The Colgate Scene
November 1999
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September Song
by Priit Vesilind '64 and Peter Behr '62

John Weingart conducting


From the left, Clark Madigan, Beau Clark, Blitz Fox, Dan Adams


From the left, Ed Hines, Dick Webb, John Weingart, George Haggarty
The diners at the East Cove Restaurant in Lake George, N.Y. looked up in surprise from the prime rib special as 30 middle-aged men strode past them, lined up against a side wall, and filled the room with the opening chords of Great Day.

     After four songs, a squeeze for a friendly waitress, and a big ovation, the Colgate Thirteen, circa 1960-1970, completed its first concert away from Hamilton, N.Y. in three decades.

     The September 11 concert capped a special weekend gathering for the '60s Thirteeners that took us back in time to relive some of the richest experiences of our Colgate years.

     Pete Halstead '64 said that afterwards, he tried to tell banking colleagues what the weekend had been like, and couldn't really do it.

     "There is no way to explain the great feeling of standing in an accustomed position on a line of friends singing songs where every note brought back a flood of memories. Oh well, they will never know, and I will never forget."

     We sang our way through half a hundred songs in the Thirteen repertoire over two days at Paul '67 and Linda Bradley's home alongside the crystal beauty of Lake George. Linda and other spouses and friends (13 in all, by chance), kept food and wine flowing and, with Paul, provided the abundant hospitality that made it a family gathering.

The reunion drew a great turnout and, happily, the necessary proportions of tenors, baritones and basses. In the lineup were, Dan Adams '62, Lee Adams '65, Tom Behr '62, Peter Behr '62, Paul Bradley '67 and Linda, Scott Christensen '70, Beau Clark '62 and Jennifer, Joe Doolittle '67 and Gay, Ed Dietrich '66, Geoff Egginton '63 and Susan, Bud Eisberg '65 and Lyn, Keith Fagan '67, Byron "Blitz" Fox '62 and Mary, Rick Gehret '67, George Haggarty '63 and Thumper, Pete Halstead '64 and Linda, Bud Hedinger '69, Ed Hines '63, Bob Hodgson '69, Brad Johnston '68, Cris Johnson '70, Biff Jones '64 and Mary, Clark Madigan '61, Charlie Mayberry '70 and Rena, Dock Murdock '62, Dave "Tree" Phillips '67, Steve Steele '64, Richard Tobin '69, Priit Vesilind '64 and Rima, Tom Walker '69, Dick Webb '63 and Stephanie, John Weingart '64 and Ellen, and Pete Wilkinson '63.
The ten of us who sneaked in a round of golf Friday morning were met at the 9th hole, between sides, by our colleagues' goofy and impromptu kazoo band ("Harassing the preppies," said Bud Hedinger '69). Non-golfers took turns exploring the lake on the Bradleys' boats or firing up the grills for dinner.

     It wasn't the first time that most of us have gotten together to sing since college.

     The Colgate Thirteen has been one of the university's most nostalgic alumni groups. It has organized some memorable reunions in Hamilton over the past 20 years. But with more than 100 men from every era of the Thirteen on campus, and the rich reunion schedule of activities to tempt us, various "vintages" of 13ers would scramble to put together a few decent numbers for the concert at the chapel. It was whetting our appetites, not satisfying them.

     So it was that John Weingart '64 and Ed Hines '63, a leader and assistant leader respectively in their day, decided that we should get together for some serious music-making on our own, to celebrate the distinctive songs of our own era and the old friendships.

     Those two, joined by George Haggarty '63, and "Dock" Murdock '62, formed a steering committee for the reunion. Soon Hines had distributed practice tapes of songs from a decade of Thirteen hits. At "Hiner's" urging, we were singing on the way to work every morning for months, croaking and warbling in the traffic, relearning complex parts and bemoaning the flight of so many high notes.

     In keeping with our times, perhaps, this was a reunion whipped together via the Internet. A half-year of e-mail traffic flew between us -- war stories, musical plans, low comedy, and a lot of chain-pulling. That created a tight sense of community and much anticipation.

     Tom "Oso" Behr '62 captured this history from the Web and published it in reunion booklets, while his brother, Peter Behr '62, created a reunion website on the Internet where old memories were revived. Tom Behr also recorded the proceedings at Lake George, headset clamped around his ears like "Sparks" manning the wireless on an Atlantic steamship.

     The inclusion of a decade of Colgate Thirteen members enriched the music and the experience. Just as campus life changed in many ways in the '60s, so did the Thirteen's song sheet. Our medley included old ballads inherited from the 1950s, and the arrangements of Hines, John Dolven '65 and Tom O'Hare '66 done a dozen years later.

     When the weekend arrived, we were as ready as we could be for the singing. But none of us was prepared to be so profoundly moved.

     More than just a flashback, the Lake George reunion was sweetened by an appreciation of the people that our old college classmates have turned into, after all these years.

     Dan Adams '62, a former Colgate Thirteen leader, summed it up this way: "For me, the ember of our friendship burst into a brighter-than-ever flame. Maybe the wood is simply 38 years drier now . . . What we shared then we share now, made richer by the honest sharing of the nicks and dings life has dished out."

     Wrote Beau Clark '62: "Our hearts were young again, our souls were opened, our emotions were overpowering, our love of singing and for each other was pervasive, this will last, and last, and last until we meet again."

     Added Hedinger, "Do you find that the memories just keep flooding over you, and that you have a smile on your face every time the highlight film plays inside your head? I sure do. What a joy to belong to the greatest fraternity of them all."

     "Nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare with the sound of a 1-5-1-3 chord sung by nearly 30 excellent male voices whose perfect blend is tuned by decades of friendship," Murdock said.

     Joe Doolittle '67 said afterwards, "One moment I hold dear was John Weingart's farewell after we sang the Colgate Hymn. All that morning I was wondering how we could stop, (my voice had, my spirit hadn't). And at the end of the Hymn, Weingart started his walking `High Five,' no words, just looks and touches, and my spirit was touched to wait for another two years" until the next gathering.

     Singing with the group for the first time were three business managers: Dick Webb '63, Geoff Egginton '63 and Bud "Ace" Eisberg '65. In the '60s, business managers were non-singing members of the group. Wrote Eisberg, "Why the hell would three former business managers show? Renewing old and making new friendships were an essential element of the weekend."

     The afterglow lingers still, along with the sweet delusion that we were as good as ever. Wrote Byron "Blitz" Fox '62, "As we drove south on Sunday, singing along with Hiner's tape, my wife Mary, the mistress of pith, wistfully observed, "By the end of the weekend, all of you looked ten years younger."

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