A Golden Age

At this time there were four co-ops: Pyle Inn, Tank (which replaced Grey Gables upon its demolition in 1963-visit the parking lot that shares its name and location), Keep, and Harkness. The popularity of co-ops continues to grow. In 1967, there were 665 applicants for 237 places.

As co-ops grew, so did inter-co-op activities. Among these were the infamous co-op wars (similar to dorm raids). One fairly complicated war began when Tank captured the Harkness flag. Harkness retaliated by taking Tank’s mascot (a mounted moose head named “Mother”), two porch swings, and seventeen other items. The Harkies went home and waited, armed with buckets of water, for their rivals to arrive. The Tankers tried to outwit them by barricading Harkness’s front door with bicycles. Finally the house presidents agreed on a peace treaty and the Tankers agreed to help clean up the mess.

There were serious changes to the co-ops as well. In the spring of 1971, students presented proposals for an ecology program in Pyle. Natural food and environmentally safe soap were suggested as part of the plan. The ecology center opened in fall, boasting healthier and more interesting food. Since half of the diners were vegetarians, meat was served only twice a week. Neither sugar nor white flour was used. Garbage was sorted into organic and inorganic components to facilitate recycling and composting.

The same year, Harkness, Pyle, and Tank went co-ed and were followed by Keep the following spring. Old Barrows was established as an all-women’s living co-op with co-ed dining in 1972, to replace Pyle Inn. OSCA suffered a setback when in the summer of 1975, after three years in limbo as “temporary housing,” Pyle Inn, the genesis of OSCA, was torn down due to the prohibitive costs of renovation. The ecology and natural food program was moved to Harkness, where it continued in the form of the Good Food Co-op.

Also, for the first time in OSCA history, all the co-ops discontinued the use of professional cooks by 1975, and instead began relying on student meal planners and elected student cooks. This was typical of the movement begun in this decade to de-staff OSCA of paid employees and make it an entirely student run organization. In the early 1980s OSCA instituted the position of “Housing Loose Ends Coordinator” or HLEC to take over the duties of what had been the responsibility of the House Mother and House President. At the Board level, President Andy Ferguson (1973-74) began a study to determine whether OSCA should buy an off-campus house-a purchase that OSCA would not make for another decade-as a part of another move to increase co-op autonomy from the College.

With excitement about co-ops running high, OSCA pushed to get Baldwin as a board-only co-op. But the administration was hesitant because the College would lose money if another co-op was created. The Baldwin kitchen would also have to be re-done, and a poll of Baldwin residents on the subject of co-ops had been fairly inconclusive. Supporters of the proposal pointed to the large demand for co-ops, their educational value, and some of the favorable responses to the resident survey. Baldwin was finally approved by the Housing and Dining Committee as the fifth co-op in the spring of 1973.

Despite this change in atmosphere, interest in co-ops was still strong. In the fall of 1976, both Talcott and Fairchild were under consideration for the sixth co-op. The major issue was, again, financial. Regular College board bills would have to be raised $6 to $12 to cover the loss of income incurring when College diners deserted to co-ops. In addition, a co-op would use only 120 of the 170 places in either dining hall, thereby displacing 50 students in College dining. Finally, the Housing and Dining Committee also questioned the need for another co-op.

Students expressed some reservations as well. Some pointed to the financial situation and maintained that it would be extortion to force non-co-opers to support a co-op, that one small group would benefit at the expense of everyone else. Others worried that the decrease in the number of College diners would take away jobs for financial aid students. Fewer diners might mean fewer employees. Food Service Director Richard Armon assured them that there was no cause for alarm on those grounds.

The Housing and Dining Committee decided to approve a sixth co-op in the spring of 1977. Fairchild was the chosen site. The new co-op was designated “all-natural” (the definition of which produced some debate) and a vegetarian alternative would be served with every meat meal. This designation was based on the results of a 1000 student survey in which 45% of the students indicated that they would prefer a natural diet with meat at some meals.

Reactions to the sixth co-op varied. In their April Fool’s issue, the Oberlin Review proposed a seventh co-op. The plan called for the diametric opposite of Fairchild-an all-carnivorous co-op. Members would save money through the practice of cannibalism. For obvious reasons, there would be five Faculty Guest Nights instead of just one. As one co-oper put it, if Harkness and Fairchild can live off the bottom of the food chain, why shouldn’t another co-op live off the top?