Feeling the heat … and the cold

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.


I learned early on that the best way to communicate was through the secretary. I always made it a policy to place my own calls and tell the person answering the phone what I wanted. Usually that was the only stop I had to make. This was also the way I organized our “organization chart.”

Most organizations use a hierarchical system with the big boy at the top. With the Instructional Resource Center, secretaries were at the top – weren’t they the first ones you would get? I even published our chart and convinced Bill “Action Jackson” to print it on the back of the faculty staff directory. When you called us you might get Charlotte or Marge Lagana who was stationed in Thompson Hall.

Marge was the perfect person to run a checkout system as she was always cheerful and upbeat. (She had to handle the faculty member who spilled his film in a can and the one who let his cat stray – remember?)

I’m going to have to leave out a lot of good folks that made me look good. People in the skilled trades that built studios, the locksmiths, electricians, plumbers, motor pool mechanics, painters. Fredonia was blessed and some speculate that we got such good people because of the local plant closings and a lot of workers didn’t want to leave the area.

Of course my own staff and colleagues were a huge help.

Engineers participated in the creative activities and the faculty always jumped in to help. One memorable night we had to show a film that was brought to the campus by the Polish Embassy. It was brought to campus by one of their staff in a rented car. (The car, we later found out had more than film in the trunk.)

We found out, to our horror that the film was on 35 mm stock – the kind used in the local theater. Not only that the “portable projector” that was brought was missing the sound portion. Even worse the film was in pieces like it would be when delivered to a local movie house. It would require much splicing.

Charley Blohm constructed the amplifier for sound that afternoon. For playback we had a series of runners going up and down the stairs so that Ron Warren, our photo man, could splice the film and deliver it to the projectionist. We did it and when we brought the equipment back to the car we were rewarded with bottles of premium Scotch whiskey.

Another time I got a call at home from Dallas Beal whose first line was: “Can you get me a miracle?”

Apparently there was a big doing down at Village Hall where all the local high society were dressed as movie characters. (The Mayor was dressed as Edward G. Robinson and that was apt.) The local radio station (WBUZ) was to supply a public address system – it had not arrived. Dallas called me and I called Charlie.

Charlie knew exactly where the portable equipment was and thanks to Dave Rusch it was working. The mayor sent a police car to get me complete with sirens. My daughters thought I had robbed a bank or something and hid under a bed. I was given a wild ride to Thompson and within 10 minutes of that first call it was up and running.

We also supplied a system for a community carol sing organized by Betty Jo McPhee, the wife of Don McPhee, who was president at the time. It was always cold sitting in the van and we had to shovel snow. We labeled this “freezing our … for Betty Jo.”

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com