Master of the Game

by Brooks Goddard '63

Louie Lafevre

Freshman year was an idyll, and into that idyll came Louie Lafevre. Louie was a kind of grizzled, stock character whose reality and humanity overwhelmed disbelievers. Officially, Louie was custodian for Williams Hall, there to ensure that the building functioned and was clean.

My sense was that his biggest task was to make certain that there were sufficient moth balls in the hopper (the time in question was pre women). The hoppers were the mass urinals that existed in the basement bathrooms. Hoppers—familiar still to the faithful fans of Fenway Park— somehow became a meeting place for us, an extension of locker-room lore that everyone participated in. You might not go to the gym, but you did go to the hopper. Louie loved to talk about the hopper as if it were a strategic place. In later years I could never go to a hopper without thinking of Louie.

He had the what was to me then the novel habit of ashing his cigarettes into his hands, rubbing them together, and having the ash vanish. Butts would be stubbed out in an ashtray or on fireplace bricks and then into a shirt pocket. It was like he never had smoked the cigarette. But cribbage was his thing, and he would play at the drop of a hat. The smart alecks in the dorm played bridge, but the really smart guys played cribbage. No partner to blame, and endlessly esoteric ways of scoring. It is also a particularly New England card game, so it was particularly appropriate, to me anyway, that in this corner of New England lived an unassuming master of this game. The game became more and more intriguing as Louie became more and more garrulous in playing the game. More garrulous and more trash talking. And the cigarette going.

I looked forward to playing Louie in cribbage even more than playing pool at lunch and came to consider it a rite of freshman year and an encounter with a world that I was only just beginning to understand.

He was memorable then and immemorial now.

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