freezing, bunk bed-filled chamber I reside in nightly. It's truly the Michael Jordan of sleeping arrangements - the way humankind was destined to spend the night. Since childhood, I've been cursed with early-rising syndrome. However, in the cold dorm, I'm allowed to surround my bed with dark fleece, making the space nearly impenetrable to light. Inside this black hole, a fan blocks the noise of fraternity brothers sleeping near me while also keeping the temperature colder than Anthony Hopkins' movie persona. Beneath my heated blanket, I feel like a rodent submerged in an underground burrow.”

Do any of you have cold dorm memories? Please share.


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  • NCSUBAEstudent Dec 16, 2009

    It makes logical sense. Most bacteria require warm and moist conditions to grow and spread. Operating rooms use the cold concept to try to prevent infection setting in during surgery. Cold and no humidity, and they do keep a check on the thermostats.

  • gkappel Dec 15, 2009

    Eighty years ago, sleeping porches were quite popular both summer and winter. A well known proponent was Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of Franklin Delano). She preferred sleeping outside to sleeping in stuffy indoor bedrooms. Her favorite porch was at her cottage in Hyde Park NY which overlooked the Hudson river. I'm sure it was cold during January and February.

  • LMRA Dec 15, 2009

    I went to college in Troy, NY. Maybe not the coldest place on the planet but during the winter, it sure seemed like it. Try sleeping in old row houses with drafty windows, wind whipping up from the icy Hudson River, with heat (if you can call it that) generated through old, clanky radiators. What little heat actually stayed in the room was so dry our noses would bleed!

    So even though they weren't meant to be 'cold' rooms, they certainly were! Then, of course, we had the reverse in the Spring. Anything over about 75 degrees seemed like h*ll on Earth with NO AC!!!

    My Dad is a huge proponent of turning the heat w-a-y down at night. Now that I'm a grown up, living in my own house, and paying my own bills, heck no!!!

  • gymjudge Dec 15, 2009

    With several brothers and sisters, one of us was always sick growing up in central Illinois. If two or more of us became sick, my father will tell us to put on an extra blanket when we went to bed and then he would open all the windows and turn the furnace off. Early in the morning, he would close all the windows and turn on the furnace. Usually, we were not aware that he had let the cold in! Always seemed to work as we went longer than usual before someone became ill again. The air in the house was also fresher!

  • thefensk Dec 15, 2009

    Don't know about cold dorm, but all through college I had a garage apartment that was heated by a single gas space heater. So the cold dorm concept was alive and well in that context because I always shut the heater off at night and snuggled under multiple layers of blankets and quilts, then would get up in the ice cold room to light the heater in the morning. My wife likes the house toasty warm all the time now, but I sort of miss the contrast of cold with the warm multi-covers.

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