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Trip to Venard July 1999 (from Ray Voith)
I recently visited the Venard in Clarks Summit (July, 1999). I attended from September, 1959 until June, 1961 for my Junior and Senior years of high school. (I also attended Glen Ellyn from September, 1961 until January, 1964, at which time I left Maryknoll). As some of you know, it is now the Baptist Bible College. I believe it became so in 1968. Do any of you know more history about the Venard? I think it opened in 1919.
Here is a recent aerial view of the Venard that I found on the College web page.
I arrived at the main entrance on July 8, 1999 at about 4 PM.
I went inside at the main entrance, and looked around there. I went to the old conference room where Fr Allen (The Bull) gave his famous colloquies each week.
Then I went down and saw the old chapel which is now a library. The door was locked so I couldn't go in. I moved on down the classroom corridor.
I looked into a couple of the study halls, and tried the old science room at the end of the corridor. It was locked.
Then I went downstairs to the old gym. It is still there but is also used for classes. The old locker room is still there but was locked up. The heat room for drying towels is still there. I could not find the passageway to the old rec room, since they had done some modifications, and the only door in that direction was locked.
Next I went outside at the door from the gym area where Fr. (Cookie) Condon used to give us our work assignments. I walked down the path toward the old handball courts.
The handball courts are still there. In addition there is a swimming pool just behind the handball courts. The old pool is still down at the end of the path, but the local authorities said that it did not meet regulations. If you remember, it was filled with water from the pond. There is a big high fence around it now and it is empty. They plan to make a second pond out of it with a cascade of water falling down into it from the old pond up above.
I guess many of you remember the old ice house by the pool. It is no longer there. I remember taking walks down through the woods, starting by the pool. We would walk through the woods and come out on a very steep road that took us down to the main highway. We would stop down there at a small diner, Topper's, near the high turnpike bridge, for ice cream or burgers. I did not take the walk through the woods, but later drove around and found a steep road, Maple Ave., which must be the one we walked.
From the old pool area, I walked back up toward the main building on the road that goes by the old pond. The pond looks very much the same, except that the trees are much bigger than 38 years ago when I was there. This is nice, except views of the building are obstructed more than before. The old weeping willow is still there next to the pond by the entrance. There is a house down by the pond which the former College President lived in before he retired. It sits in the midst of tall pine trees - very beautiful. I believe that this house was the original Venard building, and also served as the convent when we were there.
Next I went back up to the front of the building. In one of the offices, I met Mr. Hal Cross, who is VP for finance for the Baptist College. He talked about their plans to preserve as much of the original atmosphere as possible. He unlocked the chapel so that I could look around. The old bell rope is still there, on the right outside the chapel, and according to Mr. Cross, still works.
Then he walked with me down the classroom corridor and opened up the science lab so that I could look in. The lab looks like it hasn't changed in 38 years. Do any of you remember the names etched on the glass of the chemistry class in about 1946? They are still there.
Next I went upstairs to the second floor and went to where the old Schola area was. It is now an office with a glass window overlooking the chapel/library.
I also went up to the third floor to the old dormitory area. If you remember, there were two dorms separated by a corridor with steps up from one side and down to the other. one area is now a computer lab and there are offices/classrooms up there too.
I was not able to go up to the tower, and did not remember to look for the old radio room below the tower or the photo developing room up there. Mr Cross did mention that the tower has large water tanks that were used to provide gravity flow for the water. I did not remember that detail.
Next I went back downstairs and down the rotunda stairs. I didn't find the old refectory - wasn't it below the chapel? There is another section of their library there now.
I went out of the building at the rotunda and down the hill where the apple orchard was.
There are still about 5 apple trees there, with small apples developing, but most of that area now has student dorms. My first work assignment at the Venard was picking apples from the orchard - not the worst job in the world. The old underground cold storage area is still there - we used to store the apples down there. They plan to preserve it, and use it as a coffee shop or student meeting place. I remember going out there on frosty mornings to shake out the dust mop I used to dust the old conference room.
I remember taking hikes from the grounds down into the valley and on up to the top of Bell Mountain. I also remember a creek that flowed somewhere down there and Dick Barrett risking life and limb crossing it one spring when it was raging with fast moving water.
Next I walked down by the old Brothers' residence. It is also in very good shape.
There used to be an old incinerator pit around there somewhere where we used to burn garbage, but it must be filled in now. Further down where the farm used to be, there is now a book store and more dorms. Did any of you ever accompany Br. Frederick when he would slaughter pigs? He went into the pen with a big sledge hammer and would wack the pig on the head several times to stun it then cut the jugular vein. We would then help him drag the pig up to a vat where he prepared it for slaughter. Now, was that pig's liver that we would have for diner soon after?
I went back up to my car by the main entrance.
My next stop was over to Lourdesmount, the girls' reform school across the way. It is still as I remember it when we used to go over there to serve Mass. Once around Easter, some of the girls appeared at the window as we were leaving to go back to the Venard and expressed their admiration for us handsome lads. I remember Fr. White referring to the nice breakfasts there after Mass as the "bonus part of the onus" (or was he referring to the admiration shown to us?).
After leaving the Venard, I took a trip over to the Knoll in Ossining to visit Ken Moody. He is temporarily in the US, and will soon go back to the missions. He and I were roommates at Glen Ellyn. This was my first visit to the Knoll and it was very interesting. I ran into Tom Burns there, who will be going back to his mission in Peru soon. He was one year ahead of me at the Venard. I also ran into "The Rat", Fr. George Rattermann, and had lunch with him. I also bumped into Fr. Frazier in the hall and had a brief chat with him. He was our Unit leader at Glen Ellyn in the Junior year.
It was a very enjoyable trip and brought back many memories.
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