From Sunday's Times and News-Star
In the early 1980s, Jaybo and Matth (“with an h”) lived in and occasionally, with the help of hundreds of other residents, terrorized the high-rise men’s dorms now being demolished by a wrecking ball on the campus of Louisiana Tech University.
Jaybo is an airline pilot and Matth With an H builds movie sets. But along the way to these respectable professions, they were very young, which means they were very crazy. They are two of my favorite people, and it was with anticipation that I told them Neilson Hall, their old home away from home, was being attacked by a crane. They did not disappoint me.
I told them that all eight stories of Caruthers and all 11 of Neilson, built and opened in the 1960s, should be down by the first of the year, something upper-floor residents must have said hundreds of times over the years about the buildings’ temperamental elevators.
New apartment-style, “high-falutin’ but not high-rise” dorms bearing the same names are already in operation nearby. Nice. The problem is, from a building that low, you can’t get a true test of gravity’s pull on objects.
It is juvenile, but Jaybo and his roomie Snag used to drop items out of their ninth-floor window. “Experimenting,” Jaybo said.
The best was a jar of peanut butter, ingenious when you think of the consistency. You can guess what a watermelon will do, but peanut butter is a different ballgame.
“It literally exploded,” he said. “I guess like when a paint ball explodes.”
But the real surprise was the lid. “It took off flying like a Frisbee, like it was shot,” Jaybo said.
When you are bored in the dorm, it doesn’t take much to manufacture excitement. And it doesn’t take much to upset the dorm mom, the mature person in charge of the hundreds of residents. Her patio happened to be right below – nine stories below – Jaybo’s room. He and Snag were basically exploding things outside her back door, something that probably kept either boy from winning Student of the Year.
The windows would open only five inches “unless you took out this one little screw,” Jaybo said, “then it would open all the way.” Or just enough to fill a hallway trashcan with water so you could “experiment” with that.
A more subtle move was using dental floss to lower a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” hockey mask to stare into lower windows.
Matth With An H was even more mechanically creative. “We’d load the elevators up with boxes of that continuous feed computer paper,” he said, “and then push all the floor buttons so the paper would get spread out on all the floors.”
Matth has always been a thinking man.
Even my friend Jeff, who works at a local newspaper in Shreveport so I can’t tell you his last name or that would be indiscreet (Benson), was involved as a resident of Caruthers in the mid-’80s.
“Power outages were very common there,” he said. “And that’s when the wildness began.”
People firing bottle rockets up and down the halls. Guys throwing produce and perishables out of windows. Giant 50-gallon end-of-the-hall trash barrels rolled into the communal showers to be filled a bit more than halfway with water, a weapon against residents, unable to use the idle elevators, forced to the stairs.
“By the time we were halfway down the stairs, we could hear them at the top, tipping the barrel,” Jeff said. A river of water chasing you to math class.
It wasn’t much, but it was something. Just something guys used to do before cell phones and Facebook. And security cameras.
“We were young and stupid,” Jeff said. “But it was fun. I’m surprised the buildings have lasted this long.”