The indelible "K" on Wooster's field

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It's about a midnight ride to Wooster's football field and crime and punishment. And it's all about Frank Bailey, a Kenyon history professor who also served as the College's dean from 1947 to 1963, with one academic year off for good behavior. That would be 1956-57, when he was acting president. We who were fortunate enough to know Dean Bailey remember that, above all, this Dartmouth graduate was a 100-percent gung-ho, rah-rah Kenyon man—thank God. But more on that later.

It was the week before the big football game with Wooster, and every day in my North Hanna mailbox I had a note from Dean Bailey that read: "I expect you to be in the pep band at the football game this weekend." And every day I would politely respond that I would be unable to make it because of studies, tests, all the usual excuses. And the next day, another note would arrive from Dean Bailey.

Friday night, several Phi Kap brothers and classmates decided that a late night trip to the Wooster field was in order. We believed that a large "K" etched on the fifty-yard line would set the tone for the game. We had a brief dress rehearsal of our well-considered plan: Phil Fogel and Dick Haude would lay out the tied-together rags that formed a handsome twenty-five-foot-long design; Don Bly would pour out several gallons of kerosene; I would be the torch man and the driver of the getaway car.

We figured no more than thirty seconds would be required to do the deed. We all knew our parts. And so, under the cover of darkness, we sped off to Wooster.

There was, however, an unexpected turn of events. Upon our arrival, we saw there was another group on the field, clearly carrying out a similar plan, sprinkling charcoal lighter on the grass and trying to light it. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, someone had seen the first tentative flames and alerted the campus police—who were on their way!

We decided to give our plan a go, too, and within the allotted thirty seconds we had a roaring fire etching a large "K" deeply into the fifty-yard line. We then raced for the exit, only to find a large unwelcoming party of campus police, separated from us by a mercifully tall and strong fence. Soon Wooster's dean arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, and told us he would phone Dean Bailey in the morning, who would expect us at his house at 8:00 a.m.—sharp. The campus police escorted us to our car, and we motored out of Wooster.

On our way home, we pondered the fates awaiting us back in Gambier. What about scholarships? Could we be expelled? Would we have to pay for the damages to the field? We could hardly afford the gas for the trip to Wooster!

Did we sleep that night? As we reminisced about the caper at our fiftieth reunion, Dick Haude reported, "Some aspects of it are quite vivid. I was never so scared in my life. I remember having the mother of all headaches by the time we got back to Kenyon, and taking most of an entire bottle of aspirin out of desperation."

At 8:00 a.m.—sharp—we slowly climbed the steps of Dean Bailey's house and very hesitantly knocked on the door. Mrs. Bailey opened it, invited us in, and informed us Dean Bailey was already on the phone with his counterpart at Wooster. As we huddled in dead silence, we could hear Dean Bailey's rather forceful voice through the open study door.

"They did? They did? They did?! Well, damn it, they did it to us last year!" An internal cheer permeated our souls! (We never bothered, by the way, to ask just who "they" were.)

Dean Bailey appeared at his study door, gave us that Dean Bailey "look," and said, "Well, damn it, don't get caught next time. Now get back to class!"

As you may have guessed by now, I was in the pep band the very next afternoon, playing my heart out, my band cap pulled over my eyes as far as possible to avoid any chance I might be recognized. Dean Bailey just sat there smiling, as the band played on.

The next time I set foot in Wooster was in 1987, when I was sent to speak to the local medical society as a representative of the Ohio State Medical Association. The meeting took place at the Wooster Inn, and as I got out of my car, I could look down over that very same football field we had visited one dark night, so long ago. I could still visualize that indelible "K" etched on the fifty-yard line.

And I can still hear Dean Bailey to this day. How fortunate we were to have known him.

—Charles Adams '58

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