Editor's note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his "50 years at Fredonia." Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.
By JOHN MALCOLM
Since there was no elevator, a rope and pulley system was used from a fire escape at the Old Main campus. The third floor was also used for dressing rooms, rehearsals, and music practice.
The auditorium was used. In the '50s there were the weekly-required convocations. There were plays ranging from Shakespeare to modern theatre. Staging some of these plays required much improvisation.
In one play we removed a heating duct in the floor so we could have someone descend into hell. Perhaps the most ambitious stage production on the Old Main stage was one of Mr. Roberts in 1963, my first year on the faculty. The new technical director built a ship with two cabins on stage.
Unfortunately the auditorium was not given the recycling or attention given to the main building after it was sold. Today it is used as a rough storage-garage area. The seats have been removed and there is water damage. It would be as much of a challenge to restore, as was the Opera House.
One space in the Old Main block survived the fire of 1900 - the gym. It was a separate building built in 1898 and designed by local architect Enoch Curtis who also designed the Village Hall. It was removed when Old Main became a home for the elderly.
You went to the gym through a connecting passage and up one flight of stairs. There was a cafeteria on the first level.
Originally there was a track around the upper level but this had been removed by 1956. The gym floor was asphalt tile and the basketball court was not regulation size. One could easily pass the ball in from out of bounds and reach the end of the court. If you wanted to be fancy you could thread the ball through the roof girders. There was enough room under each basket for a row of seats - barely. There were two rows of bleachers but the number of seats was less than 200. Whenever possible the varsity played at the Wheelock School gym or at Mindszenty high school. It was said that we lost so many games because our players were not used to playing on a regulation surface.
This was the location for gym classes and mine was at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays. I soon signed up for varsity tennis and was given exemption. The classes were pretty standard but we were also expected to learn how to box and ski. The latter sport was taught on gym mats for a slope.
John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.