Usdan Lives by
(353 Stories)

Prompted By That Night

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

When I arrived on the Brandeis campus in the autumn of 1970, it did not have a student union, though one was under construction. We were the last class to use the old mail room. Our new student union, “Usdan” officially opened on November 1, 1970. The night before, with barely any furniture to get in our way, the entire building opened for the first ever “Usdan Lives”, an all-night party full of music, booze (including a punch-bowl mixed up by Mike “Moose” Cole, forever known as Moose Punch…delicious and toxic), drugs and dancing; a tour-de-force of fun. This became an annual event during my years at Brandeis, but the first was special. The fact that it was on Halloween heightened the fun.

Gordon, my boyfriend throughout first semester

I was dating a red-headed junior – Gordon. He lived off-campus in Waltham and had a car. That night, we met at the party, got drunk (or stoned…can’t remember, but we were definitely high and not just on life) and ran around, inspecting every nook of the spanking new building. The music blared, both live and taped, orchestrated by a DJ. We danced in the new ballroom. I love to dance and was famous for it. Guys lined up on the edge of the stage to watch me.

I found the Featured Photo in the Brandeis archives while putting together a presentation for my 25th reunion. I was looking at a small negative, wanting a photo from that night. Only after it was developed did I realized the girl on the guy’s shoulders on the right of the photo was ME (not with Gordon)! I don’t recognize anyone else in the photo. Dig the pants…I had a vest to match. It was a wild night during a wild era.

Food was available in the cafeteria downstairs. People were everywhere. Everyone was checking out the stairwells, the lounges…what led where. The mailroom was across from the cafeteria, a game room with pinball, fooseball, and pool table behind that. It was all so fresh and wonderful. We felt like we were in a dream state (even beyond the drugs). It was fun to explore, unimpeded. We ran into friends around each turn. Offices, like the radio station and newspaper, that would become useful in the days ahead were locked up tight.

Within a few weeks all the furniture was in place and the large building became a hive of activity. We used it as a place to rehearse our Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta, get food at all hours, play in that game room, get our mail, even send intra-campus notes, get tickets to up-coming events, see movies, both classic (Wednesday night) and new releases (Fridays), see live concerts (wearing that same outfit, I saw Leonard Cohen in the Ballroom later that year).

That year, the building was open 24 hours a day, a refuge for the insomniac or late studier with a noisy roommate. I tired to navigate there, knowing there was a friendly guard to help, when charmed/threatened after a long tech rehearsal by someone claiming to be Jack Warner’s son (the studio mogul), I got into his car to “talk”, but he drove right by…a story for another day. I lived to tell the tale. It was in that cafeteria that I fell for the man who would become my husband, wearing a blue ruffled shirt and tuxedo for Casino night. I also ate early that night, before opening night of “Guys & Dolls” and sought him out after my curtain call, telling mutual friends of my interest.

The party did go throughout the night. Slowly kids headed back to dorms or other housing. Gordon took me back to his apartment. We got some sleep. When we awoke, he make me steak for breakfast and took me back to my dorm. I had experienced an amazing night of revelry, christening our new building.




Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: Studen union opens, Oct 31, 1970, all-night party, Brandeis
Characterizations: been there, right on!


  1. John Zussman says:

    This is a dazzling tale not just of a night but a place. I love the feeling that you were all explorers of a brand new territory, investigating its nooks, crannies, and secrets. I keep wondering, where is the adult supervision? But apparently the administration had the foresight to let the students define the space, and as a result it became a place of refuge for you.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I have no recollection of any adults around, John. From the comments on Facebook from fellow Brandeisians, I trust no one remembers much of anything. Glad I could convey the thrill of the new and unexplored. It was a rare experience.

  2. Suzy says:

    Great story, Betsy. I agree with John that the idea of you exploring this brand new building all night is very dazzling and wonderful. And as always, you have the perfect picture to illustrate the story. Thanks for sharing this amazing night.

  3. Marian says:

    Betsy, this brought back some thrilling memories of Moose Punch in my freshman semester at Brandeis! That provided the most major reality distortion field I ever experienced. Really enjoyed this story!

  4. John Zussman says:

    And now, the $64 question: What does Usdan mean or stand for?

Leave a Reply