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Remembering life at the Colonial Inn

 

Jay Matuk | Chris Marone | Paula Gioe Conticello

Jay Matuk '81 (pictured)

I have many wonderful memories of life in The Colonial Inn. When I entered as a sophomore in 1978, the Inn was advertising "Rooms for $8.95 and up" on their marquee. When my parents dropped me off, I could see they had major reservations about my living in a motel.

Jay Matuk '81There were about 100 of us, all transfer students entering our sophomore or junior years. There was also a Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel called the "House of Yu." We lived in a separate section of the motel away from what we called "the real people." It was two students to a room, though there were a few singles. We even had maid service once a week, though we were convinced they never vacuumed our rooms! It helped build a sense of "us" against "the rest of the world" and we all became very close in a short amount of time. We also had a "community room" where our TAs (we had two of them) would meet with us; it also had a foosball and pool table. Old World Deli was right across the street on Vestal Parkway back then, and it was a frequent stop.

Colonial InnMost days, we walked to our classes from the Inn, which was about a mile or so. The rooms had efficiencies which was cool and 17-inch black-and-white televisions.  I remember us all watching the 1978 World Series with 20 people packed in a room. Evenings, we would caravan with the few people who had cars and eat dinner on campus.  We would pick up our mail every day at the front desk, which was the daily ultimate reminder that we were living in a motel. We tended to go to parties on campus as a large group...nobody on campus could figure out where we lived or understand that we lived in a hotel.

The term Innmate really made sense. One thing that really stands out and seems absolutely archaic 30 years later: The phones had been removed from the rooms when we arrived. All we had was one pay phone where the ice machine was located.  I remember the lineup on a Sunday night (you had  to stand outside so the person had privacy on the phone), everyone waiting until after 11 p.m. to call home because the rates were cheaper, all of us standing in line with a bunch of dimes in hand.  We finally got working phones by late October.

By spring semester, most of us had either found rooms on campus or moved to apartments off campus. Looking back, it truly sounds like a pioneering experience. Even better that a number of us are still good friends as a result of having lived together at the Inn.

Jay Matuk | Chris Marone | Paula Gioe Conticello

 

Chris Marone '81

Alex Kaufman '80I moved to the Colonial Inn in the fall of 1979 after spending a year at a small state school in Vermont. I remember getting the letter saying that my roommate would be Alex Kaufman '80 (pictured) and being excited to see that he was from Long Island. Having grown up in upstate New York, outside Rochester, and having never been to New York City or Long Island, having a roommate from near the Big Apple was big news.

The first few days at the Colonial were pretty exciting and a group of us bonded quickly. Among other people, I met Jay Matuk '81 from Queens who would turn out to be one of my lifelong best friends. The walk to campus wasn’t all that long, but it was enough that most of us hung at the Colonial after classes and in the evening. The warm weather and ‘drive-up’ motel layout were perfect for meeting people. Imagine living on a dorm hall that extended 300 feet in either direction from your door and included a parking lot for everything from cars to baseball and Frisbee. The rooms were spacious too; at least that’s the way I recall them compared to the dorm room that I helped my oldest daughter move into this past fall.

Colonial InnWe were a satellite of campus in several ways. No dining hall, no RA or dorm master, and no lounge or common room. But we had Denny’s and a minimart within an easy walk. The lack of common space led most of us to find a refuge on campus. I ended up frequenting various rooms in the Geology Building. These were the days before cell phones, so we learned the haunts of our friends so that we could find them on campus. I began working in the Campus Pub a few weeks after classes started, and that was another favored place to meet.

I learned many things at the Colonial Inn. For example, “Upstate” had always meant somewhere north of a line between Albany and Buffalo, and to me, “New York” meant the state. I soon learned that anything north of “The City” or just “New York,” was Upstate.

When I think back on the Colonial Inn, I wonder why we ever agreed to live there - and what a mistake it would have been to refuse. It was a wonderful place with great people and the kind of character that could only be found at a slightly rundown roadside motel.

Jay Matuk | Chris Marone | Paula Gioe Conticello

 

Paula Gioe Conticello '85

The look on my dad’s face was priceless when we pulled up in front of the Colonial Community, my new home away from home.  As the baby of the family, it was already difficult enough that I was leaving the nest.  Then to see this, the oldest motel in New York state as my new living quarters, it was a far cry from my house in Dix Hills, Long Island! 

I arrived at the Colonial in 1982.  My room was located on “The Hill”, the absolute oldest and most run down section of the Colonial.  The room was infested with ants, was short a desk, and had a curtain as the bathroom door.   There were nightly encounters with skunks too.   It was hard to find a silver lining to the situation.  It didn’t take long however, for the bonding of misfits to begin.  Each section of the Colonial had its own personality, and similar to the residential communities on campus, pretty much kept to themselves.  Those of us on The Hill were particularly close, as we were looked upon like we were from the slums!  We found ways to have a blast and formed a very cohesive bond with each other.  My roommate Patti and I quickly formed great friendships with the others and within the first month, I met my future husband, John Conticello '83, one of the boys in the triple in the corner.

Paula & John ConticelloAfter my first year at Binghamton and the Colonial, some of my fellow “hillbillies” moved off campus but the majority of us stayed at the Colonial.  We upgraded though to “The U”, the new(er) section behind Wendy’s.   These rooms were equipped with queen size beds and lots of closet space!  It was a two-story building and those of us on the second floor would enjoy hanging out on the veranda!   We eventually became quite civilized and organized.  We formed a student government (I was the Vice President, then President the following year), we had an annual “Spring Fling” which was held at the House of Yu, and even opened a coffee house in one of the corner lounges.   We published a yearbook and community newspaper.  We were active in the Binghamton Community with Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  We hosted events in a storage room behind “The U”.  I remember it taking us weeks to clean it out!  We eventually called it “The Rear End”.  Our Valentine’s Day Bash was advertised as “VD in the Rear End”.   We thought that was so clever at the time!  We had beach parties in the middle of winter, and as soon as the weather warmed up, you would find many of us sunbathing on the roof.

I wouldn’t trade my memories of the Colonial for anything.  It was a blast waking up to the sound of the Wendy’s drive up window...”Would you like to Supersize that?”, and the aroma of Chinese food  from the House of Yu morning and night.   We were patrons of The Ale House across the street where the owner Dick Roach let some of us run a tab!  They had the BEST Buffalo wings in town.  Sugarman’s was just a short walk away, and, of course, Denny’s was a favorite late night/early morning stop. 

I will always be grateful to the cleaning lady who would come weekly. I have her to thank for awakening me the morning of my FORTRAN final after pulling an all-nighter.  Yes, they did vacuum, thankfully, or I may never have made it to class that morning!  It was a long run to campus that day, but otherwise I never minded the one-mile hike and we also had access to that “Blue Bus”.

The Colonial is no longer standing, but there are many of us out there with fond memories of our days and nights spent there.  For those of you on Facebook, there are even groups of fellow Colonialists.  Check out and join, “You know you lived in SUNY Binghamton’s Colonial Community when…”, and “Binghamton- I Lived in Colonial Community”.  You’ll find me there!

Jay Matuk | Chris Marone | Paula Gioe Conticello

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Last Updated: 11/12/13