Part 20: On Townsend Hall, the Johnstowne Apartments and 'Grandma's Rooming House'

Part 20: On Townsend Hall, the Johnstowne Apartments and 'Grandma's Rooming House'

With the University of Illinois celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who've gone on to greatness. Every Tuesday and one Sunday a month throughout 2017, Managing Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 20: Living it up.

Once upon a time, before one bed and one bath for one month ran $1,000 and up at high-rises on Green Street, luxury living in Campustown meant being paired with a roommate who didn't snore like a locomotive.

Places like ...

1. Fourth floor, Townsend Hall south. Why he and two fellow finance/pre-law majors were placed in a primarily engineering dorm, JASON DEHAAN (BS '94) will never know. But he has a career to thank for it.

"I had always had an interest in technology, and many of the engineers brought PCs with them to school, which was unusual at the time. One day, when I was helping a floormate fix a computer problem, he said, 'You are a finance major; you should know that you can get paid to do this,'" says DeHaan, who acted on that advice and now makes a nice living as chief information officer for clothing giant Abercrombie & Fitch.

2. The Johnstowne Apartments, fancier now than they were when Illini volleyball star-turned professional model-turned Raymond James investment analyst SHADIA HADDAD (BS '02) had a rather unfortunate initiation after the bars shut down early one morning as a freshman.

"I was sad to learn the bars closed at 1 a.m. My teammates said 'Oh, don't worry, there are always after-hours parties.' So we walked happily to Johnstowne Apartments into a giant courtyard filled with people and on all balconies. Not more than five minutes into arriving, I was puked on from one of the balconies above. I screamed so loud, I silenced the party and a kind person let me use their shower.

"I walked home to Bromley Hall in a towel and a giant T-shirt with my clothes in a bag. Welcome to college."

3. Grandma's Rooming House, as the private home at 406 East Chalmers was affectionately known in LESLIE "CAP" DEAN's day. Now a retired U.S. senior foreign-service worker who served stints in Baghdad, Nepal, Tanzania and Zambia, among other far-flung spots, Dean (BA '64) still has vivid memories of Grandma — "a delightful and charming widow by the name of Lois Thompson."

"Grandma took good care of her boys, and the rooming house was a great place to live — close to campus, and with a wonderful porch where we could hang out after dinner. ... The only drawback at Grandma's that I didn't care for was that we all slept in the attic. Some health regulation required that the window be kept open at night, which meant that in the winter we could see our breath if we dared to take our heads out from under the covers."

Sadly, Dean learned on a trip back years later, the home "gave way to 'progress' and was torn down, only to be replaced by a women's dormitory."

4. Floor 2, Snyder Hall, where it was tradition for residents to man the phone lines around the holidays and play Christmas tunes for anyone who called in, part of the popular student-run Dial-A-Carol program launched in 1960.

"Since basketball players stayed down over break, I spent time playing records for these callers," says former Illini forward NEIL BRESNAHAN (BS '80), who put his finance degree to good use, becoming an executive director with Morgan Stanley in Chicagoland. "We had a map where we placed pins to show the locations of the calls. It really put you in the Christmas spirit."


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