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Truth or tale

Truth or tale

Magazine Staff September 13, 2019
Stories have long been told at UD, some to preserve history and others to scare the freshmen. We asked readers for their favorite rumors and sent our reporters out to dig deep — literally, with one student writer walking underneath campus — to uncover the answers for you. Reprinted from the Winter 2014-15 University of Dayton Magazine

River beneath campus: TRUTH

fish in riverHumble, rounded ponds dot a landscape of rolling grass fields. They freeze in the winter for children to skate on; they thaw in the summer for children to swim in — including those children who once attended St. Mary’s School for Boys.

In an earlier time, this landscape composed the University of Dayton campus; bubbling springs fed a quiet stream running through campus, known as the Rubicon River. Now paved, developed and sodded, the remnants of the Rubicon River are buried below ground.

In the early 1920s, a section of the Rubicon was redirected into an underground pipe to develop the land that is now Baujan Field, and mischievous kids like current faculty member Bob Wolff ’58 used the pipes to sneak into football games.

Today, a manhole that rises from the ground between Marianist Hall and RecPlex descends into a 42 feet by 108 feet water storage vault directly beneath RecPlex. This land once existed as a wetland area fed by the Rubicon, where rain could re-enter the groundwater supply. After the area was dug out and filled with clay in 2004, the massive vault was put in place to prepare the land for the development of the RecPlex and redirect the Rubicon River to the Great Miami River.

While it is no longer visible on campus above ground, Brother Don Geiger, S.M. ’55, professor emeritus of biology and a native Daytonian, has studied the ecology of the area and says that the transition of the Rubicon underground was more than just an aesthetic change. Just because the river is gone doesn’t mean the need for a river is gone. —Caroline Glynn ’15

Hooch in the graveyard: MAYBE

Digging in graveyeardSomewhere in the Marianist graveyard beside Marycrest may be buried a treasure trove of Prohibition-era contraband, brandished in old glass bottles.

In the 1920s and early ’30s, the only way to get consumable alcohol was through bootleggers and underground breweries, all the while praying you didn’t get caught.

Away from UD, the bootleggers would knock at the back screen door in the dead of night to deliver their product. Meanwhile on campus, anyone who managed to get ahold of liquor hid it from the Marianist brothers however they could.

Legend has it, that’s where the cemetery came in, says Barbara Macklin Faga ’64.

“My uncle (Frank Macklin ’32) often told us how he buried several bottles of ‘hooch’ in the Marianist grave area,” Faga says. “I believe it. ... All bottles are probably gone, disintegrated by now, but I wouldn’t be surprised (if he did).”

Michael Wicks, a School of Engineering Ohio Research Scholar and radar expert, says Macklin’s bottles could be found with ground-penetrating radar.

“It’s certainly possible,” Wicks says. “It’s a function of the condition of the materials … and where they’re buried.”

It’s easier to identify objects in dry ground, for example, than in damp or wet areas, he says.

“Radar has been used in graveyards for years, but mostly for calibration purposes,” Wicks says. “If you use a frequency equivalent to that your cell phone produces (1 GHz), you could actually find the bottles.”

From a historical perspective, the story of the bottles represents just a snapshot of America’s 13-year dry spell. The economic fallout of the 18th Amendment was widespread, but a lot of damage came at the local level.

In Dayton, the ban led to the closure of five breweries. Pre-prohibition advertisements in UD’s Exponent magazine promoted the “Superba Beer,” but by November 1920 those ads were for root beer, which no one saw need to hide. —Mickey Shuey ’14

Body farm in the CPC: TALE

OrderlyA room on the second floor of Fitz Hall — previously known as College Park Center — looks like it should belong in your favorite criminal drama. Bodies encased in cheesecloth line two long rows of tables while the smell of pungent chemicals — and flesh — wafts through the air. But Kimberly Ritterhoff, a lecturer for the health and sport science department, said there is no CSI happening in the former CPC.

“Body farms are associated more with forensic programs and are used to understand how body tissues break down in different conditions,” she said. The most famous body farm, where decomposition happens outdoors, is at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

On the other hand, UD’s anatomy lab helps health and sport science undergraduates and graduate students in physical therapy and physician assistant programs experience human anatomy. They learn about anatomical relationships, or the structure location relative to other structures in the body, and how the body can change due to disease or surgery, she said. It is a rare opportunity for undergraduate students to work in an anatomy lab, giving UD students an advantage when they take dissection courses in graduate school, Ritterhoff said. The course also allows students to get over the initial fear of dissection.

“I understand it can be alarming,” she said. “I leave the door open so people can come and go as they please. A lot of people linger in the hall, but by the end of it, they’re touching [the cadavers].” Jacob Lubbe, a senior pre-physical therapy major, described his first experience in the lab as “amazing.” “It was so interesting, how you keep a body preserved for so long and how you are able to differentiate between the structures of the human body,” he remarked. Case closed. —Sarah Devine ’14

Oil under the chapel: TALE

oil and chapelAn April Fool’s edition of Flyer News from 1971 suggested there was a large dome of oil discovered underneath the Immaculate Conception Chapel’s altar during that era’s chapel renovations. However, as renovation construction continues this year, don’t expect similar rumors.

Allen McGrew, associate professor of geology, revealed that we have a far better chance of finding water (or maybe holy water?) than oil under the chapel. “I’m afraid it truly would take a miracle, or at least some very fervent prayers, to hit oil under UD’s chapel,” McGrew said.

To McGrew’s knowledge, there has never been a productive oil well drilled in Montgomery County. The most likely “oil play,” or prospective oil field, beneath UD would be in a layer known as the Point Pleasant-Utica interval, which is being drilled for oil and gas farther east. However, in western Ohio, its organic content is probably too low, and it was probably never buried deep enough to heat up to the temperatures necessary to form oil, McGrew said.

With the current chapel renovation, the University will be thinking of energy but in a different way. The renovations will rely largely on local materials, suppliers and talent to design and fabricate its stained glass windows, as well as other features such as energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, according to Kurt Hoffmann, UD’s environmental sustainability manager. The goal is for the chapel to achieve LEED certification upon completion. —Natalie Kimmel ’13

Tunnels under campus: TRUTH

cartoon scubaJust like Batman has his cave, UD has its own underground passages. Ours do not hide the Batmobile, and they do not provide a shortcut to class safe from the rain and snow. They do give us a view of the seldom-seen underground that keeps campus humming and hissing.

The UD tunnels, first dug in 1898, were constructed to connect heat and electric lines to the earliest buildings on campus: St. Joseph Hall, St. Mary’s Hall and Immaculate Conception Chapel. As the campus grew over the years, so did the tunnels.

On a tour of the UD underground, Jerry Duncan, assistant director of plumbing and steam systems facilities, pointed at a dark, clearly manmade arch channel of brick and dirt. “There’s the old tunnel,” Duncan said. “While it may be old, the tunnel is still a working part of campus.”

It’s no place for visitors. Pipes are extremely hot, and the space is claustrophobically small. Duncan said it takes their knowledgeable staff to do the job safely and accurately.

By contrast, the new cement tunnels are well lit and resemble the inside of a power plant. Pipes and boilers are labeled with their corresponding buildings.

Duncan works to make the UD campus a safe and warm place for both employees and students. He described what each and every pipe leads to, the cycle the water goes through, and the six 400-horsepower boilers that require 24-hour watch.

Once the temperature drops below 55 degrees, the tunnels — new and old — provide heat and hot water to our classrooms so we can take off our coats and get comfortable after a cold walk to class. Keeping UD a safe and warm place — now that’s heroic. —Caroline McCormack ’16

Haunted halls: POSSIBLY

ghostsNestled between St. Joseph Hall and Immaculate Conception Chapel stands Liberty Hall, a seemingly harmless building that appears simple amongst the architecture surrounding it but has more popularity than the rest of UD combined. And that’s because it’s haunted.

“I haven’t seen a ghost, but back before the renovation, I heard a ghost when I was down in the Monk’s Inn by myself,” said Nick Cardilino ’89, who works with Campus Ministry in the building. Monk’s Inn was a basement coffeehouse before renovations in the 1990s.

Cardilino isn’t the only member of the Liberty Hall staff who feels the presence of someone from beyond the grave.

“When I was in graduate school at UD, I saw a foot and a pants leg out of the corner of my eye on the second floor, but I was the only one in the building,” said Mary Niebler ’98, who now works in Liberty Hall.

Ghosts also have been reported to make noise on the fourth floor of St. Joseph Hall and to give the air a supernatural chill in the attic of St. Mary’s Hall. The ghost in Liberty Hall, though, may be the most probable if you follow popular ghost-making legends. A recent ghost-hunting guidebook states that the ghostly leg likely belongs to an elderly man who died in Liberty Hall when the building held the infirmary.

First known as “The Home,” Liberty Hall was built in 1866 to house faculty and novices, though it was soon used for other purposes including an infirmary. No medical records — including possible deaths of men wearing pants — have survived. Ghostly rumors, though, never die. —Megan Garrison ’14

First electric lights: TALE

reading by lightbulbLights have long shown from campus, thanks to Brother Ulrich Rappel, S.M., who graduated in 1902. But St. Mary’s Institute, that beacon of education on the hill overlooking Dayton, was not the first in the area to receive electric lighting.

According to a history written by Brother Louis Rose, S.M. ’23, the second chair of the electrical engineering department, the electric lamp was introduced in Dayton in 1882. The Dayton City Council soon authorized the erection of six towers “to hold arc lights.”

Those lights preceded electricity on campus, but there were many synergies between the rise of electric power and the training of electrical engineers at UD. For example, Dayton’s current electricity provider, Dayton Power and Light, was founded in 1911, coinciding with the founding of the electrical engineering department.

In 1898, the University opened the Powerhouse, which supplied electricity to buildings including Immaculate Conception Chapel in 1899. The electricity was direct current, as opposed to the alternating current that we plug into today. When it became necessary to supplement campus with power from the utility company, Rappel devised a daily switching regime: homemade DC during the day and imported AC at night, leaving many a forgetful student with a smoking radio come morning.

Rappel had been mesmerized by electricity at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. He brought a kinetic energy to every electrical assignment, whether as professor or resident electrician. Rappel recalled that he conducted “one of the first, if not the first” floodlighting jobs in the country Dec. 8, 1904, when he mounted an acetylene automobile headlight on a tripod and illuminated the dedication of the Immaculate Conception Statue. And while UD wasn’t the first with electricity, the campus did brighten its neighbors; Rappel mounted Cahill Projector lamps on high poles over the football stadium, lighting half of the South Park neighborhood on game nights. —Michelle Tedford

Original Rudy M.I.A.: TALE

Rudy Flyer on donkeyThe origin story of Rudy Flyer is more colorful than the mascot’s basketball jersey. Matt Lampke ’94 shared a rumor from his school days that claims Rudy Flyer was named after a missing student of the same first name. As he heard it, the student was one of UD athletics’ biggest fans; he disappeared one day and was never found. The rumor continues that years later, an unidentified body was discovered in an old Theta Phi Alpha house crawl space.

Tale, indeed. The sorority says that there is no connection, and public safety has no record of a student named Rudy who went missing.

But UD’s mascot does have a colorful — and shape-shifting — past. A 1925 edition of the Daytonian shows UD’s mascot as a mule sporting a blue and red saddle blanket. A 1956 issue of Flyer News goes on to mention a few more attempts at nailing down a mascot, including “Floyd” the model airplane and “Pedro” the donkey. Then, a barnstorming pilot inspired by the Wright brothers was born Dec. 3, 1980, during a basketball home game against San Francisco.

His name was a product of the UD community through a “Name That Mascot” contest in 1981, according to a January 1981 issue of Flyer News. An entry form was printed in the student paper for people to fill out and send to UD Arena. Out of 311 entries, “Rudy” was the winner, and he continues to cheer Flyers on to victory. —CC Hutten ’15

Royal misspelling: LIKELY

Stewart StreetChaminade. Kennedy. Bombeck. Kettering. Many places on UD’s campus are easily recognized for whom they are named. One particular name, however, has confused students for years: Who is Stewart Street named after?

Another spelling, “Stuart,” is well known because of the first-year residence hall and recreation field by the same name. The namesake, John Stuart, sold his family farm to the Marianists in 1850. As the story goes, Stuart handed over the land in exchange for nothing more than a promise. The Marianists vowed to pay the $12,000 balance over 12 years and gave Stuart a medal of St. Joseph as a sign of good faith. On Stuart’s land, the brothers grew the school that became UD.

According to the local history room at the Dayton Metro Library, Stewart Street was named for the neighborhood that it ran through: Stewart Hill. Is there a connection between Stewart Hill and the Stuart family, or is it a coincidence?

The librarians believe that both names could refer to the same person, John Stuart, thanks to the royals across the pond. The popular spelling of that surname was “Stewart” in the 14th century for the house of Robert II, king of Scotland. By the 16th century and Mary Queen of Scots, the royal name changed to the French spelling of “Stuart.” With the variation of spelling, it is plausible that both names refer to one family, yet it is unknown if the Stewart Hill neighborhood or Stewart Street were ever known by the alternative spelling of “Stuart.”

John Stuart put the University on the path to where it is today; now Stewart Street serves as a path to navigate to its campus. No matter how you spell it, both names have their rightful place in UD history. —Tom Corcoran ’13  


Illustrations Daryll Collins

Rumor has it ...

cartoon man... that only one of the rumors below is true. Can you guess which? See the footnote for the answers.

1. Jon Gruden ’86, Super Bowl-winning head coach and current Monday Night Football commentator, came to UD on a tennis scholarship.

2. When a 1964 alumnus discovered his old house was to be torn down, he bought the property, had it taken apart piece by piece, and then reassembled it on his farm in Missouri.

3. The name of the title character in the TV series Monk was inspired by the Monk’s Inn — the old coffeehouse in the Liberty Hall basement — as the show’s head writer was a 1969 UD graduate.

4. For 20 years after the school was founded in 1850, the brothers bottled and sold wine from the property’s vineyards. One bottle is known to exist and is held in a private collection in Winnetka, Illinois.

5. The swashbuckling actor Tyrone Power — who swung through the air with a sword in hand as both Zorro and pirate Henry Morgan — was also a Flyer. He later appeared on a Hollywood set with the Flyer football team.

6. Before the University was officially named the University of Dayton in 1920, trustees considered naming the school Patterson University, after then-president of nearby NCR John H. Patterson, for all he did for UD.

7. When St. Mary’s Hall was built in 1870, it was only three stories high. Fourth and fifth stories were added 12 years later to accommodate a growing enrollment spurred by immigration from Europe.

ANSWERS:  1. False. He played Flyer football as the backup quarterback.

2. False. But wouldn’t that be cool?

3. False, and the paint peeling from the coffehouse’s stone walls would have given the fictional Monk fits.

4. False, though St. Mary’s School for Boys was a working farm, with orchards, pastureland and vegetable fields.

5. True. Read more on one of our famous students.

6. False. Actually, Patterson would have been right to name NCR for the Marianists, as the brothers bought Patterson family land to help finance the nascent cash register business.

7. False. When St. Mary’s was built, its five stories made it the tallest building in Dayton. Locals thought it was ridiculous, leading them to call it “Zehler’s Folly” after then-president Brother Maximin Zehler, S.M.