Home is where the hearth is: Fanning the Flames of Communality at Skidmore?s South Quad (Part I)

Posted by Brian Connor


  • noun (pl. chimneys) 1. a vertical pipe which conducts smoke and gases up from a fire or furnace.

-Oxford English Dictionary


If one walks from Case green to Wiecking Hall, one must pass through a length of covered walkway, which stretches from the stairs at Starbuck Center and eventually forks, leading in one direction to Kimball Hall and in the other direction to Penfield Hall. If one heads toward Penfield one must necessarily pass through the Chimney. The Chimney is marked by two benches facing one another in an open air walkway underneath a curved roof and, depending on the time of day, one will understand how this area came to be named so.

The first genuinely sunny and warm day in spring, when the temperature rises above 75 degrees, is the Chimney-goer's answer to the Fourth of July. From about 5 p.m., when most classes get out, late into the evening, the two benches outside of Penfield and Kimball will be occupied, and the surrounding area buzzing with bright cheerful faces. People pass through the gentle mob wondering what obscure holiday is being celebrated. Unaware passersby start to assume that it is a tobacco festival of sorts, as plumes of smoke rise from the crowd and illustrate the area's namesake. Student tour guides lead groups of prospective students past Starbuck Center toward Case Green, and these students and their parents undoubtedly wonder what has spurred this gathering. Students and administrators alike pass by the crowd of chattering people and wonder "why?" But don't ask the Chimney-goers themselves, they couldn't tell you why they are here either. Their being at this spot is almost instinctive. So obvious to themselves is their presence at this area with these particular people that they couldn't begin to ponder that question. This area and the people who occupy it encompass the Chimney experience. All of the gatherers recognize each other as belonging to one another as long as they're in this spot.

 At about 4:30 p.m. on such a warm sunny day I decided to stroll downstairs from Penfield and pay a visit to the Chimney. I sat down on one of the benches. The kids sitting around me were all engaged in a conversation regarding the taxation laws of New York State Indian reservations. A few were smoking cigarettes and one guy who wore aviators was drinking a beer. The conversation jutted to and fro and eventually arrived at an entirely different topic, that of which states contain the highest concentration of wealth. The people sitting around the chimney kept at their conversation, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes all the while, and paid little attention to passersby. A tall athletic looking type in baggy jeans walked by with swagger of superiority that seemed almost visibly contrived for the express purpose of his Chimney passage. The folks in the chimney just sat and smoked.

 Most of these fellows lived in Penfield, and it seemed at first that they were sitting out here purely out of convenience. I inquired as to why they were sitting out here rather than on Case green. One fellow named Friendan Ghastly replied that "The [Chimney] is a good central spot of south quad. Everyone knows where it is, it's really close to Penfield, really close to Kimball. Everyone knows where it is, it's easy to get to." The others agreed. "There aren't a lot of central points for south quad because we're kind of spread out," Ghastly continued, "but there are a couple spots where people congregate, this being the most renowned and/or used."

 A few people walked by as we sat and talked. Small foreign students slinked past as did athletic types. The guys just kept chattering away, oblivious to those passing through. The only person that garnered a response from these fellows was a slender brunette. Her approach silenced the guys. As she strutted past, the conversation faded and the fellows leaned back and engaged themselves in preoccupied motions. One drew from a cigarette, Aviators sipped his beer and Ghastly hummed some obscure tune. As the girl walked away, the conversation carried on, in a very subdued manner with chatter that made little sense. Then, as soon as the girl was out of earshot, the fellows erupted with feigned and highly exaggerated blue-collar accents, saying things like, "Yeah, I'd like somma' dat," which is isolated from the others. Mansion lit a cigarette and then offered his ideas about the use of the Chimney...

Read next week's newspaper for the conclusion of this article.

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