The Halfway Inn was a hub of autonomous student activity in East Quad. A student run café and performance venue, it embodied the grass-roots student-run character of the Residential College and left a deep impression on generations of East Quad residents. One former resident remembers the creation of the Halfway Inn:
“In early 1970, it was announced there would be a dining/entertainment venue in the East Quad basement. A contest was held to choose the name, with "The Halfway Inn" winning. Immediately dubbed The Halfass, music was added on Saturday nights. Since no construction design for the added volume had been considered, the few souls who occupied rooms on the first floor just above The Halfass were blasted out of their rooms one night a week. They made alternate sleeping arrangements wherever they could (a lounge, a friend's room) until a sound-deadening wall was finally installed.”
-- Rebecca Hoppin Freeman, Class of 1973
In addition to providing late night snacks (see a vintage menu here) and a place to hang while waiting for laundry, the Halfway Inn’s performance space hosted bands, student groups, events and gatherings of all kinds… Some famous guest made appearances as well:
“I have a photo of Allen Ginsberg in the EQ cafeteria during one of his visits to the RC. He got snowed in in 1978 and spent three days in the EQ guest room. He did spend much of his time in the Halfass. He also spent at least one other visit in the Distinguished Visitors Suite. As did Jim Carroll, of Basketball Diaries fame. We had many other visiting writers during that time who all spent time in the EQ guest room. Some of them include Sandra Cisneros, Robert Creeley, Alice Notley, Anne Waldman, Bei Dao, and many others.
- Ken Mikolowski, Poet & RC Professor
The Halfway Inn was also home to the East Quad Music Co-Op, a student run music cooperative that books both local and touring bands to play shows. The EQMC has put on countless shows over the years for the RC and Ann Arbor community. Many former students recalled the energy and excitement of those shows:
“This was back in '98-99, I think....
I remember the first show I ever did sound for was at the Halfass...I had no idea what I was doing. I played with all the funny knobs on the big soundboard during this poor band's entire set. They asked for some technical change between each song, where most of those requests were fixes to silly mistakes I had made.
However, my favorite enduring memory is seeing Low for the first time. They were a pretty big touring act even back then, though nobody in the audience had any idea how to react to them. The bands that opened for them were a mix of fast punk, a bit of indie rock and even a weird noise-art project that nobody ever understood yet everyone wanted to be a part of.
The fascinating thing about that evening was when they took the stage. They finished their basic sound check...and stood there for a brief moment, as if something was wrong. I didn't realize what was going on at first, but the reasons for the shifting in the crowd became clear...everyone was sitting down. Like a wave from a football game that went in only one direction, the people right by the stage began to sit down on the floor, legs crossed, followed by the row behind them and so on until the entire crowd was sitting on the floor.
It was the most beautiful set of music I'd ever experienced. I moved out to the West Coast right after school...when they came to the Echo in Los Angeles...I stood all the way up front for the opening bands then sat down right in front of the stage when they came on. As if everyone shared my memory, the rest of the crowd did the same, just like they did at the Halfass...and my homesickness eased as I could feel myself back in the Halfass, back to where everything was new and right with the world, back before I really grew up.
--Nick Farr, RC Alum
Alas, the Halfway Inn did not survive the EQ renovations, though the quad does have a new café on the first floor run by East Quad dining. The EQMC will continue to live on in the new East Quad.