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Tutwiler Hall is coming down, but the memories remain

Tutwiler Hall
Pat Duggins/APR

There will be extra fireworks in Tuscaloosa this Fourth of July.

The University of Alabama is preparing to demolish Tutwiler Hall that has stood on its Tuscaloosa campus since 1968. Over 50,000 students have lived within the all-female dorm while attending the University of Alabama.

Some of those women are reminiscing on their time in those halls before they are nothing more than rubble. Tutwiler has stood for fifty years across the street close from Bryant-Denny Stadium near the corner of Paul W. Bryant and Tenth Avenue, meaning a lot of those memories are associated with college football.

Diana Bruno Mahan lived at Tutwiler when it was only four or five years old.

“I don’t know if someone came out there and called War Eagle or what but all of a sudden all of these sliding windows slid open and the girls were yelling Roll Tide Roll and throwing toilet paper out of the windows," she said. “They were also good windows if you wanted to practice cigarette smoking which I am sure was against the rules just like we weren’t supposed to leave doors open because guys would show up to meet their girlfriends and we would have to yell, 'Man on the floor!' so no one was running down the hall in their underwear.”

Mahan lived at Tutwiler when it was new. There were no holes in the carpet yet that later residents noticed. It had a gorgeous staircase up to the cafeteria. Sometimes the décor didn’t match the menu. Tutwiler students were often fed what they called elephant stew because they weren’t sure what meat was in it.

“The communal bathrooms were all pink tile, which was very '70s," said Amy Hammonds who lived in the dorm in the late 1980s. "The rooms were small. It still gave the feel that it was old.”

By then, she felt, the place was feeling a little dated. So, did Suzanne Howell who was resident in the 1990s. She said that everyone felt it was old, but Tutwiler was a tradition.

“When I was there people complained about Tutwiler too, but everyone had a love for Tutwiler," Howell said. "It’s almost like a rite of passage. If you go to the University of Alabama and you’re a girl, you go to Tutwiler. That’s just what you do.”

And Howell’s not the only one in her family with that opinion.

“Recently when my daughter was there," she said. "You can hang a bag of that dehumidifier stuff in the room [and] within a couple of months the bag was full of water, so it definitely needed to come down."

Megan O'Malley lived at Tutwiler in 2010-2011.

“Honestly, my year living in Tutwiler was one of the best of my life," she said. “People used to joke that, I think they called it the 'Tut Funk' because some of the air conditioning would blow fuzz out at you and everybody got sick the first month that they lived there because it was just so many people in such a small amount of space.”

Elizabeth Williams worked in Tutwiler starting in 1996. She said she heard the complaints how the showers were disgusting and the girls were sick all of time. She feels it is time for a change.

"I think it’s time for it to go. I think it’s time for something new and fresh," she said. "A building is just a structure. It doesn’t take away the friends and families and all of the above that you commune with and need and have as lifelong friends. The building really has little meaning to me.”

Stories of Tut funk and holes in the carpet clearly haven’t dampened the memories for everyone. Carol Diegel lived at Tutwiler in 1976 and isn’t ready to let Tutwiler Hall go or the classmates she lived with.

“It feels like my history and memories are being stripped away from me," she said, “but it became a family. I still keep in touch with five maybe six of the girls that were on my end of the wing of the hall and there are 3 girls that I became dear friends with that I am still friends with today 46 years later...I will be forever grateful for that year because it formed how I moved forward in my education there because I knew I had friends who were there for me and I would not have met those specific people had I have not lived in Tutwiler. And I understand most people feel like that’s progress but it's painful for a lot of people that have memories housed in the buildings they are imploding."

The implosion of Tutwiler takes place the morning of July 4th. Work crews will clear the rubble away, and a new Tutwiler Hall will take the place of the old one. Although memories may hard to leave behind, there will be a new Tutwiler and plenty of new stories to create.

Joe Moody is a senior producer and host for the APR newsroom. Before joining the team, Joe taught academic writing for several years nationally and internationally. He is a native of Montgomery and a proud Alabamian. He is currently studying library and information studies at the University of Alabama with a focus on archives. When he is not playing his tenor banjo, he enjoys listening to jazz records and 45s from the 1950s and 60s.
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