Friday, October 27, 2006

Watching from Afar

Office work has kept me away from the site more than I'd like, but I'm loving the proximity of the site. From my office window I can see when everyone trudges out to the site, and if it weren't for a scrubby bush at the corner of the 2243 building, I'd be able to see all the excavations in the side yard by the pear tree. So far I've resisted yelling out the window to folks. Its interesting, sitting here, looking out the window, to wonder what it may have been like with another building between this one (the old Zeta Psi fraternity house where my office is located) and the Cheney house. Was the Cheney house completely blocked from view? Or could the fraternity brothers get filtered glimpses of activities at the house, just as I can? What did they think of one another, the Cheneys and the frat brothers? The frat house predates the Cheney house. When the Zetes built their house on College Ave., they were mainly alone. The Cheneys would have known they were moving near a fraternity house when they build their home. That in itself says something about the way perceptions of fraternities have shifted in the last 100 years. Its interesting to think about the brothers and their neighbors. Did the brothers know the kids of the neighborhood? Did they talk to them, good naturedly tease them, or maybe even play games of catch with them? Its easy to get distracted, sitting here watching the excavations and trying to imagine the community that was once here, the lives once lived. I'm working through materials excavated from the fraternity house this semester while the Cheney house is being excavated...maybe, just maybe, the archaeology will provide us with some insights into not just the lives within these distinct houses, but a picture of how they related to the families and neighbors that surrounded them.
- Laurie
Laurie Wilkie is a Professor of Anthropology here at Cal, and is overseeing the Cheney House project.


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