The Elevator Story

With the official announcement that the fabled Brush Towers are to be demolished and replaced, it’s time to finally share the tale of:

“The Elevator Kings”
by Werrinda Bassmonde

This is not a WIDB story, though I suppose it could be construed as a WIDB-infused story in that it involves doing things not of the prescribed/dictated way but in their own organic way, built upon independent thought, curiosity, and a desire to do something cool, fun, and unconventional. Regardless, it is an SIU story, a dorm story and more particularly, a Schneider Tower story…

My Freshman year I lived on the 17th floor – the top floor, for those that don’t recall – in Schneider Tower. I became fast friends with someone we’ll call “John”, who, like me, was a mischievous soul with a fun sneaky streak and a curiosity for how things work. We schemed up and executed ideas like unscrewing one of the two bulbs in each of the lighting fixtures on C-wing and coating the second bulbs with red marker, giving us our own “red-light district.” (We only did one bulb per fixture to save on floor charges). The sight of the red glow atop the column of white-lit C-wing lounges while walking/stumbling back from the strip was intoxicating. It was a beacon calling you home and it was really awesome.

Simulation of the “Red Light District”

We loved checking out the elevators and our curiosity was enhanced by the fact that by being on the top floor, the chances of running into anyone else when entering them were pretty low (i.e. no one intentionally rides up to 17 just to go back down).

Earlier during Spring Semester ’80 we had come across an unlocked access door on our floor that led to the 18th/19th floor areas of the tower. We’d gone up and explored, and we saw the machinations of the elevator system, including lots of relays (old-school electrical switches). We discussed ideas like how to make the system think that the 17th floor was the 1st, thereby having the cars hang out on our floor instead of the lobby when not in use, and we pondered whether we might be able to sometimes fix broken elevators ourselves to save on building charges. Sadly, pondering was as far as we got.

However, we located the access hatch to the “real” roof, so later that evening we brought up some orange whips and had a little party. We really were the highest in Carbondale!


Not long after, one early afternoon John asked me if I wanted to see something. I followed him to the elevators and he pushed the Down button. Again, the nice thing about living on 17 was that we were pretty much guaranteed an empty car once it showed up. This fortunate situation of assured privacy would contribute heavily to our ability to do what followed next.

We enter the empty car that had arrived, and before the doors are closed John is down on one knee and fiddling with something at the bottom of the side wall. This was the same wall that had the rather conspicuous gap in its railing, as opposed to the other walls. We’d barely started moving when the next instant the elevator jerks to a halt and the wall has opened like a door! John then straightened up and, while holding up a hex wrench, gave me a look of “is this fucking cool or what?”


Well yes, John, this is very fucking cool! He’d opened the “secret” maintenance door on the elevator! I looked out and down the shaft of the other car (remember how the towers had 2 banks of elevators? They each shared a double-wide shaft). On the back of the inside of the concrete- and cinder block-walled shaft were cables that held the counter-weights for the cars as well as another set of cables running down the middle that carried the adjacent car. I watched as the weights of the adjacent car went down as the car came up.



Meanwhile, unlike when you push the Emergency Stop button, there was no alarm sounding because our car was stopped! This was awesome stuff!

So we experimented. We found that we could control when the car moved by re-engaging the safety contact switch with a finger. We’d also noticed that there was a big steel beam between every floor that ran horizontally between the front and back of shafts. And we had another crazy idea…

Some of you may recall your scrawny pre-adolescent days of shimmying up trees like monkeys. What happened next could only be inspired by such actions.

By stopping the car right in between floors – specifically 16 & 17 – we could climb onto the beam and then onto the roof of the elevator!

And so we rode up and down on top of the elevator cars.


On top of each car was a small maintenance control panel. With it we could take over the elevator whenever we wanted, moving up and down, controlling whether the doors opened, whatever we wanted to do. And the best part was that getting off the roof of the car was easier than getting on: we would stop the car so the roof was even with the bottom of the outer doors of our floor, pop them open (the outer doors also had a contact switch to keep the car stopped, so we could un-stop the car at the controls) and walk right out.

This became handy for goofy pranks. There were many a late weekend night that we’d take a ride. We’d pick up folks in the lobby. We’d turn off the doors and drunk folks would miss their floors because they were busy with drunk talk with others returning from the strip that they wouldn’t notice that the car had stopped at their floor since the doors didn’t open. We would randomly stop the car and then return it to the lobby. Since we could hear what they were saying we could respond with our actions. I remember vividly one night after we returned some folks to the lobby hearing them tell others who were waiting “Don’t use that one – it’s broken!” We’d hear them tell the whole story. Then we’d move on. We also left some graffiti inside the shafts proclaiming our conquest.


Still, we wanted more. The controls on top had some, but not total control of the elevator car (for instance, going down via the panel was half-speed). We needed access to the main panel inside the car.



Toward the end of the semester workers were using the one car that had a back door for work during the day so they took manual control of the car using the (usually locked) control panel in the car. On May 1, 1980 at the end of the day they forgot to lock the door to that control panel. We found this out quick and proceeded to hijack the car. We accomplished this by bringing it up to 17, opening the side door, and then bringing up its neighboring car and walking thru its side door. Since it was quite common for one of the elevators in Schneider to be non-functioning, we knew that parking the car this way would not arouse suspicion.

Later that night we returned to the car and had a party. I made a goofy poster with a sign-in sheet:



We rode inside the elevator, parking ourselves at different floors and having a little party! Occasionally while parked we would eventually hear some folks outside waiting for an elevator. After a few moments of idle chatter would come “do you smell that?” or “do you hear that?” or “There are people in there! Listen!” And of course we’d start laughing, giving ourselves away, so we’d move up or down another few floors before continuing. And this continued for a few hours before we finally gave up the elevator for the night. The panel door was locked the next morning.

And that was pretty much the pinnacle of all of our elevator adventures. John didn’t return for the next year, and although I stayed on 17 for another year I don’t remember having any more elevator shenanigans with anyone. But for one glorious semester in the Spring of 1980, we really were The Elevator Kings.


P.S. When Schneider finally does come down our author has $50 for the person who can provide me one of the bricks from the elevator shaft that was written on, although authentication by him will be required.

The Steam Tunnels Of SIU

By Bob Piet

Do they exist?

So back when I was a freshman, there were always rumors of these underground tunnels that connected the entire campus.  Back in University housing, I recall a few Resident Assistants (RA’s) outright denying their existence.  If this was an official University Housing policy to deny their existence, I can’t be sure.

The answer is, of course: they exist; the evidence is all over the place.  Walking along the sidewalks, you see the 2×4 vents, and if you look at them at the right angle, you can see right into the tunnel network.  You have the random small brick buildings that when you look at them they go straight down, such as the one in Thompson Point and by Old Main adjacent to the main walkway over to East Campus.  Additionally they do rupture from time to time making steam shoot out of the sidewalks or lawns like some alien planet.   My favorite though, is to wait for a day when there is just a light layer of snow on the ground.  The ambient heat from the steam tunnels will melt the snow and give you and instant tunnel network map.  Oh, and also they mention the tunnels on their website.

Why do they exist?


Gatsby’s: Random Thoughts

By Mark Slaga
Slaga Gatsbys 2
I never understood the attraction of watching some guy spin records.
But it was kinda neat.

Kent Lewin, his face a mask of horror reminiscent of “The Scream,” crouched in the corner nursing a Coke and running he board, cringing as he opened my mic.
I think I broke him in for Steve Dahl.

Slaga Gatsbys 3

Owner Jim Winfree, thought I was bopping his girlfriend.  What a Clown!  But he was right.

Telling a dope joke about getting busted, making fun of my probation officer.
Halfway through the bit I notice he is sitting at the bar shaking his head.

Audience members were always trying to give me dope.  They were usually successful.

It’s 2:30 am Sat.
I’m in the parking lot behind the bookstore loading album crates in my car.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Jim Winfree stuck his gun in my face.
2 guys who were regular audience members are stumbling through the lot,
and they asked me if I wanted to get high…………Duh!

One guy pulls out about 3 grams of MDA (back when it was real). He dumps it out and hands me a straw.  Being accustomed to a certain dosage, I naturally assumed the large pile was for me.  Much to the astonishment of my newfound benefactors.

Let’s cut to Monday morning, 54 hours later. (God I miss MDA).  For some ungodly reason,
I find myself in an auditorium sitting in on a Basic Ratio/Television lecture.
As I begin to sober up and re-enter reality, I realize that there is a full blown debate/discussion about censorship, FCC power, ethics, morality and profanity.
Ten minutes after sobering up I realize that they are talking about the Gatsby’s show
and asking the professor how could this be on the air.

Finally one little dweeb (who is probably a network executive today)
passionately asks in a plaintive cry:
“How can we, as responsible broadcasters, allow this to happen?
Can’t we control it?
What can we do?”

I had had just about enough and besides, the bars were opening.
I stood up and yelled:


I hit the bar, had some Bloody Marys,
went to the station and slept on the couch for 12 hours.

Slega Gatsby 855
The Slaga Stare


My First WIDB Reunion


big guy #28

I would love to tell you that networking is the reason that you should go to the WIDB Reunion this year, but the truth is that you should go because it is a lot of fun!

I decided to go to the WIDB 35th Anniversary Reunion in 2005 because of two reasons.
I was the newly elected General Manager and I really wanted a weekend off work.
I was excited, but also nervous to meet a group of people who were more experienced and accomplished than me. I was still a freshman at the time.

WIDB was incredibly important to me and I wanted to make sure to impress our alumni. When I arrived at Pinch Penny on Friday night and saw dozens of animated people wearing WIDB reunion credentials, l sensed a passion about WIDB among all of us that I thought only I felt.

Big Guy #8

We were all at the station on Saturday morning, where I heard some inspiring stories about the WIDB of the past. Stories about the riots, how WIDB sold $60,000 in one year, and conspiracies to get rid of GM’s were surprising. Later that day we played softball during the picnic at Giant City and basically enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was sunny and hot but there was shade and plenty of Ice-cold drinks, including beer kegs.

kandi #21

Everyone gathered for a large banquet dinner at Giant City. After dinner I had to give a speech about the station and what my plans were. I kept thinking to myself how this was my chance to impress everyone, but I did the opposite.
I gave the worst speech ever. I was so nervous,
but the majority of the alums continued to be very welcoming and kind to me.

What I am trying to say is that my experience at the WIDB Reunion was fantastic. I met so many fun people and I learned a lot about the station. I also learned a lot about the best way to attend this event. If you go to Lalapalooza, you have to have a plan. Same here.

vic #0

First, stay at Giant City. Almost all events are there, the cabins are great, and if you get organized and split a cabin it’s reasonable. Starting at noon, Saturday, it’s picnic, rest time, open bar, dinner, pool party, bonfires, sunrise, breakfast, all at Giant City. No driving—walk to everything!

cave #73

In 2005, I spent a lot of time driving back and forth from C’dale to Giant City. You may think it’s close but it takes almost an hour, round trip. If you go to the picnic, then come back to shower, go to the dinner, then drive someone back, come for the pool party, then go back to C’dale to sleep, then come for breakfast, that’s about four hours on the road in 24 hours. I will be spending these four hours in Giant City, this time. I’m getting a cabin. I’m psyched for a good time!

Second, reserve early—immediately! The cabins go fast. Everybody knows how cool the cabins are. You have to pay for at least one cabin (two nights) and one reunion fee to get a cabin. You may think it’s a lot to lay out this far in advance, but believe me, it’s worth it. No one else is allowed to stay in Giant City when we’re there, and we have exclusive use of the pool for the weekend.

Linton #17

Third, believe that you have something in common with everyone there—old and older—caring about WIDB and how it brings all kinds of people together.
All these people I met cared about what I had to say and what was happening at WIDB.

Vic #39

Many people might tell you that the reason to attend the reunion next year is to network with a large base of successful alums; I can’t say that I disagree,
but I wouldn’t bank on getting a job just by showing up. Everyone will agree that it helps to meet as many people as you can because you never know who will help you out.
At the reunion, the “meeting” is mixed in with the partying.

Believe it or not, even I am looking forward to partying with these old guys!
I missed a lot last time (driving back & forth so much) so I’m determined
to get my share this time!
It only happens once in five years, so use any excuse you can to make sure that you are at the 2015 WIDB Reunion. Take it from me it is going to be a great time!

Zippy #47


Election – November 1972

The first Presidential Election WIDB covered was in November ’72.
Throughout the ’70s and most of the ’80s WIDB maintained a substantial and industrious news department. Under News Director Cliff Albert, newspersons were dispatched to Senator (Puchinski/Percy), Governor (Walker/Ogilvie), President (Nixon/McGovern) candidates’ campaign headquarters in Chicago.
Correspondents included Chris Bury (now at ABC TV Network News), Walt Leisering and Todd Cave (now at Turner Broadcasting/Time-Warner), Mike Slabik, Debbie Santarelli, Bob Comstock, and Rick Bronars.
There were live reports from WIDB reporters stationed in Chicago, Springfield, and in Jackson County. Anchoring the coverage at WIDB were Allan J. Friedman, Tom Cooper, and Cliff Albert. On election night, WIDB’s regular programming was pre-empted for over four hours by election coverage. Here are some short edited highlights.