No Other Obligations But My College Life

Up and Around Notre Dame and South Bend

Since undergraduates were not allowed to have cars anywhere in the South Bend area, home football weekends became important events - though Myers notes the residence hall late-night restrictions weren't eased for them. There were the usual college fare -- dances, theatrical or musical events and even a campus-sponsored Mardi Gras -- but typical recreation was to head into South Bend to eat out or see a movie. "As you might expect in such a relatively restrained mostly single-sex environment, intramural athletics were quite popular," explains Myers. "Neither Bellairs nor I participated in that, but we were avid (and lousy) golfers. Notre Dame had its own 18 hole golf course and the greens fee for students was a nominal 50 cents or so. Oddly enough, John and I both played left-handed. Typically we would start out as part of a foursome and fall behind the other two due to excessive time searching for lost balls and finally finishing the game by ourselves.

Really serious partying was reserved for extended holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter, or other shorter, three-day breaks. Here the various alumni clubs, particularly Chicago's, sprang into importance by sponsoring dances which were much bigger and more uninhibited events than anything held on campus. The Indiana turnpike, which would cut the trip to just under two hours, was just under construction, and the other current alternative, Interstate 94, did not yet exist. "Our connection to Chicago was via the electric South Shore Train Line, which took about two hours to downtown Chicago," says Myers. "As my parents at the time lived in Oak Park, on the western fringe of Chicago, I frequently brought a couple of friends, including Bellairs, home for such weekends. John at the time was shy and awkward around girls and never dated. Therefore, when the rest of us would go out on a dance night he would stay at home with my parents and play chess or scrabble with them."

Like most college kids Bellairs and Myers were movie freaks and even in a remote place such as South Bend one could find foreign films, which were coming into vogue then. "That was the era when theaters with outlandish, exotic decor were being built all over the country. Wherever John and I visited, I simply don't remember either its name or decor, despite having seen dozens of movies there over the course of four years," recalls Myers. "We saw in first run or revival all the great Alec Guinness comedies from Kind Hearts and Coronets to The Horse's Mouth, with The Ladykillers being a particular favorite. We also appreciated a number of the early Italian realist films, the early French New Wave, and of course the early movies of Satan's emissary, Brigitte Bardot. I remember how overwhelmed we were by Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, which was virtually unheralded in its first release. In any event, our years at Notre Dame passed in relative tranquility."

Pizza was one food of choice and South Bend had an asortment of pizzerias to choose from. "The pizza parlor of choice for our particular group was a rather drab family-run place in downtown South Bend called Febbo's," Myers remembers. "It was not at all a college hangout, and few students other than our own group ever frequented it. We liked it because it had a large game table of what I guess you could call table shuffleboard, which we used to play by the hour. Also, the Febbo family was not too particular about such niceties as requiring official identification cards in return for the odd glass of beer." The pizzeria closest to campus was Frankie's and perhaps because of that it was quite the popular gathering place. "God knows why," Myers adds. "Most people have a recollection of some place in their youth which served the best pizza in the world. Take it from me, Frankie's pizzas were the worst! Tasteless and as hard as manhole covers!"

In their senior year, Bellairs and company would make frequent visits to Cecil's. "I think it was there that our drink of choice was the Depth Charge, which cost a quarter and consisted of a 16-ounce glass of Big D (for Drury's) beer, absolutely the worst beer ever brewed in the history of the world, served with a shotglass of whiskey of equally questionable provenance. We would drop the entire shot glass, right side up, into the beer glass, then, bottoms up!" Myers recalls.

As far as music was concerned, Bellairs had no particular talent but could more or less carry a tune and would sometimes, we’re told, sing stanzas of his favorite song while strumming an imaginary guitar. Bellairs had a strong interest in folk music, as well as classical, with Richard Dyer-Bennett being one of his favorite singers. Dyer-Bennett visited the Notre Dame campus February 21, 1958, and we’re told Bellairs later met Dyer-Bennett, escorting him around either Notre Dame or another one of the campuses where Bellairs later taught. Myers remembers The Vicar of Bray being one of Bellairs’ favorite songs, one about a churchman who survives the several waves of English religious wars by shifting his allegiances in order to keep his job.