By Duffy ‘77
Perhaps the Antioch College Campus has really had at least three beating hearts. Main building, as the Iconic heart. The Olive Kettering Library as the Academic heart and the old Union as the social heart. Through those hearts have flowed the hearts (and minds) of thousands of Antiochians, students, staff, and faculty. In the case of the old Union, many villagers and tourists also passed through as parts of the Union were fairly open public spaces. The Inn side of the Union had a semi-fancy restaurant and hotel-like rooms upstairs, mid-century modern with just the bare basics, including TVs and your choice of three channels! Parts of the Union were open 24 hrs. There was also a street that passed in front of the stoop, at least until 1970 or so, when a student project took the street out and replaced it with a giant brick patio, like an additional “Red Square”.
I remember once arriving on a Monday morning at 5 AM during early January before the beginning of a winter quarter; it was freezing but the Union lights were on (and heat) and it gave me a chance to thaw out. I had hitchhiked in, an adventurous and inexpensive way to get around when life was a wee bit more simple and maybe you didn’t have much money. By the Caf entrance was a giant map of the United States and some kind of ride-share map with notes and pushpins. There were also a jillion event posters. Ah, the paper world!
Most Antiochians between 1957 and 2008 have various memories of the Union from their various decades. I would bet many of you have some great memories of that building, don’t you? Some people from the 80’s and 90’s look back and lovingly named the old cuisine and Caf, “CHUNXS”, which was a locally made bulk dog food. It was always the company and the faces that were the real menu.
I have about four decades of Union memories, including one of going there in 2009 in search of utensils to help the Volunteer Work Crew cooks in their first arrival since the exchange of keys and that first agreement toward Independence. We were still two years from reopening with students. Needless to say, I could barely find a knife but just a few large pots and bowls as everything in the kitchen had been given to the Glen Eco-Camp center kitchens. All the campus computers were sitting on the floor. I felt frustrated but there was so much to do as we headed to re-opening. I had to let those negative feelings go. First things first, and that was the Volunteer Work Crew.
In the late sixties, when I first arrived, the Union was quite the hub of activity, both inside and outside (the STOOP!). The West Side of the building had the “Inn” with its restaurant and guest rooms upstairs. The Eastside had the Caf, the C-shop with sinfully greasy late-night food (jazzburgers) and a jukebox, the Student Mailroom (the faculty mailroom then was in Main Building). Also in the Union was the bookstore, where people bought textbooks, mimeographed syllabi were 2 cents, campus schwag and those who were the “coolest” or most frugal of cigarette smokers bought cans of loose tobacco and rolled their own. I hear that some folks put apple slices in the can for added flavor. How exotic! Holy smokes!
Upstairs was also the CG Darkroom, WYSO, the Record, CG offices, and a lounge.
Eventually, WYSO needed a bigger space, so it moved out, and eventually, the linotype machines upstairs disappeared as things computerized, and then that became a new DANCESPACE!
After the payless paydays of 1979, the Inn ceased operations as it mostly seemed to run in the red. The Business Manager then moved the fancier Inn tables and chairs into the Caf to make the Caf more amenable. The Inn restaurant became a Faculty and Friday Forum meeting space and the guest rooms upstairs became practice spaces for bands. When I first arrived in the Jurassic era, by the way, bands would practice in a boarded-up South Hall which for the price of a lock or so became an extra art studio or a place to play music. There was no Art Building yet and just a hole in the ground where the McGregor Building would be built.
One of my earliest memories of the Union, circa summer 1967, were some midnight Friday dances in the lounge upstairs. The WYSO studio with its grayish paper-egg-carton sound dampening covered walls had a huge window that looked into the lounge. An upperclassman replete in a raspberry beret (no, not Prince) would play the latest in what then was called “soul music”. The lounge was packed like a sardine can and rather smokey. The show was also on the radio at the same time. The radio show may have been called “Antioch Soul Sounds” and the dance on the other side was nicknamed with a naughty acronym with the word “party” at the end. I will let you all figure out that acronym. Well, that WAS decades ago when people were less sensitive in some ways when it comes to language. Still, the music was a wonderful way to get your endorphins going. There also were many Saturday, and even Wednesday night dances. Downstairs in the Caf, tables were moved so a dance floor was made. When the weather was warm, dances often happened around the stoop area on the red brick patio. Sweaty endorphins for all under the stars! If we had a nickel for every time Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT was played, we would have a monstrous endowment!
Some years later in that same upstairs lounge, that had wonderful, sunny, south-facing windows was the first Antioch Gay Center. A villager and wonderful artist and early activist in what was then called the Gay Liberation Movement, Tom Till, painted all the walls lavender with herds of Rhinoceri who may have been “grazing”. Tom and some local students made big bold news in the area by appearing on a TV talk show that had its start in Dayton, The PHIL DONAHUE show. They were trailblazers as are many Antiochians. I was just still figuring myself out. I imagine those Rhinoceri are still grazing there under layers of paint. Why Rhinoceri were chosen mystifies me; but they were wonderful. Tom was the artist behind many Antioch Bookplates. And the Antioch Bookplate company at the time just about had the world’s monopoly in that market.
Eventually, student interest or affinity groups, known on campus as IG’s, moved in upstairs: The Women’s Center, The Alternative Library, TWA (Third World alliance – now might be termed a BIPOC Interest group).
The Stoop outside the Union was always a great touchstone when the weather was good. Even if you decided not to eat you could hang out there for a wee bit and you might see about anyone and everyone. Sometimes the Stoop became a rallying place for all sorts of things including musicians.
A fun memory I have toward the Union’s later years was on a perfectly warm fall day. It was October 11th or National Coming Out Day! I sat on a picnic bench in the shade, just wanted a break from the OKLibrary, and wanted to savor some extra color on a very warm fall day and have a momentary change of venue. Surprise! As I sat at the bench, I saw CG roll out its sound system and a giant door frame which was placed on the top of the stoop. Then began an endless loop of Diana Ross’ classic “I’m coming out”. People started dancing through what was maybe a symbolic closet door. All kinds of people danced through; some just in solidarity. All were having a joyful time. As I had to return to work and it was a warm day, I did not want to return to the OKLIBRARY all sweaty so I stayed in the shade. But it was a magical moment! And calorie-free! I didn’t go over there for any food!
One other memory I have of the stoop is from October 2007. It was also a warm October moment. It was 90 degrees! On that October 5th, or Founder’s Day, the College’s birthday, CG organized a birthday party (nobody wanted it to be our last birthday) so an afternoon of silk screening, lectures about Horace Mann and Arthur Morgan in that Inn meeting space was followed by a parade of Antiochians and friends with cheerleaders, a giant Horace Puppet, and a giant iconic Matthew Brady Poster of Horace. The parade went down Xenia Avenue with the streets lined with cheering crowds and then circled its way back to the Stoop via Corry Street. There were speeches, a huge birthday cake, a consensual kissing booth, and more. It went on until dark; we were buoying each other up in the struggle to keep the College alive and hopefully making a case to the whole village.
These are some of my memories of the Transient-Mode Home nature of the old Union and Stoop. I am sure that you have yours and hope they are joyful.
This week I briefly passed through campus to bring a first check for the March for Antioch/ Million Dollar March Match. I also hope to squeeze in others! I made a very quick pit stop at the library and saw CM Coco Gagnet ‘18 and Delaney Schlesinger Devlin ‘22. We have such great people here! They were sitting at a table with a tall whiteboard writing a new ANTIOCH COMMUNITY SURVIVAL GUIDE with some acronyms that are also new.
I hope you will remember your own memories of the Union and Stoop. In the long run, maybe a new space will be imagined that works for today’s and tomorrow’s students. I was never a fan of the old Union’s cinder block walls. Like the students who called the caf “CHUNX” I always felt everything melted away when in conversation with Antiochians. And perhaps some future new space will be even better.
Antiochians, as always, stay in touch! If you have some great news don’t forget to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you hear of any Alumni Chapter Events in your area maybe as the world opens up you might have some food and fellowship in like-minded company. Also, if you see someone who might benefit from an Antioch Adventure, be a catalyst, steer them here! As always YSOH is somewhere between where you are and utopia.