Groundhogs, Tours, and Nixon—Wait, Nixon?

A Periodic Column by Steve Duffy ‘77

February 23, 2012 – Unbelievably, it is already Groundhog Day 2012 on the Antioch College Campus. The flurry of activities have taken the place of the normal flurries usually seen in January, including MLK events presented by the Village of Yellow Springs and the College, as well as the January Volunteer work crew. The crew, amazingly, brightened the entire Olive Kettering Library basement in a week. The dingy yellow that made the basement seem like a dungeon has been replaced by a bright ivory white! The intrepid volunteers also started updating the basement lighting to make it more energy efficient.

It was good to see Charley Brown ’82, Tom ’68 and Evelyn LaMers ’68, and Richard Zopf ’73 pass by each day as they painted their way past sociology and art and headed to the journal collection. In addition to the brightening of the interiors it now feels good to be in hot water again, as a brand new water heater has been installed for the first time in my memory … 45 years or so!

I have also had four visitors from the nineties. All four of them had worked at the Circulation Desk in the late eighties, either as co-ops or work-study students. Marc Ulrich Snyder ’94, Bobby Schrott ’90, Steve Oliver ’90 and Darren “Bajea” Gilley ’94 made happy visits to the OK Library. Each one of them seemed well-seasoned, and better than they were in the eighties or nineties! Bajea has recently moved back to the village after having lived in West Africa and Charleston, South Carolina. He would love to share West African Culture, drumming, and drum-making with the town-gown Community. Steven has been visiting campus and sharing his knowledge of knitting diverse cultures together. He is currently at the University of Kentucky–Lexington as V.P. and Dean of Diversity Affairs. Bobby works at Lexis-Nexis and occasionally has business trips to Dayton. Marc has been travelling, travelling, travelling!

With blue skies as a perfect backdrop, Marc, Steven, and Bobby got personal, albeit separate, whirlwind tours of campus. We made stopped off at the McGregor Building, South Hall, Birch and the Dining Space, and the Farm. Marc had great memories of 113 McGregor, and instantly, his cell phone camera came out. As we headed toward Birch Hall and its new Dining Area, we travelled over the new herringbone patterned brick wall around Main Building and past North Hall. North Hall and Red Square are surrounded by a chain link fence and is undergoing all sorts of transformations. The laundry room is gone, as are the rusty old fire escapes by Red Square. A huge black hose travels around from window to window as old materials are being removed from North.

North has had many, many lives. When I read Lucy Morgan’s book Pioneering Days, I learned that there had been a “C-Shop” of sorts there back in the twenties. When Victor Ayoub ’49 wrote a Reunion Class letter, he mentioned that North once had a dining hall and that one evening Rod Serling ’50 and a colleague seemed to get into a tremendous brawl. As the community began to surround them, Rod suddenly stopped and announced that everyone should go the Saturday Night “bash” at West Hall. Long before The Twilight Zone, Rod was honing his theater skills.

Before each of my nineties’ friends visits were over, we made our way up to the Rare Book Room, upstairs in the OK Library. The Rare Book Room was, in previous life, the large AV room and home to many faculty, AdCil and Community Meetings. Ensconced there is a funny and whimsical piece of performance done in 1969. It is an almost floor to ceiling caricature of Richard Nixon from a North Hall bathroom stall. It has survived 46 years in a steamy bathroom in North. The flusher for the toilet was built into the ceramic wall over the commode, so you, dear reader, can only imagine what part of Dick Nixon’s torso may have been involved. [Editor’s note: you can also see it on our Facebook page.]

The North Hall contractor, like hundreds of Antiochians over almost five decades, was awestruck over this whimsical piece of public art. The wall was gently cut, and Nixon has been “framed” replete with flusher, but sans commode, and saved for posterity. Needless to say, every person who has seen this has broken out in a tremendous smile–including my four visitors from the nineties. When Reggie Stratton, Director of the Physical Plant, came past the library the other day he had the biggest grin, and I later I found that it was the “Nixon Grin.”

Many of us have smiled for many reasons … some for the whimsy, and maybe a little for the group of contractors that have shown some understanding of our cultural history. When the January work crew was here, Maya Nye ’99 came over to the OK Library one night, because one of the volunteers was craving some readings for the wee hours of the morning. Amongst the armload of books that Maya carried over to an avid volunteer reader was an old two-hour reserve that many Antiochians have read at one point or another: But Is It Art? by Nina Felshin. Maybe when it comes to “R. Nixon,” you will decide for yourself.

Steve Duffy ‘77 is a library circulation specialist and special assistant to alumni relations at Antioch College.