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Events of the Past
- Fire in infanite storage (1965-6)
- What was the Mollar cannon? (1968)
- What is BTE? (1968-1995)
- Who's Who (1978-1980s)
- What were the Senior Speakers? (mid 1980s - 1995)
- A slave auction in Blacker? (1987)
- Hex on being named Ben? (1987-1997)
- What was BEGAdeth? (1988-89)
- What is/was the Blacker Armored
- What was Shantytown? (1991)
- Has Hell actually been frozen? (1991)
- What was the Tommies Triple Threat Triathalon (Alley Ordering)? (1991)
- What was a band called the Ninth? (1991-4)
- What was the Protest of Preregistration? (1992)
1. A fire in infanite storage? (1965-6)
The big fire in the infinite storeroom occurred in the
1965-66 academic year. There was still soot in
hyperspace from the fire for a long time after that.
The fire was started by Scurves filling their chimney
with newspapers and torching it off. The hot ashes
were pushed down the flap doors in the bottom of the
fireplace. Down in the basement, some of the hot stuff
got out and set the junk in the basement on fire. One
of the results of the fire was a water main breaking
in the wall and flooding some areas of the basement.
2. What was the Mollar cannon? (1968)
The Moller canon named after its inventor Jeff Moller (fr: 1965, grad: 1969)
Driven by compressed air, it was used to shoot hot charcoal briquettes at
Dabney and sometimes into the Dabney courtyard. Observers say that the
showers of sparks were fun to watch. This device had disappeared well before
3. What is BTE? (1968-1995)
BTE is Blacker Telephone Exchange. It was originally called BITE
for Blacker Interalley Telephone and Electric, but that name didn't
stick. Next it was called BT&E,
Blacker Telephone and Electric. At the time Blacker only had the
Lounge phone and some alley phones. Doug Winbigler (fr: 1966, left
1968-9), Stan Levy (fr: 1966, grad 1970) and Bill Drake (fr: 1966,
grad: 1970) conceived, build and installed during 1968. It was given
a budget of $600, the entire social budget for 3rd term 1968. It
was completed either 3rd term or that following summer. The system
used mechanical relays to bring phone service to each room. Upon
completion it was turned over to the first Teletroll, Craig McCluskey
(fr: 1967, grad: 1971). The earliest document that
exists for BT&E is a diagram labled "BT&E Handset C. W. McCluskey
According to Hovse legend, after wiring the Hovse for BT&E, Doug
committed suicide. Alums where were students at the time, have
confirmed that Doug was on leave and did take cyanide spring of 1969.
He talked with someone
in room 60 and then went down to the louge where he died. A note in
the BT&E notebook mentions, "Building BT&E then committing suicide
to avoid having to document"
The original BT&E concept included a model 50 Teletype
which printed out the phone calls made and punched a
paper tape. The paper tape was taken over to the
computer center and used computer club time on the
mainframe to analyze the calls and create the bills.
It proved to be a maintenance headache and we gave and
let the alleys with outside lines hassle it out among
themselves. There was a "black box" sitting under the
lounge phone with a pushbutton on it that would let
BT&E calls be connected to the campus telephone
Around May 1982 BT&E was converted to digital by Steve Colwell
(fr: 1979, grad 1983). Version 1.0 of the assembled code is dated 19
May 1982. Major revisions to the code were dated 7 January 1993
(v2.0) and 14 February 1983 (v3.0). The highest version number
listed was v3.1.3 on 2 March 1983. I have not seen the latest
version of the code. People involved in BT&E at this time also
included Ruch Murray (fr: 1981, grad 1985), Rick Walker (fr: 1978,
grad: 1982) and Dan Kegel (fr: 1980 , grad: 1986)
In 1987 at the end of rotation Mark Huie (fr: 1985, grad 1990) was
attempting to splice in a
Y connection to a water main in a closet above BTE without first
turning the water off. The leaking water killed BTE. Ken Andrews
(fr: 1986, grad: 1990), the BTE troll tried to fixed, which got him
elected president. It worked at least until 1st term 1988. Then
it died again and briefly operated in spring 1989.
In 1990 through 1992 Walker Aumann (fr:
1988, grad 1993) and Bevan Bennett (fr: 1991, grad 1995) tried to
fix it. They got it as far as manually switching, but new things
kept breaking. And the last known data-wigit for that chipset in
the world died. So Walker and Bevan got money from ASCIT for the
summer of 1992 to redesign BTE as a printed circuit board. Rick
Walker helped. The goal was to make a BTE for all of the Hovses.
About this time the Administration annouced that it would put in
campus extensions in each room for free and the project was dropped.
In the 1995 to 1996 timeframe, Matt Clapp (fr: 1991, grad 1996)
tried to convert BTE to linux, but that project was abandoned before
4. Who's Who (1978-1980s)
When Paul De La Houssaye (fr: 1976, grad 1980) was living in the Blacker/Dabney
basement with window on the courtyard between Blacker and Dabney (called the
Saga Courtyard a the time after the name of the food service), Moles started
throwing bottles into the courtyard while voicing "whhoooo". This mimiced
the first part of Paul's name. The tradition continued long after Paul
left Tech, but was completely abandoned by 1989. "Who"ing became a general
callsign for locating nearby Moles, because a hollow "who" sound test to
carry a long way. This too was a dead tradition by 1989.
6. A slave auction in Blacker? (1987)
In the spring of 1987 or possibly in the fall of 1988 Blacker was
extremely broke. At this time so much damage was being done and
charge to the Hovse that there wasn't much left over for social
events. So the Hovse decided to hold a slave auction to raise
funds. Memebers of the Hovse would offer themselves up for bidding.
In return the "sold" person would perform an afternoon of tasks for
the "buyer". Such things included washing cars, cleaing rooms, etc.
The event turned into a huge happening. Dr. Chris Brennen, then the
MOSH and later Dean and VP for Student Affairs, tells that it was
the most sucessful House event that he had ever seen. The whole of
Blacker Courtyard was standing room only with people spilling out
into Ricketts and Blacker Beach. Naturally the women of the Hovse
fetched higher prices then the men. The highest bid, about $100, was
for Bibi Jentoft-Nielson (fr: 1985, grad: 1989), the Hovse President.
7. Hex on being named Ben? (1987-1997)
When Benjamin Smith (fr: 1989, grad: 1994) came to look at Caltech in
April or May 1989, it was noticed that there were 3 people named Ben
in the Hovse at the time
plus the pre-frosh. At one point 3 of the 4 Bens were in one room
in Hell. There was talk of attaining critical Ben mass. By the
time that Benjamin Smith was picked into Blacker that fall, Ben
Finley (fr: 1987, left 1989) had flamed. Later on that year, Ben
Discoe (fr: 1988, left: summer 1990) also left Tech. During
spring 1992, Benjamin Holland (fr: 1987, left: 1992) was UASHed and
never returned. Benjamin Smith took a leave of absence for 3rd
term 1991 and took a 5th year to graduate. So since the Hovse was
4 for 4 for bad things happening to those named Ben, the Hovse looked
at previous Bens:
Benjamin B. Nolan (fr: 1950, left after 1 or 2 years)
So only 2 out of 7 Bens gradutated on time and those were during the
Vietnam Conflict. However this hex seems to have been broken.
Benjamin Fredrick Lane (fr: 1993, grad 1997) and Benjamin Edward Turk
(fr: 1994, grad 1998) both have graduated on time.
Benjamin Dembart (fr: 1962, grad: 1966)
Benamin Grosvenor Cooper (fr: 1963, grad: 1967)
8. What was BEGAdeth? (1988-89)
The "Blacker Electric Guitar Army O' Deth". This group of "musicians"
played a few concerts in the 1988-89 school year, mostly confined
to "Ride Chasers" during finals week. It thought that during finals 2nd term
1989 they played a different alley each morning. BEGAdeth's
"music" is best described as a number of electric guitar players, not
in tune, playing completely different songs, in different keys, all
very loudly, at the same place. The main core of BEGAdeth consisted of Benjamin
Holland (fr: 1987, left 1990), Marty O'Brien (fr: 1988, grad: 1992),
Rob Padula (fr: 1987, grad 1991) and
Mike Ricci (fr: 1987, grad 1991). Clifton Kiser (fr: 1986, grad
1990) played drums for them occasionally. Kevin Archie (fr: 1988,
grad 1992) maintains that he never was a member of BEGAdeth and that
the time we was seen playing guitar with them we was only playing
guitar near them and his playing at the same time as BEGAdeth was
only a random coincidence. Right Kevin We believe you...
Band T-shirts were made and sold. Marty even managed to cash a check
made out to BegaDETH.
9. What is/was the Blacker Armored Division (1988-present)
- Sometime in the 1988-89 school year someone spotted and
advertisement in The LA
Times for the sale of Soviet tanls (T-72?). Anyone that was
interested should contact the Soviet consulate.
(Note, this was before the breakup of the Soviet Union and the
massive sell off of it's military equipment for pennies on the ruble)
This article was noted and discussed. Some thought that Blacker having
its own tank would be
cool. Not only could the Hovse return fire on the Fleming cannon, but
it could be mobile. If the Hovse had a tank, then its armored
forces needed a name. The name "Blacker Armored Division" was
arrived at, with the convienent initials of "B.A.D.". Amusement
levels triumphed over apathay and
letter was fired off to the local Soviet Consulate.
The Soviet Consulate
replied that the Hovse needed to talk with the main Soviet Embassy in
Washington. A letter was fired off to the embassy. The embassy replied that
the Hovse needed to talk to the Soviet Department of Defense. By now
summer had come and gone; it was the fall of 1989. Luckily Rob Padula (Fr: 1987, Grad: 1991) was taking
Russian, and so a letter in Russian was sent off to the
Soviet Department of Defense. Soviets never replied.
Amuesement levels remained high. That year the Blacker/Ricketts Ski
trip was referred to as "Blacker Armored Division--Winter Maneuvers"
by some and an Operations Order was posted on the Lounge wall by
Benjamin Smith (fr: 1989, grad: 1994.
2nd or 3rd term 1990 was the design time for new Hovse T-shirts.
Walker Aumann (fr: 1988, grad 1993) and Noam Bernstein (fr: 1988,
grad 1992) had just moved to 5A. Walker and Noam liked heavy metal music.
They played it loudly and often. Many a lunch in the courtyard was spentlistening to their music.
So Benjamin Smith designed a T-shirt with a Soviet T-72 tank
and the line "Heavy Metal in the Courtyard"--a pun combining the tank
and Walker and Noam's choice of music. No T-shirt design was chosen that
year. In the following School year, Alex Rosser (fr: 1989, left 1st
1991) made up a BAD shirt using a different T-72 image and just the
words "Blacker Armored Division" above and "Heavy Metal" below the
image. About 5 or so of the T-shirts were made.
The next fall, 1991, when he arrived back at Tech with
a rusty 1980 Datsun 510 with stainless steel riveted on to patch major
portions of the body, Benjamin Smith joked about having an armored
vehicle for BAD. But the first truly armored vehicle was frosh Bevan
Bennett's black 1960 Ford Falcon, later named "Tracy" after an incident
in Tracy, CA. The car is steel through and through.
In 1991-1992, Benjamin Smith showed up with a 1972 SIII 88" Land
Rover (Dora)--the archetypical military vehicle after WWII. Not too
long afterwards a "Blacker Armored Division" sign appeared on the
Rover's roof rack.
In 1991-1992, Mike Ricci's (fr: 1987, grad 1991) Annual Thanksgiving
trip to his family's getaway place by the Salton Sea for some off
road driving was referred to as "Blacker Armored Division--Desert
Maneuvers. Alex Rosser and Jennifer Messenger (fr; 1989, grad 1993)
joined Mike, though Ben declined due to an ailing water pump on his
The BAD--Desert Maneuvers continued on a regular basis. Benjamin Smith joined
in the Thanksgiving 1992 trip and for the Memorial Day 1993 (along
with Eric Hill (fr: 1992, grad 1996) and Renny Talianchich (fr: 1992
grad 1996). On the May trip Mike Ricci in
his Jeep along with Benjamin Smith in his Rover (and the other) went
out searching for the dune buggy. The dune buggy ended up sneaking
up on both the Jeep and Land Rover. They started a discussion: "If
they had guns, they could have snuck up on us and shot us. If they
had paint guns..." The next trip, summer 1993, paint guns
appeared. The Blacker Armored Division had it's first live fire
Rolling off the success of Desert Paintball, Blacker Armored
Division continued to grow. 1st term 1993 started Blacker Armored
Division--Dismounted Maneuvers. A number of people bought paintball
played at local paintball fields. Three trips in November, one in
December, one in January and one in March honed the infantry skills of
On 27 February 1994 Blacker Armored Division entered dismounted
paintball combat against Lloyd House. 14 Moles took on 12 Llodies.
Blacker won the first 3 games, so they decided to
throw the next game. Singing "Kill the Lloydies" to the tune of
the Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries", all of Blacker charged up
the middle of the field shooting a wall of paint.
Heavy casualties ensued (Lloyd killed 9 of 14 moles, while 10 of 12
Lloydies died), but once again Blacker
won. At this point it was decided that the teams were unbalanced and
Lloyd conceded defeat (In 4 games every Lloydie had been hit in each
game whereas Blacker had only lost 17 people--half in that charge).
Some of Blacker's strongest players were switched to the
Lloyd Team. 4 more games were played. In the end it was 5-2-1 with
Blacker winning overall. In the end Blacker "killed" 100 of the Lloyd
team and Lloyd "killed" 47 moles.
On 10 April 1994 Blacker entered dismounted paintball combat with
Ruddock House and was victorious. Not enough Rudds showed, so they
surrendered immediately. Mixed teams were picked and all had a
great time playing. Other than that, details of this encounter
have been forgotten.
On 15 May 1994 Blacker was scheduled to enter dismounted paintball
combat with Fleming, but this ended up being cancelled.
After June 1994 (when Ben graduated), activity in the Blacker Armored
Division declined. Blacker Armored Division played
vehicular paintball in the desert every Thanksgiving and some other
weekends from 1993 until the early 2000s. There were a few
dismounted maneuvers during 1994 to 1997.
The mid 2000s saw some Airsoft (plastic pellet) guns and games
occuring in with BAD.
10. What was Shantytown? (1991)
3rd term 1991, Kim West, the Director of Residential Life, decided
to remove a number of single family homes from the undergrad
housing pool. These houses on Holliston were slated to be removed
to make way for parking structures and later Avery
House. Caltech was deep in the throws of a housing crunch. Houses
were forcing a large number of sophomores off-campus. (Blacker
we made a rule to save 4 sophomores to make sure there were some sophomores
on campus.) The loss of more than 45 spaces (or 5% of the
undergrad population was significant).
The students, primarily Blacker, decided to stage a protest. The
best place to make the message heard was right in front of the
MOSH/DRL office, which at that time was in Lloyd House. This location
convienently on the Olive walk between the professors and their
lunch in the Athenaeum. The name "Shantytown" was taken from the
slums that appeared during the Depression in the 1930s. Undergrads built
cardboard and tarp shelters
and lived in them for a week. Beven Bennett (fr: 1990, grad: 1995)
was appointed sheriff to keep things orderly. Walker Aumann
(fr: 1988, grad: 1993) and Noam Bernstein (fr: 1988, grad: 1992)
built their shanty out of their speakers and black plastic. Power
was brought out for music and so Noam could write a Humanities
paper. Walker and Noam were also then Veeps of Blacker and Ass
Tea invitations, needed to get sent, so envelopes were stuffed in
shanties. (This was the first time that
all of the Blacker Alums were individually invited to the Ass Tea).
As the week went on, the population of Shantytown grew. At one
point there was a member from every House and the IHC Chairman (Randy
Stevenson of Lloyd) in residence. The population grew to between 20
and 30 people.
Eventually Kim decided to negotiate with the students. Walker was
the lead student negotiator and the 45 spaces were returned.
However, they came with the
provision that the students could be asked to leave any of the
returned housing at the end of any term.
Some of the houses that were to be removed from the student housing
pool included 270, 280 and 290 Holliston. They were that were
still undergrad Housing in 1997.
12. What was the Tommy's Triple Threat Triathalon (Alley Ordering)? (1991)
This was the brainchild of Walker Aumann (fr: 1988, grad 1993) and
Noam Bernstein (fr: 1988, grad 1993) when they were Veeps. In
short it combines a normal run-bike-swim Triathalon with the
venerable Tommy's Triple Threat.
The race started a Occidental College. The Alley Runners ran from
Oxy to the Eagle Rock Tommy's. There they ordered a Triple Threat,
at one item and handed the rest to the bikers. The Bikers had the
option of eating first or biking back to Tech first. Those that
ate first all vomited sometime on their bike ride. The bikers rode
back to the Tech pool and gave the remaining item to the swimmer.
The swimmer could swim first or eat first, but if they swam, they
had to carry the food with them.
13. What was a band called the Ninth? (1991-1994)
The Ninth was a grunge/punk band featured Ken Apperson (Hovse RA from
1st term 1991 to summer 1995) as the singer. Other band members were
Chris Dunn on bass, Jamie Helsing on drums and Ara Bedikian on
guitar--all three non-Techer friends of Ken. In spring 1993
Chris quit and was replaced by Nick.
Originally the Ninth was formed in San Diego and was quite popular
there. The Ninth moved to try and get signed in the LA area when
Michelle Apperson (the other RA) went to Tech for grad school. The
Ninth spent a number of years playing the Hollywood club circuit.
Many moles attended these shows which included numerous appearances
at the Whiskey a Go Go. The Ninth was also a staple feature at BDR.
Despite a string Blacker following, the Ninth never got signed and
did not develop a large following in LA. In June 1994, the Ninth
performed a final, good-bye show at the Whiskey.
The Ninth was named after Beethoven's 9th Symphony and produced
a number of original demo tapes. Two of these tapes were recorded
while Ken was RA of Blacker.
The first tape, titled The Ninth, (copyright 1992) contained:
Out in the Sun
A previous version of the tape had Oh, My God instead of
The seconds tape contained:
With the Help of a Gun
The Ninth also sang:
Black, Shiny FBI Shoes
We Were Walking
Out in the Sun
Candy Hit the Nerve (only recorded live)
UnderDog (a cover of the cartoon show sped up to punk
Paint It Blacker (a cover of the Rolling Stones song with
the word "Blacker" sung instead of "Black")
The Ninth was also recorded live at BDR in spring 1993. That show
is also floating around on an audio tape.
14. What was the Protest of Preregistration (1992)?
Traditionally to pre-register for courses one received the pre-reg
card from the Registrar's office via campus mail and had to get it
returned within a certain span of time.
For those that really wanted a class, one might show up around 8am
the first day of returns when the Registrar's office opened.
Over time, this time got pushed a little earlier, but not by
much. During 1st term 1991 (registering for 2nd term 1992),
some frosh were worried about not getting into a specific Humanities
class, so they showed up at 3 or 4 am to wait in line. The
upperclassmen thought that this was silly. One could almost always
add a class at the beginning of a term. However frosh are clueless.
To show how silly it was, some Moles decided to make a point the
night before pre-reg for 3rd term 1992. They showed up at midnight.
Sleeping bags were layed out. Power was brought in to power lights,
a stereo, and a computer. A tent was pitched near the top of the
stairs to Parsons-Gates. Benjamin Smith drove his Land Rover part
way up the stairs and wrote a Hum paper in the tent. Other people
included Bill Greene (fr: 1989, left 2nd 1992) and Andrew Grangaard
(fr: 1991, left 1997). Others played
cards. Some did homework. No one slept. About 1:30 am some
non-Mole noticed the crew of about 10 Moles and asked what was up?
Word spread. By 5am 100 people were in line. By 7 am half
of the undergrads (about 400 people) were in line. Many were
worried that they would not get their classes. The line snaked down
the stairs towards BBB and then over to Dabney Hall. At 7am
Parsons-Gates was unlocked and the line moved inside to camp outside
the Registrar's office. At 8am the Registrar's office opened for
business. The first 10 or so people in line, the instigators,
immediately got up, left the line, and went to bed. They sumbitted
pre-reg cards days later.
In light of this event, the next 1st day of pre-registration was
held in Winnett to keep the mass of students away from the Registar,
the Caltech Presidents and others. This too was swarmed. In the
years following pre-reg was switched to an electronic format. All
because some board Moles decide to have a protest.