Belly Laughs All Around: The '59ers Remember
by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor
It started with certificates and pins awarded to the Class of 1959, as they joined the Golden M's: 50 years or more since graduating.
As digital cameras flashed, Harold Seppala hollered, "Got any Brownie Hawkeyes?"
"You're dating yourself, Harold!" was the reply, among laughs.
Later, as the microphone was passed around, the stories began.
Bill Robertson used his chemical engineering knowledge to run a special experiment in the unit operations lab at the end of spring term. "I kept it quiet for ten years," he said.
Securing a 10-pound box of powder detergent, he and an accomplice dumped it into the proper spot in the lab workings. When the lab was fired up that summer, two to three feet of foam covered the floor.
When he finally confessed to Dr. Bredekamp a decade later, his old professor got a good laugh after blaming others all those years.
Many veterans of Douglass Houghton Hall were in attendance, including Dan Rivard, who recalled the huge icicles that would hang from the DHH roof. With Ken "Tiger" Sloan, he chopped off a 250-pound specimen and deposited it in someone's bed before they arrived back at the residence hall after a night on the town.
A young, not-wealthy couple was living in married student housing with no silverware, so Rivard and his fellow DHHers "reallocated a 12-place University setting over to married housing, bit by bit, including a creamer and sugar bowl."
"No wonder you're so generous!" exclaimed Mroz, referring to Rivard's years of service to Tech. "You're paying Tech back," someone exclaimed.
Many stories featured Aubrey Gibson, overseer of DHH and gun-toting faculty member. When he was teaching the mechanical engineering principle of impulse momentum dynamics, "he would bring a huge birch log to the front of the room," remembered Jim Gerdeen.
"He'd pull out his .45 and blast it," Gerdeen said. "The log bounced across the room. Years later, I was teaching in the new ME-EM building, and, sure enough, a shot rang out down the hall. The students were shocked, but I just kept writing on the blackboard. I knew it was Gib."
Jim Mack recalled those long drives back to campus, especially in winter. On one particularly treacherous trip, near Munising, headlights came up behind them.
"Don't let him pass you," he told his driver, Oscar. So, dutifully, Oscar weaved over in front of the car each time it tried to pass him. After the third time, red, flashing lights appeared atop the following car.
"Oscar couldn't convince the officer that he was trying to save him from the bad roads ahead," Mack said.
Members of Tau Beta Pi recalled a party at the Ripley Fire Hall. After gathering enough courage to "take the fire truck for a spin," they discovered the Ripley FD had assigned a member to sleep in the front seat, just in case the "Toots" got any ideas.
Finally Jim Kraus said he was one of five Kraus boys to get degrees from Tech: two in forestry, one in ME, a chem engg, and Jim in metallurgy. And he softened the tone a bit, albeit temporarily.
"I just appreciate my dad and mom offering me a chance to come to an institution like Michigan Tech that is second to none."
The 59ers and others agreed. And they still squeezed in some fun.