by Mary Glenn. Glenn is a business major in the South Carolina Honors College at USC. This paper was written for the Fall 2008 class "Folklife in America."
The Honors College at the University of South Carolina is a distinct formal group unified by shared housing, honors classes, advisors, and organized social events such as the yearly picnic held on Parent’s Weekend. The majority of Honors College freshmen spend their first year of independence after high school in Maxcy College. An older hall style dormitory, Maxcy was built as part of the New Deal along with additional wings of Thornwell (the apartment complex next to it) for $225,000 in the late 1930s (Jones). The dormitory is named after Reverend Jonathan Maxcy, the University’s first president and was initially intended to serve as a student union building (Hollis). Later the building was remodeled to house students but because of the original layout, room size varies, which contributes to the reputations that some rooms have earned. The building contains four floors (1st- 3rd and a basement) with a common room and classroom at the beginning of the first-floor hallway. A kitchen and laundry room are located in the basement. The relatively small size of the dorm and ambition of its residents provides for a unique experience and has enabled the evolution of a dynamic folk group – the Maxicans. “Maxcy is different because of the broad range of lifestyles and experiences among its residents. Most students in my opinion simply seek to party and pass classes. Maxcy's students thrive in so many more ways. Each resident becomes more open minded and adventurous by interacting with other residents. The place rings of hope, ambition and exploration” (Wheeler).
“From the outside, it seemed as though the Maxcy kids were a bit more clique-ish. They may have thought the same about us Capstone kids, but because we were so few, we were sort of forced to meet kids from other areas. Eventually, we all sort of got to know each other through various Honors classes, but even in later years, once many of us moved into Horseshoe apartments, a lot of the social circles and inside jokes persisted. It was often a bit difficult for people who didn't live there to understand some of those things” (Springer).
The community is all encompassed and expressed by the name that has unified the residents though the years and continues to be passed down - “Maxican.” I first heard the term from my brother who was housed in Maxcy during the 2006-2007 academic year and have continued to hear it and begun to use it. Other names from outsides source also show the external recognition of the group. “I was there for the founding of that term, ‘Maxicans.’ Its root is from the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico." One of the girls in Maxcy was a big Johnny Depp fan. He said in the movie, ‘Are you a Mexican't or a Mexican?’ We all thought it was a good name so we (the RAs) used it with the incoming freshman class and it caught on. So in a way, Johnny Depp is the source of the Maxcy nickname. The other names are nerds or the honors kids,” (Wheeler). Maxican has not only been passed down as a play on words, but also has also to inspired the name of a flag football team composed of Maxicans known as the “Border Patrol” to extend the Maxican-Mexican theme (Riley).
Some compare the dorm to a small town because of its size and the speed at which news travels. One year a student started an anonymous newspaper during the hall government elections that covered dorm issues called “The Dirty Maxican.” However, it was discontinued after an article making a South American racial joke brewed controversy. A fast response consistent with small town justice and the community aesthetic put an end to the publication (Kane 2007-2008). Another quick response was witnessed in 2007-2008 when a challenge was issued in one of the rooms. Two guys were playing a game called “Gay Chicken” in which they flirt until one backs down. The game is not exclusive to Maxcy, but one I first learned of in college. This game escalated due to the fact than one of the participants was openly homosexual and spectators urged them to kiss. The straight guy said he would if two other people in the room kissed, thinking that the two would not. With the door closed and no one leaving or returning to the room it took only ten to twenty minutes for a group to bust in wanting to know who had kissed. Texting was a likely factor in the news carrying, but the first people to arrive were not the ones texted by spectators in the room, demonstrating how fast news can spread (Espensen-Sturges). This ties in the common experience of the group. The independence of the dorm environment removes previous inhibitions and as the community encourages experimentation bonds and lore are formed.
Technology is ingrained in college life and is interwoven with the lore of the community as a tradition bearer and form of communication. Texting carries rumors and can be used to coordinate a group. Even more interesting to the study of folklore are facebook groups and the consciousness of kind they invoke. The groups created about Maxcy are mainly based on floor, year, or social group. In conversations held on these pages advice is exchanged on topics like classes, stories are told and invitations to events within the dorm are sent. You Tube is also utilized by the community in a way that reveals some of the closeness between residents and their ties to the building. This is seen in one video where fifteen residences go into one of the abnormally large rooms to demonstrate the oversized shower’s ability to hold all of them (Espensen-Sturges). Technology enables, enhances and is evidence of the folk group’s pride and connection.
RMs (Residential Mentor or also known as RAs or Residential Advisors) are a vital part of the folk group as they provide guidance, pass on folklore, or become objects of lore. The RM of my hall (each floor has an RM and there is a head RM for the building) this year has become known to the residents as “Mom,” a title fitting to the place he holds in the community. Originating from the “hall constitution” written at the beginning of the year where we summed up his duties as “being the mom,” ‘Mom’ has since become ingrained in this year’s culture. An “Ode to Mom” was written by the hall and is signed not by one author, but the hall as a whole. It now resides laminated on his wall and we gave him a shirt saying “USC Mom” which he later wore to a USC football game. The name reflects what we felt our first week of school as many of us experienced moving away from home for the first time. When we first presented the ode to “Mom” the first floor gathered in the common room and one of the students read it aloud.
“Ode to Mom”
As scared little freshmen we entered this school
Fearing our RM would just be a tool
But far in the distance was a motherly man
Who helped us see we’re all part of a plan
Though often hidden in his Room 102
He hopes to show us all the good we can do
He’s tall and handsome and seems to know all
Why else would he be the ruler of our hall?
A man of many talents he can always impress
Give him any task and no doubt he’s the best.
The boys want to be him the girls all swoon
To his rugged handsomeness, no one is immune
He wishes us luck on our way to class
The whole world should know…
Nick Riley KICKS ASS!
The folk community expands and is strengthened by previous Maxcy residents. Events that were successful one year are often repeated after being suggested by an older student. A prime example of this is “Smoothie Night,” a fundraiser passed on by the “older sister” of a sorority girl in Maxcy that has occurred for the last two years. Emails were sent to all the residents and a Facebook page was created to advertise the event. Smoothies were sold for one dollar and all profits and Yoplait lids (from the yogurt containers) were donated for breast cancer research. The informal gathering was a bonding experience as music gave way to singing along to songs. I-pods were hooked up to speakers and the song lists commented on by the group as people compared musical tastes or mentioned concerts that they had enjoyed. While people drank their smoothies or waited for their smoothies to be mixed discussions on classes were also held. The common values and academic focus of the group forms a supportive community.
As exams approach students become increasingly tense. To ease some of the stress during exams in the 2006-2007 school year a chocolate-chip pancake party was held as an “exam-breaker” by two girls in the dorm. The party held in the basement kitchen supplied pancakes and a study break to the residents. One unique quality of the party was that the chocolate chips and pancakes were served separately. This was perhaps to accommodate the students who preferred plain pancakes and made the event more memorable (Carandang). musical tastes or mentioned concerts that they had enjoyed. While people drank their smoothies or waited for their smoothies to be mixed discussions on classes where also held. The common values and academic focus of the group forms a supportive community.
Groups are formed within the dorm as residents bond and put their own spin on college organizations. One example of this was Delta Apple Pie, an organization that originated with McNair scholars but expanded to other residents to form an unofficial sorority. I first heard of it through my brother’s friends and while the sorority’s activities lasted only a semester the members of it have carried the bond and memories with them as they have progressed through the university.
“The sorority actually started as a joke. All of the McNairs lived on the first floor my freshman year and so we knew each other from interviewing for the scholarship. There were only a few people on our floor rushing. The rest of us hung out in the first floor hallway and in my room a lot in the beginning. One night all of us were in my room and my suitemate decided we should start our own mock sorority. The anti-sorority sorority, although there was no real ill will towards them. Thus, Apple Delta Pie was born. Each of us made a sign for our room with an A, a delta sign and an apple. Then we wrote our names and put funny things that we were known by...My roommate's was a comment about her obsession with RENT and mine was about my propensity for playing beach volleyball with the good looking boys at the Strom. Our "symbol" was a Maxcy pad. I'll send you the picture of us all making our Maxcy Pad with our hands. I think our only real "event" was taking one of the guys on our floor out to dinner one night. There was like 14 of us, but only the one guy. We put on our dresses and went out to California Dreaming. The allure of the group ended shortly before Christmas break, but it was fun in the beginning. We used to have peanut butter and jelly parties in the hallway and doors were always open for people to pop in and say hello. It was nice to break the ice that way in the beginning, especially because we were all from out of state,” (Budreau, 2006-2007).
Informal gatherings are often held by those with common interests in the dorm. During the presidential debates the common room was crowded and politics were discussed. For the first two debates one of my friends visited Maxcy dorm for the environment and political conversation and became an “honorary Maxican” after multiple people had asked if he lived in the dorm. The final episode of “The Office” became a large gathering as people were called from the hall into the common room to share in the experience. I was on my way back from dinner when I was waved in to the already crowded room (probably around 30-40 people) and sat on one of the tables (often used for extra seating) to enjoy the show. I do not watch “The Office” on a normal basis (before that night I had never seen an episode) but the group atmosphere made the event memorable. Two girls made brownies for the occasion. The community united to play a joke on a girl who left the room. Upon her return she was given an alternate ending and the hoax worked for a few minutes but laughter gave it away. One year a group of five to twenty students known as “F Mac” (in reference to film and music appreciation) met regularly in the “Presidential Suite” (the nickname for a room located on the first floor) Tuesday or Wednesday nights to watch movies or listen to records and then discuss them (Falkoske).
The building and the floors contribute greatly to the folk community as they enable lore. In my year when people from the dorm are getting to know each other the first question asked is their name and the second inquires what floor they are on. Floors and rooms sometimes are given nicknames by the group indicative of the community’s values or challenges. Variation in room sizes have contributed to some rooms being the traditional epicenters for parties. The common room and classroom on the first floor have also become locations for regular gatherings and subsequent stories. Bathrooms in Maxcy are unique because the showers (like the rooms) vary in size and the door locks make it possible for a person to lock themselves in.
Some years floors house a specific group in the Honors College. The McNair scholars (the top 25 out-of-state scholarship winners) are often placed on the same floor and form an especially tight-knit group. “The 3rd floor one year housed a majority of the full scholarship in and out of state kids. So that was the smart, scholar floor, which also caused a disproportionate amount of memorable events at Maxcy,” (Wheeler).
The third floor once held a reputation as a party floor. One of the most notorious parties held in 2007-2008 was the third floor rave in the study room. To prepare the room garbage bags were placed over the windows (a technique also used this year for a Halloween party this by the dorm government). A strobe light and music were also used to set the mood (Riley). One of the RMs heard the noise and came to break up the party. The door was answered by a slightly intoxicated student who pulled the RM in the room and started dancing with her. Later in the night the RM said, “Turn the music up.” The change of heart in the RM was an accomplishment in the community and the news of this proud moment was spread through the dorm (Kane).
The third floor has also developed alternative gathering places that are perhaps a result of its distance in relation to the common room or classroom as meeting places. One year a portion of the floor was under the control of the “Stair People” a group that I heard about from one of my old camp counselors (I attended summer programs at USC during high school) who also spent his first year in Maxcy. In every hallway except the basement there is a short staircase in the middle, on the third floor one year this became the hangout spot and territory of the “Stair People.” They were viewed as strange and approached with caution by others as they defended their stairs (and repressed exasperation when having to move) by accosting people when they walked by. Ultimately their effect was positive as my counselor made friends with the second floor and met his future wife there. This may not have occurred if he had not ventured beyond his hall in an effort to avoid the “Stair People” (Fowler). A similar place has evolved during my year called “The Hallway” on the third floor where a group of residents regularly hangout and has specific starting and ending places along the hallway (Flume). The group is viewed favorably within the community. I have eaten with them at the student union multiple times where they have shared stories about “The Hallway” involving pranks (see bathroom pranks) and sometimes relationship problems.
Romance is a notable part of most students’ college experiences and also Maxcy lore. Over time several “lover’s lanes” have become known as residents attempt to find privacy; one of the most infamous locations to span the years is the basement study room. In my year the tradition has continued as we either view the couch closest to the study room door with apprehension or make it a point to sit there as often as possible because of its reputation. The power of place exuded by the dorm has a way of bringing people together. A clear example of this occurred at the beginning of one year when the air conditioning was broken in some of the rooms. One girl met a guy whose air conditioning was working and hung out in his room a lot the first day. After that they became a couple and were always together, often going on dates to Russell House to eat. He was pompous, ambitious, slightly misogynistic, and judgmental toward those who drank; she was a partier and three or four inches taller than he was. The unlikely couple lasted until the next summer. Two days before the guy was supposed to visit (after planning the visit for months) she broke up with him. There are still speculations over why the relationship ended; theories include cheating or an argument. After the breakup she frequently talked about him and he became even more cynical (Espensen-Sturges). Many romances started in Maxcy have endured, one example being my brother who has been dating the girl he met in Maxcy for three years. In my year relationships have risen and fallen within the dorm as well with an audience of matchmakers, spectators and supportive friends.
Some parts of the dorm traditionally bring people together to party. Multiple years the first floor left hallway is known for this. The rooms are large, cold and isolated from the rest of the dorm. In conversation one day (in 2007-2008 school year) the three characteristics were put together and “Siberia” was born. That year there were two rooms in Siberia. One was a big party room and earned a reputation for being wild and the other room was inhabited by a more conservative guy who eventually stated that he did not want to be part of Siberia or associated with the parties it held. His room became known as Moscow to reflect that it was slightly more civilized and (since it was closer to the front desk) not quite as isolated (Riley).
Siberia was passed down by the RMs and has continued to be widely recognized by those within the dorm. In previous years Siberia was known “The Presidential Suite” because of its size. “The Presidential Suite” was also known to throw parties and (when the parties were broken up) hiding places where developed such as the shower that could hold around fifteen people and closets each holding around three. The space also allowed for an extra closet that became known as the “graveyard” and was devoted to empty beer cans (Falkoske).
“I do remember when the flood happened in Maxcy, that all the people that lived down there were all gathered in the one dry spot in the middle of the hall. Apparently they all became good friends that day,” (Tone).The basement as a floor has developed a distinct folklore and traditions have formed around the hardship and identity as the bottom floor. The basement has accumulated nicknames- in my year (and earlier years) it has been referred to as the “The Dungeon” because it is underground; the same nickname was used in 2002-2003 along with “The Cave” for a similar reason (Fowler). The main challenge connected to living in the basement is the flooding; in 2006-2007 the water reached up to 5 inches in the laundry room. My brother lived in Maxcy that year and would often call home and comment on how grateful he was to be living on the second floor. Some people in the basement got bed risers to help protect their belongings from the water. Whenever the flooding would start the people in the basement would call for help from the other floors in moving things out of the water’s reach, (Falkoske) showing the unity and support of the community.
“Representing the basement of Maxcy. Although we do not have a Basilisk (that we know of), we have pipes, leakage, dead bugs, and hot, magical people like Harry Potter,” (Boardman). Out of this and other common experiences of the basement that year came the name “The Chamber of Secrets” reflecting the group aesthetic of the floor and dorm when it embraced the term. The nickname relies on the common knowledge and interest of the group in the Harry Potter book series. A facebook page by the basement community that defines itself as follows,
There are also some advantages to living in the basement. For multiple years a slip and slide stretched about forty feet down the hall on a specified day, a tradition that has not been repeated in my experience yet. The basement was also home to a group in the 2007-2008 school year called “The Maxcy 20.” The group’s name originated from the room number where people frequently met because it was a double room (like Siberia it was larger as a result of the remodeling occurring when Maxcy was transformed into a dorm) and had space for a couch. The inhabitants of the room welcomed other residents and the group expanded (Kane).
The residents of Maxcy have historically funneled their creativity into projects that enhance the building. In a formal setting this is done at the end of each year when the improvement is presented to the dorm as a gift to the next class. Some examples of improvements have been a television, piano and fish tank for the common room and an NBA basketball arcade game in the basement. Each gift is debated by the group and is telling of the values and pastimes of the residents that year. Improvements are also made to the dorm informally that are given to later classes in the form of stories. One of the most visually impressive of these feats was “The Can Wall” constructed by the “Maxcy 20.” The yearlong project began as a stacking of cans along a wall in room 20. With little initial structural integrity it was redesigned after the first attempt collapsed. The second wall was built with a ledge around the base of the room to increase stability and detailing around the thermostat. Three engineers monitored its progression throughout the year while many contributed to its progression throughout the year while many contributed to its construction. Upon its completion a large group of Maxicans went out to Cici’s, an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant, that was a traditional location for celebration that year. It continues to be important to the Maxcy 20 group as they go there for pizza eating competitions where the members of the group see who can eat the most. The dinner on that occasion highlighted the pride of the community in the structure that was ultimately composed of one thousand and seven cans (Kane).
Other events also occurred within the group that gained notoriety within the dorm. One day a guy got locked in the bathroom of Maxcy 20 and after several attempts to get him out, maintenance was called. In all it took two hours (some say three hours) to free him. By the time he was freed around twenty people had accumulated outside the door after hearing about what happened. Maintenance jokingly said that next time someone was trapped they should just kick down the door. Months later another guy was trapped in the bathroom. The people in Maxcy 20 tried everything to get him out, they even tried to take the door off its hinges but nothing worked. After spending about twenty minutes trapped in the bathroom the boy (who was skinnier and smaller than the first guy) told those on the other side of the door to back up. He kicked the door, snapping it in two and gaining his freedom. The Maxcy 20 dragged the remains of the door into the hallway and wrote up an incident report. Some of the people there kept a piece of the door as a reminder of Maxcy 20 group and the story. The following summer four of the people present were called to Judicial to pay for the door, but later the fees were dropped, (Espensen-Sturges, Riley). construction. Upon its completion a large group of Maxicans went out to Cici’s, an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant, that was a traditional location for celebration that year. It continues to be important to the Maxcy 20 group as they go there for pizza eating competitions where the members of the group see who can eat the most. The dinner on that occasion highlighted the pride of the community in the structure that was ultimately composed of one thousand and seven cans (Kane).construction. Upon its completion a large group of Maxicans went out to Cici’s, an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant, that was a traditional location for celebration that year. It continues to be important to the Maxcy 20 group as they go there for pizza eating competitions where the members of the group see who can eat the most. The dinner on that occasion highlighted the pride of the community in the structure that was ultimately composed of one thousand and seven cans (Kane).
The basement is the floor that contains the kitchen and the ice machine; it is said that every year something happens to this ice machine. Last year this happened in the form of someone urinating into it (under the influence of alcohol). While most believe that this was not the first time for such an event, the staff threatened to remove the ice machine if it continued to be a target for mischief. The kitchen was closed down for a few days as punishment (Kane, Riley). The warning to refrain from using the ice machine for consumption purposes has carried on to the residents in my year. After hearing the story I asked residents from my own year if they had heard any stories about the ice machine and was surprised at how well the warning had spread.
One year a safe place to go after an overindulgence of alcohol in the building was born after news of a single occurrence spread to other residents. There was once an RM who found an intoxicated resident and did not want him to get in trouble. To keep him safe the RM let him sleep off his drinking on the futon in their room. Word carried and the “drunk futon” became a safe place to recover within the dorm (Espensen-Sturges). In my year a “drunk futon” has yet to be established but RMs continue to be close to the residents and are often a source of guidance and help within the community. Many stories are passed down about the bathrooms of Maxcy. One of the features of the bathrooms is the ability to lock yourself in and be confined there until a room or suite mate releases you. Some methods such as keeping a plastic knife or nickel in the bathroom to pick the lock have been developed; others have used their room keys to pick the lock. The bathrooms have also become an attractive place for pranks. Two rooms on the third floor (that are associated with “The Hallway”) this year are arranged for this purpose. If the room and suite mates coordinate the prank and both pull out their dresser drawers while someone is in the bathroom, that person can be trapped. The techniques developed to pick locks may have been a factor in a bathroom prank that occurred in the 2006-2007 academic year when two girls shared a bathroom with a vacant room located on the 2nd floor left hand corner of Maxcy. Late some nights the girls would hear the shower turn on and sometimes voices called their names. What was developing into a Maxcy ghost story was actually the work of some of the guys who had figured out how to pick the locks and made it a tradition to scare up some fun (Falkofske).
Several stories have reached the level of legend within the community they as they are repeated. Most of these stories were influenced by the building or related places on campus.
“My most memorable experience was when a freshman named JB decided to play a joke on everyone he could find in the dorm. JB is a huge guy that was recruited by many schools as a football player. His sense of humor was, let's say, well developed. Anyway JB decided one night to dress as closely as possible to a cat burglar/thief. He went around the dorm beforehand though opening and unlocking doors and windows, to give him a way to enter and look legitimate. Well his costume was perfect down to the black ski mask and leather gloves. His first choice was a window in the game room (with the pool table and arcade game). As he was crawling in, the RA on duty, Ashley, walked into the game room and saw him in his disguise. Ashley was the type of girl who was scared of bugs. Literally, one day I found her standing and squealing on her bed because of a cockroach. When JB saw Ashley, he played a role worthy of a horror movie. He pointed menacingly at Ashley and then charged his roughly 6.5 foot, 250lb + frame at her. She shrieked, dropped all of her stuff, and ran screaming down the hall attempting to open every door on the floor. She found one, locked the door behind her, jumped on the resident's bed and started screaming ‘call 911, call 911.’
Of course, this was highly irresponsible on JB's part (he could've been shot by a cop on patrol or attacked by residents defending Ashley). But I thought it was hilarious. I didn't know about any of this when JB tried it on me. He came around a corner charging at full speed and leapt on the table in front of me in a position to attack. I had an idea something was up and just stared at him because no real thief would do what he just did. He stared for a moment, then took off his mask and said, "Damn it, I thought I had you." He then told me of what happened with Ashley and other residents. I asked why he did this. He responded something along the lines of I wanted to shake people up and I was bored. This seems to be the starting thought that ignites all mischief and creativity in Maxcy...that is smart young people, full of energy getting bored and doing something very unexpected. Ashley never spoke to or looked at JB again by the way, despite profuse apologies,” (Wheeler).
Similar pranks have been played other years as well. One involved a student who donned a ski mask and would stand outside of students’ doors to scare them when they left their room (Fowler). Last year some students discovered a way to climb from the basement to the first floor using the windows and ivy that grows on the building (Kane). The jokes show the adventurous spirit that the dorm enables and the risk that some residents get a rush out of. One of the most epic and daring pranks was one involving the Maxcy Monument. The Maxcy Monument is tied to legend. Built in 1827 to honor the university’s first President (Reverend Jonathan Maxcy) it is located in the center of the Horseshoe and only a small distance from Maxcy Dormitory. The monument was designed in the Egyptian Revival style by Robert Mills (who was also the architect of the Washington Monument). On top of the structure a ball is held by an inverted metal pyramid. The monument has been wrapped in rumors pre-dating World War II that suggest the ball on top will spin if a virgin walks by (Clark). In the 1890s bonfires were lit around the monument as an economic slowdown triggered a rise in vandalism. In February 1893 one of these bonfires was kindled with mattresses from vacant dorm rooms and kerosene (Hollis). One of the more modern legendary pranks that I heard of before becoming a student at the University of South Carolina involved the ball on top of Maxcy Monument.
“The first time I was on campus, for a visit before I enrolled, I walked past the monument and thought to myself, "that ball is coming down." Little did I know that I would steal the ball 50 years to the week after the only other time it had been stolen. I was a bit intoxicated, though I didn't admit it at the time, and at a party in Woodrow. I randomly decided that it was a good time to go steal it. A couple of other guys went with me to make sure I didn't kill myself, and Phil Collins (yes, that's actually his name) was the one who scampered up there and, using a wrench and a screwdriver, unfastened the two bolts holding it in place. He then tossed it down to this kid John, and we took it back to their apartment. Well, we stole it about a week before fall break. My plan all along was to keep it for a few months or so, and then return it. Maybe play some further jokes with it, like take "ransom" photos with it and send them to the newspaper or President Sorenson. But Phil, John and some of the other fools that helped me got it in their heads that they had stolen it for good. They even talked about stringing it up like a disco ball in their apartment. So when the Gamecock ran a front page story about it the following Monday, my friend Mike Kanwisher freaked out and thought he was going to lose his scholarship. We called an emergency meeting, and they decided they were going to put it back that night, or the next. I wanted no part of it, so I stayed home. The return went smoothly. However, at some point while Wayne Franklin [the name given to the ball] was missing, some freshmen girls from Maxcy were caught putting a pumpkin on the monument where Wayne lived. Unfortunately, Phil was a desk attendant at Maxcy, and somehow they implicated him in the original heist. He was somehow pressured into talking to the police, and then I got a phone call while I was at home over fall break from the police asking me to come in and give a report when I got back,” (Springer).
These stories reflect both the adventurous spirit of Maxicans as well as the common concern about grades and keeping scholarships. College presents freedom and responsibly to its attendees and each student has to learn to balance the two. “One of our residents was responsible for the theft of the Maxcy ball and the even more impressive return of it while cops were staked out to catch the student attempting to return it. The students were only caught after word of their exploits was passed around. This would have become a tradition I'm sure except that the ball was afterward welded in place. It wasn't done by a current Maxcy resident, but a sophomore who had lived in Maxcy. I think the fact that it was also named after Maxcy helped to add to our residents' curiosity. Another student attempted to carry on a family tradition which was to steal the USC flag from the president's house, which I strongly advised them not to do,” (Wheeler).
Some personalities have become famous over the years. One of the Maxcy Monument ball thieves was a character.
“There was the 4AM easy mac, which involved a student who improperly cooked easy mac at 4AM while studying for finals in the winter. He caused the entire dorm to be disturbed and evacuated the night before their finals, including standing in the 30 deg weather for 2 or so hours. He had directions for easy mac and fire warnings posted on his door from that day till the end of the year. He also stole the Maxcy ball. He also had the roommate voted worst of the year by the Garnet and Black mag. He was also "flying phil" whose video could at one time be found on Kazaa [a file sharing site]. He earned the name after riding an ice block down the stairs of Maxcy. His injuries were just barely hospital worthy. He has since become a pro poker player,” (Wheeler).
Many students in Maxcy are talented in areas outside of academics. This year the dorm has several piano players who practice in the common room. Some students become known for more unusual talents and their stories continue to be passed on through face-to-face communication as well as You Tube. There was once a resident of Maxcy who could curl into a ball and roll down the hallways; he did this both while intoxicated and sober. One night he curled and rolled from the water fountain to the pool table, crashed into the stair rail and broke it. Later the same night he was on the second floor and curled and rolled again. This time he went down the steps and broke his nose. After being cleaned up a little by his friends he woke the next morning with his clothes still covered in blood with no memory of how it happened (Riley).
“Fish Guy” is another character whose notoriety has spanned years because of his connection to the fish tank in the common room. About three years ago there was a marine science major that lived in Maxcy. He was said to have had seven or eight fish tanks in his room and was the main advocate of getting a fish tank for his year’s dorm improvement. He became known as the “Fish Guy” the next year when he visited Maxcy periodically and created the “Fish Committee” to care for the fish in the common room. “Fish Guy” would periodically check up on how things were going and would often comment on what the committee needed to improve in their care. The residents of that year valued the fish and named them all. The most memorable one was a large yellow fish named Gustav (Falkofske). During the 2007-2008 year there was only one fish in the tank. The residents of the dorm named it and would visit it. They often commented on how it needed friends and felt alarmed if they did not see it, fearing it had died (Riley).
Maxcy unity is also seen when the dorm as a whole is challenged by an outside force. I first heard from my brother and his friends that the greatest rival of Maxcy College is Preston College, a dorm on the opposite side of the Horseshoe that houses freshmen-seniors (some honors students choose to live in Preston). Two of my brother’s friends lived in Maxcy for their freshmen year and then Preston for their sophomore year and while they mostly kept to themselves other and the friends they made in Maxcy, during an end of the year get together they heard stories of the rivalry from the Preston side. The origin of the rivalry is uncertain, but often things will remain quiet between the dorms until an event sparks an exchange. One such spark occurred in the 2002-2003 academic year when a Preston resident dressed in a Civil War costume went to Maxcy to deliver a declaration of war. Some Maxcy residents then responded by stealing Preston’s patio furniture (Fowler). “Many classes would prank Preston dorm by stealing something or coating their dorm with something,” (Wheeler). At one time the rivalry sparked confrontation in the form of the Maxcy-Preston “Olympic Games” where residents would compete in physical events (but the tradition is mostly Preston’s and the “Olympic Games” are no longer held with Maxcy participants). More recently Preston was said to have attempted to “colonize” Maxcy and hung posters around the door. In 2007-2008 Preston attempted to “assassinate” the Maxcy Dorm President by throwing a ball of ice at him when he walked by an ice fight (the residents of Preston were throwing ice at each other). The attack caused a brief “diplomatic crisis” as some Maxicans debated retaliation. One idea was to the capture the Preston Flag, the same idea was also debated the year before. However, it was dropped because of the height at which the flag is hung (Falkoske). Similarly, last year the flag was left alone (Kane).
Folklore is dynamic and next year the power of place shifts as Maxcy becomes general freshmen housing while honors freshmen and sophomores will be moved to a new structure. This will create a more unified Honors College as all the first-year students in the program will be housed in one dorm (currently some are placed in Capstone) but will also change the environment. The transition will be bittersweet as residing in Maxcy dorm is connected with strong memories and has become a tradition in some families. One family with five sons is preparing to send their youngest to college next year, he will not have the opportunity to live in Maxcy as an honors dorm. Therefore, his experience will differ from his brothers (Kane). The new structure’s size, a 500-bed residence hall, could make it a more impersonal dorm and will likely affect group events such as future smoothie parties or pancake exam-breakers (New Honors College Housing). Standardizing room size will lessen the amount of nicknames, alter meeting places for the groups, and put an end to some of the bathroom lore as most of the doors will probably function and lock-picking methods will die. Some traditions like the slip and slide in the basement will likely not survive the transition as the new building may also introduce tougher restrictions. Similarly the interest in the Maxcy Monument and its history may fade as the dorm name changes and the new location is further from the horseshoe. With the new housing honors underclassmen will be more separated from the upper classmen and their traditions.(the residents of Preston were throwing ice at each other). The attack caused a brief “diplomatic crisis” as some Maxicans debated retaliation. One idea was to the capture the Preston Flag, the same idea was also debated the year before. However, it was dropped because of the height at which the flag is hung (Falkoske). Similarly, last year the flag was left alone (Kane).
Currently it is common for those housed in Maxcy to move on to upperclassmen apartment style housing around the horseshoe where many of the groups remain intact. The folklore of Maxcy is important because it tells the story of new-found independence, overcoming trials and developing lasting friendships. The Maxcy 20 still meet frequently in one of their apartments in Woodrow (located across the horseshoe from Maxcy). My brother and the close friends he made while in Maxcy also remain a tight-knit group and frequently hangout out in Thornwell (located next door to Maxcy).
Maxcy’s purpose will shift and a new community will form within it. Perhaps they will also approach the ice machine with caution or discover the alternate ways to enter the building. It will be interesting to see if they will claim the name Maxican or have the drive and unity to enhance the building by additions like the Can Wall. If the basement floods again will they reinstate the “Chamber of Secrets” or find the name geeky? How will they choose to use the gifts from previous classes? Will any of the new students share their talent on the piano in the common room in a way comparable to some of the residents this year and past years? Will the community value the fish and name them? Study rooms have come to be places of celebration, secrecy and academic study within the present culture, but the new community may find new ways to utilize them. In Maxcy the RMs play an important role and share a bond with the residents because many of them also spent their first year in Maxcy. Will these tradition bearers remain close to the residents or will they become more disciplinary and distant?
New housing will provide a blank slate for new lore. The fact that the new honors building will house both freshmen and sophomores adds an interesting element, as there will be more channels for lore to flow between the classes. I, along with some of my classmates, will live in both Maxcy and the new dorm. I look forward to seeing the evolution of the folk and lore of the honors community as it transitions into a new era.