Father Cavanaugh and athletics. Knute Rockne. Campus fun. Burning of the Hill Street car. Timothy F. Howard. Sister Aloysius. James F. Edwards. Brother Cajetan. Brother Basil. Brother Florian. Brother Leopold. Brother Bonaventure. Brother Alphonsus.
WHEN Father Cavanaugh found himself in the presence of educators and was introduced as the President of Notre Dame, he was often greeted by an inquiry as to the status of the football team. If the greeter seemed to indicate that his knowledge of Notre Dame was limited only to Notre Dame's place in athletics, Father Cavanaugh could become not a little exasperated. There were, he felt, so many finer things at the University. He resented the implication that his school should be known as a football college. As a matter of fact, whether Father Cavanaugh liked it or not, Notre Dame, outside Catholic circles at least, was getting a lot of publicity from its football. And from her prowess in athletics, Notre Dame was becoming more and more widely known. It is a bit of historical irony that those outside who would have been glad to suppress that reputation contributed to a series of events which made Notre Dame eventually a name to be reckoned with.
As far as Father Cavanaugh was concerned, he would have been well content to have done away with intercollegiate football. He complained that in too many institutions skilled coaches spent so much of their time on the few capable of becoming great athletes that the majority of the students were neglected. He would have preferred a system of intramural athletics which would have benefited the entire student body. Then, too, Notre Dame lost money on athletics every year until 1913, and that was a very serious matter in those days.
In the early years of Father Cavanaugh's administration there was no regular coach. Often a promising athlete, whose reputation had been made at some other school, was brought in to teach the game while he continued his studies. There was Coach McGlew in 1905, then, Coach Barry from Brown University, followed in 1908 by Coach Victor Place of Dartmouth and the University of Washington. In 1909 Frank Longman, star of Michigan, came as coach for two years. In 1911 the coach was Marks. Only in 1912 did Notre Dame acquire a full-time coach who made a business of the matter. He was Jesse C. Harper, who had played a great brand of baseball for Alonzo Stagg and had recently been coaching at Wabash College. He resigned from the Notre Dame post in the spring of 1918 to go ranching in western Kansas. He was succeeded by Knute Rockne who, by his uncanny resourcefulness and power to transmit "color" to the game, placed Notre Dame in the front rank of winning teams.
When Father Cavanaugh came to the presidency, Notre Dame belonged to the Western conference. But shortly after his election trouble began to develop. A great many of the Mid-West colleges, Northwestern, Chicago University, Michigan, among others, proclaimed, and with some justice, that there were too many mediocre teams in the conference. They wished to form an alliance with only the more outstanding teams of the Middle West. Largely at Stagg's suggestion, the representation of the larger schools reduced the number of teams to nine. They told Notre Dame that her brand of football was not of a calibre to justify her inclusion. Notre Dame was, of course, a bit ruffled, but made up her mind that there was only one thing to do -- go out and win the games.
When she again applied for admission into the "Big Nine," as it was called, the "Big Nine" replied that the conference was already large enough, and that to bring in another team would make the conference unwieldy. This did not set well, particularly when, the following year, Ohio State was added to the list. When brought to task about the matter, the conference replied that Notre Dame could have no place because she was not keeping the conference rules.
As far as Father Cavanaugh was concerned, he was not interested in conference rules. His idea of athletics was to follow rules which would benefit the majority of students, and he would have been well satisfied with dropping the whole matter. But Father Thomas Crumley, as Chairman of the Athletic Board, and Vice-President of the University, maintained that all the conference rules were being kept. He resented the implication that Notre Dame was misrepresenting the facts. Father Crumley was a tenacious man and won his point with the President. His logic was sound and his arguments formidable. And because the conference brushed them aside, he made the remark that there was only one explanation -- an unreasonable prejudice against Notre Dame. "The dispute seems to have been fought on theological
grounds rather than athletic." So, be cause of this snobbery, Notre Dame was forced to go to the East and the Far West for games. Her showing, throughout the years that were to follow, became so creditable that later on teams from this section of the country were delighted to play with her. Notre Dame became tremendously popular. She was a great drawing-card. A game with Notre Dame meant financial returns of no small account.
The turning point in this crisis came in 1913 when Notre Dame first played the Army. There was an unexpected upset. Notre Dame won, 35 to 13. Rockne was captain that year, and he played left end. Gus Dorais was the quarterback. Between them, they "passed" the Army to death. The publicity in the Eastern papers was extraordinary. Purdue, Northwestern, Chicago, and Michigan began to wonder if they had underestimated the aggregation from Notre Dame.
Indirectly, therefore, and through the medium of football, Notre Dame became nationally known. There always has been, and probably always will be, a great bit of what has been termed "the fighting Irish spirit" manifested in these athletic contests. At times the "theological" prejudice rears its ugly head. But that is hardly Notre Dame's fault. Indeed, it usually works to Notre Dame's advantage. No one who witnesses the pre-game visit of the athletes to the college chapel, or knows that almost the entire student body receives Holy Communion for the team on a game day can doubt that religion and trust in God do play a great part in Notre Dame's successes. Notre Dame students have no reluctance in admitting that they ask God to give them victory if that is His will. The thousands of rosaries and innumerable prayers offered by cloistered nuns on the Saturdays of autumn -- by women who hardly know the difference between a touch-down and a clipping penalty -- attest the power of divine intercession.
Nor do we hesitate to give Knute Rockne the credit he deserves in making a name for Notre Dame. When he quit his job in the Chicago post-office in 1910 and came to Notre Dame to get an education, he was only a "sand-lot" football boy. But he had, besides athletic ability, certain other qualities that made him outstanding. When Harper resigned as coach in the spring of 1918, Fred Steers, a Chicago attorney and an alumnus of the University, wrote Father Cavanaugh recommending the appointment of Rockne.
. . . I have known Knute for over twelve years and always found him to be a bright conscientious, hard-working fellow. He has a personality that commands the love and respect of everyone with whom he associates. . . . He is not only a good athlete but knows how to impart the science of athletics to others. . . . `While at Notre Dame, circumstances permitted me to view him from many angles and whether in victory or defeat, at ease or under pressure, he always maintained his equilibrium and displayed his manly qualities . . . I believe he should be retained as coach and athletic director. . . .
Of course, the recommendation of Steers, while welcome, was not needed. Rockne was the logical choice of the administration.
We do not wish to create the impression that Rockne was faultless. He was not an easy man to deal with. He was at times something of a "prima donna." One cannot censure him for striving to have an outstanding team. But he kent the administration on tenter-hooks now and then by his procedure. His success was phenomenal, even though there were times when Rockne kept the authorities guessing. That he appreciated the situation at Notre Dame is attested by his statement, on one occasion, in answer to the query of a visiting reporter. The reporter asked the question: "Why have your teams been so successful? You must have some help. Who are your assistants?" To which Rockne answered: "That fellow over there," nodding his head in the direction of a priest, "is my first assistant." "Who is he?" asked the reporter. "Father John O'Hara, the Prefect of Religion. He keeps these fellows fit."
Under Rockne, there was no question as to Notre Dame's ability to produce a great and colorful team. He stayed on at the University in spite of tempting offers under four administrations, until his untimely death in 1931. By that time Notre Dame's place in football was assured.
Under Father Cavanaugh's benevolent smile the University grew in numbers. Father Cavanaugh, by his talents and magnanimity, had become influential in the Mid-West. His genius lay in making friends for the school. His speech was impressive, his manner most happy. He had the air of a great man. His personal appearance was all that could be desired, large, commanding, gracious. He had certain marks that bore the stamp of his generation. For instance, his prejudice against cigarettes was almost a passion. For a second violation of the rule prohibiting cigarettes the penalty was expulsion. Many a letter have I written, as secretary to the Prefect of Discipline, to an unwary parent, saying that his son's presence at the University was no longer wanted because of his addiction to cigarettes.
Due to Father Zahm's influence, Father Cavanaugh tried to carry on the South American program. Early in Father Cavanaugh's administration, over 10% of the enrollment was from Latin America. Notre Dame was one of the pioneers of the "Good Neighbor" policy.
By 1913 Notre Dame had been claiming national championships in so many things that campus buffoonery broke out into a new championship -- that of marbles. Who was the champion in marbles? The victim was a boy from the "sticks," an unsuspecting lad with first-rate humility and little discernment. The boys made him the butt of their horse-play. Students are prone to look for a bit of back-woodsiness in a newcomer, and when this particular gentleman volunteered the information that he didn't know anything about football or basketball, but was a whiz at marbles, the boys hastened to arrange a match.
On Friday morning, accompanied by a band of rooters from Brownson Hall, "Ike" marched in procession to Sorin Hall and challenged "Red" Regan, who, of course, had been notified that he must lose. The challenger, before starting, delivered quite a serious declamation on the "science of shooting from taw." After the match, the new champion was carried away in triumph. At noon, the crowd escorted him to Walsh Hall, where "Rupe" Mills, who insisted on following "New Jersey Rules," fell a victim. Thence the show was moved to Corby, where Knute Rockne was waiting. Knute quite seriously refused to play for keeps unless the game were played according to "Canadian Rules." After Rockne's ignominious defeat at the hands of the challenger, only Kane of St. Joseph's Hall was left. Kane had been proclaimed champion the previous year and this was the last hurdle for the newcomer.
Just as the battle ended in victory for "Ike," someone suggested that the challenger was not an amateur but in reality a professional. The crowd took a serious view of the charge, and, maintaining that the man's reputation was at stake, agreed that it would be necessary to air the entire matter in a fair trial. Court was called in the Sorin recreation room. The new champion was defended by Dougherty, who succeeded in proving to the associate justices the innocence of his client. There was a shout of triumph, and "Ike" was hoisted on manly shoulders and went forth the new champion. Of such stuff are made certain indelible memories of college life.
One prominent alumnus who had been a very popular student told of certain incidents on a trip of the baseball team to a town downstate. The year previous another team had stopped there, and the hotel proprietor had bitter memories. He was prepared to ward off another invasion, and had left strict and profane orders that if the team should show up, they were not to be admitted. It was one o'clock in the morning. After a verbal bombardment from some of the boys who were not only baseball players, but also debaters, the clerk finally agreed to give them rooms if they would be quiet. The clerk led the way, and when his back was turned, one wag picked up the cigar stand, containing about fifty boxes of cigars, and carried it on his shoulders to his room. The narrator goes on to say that he and his room-mate found in their chamber a wood-burning stove which they tossed out the window. When it landed on the pavement, three stories below, the clatter was indescribable. There were various other sorts of pillage and rapine. How these fellows escaped the clutches of the law is most mysterious. Even more mysterious is the sincere innocence of the one describing such despoliation, since the description ends with words something like these: "How much we should all appreciate the education given us by our Alma Mater, for Notre Dame has taught us always to bow our head to the righteous mandates of legally constituted authority." Indeed, at the time of the speech and after, not a few of that crowd were state senators and legislators, helping to make the laws they used to break.
It is freely admitted that at times students, especially in large groups, can be very annoying to public officials. Sometimes boys can commit what can only be described as depredations of a serious character. Ordinarily, however, their misdemeanors are of a petty sort, annoyances that are better suffered in silence than suppressed.
Students of 1916 know what we mean. The street-car coming to the University was old and rickety and it had a most irresponsible rollicking bounce. It was driven by new hands, men who showed little consideration and less tact. When a large number of boys were on the car, they could, and often did, raise a racket. The motormen frequently complained that students would not pay their fare, or would smoke on the car, and wouldn't obey the driver. The street-car company was partly to blame in not furnishing a better conveyance as well as by failing to employ more tactful motormen. On the evening of February 5, 1916, after the greater crowd had returned from town, two "sluggers" boarded the car. There were only two students from Carroll Hall on the conveyance, but the "company bruisers" beat them unmercifully. When the boys reported the incident the rest of the students became intensely aroused. Eight or nine husky fellows boarded the street car after supper and rode back and forth all evening, hoping that the ruffians would again put in an appearance. But they were doomed to disappointment. The sluggers had dropped out of the picture completely.
The next evening, Friday, Father Cavanaugh was in South Bend with two of his friends, the professor of rhetoric and the professor of ethics. About ten o'clock, as they were being driven back to the University, the car was stopped by a mob of students near the entrance to Cedar Grove Cemetery. A young fellow stuck his head through the window of the automobile, and was about to utter something profane, when he recognized Father Cavanaugh. He was exceedingly embarrassed, and started to wave the machine toward the University. "Just a minute, here," said Father Cavanaugh with some alarm. The President got out of the car, and his two friends with him. The students had captured one of the street-cars and were in the act of taking it apart. Father Cavanaugh saw he had a problem on his hands, so he made a little speech. He reminded the students that, although they had suffered an indignity -- at which point the professor of ethics heaved a stone through one of the windows of the street-car -- this was no way in which to settle the score. "Now, get back to your rooms. It's after ten o'clock and you have no business off the campus. Scoot!" The students marched off toward the University, and Father Cavanaugh and the two priests climbed back in the automobile. The driver let them out in front of the Main Building and then returned to town -- that is, he intended to return.
Father Cavanaugh stopped in Father Matthew Walsh's room and mentioned the incident. "You know, Matt, they're fine boys. All I had to do was just tell them to go to their halls, and every last one of them went off as good-naturedly as could be!" Then he sat down to chat and in an hour or so he rose to leave. He went to the window and, as was his custom, drew back the curtain for a final nightly survey of the campus. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed, "Matt, come and look!" The sky to the south was rosy with the flames of the Hill Street car.
The students had only pretended to return to their halls. As soon as they felt it was safe, they returned to the scene. Some of the boys commandeered Father Cavanaugh's taxi, and paid the driver for his gasoline. They poured the petrol over the rattan seats of the car and set it off in flames. Someone turned in a fire alarm. but when the fire-company reached the city limits, they declared that they had no jurisdiction over a blaze out of town. The street-car burned to the tracks.
Of course Father Cavanaugh told the students what he thought of them. He pointed out that they had been guilty of a serious injustice which in conscience they were bound to repay. The street-car company, too, was incensed. They said that the University should make restitution. They wanted $5000. Father Cavanaugh contended that the University could not be held responsible, and that although an injustice was done by also students, the company officials had provoked this incident by its lack of consideration.
It was about this time, too, that movies were inaugurated on the campus. Hitherto, if the students wanted to see a movie, they had to go to South Bend. Of course the theatres in the vicinity were not very well pleased at the innovation. They saw themselves as suffering financial loss at the introduction of pictures in Washington Hall. Even to this day, they have some sort of agreement with the movie industry which prevents movies in Washington Hall unless they have been shown three times in South Bend. In the beginning the performances were punctuated by shrill cat-calls and much whistling. It was difficult for prefects to locate, in the dark, these sources of disturbance. Looking back on it, memory suggests that the most amusing and entertaining part of these pictures was not the picture itself, but the running commentary offered by the audience. On one occasion a particularly insipid picture was being shown, and one of the Fathers arose to make his exit. In the dark, a raucous voice called out, "Oh, yeah, yuh can't take it, huh?" No one who was there will forget, however, the occasion when "The Birth of a Nation" was shown. It was the most splendid movie that had yet been made, and the sound effects produced by the orchestra were a prelude to how effectively sound could augment vision.
In the spring of 1917, Father Francis X. Barth, of Escanaba, Michigan, came to toe University to deliver his series of discourses on the "Trial of Jesus Christ." As I recall these masterful exhibitions of oratory and learning, it seems that nothing had so deeply affected the religious life of the students. That students of that day should sit through serious lectures without many sting signs of impatience and boredom, was not customary. But with Father Barth, it was entirely different. It was compliment of the highest order that the boys listened with attention and appreciation to the seven lectures he gave.
At a boarding college, where students must partake of the college "commons," there has always been, and always will be, frequent griping about the food. The care of Notre Dame was no exception. After frequent consultations with members of the administration Father Cavanaugh agreed to try a new experiment: a cafeteria would be opened and the students mieht take their meals there if they so desired. An outsider was offered a contract to provide these meals, to deprive the students of all reason to complain against the University. Room for such an enterprise was offered in the basement of the newly named Badin Hall. It was quite a success at the beginning. But gradually, students began to ponder the question of whether or not they had the better of it when eating in the "commons." If a man were willing to go on short rations, eating in the cafeteria was undoubtedly cheaper; but there was no possibility of "seconds" without paying for them. The more hearty eaters declared in favor of the old system. Anyhow, in the cafeteria, you couldn't get Notre Dame buns, nor pie like Sister Bertina's.
Professor Howard had been a student at Notre Dame in the late fifties. He graduated in the class of 1862, a bachelor of Arts and Letters. Immediately he joined the Union forces, without waiting for commencement. He was severely wounded at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and lay perilously close to death for weeks at Evansville Indiana. His health was too seriously undermined to permit him to go back to soldiering again, and he turned his eyes once more to Notre Dame. Perhaps there was something he could teach? Perhaps! Those who had known him as a student were delighted to have him. He had been so conscientious, so modest, so diligent. Then, too, he was mulling over the idea of becoming a priest. "He would have been an honor to God's priesthood," said one who knew him well. This inclination to the altar was quickly disabused, however, for we know that in 1864 he married Julia Redmond of Detroit.
At the University he was assigned classes in English Literature, Astronomy, Latin, Greek and Mathematics. Then, on the side -- gigantes erant in his diebus -- he studied law. And in time, too, what with his experience and his industry, he became Professor of Law at Notre Dame. In South Bend, his thorough learning and impeccable conduct were highly esteemed, and wherever he sought public office, he generally attained it. He became successively county official, state senator and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana. In 1893 Notre Dame felt as though she were honoring herself when she bestowed upon him his Doctor of Laws. And five years later his Alma Mater gave him the highest distinction in her possession, the Laetare Medal. That it was worthily bestowed is indicated by the eulogies that were paid to Judge Howard's memory when he died in the summer of 1916. As Father Cavanaugh stood by his open coffin, he gazed on a man who had truly imbibed the spirit of Notre Dame, indeed one who helped create that spirit in its best and fullest sense.
Old students are always recalling some picturesque and outstanding individual met during their days at Notre Dame. During Father Cavanaugh's fourteen years in the presidency, the University was filled with such individuals. There is no need to tell old students of "Sister Al," "Jimmy" Edwards, "Brother Caj," Brother "Flo," Brother Basil, "Bonny," "Leep," and Prof. Peterson. But for succeeding generations of Notre Dame men, it may help if we reminisce about a few of them.
Sister Aloysius was the head of the Minim department for so long that even she, blunt and direct as she was, might have objected to an exact computation of the period of years. Certainly it was in the early 1870's that she assumed the guidance of Father Sorin's "Princes." Of her ability and tact, there is no doubt. She was a lovable sort of tyrant who knew well how to get along with both parents and children. Hers was a motherly soul that went directly to the heart of these children in whom Father Sorin placed the "future of the Church in America." One might say that she was a political saint. She knew how to make peace between all parties. Very seldom was her word contradicted. She found herself almost always a "final board of appeal between disputants." I have seen a letter written by a disturbed parent, in which he made some complaint concerning his son who was a Minim. The letter was sent originally to Father Cavanaugh who turned it over to Brother Paul the Hermit, who, on account of his acerbity, was called "The Hornet." Paul made an annotation on the letter remarking that the woman (Sister Aloysius) was an "old tartar;" the letter found its way to Sister Aloysius, who added, under the Brother's remark, "And he calls me an old tartar!" After her death, one who knew her well wrote:
One more well known figure passed out of the complex, busy life of Notre Dame University when Sister Aloysius died at the convent infirmary last Wednesday [Jan. 12, 1916]. After the great Father Sorin himself, Sister Aloysius ranks next in years of service at the University.
She arrived some forty-three years ago . . . and from then to now she was the gentle despot helping by every good device that came to her head. . . . She came to Notre Dame, a simple Irish girl. . . . Sorin saw her and took kindly to her soft voice and her Irish manners; and he said, as she knelt before him: "Honora Mulcaire, hereafter you shall be called Sister Aloysius"; and in thought added "You shall rake care of my Minims -- my Princes -- down the years"
. . . for the past forty-odd years, she made young boys from six to twelve . . . gentle and thoughtful, strong, studious and resourceful. How she did this was her secret. . . . Perhaps when one says Sister Aloysius' system was her personality one arrives nearest the truth.
Were you in any kind of trouble, you went to Sister Aloysius. Was a sudden death to be announced -- why, who else but Sister Aloysius? She had mastered the art of telling a harsh truth in soft words. In sickness, in loss, in any unexpected event in a big family of a thousand and a half, Sister Aloysius was there, the friend and helper. . . 
"Jimmy" Edwards was a student at Notre Dame during the Civil War period. He stayed on, with some thought of becoming a priest. But he changed his mind. His affection for Notre Dame, however, was so great that he could not tear himself away from the institution. He taught some classes, mostly in history, in which he was a distinct failure. But he was a friendly soul, devoted to the University, and it was hard to displace him. He was the butt of innumerable jokes both on account of his incompetence as a professor and his peculiar lisp and slight womanishness. He entertained some of the more elite at tea and bought his clothes in Bond Street. That was enough to ostracize him. But one thing made him an invaluable treasure. He sought to add to the fine collection of early documents and souvenirs of the Church in America. He had an ingratiating way with the Bishops of the United States and, through personal visitations, added thousands of contributions to the archives of Notre Dame. He was able to collect crosiers, mitres, rings, crosses, slippers, letters and souvenirs of early Catholic Americans that today are invaluable source matter for future historians. When he died in January, 1911, his importance for Notre Dame was not unknown. But throughout the succeeding years that importance has increased.
Brother Cajetan -- "Caj," as he was called, -- was a simple soul. He had charge of the Minims, and was the male counterpart of Sister Aloysius. He marched around with a sawed-off broom-handle, which he called his "Wand," and he would gently tap the ankles of his charges to keep them in line when they were out on a walk. He was a man of great prayer. Once, when Father Cavanaugh received a letter from a parent of one of the Minims complaining that the Brother was a man of uncommon profanity, he thought the matter worth investigation. He interrogated the Minim, who volunteered the information that "Brother Cajetan swears after we go to bed at night." Father Cavanaugh stationed someone to listen. After the children had retired, sure enough, sighs and groans emanated from the Brother's chamber: "Lord, God! Lord, God! be merciful to me, a sinner! Oh, God Almighty! have pity on me!" Father Cavanaugh expressed himself satisfied with Brother Cajetan's profanity. He made the remark: "If Brother Cajetan's prayers are not heard in heaven, they certainly have been heard on earth!"
In 1916 Father Charles O'Donnell, professor of rhetoric, published a book of poems to which we have already alluded, The Dead Musician. The first poem, from which the title is taken, has this exquisite tribute to Brother Basil.
Widowed of him his organ now is still,
His music-children fled, their echoing feet yet fill
The blue, far reaches of the vaulted nave,
The heart that sired them, pulseless in the grave.
Only the song he made is hushed, his soul,
Responsive to God's touch, in His control
Elsewhere shall tune the termless ecstasy
Of one who all his life kept here
An alien ear,
Homesick for harpings of eternity.
Brother Basil, John Magus, was born in Freiburg, Bavaria, in 1828. At Notre Dame in 1852, he joined the community. In Germany as well as in this country he had studied music and had become an accomplished artist on the violin, the piano and the organ. But of these talents, he said never a word when he came to Notre Dame. In his humility, he wished to engage in far more menial tasks. It was only by accident that his musical ability was discovered. He turned out to be a genius. For over fifty years he taught music at Notre Dame. It was perhaps his humility and modesty that prevented him from being a great teacher, for although he was a true saint, he did not have the gift of imparting his artistry. Nevertheless, he was a constant source of inspiration. When his fingers, in some tender soothing passage, moved over the keys of the organ, or swiftly wrought a vigorous and lovely recessional, the hearts of the hearers were deeply moved. "He charmed forth from the great organ such exquisite improvisations as the angels may well have leaned down from heaven to hear." Hardly ever in those fifty years did he miss a day of work. Even the night before he died, frail and with his long gray hair falling to his shoulders, he was at the console playing for Benediction. For an artist, he was incredibly modest and retiring. When someone would come into the church and stand looking at him, he would often cease to play. "People should not come in the House of God to hear the likes of me!" was his thought.
So, sometimes he was idle at the keys,
Pale fingers on the aged ivories.
He died at Notre Dame on February 12, 1909. "The memory of his genius, and above all, of his virtue, will live in the minds of generations of students, and will find its place in the annals of his Community as one of its most treasured possessions."
Then, too, there was Brother Florian, "Brother Flo" to all at Notre Dame. He was a lovable old rascal whose pompous bearing was a quiet imitation of Father Cavanaugh's gracious gait. He did it quite well, too, except that he had sore feet. "Flo" was a picture of repose. His deep booming voice, and the sense of authority he could assume when strangers were around, created a respect Brother Florian relished to an incredible degree.
He was always doing little favors for students and priests. He wanted their good-will. He generally expected some slight remuneration for all this courtesy, and usually got it. When the Chicago priests made their retreat here, "Flo" saw to it that each of them got the special dishes they needed or craved, but he was always well repaid for his pains.
For years "Flo" was the porter at the Main Building. It was his general duty to meet visitors. He enjoyed the thrill of extending hospitality. It is said that one day a cleric climbed the steps accompanied by a young man. The cleric had a bit of purple showing beneath his collar and announced himself as Bishop White. "Flo" lowered himself to the floor -- it was not an easy feat for a man of his weight -- kissed the Bishop's ring, and, wreathed in smiles, conducted Bishop White to the Bishop's suite. As Brother Florian was about to take his leave, the Bishop thanked him very cordially and, pointing to the young man, he added: "By the way, Brother, this is my son!" For a moment "Flo" was flabbergasted. It dawned on him that he had kissed the ring of a Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Asking about the incident later, some one said: "Did you shake hands with the boy?" "My God, I can't remember!"
After the University had acquired several hundred artistic masterpieces, they were lodged in the upper rooms of the new library. On Sunday afternoons the gallery was open to the general public. "Flo" was deputed to conduct a "tour" for any visitors who showed up. Summed up, his remarks on these occasions constituted the most entertaining list of inaccuracies imaginable. From Sunday to Sunday, the stories would change and the value of the pictures would rise astronomically. "Flo" had an habitual disregard for fact which really hurt no one but which achieved the one effect that he thought desirable: "These people must realize that they are seeing something of immense value."
On one occasion Brother Florian had in tow, among others, a young student who was already rather well acquainted with the gallery. This student, pointing to a picture at the end of the gallery, remarked: "That's Bishop England." "Pshaw, boy, that's not Bishop England!" "Yes, it is, Brother!" "I tell you that's not Bishop England!" As they approached the picture, the student was able to read the label on the picture and once again asserted: "Brother, that's Bishop England!" Then, instead of looking at the label, "Flo" ran his hand over the profile of the venerable Prelate, and exclaimed: "Darned if it ain't!"
On hot days during the summer, Brother found it rather trying to conduct a crowd through the gallery. Instead, he installed himself at the circular desk in the lobby, a handkerchief stuffed around his collar, and in his hand a large palm-leaf fan which he slowly moved back and forth. If anyone came in to see the pictures, Brother boomed: "Stairs to the left if you want to see the pictures." On such occasions, after the gallery was closed for the evening, "Flo" would find his way back to the Main Building. If there was anyone on the front porch, he climbed up, heavy-footed and worn, and remarked with an expression of utter exhaustion: "Good Lord, a hundred and ninety-three of 'em. Walk and talk, walk and talk; I'm worn out."
"Flo" liked to create the impression that he was overworked and unwell as the result of his labors. In reality, he was well-fed and healthy. The students knew, for instance, that "Flo" always ate his big meals in quasi-secrecy. He sat down at table an hour before the general meal, and ate with the working men, whose appetites were enormous. And "Flo" matched them, appetite for appetite. An hour later, he showed up at the second meal, and when he toyed with his food and seemed listless about his vitamins, the student-waiters, who were wise to the whole proceeding, asked him: "What's the matter, Brother? Aren't you feeling well?" "No, I'm not. I just don't seem to have any appetite!" "Gee, Brother, that's too bad. You're working too hard!" This sort of solicitude gave "Flo" tremendous satisfaction.
Brother Florian was very acquisitive. He was a great collector of things that were left around or had been discarded. He gathered these things with an eye to the future when some friend of his might desire them. The fact that these "friends" might have to go to "Flo" for favors, put them in his debt. And that was just where the Brother wanted them. On one occasion, when Father Cavanaugh was away from the University, Father Joseph Burke decided that the carpet in Father Cavanaugh's room was not all that it should be and ordered a new one. Father Burke remarked to one of the other Fathers that he might have the old carpet if he could get to it before "Flo" got it. Arrangements were made with the man who was to lay the new carpet that he should take the old one immediately to "Father Will's" room and tack it down without a moment's hesitation.
"Flo" had had his eye on that carpet, but he was a bit too late. He went to "Father Will's" room, but found the door locked. There was a great deal of hammering going on inside. After some delay, the hammerer opened the door. With magnificent authority, "Flo" said: "Take that carpet up and bring it to my room!" "But I can't!" answered the worker. "It's already got a thousand tacks in it!" Non-plussed, the Brother withdrew. At noon, he beckoned a finger at Father Will. "Have you been up to your room yet?" he asked. "Yes" was the response. "How do you like it?" "Swell!" "And believe me, Father Will, I had a devil of a time getting it for you!"
I suppose every religious community has its characters. Certainly "Flo" was one of ours. Just having him around, with all his little peculiarities and idiosyncracies added something to the joy of life. He was very much a "Notre Dame man." He took a pardonable pride in the glory of the University. He wanted people to feel that, in the public eye, Notre Dame was seriously underestimated. Her beauty, her spirit, her magnificence were the things that pressed on his mind. Of course, "Flo" himself was not forgotten. It was a Saturday afternoon some years later that he lay a-dying. There was a football game at Notre Dame that day, and many of the old students had returned for the game. With sadness they learned that "Flo" was nearing the end. During the game, "Flo," in his sick-bed over at the Community House, turned his head to ask, "What's the score now?" Before the game was over, the tolling bell announced that he was no more.
Then there was Brother Leopold, affectionately known as Brother "Leep." He was of German extraction and came from Pennsylvania. He was a violinist of rare merit, but, like Brother Basil, he had no wish to display his talents. Fortunately, he had brought his violin with him, but kept it concealed in his trunk. He was evidently unaware of the French method of surveillance. It was the practice of superiors in those days to search through all the belongings of a candidate. The superior found the violin and reported to Father Sorin. Brother Leopold was called to Sorin's office. Could he play the violin? Somewhat reluctantly, he admitted the fact. How well could he play? In his modesty, he declined to say. But Father Sorin had ways of finding out. And the result was that Brother Leopold was set up as a professor of violin.
Years later, when he had grown too feeble to be a professor, his desire to work and work always was gratified by an appointment as the "candy-man" for the students. Boys have a continuous appetite for sweet things, and Brother Leopold was just the man to gratify that yearning and, at the same time, lay aside a tidy penny for the University. His "store" suffered many movings-about, but for two generations of Notre Dame students, "Leeps" meant largely "lemonade and fours." The "fours" referred to a chocolate covered cookie, topped by a walnut. There were other confections, indicated by numbers of one, two, three, four, on up to sixteen, but "fours" was the popular number. His lemonade was mixed in great wooden tubs, and it was a hearty drink to students who were threatened with expulsion if they attempted anything stronger. For a nickel, the student of Father Cavanaugh's regime could get a large glass of lemonade and two "fours."
Brother Leopold lived a long life, one of prayer and work. He was a tiny, shrunken old man when I first knew him. But he kept laboring to the very end. In the last ten years of his life, when he lived in the Community House, he would trudge along with his wheel-barrow, gathering twigs and branches that littered the grounds. He was forever busy. Once Father Irving and I met him near the boat house, trying to push his wheel barrow through the sand. He had grown very deaf, and Father Irving shouted to him: "How old are you?" "I'm ninety-two," he answered, "and I don't know why I've lived so long! I was such a beautiful baby!" To another who inquired about his health, he said with a gleam in his eye: "If my body were as strong as my head, I'd be perfect."
There was another Brother, Bonaventure by name, and by nickname "Bonny," who was part and parcel of Father Cavanaugh's Notre Dame. He was a wisp of a man, with shining eyes, the particular friend of all athletes. He was from County Cork, Ireland, and was born June 16, 1833. He had joined the community in 1858, and through more than half a century had seen Notre Dame grow. His supreme interest was the athletes of "Our Lady." In some way, they represented to him the stamp and proof of Notre Dame's greatness. Of course, he was quite an elderly man when Father Cavanaugh became president in 1905. But his nimble little gait carried him eagerly up to every large lad he met on the campus to inquire in what sport the boy was enrolled. He had made it an almost religious duty to compare the weight and stature of every new athlete with that of men who had gone before. If Brother Bonaventure were talking to you and one of his favorites passed, the Brother would remark characteristically: "His father must have been a decent man!"
There are few old students who cannot recall the "little Brother" in the bleachers watching, eager-eyed, the progress of every game in every sport, and flushing with the anticipation of victory. There are few athletes who have worn an N.D. who cannot recall a day when the kindly "Bonny" measured them with his eye, inquired their weight and appraised the fighting power stored away in their brawn. And Brother "Bonny" never forgot his statistics. He could tell you about John Eggeman's height, and Pat Corcoran's stride, and Fred Power's protean prowess, and "Red" Salmon's plunge and Gibson's curves. . . . Brother "Bonny" knew them all, and loved them all, and in turn was beloved and respected by all.
Brother Bonaventure was innocently playful. His smile worked wonders. He was lowly of heart and sweet of disposition. At his funeral, in March, 1916, the athletes of the University bore his body to the Community cemetery. "Bonny's" interest and kindness made it a pleasant duty.
For years Brother Alphonsus was Rector of Brownson Hall. Brother Alphonsus was a deeply religious man, and he conceived it as his duty, as it was, to supervise the conduct of his students. He was a man of remarkable justice. If mercy was to be dispensed, that was the duty of his superiors. His job was to detect the miscreant and report him. He knew he was disliked, but he didn't care. His duty well-done was sufficient for him. I have heard dozens of Notre Dame graduates praise Brother Alphonsus as the "squarest prefect they ever had." He was a cold, imperturbable man with a sense of honesty that was magnificent. If there were mistakes, he would acknowledge them without hesitation. But woe to the boy who tried to get away with something phoney!
His one ambition was to make Notre Dame boys truly spiritual. He had begun a "spiritual library" which would augment the devotional life of students. In the Brownson study hall he collected hundreds of volumes of works most calculated to promote this desire. To his great delight, the students responded to his zeal. He would descend from his "throne," and point out to students the books that were best suited to their needs. He was ever helpful to the serious student, and gave him the best of his generous heart.
The hobby of Brother Alphonsus was birds. With his field-glasses slung over his shoulders, he would trudge off to the woods of an afternoon to discover and record the new arrivals. So great were his powers of observation that Father Nieuwland asked him to contribute regularly to the Midland Naturalist. More than once he astounded ornithologists by his astute observations. When the yearbook, the Dome, was dedicated to Brother Alphonsus in 1918, the students applauded this honor. Everyone knew that the dedication had been earned by long and devoted service. He died June 14, 1930.
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