Voices: The Great Greencastle Adventure

by Ted Steeg ’52

July 10, 2008

It was late November 1951. The football season had just ended, and to celebrate our stomping victory over DePauw (41-12, as I recall) several of us decided to make merry at various sorority houses on the DePauw campus. If we got lucky, we thought we might make not only merry, but Charlotte and Isabel, too (twins, they were high school girlfriends from earlier times).

We were the Fab Four: Dugan Neidow, Don Smith, Tom Moser, and myself. We took Smitty’s car. Need I say there was a good deal of drinking going on as we drove south?

Once there, we targeted the Theta house, where the twins lived. For some reason, the girls were all sequestered that night (or maybe at that hour). No problem—Doog and I blithely climbed up to the second story like a couple of mountain goats.

"I’m looking for Charlotte and Isabel," I remember slurring to some coeds. But then the coeds were background, and I was confronted with an indignant housemother. After this, everything becomes a blur.

My next clear memory was being back in the car with Smitty and Mose.

"Where’s Doog?" I asked.

"The cops got him," someone said.

"What?" I screamed. "They can’t do that! Let’s get our asses to the police HQ and get him out!"

Off we roared. Once there, I fell out of the car and charged up the stairs two at a time (the main desk was on the second floor).

"Where’s my pal Dugan?" I demanded.

At first the sergeant simply stared at me. Then he came to.

"Oh," he said, right neighborly-like, "you mean that other college kid. We’ll show you. Right now!"

Next thing I knew I was in a cell, where I spent the night. Sure enough, Dugan was nearby.

In the morning we were arraigned and driven back to Craw-fordsville, to be met by an unsmiling Dean Byron Trippet. We were so contrite; he hardly had to reprimand us.

He did point out that we were in real jeopardy of expulsion. However, if the story didn’t hit the wire services, we might be able to get off with a lighter punishment. Anxiously, we waited.

Disaster! To our great dismay, the next day the AP story came out: "Two Wabash Thugs Apprehended on Sorority House Rooftop." About the only good thing was they had our legal names, Richard and Edgar. Had they figured out Richard was really Dugan, a star on the basketball team, and Edgar was really Ted, the guy who’d scored two touchdowns in the recent rout of the home team, it would surely have been a much bigger story—"Drunken Jocks on Sorority Binge!"

Even so, we were suspended.

"Go home," said Trip. "If you mind yourselves, you can come back for the spring semester and graduate. But after you’re back, if you so much as walk by a bar here in Crawfordsville, much less go in, that’s it for you boys."
So we went home until the end of January. After we returned, we were model citizens…and in June were allowed to put on caps and gowns with the rest of our class.

Over the years, the incident mushroomed and made Doog and I somewhat infamous to people of the Wabash of that era. The story became immortalized in Going All the Way, Dan Wakefield’s novel about a fictionalized him and me stumbling around in Indianapolis after the Korean War.

And believe it or not, I still get mail about it. Only last summer, a DePauw grad from later years liked the book so much he tracked down Wakefield, and then me, to authenticate the events depicted there. He was tickled pink to get the real dope.

So…that’s the story, as best I remember it. Today it’s funny. But believe me, at Christmastime 1951, when with oily jeans and greasy fingernails I was pumping gas on frigid evenings in an Esso station at 30th and Meridian, wondering if I’d ever get back to the ’Bash andget my diploma, it was no laughing matter.*

Filmmaker Ted Steeg ’52 spent his first years after Wabash in Greenwich Village, sharing an apartment with screenwriter Dan Wakefield and immersing himself in the New York City of that day—the new journalism of the Village Voice; the writing of Kerouac, Salinger, Mailer, and Ginsberg, the music of Thelonius Monk and Mabel Mercer; and the efforts of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. He returned to Wabash in the 1970s to film A Way of Life, a documentary about Wabash. The film was shown last fall during the celebration of the College’s 175th year.

"The Great Greencastle Adventure" is reprinted from the Class of 52 Class Agent letter.

 


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