The Hours After Midnight

As the old 16mm footage from 1949 begins to roll, the first images that play out upon the screen could easily have been captured for a promotional video for the College—young men at study, at play, socializing with their dates.

All of that ends with stunning abruptness as a vista of a flame-lit night sky and the shadows of Old Kenyon's familiar roof line fill the frames.

"It is really eerie," said Kenyon junior Martha Gregory, who used the sixty-year-old film when she recently produced a twenty-minute video on the Old Kenyon fire for a class assignment on the art of the film documentary. "That film was shot by a student, Lee Schermerhorn, who had a 16mm in his room."

Gregory, who titled her video The Hours after Midnight, interspersed shots of the fire and its aftermath with the words of survivors of the tragedy. She made use of a ten-year-old interview with Paul Newman to infuse the final product with his recollections from that February predawn in 1949.

Gregory observed, "I was pleased with how the archival footage fit into the story. When I put music behind it, it became particularly emotive." She said of the fire, "If something like that were to happen today, it would completely alter the school in ways that are incomprehensible to most of us."

It little surprised Gregory that Old Kenyon was rebuilt after the fire. She noted, "They couldn't have torn the structure down because it is so emblematic. I live on the second floor of Hanna Hall, and when I get up in the morning—my bed is next to the window—I can see Old Kenyon. It is the ultimate symbol of the school."

Aware of likely interest in the film by those who lived through the fire, Gregory said, "I would be happy to make a copy and send it to them." She may be contacted at P.O. Box 1391, Gambier, Ohio 43022.