‘THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT’ AND OTHER MISCHIEFS

“School days, school days, dear old golden (prank) days” …college pranks, that is, under the Golden Dome at the University of Notre Dame, where I matriculated some 10 years before N.D. became co-educational in 1972.

Keep in mind that the university was all male. We guys didn’t have the opposite sex to occupy our immediate thoughts and attention so we turned to some shenanigans – after all, we have a Leprechaun for our mascot — in the dormitories, dining halls and classrooms.

With April Fool’s Day on the horizon, there are three tomfooleries that come to mind, all involving dormitory life. The first I participated in, the next I watched unfold theatrically and the third is legendary before my time, but I have no doubt that it happened!

Let me first explain what resident hall life was like at Notre Dame in the early 1960s. Most dorms were four stories. A priest rector resided on the first floor and graduate students had rooms on each of the other floors to try to maintain order and some control. A security guard also was on hand throughout the night.

Each floor had a pay telephone and two round hatchlike doors in the corridor – one for trash and the other for laundry. Every stitch of clothing I owned, from socks to tee shirts, had a small number sewn on it – I thank my dear mother for attaching 591572 to my apparel. Laundry deposited in the clothes chute was collected weekly and returned a few days later highly starched.

Somewhat similar to prison life, there was a nightly curfew preceded by a room-by-room inspection and lights out at 11:00 p.m. All students had to be in their own room at that time unless they elected to take one of two “midnights” granted weekly. Students usually saved their midnights for the weekend unless they needed them for additional study in the library or a study lounge. Students returning to their dorm had to sign in with the watchman before midnight or be subject to being “campused” for a week or so with no midnights or off-campus privileges.

Paper trail
There was a lone resident of a single room on my dorm’s third floor who made little effort to get to know anyone or even talk to us. Word went out throughout the floor to “save all newspapers and other paper trash until further notice.” In a few weeks an evening was selected when those “in the know” knew our prey would be away from his room, studying in the basement lounge. Each room door had a transom above it, usually open or ajar to allow ventilation.

We used that opening to fill his room with paper, tons of paper, we had accumulated. Then we waited in the hallway shortly before 11:00 p.m. to see his reaction when he opened his door and was bombarded by a paper avalanche. It worked beautifully, just as we envisioned it would.

Now, however, we had just a few minutes to remove the paper before all of us faced the possible discipline of being grounded. Luckily, the trash and laundry chutes were nearby so we could move the paper from his room to the receptacles before we got caught at room check. It left his room a little dusty, to say the least, and the next morning the janitor must have been shocked to all of a sudden be confronted with so much paper filling both bins.

Window washer
This monkeyshine bordered on genius. The victim’s roommate or a close friend must have known his schedule well and something about human nature. As the target arrived at his dorm’s rear door on the selected day precisely at the designated time and reached for the handle, the second-floor window above the door raised and a bucket of water spilled on his head. He immediately stepped back, of course, to see who had done such a disastrously deed when the third-floor window opened and again a pail of water was dumped on him. Similarly, the fourth-story window raised and another container was poured out dousing him a third time as he continued to look up. It all took place in just a few seconds with each water spatter successfully striking the target.

Phantom bugler
Legend has it that a bugler would blow his horn at midnight or beyond on a dorm’s first, second or third floor, waking several irritated residents. Despite posting guards in the hallways and watching the stairs, the horn blower could not be caught. That’s because his buddies lowered the cornetist from a bedsheet inside the laundry chute. When he reached the chosen floor, he opened the hatch and blew! Afterward, his “playmates” pulled him up the chute to the safety of a floor above.

The stunt worked well for a long time until late one night when the bedsheet ripped and the trumpeter tumbled to the basement, horn and all

As a trumpet player in the Band of the Fighting Irish when I was at Notre Dame, I wish I had thought of that one. I don’t know what made me think about this incident now because it’s not the “fall” season! (Sorry!)

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer