Blorgchiving: “The Shitty Era” (1987)

Who knew this image would come in handy again?

You thought Keeney toilet paper was bad.

We have all had that tragic dorm bathroom toilet paper experience: the painstaking extraction of no more than three sheets of tissue at a time before the merciless jaws of the dispenser sever them from the rest of the roll. You then repeat the process several times, mash the product into a barely useable wad of butt paper, and promise yourself that next time, you’ll just go to the bathroom in Faunce.

Now imagine a time when you did not even have the option of even three sheets of toilet paper, but only one. Imagine using a device not much different from Jo’s napkin dispenser as your only University-sanctioned option to engage in proper bathroom hygiene.

If you’ve envisioned yourself in this scenario, congratulations! This post just became way too uncomfortable. You are adequately feeling empathy for every Brown student who attended this fine institution until the fall of 1987. We can imagine how overjoyed students were to find this front page Herald headline on the first issue (Sept. 9) of the fall 1987 semester. Check it out after the jump.

In 1987, this was considered news.

This blast from the past—brought to you by the Herald archive—explains that only 20 percent of the campus buildings had rolled toilet paper prior to 1987, with Perkins as the only first-year dorm to have the coveted tissue rolls:

“Rolled toilet paper was one of the attractions of coming out here to visit your friends,” said Resident Counselor Brett Evans.

After reading the article, we had several many burning questions: Is toilet paper really front page newsworthy? WTF is an onliwon? And most importantly, why did the University strip Perkins of its main attraction 25 years ago?

After some brief Google searching investigative reporting, we found the original equipment of Brunonian bathrooms—these bad boys:

The “onliwon”: what it lacks in efficiency it makes up for in style.

An “onliwon”—apparently a common enough term in the ’80s to use in a news article with little explanation—  served as a single-sheet dispenser and the primary source of bath tissue for most of the campus for at least ten years. Now, it has found its rightful place among restaurant counters and cafeteries everywhere.

The article includes a particularly tear-inducing anecdote about a Chapin resident who would bring his special “blue extra-soft Charmin” toilet paper into the bathroom with him (we know people who still do this today…). Perhaps it is because the exact tissue mentioned in the article—Cormatic white bath tissue—is still used on campus 25 years later. Can I get a FlogDailyHerald?

Even so, we are reminded of our privilege of being able to use rolled toilet paper, unlike our Brunonian friends pre-1987. To celebrate, here is a list of activities you can only engage in with rolled toilet paper (but not its onliwon ancestor!):

  1. Mummify yourself on Halloween.
  2. Engage in a nifty university sports tradition that appears in the Google search for “Brown University toilet paper.” Different Brown… but we told you we were investigative!
  3. Be a cute child holding rolled toilet paper. 
  4. Write a relevant Herald opinion piece.
  5. Stay special, Perkins:

“Our freshmen don’t realize that Perkins used to be special.” -Juida Vargus ’90, RC in Perkins.

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