Exam Week and Daiquiri Parties by
(194 Stories)

Prompted By Exams

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After the structure and stress of high school exams and SATs, it was a relief to study in a small environment that wasn’t as structured. Final exams at Mills, at least for those of us in the arts and humanities, generally were not scheduled in three-hour blocks. Instead, we could write our exams any time, anywhere, within a week-long period or so. For some courses, we had essay questions to be answered in blue books, and for others, the final might be a paper or visual project. Students could be seen writing in blue books in the meadows, poolside, in the library, and in the dorm living rooms, all day and all night. We had to turn in the paper or blue book, honor pledge signed, by the end of the exam week. (Now this is quaint, can you imagine this leniency today?)

As exam week progressed, we could hear clack, clackety-clack, ding!!, clack, clack, from the living area and dorm rooms in the entire wing, along with the crinkle of bags of potato chips and Cheetos.

As an English major, I had to write many papers for my final exams. I estimate I wrote about 100 pages per semester–wonderful preparation for a writing career! My dorm was relatively new and built like a ski lodge, consisted of three wings, each with a central living area, with the rooms in a square on an upper level. I would open the door to my room, open the blinds and windows for a view of trees, and write away.

My trusty Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter, which I’d received as a high school graduation present, was in constant use during that week. As exam week progressed, we could hear clack, clackety-clack, ding!!, clack, clack, from the living area and dorm rooms in the entire wing, along with the crinkle of bags of potato chips and Cheetos.

Our entire dorm wing decided to celebrate the end of exams once all of us were done. Several people had blenders, and someone came up with the idea of a daiquiri party. Having already turned 21, I was one of the older students in the dorm, and I also had a car, so I volunteered to get the booze. I hopped into my 1969 Toyota and drove down to the liquor store in a nearby mall, and came back with boxes containing bottles of rum and multiple mixes. The night the exam deadline had passed, the whir of blenders replaced the clacking of typewriters, and we had a grand old time knowing that exams were done for that year.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Love this story, Marian, and love your featured image of the girl hunched over her typewriter! How nice that you could take your exams any time and any place during exam week. And the sound of the clackety-clack followed by a ding for the carriage return certainly brought back memories. But my favorite part is the blenders whirring with daiquiris for all when exams were over – I was not a drinker in college, but I definitely would have been up for daiquiris!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Suzy. The looseness of the exam period made the process a lot less stressful and kept things in proper perspective. Despite the daiquiris, I wasn’t a big drinker in college either. In fact, the next time I had rum was in some very strong Mai Tais, and I’ve rarely had it ever since!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Mills College sounds like a dream, Marian. I would have loved the opportunity to write a final exam over the course of a week in such a relaxed atmosphere. Instead, I was herded into exam rooms at the University of Michigan and wrote what amounted to a very rough draft in which I thought the main goal was cramming as many facts into my blue book as possible. I had forgotten about that sound of the typewriter. The ding and shift to the next line signified progress, unlike my silent Mac. The daiquiri party sounded great!

    • Marian says:

      Yes, Laurie, it would have been hard to be in an exam room with hundreds of people. After Mills it was a real shock to go to grad school at UC Berkeley. My grades there were in inverse proportion to the number of students in the classes (struggling in the large lecture classes, “A’s” in the seminar with 10 people).

  3. Had a great friend and colleague who was a Mills alumna. Loved your reminiscence.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    This all sounds very civilized, Marian. As you say, good practice for a writing career, and the drinking party at the end sounded like lots of fun!

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