Pages Navigation Menu
Yellow pips

Spoon sisters: Two friends recall how spoons, string, and radiators became their communication system in Stribling Hall

Spoon sisters: Two friends recall how spoons, string, and radiators became their communication system in Stribling Hall

By Pam Higgason Harris ’65

Beverly and I lived on the third floor of Stribling Hall at the ‘T’ end of the hall. My room was next to the john; Beverly’s room was around the corner at the short end of the ‘T.’
During the fall, Beverly and I kept our windows open so we could holler across the space outside between our rooms to see if the other was ready to go to Hardy Hall, the bookstore, class, or come over to study or visit. Being able to communicate across the way saved us a million steps down the hall and around the corner. All was fine until it became too cold to keep our windows open. The chilly weather left us wondering what to do.

Our meals were all served family style in Hardy Hall (with a “hostess” at each table). One day I “borrowed” two large serving spoons from the table. I thought we could use the spoons until spring. I put a nail in each of our windows to leave a small gap open between the screen, window, and window sill. I placed a spoon beneath the steam radiator in each room, then tied a bright yellow cord to each spoon and ran the cord outside between our rooms. There was a space of about four inches between the bottom of the radiator and the floor. We could pull the cord which then would pull the spoon up to the bottom of the radiator. When the cord was released, the spoon would clang when it hit the concrete floor. We could communicate!

Some might think this was just a repeat of the old tin can telephone, but not so. This invention was second only to the Alexander Graham Bell telephone, and it wasn’t long before we had made up a code of pull-drop-skip-pull. “One-skip-skip-two” meant “I’m coming to see you,” and “one-two-three-four” meant “let’s meet at the john door.” This code was second only to the Samuel F.B. Morse Code.

What was designed only to be cold weather communication became a mainstay of contact. Others on campus heard about the spoons. Many came to see how they worked. They wanted to pull that yellow string.
The end of the semester was coming. We could not simply cut the string, pack up, and forget everything. The spoons had taken on a life of their own. Beverly was graduating so we knew that would be the end of the spoons. There had to be a celebration—a ceremony.

After Sunday dinner just before Beverly’s graduation, we invited friends to attend the Ceremony to Remove the Spoons. The room was packed and many others spilled over into the hall.

My suitemate Marty Wilkerson began the program with a welcome to guests. She gave her review of life with the spoons—of course, they interrupted her study; of course, they interrupted her sleep. She continued, “But those spoons never upset me because whenever I hear the sound of clanging spoons, I know it is the sound of friendship.”

Next, I read a poem I’d written for this special ceremony, and then, ceremoniously, we rang the spoons one last time and untied the string.

Although the spoons were only meant to be “borrowed” for the winter, we just couldn’t return them to an ordinary life amongst the regular serving spoons of Hardy Hall. I will confess that I am the one responsible for not returning the spoons (after all, Beverly portrayed Jesus in the Easter Pageant). Later, I had both spoons engraved with our names.

The year is now 2011. Forty-seven years have passed, but we are still Spoon Friends. Over the years every card and letter we have written has a crudely drawn sketch of two spoons with a line drawn between them. On that line we write “The string lies in our hearts.”