A periodic column
by Steve Duffy ‘77
July 14, 2011 –Right before Reunion 2011, a small package arrived for me at South Hall. The return address said it was from Esther Weingarten ’87.
Of course, I remembered Esther very well. She was the sort of Antiochian who seemed to live in the library (unless she was in the Science Building, or off on a trip with the Environmental Field Program). She, like many Antiochians, brought her passions, laughter and joy along with her everywhere she went. Most infectious and always welcome!
During her stint on campus, Esther gave me a tan colored t-shirt with a buffalo on it. I loved that shirt! I wore it at intervals until I, unfortunately, grew impossibly large for it. I never threw it out, though, because I felt it had all kinds of sentiment. But, I also could not bear to cut it up to help me stake tomatoes, even though the odds were that I would never get back into that tee-shirt during this lifetime.
A couple of years ago, I talked with Esther while working at the College Revival Office for an independent Antioch College. I might have mentioned the fate of that shirt. I thought that was the end of that conversation. However, when I opened the package at Reunion, it contained a rich dark brown t-shirt with a giant buffalo on it! Thanks, Esther!
Over the years, I have been given over a dozen stuffed buffalo and other buffalo memorabilia. Antiochians have sometimes surprised me with other strange buffalo-schwag. Around 2006, a guy named Leland came to the library desk with a grin on his face. He gave me a poster from Yellowstone Park warning of the dangers of getting too close to “buffalo.” Then, from behind his back, he whipped out some buffalo hair that he had managed to rustle up from a resting bison!
Of course, every name has an origin story, and mine is no exception. The “buffalo” moniker was given to me around 1976 by Librarian Joe Cali. Joe, was, of course, one of Antioch College’s true and enduring delights. Joe blessed many with of us with great nicknames; I was lucky to get one that really fit.
A friend of mine named Renee (class of ’76) had just come back from Tanzania and Italy, a two-year long stint with AEA (Antioch Education Abroad). She came up to the front desk of the library and called out, “Hey, Duffalo!” After Joe Cali heard that, my name was changed forever, immediately dubbing me “Buffalo.” Folks heard that name bandied about until Joe passed away in February 2007.
If people would ask him why he called me Buffalo, he would quip, “It’s simple, it’s etymology!” Some people thought he was a curmudgeon, but Joe’s heart was wonderfully soft. He loved the College and the people who passed through the Library. He also had an outrageous sense of humor and unusual ways of breaking the ice with anyone who would pop into the Olive Kettering Library. He helped make it a welcoming and safe space for all. Joe really was an amazing librarian and human.
There are not too many libraries in the world, I would imagine, that would have had an individual working there at full steam for 55 years. Of course, our Library is unique in other ways as well. Currently, I am helping with what might be termed “Collection Review” for the Library. Much of is the collection is the handiwork of Joe, Bruce Thomas, Paul Bixler, as well as decades and decades of faculty legacy.
We are figuring out what has been checked out in the last ten years, and also how many copies of said book there are in Ohio or in the world of any item. So I guess I am currently a true “Buffalo grazing” … or possibly singing my own “Songs from the Stacks!”
In my spelunking, I am seeing amazing things. Books in German, Japanese, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish—and some from the early 1800’s. In some cases, we are almost the only library in the world to have an item. For instance, the other day I came across the book Children of the A-bomb by Osada. We had it in Japanese as well as English. There were many of the English version in Ohio and elsewhere, but our mighty little library is one of only nine in the world tracking system WORLDCAT to have this item in Japanese!
The Olive Kettering library is really an academic candy store with many sweet treats. The new philosophy professor, Lew Trelawny-Cassity, has been hanging out already near the Philosophy section, and other visitors have been Vic Ayoub ’49 and Bill Houston, both former professors. Having the different generations of faculty meet in the stacks is something Joe would have loved.
I close this by sending all Antiochians much love from the “Big Olive” (Kettering Library).
Steve Duffy ‘77 is a library circulation specialist and special assistant to alumni relations at Antioch College.