Fall 2003 Magazine Archive & SearchMuhlenberg Home

 


By Christine Murphy
and Michelle Liss ’04

 

“I met my guitar-playing husband, Richard '66, in the old student union in 1963. His first move was to ask me to accompany him to hear Peter, Paul, and Mary in Memorial Hall, and we have now been married for 36 years. We still play and sing occasionally and are active participants in the music and dance scene in St. Louis. It all began in Memorial Hall.” –Shirley Baker ’65

 

 


Counting Crows perform in Memorial Hall, October 2001


1998 Buttermaker Tournament


Next year, Muhlenberg will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Memorial Hall. Dedicated February 6, 1954, in honor of Muhlenberg alumni who lost their lives in the World Wars and the Korean engagement, the athletic facility was built with a budget of $650,000, over $40,000 of which was pledged by then-current students to be paid after graduation. Since its construction, Memorial Hall has provided a venue for concerts, meetings, commencement ceremonies, exams and, of course, countless sports practices, games, matches and phys ed classes.

Athletic facilities on campus in the ’50s included a gym in the basement of West (now Brown) Hall, now used as a dance studio, and physical education space in the basement of Ettinger Hall, then the administration building. Basketball games were played downtown at Central Catholic High School’s Rockne Hall.

Though it’s hard to imagine a thriving basketball program before the construction of a campus gymnasium, Athletic Director Sam Beidleman ’63 points out that “Mem Hall” was built to support the already- burgeoning program.

“Memorial Hall was built to support a high-powered, very competitive basketball program, one that would now probably be considered a Division I program. At the time, we were playing the likes of St. Joe’s, La Salle and Villanova, and sometimes competing in the National Invitation Tournament,” says Beidleman. “The heyday of Muhlenberg basketball really was not played in Memorial Hall; it was played in Rockne Hall. Memorial Hall was a result of those successes.”

That’s not to say Mem Hall doesn’t have a special effect on Mule teams now. In the last 21 seasons, the men’s basketball team has enjoyed a 190-61 record at home; since 1985, the women’s team is 163-71 in Memorial Hall. It’s also home to the volleyball team, the first Mule team to have five consecutive 20-win seasons, and the wrestling team, which frequently sends wrestlers to the NCAA Division III championship. Memorial Hall hosts the annual Scotty Wood basketball tournament and, since 1998, the annual Buttermaker volleyball tournament. A community favorite, the Scotty Wood weekend is one of the most respected “tip-off” tournaments of its kind in the nation. With banners in the rafters and a new center-court hanging scoreboard, Memorial Hall is a great place to see a game.

With seating for 3,529, it’s also a great place to see a concert. “My favorite memory of Memorial Hall was in December of 1975 when Billy Joel came to perform,” says Mitch Goldblatt ’79. “It was study week, and even a bit controversial that we would hold a concert during that sacred time! I ushered the event as a Cardinal Key and even got to shake Billy’s hand as he went back for an encore. Whenever I hear some of his early works, I remember Billy Joel at Memorial Hall on that wonderful night more than a quarter century ago!”

Mitch isn’t the only one with fond memories of concerts in Mem Hall. Nan Rush ’73 remembers a Cat Stevens/Traffic show in which Stevens premiered “Peace Train.” “I was in the fifth row, so close I could see the sweat fly off Jim Capaldi’s head as he pounded the drums,” she says.

That intimate atmosphere is what defines the Memorial Hall experience for many members of the College community. Heather Wassall ’01 has fond memories of the 1998 Blues Traveler show. “I had just pledged Phi Mu,” she says. “I remember being down in the “pit” – just in front of the stage – and dancing the night away with my fellow pledges and future sisters. It was the best show I’ve seen…anywhere.”

You also may remember sold-out shows by Simon & Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kinks, the Stray Cats, the Doobie Brothers, Frank Zappa, the Byrds, Santana and BB King…or, in recent years, Guster, Counting Crows, Live and the Wallflowers. But for many of you, a moving speech by boxer Muhammad Ali in the spring of 1970 may be the strongest memory of all.

 

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