I Remember When I Starred in Scampers

Jack Cantwell ’60 wrote to ICView to share some of his memories as a student on the downtown campus, including his involvement with Scampers, an IC tradition.

To stay focused and awake in class, I took notes using the Korean alphabet  phonetically. (My army military occupational specialty was Korean linguist.) Hands-on broadcasting experience came from “the Shack,” a converted Army Quonset hut. Cardboard Bretz boxes become our imaginary TV cameras for television production classes. Our first real TV studio was unveiled over the library in 1959. Our first taste of live programming happened when we produced our own TV programs on the local Serrache cable system. 

We had a wonderful weekly variety show called Showcase with singing host Chet Curtis ’60. The format resembled parts of Your Hit Parade and Laugh-In—comedy sketches prevailed—and there was a weekly appearance of the Three Quickies (Charlie Moss ’61, Ken Murray ’60, and myself) who pantomimed 33 rpm records played at 78 rpm. Original songs like Jack’s “Eskimo Baby” filled the airwaves.  We all learned the trials and errors of live TV production and prepared ourselves to be “ready” when graduation day finally comes. 

Upperclassman John Peditto ’58 took a chance and assigned the coveted Friday Night DJ duties at the studio in “The Shack” to two service-veteran first year students, Jack Brown and Jack Cantwell, known on the air as Jack Squared. Interviews of Jack Brown taking his Friday Night Bath caught on. The rubber ducky was named Daphne as a result of a listener contest, and other fun stuff happened every Friday night.

But wait! We had a social life, too. All downtowners enjoyed very special Friday nights at the now defunct Travelers Bar.  Nothing fancy—just a bar with a back room, and room for dancing to the jukebox music of the ’50s. I’m amazed that artists like Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis are still around today. Who could forget hits like “Earth Angel” and “Who Wrote the Book of Love?”

Of course there was curfew.

Sophomore girls had to go up the hill at 10 p.m.; juniors at 11 p.m.; and seniors at midnight. None of them made these treks without an escort. Some of the men made three round-trips each week (good exercise). 

There were Friday night regulars who closed Travelers and gravitated to Wes’s Corner Diner for eggs, burgers and coffee or coke. Wes was the only person on duty at this 25-stool establishment, with the stools set up in snake-like fashion. We were all in awe of Wes. He methodically took our orders without writing down a word, then went to the grill and prepared our orders. He always served us without ever making one mistake. Wes then stationed himself at the register and told each of us what we had to pay. He was always correct to the penny.

Many of us shared apartments and pooled food money. Daily lunch at our apartment was always the same—Lipton’s soup in an envelope (add water, heat and stir) and PBJ sandwiches with peanut butter from a very big can of Shedd’s Peanut Butter (actually a bucket with a handle and a lid). It had to be stirred daily to return the oil to the peanuts. 
The Sunshine white bread was topped with stirred peanut butter and Abe Lincoln Grape Jelly from a giant jar. Our economy lunches allowed our chef, Bob “The Indian” Navarro to prepare a decent dinner each night. Bob was excused from all other household duties. 

Our little theater always had some great stuff to offer from IC’s extensive talent pool. Once a year we did an original full-length musical theater production called “Scampers.” I appeared in two Scampers productions, first as Dean Dean in a spoof of college life; then in election year 1960, Scampers was a play about a bum named Marvin P. Smudge (yours truly) groomed by a PR firm to run for President of the United States. Charlie Moss ’61 and Jared Brown ’60 collaborated on the book and lyrics for “Oh Say Can You See.”

This only scratches the surface of our IC downtown life, which helped mold us into productive professional adults after graduation. Ah yes, there were also the DK years: 115 Glen Place should have been the inspiration for the film Animal House. But like Las Vegas, what played at 115 Glen Place stayed at 115 Glen Place. 

If you have read this far, perhaps you can start your own memory flood. We’ll plan to do a lot of this during our special Ithaca College Downtown Remembered time, when we all converge on our beloved Ithaca from September 25 to 27. We Downtowners look with pride on the Ithaca College we see today on the Hill. We’ve also learned that Ithaca College friendships come with a lifetime warranty. See you in September …and go Bombers!!