Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Story: The Vanderbilt Catacombs

On the surface, there's not much scary to see on the Vanderbilt campus as another Halloween rolls around. In fact, yesterday you could find a brillant display of fall colors whereever you looked, although that could be diminished a bit by some stormy (and maybe scary) weather due to blow through the area this afternoon and tonight.

It's well below the beautiful trees and the statue of the Commodore that you will find something rather strange and forboding at Vanderbilt, especially for Halloween. It's the 5 miles of steam and utility tunnels that burrow their way hundreds of feet (even up to 13 stories below the ground in some spots) connecting a number of buildings on campus. Lots of strange rumors and tall tales have grown up over the years about what appears to be Vanderbilt's catacombs. The tunnels have even been featured in some horror movies in recent years. Here's a video about it all produced a few months ago by VUCast......

Here's even more background from a recent article by The Hustler.....

Of course there is a Centennial Class connection to all of this. Our own Steve Womack had a set of keys to access the tunnels as a part of his duties as Station Manager of WRVU our senior year 1972-73. Why?

Well it dates back to the days when WVU (later WRVU) was a carrier current station broadcasting its signal down lines strung through the tunnels and connecting to small transmitters in each dorm where you could then pick up the station at 580 on your AM dial (and on your toaster or the small oven or hotplate in your dorm room too, I'm told).

The WRVU station manager had a set of keys to the tunnels for access in case of maintainence or repair needs. Of course by our senior year, WRVU had a educational FM license broadcasting at 91.1 FM (got it in December, 1971). So the keys were really not necessary. But at least for that year, Steve had them.

Any stories to tell, Step?

By the way, while we were way past childhood, did anyone go out "trick or treating" while we were at Vanderbilt? If so, where did you go? Down the hall in your dorm? Around the neighborhoods nearby the campus? And what about Halloween parties? Did anybody have one or go to one while we were in school? Any memories you'd like to share? Remember the legal drinking age went down to 18 back then so maybe you don't remember!

Photo credit for campus scenes above to Vanderbilt's John Russell.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Class Already Knew It!

I can't stop thinking about it!

What a great Centennial Class 40th Reunion Party we had on Friday evening, October 5!

Even now I am still dreaming of those mini-Rotiers-inspired cheeseburgers we had to eat (and which seem to vanish very quckly from the food line) along with the Lum's based hot dogs, the Ireland's ham & biscuits, and on and on.

We all knew what great restaurants we had to frequent back in the day (the late 1960's and early '70s) when the VU Class of 1973 was on campus. But now, the whole world is learning.

Look who came to Rotier's just this week for lunch. It's Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers....

And McDonald is not alone. Just days after our party, who walked into Rotier's? How about NBC's LATE NIGHT (and soon to be THE TONIGHT SHOW new host) Jimmy Fallon! Is that cool or what?.....

It even made his Twitter feed! But even before word got around about our great party and food, TV and movie stars were coming into Rotier's. Even those who played roles from outer space (Mork) and a disc jockey from the days of the Vietnam War. One of the world's great comic talents, Robin Williams!.....

But of course, along with the food, the real highlight of our Reunuion weekend was seeing all our classmates who returned. To keep that great feeling going (and to make the rest of you didn't come a little jealous) I've been asked to keep this blog going. So I need your help and ideas, along with more song reccomendations of the greatest hits of our college era (and our universal link and language).

I'll try and put something up at least once a week. You just send im your memories and your song dedications....then come back and read....and enjoy!

Photo credits for this blog post: Rotier's Facebook Page. Thank you!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Real Success Story

If you're headed to the Homecoming/Reunion Weekend football game Saturday night (6:30 p.m. kickoff), you'll get to see a real success story on the field....and I'm not just talking about Coach James Franklin's Commodores.

The Spirit of Gold Marching Band is now approximately 200 members strong with both Vanderbilt students (with no doubt several coming from the relatively new Blair School of Music) as well as musicians who attend other colleges and universities in town such as Belmont, Lipscomb, Fisk, Trevecca and Nashville Tech. Being open to all local students is a long standing tradition for the group.

And besides the Spirit of Gold Marching Band there's also a Pep Band that performs during basketball games; a Symphonic Wind Ensemble; a Jazz Band and a Comnmunity Concert Band. The program has a very active alumni group several of whom return to campus every year and even in fill-in during the holidays when students are away.

Things have come a long way from when we first came to campus in 1969, and the Band had just losts its headquarters building on campus to the wrecking ball. Classmate Scott Morrell told me the story in a recent e-mail:

> Here's a piece of VU band trivia which may be of interest to a few of

> our classmates.  In calling my assigned group of classmates, who were

> Vanderbilt Band members, one of them admitted to me that he had taken

> the sign that was in front of the old band building and he still has

> it.  That building, which we used our freshman year, faced 24th Avenue

> South.  It was torn down right after marching season to become the

> parking lot for Towers 3 and 4, which were under construction.


> Here's a picture of the sign.  The source tells me he salvaged it from

> the wreckage, so it was probably going to be thrown away.  Here's a photo of the old building.. 

The band program was called the> Joint University Bands at the time, and many Peabody students played > with us - many were music majors, and that helped us a lot!

Thanks for sharing, Scott!
The Band currently has its headquarters on 28th Avenue South within easy walking  (or marching)distance of Vanderbilt Stadium.

The Vanderbilt football team this weekend will be looking to break a brief losing streak for the Class of 1973. Since we've been coming for Reunions on Homecoming Weekend, we've lost twice: to Navy 37-27) in 2003 and Duke (10-7) in 2008. But the Dores rallied to qualify and win a bowl game that last season and we've been to two consecutive bowl games the past two years winning 18 games overall so far under Franklin.

With a 3-2 mark this year and 7 games to play, we're on pace to do it again. But beating the Missouri Tigers, now a fellow member of the Southeastern Conference is critical.

Anchor Down! Go Vandy! Beat the Tigers!

I hope to continue to post stories on the blog as well as photos over the weekend. Please feel free to e-mail me anything you want me to put up.

Thanks and see you soon!  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Some Final Ponderings

I know we are all excited to see each other beginning Friday afternoon and Friday night. Some of us haven't been together since the last time the Vanderbilt Centennial Class convened five years ago.

If you come early Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in the Sarratt Cinema you'll hear the latest from our current Chancellor Nick Zeppos and we'll remember our chancellor Alexander Heard who helped lay the groundwork so many years ago for VU be the world-class university it is today.....

We'll be jealous of the great new College Hall upper class dorms that will open next fall. It's located on the site of the old Kissam Quadrangle where a lot of us lived our first year in college.....

We'll remind the new Class of 2017 that we were the first Vanderbilt freshmen (in the fall of 1969) to be able to legally host members of the opposite sex in our dorms room (unless you lived in Sterile Stapleton). It was such a groundbreaking change that the long held tradition of the panty raids on campus soon faded away while students pursued other activities just as drinking alcohol after the age to legally purchase and consume spirits and beer was lowered from 21 to 18....

And while Vanderbilt students will enjoy their Homecoming Concert (now known as The Quake) this weekend, we'll know that we had the greatest concert ever when the Grateful Dead came to campus our senior year in October, 1972. And now for this Reunion we also finally know the back story of the greatest prank ever pulled at and on the University that day through the simple but amazing placement of a set of Mickey Mouse ears on the Kirkland Tower clock.

41 years later what a caper they pulled!

We're honored to know how Vanderbilt has become a national university, highly ranked every year by U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT.  But we already knew back in our day how tough a school Vandy is and always has been academically...
On late Friday afternoon we'll be hoping the weather is sunny and pleasantly warm on Rand Terrace  just before we enter this newly remodeled building where our fabulous Class Party will be held in the area where the Vanderbilt Bookstore used to be.

I think we'll all be amazed and delighted at how much fun we'll have at the Party. Congratulations and thanks go to Janet Schneider, Beth O'Shea and Steven Greil in particular for all their hard work and to our 1973 COMMODORE YEARRBOOK editor Clark Thomas who helped put together our Class CD of popular music from our era and a 30-minute slideshow of back in the day you'll want to see over and over again. Of course, the 1969 Vandy-Alabama football game will be playing on a large TV monitor too. You'll love the chance to be so over-stimulated while you get in touch with old friends.

 And while Nashville today is gaining a national reputation as a great "foodie" town with lots of great new restaurants to try, our Class Party menu, courtesy of Vanderbilt Catering, will be piled high (but mini-style) with heapings helpings of nostaligia on our plates. Check out this list of what's to eat...

·         House of Pizza - Caesar Salads in mini cups

·         Julian's - Baked Brie en Croute with Fresh Fruit

·         Ireland's - Mini Country Ham Biscuits

·         Rotier's - Mini Cheeseburgers on French Bread

·         Taco Tico - Tacos with Refried Beans, Lettuce and Cheese (vegetarian)

·         Lum's - Mini Hot Dogs and Buns, served with Sauerkraut

·         Shoneys  - Mini Hot Fudge Cake and Strawberry Shortcake
Now I shouldn't eat any of these things, even in mini-fashion, But for this weekend, I don't think I'll care and won't start again until I start taking my blood pressure readings again next week. By the way, on line I've found the receipes for two other old-time Vandy-area food favorities: Ireland's Stake & Biscuits and Killarney Fudge Pie. Here they are. Enjoy!

Ed Sweeney: I don't have a copy of the original, but have made it several times over the years... I use
  • flank steak, or sirloin
  • slice it / marinate it 6-24 hours in veg oil, black and white pepper, garlic powder (all to taste)
  • make (or buy) buttermilk biscuits
  • grill the meat on a flat-top griddle or skillet
  • butter the biscuits, slap on a piece of steak... enjoy!

“the original meat were 'cow tenders'...and btw, don't think filet mignon will make it won't.”

3 eggs /
1 stick BUTTER /
2 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate /
1 tsp vanilla /
1 cup sugar /
1/4 cup flour

Melt chocolate SLOWLY and add butter in small saucepan
Lightly beat eggs and add sugar until mixed in bowl. Add choc/butter mixture and vanilla and continue to beat until fairly smooth. Add flour to mixture little by little so it doesn't lump. Tip: do not use electric mixer -- wire whisk works best.
Fold into greased 9" pie pan and bake at 350F for 20-25 min in conventional oven. If still 'runny', don't will 'set-up'.

Serve slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. ENJOY!

Finally, we'll think back on the prediction made by HUSTLER Editor Neil Skene in the 1973 COMMODORE looking ahead to our future Class Reunions which were seemingly so many years in the future we couldn't imagine it, until now. What he said has turned out to be pretty darn accurate.
"....When Alumni and Development invites the Class of '73 back for its reunion, new dorms will probably be flung up.

(Not just the new College Halls. If you haven't, you gotta see the freshman Commons over at Peabody too).

New streets and sidewalks will lead us to new buildings.

(how about those two pontoon walking bridges over 21st Avenue and you won't believe all the other new buildings, especially around the Medical Center, as well as the Student Life and Student Rec Centers. There's also the new indoor Football Practice Center, complete with a bowling alley for students and for Vanderbilt's varsity bowling team, which won the school's only (so far) NCAA national championship a few years ago).

"And maybe even liberals, if there are any left, will have short hair."
See you in just a few hours! It's going to be a memorable weekend. The Centennial Class has returned to Vanderbilt yet again!    

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Things To Ponder As We Gather Together Again

In less than 48 hours the Centennial Class returns to Vanderbilt.

We'll look back on our time in Nashville when forget about being a part of the "It City." Heck, even the interstates weren't quite there....

We will remember how cold the beer was at the old Good Woman in the Towers and how the drinking age was lowered to 18 while we were in school so we could enjoy our drinks legally....

We'll be happy to see and talk with Deans Sandlin and Potter again at our Friday night Class Party without having to worry we're in some kind of deep trouble...

We will reminince about our "Dream Girl" Heaven Lee who performed in Printers Allley but who also came to campus to have dinner at a frat house or help teach a seminar. Boy, if only all our teachers looked like that....

We'll celebrate all the current Vandy Boys such as Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray (and hopefully David Price)  who are now starring in the Major League Baseball Playoffs. And we'll remember Coach Larry "Smokey" Schmittou and our classmate Tommy Powell who began it all with Vanderbilt's first SEC baseball title in 1973. And we'll never forget another classmate and a man who is perhaps still the greatest VU pitcher who ever took the mound, the late Jeff Peeples....

At our Class Party, we'll look back (and can watch every play) of one of Vanderbilt's greatest upsets, the 14-10 victory over Bear Byrant and his undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, October 1, 1969, our first home game freshman year.
In fact, you really won't believe all the great stuff we have for everyone to enjoy Friday night. We really can't wait to see you! Time to get excited! More things to ponder in our next post. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Things Have Changed

As Baby Boomers, we are all clearly "Children of Television." We grew up with the "boob tube" from our earliest days. Nothing shows more how much our society has changed over the years than looking back at such things as the commercials that ran on the air over 40 years ago while we were in school.

So, one more time, let's hop into our "way back machine" courtesy of the Vanderbilt TV News Archives and watch these ads that ran back on September 21, 1970. Notice how they portrayed women and even featured some people of color which was a rare thing up until that time....

One of the biggest changes in our society since we were in school is how we view smoking. It used to be allowed almost everywhere, anytime. But that began to change while we were at Vanderbilt. On April 1, 1970 President Richard Nixon signed a law banning TV and radio ads for smoking products. It went into effect January 2, 1971. Here's one of the many TV ads of its day, promoting the "extra long" nature of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. It aired on July 21, 1969....

Maybe we should have payed more attention to some of the TV ads back in those days. It might have helped us anticipate some of "the aches and pains" of having a cold or getting older. It may have also gotten us ready to drive those smaller, "foreign" cars which would soon become more more numerous on American roadways. These ads aired on February 9, 1973...

Of course some things haven't changed such as using celebrities or future stars in TV ads. See if you can find the MASH TV star (McClean Stevenson) in the Lectric Shave pitch which is among a group of commercials that ran on the nightly news January 26, 1971....

Or how about these ads which ran on August 18, 1969? One features  a break through appearance by a beautful blonde from Memphis who would soon become a TV and movie star. Cybil Shepard would become known for her work in "The Last Picture Show," "Taxi Driver" and later "Moonlighting." But to begin her career, it was all about giving your mouth "sex appeal".....