California. Idaho. Florida. Ohio. Michigan. Alumni of the classes of 1958 and 1968 traveled across the nation to celebrate their 60th and 50th reunions, respectively, this past weekend.
They came to relax, rekindle relationships, and reminisce about a simpler time, a time when the college mascot was the Dales and the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was still on campus.
A Borrowed Train for Breakfast
It was 2:30 a.m. in 1968. Five members of Alpha Tau Omega were walking back to the college after a night of drinking beer at Martin’s Bar in downtown Hillsdale. One of those ATOs goes by the alias Will Cover. The Chronicle-Telegram out of Elyria, Ohio once told this story using the pseudonym Cover. We’ll follow the Chronicle-Telegram and protect this casanova’s true identity.
“We were all starving to death and the only restaurant open was in Jonesville, Ma Bell’s,” Cover said. “Nobody had a car, but this rich kid from Grosse Pointe said he’d buy everyone breakfast if we could get to Jonesville.”
An idea struck Cover as the group walked across the railroad tracks downtown.
“I said, ‘See that engine? I can run it.’” said Cover. “And they all said, ‘Yeah, right.’ I just said, ‘Hope aboard boys.’ We got a couple cases of beer and off we went.”
How did Cover know how to work a locomotive? He paid for all his education working on the railroad in the summertime.
“Best thing about having beer on a train is you don’t have to steer,” Cover said. “Those tracks will take you where you want to go. We had a nice time and then we backed the train all the way back to Hillsdale and left it.”
The next day the Hillsdale Daily News said the police were investigating the theft of a New York Central engine.
“I went, ‘Oh man, I’m in trouble now,” said Cover. “If I got caught, I’d be getting out of jail next Monday.”
Cover had one thing he wants Hillsdale students to know.
“Beer is God’s way of showing that he loves us,” he said. “Make sure you put that in there.”
Fastest Between Here and Ann Arbor
The Dale can be rather mundane. For decades, students have had to create their own entertainment. While current students might amuse themselves with Fortnight, Doug Zimmerman ’68 and a few of his buddies, found entertainment with a few cases of stolen eggs from the Curtiss Dining Hall, the Slayton Arboretum, and a good throwing arm.
“One Saturday evening right at the beginning of track season, two of my buddies and I really didn’t have much to do,” Zimmerman recounted. “So we borrowed a couple cases of eggs from the dining hall. And we went down to the Arb and started just started throwing eggs, kind of lobbing them into the Arb.”
Chucking eggs over the fence of the Arb wasn’t enough for Zimmerman and his friends, so they moved to the corner outside the Olds Residence. Although Zimmerman and his buddies hit plenty of moving vehicles, only one stopped to confront them.
“We are really throwing these eggs by this time,” Zimmerman said. “But nobody stopped and and we hit a lot of cars. Finally, this one car came to a screeching halt. There was an open field down there and the three of us started jogging out through the field. All of a sudden there was a fourth guy in this field.”
Zimmerman, who ran distance for the Hillsdale track team, said the individual kept gaining ground.
“This guy is catching us,” Zimmerman said. “I’m thinking there is nobody between here and Ann Arbor who can run faster than I can, but this guy is catching us.”
One of the three managed to veer off a different way leaving Zimmerman, his friend, and the guy chasing them in the field.
“I’m running a bit faster now but this guy is still getting closer,” Zimmerman explains. “Finally, I glance back and this guy has stopped running. So I dive into a ditch on the side of the field and this guy just keeps walking. He didn’t see me, but I saw him.”
The individual who chased Zimmerman that night was a fellow member of the track team.
“He was a sprinter and I was a long distance guy,” Zimmerman said. “He almost caught us. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t say anything to him. We somehow found out who the car belonged to an in the middle of the night ended up washing this guy’s car that we had egged.”
As for the sprinter from the egg incident, he stood about 20 feet away in the Dow Upper Lounge as Zimmerman recounted his story.
“When Larry tells the story, he says it’s the fastest half mile that I had ever run,” Zimmerman laughed. “He embellishes it a little bit but that’s the story.”
The Frat and the Firetruck
The fraternity members of Delta Tau Delta had game in the 1960s, at least according to Howard Smith ’68.
“On Friday afternoon, we had a firetruck,” Smith said. “They brought all these coeds from all over the campus to our parking lot.”
By coeds, Smith meant ladies, lots of ladies. Between 50 – 100 would ride on that fire truck to the Delt house every Friday.
“It was an old-style firetruck,” Smith explained. “It had a big, old, clangy bell and ladders on the side. It was outstanding.”
Although there were other aspects of Hillsdale that Smith knows and loves, that firetruck will forever hold a place in his heart.
“Just the memories of Hillsdale, the Greek life, and the fun we had, to be a part of all that was pretty amazing,” Smith said. “And trying to make my grades every semester and being on the Dean’s list. But the fire truck was pretty neat.”
Advice for the Aimless
When asked what advice she would give to current students, Florence Silvernail ’58 had a few life lessons.
“Participate in everything you can,” Silvernail advised. “Keep your friends beyond college, and listen to people when they tell you to eat right and exercise.
Dave Trippett ’58 challenged students to stand up to their professors.
“Keep an open mind,” Trippett said. “Questions your professors. Don’t let them just feed you whatever they’re feeding you. At Hillsdale, we don’t have to worry about that as much, because you have a good exchange. Even with good leadership, you still should question those professors.”
Jim Mitchell ’68 said students should strive toward a certain goal.
“Develop a goal and stick to your plan,” Mitchell said. “You’ll get rewarded for it down the road. Do what you like to do and you’ll never go to work a day in your life. My goal was to first graduate and then I wanted to go to California. I did it and I never left.”
Dave Plagman ’68 offered similar encouragement.
“Find your passion and make it your life’s work,” Plagman said. “I worked for major corporation and I hated all my jobs. My advice to you Hillsdale graduates is find your passion.”