Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Spirits of Lebanon, Part 12

Darrow seemed like the same place to us year after year, but the school was - and is - in a constant state of change. Students and faculty come and go, and each of them leaves an impression.

When I was a senior, many of us were thinking how wonderful it would be to try LSD. Darrow boys five years before us had no conception of mind-altering drugs; they were different form us. And the boys (and girls) who came five years after us were probably popping acid tabs for real; they were different, too.

Ned Groth, who graduated from Darrow five years before me, offered some comments on "The Spirits of Lebanon." Following are a few excerpts from his e-mail that add some historical perspective to our story:

"Harry Mahnken not only was the head football coach at Princeton for a few years, he was the original coach of 150-pound football there and coached it for a dozen years or so. He helped establish the league Princeton still plays in (although they call it "sprint" football nowadays.) There's a trophy for the outstanding player at PU, the Harry A. Mahnken trophy...

"Darrow had Princeton hand-me-down football uniforms in your era because of the arson fires of 1963. Before that, Darrow had its own very nice red uniforms (check out some older yearbooks). The gym was one of the buildings torched, and all the sports equipment therein went up in smoke. In the wake of the fires, as Operation Phoenix went into action and the school fought back from the devastating loss of the (original) Dining Hall and Dairy Barn, they took whatever help they could get. Harry called on some old connections and got perfectly good year-old uniforms, if you didn't mind black and orange...

"When I was there, the Medicine Shop was unused as a school building; it was full of all kinds of Shaker "stuff," including a number of large machines (laundry equipment I think), dozens of seed boxes, thousands of bottles of various sizes, etc. If I had only had the sense to know what to steal, it was there for the taking. All that stuff was auctioned off in 1960, when the building was starting to be renovated for use as a dorm (it opened in the fall of 1961, I think.) Richard Bethards, a beloved English teacher and frustrated actor, was the auctioneer… I think it fetched all of about $50,000 at the time. Most of it went to local museums, like the Shaker Museum in Chatham."

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