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Memories of the Administration Building

Memories Associated with the Administration Building 1957-1961

Randy Harmison, ’61

Of all the buildings on campus, this building has the most character. It housed not only many cells of learning, but worship and edification as well. I sometimes enjoyed sitting in the chapel listening to Sharon Grey practice on the organ.

One thing that was cemented in my mind from my first day at Bethel was the array of books and class materials left on the window sills and steps during Chapel time. Of course we learned early where the appropriate places were in deference to the pigeons.

No campus facility was immune to pranks, however.

I recall coming to class one morning and there, upside down in one of the big chimneys on the west side was a Goetz beer road sign, pole and all.

Another morning, the flagpole rose up through the bars of physics professor Dr. Kenneth Deckert’s bicycle.

In 1960, the attic classroom on the west side was the location of Mr. Lofland’s acting class. During execution of our assignment to act out improvisations with props at hand, sounds and vibrations caused disruptions in Miss Becker’s and Mrs. Miller’s [Christine Miller] literature and creative writing classes directly below (I think even some plaster fell). They confronted us and were not happy.

Note: Be it known that I had NOTHING to do with these pranks.

Concerning my special memories of the Ad Building

John Arn, ’60

The AD Building was very special to me, especially in the springtime. From the high up tower rooms, the view of the area’s wheat fields swaying in the strong spring breezes was an amazing sight for an easterner from Pennsylvania to see. It made me feel the presence of God and His power in the world. It caused me to reflect upon the name "BETH-EL", as "the house of God", where the peace position is honored and practiced. That is why upon graduation, I entered PAX.

Ad Building Memories

Lamont A. Woelk, ’52

My parents lived in Moundridge at the time I began college in 1948 so [they] offered me the option of staying at home and driving to school each day as a way of saving money. Dad made arrangements with a local service station so I could charge the gas and he would pay for it. But after two quarters of this I realized I was missing out on a lot of school social life so [I] moved to the campus and secured a job as janitor of the Ad Building to help pay my way. I was janitor in the Ad Building from the beginning of the spring quarter, 1949 to the end of the winter quarter, 1951 so a lot of my memories stem from that experience.

First, though, some memories not related to the janitorial work.

My first day at Bethel was terrifying. We met in the chapel for orientation and I took a seat in the last row under the balcony. I was absolutely terrified. I had attended Walton High School with a student body of 55 and 13 in my graduating class. Now I was among over 100 incoming freshmen and that seemed overwhelming. But I made it through orientation and found it easier to settle into college life than I had first imagined. A friend of mine was living with his uncle and aunt in Walton and also drove in so we sat in one of our cars parked in front of the Ad Building each noon and ate our lunch together. We watched other students going in and out of the building and I learned to know who some of them were which helped. From that terrifying beginning I eventually found my way into college life, became quite active in several of the student organizations, even holding leadership positions, and look back on it now as a very wonderful and blessed time of my life.

The men’s restroom in the Ad Building had an 8-foot long trough instead of individual urinals. One day another student and I were standing there doing what men do at the urinal and Jim Hean came in and joined us and began to sing We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing but I didn’t want to embarrass Jim because he frequently burst into song on just about any occasion. So I swallowed my desire to laugh, finished as quickly as I could and left.

One Saturday afternoon in the spring of the year [that] I was a sophomore I was cleaning the library which was still located in the Ad Building at that time and D.C. Wedel walked in. He was professor of Christian Education and also on the Western District Conference Home Missions committee. He didn’t ask me but told me with a definiteness in his voice that I was to go to the Greensburg Mennonite Church to preach the next morning. Ben Sawatzky was scheduled to be there but had been working on his car which fell off the jack and landed on him, injuring his back and he was in the hospital. D. C. said he knew I had some sermons on file so to take one of those and drive to Greensburg yet that evening and gave me the name of the family with whom I was to spend the night. So I finished my cleaning work, chose one of the sermons I had on file and drove to Greensburg. When I arrived at the home of my host, the woman of the house answered the door and told me her husband had the mumps but I was welcome to stay if I wasn’t afraid of getting them. I told her I had had them when I was six years old and had no fear of them so stayed the night and led the worship for the Greensburg Mennonite Church the next morning.

During my sophomore year Ralph Graber, another student, had made arrangements with one of the dry cleaners in Newton to pick up student’s clothes that needed cleaning, take them in to be cleaned the return them to the students three days later. He charged the same price for cleaning that the cleaner charged at the shop and Ralph kept one-fourth of what he took in as his profit. Ralph wasn’t planning on coming back to Bethel the next year so [he] asked me if I wanted to take over the business from him. I did a bit of figuring and saw that I could make the cleaning routes two afternoons a week and still keep my janitorial job so [I] agreed to do so. All worked out well when I began the route in the fall except for one thing. I depended on the students being in their dorms when I returned their clothes so I could collect the cost of the cleaning from them. Most of the time they were in, and if they weren’t, I would contact them at another time to collect. I was usually successful, but there was one new student named Lillian Loeffler who had clothes to clean rather regularly but was never in the dorm when I brought them back, and I didn’t know her so wasn’t able to locate her and collect. She lived in Kliewer home and I knew a couple of the other students who lived there so [I] asked one of them to point Lillian out to me and was finally able to identify her. So one evening after supper I followed her from the dining hall and caught up with her after she went into the Ad Building to read the bulletin board. I asked her, Are you Lillian Loeffler? She smiled beautifully and said, Yes. I said, Well I’m the Co-Ed Cleaners, and you owe me some money. We walked back to her dorm and she paid me. After that rather inauspicious beginning I eventually asked her out on a date, and we were married the following June 3. In 2008 we celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary.

Now on to janitorial memories. Early on I made it my practice to go to the Ad Building each morning before breakfast to check it out and be sure everything was in order for the day. That turned out to be a good practice because occasionally some other students had pulled pranks which left some cleaning up for me to do.

One morning when I went into the front hall I heard what sounded to me like marbles rolling across the chapel floor upstairs. I went to check and found several little pigs running around in the chapel. They belonged to the college farm, so I caught them and took them back to the farm (which I knew very well since I lived on the second floor of the farm house known as Green Gables) and then cleaned up the droppings they had left of the chapel floor.

Another morning when I went into the chapel, I heard what sounded like the ticking of clocks. In checking I found that was exactly what I was hearing. The pranksters this time had swiped many alarm clocks from their fellow students’ rooms, set the alarms to go off at various times during the chapel service and hidden them throughout the chapel. I searched the chapel and found close to two dozen clocks and later took them down to Dean R.C. Kaufman’s office. He was always in charge of the chapel service. He told me later he still found several more that I had somehow missed.

Another time the pranksters had more success in disrupting chapel and pulled a prank over which I had no control. The clock that controlled the bell that rang at the beginning and ending of classes was in the chemistry lab and one of the students had a chemistry assistantship so [he] had a key to the lab. One day he, or someone who collaborated with him, set the clock so the bell would go off every minute for a period of time during the chapel service. A high school choir directed by a Bethel Alumnus was singing that morning so the bell going off like that was embarrassing to everyone there. It stopped after about ten minutes either because there were no more settings or because someone shut it off.

One day when we came downstairs after chapel service there was a terrible odor throughout the lower levels of the building. Someone had put a jar of chemical from the chemistry lab that gave off the odor under the steps on the lower level of the library.

Outside entrances to the Ad Building were not very secure so it was possible, with a bit of ingenuity, to get into the building when it was locked. One morning I found the library door unlocked and went to find that all the tables had been turned upside down and the books and papers that had been on them lying scattered on the floor. I had plenty of time, by missing breakfast, to get the tables turned upright, the chairs back in place and the books and papers back on the tables before the library opened although I had no way of knowing if the books and papers were where students had left them.

The pranksters were apparently very displeased that I had been able to straighten out the library before it was to open so [they] did the same thing again two weeks later but with another feature. Besides turning the tables upside down the also carried all the chairs downstairs and stacked them in the women’s restroom. I was able to turn the tables upright quickly but it took me a bit of time to first find the chairs and then more time to carry them back up to the library, but I had it done by 9:00 a.m., the time when the library was scheduled to open, although [I] again missed breakfast. The pranksters had also stuffed toothpicks into the lock on the library door so it couldn’t be locked with a key and was still open when the student librarian came to open it. She expressed her anger at me at finding the door open and didn’t even take time to listen to my explanation about why it was open. I had always reported these pranks to Harrison Unruh who supervised the student janitors and this time he needed to fix the lock.

There was another prank that even Harrison couldn’t rectify. One morning there was a large replica of a beer bottle about 8 feet long stuck upside down into one of the chimneys on the west end of the Ad Building. A couple of days later Harrison got several of us student janitors to climb up onto the roof to try to get it down. We could easily get up onto the roof from the fire escape but weren’t able to reach the object and get it out of the chimney. We saw red paint marks on the chimney where they had apparently used a red painted ladder to get it up there but none of us knew where the ladder was. The next morning the beer bottle sign was gone. Some years later I was talking to a fellow alumnus about this incident and he admitted he had been in on it and said he and his cohorts were watching us try to get it down and became fearful that someone might fall and get hurt or even killed so they decided to take it down themselves.

The Bethel College Church did not yet have a building of its own so [they] used the chapel for their worship services. The college and the church each had their own set of hymn books so every Saturday I needed to take the college books out of the book racks and replace them with the church books and then reverse the process on Monday mornings.

Bethel Memories

Lowell Tieszen, ’78

One of my jobs at Bethel was to work with some of my friends as security. In those days, about the only job for security was to lock the doors at night. However, we became aware that there was a group of students who were "misbehaving" on the top of the fire escape on the West side of the Administration building. We had classes with these people and we didn’t want these students to be in a lot of trouble, but we also didn’t want this activity to continue on campus.

While sitting in Herald Gross’s "Psychology of Religion" class on the third floor on the West side, I realized that there was a simple deadbolt lock on the inside of the door that opened to the top of the fire escape where the group would meet. After class I just slid the lock open and let my friends know the plan.

Later that night the group again congregated at the top of the fire escape. So Bethel College Security went into action. Several of us entered from inside and opened the door quickly and announced, "Security." As we planned, the students flew down the stairs and ran away. We didn’t have a clock on them but they may hold the record for descending that fire escape. We had no desire to apprehend, or even identify, these people so I don’t know who they were. The problem went away and was solved for us.

Looking back, I’m really glad nobody got hurt running down the old iron fire-escape. Maybe there may have been better ways to handle the situation as a community, but I still think maybe it was a pretty good idea.

Would you like to share your memories?

You can e-mail your memories to or send them to Office of Alumni Relations, Bethel College, 300 E. 27th St., North Newton, KS 67117.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.