The Bells   |  View as slideshow View from Tower Webcam   |  Tower video tour  | Alumni Relations Home  
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1.  Fisher Ames Baker Memorial Library opened in 1928. Trustee Clarence Little, Class of 1881, donated funds to have bells installed in the tower to please President Ernest Martin Hopkins, who was impressed with the bell-ringing he'd heard at Oxford and Cambridge. (photo: Kawakahi Kaeo Amina '09)  next
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from gullosmi  |  1388950279
For my birthday in March 1956, I requested that Baker Bells play "Happy Birthday". The request was honored at 11 am on my very day (the 26th), and as I worked at WDBS I tape recorded the wonderful sound from a microphone hanging out of our studio's 3rd floor window in Robinson Hall.
from H Flint Ranney '56results  |  1324746733
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from gblnbxfo  |  1388950280
Flint,
Where are you?! I've thought about you and your family often. Corky & I are in Richland, WA. "Baby" Katie is 40, has two boys, 2-1/2 and 5-1/2. She and her husband live in Victoria, BC. I retired 16 years ago, but can't sit on my hands. I work occasionally in a winery, serving visitors. I'm active in my local Kiwanis club and district. Say hello to everyone.
Jerry Greenfield '61
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from fylhjbng  |  1392423746
One spring morning while walking across the green on the old duckboards, I started to hum Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey. While in the middle of the green the bells suddenly broke into the same song. I almost fell off the boards.
from Michael D. Kurtz "61  |  1301133424
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from dmdnusle  |  1388950280
Prior to our senior year, I was approached by Music Professor Jon Appleton to see if I would be interested in assisting with the programming of a computer system to automate the ringing of the Baker Library Bells. New England Digital, a small computer company that had invented the Synclavier music synthesizer, had been contracted to install one of their general purpose minicomputers in the Baker Library Bell Control Room, a small office located along the last flight of steps leading up to the top walkway around the tower. ... Read more at http://www.scribd.com/doc/37859274/The-Chimes-They-Are-A-Changing
from Paul Grassie '80  |  1297956258
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from dxsodejq  |  1388950280
The tower was once closed to visitors, who were disappointed not to be able to enjoy the magnificent view of the campus. Getting the policy changed was a BIG DEAL. This happened in the early 1960s, and we have Stew Sanders '56 to thank for it. Stew, who was then assistant to the dean, thought students would really appreciate it if they could show off their college on the three big weekends of the year: Houseparties, Carnival, and Green Key. Stew was relentless in lobbying Dick Olmsted, who was responsible for such policy decisions, and he also enlisted the support of librarian Dick Morin. FINALLY permission was grudgingly granted, even if just for a few hours on those three weekends!

In the days when the bells were rung by a paper roll, like a player piano, the maestro was Fran Zeller, wife of Glee Club director Paul Zeller. Fran arranged the music and oversaw their perforation. She had fun with her selections. I remember she always played "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's Back to Work We Go" on the first day of each term and "Rock-A-Bye Baby" to welcome friends' new offspring.

When I went to Wabash College in 1969, I discovered a busted and unused electric carillon in the chapel, and I hoped to bring it back to life. Fran generously sent me the arrangements for a lot of the familiar Baker Tower melodies. Unfortunately, I couldn't stir up enough interest (or money) to revive the bells of Wabash. Besides, they sounded a bit tinny and were no match for the Baker bells. I dropped the plan, and I'm sure that the precious sheet music is long gone.
from Thaddeus Seymour '49a, Dean of the College, 1959–969  |  1297955844
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from yyaerwxk  |  1388950280
I rang the bells in the Baker Library tower from about 1983 to 1987. I was given the job by Professor Jon Appleton after taking his electronic music class as a 'schmen. Good thing, too, because I'd been recently fired from the dining hall for repeatedly sleeping through my 6 am shifts. So in a way I was rewarded for it.

Ringing the bells was an amazing job. I had keys to the library, except the outer doors, the significance of which I'll explain later. The keys opened all the doors all the way up to the tower. The bells were run by a small computer built by New England Digital, which had to be programmed, if I remember correctly, in APL. By adjusting text files, and adding the songs to a schedule, I could program all the class changes, special "concerts," and Sunday vespers.

We still had the old paper roll machine, and it still worked, thanks to one of the older maintenance men who knew how to keep it working. The best tunes were on the paper rolls, hands down. The timings and phrasing were really quite extraordinary. Someone must have spent a good deal of time making those rolls – if they were made in the same way as player piano rolls, the person playing the bells must have had amazing timing and skill. There was even a keyboard to manually trigger the huge electric solenoids that rang the bells, but it was nearly impossible to play because the timings were different for each bell.

There was a huge range of music at hand, but it was possible to make new arrangements. This precipitated one of my favorite (though probably completely pointless) practical jokes: My friend Bill Loginov '85 had a mix of German and Russian ancestry, could speak and understand both languages, and was fascinated by both countries. In those days, Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. So one year, as a joke, we found the music for The Internationale (the national anthem of the Soviet Union), somehow transposed it into either C or G (the only two keys possible on the bells), and got it done in time to play it on the bells at noon on May Day (the day the Soviets celebrated the start of the revolution). I'm not sure if anyone ever got the joke, but we had a good laugh about it and felt like co-conspirators that evening in the bar room at Gamma Delt.

A great secret of the job was that across from the computer room in the tower was a huge, nearly empty office (supposedly once used by President Dickey, although it was only a rumor I heard once). The office had three windows overlooking the campus, wood floors, white walls and ceiling, a bookshelf, a single desk, one chair, and a lamp (which worked once I swapped out the light bulb!). Without a doubt this room was the best study location anywhere on campus, although only during warmer months, because it really wasn't heated very well. It was a bit too quiet and spooky at night, too.

On the down side, there were times when the solenoid switches would sometimes stick open in winter, and there were a few times when almost everyone on campus would be wakened by one of the bells ringing over and over again in the middle of the night. It was up to me to throw on as many layers of clothes as I could find at short notice, and make the unbelievably cold trek (it never happened unless it was at least 20° below) to the library, and sometimes I'd have to go back to my frat to ring campus police on the pay phone. It was Murphy's Law, of course, that I never had a dime to my name when it happened, or I'd forget my flashlight and have to fumble around for light switches in the stacks. I was on a first-name basis with the guys on the night shift after it happened two or three times.

I don't think there's any photographic evidence of my time as a student carilloneur, so I feel a little like a ghost who passed through there for a few years. But I feel quite privileged. I have fond memories, that's for sure.
from Adam Rugg '86  |  1297955683