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Walt Storrs

His memories of the now-demolished 1944 addition include five classmates, locked doors, a tilting window and his own acrobatic skills.

By Walt Storrs, BS ME 1966

Walt Storrs sitting with the Beetle Baily sculpture on Mizzou's campus.

Walt Storrs takes a photo with Beetle Bailey during a visit to Mizzou in July 2015. Photo courtesy of Walt Storrs

The Spring/Summer 2015 Issue of Mizzou Engineer on page 10 shows a picture of the north side of what students now call Lafferre Hall. This picture reminded me of a special memory having to do with the lower row of windows in the picture. I was between the junior and senior years the summer of 1965 at Mizzou. I took two summer classes and worked in the mechanical engineering machine shop supporting a graduate student doing research on explosive forming.

One of the classes was ME 215 Advanced Dynamics, being taught by Mr. D. Harris who was pursuing a doctorate. The class was due for a test, and Mr. Harris had a scheduling conflict, so he proposed a win-win situation: If everyone agreed, we would have the test in the evening when it was cooler. (There was no air conditioning back then.) So all six of us agreed to meet in the “Engineering Building” at 7:30 p.m. for the test. We were good to go.

We arrived to find the door on the Francis Quadrangle securely locked, Harris nowhere in sight and had no luck getting anyone’s attention by pounding on the door. With so many doors, there had to be at least one that was not locked, and Harris was bound to show up sooner or later.

Photo of the north side of Lafferre's Hall's 1944 addition.

Storr’s story led to mechanical labs and shops located in Lafferre Hall’s 1944 addition. This section of building was demolished for the 2016 Lafferre Hall renovation project.

One of us stayed on the front steps awaiting anybody with a key, and the rest of us did a circumferential survey around the building searching for a way inside. No luck on either score, but we noticed one of the lower-level, tilt-out windows over “Chum’s” big lathe was ajar. However, it was only the top half of the window that tilted, and there was nothing to hang onto and no way to wiggle in and work one’s way down between the wall and the lathe without at least getting a goodly dose of machine oil on his clothing or getting injured on the lathe when dropping to the floor.

We decided it might work to appoint a “rigid” human body to pass through the window and far enough inside to grab the steam pipe that ran parallel to and — approximately — over the lathe. The skinniest student was easily recognized as the one most likely to be successful.

So I was appointed.

I adopted a “telephone pole” stance, and the others tipped me over and passed me through the opening while I remained as rigid as possible. When I was in far enough inside for my butt to rest on the metal that formed the top of the fixed window below, I took a moment to assess the situation. The idea still seemed like a good bet, so I resumed rigidity, and my classmates passed me another foot or so inside.

Remember now: I was under a tilting window, which meant there was another half of window pane also protruding inside, and I had to clear that to get up and grab the steam pipe, which, in the summer, I was betting was cold or was covered with enough insulation that would let me hang on with minimal discomfort.

With my classmates supporting my butt and lower back, I was able to do an ungraceful “sit-up-and-grab-the-pipe.” Once I had a secure hold, they stuffed the rest of me through the window. Now I was hanging mostly clear of the lathe and about four feet over the shop floor. With a little acrobatic swinging and timely release of the pipe, I dropped to the floor clear of the lathe.

My hands were filthy from innumerable years of dirt from the top of the pipe, so I stopped and washed them on the way to Mr. Harris’s office. I found him in his office. He looked up from his reading.

“I wondered where you guys were,” he said.

I explained things, and together, we trooped to the main door to get the others. He was embarrassed and apologetic for not making sure the door was open, but complemented our resourcefulness in breaking into the building to take the test. Something wrong with that picture, eh!

Walt Storrs also received his master’s degree from Texas A&M in 1969. He lives in Troy, Mich.