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Tales of turn-of-the-century student life


Raymond Reitzel, '12


In his memoir, All in a Lifetime, Raymond Reitzel '12 vividly brings turn-of-the-century Cornell to life. Ray was a physician and University of California-Berkley professor. His Cornell family includes his niece, Lois Reitzel '39, great-nephew Roger Reitzel '76, and Roger's wife Lisa Koenig Reitzel '78 (father Gerald Koenig '49 and sister Julie Koenig-Hill '81). Here are two of Ray's Cornell tales.

The Rock
The following story should be called "Rock and Roll." One of the landmarks on the campus was a large granite boulder in front of Main Hall. This stone was about four or five feet in diameter and almost shoulder high. It was brought to the campus by the class of 1889 and had been pulled from the Palisades on a stone-boat by horses. The class chiseled the numerals 1889 on it.

When I was a sophomore, the senior class of 1910 buried the rock completely out of sight. Two years later when I was a senior, I, my roommate, Bradley, and three other classmen resurrected the rock. Our first move was to engage a team of horses and a block and tackle with a long rope. About midnight we broke all the light bulbs surrounding the area. We next dug a six-foot incline to the bottom of the rock, and then made a small tunnel under the rock and up the backside. Then a loop of rope was passed under the rock and up the back to the top of the rock. The ends of this loop of rope were fastened to trees. Another rope was tied to the loop above the rock to which the team was hitched.

The horses pulling on this rope rolled the rock up the incline. We stopped the horses at intervals in order to place cordwood under the rock and shovel in dirt. A succession of hitches in this fashion got the rock on top of the ground. By five o'clock in the morning we had everything in shape and our class number '12 painted on it.

The "Peeping Tom"
During the fall of my senior year, a "Peeping Tom" would climb up the fire escapes of Bowman Hall and disturb the girls. The town marshal, the lone city authority, asked some of the football players, including myself, and Tody, the quarterback, to help him capture the "Peeping Tom."

Tody was given a gun. Late one dark night we hid ourselves in the bushes surrounding Bowman Hall and waited for "Peeping Tom." In a short time he was seen climbing up the fire escape to the second story. That moment someone yelled at "Peeping Tom" and he came down the fire escape faster than we expected. Before anybody could grab him he escaped, running down the campus hill.

Tody led the pursuit. When we got to the edge of the campus, Tody stumbled into a small ditch and I heard his revolver go off. We all stopped to pick Tody up and "Peeping Tom" got away, whereupon we abandoned the pursuit and left for home.

At two o'clock that morning, my roommate, Bradley, came back from Cedar
Rapids where he had gone to edit the college paper. He awakened me and told me this story:

Ray, I had quite a surprise as I was coming up from the train. In a vacant lot along the boardwalk I heard a moaning sound that caused me to stop. I walked onto the lot and found laying in the grass, a young man who complained of a pain in his back. I examined him and found he was bleeding from a wound above his hip. As Dr. Hill lived nearby, I awakened him and together we carried the young man to his house. When Dr. Hill examined him, he was bleeding badly so the doctor said, "I will have to take him to the infirmary."

The man died the next day. Investigation revealed that he was a local boy - a deserter from the United States Army. His mother had been shielding him for a long time in their home but permitted him to go out nights for exercise. At the coroner's inquiry it was decided that the shooting was accidental. We all swore that when Tody Lovett fell, his gun was discharged, which I know was the truth.

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