As a student I carried a double major of Art and Speech and logged many hours in the Frieze building (North Quad and Nellie’s books Oct, 2007) from ’57 through ’61. One of the products of the Speech Department were the radio dramas which were transcribed for broadcast to the hinterlands. In the ’50s and ’60s not many TV stations existed and radio was the in home entertainment source. The University would get students to write and act the productions for extra credit. I loved it.
We had a sound effects person just as Garrison Keillor does on “A Prairie Home Companion.” There was a miniature door which was opened at the proper cue by the student director. A horse would gallop away with the hero as two coconut shells were dropped in cadence on a table. I often wondered what became of our radio dramas. I hope we made a winter’s night more cozy in Escanaba.
Historic Corner Changing
The corner of State and Huron was an important corner for my dad, who graduated from LSA in 1957. He graduated from Ann Arbor High School (later the Frieze Building), was in the marching band that practiced at Harris Hall, and married my mom, a U-M pharmacy grad, in the Methodist Church. I always think about that every time I go through that intersection.
The loss of the Frieze Building (North Quad and Nellie’s books) makes us a little sad.
Memories of Ann Arbor High and the Frieze Bldg
My memories of what U-M called the Frieze building extend back several years, before the U owned the building. (See North Quad and Nellie’s books.) You see it was the building my father worked in as a teacher and coach from 1946 – 1956 when it was no longer Ann Arbor High School. I spent many hours playing in the gym as I waited for him after wrestling meets and remember seeing the high school productions in the Trueblood Auditorium. I felt my life had gone full circle as I attended classes in the Frieze Building as a grad student in the School of Social Work. It was also deja vu as I spent many hours reading social research papers in the same library that introduced me to the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books.
It was hard for me to accept the fact that a building that held such memories for me was being torn down. When I told my Dad that it was going to be torn down, instead of feeling melancholy like I did, his comment was that it was about time as it was a firetrap when they moved out in 1957.
As it happened, I was in Ann Arbor last spring shortly after the building had been torn down, and picked up a small brick from the rubble. So now I will always have a piece of the building that provided me with wonderful memories during my “growing up” years.
What is a better comedown from a freshman year highlighted by being the president of my dorm than getting a campus job during my sophomore year to help keep some cash around? Lo and behold, positions were open under the Food King (Matt Kaiser), who actually taped the Bruce Springsteen (Live 1975-1985) Boxed Set in its entirety for me. That was pretty nice of him. I also received a copy of The Hammond Demos from another dorm resident. Ah, the perks roll in when you are from New Jersey. Since I technically did not pay any money for these tapes, it was not bootlegging.
Anyhow, I barely saw Kaiser since my assigned post was the dishwashing area. After a resident ate, he or she put his or her cafeteria trays on a conveyor belt. I was on the other side of the wall, wearing rubber gloves and a smock. My job was to extract the silverware and rinse the dishes and send them into the dishwasher. The residents were supposed to dump their uneaten food and paper goods into the garbage pail next to the conveyor belt. That ritual sometimes changed at the expense of â€œguess who?”
One would think that the maturing experience of going off to college would mitigate the fear of the common bully. My sophomore year I lived on a hall bursting with freshman. Many of them were engineering students. One of them arrived late and had just got out of the army. When he got mad, I got scared of what he might do.
He also had to work in the dishwashing area and I eventually had several shifts with him present. The first few times I did not mind him near because he basically minded his own business. Several shifts later he apparently started feeling superior to the rest of us and tried acting like our boss. He would make derogatory comments towards us co-workers and tried pushing us to do things his way. One night after riding me to work faster, I think he threatened me with physical violence. I never found out what caused such aggressive behavior in this individual or whether he was just kidding around, me being the butt of this joke. I think the guy ended up in Dessert Storm eventually. I will not miss him.
Besides having to deal with this individual the time I spent in the cafeteria cleaning peopleâ€™s discarded foodstuffs was actually a lot of fun. Not a night went by without some good-natured grape tossing. I will never forget the first time they let me go out and take down the salad bar at the end of the shift. I had to be careful not to cut my hands on the plastic wrap dispenser that served invaluably to preserve the freshness of the vegetables upon being refrigerated for the evening.
The real boss above the Food King was Chris, an attractive young graduate of Michigan State. Her alma matter being a party school, her beauty must have served their means well. I joked around and tried asking her out for a date. This was before the strict rules about fraternizing with co-workers were put in effect. She was political and politely refused my advances. I guess they were desperate for dishwashers.
My next paying job was attained with the help of a guy who lived around the corner from me on the fifth floor, Jason. He had an â€œinâ€ at the campus recreational building where he worked some shifts. He recommended me to a lady there named Bev. I filled out an application and soon picked up shifts working the door checking the identification of students coming in to use the facilities.
Besides taking up weight lifting while working at the CCRB, I played pick-up basketball there occasionally. I saw my first varsity player at that time. Demetrius Calip was the sixth man on the basketball team that won a championship in 1989. I played against him in a pickup game at the recreation building. I was so confused by his athletic facility that I accidentally made contact with him several times (I fouled the dude). I did not know who he was at the time. He gave me some dirty looks. When he used to stop by when I was working the door there was often no one around. Sometimes he brought a friend. Sometimes he came by himself. I guess he came to unwind and practice shooting baskets.
When I moved out of the dorm my junior year I lived near South Campus a.k.a. the Athletic Campus. I continued being employed at the recreation building down there. I continued the type of duties that I performed on central campus dealing with setting up equipment and tidying up around the building. I never saw Bo Schembechler but I think he had an office somewhere in the building.
Eventually, I started getting shifts on North Campus around my senior year. I had a car so I usually drove up there from South Campus and walked to the Recreational Building from one of the large parking lots. I encountered my first Goth co-worker there, complete with purple hair and nose ring. I did not know if she was even enrolled in college or a local high school kid earning extra money for leather clothing and accessories. She did not talk to me very much.
Some guy came in a few times and he was trying out for the basketball team. Being a tall white man, he made me think that he was going to be the next Larry Byrd. He would practice three point shots all the time. I went in the gym one day after my shift was over and tried shooting a few. My arms were so weak that after two shots I kept throwing short of the rim. It was like that guy took all the energy out of the gym. It was a weird thing.
Eventually, final exams came and I nearly flunked Modern Physics. I told the Prof that I was already accepted into grad school and would relearn the material at a later time. I am still learning and it sure is interesting
I spent four years toiling in the pre-remodeled Student Publications Building. Eyes fixated on Word documents, notebooks, Quark pages and Macintosh monitors, the constant bustle contrasted probably more than we realized with the austere, elegant historical building in which it all took place. From the Pewabic tiles, made in Detroit furnaces, to the well-worn great stairwell, the smoke (not all cigarettes) and hum from a century of busy reporters was contained in the walls of this Maynard edifice.