The House of Il

I returned from my mission to Colorado in October of 1979. After working a couple of months to save some money, I returned to Provo in January 1980 to resume my education. That first semester I roomed with a friend from my freshman year. It was just a room in the basement of a tree streets house. There was no kitchen, just a minifridge and a hot plate. I basically lived on cereal, PBJs and hot dogs that semester. Near the end of the semester, I got engaged.

For the spring and summer term, I moved into a house with a bunch of my friends from back in Illinois. As I recall, the house was on the corner of 2nd North and 1st East in Provo, close to downtown. Someone had crafted a nice wooden sign in the shape of the State of Illinois with the words “House of Il” engraved or burned into it. (I assume you get the double entendre…)

I had a great time living in that house. One of my roommates was quite the chick magnet, so there were girls around all the time. And the house next door was rented by a group of really gorgeous women. Of course, I was the only guy in our house who was actually engaged, so while I enjoyed watching all the frat-lite antics of my roomies, I was able to roll up my sleeves and concentrate on my school work (which was important, because that was the term that I started Latin, which would have killed me if I hadn’t really focused on it).

At the end of the summer I got married, and I moved with my new wife–into the basement of the House of Il! There was a separate apartment down there, so that is where we started our married life. The bathroom had one of those “shit-shower-shave” combos where the toilet was actually in the shower. And one night I was watching TV when a mouse ran up my leg and into the couch. Yikes! We lived there a year and then moved into a much nicer basement apartment a few blocks to the east.

So tell us your college housing stories, whether they are fond reminiscences or horror stories.


  1. Right out of High School I got accepted to the USU Music Program. Their out-of-state tuition was out of my league so I decided to take a semester off and just go to a local school in January. 11 years later I moved home due to a poor economy and terrible job prospects for anyone with no formal schooling (I have always taught myself much better). So, here I am still in the midst of my 3rd year of schooling. I escape the stigma of “parent’s basement” by actually having a bedroom upstairs. My bedroom holds all my worldly possessions. I share it with my (almost) 10-year old cat and his horrible litter-box. He is miserable. I am miserable. My parents needed a buffer. My nieces and nephews come every week and stink up the house and completely take it over. If everything remains on track I will graduate after the fall semester of 2013. At that time I am unsure what will happen–I will most likely need to move back to UT since NY rent is outrageous and salaries have not kept pace. If I need to go on for graduate work I will finally return to where I was supposed to start and go to USU. The End…?

  2. My favorite memory is of the extremely socially awkward, young teenage-looking packrat who moved in during the summer. The other 3 of us in the apartment were irked by the fact that all his crap was filling up the living room. But this proved less troubling than his penchant for hanging around campus during EFY, hitting on the 14-year-old girls, and then coming home each day and excitedly telling us about it, utterly oblivious to how sexual inappropriate it was, and probably unaware that he was even giving himself away. Later, we learned he’d been assaulted in the doorway of his prior apartment by the older brother of a pre-teen that he’d been grooming. Lovely.

  3. When I met my wife, I was such a tightwad that I rented a balcony enclosed in cinder blocks in a semi-slum instead of paying regular rent for a regular apartment. The balcony was so small and uninsulated that I hung my clothes in gear bags hanging from the walls and slept in a sleeping bag (I was pretty active with weekend-warrior mountaineering back then). My future wife felt so bad for me (i was sleeping on a futon my college roommate had fished out of the garbage as I recall several years prior) that she gave me her twin bed to stick in that tiny little room. When we got married we rented a converted blacksmith’s shop from a born-again couple with an older neighbor well into her dotage who wore the strangest wigs I’ve ever seen. Fond memories that I have no desire to relive.

  4. KerBearRN says:

    My junior year at BYU I lived at Roman Gardens (affectionately called “Roman Ruins” by most of us). It was one of those 3-story rectangles with all apartments (and walkways) facing an inner courtyard of concrete– at one end a pathetic BBQ, the other a pool. It created a bizarre kind of intimacy– and it was honestly a really great place and ward. Snowing outside? Scoop up snow from the railings and make snowballs to throw at the guys apartment windows across the way (living on the third floor made it a pretty sure thing we’d hit SOMETHING.). Warm out? Jump from the balcony (I did…once) or roof (I chickened) into the pool. Many, MANY fond legends told of the “Olympic Ice Hockey” matches played on a resident-iced-over pool; of the guys packing snow into some girls’ corner apartment hallway and wetting it– it was so badly frozen that they had to use a tunnel dug thru it until it thawed a few weeks later. And in those days (no idea now) BYU Housing Standards required that men and women could not share a hallway to their apartments. Since sharing a hallway was the only way the boy:girl ratio would be equal (necessary marketing principle), the owners had built a plexiglass partition in each walkway that divided “boys’ side” from “girls’ side”. But one apartment straddled each wall, living room window and front door on one side, kitchen window on the other. I lived in one of these apartments on the third floor. Result: you could either climb outside the balcony, around the wall, to visit the guys/girls on the same floor (NO ONE would actually ever go down the stairs, cross, and then climb up)… OR you could climb out our kitchen window onto the opposite hallway. People did both about equally. And quite a few times I remember boys from my floor knocking on our kitchen window, asking if they could come through (through the window, onto the kitchen table, and out the front door). It was the only year I “loved” at the Y. Had a great roommate, great friends, great memories. The next year I sold out– got a nicer apartment on the University Ave hill (private room, great view of the Provo valley/campus/temple)– and hated almost every minute of it (creepy chick in my apartment, no crazy camaraderie, had to drive/park every day. WONDERFUL bishop in that ward, though.).

  5. BarefootMike says:

    Because I was planning to graduate mid-year at Utah State, it was difficult to find a place to live for just fall semester (everyone wanted a year-long comittment). I ended up sharing the basement with the owner of the house, Richard, who was willing to accept a month-to-month arrangement. We had our own bedrooms but shared a tiny kitchen and living space. He tended to be around the house a lot, so I learned to spend more time on campus, as he would talk my ear off about the strangest topics, but mainly about how close he was to being baptized into the mormon church. I was happy to graduate in December, but probably more so to move out of Richard’s basement.

    About two weeks after I moved out and back to my parents’ house to look for work, Richard called. I wasn’t home, so he spoke with my mother. He had called to let me know that I had left my pink suit behind. Now, my mom can be gullible, but even she realized that I did not own a pink suit and there was something off with Richard.

  6. My freshman year at K-State (1984) I shared an apartment in the basement of a house close to campus with my best friend. The rent was $75 each. There was water damage 4 feet up the walls and they were a different color of sick maroon than the rest of the walls. The shower was a showerhead sticking out of a wall in the bathroom with a concrete surround about 6″ tall to keep the shower curtain in – the whole thing painted, and peeling, maroon. We had mice. We were girls. We decided that the best way to notify the owners, who lived above, was to scream extremely loudly “OH MY GOSH IS THAT A MOUSE THAT IS A MOUSE I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT’S A MOUSE” at each sighting. About 18 times a day. Within a week they came down and offered us traps and poison. Perhaps they hoped we’d put the traps on our mouths and eat the poison. We used them on the mice and still had mice and still screamed. I got engaged that spring and wasn’t home much after that, then my roommate decided to go on a mission, so we moved at the end of the school year. I can still remember the horror of discovering just how many more mice you have when you move your stuff and they have nowhere to hide. Fond memories of paper snowflakes hanging from that ceiling for the entire winter. I wonder how many Hail Marys they said in thanks when we moved.

  7. I’ve enjoyed a few fun and less fun places since I left home. At UF, I had to contend with a roommate sleeping with his girlfriend on an air mattress in the living room outside my door. Awkward! Out here in Utah, I lived in this strange room on University where the ceiling was only 5 feet high, where the bed was and I had a roommate later who was clinically insane.

    Of course, I was the insane one for moving into married housing as a single guy with my two best friends who’d gotten married a couple months before. I never had a bed, but I remember sleeping on couch cushions on the floor, I did have my own room, but, uh, no soundproofing. (Good food and company, though.)

  8. KerBearRN says:

    Sorry my response was so long guys… Just be glad I didn’t spend FOUR happy years at the Y (transfer student halfway through).

    But Kevin I think there was a brother and sister at RG when I lived there by the last name of Barney. And I seem to remember them being from IL. Might you be related?

  9. I also served my mission in Colorado, although several years later. It was a great area to serve

  10. MY last two years of school at Weber State, my wife and I rented a one bedroom apartment in a not so great part of Ogden. The kitchen was the hall to the bedroom, and had glass paned windows between that and the living room, with a bullet hole in one of the panes of glass. It was on the top floor of an old house that had been coverted into three apartments, so all of our ceilings were actually the inside of the steeply sloping roof. The bathroom was the biggest room in the apartment, but only 2 feet high on the back wall, sloping to about 7 feet high on the front. No shower, just an old style tub with the four legs, and with the slope to the ceiling, you could not really stand up to get out of the tub, but had to kind of clamber over the side and watch your head. There was also at least one other bullet hole from the outside, that had embeeded itself into the ceiling of the front room. Also, too poor for much furniture, so we had an old 6 foot wooden church pew, painted bright blue, for a couch. Fond memories that I am glad I don’t have to relive.

  11. Kevin
    Which corner of 1st E 2nd N was the house of Il? A decade earlier I started married life on the 2nd story of the house on the Northeast corner of that intersection.

  12. I lived in Cinnamon Tree appartments my sophmore year at the Y. It was a total dive of a place on University and 900 N. Once night while asleep in my bed the window above my head was shot out and the bullet lodged into the cinder block wall along side my bed. I was young and dumb enough (and poor enough) that I did not move. I probably should have, but the people there were great and it was close to campus.

    My junior year I moved to a house inhabited by 10 girls, 3 of which (including myself) shared the same first name. The owner of the house tried to charge us all $15 each for the phone although it had no long distance, call waiting, or other frills. When we complained the owner just removed the phone altogether. Of course, this was in the era of pre-cell phones.

    Yep, college living experience were life lessons.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 8, no, no relation that I’m aware of.

    No. 11, we were on the southeast corner, so across the street from the house you lived in.

    I’m loving these great stories! It’s a good think our parents didn’t know the conditions we lived in, or they would have a heart attack…

  14. Yet Another John says:

    My wife and I spent our second year at the Y in a basement apartment on the northeast corner of 4th North and 1st East. There was one furnace for the whole place (five apartments) and it ran night and day during the winter. We didn’t have access to the thermostat and I remember more than once going to sleep with the window in our bedroom wide open with snow coming down outside and the heat just blasting out the register. The worst thing was the time we came home to find the sewer had backed up and was all over the floor. Use your imagination. The very, very worst thing was that we moved to this place from a much nicer place to save a paltry 15 bucks a month. 15 bucks didn’t seem so paltry at the time, however.

  15. In law school, I had a roommate who went totally nuts.

    I had a 3 bedroom apartment. My sister lived in one room, I lived in another, and my roommate lived in the third room with her 13 year old daughter. My roommate was unemployed and took great pride in announcing how she had been living off of unemployment for a long time and wasn’t even looking for a job. She had an on-again off-again thing with her shiftless ex-husband. The deal when I let her move in was that her ex couldn’t stay the night and couldn’t be in the apartment unattended. So…he would hang out at the apartment all day and then go downstairs at 11 pm to sleep in his car. He would then come back to the apartment at 6 am, hog the bathroom while I needed to get ready for work, and hang out all day. He was an alcoholic and stole my sister’s cooking wine.

    One day while I was home sick from work, I was blissfully alone in the apartment. Then I heard the key turn in the door. I was greeted by none other than the ex, acting like he owned the place. He was unaccompanied. I confronted my roommate later about this, and she said I was being unreasonable. We got into a huge argument that led to me moving out into another apartment (and my sister moved in with our parents). Her main point in the argument was that all men are like her ex, and that if I couldn’t stand having a man around, I would never get married. I calmly told her that remark was uncalled for and hurtful. Instead of apologizing, she tried to defend herself.

    In order to get my roommate to sign me off the lease, I had to agree to pay my portion of the rent and my sister’s portion of the rent for the rest of the lease (two months). So I did, since the situation was untenable. We went our separate ways. Two months later, she contacted me again asking for more money so she could pay the utilities. I told her no, and she threatened to sue me. She never did. (Presumably because she realized that she didn’t have a case and that I would wipe the floor with her in court.) Fun times.

  16. There was this unapproved housing unit 2 guys had in a basement south of campus. The kitchen stove was separated from the toilet by a plastic sliding divider that went from floor to ceiling. The two “appliances” were side by side. Close enough so that in case of a time constraint, one could fry your bacon and eggs on the stove while taking care of “business”. As they used to love to demonstrate!

  17. These stories are depressing me.

  18. Attic apartment on 4th North 200 East while my wife finished her degree at BYU. We got an old church building sofa at the D.I. for $12. It got wedged between the walls in the stairwell about two thirds of the way up. There was a Sting poster hanging in the stairwell that had been there for several tenants. It was blazing hot in the summer. People in the apartment building next door had their adult, married kids living in a tent in the backyard… Kind of like an Occupy Provo kinda thing long before that was envogue.

  19. I think my most notable living arrangement was when I was an exchange student at Berkeley, sharing a room with a messy American girl. Add a bunkbed, a dresser, and two desks, and there wasn’t room for both of us to get dressed at the same time. Also, add 200 or so exchange students on a hormonal, freedom-loving high, and 200 ‘regular’ hormonal-driven students and you get quite an interesting experience. It was that much more … interesting since here in Holland, we typically don’t share bedrooms, only apartments and I hadn’t realized beforehand just how little privacy you get. When I got back to Nijmegen and saw my suddenly oh-so-big-room, just for me, I might have wept for joy, just a little bit.

  20. The basement of 1012 Cedar. We had a doctor’s examination table complete with gynecological stirrups.

  21. StillConfused says:

    I started my BYU studies living with my foster family on Apple Ave. Then I lived in a crappy apartment complex right by byu — 2 bed 1 bath for 6 girls!! From there I moved on in life — USU then air traffic controller then lawyer. And now I am back on Apple Ave… just two doors down from my foster family. Pretty wild.

    p.s. I never did any apartment living married. I followed Pres Kimball’s advice of “never date someone you wouldn’t be willing to marry” by only dating homeowners. (Probably not what Pres Kimball had in mind but …)

  22. The worst place was a little basement with a roommate named Cinnamon. She was scamming both of her (divorced and not talking to each other) parents for tuition and living money while not actually going to school and working full time. There were guys over at all sorts of times that they shouldn’t have been over and I remember one particularly uncomfortable 45 minutes stuck in the bathroom while she described her latest sexual conquest to a friend on the phone (she didn’t know anyone was home and by the time I’d figured that out, it seemed less awkward just to hide). The worst part was that she stole our cheese and tapes. Luckily, it was a BYU-approved lease, but the apartment wasn’t actually BYU approved, so it was pretty easy to get out of the lease. And the icing on the cake – the address really was 666 E.

  23. Elouise Bell says:

    Picture it: Provo, a beautiful fall in 1957. A recent convert, I arrived in town after dark, and had NO idea what all the grid system street signs meant: 123 N 456 South, 400 West 500 East?

    After a few false guesses, I found my new digs on 600 North and met my 5 roommates. They were mostly Arizona girls from farms and ranches, used to serious cooked breakfasts with eggs, meat, and potatoes. Somehow, though my family’s morning fare was Shredded Wheat and half a banana, I got the assignment as cook. A child of the Depression and WWII, I had never tasted real butter, but the farm girls would eat nothing else. Didn’t take me long to learn why! We figured out how much we would each chip in for groceries each week: $5.00. One girl shyly asked, “Could we make it $4.50?”
    The $30 household budget included sandwiches everyone took for lunch.

    Several of the group had served Spanish-speaking missions, and expected beans, cooked from scratch, at least once a week. My trials with burning the beans (and filling the house with that particularly insistent smell) came back to haunt me years later, when the children of my former housemates turned up in my freshman English classes with knowing smirks on their faces.

  24. wreddyornot says:

    The “sick” room at the elementary school where I worked part time as a janitor while I attended Weber State College. It was 1970-71. It was a sneaky proposition. I was afraid if anyone found out, I’d get in trouble, lose my job, and end up . . . homeless and unable to go to school. Of course, to make it work, I parked overnight in an adjacent neighborhood, not the school’s parking lot so some patrolling policeman wouldn’t see my car, worry someone had broken into the school and call my boss, the principal, who was also my bishop. Of course, I had to go in to late to sleep (earlier in the day, after school was out, I would have done my janitorial work and left) and then get up and leave very, very early, making certain everything looked “untouched”. I used the school kitchen, with its big fridges and awesome stove and oven. I used the cooks’ washer and dryer and had to make certain nothing got left behind as evidence that I was staying there.

  25. At the University of Oregon, the Amazon family student housing units rented for $35 a month ($50 when we graduated in ’77) The in-line quad units were WWII surplus barracks type housing originally constructed for shipbuilders in Portland. The buildings were dismantled, trucked in from Portland in 1947 and re-built a couple of miles south of campus. Heat was provided by one electric wall heater. Lighting consisted of six ceiling porcelain light sockets with pull chains, one in each room including the one closet. The bathroom was a step up from the one Kevin described, with a 30”x30” tin shower, pot, and sink.

    The bedrooms were perhaps 80 s.f. I constructed a ‘loft bed’ for us – something like an upper bunk supporting a full size mattress. This allowed some usable and storage space below. There was no space for a ladder so access to the bed was via a chair and desk.

    The units were damp. Between late September and March, the walls would often sweat. Mold would grow behind anything that was left against an exterior wall, even for a short period of time. The university decided to cover the offending walls with wood paneling, instead of having the occupants wash off the mold ‘shadows’ a few times a year.

  26. Meldrum the Less says:

    I was in graduate school in Salt Lake living in a cheap 1 bedroom apartment (right behind the house on Windsor street where President Gordon B. Hinckley was born) and looking for a roomate. My dad had a cousin whose son, John, had been kicked out of BYU for fornication.They were going to either make John live at home or cut off all money. My dad convinced them at the family reunion that I would “keep him in line.”

    Given the choices he decided to attend the U of U and live with me, sight unseen but away from his parents. He was obviously not happy while his dad helped him unload while constantly lecturing to him how he was to obey me. After dad left he locked himself in the bedrom for a few hours.

    When he came out I told him as sternly as I could that in order for us to get along we needed a few house rules, especially since we came from drastically different backgrounds, (BYU, rich and So.Cal. vs USU and rural Utah).

    Rule #1. No livestock in the living room. OK? If you are into doing it with sheep, goats, cattle, horses, donkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, etc. Keep it out of the apartment! I know of a few able to get away with it in the dorms at USU. Not that I care what you prefer, it just mades too much of a mess and I don’t like all of the smells of the farm. Can you handle that one John? He looked at me very perplexed.

    Rule #2. Don’t eat my food or drink my beer and I won’t eat your food or drink your beer. Can you handle that one John? He looked at me even more perplexed and then he ran over and opened the frig. Indeed I had a can of beer in there. I didn’t drink it but I loved to hassle home teachers with it and use it in a variety of pranks. John looked even more astonished, that his hardass roomate had beer in the frig.

    Rule #3. Concerning girls in the apartment, I don’t care what you do, just don’t wake me up. And the same applies to me. If you are making out on the couch with some hefty chick, don’t fall on the flour so hard it wakes me up. Start out on the floor! Ok? In the kitchen avoid doing it on the stove, you might accidently turn it on and set her pants on fire and that will probably wake me up. Don’t make out in the dishwasher….. Don’t fall off the top of the frig that might break bones and ambulances tend to wake me up.

    If you want to take a bath with a girl, try not to use too much soap while standing up. When it gets too slippery and you both fall in the tub it will probably wake me up. If you like a lot of soap stay closer to a kneeling position or lower. Whatever you do, just don’t wake me up. Can you handle that one, John? At this point he was starting to get it and he was grinning deviously.

    He asked me about his curfew, his dad had mentioned one. I thought for a minute and then stated: Your curfew is 3 weeks. If you go off in the mountains and get lost and don’t show up, I won’t call anyone for about three weeks. He looked at me and chuckled, “3 weeks? I think I can handle that one.”

    We got along great and soon discovered that we had quite a bit in common. Every few days his dad would call and ask me if John was giving me any trouble and I always reported that John was following all of the house rules and his curfew. His dad was amazed at John’s “transformation.” I soon met the girl who got him kicked out of BYU and managed to make her look like the snotty little self-righteous tramp that she was and John dumped her. I studied hard and he soon followed my example, spending about 90% of his waking hours with his nose in a book.

    John eventually completed an engineering degree and married a really nice girl a couple years later. The year we lived in the same apartment was when it started coming together for him. All he needed was a little bit of room to make his own choices and a friend who was not judgmental about his past.

    Many of us have experienced or observed a poverty of worldly goods; housing, food, transportation etc. The greater poverty I have observed is a poverty of emotional space and poverty of individual freedom. I have observed it often in those who have not done well at BYU.

  27. American Eagle says:

    “he bathroom had one of those “shit-shower-shave” combos where the toilet was actually in the shower.”

    This is one of the most horrific things I have read on the Internet in a long time.

  28. Morris Thurston says:

    We were married the day before we returned to BYU from our summer in California, she as a sophomore, me as a senior. We were both paupers. Aside from our clothes, the only worldly possessions we brought were a junker car (worth a few hundred dollars) and a manual typewriter, along with some dishes, eating utensils and pots and pans received as wedding presents. We set up house in Provo’s Georgian Apartments, on Ninth East near Center Street. Our idea of a date was to go grocery shopping together and see how far we could stretch our $35 weekly food budget.

    Our apartment was a one-room affair in a nondescript red brick building. We slept on a Murphy bed (hinged at one end to fold up against the wall). The cooking area (sink, tiny refrigerator and stove) could be closed off from the rest of the room by an accordion partition. We ate on a small table and sat on a comfortless couch. I suppose we were fortunate that the bathroom was separate from the living area. We dealt with our share of roaches, spiders and silverfish.

    Though she is a wonderful cook now, Dawn was a novice then. She prepared Spanish rice for one of our first meals and failed to account for the fact that rice expands when it is cooked. It nearly overflowed the pot and we had enough to last a week.

    One Sunday afternoon soon after we were married, we heard a heavy knocking on the door. We were in our Murphy bed, in flagrante delicto. Although the front door to the apartment was only steps from the bed, it took several minutes to make ourselves presentable. We opened the door and ushered in our visitors, also a newly married couple. If the noise hadn’t given us away, I’m sure our red faces and rumpled bed did. We had a pleasant conversation but, reflecting the sensibilities of the era, our pre-visit activity was never mentioned.

  29. Costanza says:

    You stopped to answer the door?\'[0]

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