Scarlet Yarns Captures Quirks

Ian Grant ’13—It’s not a stretch to say that Josh Mitchell ’13 has memorized every anecdote on this year’s Scarlet Yarns alumni story project.  As videographer and editor he has easily seen the entirety of the footage, both whole and in clips, dozens of times.

Scarlet Yarns videographer Josh Mitchell documents an interview with Jo Throckmorton ’87.

This sort of repetitious behavior, like learning the lyrics to a song, allows him to quote each story verbatim. So when I was sitting in the Media Lab in the basement of Lilly Library scanning photos for the Communications Office digital archive, I was not surprised to hear Josh, working on a clip from the project and anticipating almost every word coming from the screen.

This would continue for a bit, then stop, and resume until it got to the point that I was able to quote the pieces myself. When it came time to review the DVD as a final product Josh and I could have acted out the interviews sans script.

That’s partially due to the repetition. But from that repetition we picked up on the many quirks and idiosyncrasies—there was a lot of dishwashing. Tom Burns ’67, Joe Krause ’57, and Tom Reams ’62 all separately admitted to washing dishes at the Lambda Chi house to help pay their way through Wabash. (Mal Young ’62 even washed dishes with Warren Beatty in California after the two of them failed to pay a bar tab.)

They were not prompted or asked. (To be honest if our questions included washing dishes we’d have been lousy interviewers.)

They were offhand remarks of little consequence. Had only one person mentioned it we would have written it off. But now it seemed that in order to attend Wabash every student was drafted into an army of Lambda Chi dishwashers, cleaning a precariously stacked Cat-in-the-Hat-style pile of dishes.

Every time the topic of tuition came up in a story, Josh and I would joke: “Oh, well I’m betting they washed dishes at the Lambda Chi house.”

It was the little things that grabbed our attention. Like differences in how the college operates. If I could afford my tuition now by washing dishes at Lambda Chi, I would. (I have a strong elbow, a healthy sense of work, and a ferocious desire for sanitation, guys.)

The quirks make the stories interesting and Josh’s editing has pulled those to the foreground.

Historian, History Channel contributor, and Emory Professor Thomas Burns ’67 tells his own stories at Scarlet Yarns.

Like the time Tom Burns recalls his first date canoeing on Sugar Creek with the woman who would become his wife. It was spring, the water was cold and at flood level. They went out anyway. Shortly after pushing off they managed to flip the canoe. They were thrown into the water. The future Mrs. Burns collided with a logjam and was bruised from her hip to her ankle. After seeking shelter at a nearby farm house one of Burns’ brothers at Lambda Chi (I bet he washed dishes, too.) picked them up. Burns concludes (and often the unexpected conclusion makes the piece), “The next date didn’t go any better.”

Ian Grant is an intern this summer with Wabash Magazine and the College’s Office of Communications and Marketing. Josh Mitchell is a Media Center intern and is videographer and editor for this year’s Scarlet Yarns.


Harbaugh ’06 Film to be Shown at Indy Film Fest

Russ Harbaugh ’06 has shown his film, “Rolling on the Floor Laughing” at Wabash College, the Sundance Film Festival, and later this month at the Indianapolis Film Festival.

You can read the background on his film from this story which appeared on the Wabash website prior to the film’s campus showing and debut.

The Indianapolis International Film Festival runs July 19-29. Harbaugh’s film will be shown Saturday morning, July 21, and Thursday evening, July 26. Click here to see a clip of the film and details on the showing times, location, date.

Sparks Dining Hall Getting Interior Makeover

Howard W. Hewitt – Independent students will see a whole new Sparks dining hall this fall. Well, okay not all new but certainly a new look.

What started as a conversation about new furniture between Bon Appetit Manager Mary Jo Johnston and Chief Financial Officer Larry Griffith led to more than just new tables and chairs

All new furniture will include laminate table tops and a more contemporary chair. The big change will occur in Fobes Lounge which will be furnished with higher pub –style tables.

“Since the building isn’t going to change we wanted to give students something new to come back to and hopefully something they could be excited about,” Johnston said.

But there’s more. Four wrought iron tables with chairs will be placed on the back patio of Sparks for outside dining during nice weather.

But it’s the programing or “monotony breakers,” as Johnston calls them, that might make the biggest difference. She said Bon Appetit plans some cook outs this fall. And throughout the school year will make more effective use of the food stations.

She plans to invite visiting chefs to campus and put them at the food stations in the center of the dining halls.

The finishing touches will include removing a good number of the oil paintings of historic Wabash figures and replacing those with photography of student activities.

Johnston promises to promote the special events with announcements, table tents, and the Bon Appetit website.

Searching for Wabash’s Bigfoot

Professor of Biology Eliot Williams H’53

Ian Grant ’13—Sometimes during the course of archival research you find a Bigfoot. Rather, you find yourself searching for a Bigfoot, as they are rarely, if ever, found. These are the photographs that corroborate a myth.

My Bigfoot is a turtle.

Specifically a box turtle, like those that Professor of Biology Eliot Williams studied at Allee Woods during his tenure at Wabash from 1948 to 1983.

The hunt started with a story told by Don Kerner ’62, a student when Williams was beginning his study of the homing range of the three-toed box turtle. In order to properly track the turtles’ movement and distance (This was the early 60s after all; GPS was still decades away.), Williams attached spools of string to the tops of their shells, hoping that the unraveled string would mark their trails.

Susan Milius of Science News writes that, “The traditions of [the study of] animal behavior celebrate do-it-yourself flair, and experiments mix the sublimely high tech with the ridiculously simple.” Williams seemed to have favored the ridiculously simple.

Kerner walked into Williams’ Waugh Hall office one day and saw turtles with spools crawling along the floor. Williams had left the room and the turtles alone. Kerner eyed the exposed pipes that ran along the ceiling and decided that these turtles needed to go on an adventure.

He hoisted up a turtle and looped it around one of the pipes. At that moment Williams walked in. Before he could protest, Kerner set down the turtle and said, “Just a joke.”

Kerner’s story is featured on this year’s Scarlet Yarns project, a collection of alumni tales from their times here at Wabash. Watch Don tell his story here:

So I was trying to find a photo of Williams with his turtles to be included in the film.

By happenstance this past week I read an article in Audubon Magazine by Professor of English Marc Hudson titled Out of Time in Sugar Creek Country. In it Hudson mentions offhand a time he visited Allee Woods:

“I’d gone to this place a few times before to spend the morning scribbling in a 20-year-old relic trailer with a mushy floor. I was disturbed only once by a biology major who was studying the home range and movements of box turtles.”

The universe was determined to tease me. Here was one more reason I needed to find a photograph of Williams’ turtles. At this point I didn’t care about finding the photograph for Scarlet Yarns—I needed to find it for me. And yet there were other reasons, too.

Dr. Tim Sipe ‘78 from Franklin and Marshall College, who’s back at Allee Woods this summer, told me that as an ecology student he had been required to record any turtles he stumbled across. A favor from Dr. Robert O. Petty to Williams.

And again, while searching for the photo I found an interview in the Wabash Magazine with University of Oregon Professor of Chemistry Frederick Dahlquist ’64. He recalled his experience assisting Professors Petty and Tom Cole ’59 at Allee Woods: “We had to creep around and leave Eliot Williams’ box turtles untouched. After all, I was a chemistry major.”

However remarkably slow these creatures may be, they have still managed to outrun me.

And they can move.

I’ve heard, through the grapevine, that one of the tagged turtles from Allee Woods had been found in the Mississippi delta. Washed from the bank of Sugar Creek, down the Wabash, the Ohio, and finally found nearly 800 miles away.

Box turtle research may seem way out there, but Williams’ work was ahead of its time. It showed how the commercial development of land affects the fauna of protected areas, such as Allee Woods. Indeed, his research showed a decline in the population of box turtles. The species most common to Indiana, Terrapene Carolina, is now listed internationally as vulnerable.

They are becoming scarcer, harder to find.

So maybe the photo, much like the turtles themselves, is not running. Maybe it’s just hiding. Pulling in its legs and head, resigning itself to the bottom of a manila folder in the back of a dusty filing cabinet, somewhere, waiting.

Artist's rendition of Professor Williams' box turtle (with spool). If you have a story, photo, or an actual sighting, please let us know.

Ian Grant is an intern this summer with Wabash Magazine and the College’s Office of Communications and Marketing.


Grant ’13 Ponders Campus Changes

Ian Grant ’13—Campus is always changing.

Last Tuesday morning I stumbled out of College Hall on my way to work at Hovey Cottage and saw that the parking lot between Martindale and the Campus Services building was gone. A backhoe was shoveling dirt and slabs of asphalt into the back of a dump truck while workers in orange neon vests marked the surrounding grass with spray paint.

Minutes later a forklift drove around the Mall and away from Center Hall carrying three-foot-long logs stacked neatly on its tilted forks. Two stumps sat like scabs on the lawn in front of the President’s office; sap had congealed into little droplets where the trees had been cut.

The hedges between Center and the Mall were also gone. The exposed stone base of the building looked stripped, fresh, almost as if it were new again, simply because I’d never seen it before.

As part of my internship this summer, I’ve been scanning and organizing an archive of photographs from the past 40 years for the Office of Communications and Marketing. Hundreds of static photographs held neatly in plastic binders reveal a campus that never stops evolving.

Some of these changes are minor—such as the parking lot. A week ago it looked like a parking  lot, a week from now, after the work is done, it will still look like a parking lot.

Then there are larger changes—those that take on a life of their own. Before I saw this photograph of Professor Aus Brooks ‘61 standing in front of the arch between Goodrich and Sparks, I hadn’t known there was once a wall connecting the two buildings. I’d never questioned the existence of this isolated arch. I’d never needed too. For me (and most of my classmates) the arch is the stuff of legend: We’re told by upperclassmen that if we walk under it before we graduate, we’ll fail comps, that this fate befell a senior 100 years ago, that in his distress he hung himself from that arch.

Now I’m told that it has only stood alone for eight years, that when the wall was taken down in 2004, many thought the arch looked out of place. Perhaps the tradition was spawned by a need to justify keeping this lone arch without a wall. I just don’t know.

Cutting down a couple trees and tearing up asphalt is far from establishing campus traditions. But the Wabash campus I know is not the same Professor Brooks knew in the 1960s. The bushes in front of Center Hall will likely be my memory of the building. When they were planted in the 1960s they must have looked as foreign as their absence is to me.

Campus Grounds Manager Tim Riley, who designed the new landscaping, sees this as a great opportunity to improve the look of the campus. He’s also heard that not everyone likes the changes. For me, they’re not a bad thing; in fact, they may be a necessary thing. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still a bit jarring. And the incoming freshman this year will ask, “What bushes?”

Ian Grant is an intern this summer with Wabash Magazine and the College’s Office of Communications and Marketing.