Editor's note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his "50 years at Fredonia." Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.
I don't know when the Main Auditorium was first called "Old." It is probably as elusive as the perfect age.
When I was a young faculty member in the early '60s Dallas Beal, Harry King, and others advised me to slow down since I had lots of time. (Dallas Beal at that time was Director of Education and Harry King was Dean. Harry would often visit the classes of young faculty and offer suggestions.) In the 1980s, Dallas, then president, told me to slow down because I was getting old. Everything is relative.
After a prank in 1958, students were made to clean up.
We now have "old" Mason, the "old" dorms-referring to those built in the '50s and '60s, even Reed Library now has an "old" section. The ultimate irony is that "Old Main Drive" is a new name for the College's Temple Street entrance. (This and other generic names were applied for ease of finding one's way around campus. I understand that they can be "bought" and renamed.)
The colors fade. Not too many remember great concerts, plays, lectures - including those of Dick Gregory, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, Random House founder Bennett Cerf, author John Ciardi, Mime Marcel Marceau, and many others.
On Wednesdays there was always a convocation and attendance was taken. This was an opportunity for discussion of college issues, faculty and student productions, and guest performances. Of course instruction also took place in that grand - old - building.
Old Main was haunted. It was not the original College or Normal building. It had replaced a building burned in a disastrous fire in 1900 in which several students and a janitor were killed. Old Main was really "New Main" even though it is mainly built on the foundations of the old. At the rear of the basement beneath the auditorium, former coal bins, in a wall is a plaque that headed the old building. "Fredonia Normal."
The victims of the fire are buried in a common grave in Forest Hill Cemetery but some say one victim, who returned to her room to retrieve her engagement ring, still wanders the halls. Of course pranksters from the "Mummers," the Fredonia theatre club, delighted in a number of pranks that reinforced this belief.
John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.