A Lord and a Ring
The finest Kenyon stories blend private and public. A small personal adventure plays out against the backdrop of College ritual, so that a supremely intimate history takes on the coloring of something larger--perhaps fate. There are countless such stories. Here's one that was hard to resist.
When Nathan Withington '62 pawned his girlfriend's class ring in the spring of 1962, he had no idea that he wouldn't see it again for forty years.
It was the spring of 1962 when Withington, then the captain of Kenyon's football team, invited his sweetheart, June Hamilton, to the College's spring dance. The previous fall, Hamilton had been selected as homecoming queen by Paul Newman '49, who had been asked to judge that year's candidates. Following the homecoming victory, Withington gave Hamilton his Beta fraternity pin and received Hamilton's class ring in return. At that point, they were "engaged to be engaged," says Withington.
As the spring dance approached, Withington was determined to show his date some fun. Unfortunately, he found himself "flat broke." So he did what many Kenyon students short on funds did in the early 1960s--he visited J. Ray Brown, affectionately known as "Banker Brown," who ran an informal pawnshop for students at the Peoples Bank. "College students in need of a loan were required to leave collateral, consisting of anything from watches, rings, bicycles, moose heads, and bullwhips, to dueling pistols and typewriter cases filled with books," said the late Margaret Kunkel, a cashier at the bank.
The weekend of the dance "was a big weekend," Withington remembers, "and I needed twenty dollars." He presented his baseball glove to Banker Brown and tried to convince him that it was "worth twice that amount."
Banker Brown was skeptical and refused to loan Withington twenty dollars for the baseball glove. Withington then offered Hamilton's class ring as additional collateral. Banker Brown relented, and the loan was made.
"I guess I had a great weekend," says Withington, "since I could barely recall any of it. There were lots of parties and little sleep. Twenty dollars went a long way back then." By the end of the weekend, Withington had completely forgotten where he obtained the money. He moved on, forgetting about leaving the ring with Banker Brown.
Shortly after graduation, Withington and Hamilton were married. "On our first anniversary she asked me what happened to her class ring," Withington recalls. "Not remembering much about that weekend, I told her that I thought it had been stolen along with my baseball glove in the spring of my senior year at Kenyon."
The ring was all but forgotten as the years passed. Then, near their fortieth wedding anniversary, the couple received a letter from the Peoples Bank. Banker Brown's pawnshop was being dismantled in anticipation of the bank's move to larger quarters. Workers had found a ring, the remnants of a baseball glove, and an IOU for twenty dollars with Withington's name. "For twenty dollars plus postage, I could have them back," says Withington.
Each year, during their anniversary, they take out the ring and "have a laugh that lasts until the next year," Withington says.
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