Carney Hall memories
Our letters this issue are in response to our request for memories of old Carney Hall. Clearly, that building and especially its well-used auditorium played an important role in the life of the campus. Following, are some of the responses. You can read the remainder at the PittState Magazine online at magazine.pittstate.edu.
As a 1976 graduate of Pitt State (then called Kansas State College Pittsburg), I have many great memories of the University and Carney Hall in particular.
The stately red brick building anchored the east flank of the college Oval. I walked past the site daily and had several classes within. However, it was an event, not a class that holds fast in my memories.
Each year the university hosted several special guests or events at the auditorium in Carney Hall. It was during my senior year that I was joined by several Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers as we attended a young musician/comedians performance. The young upstart was none other than now famous Steve Martin. The “wild and crazy guy”, entertained a packed house with jokes, banjo songs and antics including a faux arrow through his head. The entire audience was enthralled and just when we thought is could not get wilder, Steve Martin invited the crowd to stand up and follow him out of the building. Several thousand students followed the jester around the oval as he told jokes, climbed lamp posts and skipped along the sidewalk. As I recall he finally finished his show addressing the crowd from the front steps leading into Carney Hall.
Now that is a great memory from the old days! Keep up the good work at the magazine.
(In the photo above) Marian Gant German, stage star, cheerleader and Gorilla homecoming queen (1st on left) poses in front of her living facility, Carney Hall. In 1946, females were moved from Willard Hall to make room for the Navy residents. Ten girls lived on the third floor of Carney. The area was fitted with dressers and dividers. Marian graduated in three years and was married to the all-star football (50-year and 100-year PSU Hall of Famer, Don German.) She successfully taught English, speech and drama until 1990. She resides in Neodesha, Kansas. Christmas cards are still sent among the Carney Clan.
Twenty three years later, daughter Kay rushed from the old gymnasium’s swimming pool from a 7:30 a.m. class in order to take Anatomy and Physiology classes. Her memory was having wet hair, putting on a wig (no air dryers invented yet) and wearing a mini-skirt to science lab where the cadaverous cats’ formaldahyde drippingly dissolved her panty hose.
Carrying on in mother’s footsteps, Kay starred in the play, “The Rainmaker.” One night a hairless hamster was found on the stage. It was an escapee from a lab. Kay took it to live in Mitchell Hall. Her roommate, Julie Fisher, irritated by the animal told Kay the beast must go because it was loud and may be infectious. Silently placed in a tennis ball can provided by Doris Tracy, the rodent returned late for play practice with Kay. Not a word was said from the head of the biology department when he found “Mickey” on his desk.
Kay German Bunn
To the editor:
Carney Hall…played a big part in my life in music, drama and science. In 1929, I started as student in kindergarten at the Horace Mann Training School and remember that the school’s biggest events, such as the Christmas Pageant, were held at Carney Hall. For instance, I and a number of other boys did a sort of quadrille as Chinese tea presenters at a performance of “The Nutcracker.” The conductor of course was Dr. Walter McCray, the head of the college’s music department. The whole thing was a big deal. Carney Hall’s auditorium seemed huge. Even when Gov. Alf Landon came to address the school, he didn’t rate Carney Hall! I heard my first grand opera there: “Cavelleria Rusticana.” Members of the music department played the lead roles.
An annual event was a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” shortly before Christmas. Soloists were: Marjorie Jackson, soprano; Lavon Graham Holden, contralto; Claude Newcomb, tenor; and Rollin Pease, bass. Mr. Pease was a vigorous basso. When he sang “I Will Shake,” my father said he could feel the shake.
Many famous musical artists of the day performed evening concerts there. I remember Alec Templeton the blind English pianist. He asked the audience to shout out five letters of the alphabet; composed a tune based on those letters and then improvised a sonata in the style of Mozart.
When I started college in 1940, I enjoyed the many college occasions in Carney Hall, but it was still the big place. Almost too large to take in. Imagine the thrill it was, when in 1943, I was selected to play the lead role in “Seven Keys to Baldpate” by George M. Cohan. It still is the pinnacle of my memories of the place.
Shortly after, I went off to the Army Air Force to spend 3 years. When I came back, my perspective had changed; I was going to become a doctor, paid for by the GI Bill. So my last year in college was spent in Dr. J. Ralph Wells’ Biology Dept. Where? In Carney Hall, of course.
Philip S. Norman, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine
Having grown up in Pittsburg, attended Horace Mann Laboratory School (starting with 4-year old kindergarten), College High School and PSU (Class of ’66), I have many fond memories of Carney Hall.
One memory from high school days involved working in a little glass enclosed building (just a room, really) on top of Carney Hall. We worked for The Civil Air Patrol, and watched the skies for aircraft. When we saw one, we reported the sighting, via the telephone, to headquarters, wherever that was. We filled out a form that included aircraft type, location, direction and approximate altitude. We took our duties quite seriously, and thought we were possibly saving America from attack from, probably back then, Russia. I remember one time sighting a tornado in the distance west of Pittsburg.
Kansas City, Mo.
To the editor:
I graduated from PSU in 1964. I had no classes in Carney (as a transfer business major), but I remember two events I attended in the auditorium. One was “West Side Story.” It was a terrific production. I especially remember the dancing; don’t recall the singing, though I was very impressed that we had that sort of talent on campus. I was a transfer student from Ft. Scott Community College (as it is known today), and I remembered the lit teacher talking about the new production of WSS, as a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet. So, that’s why I wanted to see it.
I also saw Basil Rathbone, the famous actor, especially of his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He came on stage with a table, chair, and candle. Lit the candle, and proceeded to talk about his life and career. I always wondered how it was that he found his way to Pittsburg. I read later that having a single lighted candle on stage sort of mesmerizes the audience, and should be avoided. Maybe that was his way of drawing attention away from himself.
From those early experiences, I have continued to enjoy the theater, and my wife and I attend many performances here in the Chicago area.
Thanks for the Carney Hall memories!
Thanks for including the piece about Carney Hall in the Fall 2011 edition of PittState Magazine. It brought back several fond memories for me, which I thought I’d share with other alumni and residents of the area who may have attended events in the auditorium.
While I am too young to have ever attended classes there, I feel like this science building had somewhat of an impact on my future career choice as a biologist. Growing up just a block from the campus, I remember as a kid going for walks on the Oval and visiting the halls of Carney and marveling at the many taxidermied birds and other preserved animals in the display cases, a natural history museum of sorts. Back then I think I could name every species of bird on display!
After Carney was demolished, my dad, Carl Pistole, helped build Heckert-Wells, the building that replaced the biology and chemistry labs and faculty offices, and the place where I would spend most of my time while pursuing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. It was a shame that the large natural history displays in Carney weren’t included in the design, but with lack of funding, deteriorating specimens, and a national shift in biology away from natural history towards cellular and molecular biology, it wasn’t surprising.
I was very fortunate to work for 10 years in the Biology Department as a naturalist and then the director of Nature Reach, the biology outreach effort to bring natural history back into schools, begun by Dr. Cindy Ford. I was able to help create and maintain a few smaller versions of the natural history displays in the hallways using some of the very same 40- to 50-year-old specimens. Fortunately with the support of Dr. Triplett, the department chairman, we also had a room full of live specimens that traveled out to the schools and were used for on-campus field trips and hopefully helped inspire a new generation of biologists! And the additions of some new natural history displays since I’ve left, such as the ancient mosasaur fossil in the third floor lobby, have been a great addition. I’m so pleased that the department and the university have continued their support of the Nature Reach program under the leadership of other PSU biology graduates and now headed by Delia Lister.
I also remember being in awe of the beautiful auditorium in Carney and attending a great cultural event, a performance of the Ballet Folklorico of Mexico. After seeing them perform I dreamed of visiting their country and learning more about the culture. Not bad for a small town boy from a working class family with few other opportunities to attend cultural events like this. I’m thrilled as the university works to create a new fine and performing arts building, hopefully with an auditorium as grand as the one in old Carney Hall.
In conclusion, I know I can thank those old birds and other specimens displayed in Carney Hall for helping to inspire me, and ultimately help me reach my current position working for the National Audubon Society as the education director at the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin. We should never forget how small things can have a big impact on a kid’s life! I’m living proof of that! Thanks PSU for inspiring dreams and a great education!
B.S. in Biology, 1987
M.S. in Biology, 1999
To the editor:
I remember attending Language Day on campus when I was in High School in ’64 and ’65. There was a tour of the stage and the current production set for “Murder in the Cathedral” and the other time was a production of “West Side Story.” The stage manager or director talked about set construction, lighting effects, scrims, etc. It was very interesting. I later went on to participate in many productions in Topeka Civic Theater.
I also remember seeing my first and only streaker on the stage at Carney in 1975. It was Apple Day on a beautiful spring day and I would rather had been outside, but I went to the assembly because there were supposed to be some skits. I sat on the
left side of the audience and it seemed like there were mostly teachers and staff around me. There was a speech or two, then the skits started. Midway through the second one (who knows what it was about) there were two guys came on stage on a small motor scooter, which caused a big reaction from the audience. Right behind them a completely naked woman ran across the stage from stage left to right. She seemed to have only a towel wrapped on her head. It only took her a couple of seconds to cross the stage at a dead run, but the image burned into my memory.
After she exited, there was a weird silence in the audience as everyone seemed
to be in shock. I jumped to my feet and started yelling and clapping. Finally the rest of the audience did too. A couple of guys in the front row jumped up and ran onto the stage to follow her. The older people around me seemed to be pretty uncomfortable.
I learned later that the woman had some accomplices help her get ready unseen offstage and others on the other side to meet her and hustle her into a waiting car and away. She wrapped the towel around her the minute she got off stage. News of the incident got around fast. There was talk of it on the radio stations and I think TV news.
There were other streaker episodes on campus and in nearby bars over the next couple of weeks. I remember one rumor of an upcoming streak at a girl’s dorm that drew a large crowd, but didn’t happen.
Anyway, that’s my memory of Carney Hall.
To the editor:
I am sure that many students who attended Pitt State could write of exciting adventures occurring in Carney Hall. There might be a few students who attended the “College” as long as I did (1941-1955) who could tell all sorts of stories about the chemistry lab smells, lunches served by the Home Economics girls during World War II, or parties in the social rooms located on the first floor.
But what holds the true MYSTERY of Carney Hall was the Auditorium. Each year hundreds of performances took place on that grand stage and audiences in the thousands responded with thunderous applause.
THE GODDESS OF THE MOON DESCENDS UPON STAGE IN CARNEY HALL
Every year, Edwina Fowler, the music teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School, along with all the teachers-in- training and all of the children in the school presented a truly spectacular musical. In the spring of 1947 I was in the sixth grade. And once again we all worked very hard to memorize our songs and dances. I cannot remember the name of the original musical but I certainly remember the personal discipline and focus that was required of each child during the long and tedious rehearsals.
In this special year, I was selected to be THE GODDESS OF THE MOON. My part was to learn and memorize Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and play it on the grand piano in center stage. Prior to my performance, the stage curtains were closed and I was rushed into a seated position on a rope swing, which was decorated with a large cardboard crescent moon. The swing was then hoisted up higher than the stage lights into the fly space. I can still remember what the crank looked like as it creaked and turned and I went higher and higher. The stage curtains then slowly opened, and the Goddess and her swing descended looking like a glamorous sixth grader. The Goddess then alighted from the swing and walked confidently toward the piano and performed the “Moonlight Sonata.” After the song finished, I accepted the applause in a deep bow and left the stage feeling quite proud of myself. The sub-text story is also a good one. What was I to wear? Miss Fowler was quite a fashion plate and she provided one of her old gowns. The iridescent blue taffeta was quickly re-styled by my mother to suit a pre-teen shape. My mother also curled my long red hair on twisted stockings to create a perfect curl. My favorite part of the story involved my father, who made the final comment, “And it took two football players to hoist her up.” The football players were Gorilla favorites, Don and Dud Stegge. I know they were my real heroes on that evening as the Goddess arrived without a single mishap.
Mary Gwendolyn Robb Hotchkiss (Gwen Robb)
Panama City, Fla.
To the editor:
I took a Virology class the summer of 1976. I enjoyed being in this historic building. I also remember attending the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert in either 1976 or 1977. I also took several nursing classes in Carney Hall.
I remember when Stan Kenton big band played there the night after he married his vocalist, Ann Richards, in Springfield. (There was a) tiny, limited medical center in one corner, (which was) a far cry from Bryant Center today. (There was a) hangout/lab there for biology prof. Dr Ted Sperry and his wife, Dr. Gladys Gallagher. I hated biology, but loved Dr Sperry.
Jack L. Kennedy
To the editor:
My memories of Carney hall began when I was only 10 years old and in 5th grade, about 1952. My mother, a 1929 PSU graduate, tried to stress the importance of culture and took me to the annual big play or dance program each year until I was in high school and sometimes even then. They were great plays. I remember a ballet, that was really special.
As a student I remember having Chemistry and Bacteriology upstairs down the north hall. Dr. Ruggles, my Bacteriology professor, taught me and also my mother, when she was a student.
Another memory is the annual “Apple Day.” On the 60th anniversary of Apple Day, 1963, Dr. Russ, the first president of the university, talked to the audience via phone. How special!
Another memory is that of going to the health center, located just south of the ground floor entrance, west side of hall. Always received good care.
Lois O’Malley Carlson
Letter to the editor:
On a blustery day in 1980, I stood among the rubble of Carney stage, with a brick in my hand. I had braved my way past uncertain footholds and under a caution tape, warning all to keep out. I looked out past the broken walls, collapsed ceilings and mounds of brickwork. In my past, 10 years earlier, was a vibrant auditorium of music, stage plays and musicals, stirring orators and guest speakers, famous actors and musicians, all who had once stood where I was now. I realized at that point how lucky I was to be a part of that. To meet Vincent Price, David Niven, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, to watch a young John Denver, see wonderful plays and musicals with amazing sets, and listen to operas written many years ago brought to life – this was my world. That stage was where, for five years, I had sweated over building those sets and often had been on these sets as an actor, had literally lost blood there in mishaps and had been shocked twice by the radial arm saw after being drenched in a rainstorm. It was my turf, my work and learn place, my home on campus. I was proud of it and we called it ours. We shared it with the Biology/Science department but the stage and the rooms that went with the theatre department were our own. How many people shared this sense of ownership with me, I do not know.
True, as one guest editor (to the Morning Sun) stated, you can use Memorial Auditorium and Colonial Fox, when it is finished for a performance area. Memorial Auditorium is a true showcase but it is not fee-free and the logistics of moving sets and musical instruments and having them there in place for weeks of rehearsal is not feasible. Colonial Fox does not have the support space for large sets, green rooms, and practice areas – it will entertain other venues that it is more suited to. Plus, I would never tell a PSU track and field athlete that he has to use the Pittsburg High School track or a nursing student that they need to go to the hospital to take classes there instead of McPherson Hall. Why would we deny a theatre student or a music student a place to call their own, such as the proposed Performing Arts Building? Do they not deserve the same considerations as the other students on campus. Most all forward thinking universities have such buildings in place. These are wonderful venues of music , art, theatre and dance that bring campuses and communities together.
Back in 1973, we were told that we would have a performing arts building. We are still waiting.
I have pictures left in my mind of Carney stage, and the happiest memories of voices, images, friends, teachers, famous people, strange stuffed birds and small mammals, and a brick, which left with me as a reminder of an amazing experience that was my college days. I wish this for every student who comes to this campus hoping for the same dream.
To the editor:
I started attending school at what was then KSTC in September of 1945 (I was in Ms Ethel Peck’s kindergarten class). After seven years at Horace Mann Elementary School, I attended College High School for six years. I finished my 17th year at KSC in June of 1963 with a BA and BSED. Therefore, I have a LOT of memories connected with Carney Hall.
Those of us who went to Horace Mann will never forget the grade school operettas we performed in every year. Ms. Edwina Fowler taught us hundreds of songs over those years and each spring we would parade across the campus from Horace Mann to Carney Hall carrying our chairs from our classrooms. We would arrange them in rows in the orchestra pit and each class would perform several songs. After weeks of practice and carrying our chairs back and forth, the Big Night would arrive. We sang and danced in costumes laboriously made by our mothers; we got to wear make-up (much more exciting for the girls than the boys); and performed for an auditorium full of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. After the performances, many of us got to go downtown, still wearing our costumes and/or make-up for a special treat at Lindberg’s drug store or at Willie Secrest’s soda fountain.
Carney Hall was also where Horace Mann students had lunch, if they didn’t go home to eat. The kitchen and lunch room were on the top floor and we would walk across campus in class groups at noon. I can remember being urged by Mrs. Perva Hughes (4th and 6th grade supervisor) to eat everything on my plate because there were “starving children in Europe.” I could never quite figure out the connection between my food and those children!
I remember attending the yearly Apple Day convocations where everyone on campus, children included, received a delicious apple from the faculty and I think it must have been at one of these assemblies that I first saw Jack Overman in his white cheerleader’s uniform on stage. I don’t think I’d ever seen a male cheerleader or anyone with hair so red!
While I was a student at College High I did not have as many “official” reasons to be in Carney Hall but I walked through there almost daily because it was a short-cut to my home on South Joplin Street. Walking through the big central “lobby” area allowed me to pick up a copy of the Collegio (on Thursdays?) and I would often get a whiff of antiseptic from the office of the health center on the south side of the lobby. College High students always attended the Apple Day celebrations and, on occasion, a concert by a visiting Air Force or Navy band. I also remember a few important high school date nights attending some of the “big name” concerts in Carney Hall auditorium. Count Basie and his band stand out in my mind, but there were others.
As a college student I had several classes in Carney Hall. General Physical Science was probably one of the more memorable ones because we had just won a national championship in football the previous year and Gary Snadon, one of the stars of the team, sat right behind me.
My last memory of being in Carney Hall is August of 1962 when I witnessed my future husband, Curtis Finch, receive his Master’s Degree. My June1963 graduation, of course, was in the stadium. Curt and I were married the following month and left Pittsburg because he was a 2nd Lt. in the Army by then. I was very sad when Carney Hall had to be demolished and, for me, the campus will never be quite the same without it.
To the editor:
I attended Kansas State College from 1960 to 1965. I received an A.B. degree in Theatre (1964) and a M.S. degree in Speech (1965). My hometown was Pleasanton, Kansas, but Carney Hall was like my home in college. I was cast in many theatre productions, helped construct many sets, and ran lights and sound as a work study student. This also included helping visiting performance groups and guest artists with their technical requirements.
Having a minor in biology also kept me in Carney hall for anatomy class with Dr. Leland Keller and genetics with Dr. J.E. Johnson, Jr.
As a freshman, I remember my first theatre director, Ken Roberts, taking us out onstage and commenting on how large Carney auditorium was, and our first lesson was learning how to project our voices so we could be heard by the people seated on the last row of the balcony. Back then actors did not wear portable microphones.
One of the most memorable and educational moments was when on March 20, 1961, Hal Holbrook allowed several of us drama students to be in the dressing room as Mr. Holbrook transformed his 28-year-old face and body into the very likeness of Mark Twain. As he began, his voice sounded very youthful, but as he applied each layer of make-up, his voice began to crack and age. Next, he lit a cigar and continued the process by putting on a wig. Upon completion, which was at least a two-hour period, we students were in awe of his metamorphosis. At the intermission of “Mark Twain Tonight,” Mr. Holbrook remained in character and answered various questions from the press.
To help you, I broke out my old Kanza yearbooks to research the productions and performers from 1960 to 1965.
1960-1961 theatre productions: “Life With Father,” written by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, and directed by Ken Roberts. Opened Homecoming night October 29 and ran through November 2, 1960. (See pictures in Kanza 1961, pages 50, 51.)
“Rashomon,” written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and directed by Ken Roberts, December 6-9, 1960. (See pictures in Kanza 1961, pages 52,53.)
“South Pacific,” Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, stage direction by Ken Roberts, orchestra conductor, Walter Osadchuk. The cast was made up of students from the drama and music departments. April 26-29, 1961. (See pictures in 1962 Kanza, pages 228, 229.)
Fall, 1961, “The Matchmaker” written by Thorton Wilder, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, December 6-9, 1961. (See pictures in Kanza 1962, pages 230, 231.)
Spring, 1962, “Paint Your Wagon,” Lerner and Lowe musical, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, conductor, Walter Osadchuk, May 9-12, 1962, lead actors were Richard Klepac as Ben Rumson, and Sandy Melton as Jennifer Rumson. (No pictures in Kanza.)
Fall, 1962, “Antigone,” written by Sophocles, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, December 5-8, 1962, (See pictures in Kanza 1963, pages 62, 63.)
Spring, 1963, “Desire Under the Elms,” written by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, May 1-4, 1963, (See picture in Kanza 1964, page 58, actor in picture is John Jenkins.)
Fall, 1963, “The Three Sisters,” written by Anton Chekhov, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, show dates not listed, (see picture in Kanza, 1964, page 79.)
“Murder in the Cathedral,” by T.S. Eliot, directed by Clyde G. Sumpter, December 4-7, 1963, Ken Mc Guffin portrayed Becket, Russell Mairs, the King, (see picture in Kanza, 1964, page 84.)
Spring, 1964, “Ceasar and Cleopatra,” by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, no dates listed, Mike Pryor portrayed Ceasar, Elaine Adams, Cleopatra, (See picture in Kanza 1965, page 52.)
“West Side Story,” musical, written by Leonard Bernstein, directed by Clyde G. Sumpter, ran for three nights, over 40 students in the cast, (see Kanza, 1965, page 53.)
Fall, 1964, “Three Men on a Horse,” written by George Abbot and Cecil Hom, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, (see pictures in Kanza, 1965, page 78, actors are Jim Benson and Paula Harpster.)
“Dark of the Moon,” directed by Clyde G. Sumpter, (see pictures in Kanza, 1965, pages 79, 80, Ken Mc Guffin portrayed Witch Boy, Helen Aiken Jarboe portrayed Barbara.)
Spring, 1965, (I do not have a 1966 Kanza, but the shows were as follows: “Look Back in Anger,” written by John Osborne, directed by Dr. John Willcoxon, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” written by William Shakespeare, directed by Clyde G. Sumpter.)
My primary directors were Ken Roberts (1960-’61), Dr. John Willcoxon (1961-’65), and Clyde G. Sumpter (1964-’65). Gordon Lohr (1960-’65) was our technical director, many times stage manager, supervised all the set building, properties, lights, and sound.
The celebrity entertainers who performed on the Carney stage are as follows:
Duke Ellington and his band on Homecoming, 1960, (see picture in Kanza 1961 on page 63.)
The Journeymen, Homecoming, October 26, 1962, (see picture in Kanza 1963, page 48.)
Four Freshman, February 11, 1963, (see picture in Kanza 1963, page 43.)
“Limelighters,” March 11, 1963, (see picture in Kanza 1963, page 42.)
“Count Basie and his band, March 26, 1963, (see pictures in Kanza 1964, pages 47 and 56.)
Basil Rathborne, world renouned actor on stage and screen, “In and Out of Character,” November 7, 1963, he was very personable, and told me anecdotes of his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in films, and about his dear friend and fellow-movie star, Bela Lugosi, of vampire films. (see picture in Kanza 1964, page 81.)
The Smothers Brothers, spring, 1964, (see Kanza 1965 on page 56.)
The Herbie Mann Sextet–jazz, CARavan show, spring, 1964, (see picture in Kanza, 1965 on page 57.)
Glen Campbell and Roy Clark, country stars, Homecoming, 1964, the two future-country stars arrived at KSC in a fully-loaded, broken down station wagon. The Homecoming audience marveled at their singing, Roy’s banjo playing, and Glen’s guitar playing. (see picture in Kanza 1965 on page 65.)
The Serendipity Singers and the Oscar Peterson Trio (jazz), November 8, Ford CARavan, (see picture in Kanza 1965 on page 73.)
National Performing Arts Theatre production of “Luther” by John Osborne, Spring, 1965, (see picture in Kanza 1965 on page 101.)
Note: Before becoming a movie star, Gary Busey attended K.S.C. in 1964-’65 and acted in “Dark of the Moon” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He was nominated for the Best Actor’s oscar for his portrayal of Buddy Holley in “The Buddy Holley Story,” 1978. (see picture of Gary Busey in Kanza 1965 on page 236, 6th row, 6th student from left.)
There is a very good picture in the 1965 Kanza on page 63 of Carney auditorium on opening convocation in 1964 with the faculty seated onstage, musicians in the orchestra pit, and the backs of students seated in the balcony.
By far most of my memories were joyful, however, I must include two very sad experiences which occurred in Carney auditorium. In December 1960, during the theatre production of “Roshomon,” I was on the technical crew running lights. The two main actors, Robert Strack and Pete Beatteay had to execute three very dangerous choreographed samurai sword fights. Just before the performance on Friday, December 8, Mary Dell Sharp, Pittsburg, freshman and a crew member, told me she had a nightmare in which Robert and Pete were fighting with their swords and Robert was hit by Pete’s sword. Her nightmare ended by seeing blood. During Act I, just after the first sword fight, Robert came over by the light area, held up his hand and said, “look.” He had been hit by a sword and his thumb was nearly severed off. Robert held his thumb tightly gripped in his hand and continued to act through Act I. In the meantime, a doctor was summoned to the theatre, and during the intermission, the doctor stitched Robert’s thumb back on. Robert went on and performed in Act II. As a freshman, I learned there is much truth in the theatre adage, “the show must go on.”
After this performance, a number of us students were in the Theta Alpha Phi (honorary drama fraternity) room on the third floor of the theatre, talking about Robert’s accident. We had the window raised, while a thunderstorm raged outside. The rain ceased and it got eeriely quiet and a dog gave a very loud mournful howl. One student said, “that’s a bad omen.”
The next day, December 9, 1960, we had a matinee performance. As we approached curtain time, we were told to delay the start of the show. As we waited, I walked to an offstage foyer and looked out the window and saw some men running with a stretcher and one man had a mirror in his hand. Ken Roberts, our director, came backstage and informed us that professor David Moore, director of theatre, had just passed away while seated by his wife in the audience. He was only 54 and had been teaching at KSC since 1941. (See Kanza 1961, page 212, for a picture and information about “Prof” Moore.)
Another sad memory was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November, 1963. The KSC ROTC cadets had an honorary formation in front of Carney Hall. (A picture of the Scabbard and Blade officers is in Kanza, 1964, page 191. My picture is on the second row.) The entire battalion of cadets participated. After the ceremony, we marched into the Carney auditorium to view the funeral service for President Kennedy on a large screen onstage.
In conclusion, I must also recognize how the late-Dr. Mary Roberts, speech professor, advised me in my graduate work and thesis at KSC. I was one of the first two graduate students in Speech. I thoroughly enjoyed taking classes from her and we exchanged Christmas cards and letters throughout her lifetime.
In my teaching career, I was an assistant professor of speech and theatre at Northeastern State University at Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I was the founding artistic director of the River City Players and the Downtown Country summer music shows. I have been the show production director for all of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Induction Concerts since their beginnings in 1997 to the present, served on the Board of Directors and Governor’s Board of the Hall of Fame. I received the Governor’s Award for my service to the OMHOF in 2009. The presenters of the award were Gov. Brad Henry and Carrie Underwood, country music star and former student of mine in the Downtown Country music shows. Carrie was inducted into the OMHOF on the same evening, and she and her band were the headliners for the induction concert.
I would not have had these wonderful experiences at Northeastern State University and the OMHOF had I not received the proper education and performing experiences at KSC. My two seasons with the Tent-by-the-Lake Summer Playhouse (Seasons 1960 and 1962), prepared me for the summer music shows I helped to create at NSU, and my theatre education prepared me to direct theatre at NSU and the OMHOF Induction concerts. I have retired from teaching at NSU, but presently working on being Show Production Chairman for the 2011 induction concert, November 10, 2011. Our headliner this year is Kristen Chenoweth, guest star on “Glee,” Broadway star and movie actress. I was very pleased to read that plans are underway to construct a new, on-campus fine and performing arts building. Hopefully, the new building will be completed when I attend my PSU 50 year reunion in 2014.
BA (Theatre) 1964
MS (Speech) 1965
Memories of Carney Hall
I remember a classmate who would climb in through the window for anatomy lab because Dr. Keller locked the door when class started. The lab was on the first floor and the first floor windows were close to the ground. In the fall when this occurred the windows were open. I believe Dr. Keller knew but as far as I know never said anything about it. The student was one of my lab partners. Those were good times.
Class of 1969
Carney Hall probably was the focal point for my activities the first couple of years I was at KSTC-Pittsburg. I started as a drama major and my very first class was in the backstage area. Over the course of those years I got to know just about every square inch of the auditorium, stage, backstage scene shop, catwalks, dressing rooms, the Green Room and more. The only activity I avoided was hanging production lights in the rafters above the auditorium ceiling. It was a lo-o-ong way down to the auditorium floor.
Dr. John Wilcoxon and Clyde g. Sumpter (he often was referred to as “little g”—but not to his face) were the two primary theatre instructors and directors of the student stage productions. Gordon Lohr, who passed away last Nov. 4, was the scene shop manager and set/lighting/sound director. Just about any time from 8 a.m. to midnight a game of Hearts would be going backstage, more often than not with Gordon in the middle. The long middle section of Stephen King’s “Hearts in Atlantis” is very reminiscent of that time.
At the end of that first year we built some paint bins to hold dry paint (the bins leaked…I can’t imagine them being used very long) and a large blackboard to track the status of various theatre projects. Rosemary Stark signed and dated the blackboard. After we’d finished the final production, “West Side Story,” one of the cast members, who was very infatuated with another cast member, painted the cryptic word “SLEC” all over the backstage area. How he did it I don’t know, but it was on the walls, the undersides of the catwalks, the ceilings—so many hard-to-access spots, and yet very visible. The word was formed by the initials of their names. The “S” was the first letter of her first name, the “L” represented his first name, the “E” was for her last name and the “C” was his last name. (I suppose with a bit of diligence and research someone could figure out who the lovelorn painter was, but I think I will let it rest.)
In addition to the student theatre productions, some notable performers appeared on the Carney Hall stage, funded by the Student Union Board. The Smothers Brothers, Glenn Campbell, Roy Clark, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and the Serendipity Singers are a few that come to mind. Speakers included controversial George Rockwell of the American Nazi Party and Senator William Fulbright.
For me, Carney Hall represented that pivotal time when I became an adult, and learned many life lessons about love, hurt, sadness, laughter and all the feelings in between. It was always my dream to come back to Pittsburg someday and walk up those backstage steps to the scene shop. I visualized so many times seeing that blackboard with Rosemary’s name on it. Because “SLEC” was painted in so many places, I was sure the word would still be visible in spots. I envisioned people asking what the word meant and that no one—so many years later—would be able to answer the question. It broke my heart to learn it had been torn down.
The way I learned that Carney Hall was gone was when a small, heavy package arrived in the mail at my house. It was a thoughtful gift sent by two of my best friends from those days, Rita and George Klepac. It was a piece of marble from Carney Hall. The small marble block sits on the bookcase behind me, and never fails to stir my feelings when I look at it.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reminisce!