Ever heard of Founders? You know, the oldest building on campus? Back in 1894, while Concordia was waiting for approval from the Lutheran Synod to become a teachers college, 13 boys attended high school in Founders Hall. Since it was the only building on campus, it was also the dorm and cafeteria all at once. George Weller taught the boys, and his wife cooked the meals.
What a picturesque setting, don’t you think? And with its old-fashioned brick facade, decorative railings, and elegant shingled roof, it looks like it comes right out of a storybook.
Now how many of you have actually been inside Founders? I work in the costume shop, and I have been shocked by the number of people on campus who don’t know we have a costume shop at all, let alone that it’s in Founders, or that nowadays Founders is used almost exclusively for drama production.
More people have told me about climbing the fire escape on the north side of the building to get to the roof. There is, in fact, a rickety staircase that scales the outside of the building from the basement to the top floor, although I haven’t personally ventured to climb it. I’m content to stay on the ground and hear about the trauma it’s caused for certain acrophobic friends.
Regardless, despite its obscurity, Founders is one of my favorite places on campus.
A couple of weeks ago I was strongly reminded of why I am so fond of it. I’m taking a Costume and Makeup course, a Thursday night class that meets in the costume shop. On this particular night, our professor was sick, but about half of the five-person class – including myself – has enough experience to keep everyone’s sewing projects running without her. So we all met for class anyway to get lab hours in.
We had music playing on speakers, which isn't an unusual costume shop practice, and I was in the middle of my kimono project. Three or four of us were sewing at the big back table, one of us in the back room, and I was greatly enjoying listening to my classmates discuss dating tips (or French music – I can’t quite recall which at this point). You’ll let me take the liberty of making an understatement and tell you it was nice and warm, owing to the fact that we have no air conditioning, and we were perfectly cozy, given there is very little table space and only four machines for our class of five.
I’d just gotten up from my machine to arrange fabric on the cutting table. And lo and behold, a bat materialized behind the surging machine.
It flapped its way desperately toward the ceiling and back around. I said something along the eloquent lines of, “There’s a bat!” In the brief chaos that ensued, Adam, Nathan, and Julie and I united in the corner by the door, and Kayla shielded herself under the sewing table.
Besides a poorly remembered tour in some caves in Mexico when I was five, I’d never seen a bat before. It’s a bit of a miracle because, like I said, I work in Founders… and there happen to be a lot of bat stories in Founders. I’ve seen the wasps and the flies, for sure, and when everyone got back from summer break this fall, Alexa (the shop manager and my professor) informed us that there was a dead bat in the upstairs recycling bin. But I had yet to win my own bat badge.
So while Kayla huddled under the table and Nathan collected a laundry basket to catch the poor creature, I watched it, fascinated. Don’t get me wrong, it made me jump every time it flew close. I’m aware bats can carry rabies. But, as Nathan pointed out, it was much more scared of us than of it, and it really was a beautiful little thing.
Maybe a foot across in wingspan, furry and dark, it wouldn’t land on anything – probably because there was nothing to land on, besides the bright yellow conjoined twin dress hung up on the wall (the one Alexa threatened to put us in if we didn’t get along). But while this created a problem in terms of catching the bat, our primary question quickly became how did it get in here?
Like I said, Founders is a bit notorious for bats, but nobody noticed this one until it was on the side of the room which has no open windows and no holes in the ceiling. The door to the attic was closed.
At some point we decided the music might be inflating the problem, so we shut it off. Maybe that was it, or maybe we’d just let the bat do its thing for long enough. In any case, the creature finally clambered past us, back out to the hallway and into the prop room.
Here’s a fun tidbit about Founders, if you didn’t pick it up yet: there aren’t holes in the ceiling of the workroom itself, but there is one in one of the changing rooms, and another in the prop room. We quickly concluded that the bat, disturbed by our music, must have come down from the attic through the one in the prop room.
At last we went back to work in peace – except of course for the fact that the conversation became heavily saturated in bat stories.
You see why I’m so fond of Founders? It’s not just the little adventures we experience now and then; it’s also the dusty, rooted smell that reminds me of my grandparent’s house; the heat August inflicts on the upper floors; the flies that clamber in just to die long, arduous deaths on the windowsills in the winter; the libraries of so many outfits and patterns that never run out of hidden treasures. Then of course there are all the rooms in the attic, filled with random trinkets and dishes for the scene shop. Everywhere else on campus is so pristine and designed, while Founders accommodates and changes with the times. It’s authentic, and it’s so full of intrigue that it feels like the whole place exhales the story of its past. In a few words, it has character.
Forgive me for leaning so heavily into my poetic nature… but if I haven’t convinced you Founders is amazing, my little bat friend (along with the time of year) will at the very least persuade you that it’s the best place on campus for halloween stories.