Davis Hall Antics (Part 1 of 2)
From “Stories and Legends” from the UTA Cadet Corps Alumni Council Website - www.utaccac.org
Located on the most northeastern point on the UTA Campus, Davis Hall has withstood the test of time, and, by all rights, should be designated a Historical Landmark. Yes, the name has changed over the years, and other buildings on campus have taken the name Davis Hall, but the “real” Davis Hall lives on. As a matter of fact, it will always be there. It is indestructible, and can’t be torn down. Lord knows, throughout time, many have tried and failed. Designated a military dorm for decades, Davis Hall was the temporary home for scores of cadets in the ROTC program. The footprint of the building actually forms a large ‘L’, made up of four cubes, or ramps. The ramp forming the apex of the ‘L’ had no back door. The structure is steel. The walls are concrete. The floors are granite. Added strength was gained through a honeycomb space between the ramps. Access between the ramps was possible only by leaving the building and entering the bottom floor of another ramp. Not so fast, Scott Leidolf! The steel medicine cabinets were easily removed, and a nimble cadet could scamper between the walls of the different ramps, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Young folks are impressionable, and when I came to Arlington State College in the Spring Semester of 1961, I was no exception. I wanted to fit in. A room on C Ramp was assigned, and I met a guy who would become the first of my three roommates at Davis Hall. Mike Ellis was a tall skinny kid from Temple, Texas with big glasses lots of teeth and a head that resembled a Cantaloupe. Many of the ROTC types had the reputation of being geeks. Mike smiled and looked at me with an expression of, “What the hell kind of card did I draw this time?” Many a plot, plan, and caper would be concocted in that tiny room in Davis Hall during the 60’s. We would work together at Six Flags as Confederate Soldiers, & Gunfighters, and later as buyers at LTV plus various Christmas jobs. We became best of friends for over 40 years.
Within minutes of drawing out my uniforms, I ran into Ron Rendleman, my idol and mentor. Ron was a senior and a legend both in ROTC and Davis Hall. I had known Ron since I was 5 years old. I followed four years behind him my entire life— model airplanes, scouts, motorcycles, boats, hot rods and now, ROTC, Davis Hall, and the Jodies. Later, we would own an airplane together. Ron said, “ Suit-up and lets go!” I had no clue what was in store, but I knew if Ron was involved, it would be fun. Parked in back of Davis Hall was some type of armor military hardware. Rendleman had talked a military salvage company into “donating “ this vehicle to the ROTC with the condition that when it was returned, the motor would be overhauled, and the vehicle would be working properly. Lee B. Wilson, chomping a green cigar, was perched on top of this tank-like vehicle. “Get the lead out, cadet!” Off we went down the streets of Arlington. Traffic yielded, red lights were run, pedestrians were impressed. I knew that life at Davis Hall was going to be good. After an hour or so taking out small trees in some field and seeing how far the vehicle could stay airborne, we returned the smoking armor to the parking lot. Wilson would become a Green Beret, and Rendleman would become a highly decorated Chopper pilot. I had yet to spend the first night at Davis Hall!
As with any military situation, there is a T.O. & E. (table of organization and equipment). Davis Hall was no exception. There were ramp commanders and a dorm commander. These positions were filled by the upper classmen who made good grades, did well in ROTC, followed orders and, above all, kissed ass. Cadets who had the best opportunity to excel in their military career were chosen. Our dorm commander was Norman—not “Stormin’ Norman,” but “Abnormal Norman.” He ruled with an iron hand. We were able to run Norman off after one semester, and he disappeared into obscurity. Mission accomplished.
The episodes surrounding Davis Hall shaped our young lives, and those that preceded and followed. These capers will be forever etched in those hallowed walls. Here are a few stories during my tenure. Because B ramp was the only ramp without a back door, it was chosen to fill the front porch and recessed doorway with packed snow after the first good snowfall. No one considered firetrap or any danger to be part of the equation. Seeing the cadets climb out the windows and scale down the walls to get to class was reason enough for the prank, and expression of our excitement with the fresh snowfall.
Sometime in about 1962 a young punk named Gus Rae showed up at the dorm. Brash and arrogant, Gus made the mistake of saying, “My name is Gus RAE-(spelling out R A E ), and don’t you forget it.” We didn’t! In those days, the Mennon after-shave folks came to the campus and distributed little sample bottles of their product. Naturally, we all filled up our medicine cabinets. That night, Scott Liedolf, my second roommate, volunteered to take care of Gus. By removing our medicine cabinet, he was able to climb between the walls to the adjoining ramp and duct tape an M80 to the back of Gus’s cabinet with a cigarette attached to the fuse. Within minutes of returning safely to our room, an explosion could be heard all the way across campus. The medicine cabinet ended up in the middle of the room and the entire ramp smelled like a French whore house. That’s R A E!