THE UNIVERSITY CLUB OF INDIANAPOLIS
Its Origin, History, and Lore
The University Club of Indianapolis is 100 years old. As time passes, we remember less and less of the Club’s origin, history, and lore. This is an appropriate time to update and reissue material originally prepared in 1968, so that we can rediscover the University Club’s distinguished traditions. We are indebted to Dr. Robert W. Greenleaf for undertaking this task.
What follows are: first, a foreward written by Harold Woodard in 1968; second, a history of the Club prepared by Bob Greenleaf in 1968 and updated in 1994; third, some lore of the Club collected by Harold Woodard in 1968; and, finally, a 1994 dissertation on the subtleties of Sniff, which could enrich the careful reader.
Charles W. Culp
August 10, 1994
The University Club is not only a club, it is a tradition. The roster of members for 1898 appearing in The Greater Indianapolis Blue Book published by the Bowen-Merrill Company reads much like our 1969 roster: Atkins, Ayres, Bobbs, Coffin, Dean, Fairbanks, Fortune, Frenzel, Hanna, Hollett, Holliday, Jameson, Landers, McKee, Mothershead, Nicholson, Pantzer, Ruddell, Sweeney, Vonnegut, and Williams. We have at least four, third generation members: Alex L. Taggart III, J. Peter Frenzel III, Carter M. Fortune and Jonathan M. Atkins.
Early in my term as President, while rummaging on a dreary Saturday afternoon for artifacts and memorabilia in the attic at the Club, it occurred to me that much of our history and lore was rapidly being lost as a result of the decrease of those who knew it best. In the three-drawer filing cabinet that Arthur A. Stettler, our Assistant Secretary for 46 years, had turned over to the Club following his resignation, were papers and correspondence now yellow with age that bore names of departed Presidents of the Club I had personally known: Alex L. Taggart, Thomas D. Stevenson, Thomas D. Sheerin, John T. Jameson, Eugene C. Miller, Ralph G. Lockwood, W. Hathaway Simmons and Charles C. Culp. In an effort to preserve as much as possible of “their fund of knowledge of the Club, I set about to read the correspondence and to interview many of their contemporaries, still very much with us: Robert B. Failey, Walter W. Kuhn, Edward J. Bennett, John G. Rauch, Julian Bobbs, Cornelius O. Alig, Fred G. Appel, Kurt F. Pantzer, Nicholas H. Noyes and Albrecht R. C. Kipp, to name a few. Still further, a search was made in the archives of the Indiana Historical Society, of the state Historical Library and of the Columbia Club. Although there was a paucity of recorded fact because of our 20th- century practice of destroying the old to make room for the new, a number of newspaper articles were brought to light, commencing with the Tuesday, January 25, 1898, issue of the Indianapolis Journal. From these primary and secondary sources, Robert W. Greenleaf has obligingly written the following history of the “Origins of The University Club.” We are all indebted to him for the hours he has given to this undertaking. Because of the time limits imposed on him, Bob has not been able to record some of the lore of the Club. I, myself, have assumed the mantle of author and have written the section “University Club Lore.”
Harold R. Woodard
ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSITY CLUB OF INDIANAPOLIS
For the nominating and election campaigns of 1888, a marching club was formed to further the candidacy of General Benjamin Harrison of Indianapolis. The entire Club went to the nominating convention to march and cheer for their man, and, following Gen. Harrison’s nomination as the Republican candidate, became his guard of honor, meeting visiting dignitaries and escorting them through the streets to University Park or to the Harrison home on Delaware Street. In those halcyon days Indianapolis became, briefly, a national political center. Hotels were full and the streets swarmed with visitors. Military and patriotic displays were common and oratory flourished in University Park. Not least were the great torchlight parades in which the Harrison marching club played a leading role. After Gen. Harrison’s election as President of the United States, the Club, composed of his most partisan local supporters, found itself to be an ongoing institution. It established permanent headquarters on the north-east quadrant of Monument Circle and adopted the name Columbia Club. This group seems to have borne with it the seeds of what was shortly to become a quite different organization, the University Club.
Four years later, in 1892, an exuberant Columbia Club brought out its drums and torches for its hero’s re-election campaign, and once more the visitors and parades and oratory enlivened Indianapolis. But election day that year brought defeat to the Republican candidate. Nor was it even close; Grover Cleveland won the election in a landslide.
The former president was spending his time abroad, but the Columbia Club, with four years’ establishment, did not disband. Instead, while remaining a Harrison Club, loyal even in defeat, it turned its energies to other matters. Sometime later, 1894 according to one report, mid-1897 according to another, the University Club of Indianapolis was founded.
There is a good deal of mystery surrounding this first University Club. From our own records and oral traditions, its existence would not have been suspected. We do not even know the extent of the role played in the beginning by Columbia Club members, though later events lead us to think that it was considerable, and that the need was felt for a social and intellectual organization whose membership would reflect educational background rather than politics. The old Club apparently met in the Assembly Room in the old Commercial Building and had two classes of membership: “active” for graduates of four- year colleges and schools of technology: “second class” for those who had attended such institutions for at least two years. It must have thrived, for in late 1897 it entered into negotiations to buy the original Columbia Club for $63,000, including furnishings. An agreement was reached. The University Club would, in order to own property, have to incorporate and sell stock. The Columbia Club would purchase the adjacent plot occupied then and now by Christ Church (it seems to have been assured that it could do so), raze the church and erect its new clubhouse there. And, meanwhile, the two Clubs would share premises. The moves and negotiations had been initiated on October 16, 1897. On January 24, 1898, the old Club expired, to be replaced by a committee acting on behalf of the membership for the few days while the stock ($40,000 at a minimum) was subscribed and incorporation would take place. As noted in the Indianapolis Journal, January 25, 1898, p. 8, the members of this interregnum committee were: Jos. O. Stillson, temporary chairman; Willis A. Bastian, Edward Daniels, Albert Baker, Hugh McK. Landon, A. H. Snow, C.C. Hadley and Evans Woollen. At the same time, membership qualifications were changed. In the future anyone who, in the opinion of the membership committee, would be desirable members “because of their culture and attainments in letters, arts or sciences” would be accepted to full and active membership.
In February 1898 the newly incorporated University Club of Indiana held its first meeting and former President Harrison, now returned home, was elected its first president. (His portrait by another member, T.C. Steele, hangs in our living room.) This was our beginning. This is the Club, which with a change of name from Indiana to Indianapolis in October 1934, has existed continuously to this day.
All being in order, then, and progressing smoothly, the deal for the Christ Church property fell through! Oral tradition has it that this was a near thing and that it was the crucial influence and vote of Mr. J. K. Lilly that stopped the sale. There was consternation in the ranks of the two clubs, but the Columbia Club did not hesitate. It had plainly outgrown the original house (the first of three clubhouses which it has occupied on the same site down to this day). The arrangement with the University Club being off, the Columbians ordered the old building razed and a large, sumptuous clubhouse erected. In November 1898 they moved a stone’s throw away to the old Mansur home, site of the present Bank One Tower on Ohio Street, while the new clubhouse was going up. We don’t know if the suddenly homeless University Club went with them for the next few months or whether it returned to the old Commercial Club rooms, which its unincorporated predecessor had often used. In any event, a new home had been found and on January 16, 1899, the Club took possession of the new quarters on the southwest corner of Meridian and Michigan streets.
The new property, described by the press as “palatial” and “having the best stable in the city, had been built immediately after the Civil War by one James Ferguson, “a wealthy pork packer.” Passing through a number of hands, it became the home of Allen M. Fletcher, from whom the Club purchased it for $37,000, $10,000 down and $2,000 a year on a 5% note. This purchase (“worth at least $50,000, Judge E. B. Martindale told the press) necessitated a $10 assessment on the membership and an increase in dues to $20 a year. The Club, now numbering over 400, was to occupy this house until 1934, many of its members taking up permanent residence there. Very extensive remodeling went on over a number of years. The stable became the living quarters for the 12 Japanese waiters who served the Club. In 1904 the University Club had to move back to the new Columbia Club for the summer while the workmen carried on.
In the late fall the visitors thanked their temporary hosts with the gift of a four-and-a-half foot bronze and marble statue called “Vintage.” Notable, at least in the eyes of one reporter, was the feature by which concealed electric bulbs set the grapes aglow.
Reports of the University Club’s unincorporated forerunner are either vague or contradictory. The Indianapolis Sentinel, January 15, 1899, states, “The inception of the (University) Club dates back eighteen months when some Indiana college men got together in this city and discussed the need and prospects of success of a club that would be more of a literary than a social character.” The Indianapolis Sunday Star, August 26, 1934, p. 1, states, “When the (University) Club was formed back in 1894, Benjamin Harrison, former President of the United States, became the first president of the institution. On balance, taking account of other reports, our own conclusion is that the Sentinel version, above, is essentially correct except possibly for the date and that the Star version may have the date right but not the part about Harrison. Apparently, too, it was Gen. Harrison in ’98 or ’99 who officially turned the Club’s emphasis toward social directions and away from the purely intellectual and literary.
The Christ Church incident, too, depends on who tells it. The church’s official history does not mention it, nor does the history of the Circle by Ernestine Rose, published by the Indiana Historical Society. On the other hand, both Columbia Club records and contemporary newspapers do. Suffice it that Christ Church had been on the Circle since before the Civil War and that in the eighties and nineties certain members of its vestry tried to get it moved. They would undoubtedly have succeeded in 1898 except for what appears to have been a revolt against the move from the ranks of the congregation itself. It may be no coincidence that the man whom oral tradition suggests as the leader of that revolt, Mr. J.K. Lilly, Sr., became a member of the vestry in the following year.
THE PRESENT CLUBHOUSE
970 NORTH DELAWARE STREET
The big, comfortable, ivy-covered clubhouse at Meridian and Michigan sts., SW corner, was long remembered by older members, and in its day, according to newspaper reports, it had welcomed many of the most famous men in America as its guests. But the costs of upkeep and running it were high and the Great Depression killed it. Soon the membership had dwindled to only eighty men. Then the heavy mortgage went into arrears, and, in July, 1934, President Walter W. Kuhn and his directors made the painful decision to save the Club by giving up the clubhouse. The house was relinquished to the mortgage holder, and the Club engaged rooms on the top floor of the Indianapolis Athletic Club, a mutually beneficial financial arrangement. And some pretty good parties were given here, according to old bills, including orchestras, and magicians and clowns for the children, but still it was only a home away from home. Here it stayed until 1940, when it purchased the Marmon home at 970 N. Delaware Street.
Extracts from the notice sent to members concerning the proposed move read: “A canvass has been made by a committee of sons of our present members, and they have a list of fifty young graduates who would like to join the (new) University Club, with two squash courts as a foundation for their membership. A Realty Company would be organized, issuing preferred stock for the amount of the purchase price. This stock has been underwritten by a group of loyal University Club members who are very anxious to see a revived University Club. (in this way the Club itself will) start out with no debts.”
Mrs. Daniel (Elizabeth Carpenter) Marmon had built the home for herself in 1921, after her children had established their own households and she was a widow. The old Marmon family home had been on this same lot, and one of the regular sights of the neighborhood in the early days was that of Daniel Marmon and Col. Eli Lilly walking downtown to work. Mrs. Marmon’s husband had founded the Nordyke and Marmon Co., manufacturers of flour milling machinery and played a role in what became the Indianapolis Power and Light Co. Her two sons founded the Marmon Motor Car Co. and her daughter established the basic collection of the Herron Museum, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Mrs. Marmon wanted to remain in the old neighborhood which was so rich in associations for her, so the big frame house came down and the present clubhouse, designed by Osler and Burns, took its place at 970, just south of the Sutphin family home, which was where 10th Street is now. One requirement given the architects was that the living room have an exposure on all four sides.
There is a fitness to the Club’s purchase of 970, for the Marmon family had long been associated with the Club, as its descendants are to this day. Mrs. Marmon was a Quaker and she did not drink. One of the Club’s early acts, as it happened, was to establish its upstairs bar right in her bedroom, the northwest room. This was always good for a bit of conversation until the upstairs was remodeled a few years ago. Among those who enjoyed the story was Freddy Washington, but not many members knew that Freddy, until the day he died, was just the least skittery about it, as we shall see.
When the new clubhouse opened its doors, it was manned by two of the best loved, best remembered clubmen (their own term) in Indianapolis history, Chosan Taki and Freddy Washington. Chosan, master gardener, master tennis player, the Japanese violin student who, en route to his studies in Cincinnati, stopped over at the University Club to earn some money and stayed to serve it for more than 40 years! Freddy, short, deft, beaming, the junior member of the team, who kept the University Club “Old Fashioned,” a drink of some renown, and whose creases on the top of his head were a talisman. Such men of competence and character became, in a special way, the spirit of the Club itself. In their second quarter century of service, they knew and served not just the younger members, but often those members’ fathers and grandfathers before them. They have prerogatives and they have opinions. One of our members vividly remembers Chosan’s words to him one noon, “Mr. Taggart, your guests got out of line last night!” A world of personality and tradition in that sentence. And I, for some reason, remember Freddy’s oft asserted, “You can’t just take any waiter and make him into a clubman. No, sir! A clubman has to be born.”
After Chosan had retired, Freddy (a Sniff player of some subtlety) and his cohort, Isaac Bacon (noted for his prowess at bridge), ran the front of the Club. And thereby hangs a tale, for both had known Mrs. Marmon, and when they were alone in the Club, usually late at night, they heard things. The elevator would go up to the second floor. Or, overhead in what had been the bedroom, they would hear the sounds of retiring footsteps, a door or window, the rush of a faucet. At first, they checked on these things and though there would be no sign of an intruder, the elevator, which they had left on the first floor, would now be on the second; the latched bathroom door would be open. I don’t suppose Freddy and Isaac exactly broadcast such matters about, but they often told Anne and me about them. And if one of us said, “But weren’t you scared?,” they would smile and one would say, “Oh, no. Maybe it was just the house talking, but we like to think it was Mrs. Marmon and she’s always been friendly, we can feel that.” These stories came to be told in the past tense, for while an older house always has noises, the “manifestations, the feeling of a presence,” went away when the bedroom walls came down and the bar was moved to its present location.
There are other stories of the clubhouse: the building of the squash courts (a requirement the younger members insisted upon as a condition of their joining the Club), memorable parties, the crap games at the Sniff tournaments, the tradition of successful outdoorsmen giving game or a salmon to the Club, the newel post which held under its loose cap a dime for emergency car fare (if you had to use it, you were supposed to replace it the next day). The old clubhouse had been especially noted for its interior and when the Club had to move to the I.A.C., some of the best items had to be left behind: the valuable chandelier of English crystal in the dining room, the carved walnut stairway, the Italian marble fireplace. But, as newspapers of the day noted, the Club was careful to take to its new quarters the smaller articles that meant the most to it: its artifacts, its photographs, and its large collection of paintings.
We still have some of those paintings and a story goes with them. The painter T. C. Steele had been a member and, according to R. B. Failey, the reason the Club acquired so many Steeles was that every ten months or so Mr. Steele would present another painting to the Club in lieu of dues. The paintings were always accepted. Apparently, the Forsyth now hanging in the living room was acquired in the same way. Those paintings are much more a part of the Club than if they had just been bought. And if, as rumor has it, the semi-nude that hangs in the front hall really did get its last cleaning at the hands of the delightful and proper Miss Blanche Stillson, it deserves to be kept.
Another kind of tradition reposed in the person of the Club’s then oldest living member, Don Hawkins, 93, bon vivant and redoubtable sportsman. One sport of Don’s was that most archaic game, the Court Tennis of Henry VIII. There may be scarcely a dozen or so of those indoor courts left in the world, notably in or near New York, London and Paris, and Don had played on most of them. He had graduated from Harvard in the eighteen nineties, joined the Navy and gone on to become flyweight boxing champion of the Caribbean fleet. Mr. Hawkins was the first person I met socially when I came to Indianapolis in the 40’s. It was at the Athletic Club’s men’s bar. He bought me, a total stranger to the city, a drink and gave me some advice: “Yes, handball is a fine game for firemen and mechanics. Squash is the game for gentlemen. You should take up squash.” In his late eighties, he was the city’s oldest active squash player. His humorous complaint about the last Harvard reunion he attended nearly seventy years after graduation, was: “It could have been better. Do you know, I had to go clear up to the class of ’14 to get a squash game?” Even at his great age, Don was too lively a personality just to “fade away.” He died, so to speak, with his boots on, leaving his abode and headed for a bar. His friends conjecture that on his face was the familiar gleam as he thought of that first martini.
The Club has always been fortunate in those who serve it. By 1968 Mrs. Delight Connors had succeeded Mrs. Helen R. Keiser as Club manager, and the capable Luvinia Gibson – she who was called on one noon to settle the great coddled egg controversy – continued to reign in the kitchen. It was in her day that the Club’s Thursday roast beef came from the directors’ locker of the meat packers, Kingan & Co. Now, in 1994, our present manager, June Richie, successor to Mrs. June Shackleford, continues to make the Club a welcoming and very special place. Freddi lmel has given our kitchen a city-wide reputation. The regular Club staff consists of Joe Wells, alternate chef as well (of such capability that November 28, 1990, was proclaimed by Mayor William H. Hudnut III as “Joe Wells Day”); Hillard Hill, a man of experience and ability; and the cheerful Henry (Tony) Hall. It has been these Club-people, as their predecessors, who make the University Club a personal club.
It was on December 3, 1975, that then-president John C. Appel gave the first of what were to become known as Presidents’ Dinners and a well-loved tradition. These biennial, formal dinners for members only feature a toastmaster or MC who, wittily, as a rule, introduces those who will give a toast to selected honorees known as Men of the Year. Those toastmasters through the years to date have been Bob Ashby, Jim Revel, and Bob Greenleaf, and the printed programs have traditionally had apt references to the men or their professions interlarded with enough Latin or German quotations to awe those members bereft of a liberal arts education.
It was at the second or third of these solemn occasions that the very first of Freddi lmel’s now-famous chocolate truffles were passed out in heavy, dark-brown cigar boxes. It seemed a burning shame, but there appeared to be only one truffle per man. Then, halfway down the toastmaster’s table, the box began to break up and the discovery was made, to loud cries, that the box itself was chocolate. Those to the right immediately and vociferously demanded that the box be returned to them, while those to the left rose and insisted that the diminishing box come to them. The scene began to repeat itself at the other long tables and sounds of a joyful riot filled the air. A more serious riot occurred – why bring up painful memories? Well, no one there will ever forget it – when an overlubricated toaster got so far out of hand that his victim, a Man of the Year, began to choke and had to have the Heimlich maneuver applied to revive him. Meanwhile, 15 to 20 shouting members were trying to get around or even over the tables to get at the toaster – who didn’t remember a thing about it the next day. Many interesting anecdotes are aired at these dinners. Not even all his friends had realized that Chuck Quilhot’ s “modest” home addition had proved so lucrative to his contractor that that gentleman was enabled to quit in the middle of the job and retire to a life of ease. Or that Jim Bremner, following a jolly evening in a rural Canadian tavern, had gotten lost trying to get back to his hunting lodge. He pulled over, picked up the car’s cellular phone and called the lodge: no answer. So Jim went to sleep for the rest of the night, and six or seven long-distance hours later someone at the lodge woke up, answered the ringing phone, whistled Jim awake and gave him directions. So everyone had a good laugh – until a month later when the Revel companies’ controller was the recipient of a $500 cellular phone bill from Canada! Of Tom Sams’ invitation to join the Save the Quail Society. It was a sincere one following the discovery that the surest way to preserve the birds from all harm was to invite Tom to come out and hunt them. And who, these days, would recognize in Lee Alig the former genial proprietor (for, by definition, all proprietors are genial) of a nightclub called Crazy Al’s?
There are other memories. The wedding stag dinner upstairs for which an exotic dancer had been hired and smuggled in. Just as she was getting herself (and her audience) nicely warmed up, a bolt of lightning, honest!, hit the clubhouse, came right through an overhead light fixture and fireballed into the room: a heavenly comment? Burford Danner’s losing his false uppers in a leather chair in the living room so that they were fang side up; minutes later Bob Evans came in, flung himself heavily into the chair – and rose a couple of feet up with a cry. The University Club 500-Mile Race entry, some decades ago, which on its very first practice lap blew its engine just shy of where the assembled investor/members sat. And there they sat, thousand-dollar bills taking wing in their minds even as they tried to dodge the nuts and bolts raining down on them from on high. Kurt Pantzer, Sr.’s, long remembered stag party: 40 guests, 40 lobsters, 40 bottles of gin, and no one allowed to leave until all food and drink had been consumed.
Many, perhaps most, members are often asked by their wives, “What did you learn or what did you talk about at the University Club this noon?” And one day in the early eighties, the unlikely, if universal, answer was, “coddled eggs.” For that was the day of the great coddled egg controversy. The full big table, joined toward the end by standees from the other tables, was split into the hot oven camp and the hot water camp, each with variations. The argument lasted over forty minutes, becoming both loud and vituperative. I remember two senior members, who should have been watching their blood pressures, standing and shouting at each other. “No, you don’t need a thermometer. Just get the water up to a rolling boil, a rolling boil!” “Ah, you’re all wet with your rolling boil. I’ve said it a dozen times, you preheat the oven to 375 degrees.” And finally, some genius said, “Say, we have the ultimate authority right here in our kitchen. Let’s ask Luvinia.” And so Luvinia Gibson, noted cook, tall, dark, charming, was asked in and she resolved everything right there. There were mutterings, perhaps, but her dictum was accepted, for in cooking matters Luvinia took nonsense from no one, and all knew it. When today you have a dinner and order the Club’s most traditional soup course, a double-consomme with toast rounds, you will get Freddi’s version of Luvinia’ s version of the great classical preparation. The recipe has been passed down intact. (Note: no bouillon cubes are ever used in this masterpiece.) In the 1970s the senior executives of the Stokely-VanCamp Co. were dining at the big table, complacently noting that only Stokely ketchup and other products were served at the University Club. Then somebody wanted chile sauce, which was not on the table, and horrors! The familiar H. J. Heinz product was brought from the kitchen. Led by the chairman of this then-NYSE company, they shot to their feet, conferring noisily while the appalled waiter tried to apologize, and that afternoon a case of the right stuff was hand-delivered to the Club. And it was under Stokely aegis and label that that athlete’ s boon, Gatorade, was successfully brought to the world. It had, of course, the remarkable quality of being at once absorbed into the blood stream so that, say, a dehydrated tennis player no longer had to fill himself with fluids that sloshed around in his stomach. Gatorade did the trick right now and no sloshing. Naturally, the company threw a celebration party, stipulating that one could order what he/she wanted from the bar, but the mixer must be Gatorade. Mercifully, a curtain is drawn over the story at this point, largely because no one can remember what happened. Given the rapid absorption characteristics of Gatorade, after the first ten minutes, there wasn’t a sober person in the room!
It was shortly after Freddi Champion came to the University Club as cook, chef, cuisiniere, that Bill Hurst of the N.K. Hurst Co., purveyors and donors to the Club of sugar and dried beans, having a tender palette, sent a bowl of navy bean soup back to the kitchen with the complaint that it had too much pepper. There was apprehension around the table as to how the new cook would react. A verbal poll was at once taken: if the Club must choose between retaining Freddi or retaining the Hon. William, which? The poll was unanimous, but Freddi’ s temperament on this occasion was serene, and Bill and Needham Hurst and the kitchen became good friends and collaborators. When Hursts, spearheaded by son-in- law Richard Huntley, developed their soon-to-be-famous and nationally distributed 15-Bean Soup, the University Club was chosen for the first market test; the rest is history.
An endearing aspect of the University Club is that, to most of its members, it is more of a fraternity than a city club. So, apparently from the beginning and very much so today, the Club has been the recipient of private donations from individual members: art pieces, new furnace, new kitchen ducts, wild game, fireplace shield, paving outside, squash court painting, things for the kitchen, books – and these are just those things I know about myself. There obviously are more, for they are done quietly, without fanfare, for love of the place. Of such stuff is the lore of the University Club of Indianapolis.
Robert W. Greenleaf
LORE OF THE CLUB
Booth Tarkington’s reputation during his bachelor days for keeping husbands at the Club beyond dinner time to the displeasure of their wives while he regaled them with interesting stories …
The firm hand with which Arthur “Papa” Littman managed the Club and kept the member’s children in line. His occasional invitation to a preferred member to join him for what was reported to be more of a liquid than a solid lunch in his Office …
The national and local prominence of the members, and the enthusiasm with which the young belles of the City greeted an invitation to attend a party there …
The delicious chicken ala king suppers served to those who had earlier attended English Theatre and witnessed an outstanding New York production …
The contrast between the Italian decor of the Ladies Dining Room addition to the Club, and the building’ s basic Victorian architecture …
The custom of the Japanese servants, themselves to employ another Japanese when one of their number left. No one knew from whence they came, but on a Saturday one would leave the employment of the Club and on the following Monday another Japanese would take his place …
The intention to convert the stable to the rear of the old clubhouse into a bowling alley, which somehow never reached fulfillment …
The plan of Harry R. Fitton, Club President in 1930, to build an even larger clubhouse than the already spacious one, and the efforts of Arthur A. Stettler to purchase for $10.00 per share the capital stock of the Club in furtherance of this plan, until the Depression put an end to it …
The dusty and torn stock certificates book Mr. Stettler saved, and in which appear from 50-75 concealed stock certificates bearing Benjamin Harrison’s signature…
The heating pipe in the old clubhouse which is reported on good authority to have extended through the “ice box”, thereby making it rather difficult to keep either the rooms warm or the ice box cold! …
The yeoman efforts in 1939 and 1940 of Jack Appel, Bruz Ruckelshaus, Lyman and Fritz Ayres, Sam Sutphin, Vest Johnson, Dave Chambers, Tom Ruckelshaus, and John Gamble in securing a group of 40 new members in their own age bracket, in exchange for the fulfilled promise of the older members to put up the money to buy the Marmon house as the new clubhouse …
The times United States Senator Albert J. Beveridge used to “hold court” in the old clubhouse and “orate” on almost any subject to all who would listen. When a young late arrival asked him what he had just said, Senator Beveridge drew himself up stiffly and replied, “Senator Beveridge never repeats, never repeats!!” …
The play-by-play diagramming on a blackboard in the old clubhouse of the action in the annual Yale Princeton or the Yale-Harvard football games, the accounts of which were received by wire …
The compulsory use by the ladies of the side door entrance to the old clubhouse. They were never allowed in the two large front rooms. One room was reserved for them exclusively from among 36 rooms in the three-story building. The description of the old Club building that appeared in the January 15, 1899, edition of the Indianapolis Sentinel, immediately after the Club took possession: “The ladies entrance will be independent of the rest of the building so that they may, if they choose, assemble at the room and go away without seeing a man…”
How crestfallen a member became when, after an absence of two years in Virginia, his joyous return to the Club evoked the greeting, “Hi Howard, you say you’ve been away?” He got mad and resigned …
Judging by the number of backgammon boards once stored in the attic there must once have been some big tournaments here. But Sniff, of course, is the University Club game and, according to Eddie Bennett, has been so for something longer than the past half-century that he personally recalls. The old IAC-UCI tournament seems to have originated during the 1934-1940 residence at the lAC. The trophy, in our permanent possession now, was apparently designed with the name of the game in mind. In answer to countless questions, let it be unambiguously stated that the winner’s dog was given the lead position for that year.
Harold R. Woodard
THAT GAME OF DOMINOES KNOWN AS SNIFF
As played for some generations at the University Club of Indianapolis
We gather that the old University Club had many evening backgammon parties for families and friends, and it is a good game to know.But the lunch time and afternoon game for members has always been Sniff, one of the domino games in which the counting for score is in units of five, and our archives have letters written over seventy years ago arranging games between foremost citizens of town. Why Sniff? – which is a slang name for the spinner or first double domino to be played. It lS a simple game, played with 28 tiles or dominoes which range in value from the double blank up to the double six, and a ten-year-old can learn its rudiments in ten minutes. But then it will take a few hours of play to come up to speed on seeing and making the counts. Beyond that it is an extremely subtle game involving luck, odds and personalities, enough so as to intrigue all kinds of people from the good sports to the keenest intellects.
Sniff is a game of fives in that, adding up the ends of the dominoes, each exact count of five earns a point. It is scored in the old way in that “IIII” denotes five points, and four points, if made all at once, is the diagonal “\”. Traditionally, the first and second lines on the scorepad are of 3 fives each, and then a horizonal line is drawn to represent the thirty-point mark. The game is 61 points, and the first team to reach it receives a fifteen-point bonus. The rest of that hand is then played out and the game ends.
It is a four-handed partnership game. At the start, all draw and the highest man becomes the setter or placer of the first tile, second highest being his partner and sitting across from him. Thereafter, the set revolves to the left, as does the deal in bridge. After this, all tiles are faced down and shuffled or moved around and each man picks five at random, facing them to him on edge. The setter then sets the first tile and the scoring is done by adding the numbers at the 2, 3, or 4 ends. Each unit of five, no more no less, counts one point. If the setter places the 3-2, he gets one point. The setter to his left must now place a 3 or 2 on the appropriate end, and if he has none, must draw the yard until he finds a fit. Note that there are eight tiles in the yard to start, but only six may be drawn; the final two are never faced or played. Say the second man now plays the 3-3, usually a bad play, as we shall see, but perhaps his only option. This double becomes the Sniff or spinner, and all play will revolve around this one double. Play must be made on the long sides of the spinner before the ends are used, so #2 places the 3-3 athwart 3-2, no points. If #3, the setter’s partner, has the 2-2 or 2-4, he plays it and scores two points, 6+4=10. Once the two sides of the spinner have been covered, the ends may be played on. And so the pattern of the tiles always develops into a kind of four-legged star. It is the total of all the leg ends that must total a number divisible by five to score. The end of the hand comes when one man, obviously the setter unless he has had to draw from the yard, plays his final tile. The opponents then face their remaining tiles and each declares, to the nearest five, his count as a penalty to the first-out team. Thus, if the setter, does go out and #2 has 12 pips on his remaining tiles, he loses two points; if he has 13 remaining, he loses 3 points. There is one scorekeeper for each team. Now, how does the setter know which of his tiles to set? Consider: his principal job is to go out first (as his partner’s is to help him do that), since the penalties collected from the opponents can be great; and his principal tool, the hand, permitting, is control of the spinner. If he sets a double, the man to his left must have just that number or draw from the yard. If he sets an ordinary two-number tile, the chances of #2 being able to play are doubled by having two numbers to play on. So he sets a double if he has one and if he has one or more tiles of the same number. The opponents try to derail his control by playing on his spinner if they can, and his partner stays off of it.
Sometimes one of the partners can help things along by “turning” the spinner, i.e. by putting the same number out on a leg. This guarantees that the setter will go out first provided that he has another tile of that number. Reason: there are seven tiles having a given number. The spinner and the start of the four legs make five. If the sixth is turned out, the owner of the seventh, and only he, can play on it. Continuing, if the setter has three 3’s but no double, he puts out something enticing like the 3-2: the opponent may have to play a double; the partner most certainly will if he can, hoping that it is the right double. And occasionally the opponents get a chance to play a spinner unrelated to the set and thus derail the setter’s game or even wrest control of the play. Counting scores is the bugaboo of newcomers to Sniff. If all four legs have been started off the spinner, reading, say, 6, 5, 3, 0, the tyro readily counts this up to fourteen and then agonizes over what it will take to score. With experience he comes to think in terms of standard scoring blocks, and, for this example, one of the commonest is 6+6+3=15. So he checks his hand for the 6-6, the 0-6 or the 5-6. Since he usually has only a couple of tiles at this stage, this is done in a flash. No? Then find a different score. The 0-1 or 3-4 still will yield three points, the 5-1 or 6-2 two points, and so on. Frankly, it would be hard not to score here, though it happens. But the thinking is in scoring blocks and not 13, 14, etc. Other standard scoring blocks to commit to memory include 4-4-2, 4-4- 4-3, 6-6-6-2 and 9 (however added) -6, never forgetting that 3-3 always counts as 6, 4-4 as 8 and so on. The 6-1 is an especially valuable tile, for if it can be played in any way on an opponent’s scoring group, you too will score. Hey?- well, you figure it out. Now pick up some real tiles and mess around with them until you automatically begin to see the potential for scoring blocks.
Some terminology: the “seat” is that position which will go out first if it doesn’t have to draw or pass. If, e.g., #2 goes into the yard on the set, the partnership become “double seated”, a very strong position. Or the seat may change, with drawings, so that #3 is in it at the end. We have seen what “turning” is; a “reverse” is just the opposite: the setter, having a chance to turn his spinner, plays on it instead. This is a sign of weakness, a clue that this tile is the last of the spinner number held by the setter. Occasionally, when all but remaining and unplayable tiles have been drawn, a man cannot play and must pass. When all four pass, no one is out and no one can play, the game is said to be “sewed”. This is devastating, for the last person to have played is now the winner, collecting the usual penalty from the opposition team plus the two unplayable tiles in the yard. Sewing can be advertent, as when a player has several tiles of a number and keeps turning them out, or inadvertent, as when the only tile or tiles that can play remain hidden in the yard.
Sniff is a money game, but the amount is not a big issue. The standard stake for experienced players at the University Club today is fives (five dimes or 50 cents a point) but newcomers should start at ones and later move to threes and stay there for a while. The other players adjust their stakes accordingly and the newcomer is always welcome, whatever his stakes, for it is the game, not the money, that is the thing. Do remember that game scores are settled to the nearest ten, not five, points.
Don’t even read this until you have played a few times and begun to get a feel for the mechanics of the game. It has been said that Sniff is 85-90% luck and the rest skill. So a newcomer always has a good chance of beating the experienced players. Great! I hate to point out, since most people don’t work it out for themselves, that these are murderous odds over the long pull. In Las Vegas, the lowest house “edge” is only 1.4%, yet the casinos can make millions at it. But while the new Sniff player starts with a much higher edge against him – and hence should start for low stakes – he quickly begins to reduce that edge as he gains skill. We said at the first that Sniff is a partnership game; the hardest words that can be said of a player are “he plays for himself”.
Now some advanced play: counting. You are the setter’s partner; he has set the spinner, say the double four, and the opponents have jumped all over it and started all four legs. The setter is probably stuck with another four or five but now cannot play on his spinner; you must help him. You count which five of the fours have been played and let us say that they are all but the 4-3 and 4-0. So you turn out threes and blanks for him. The opposition, having made the same count, will avoid those numbers and try to over cover your efforts as they can.
Another situation: an opponent has gone into the tile yard and drawn all six of the usable tiles. This is a dangerous bit of business for both teams. If the setter or partner can get out handily, they will garner a bundle of penalty points. Meanwhile, the victim, having over twice as many tiles as the others, will try to score big, sew the game or otherwise take control. The victim’s opponents, while trying to go out, must play a highly defensive game, turning out blanks and ones (“Keeping it Low”) to guard against big scoring and keeping an eagle eye out for a possible sew. Simple? Obvious? Sure, though I’ve seen over and over that new players rarely see the true situation at first.
“Argh,” growls my curmudgeonly partner. “Are you going to tell everything you know?” Nope! There is some really subtle maneuvering, which you will discover only with experience, but my purpose has been to get you, my readers, “up on the step” as fast as possible so that this quite fascinating game becomes fun for you quickly. Bonne chance!
Robert W. Greenleaf