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
But no one was complaining in 1939. Even with the impending war, construction was started on Mason Hall, placing it "near a beautiful Hickory grove."
For $325,000 Fredonia Normal would get a beautifully detailed brick building with a copper roof that still survives today. (In 2003 the copper roof was replaced. Until it weathered it had a golden shine.)
One element seems to be missing. "A large bust of Beethoven carved in stone over the door" which is described in the College Archives. Sure enough, a walk to Mason reveals there is indeed a platform place for Ludwig but no one seems to know where "he" is now. The only decoration on the facade today is the lyre just under the main peak.
The interior features were also impressive. "Leaf green marbleized asphalt with a gun metal border" (black and white in the music library) acoustic plaster and soundproof doors. There were faculty studios and spacious classrooms equipped with blackboards etched permanently with staffs for musical notation.
There were individual practice rooms. These have had many uses over the years. One student, violinist Ernie Rodak gave 50-cent haircuts on Saturday mornings and hired a piano player to hide the clipper noise from then-dean Harry King. Public speaking students found that this was one of the few places they could practice gestures in front of a mirror without being considered eccentric.
There were "large and spacious windows" that were often opened in the spring and fall to let out the various musical sounds. There were lockers with slanted tops to "prevent storage of instruments and books on top."
Inside the lockers there was a shelf at the top for books and one, with a drain hole, on the bottom for overshoes. This last feature would be much needed since it would be a long time before permanent sidewalks would be built.
Our college was on the cutting edge of technology - even in 1940. Plans in Mason Hall called for a two-channel radio system (radio cable?) allowing for the reception of two programs at a time. The instrumental and choir rooms were equipped so that programs could be received and transmitted. There was provision for outdoor loudspeakers.
Why was a music building constructed first? One unconfirmed report was that Leslie Gregory, a consummate politician, opined that the building couldn't be used for anything else but music so the state would have to finish the campus. On the other hand one could not ignore the burgeoning music program that had grown up under Francis "Pud" Diers and Harry King. For example "Band Day" in 1933 doubled the population of the village.
John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.