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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Swimmer House has been making waves on this campus for longer than any of the current swimmers have been splashing in Grinnell’s Obemiller pool. According to the current residents, Tommy Olson ’10, Paul Gagne ’10 and Ian Warlick ’10, swimmers have inhabited the three-bedroom apartment at 1228 ½ Main Street consecutively for the past 20 years.

The residents may have changed, but the decorations tell the same story. Almost every inch of available wall space is decorated with posters and wall hangings accumulated over the past 20 years, many of which were obtained by less-than-legal methods.

“A lot of this stuff has been borrowed permanently from other schools’ pools,” Olson said. “There are a lot of things that aren’t technically supposed to be here.” These unsolicited souvenirs include banners from the University of Chicago, University of Nebraska at Omaha, St. John’s University and Carleton, to name a few.

Street signs from Grinnell are also on prominent display, but Gagne, Olson and Warlick deny any involvement with possible thefts. “Not to name any names, but there were some swimmers [last year] that really got into it,” Olson said.

Warlick says that they haven’t yet had a chance to make their mark on the house, but already a sign can be found near the kitchen banning the combination of clam juice, tomato juice and Budweiser.

“When you drink it, it tastes like somebody ate a bunch of pizza, then drank a bunch of Budweiser and then burped into your face,” Olson said. He was unfortunate enough to sample the concoction after it was left at a party this year.

“There are two rules in the house: ‘Budweiser con Clamato’ is banned from consumption… and if you do it standing, do it in the bushes,” Warlick said.

As the house décor proves, these swimmers are down with slightly illegal or frowned-upon activities—including those often discouraged in other groups. “We’re for fornication, team-cest, swim-cest,” said Warlick. Olson expanded the options. “We’re also up for cross-pollination,” he said. “I have no problem with strange folks stopping by.”

If you do stop by, don’t bother to ring the doorbell. “We hear the doorbell and we’re like, ‘What the hell is that?’” Olson said. “The pizza guy rang the doorbell the other day, it was crazy,” Gagne said. Because people notifying residents of their presence before entrance is weird. Or something.

One aspect of Swimmer House that could actually be considered slightly weird is that they don’t use the rooms as they were originally intended. Since the attic was renovated into what college students might consider a living room, the old living room has become the third bedroom, and the smallest room has become the “Rumble Room.”

“It was supposedly the hookup spot. Things get a little crazy up in the attic, so you need a place to do your thang,” Olson said. The closet-like space is outfitted with a bed and a red light, but does not appear to be the most sanitary of situations.

The rest of the place isn’t quite as sketchy—save for a stray prophylactic on the stairs—but the air of hopeful disarray is present throughout. On a short jaunt through the apartment, Warlick located shoes he had been missing—“Oh, there are my flip flops!”—along with a cable bill that was overdue.

Swimmer House is almost reminiscent of a slightly-chaotic family home, albeit with one too many ‘boys’—most family homes do not prominently display Playboy magazines in the bathroom. Warlick, Olson and Gagne don’t take credit for the magazines, though.

“A female resident of the house left all of the Playboys here,” Warlick said. “Totally true,” Gagne insisted. They also provide Cosmopolitans and The New Yorker for a more varied bathroom experience.

It is clear that everything from the magazines to the collection of refrigerators and microwaves in the attic has been accumulated over the past two decades. “The beauty of this house is its ability to embody history and tradition,” Warlick said.

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