The Colgate Scene
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People on the go
Love of the land
by Rebecca CostelloLast spring, Charles Ray '44 lamented the rain that slowed planting on his farm overlooking the Wabash Valley. His time was well spent, though -- tarring shed roofs. Whatever the activity, Ray seems to view it as an act of creation, something from which to take satisfaction.
Ray grows corn and soybeans on about half of the 500 acres west of Terre Haute, Indiana once owned by his grandfather, and he raises Angus cattle on the pastures. "My sons Charles and Tony help me once in a while, but otherwise I do it all myself," he says proudly.
Nestled on the property are seven neatly chinked 19th-century log cabins, original pioneer structures that Ray rescued from deterioration, moved and reassembled himself. In the process he became a master of pioneer skills. "The logs were handhewn by the early settlers to this area," he says. For each roof, he split his own red oak shingles -- 2,400 of them. "They're hard to find. The logs have to be two foot in diameter." Several of the cabins, which include dwellings, a tavern, blacksmith shop and loom room, are authentically furnished. "I do have three of them rented as residences now." He has hosted groups of schoolchildren to show what homes were like back then.
Ray also taught himself fire-weld blacksmithing. His creations include latches and fireplace tools as well as artistic candelabras and an intricate headboard.
Even as a Colgate student, Ray was close to the earth, as a geology major and a wrestler. "I won the IM championship for the 155 pound class."
Fifty-odd years since he carved his initials on a table at the Colgate Inn, Ray reflects that an art class with Professor Krakusen planted a seed in a talent that didn't bear fruit until ten years ago. When winter provided some free time, Ray began painting again -- portraits of his family as well as Appalachian landscapes and scenes from his farm. In a stunning portrait of his wife, Dorothy -- they've been married 54 years -- her scarf appears to float on a breeze. His work has won him several Merit Awards in the Wabash Valley Art Guild's annual exhibition.
"Next I'd like to paint horses," he reflects. His Arabian, appaloosa and two quarter horses would be perfect models.
Charlie Ray hasn't done much painting in the past few years -- the farm, of course, takes precedence. "I do it for the love of the land. Even if I just break even I'm happy."
As the world shrinks . . .
Over lunch with David Hale '84 of the Colgate treasurer's office, Fred Blaicher '61 lamented the competition for good employees to staff regional offices of his publishing company, Construction Data Corporation, which tracks construction projects around the country by telephone.
"Why don't you set up shop in Hamilton?" Hale asked.
Twenty years ago, when Blaicher's business was based on personal calls in the offices of his contacts, the Hamilton site would have been too remote. But today, the telephone and computer have eliminated the need to travel.
So six months ago, Construction Data added Hamilton, NY, to its list of regional offices in other metropolises such as Boston, Raleigh, Austin, Denver, Vero Beach and the Princeton suburb of Lawrenceville.
"In Princeton there was Squibb on one side, Merrill Lynch on another, and Bloomberg's opening a new operation next door. In that kind of market, finding good employees was the problem," said Blaicher.
In Hamilton he discovered a ready force of willing workers. "Everyone was helpful and excited about the idea of our coming up here. People took the time to talk with me about what was available. Now that we're settled, we're getting referrals of people looking for jobs. That's something we haven't experienced in New Jersey."
Blaicher found office space just two minutes from the village at White Eagle Conference Center, a site formerly owned by the American Management Association. "It's right on the lake and there's no problem finding parking," he said. "Just like Thoreau's Pond."
In six months the operation has grown to a dozen people. By phone from their Hamilton office, the staff call architects, engineers and owners to collect the details of construction projects from Westchester County to Buffalo and distribute them to contractors and suppliers. Blaicher visits on occasion, but day-to-day management falls to a manager on site.
"When you think of it, it's not that unusual," said Blaicher, citing major corporations like L.L. Bean and MBNB and Citibank that have located their headquarters in out-of-the-way places. JL
Hopkins and home runs
It was near the end of the 1927 season when Hopkins was summoned from the left field bullpen and into baseball lore. In the majors for only two weeks, Hopkins was playing with the Washington Senators, who had purchased his contract from the New Haven team in the Eastern League, where Hopkins had been pitching since his graduation from Colgate.
"I was sold for $25,000," says Hopkins, a witty 94, from his home in Deep River, CT. "I told them I wanted some of that money and wouldn't report." Two days later, threatened with suspension, he boarded a train to Washington.
Hopkins couldn't see the action from the bullpen and as he walked to the mound he discovered there were two outs but the New York Yankees had the bases loaded. It was his first big league appearance.
"Two of our pitchers had been clobbered and they wanted me to come in and take over. I had no idea who the next batter was.
"Why, out walks Babe Ruth. At the time it didn't dawn on me he was the greatest ball player in the game. Probably still is as far as I'm concerned."
The catcher and Hopkins decided to pitch Ruth nothing but slow curves, which the Bambino proceeded to foul off or ignore if they were out of the strike zone. "I must have thrown him 12 or 15 pitches." With the count full, Hopkins delivered a curve on the outside of the plate. Ruth pulled the pitch, knocking it into the "fourth or fifth row out in right field." It was the legend's 59th home run of the season in which he ultimately hit 60.
With the nation's attention on this summer's home run derby staged by Sammy Sosa of the Cubs and the Cardinals' Mark McGwire, some of the limelight found Paul Hopkins once again, the only pitcher living who gave up a homer to the Babe in '27.
Hopkins was featured in Sports Illustrated, was David Letterman's guest on Late Night and his baseball opionions are widely sought.
"I'd pitch him high, naturally," says Hopkins of the new home run king McGwire. "He was going after low balls and with his strength, he could get it over the fences, which are a lot shorter today, by the way.
"I'm busier now than I was 20 years ago," says Hopkins, who played two more seasons with the Senators and then spent 30 years as a banker.
"People send me all kinds of things to sign," says Paul Hopkins, who lost a confrontation with Ruth but won a place in history. JH
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