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The question isn’t, “Do you still have your fuzzy button?” It’s, “Where is your fuzzy button?”
They live in drawers, nestled next to multicolored paper clips and rolls of Scotch tape; on walls, tacked beneath calendars and dog-eared photos; and in basement trunks, buried with a couple of yearbooks and four years’ worth of ticket stubs. Even out of sight, the fuzzy button — a trademark of the late Father Matthew Kohmescher, S.M. ’42 — still carries an impression.
A philosophy graduate, Kohmescher — who died from cancer in 2007 — served as chair of the religious studies department for 20 years, leading the program during the transformative Vatican II years and the hiring of the University’s first Protestant and lay theology faculty in the 1960s.
He was known by several monikers, from the “grandfather of Founders Hall” to “Father Beanie,” thanks to a distinctive red and blue skull cap. As the unofficial UD greeter welcoming future Flyers to campus, he was simply “Father Fuzzy.”
“A ‘fuzzy,’ according to Father Matt, is a way to make the world a better place through a smile, a gesture or a helpful act,” said Brandon Artis ’09, who worked alongside Kohmescher for two years as a student tour guide. “Every student who came into contact with him learned about the fuzzy pledge. I still have my button; it sits on a bookcase, next to a picture I took of him. The pledge was simple in application but its implications were potentially monumental.”
As Kohmescher explained in a 1998 interview, “The older I get, the more compassionate and understanding I become. I’ve learned that you can’t change the world by [complaining] about it. Even if you pull all the weeds, if you don’t plant flowers, you still end up with just mud.”
Wrote Jackie Sudore-Flood ’95: “I loved Father Matt. He was my angel during my four years at UD, and I learned so much from him. One nugget that has always stayed with me: You don’t have to always like the things you do, but you must always love yourself. I still have my fuzzy pin from 1991.”
During his last year volunteering with the office of admission, Kohmescher greeted more than 4,000 visiting families, estimates Carin Andrews ’08, former campus visit coordinator. The fuzzy pledge was also a reminder to live responsibly and make wise choices, she said.
“Tough subjects we have difficulty tackling with our own children — alcohol, drugs, sex — Father Matt would discuss with warmth, understanding and compassion, knowing that these were concerns many parents have when sending their children off on their own. There won’t be another like him,” Andrews said.
She catches a glimpse of her fuzzy button, pinned next to her door, as she leaves her house each morning.
It sounds like a never-published Nancy Drew book: The mystery of the hidden hatchet.
Sent to University Archives 40 years ago by then-president Father Raymond Roesch, S.M. ’36, this handheld tool — a mere 12-by-6 inches but weighing in at 2 pounds — was unearthed during the last significant overhaul of Immaculate Conception Chapel.
“This hatchet was found in the base of the main altar in the chapel when it was removed during the renovation in 1971,” Roesch wrote. “Thus, it was probably used in the construction of the chapel in 1869.”
The chapel is UD’s third-oldest building (behind Zehler and Liberty halls), celebrating its 145th anniversary next year. Steam heat arrived in 1898, followed by electric lights a year later.
A major renovation also occurred in 1949.
While the tool’s origin is uncertain, Doug Gaier ’86, president of the Ohio Tool Collectors Association, agrees that it looks like a shingling hatchet, a common construction tool in the 19th century. A smaller sibling of an ax, it was used to shape shingles and nail them in place, with a notch on one end for pulling nails.
University Archivist Jennifer Brancato has one theory.
“According to Eric Sloane’s book, A Museum of Early American Tools, these hatchets had a hole in the handle so the worker could hang it from his wrist. Ours doesn’t have a hole, so maybe it was dropped and never picked up,” she said.
Or, its placement could have been intentional. Placing relics beneath altars was a frequent liturgical practice, said Crystal Sullivan, director of campus ministry. In Catholic theology, an ax or hatchet can be an emblem of St. Joseph, indicating his work as a carpenter.
Covered in decades of dirt and rust, a maker’s mark on one side of the blade is illegible, save for a clear “No. 2” etched at the top and the words “cast steel,” indicating its blade material. The handle is carved wood, worn smooth with age.
A good mystery isn’t complete without a twist, though. Viggo Rambusch, whose New York City-based architectural design company completed the chapel renovations in 1971, remembers it a bit differently.
“I have fond memories of Father Roesch and the remodeling of the chapel for post-Vatican II,” he said, “but for some vague reason, I think the hatchet was found in the pulpit.”
If there are any secrets left to uncover in UD’s chapel, they might be found next year: renovations to update the space are planned for 2014.
Construction worker Mark Wallen once spotted a 1960s RC Cola can sitting on an I-beam in the ceiling of Good Samaritan Hospital during a renovation project.
But when he stumbled upon a yellowed, brittle envelope covered with sawdust during the renovation of Founders Hall, he immediately knew he had discovered something far more intriguing.
“I took my pocket knife and carefully opened the envelope. I thought it was cool because it was like finding a little time capsule,” said the plumber with Wat-Kem Mechanical.
The letter, scribbled in cursive, was dated Feb. 23, 1956: “I, John Beckman, have secretly slipped this note into the inner wall of this partition when it was being constructed,” wrote the first-year student from Ottawa, Ohio, who was studying pre-optometry. “Let this note be kept for ages in the silent walls of this chapel.”
And it was for more than half a century — until Danis Construction embarked on a $10 million renovation of the 400-bed residence hall in May.
The surprising find didn’t surprise John Beckman’s family. “He was an ornery guy. He sometimes did the unthinkable,” said Midge Lause, 74, of her older brother who was known for his dry sense of humor.
Beckman, of Toledo, died of Parkinson’s disease on Sept. 13, 2010, at the age of 74. He only attended the University of Dayton for a year before briefly entering the seminary.
He was not destined to be either an optometrist, like his grandfather, or a priest. He managed Doebel Flower and Greenhouses for 15 years before opening his own flower shop, Parc Fleurs, in Toledo. He and his partner, Erwin Heer, also owned and operated three Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries stores.
None of that popped up in the University’s records. Relatives, friends — and even strangers — filled in the blanks when the University posted a photo of the note on its Facebook page and asked for help locating John Beckman. Nearly 400 people shared the request; dozens more wrote in.
2009 grad Louis Guzzo’s aunt tracked Beckman down through genealogy software. Eileen Richmond, of Belmont, Mass., went a step further and reached out to nephew Stan Beckman, who operates the 126-year-old family-owned Beckman Jewelers in Ottawa, and Beckman’s sister, Midge. Richmond even posted a link to Beckman’s obit on UD’s Facebook page.
What would Beckman think of the discovery of his secret letter?
Niece Rebecca Krouse posted on Facebook, “I know he is smiling in heaven knowing this was found.”
His brother Pete thinks differently: “He’d laugh and say, ‘I never thought they’d find that.’”
Her first thought, she admits, was not entirely positive.
“A few years ago, I got a call from facilities asking if my department would be interested in an unused set of campus dishes. My mental image was of a bunch of old, mismatched things — a yellow cup, a blue plate; stuff nobody wanted,” said Pat Dolan ’91, retired dietetics program director.
Skeptical, but still curious, Dolan headed downhill from her Frericks Center office to the Alumni House on L Street. Tiptoeing across drop cloths and maneuvering around stepladders, she made her way through the soon-to-be new office space to a dusty cabinet, ready to be repurposed once it was free of 200 pieces of dinnerware. The construction crew saw surplus; Dolan saw possibilities.
“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘These are too good for us,’” Dolan said of the extensive matching china set, which includes 85 cups and saucers and 32 dinner plates, among other items. “Then I clamped my hand over my mouth and said, ‘You didn’t hear me say that. How soon do you need them moved?’”
Born in New Castle, Pa., at Shenango China Co. in the first half of 1964, the set was originally purchased for use in the president’s dining room in Kennedy Union. Used at various functions for more than two decades (and bearing markers of its birth year, like a complementary set of ashtrays), the set was moved to the Alumni House in 1990.
Heavy and white, with a raised laurel rim surrounded by a thin silver band, the dishes are a custom version of the company’s popular Carlton Shape pattern. Shenango China, which produced china for American Airlines, the U.S. Army and five U.S. presidents, closed in 1991. Today, the average starting price for a Shenango piece is $15.
Dolan envisioned adding the dishes to a new campus food education lab, then in the planning stage; however, the space-hogging dishes needed a new home immediately. Discouraged, Dolan was ready to let the idea go — until a colleague found space in an overlooked closet.
Armed with brown boxes and stacks of newspaper on the first day of class, Dolan greeted students in her health and sport-science course with a hands-on assignment. The group packed up every teacup, bread plate and fruit bowl, loaded them on carts and wheeled the set back up the hill to Dolan’s office. In February, those same first-year students — now seniors — helped move the dishes into the newly opened ProduceOne Food and Nutrition Laboratory in College Park Center.
A definite improvement over the disposable plates students used previously, Dolan said the dishes come with one complaint from students: “Now, they have to wash dishes again.”
For more on the food lab, see “Home cooking.”
The third page is a flashy red-and-gold design named “Embassy,” but the pattern on Page 17, “Arbor,” a textured stripe with a subtle metallic sheen, is equally attractive. Look past the backgrounds, however, and you’ll notice this 82-page 1940s wallpaper sample book serves double duty as a 20-year time capsule of UD theater.
It sits perched atop a computer hutch off the theater department’s main office, blending in with stacks of scripts and old VHS performance tapes. “I’m probably the only person who knows about it,” said Darrell Anderson ’69, associate professor and director of the theater program.
Anderson has served as the scenic and lighting designer at UD since 1974, and he was one of the last students to contribute to the scrapbook. Starting with Ladies of the Jury in 1948 and continuing through fall 1968, the book contains various memorabilia: ticket stubs, playbills, promotional posters; everything from the UD Players’ early years as a student organization to the full-fledged theater program that set the stage for today’s students.
There are words of praise: “They have elevated the reputation of the university to a plane unrivaled by any other faction of the school,” wrote one admirer of 1949’s Our Town. Or, “Fantastic! Little Mary Sunshine was supposed to be funny, I cried all the way through it — I was so thrilled with your success,” noted a UD employee after the 1965 production.
There are newspaper clippings, like one from the Dayton Daily News’ March 26, 1968, issue, which chronicled the transformation of 21-year-old Diane Wiesemann Jenkins ’69 into a 40-year-old slob for Come Back, Little Sheba — plaster face cast and all.
There are even memos regarding student ticket requirements (a consistent 10 or 12, regardless of decade), club meetings and casting decisions. “There was an exceptional amount of talent displayed, and, unfortunately, a small cast. This situation is good for a play, frustrating for a director, and absolute hell for actors,” noted longtime director Pat Gilvary ’50 in a 1963 letter. He retired in 1994 after a 39-year University career.
A few mementos from the 1970s and ’80s made their way, loose-leaf style, into the back of the book — including a program for the University’s 1976 rendition of Our Town. “I’ve tried to keep an eye on the scrapbook over the years and made sure it moved with us each time we changed offices,” said Anderson, who took over the watchful task from Gilvary.
Despite the wallpaper’s claims to be “waterfast and fadeproof,” the book has experienced its share of wear and tear. Anderson recalls one mishap in 1975 involving a broken steam pipe, causing some water damage to the first dozen pages.
The moisture may have blurred the words, but it can’t dampen the memories.
They say the story is found between the lines. But sometimes the story is laid out before the letters even hit the paper.
For those using a letterpress system, setting out the letters is only the beginning of a process that’s stamped in their memories forever.
In a dark corner of College Park Center, an obscure contraption called a platen press sits, tucked behind rows of computers. Although the piece seems out of place, it isn’t completely alone — it’s neighbored by a California Job Case, which contains drawer after drawer of type featuring individual letters, numbers and images of the University’s logo and presidential seal.
And while the letterpress system sits in the shadows of digital print, a few remember a time when it had a very active presence on campus.
Brother Joe Mariscalco, S.M. ’62, who now lives at Mount Saint John in Beavercreek, Ohio, operated the letterpress system until 1998. With a master’s in printing technology, he put his degree to use for 44 years.
“I haven’t seen one of those [presses] in a long time,” he chuckled. His retirement marked the end of the press’s use on campus.
Brother Joe Barrish, S.M. ’50, noted the great level of skill required in this intricate process that would set the foundation for later methods of printing. Whether it was for stationery, a brochure or a flyer, the process began
by organizing the designated type — one letter at a time.
Laid out backward in preparation for the transfer of ink to paper, the type was set into a heavy steel frame called a chase. Squared and locked up, it would then go into the press. But it wasn’t an automatic finish. Mariscalco would then pull down a lever that would lock the chase into place and work with the press’s distinct rhythm as he placed the paper in and pulled the paper out. And once you had put in the paper, “get your hand out right away . . . it’s going to print whether you’ve got paper or not,” said Mariscalco.
His hands were lucky enough to escape the press, but he still couldn’t avoid the very noticeable ink-stained fingers. Thinking back, Mariscalco, now 84, said he probably should’ve worn gloves.
The ink stains on Mariscalco’s fingers faded away years ago, but the memory of the letterpress made a lasting impression.
More than 100 years ago, on an island far, far away, a bushy-bearded man hauled his big boxy camera up to picturesque hilltops and down to cascading waterfalls, capturing life on glass plate negatives.
The Society of Mary appointed Brother Gabriel Bertram Bellinghausen, S.M., to introduce its educational mission to the Hawaiian Islands, according to Kimberley Neuenschwander, assistant archivist for the Marianist Archives. Bellinghausen took over St. Louis College in Honolulu in 1883 and increased the size of the student body tenfold over the next 22 years. It was just one way in which he was prolific.
While in Hawaii, Bellinghausen shot nearly 2,000 photographs, which Father Paul Vieson, S.M., director of the Marianist Archives at UD, describes as “marvelous” and “incredibly clear.”
“They’re very valuable in the sense that they record pictorially all the flora and fauna and a lot of the life in the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” Vieson said.
Bellinghausen saw it all through the 8-by-10-inch glass sheets — panoramic views of the Marianist order lined up in heavy black robes outside St. Louis College, stark shots of bunches of ripe fruits, portraits of the Hawaiian monarchy, collages of St. Louis College’s track and field stars, crisp views of Honolulu’s architecture and more.
But in his day, capturing these images was no simple feat.
“It was a big set-up to take the pictures,” said archivist Jennifer Gerth. “The [glass] plates themselves, that was the actual film he put in the camera.”
Today, the Marianist Archives holds approximately 1,250 of Bellinghausen’s plates, boxed and neatly lined up across 23 shelves, secured with neon green bungee cords. Before arriving at UD, this set of plates traveled from Hawaii to Cupertino, Calif., the site of the former Marianist Pacific province’s archives, Vieson said. The provinces were later combined, and their archives consolidated in Dayton. Vieson said other plates remain at the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Historical Society.
“The people giving them away didn’t know just how valuable they would be,” Vieson said.
Neuenschwander said Bellinghausen’s photographs have been displayed at UD at least twice. Tom Patterson, adjunct visual arts teacher at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton, scanned the plates several years ago and printed a selection of them for the exhibitions. The scans were also sent to Chaminade University, right next to what is now known as St. Louis School.
“These photos are valuable for us [the Marianists] because they give us pictures of the schools we had,” Vieson said. “They’re also valuable because there are pictures of the brothers and priests who were there — Marianists and other missionary groups as well — which you otherwise might not get. They really are a treasure.”
This treasure may not be so much hidden as buried, mineralized, scoured, dug-up and sat-upon.
Geology professor Michael Sandy wanders into a mild winter’s fading sunlight and bends down to point at a rock in the retaining wall in Kennedy Union Plaza. On warmer days, students sit here, searching for friends or a few quiet moments before class. The rock is Springfield dolomite, and protruding out of the rock are fossilized brachiopods, bottom-dwelling creatures that thrived in ancient Paleozoic seas.
“You’re walking past the Silurian period, 420 million years ago — I like that idea,” he says, pointing out a 3-inch clam-like fossil sticking out of one chunk, a handful of half-dollar-sized ones scattered on others. “You’ve got this stuff all around us — it’s part of earth history, of our planet.”
In Dayton, that history includes an ancient, tropical sea and glaciers several hundreds of feet thick. The former created perfect conditions for the brachiopods — waving in water like clams atop stalks anchored in the sand. They died, fell to the sea floor, and were buried and infilled with sediment, their soft interiors and hard shells dissolved away leaving a fossil casting of their former selves. Fast forward 418 million years. While glaciers bulldozed up deposits that would become Woodland Cemetery just north of campus, they also revealed outcrops of Springfield dolomite and its cousin, Dayton limestone, which in the 19th century would be recognized as one of Ohio’s finest building stones.
“I’ve always enjoyed landscapes,” says Sandy who, as a child, hiked the rolling North Downs outside London. “I’ve always wondered why the land is the shape it is and, surprise surprise, geology usually has the answers.
“There is always geology to see, wherever you live. People think of the Grand Canyon; a significant record of earth history is on the doorstep.”
He means that, literally. Look at the rock used for building and you’ll find hints of an area’s geologic history.
In April, Sandy will be leading scientists from the Geological Society of America around downtown Dayton to reveal the geology behind the city’s building stones. The fieldtrip’s highlight is the Greek-Revival Old Courthouse, where Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy addressed citizens from the building’s Dayton limestone steps.
Sandy will also take scientists on a fieldtrip of Dayton’s geology, from the fossil beds of Caesar Creek to the glacial margin that carved the gorge near Clifton. His students take a similar trip each semester.
Sandy, who specializes in the relatively younger brachiopods of the Mesozoic era, appreciates the practical nature of geology. His fossils may answer questions about the chemical composition of ancient seas; the stone walls in KU Plaza can stoke a desire for more knowledge.
“If you start looking at other buildings, you start to see other fossils and geologic indicators just waiting for the eyes of the observant, inquiring student,” he says.
Wintertime is often marked by the stark contrast of cold, bleak landscapes and warm, jubilant holiday festivities. When famous Daytonian poet Paul Laurence Dunbar published the hopeful seasonal sonnet “Chris’mus is a’comin,” he had one year left to live.
New York-based publishing house Dodd, Mead and Co. printed the poem in 1905.
Dunbar was in his early 30s at the time, depressed after separating from his wife and suffering from a progressively worsening case of tuberculosis, for which he had been falsely prescribed alcohol as a cure. Still, Dunbar continued to write and a physician eventually gave him a proper diagnosis. This doctor sent him to Colorado to recover, where he made great progress. For a moment, all seemed calm.
“He thought he was cured,” said Herbert Woodward Martin, UD professor emeritus and renowned Dunbar scholar.
In light of his improving health, Dunbar returned to Dayton. But the weather during the journey exacerbated his condition again, and he died in 1906 in his mother’s home.
Nonetheless, the poet’s work continued to circulate in the decades following his death. In 1907, Dodd, Mead and Co. published a small book titled Chris’mus is a’Comin & Other Poems, to be used as a Christmas gift.
The booklet was nearly the size of a woman’s hand, printed in red with touches of gold. The title poem, written in African-American dialect, takes up the first two pages.
Martin said part of the enjoyment in the poem comes from the anticipation of the holiday. Dunbar created a natural dialogue that made this poem highly accessible for black and white readers alike.
One copy of the Christmas booklet was gifted to Mrs. C.J. Brooks, the sender’s name illegible in winding cursive.
This copy made its way to an auction in New York where an agent for Victor Jacobs — a man well known to those familiar with UD’s special collections and rare books — purchased it.
Finally, UD acquired this copy of the book in the 1980s. While the rest of the Dunbar works in the Victor and Irene Jacobs Collection are housed on the second floor of Albert Emanuel Hall — accessible from Roesch Library only after passing through a tunnel and unlocking stacks that are alarmed — Nicoletta Hary, curator of special collections at UD libraries, keeps this tiny volume in her office.
“It’s a lovely little book representative of the time when it was published,” she said.
Martin said Dunbar’s presentation of real characters in his poems, novels and stories makes his work enjoyable to read.
“That is the great value in his fiction and in his poetry. There were real people in these poems, they had genuine voices and they had something to say.”
We won the cup, and we never gave it up.
It was Nov. 4, 1972, and there was a lot on the line, including the silver Governor’s Cup, first awarded in 1929 by Ohio Gov. Myers Cooper to the winner of the UD-Xavier football rivalry and taken home by the victors every game since. It was also UD’s homecoming at Baujan Field, and the Flyers were looking to improve on their 20-27-3 series record against the Musketeers going back to 1907.
But Xavier had more at risk. Its football team was losing games, losing money and, possibly, losing the program.
Musketeer quarterback Tim Dydo set Xavier records, attempting 60 passes and completing 31 for 337 yards. But Flyer quarterback Ken Polke ’75 repeatedly turned to Denny Whitehead ’73, who picked up 139 yards and three touchdowns in what Flyer News called “his finest afternoon in a Dayton uniform.”
The game’s score is etched on a silver plate on the trophy’s wooden stand: 31 Dayton – Xavier 13.
It’s the last series statistic. In 1973, Xavier’s board of trustees ended the school’s football program, and Dayton kept the cup.
Fast forward to 2002. UD Arena is being renovated, and equipment manager Tony Caruso ’81 rescues the trophy that was once stored in the north air-handling room with scores of other memorabilia. Today, you’ll find it atop a worn wooden wall cabinet outside his office near the football locker room.
He’s surrounded by history he’s saved. There’s a 1949 pigskin signed by the team. On a high shelf is a brass basketball given by the Rotary Club to the 1952 basketball team. He has a brass football presented Jan. 18, 1955, at a dinner for legendary football coach Harry Baujan in honor of 33 years of service; he’d work at UD for 21 more until his death Dec. 30, 1976.
“I keep all of the old stuff — you can’t go forward until you see where you’ve been,” says Caruso, who played baseball from 1977-81, coached through the ’80s and has worked with the athletics programs ever since.
In the room with industrial-sized washers are more than 40 football helmets, some from college teams that no longer exist. You can hang your coat on a four-and-a-half-foot trophy that sits by his office door; it’s the TOMPROP, a steel airplane propeller affixed with a brass tomahawk that passed between the Miami University and Dayton football programs from 1935 to 1955.
These traveling trophies are among his favorites. And he’s in search of one more. He’s heard rumor of the Flying Cleat, golden with wings, passed between Marshall and Dayton. Caruso has made some calls, but no one knows where it is.
“It’s in the trash or someone’s house somewhere,” he says. Or maybe it’s a hidden treasure in plain sight, being guarded by another history buff like Caruso.