Cousins Gene Moore and Russ Snyder, both 85 years old, still vividly remember the night 64 years ago when they saw the original Leonard Hall destroyed by fire on what was then the Indiana State Teachers College campus.
Top: Gene Moore circa 1952; Bottom: Russ Snyder circa 1952.
The Cowensville natives returned to the campus early during Easter break on April 14, 1952, and had just left the Sigma Tau fraternity house. As they were walking across campus shortly after 9:00 p.m., they saw smoke coming from the windows of Leonard Hall. Moore ran to Sutton Hall to alert the authorities while Snyder remained at the scene. “We didn’t see any actual fire at first,” Moore said, “but by the time I got back after calling it in, we could see a lot of flames.”
As a chemistry major with minors in biology and physics, Moore attended several classes in Leonard Hall, which housed the chemistry and physics labs. “When we saw the smoke,” he said, “I assumed something had happened in the chemistry lab.” During experiments, it wasn’t unusual to have a Bunsen burner fire that would be quickly extinguished, he said, but “since this was at night and during Easter break, there wouldn’t have been anything going on.”
Snyder recalled that the fire trucks responded quickly, “but the building was engulfed in flames when they got there.” Both men remained at the scene and were mentioned the next day in coverage of the fire in the Indiana Evening Gazette, although Snyder was misidentified as “Ralph” Snyder. The article reported that the two students “pitched in to prepare coffee for the firefighters and were still serving exhausted hosemen, huddled in a closed-in emergency truck, at 12:45 a.m.”
Identifying themselves as “more like brothers than cousins,” Moore and Snyder said being together at college seemed like the natural thing to do. At first, only Moore enrolled, while Snyder enlisted in the Air Force. After he got out of the service, Snyder decided to join his cousin at ISTC. “Gene was a freshman and encouraged me to apply,” he said, “so I enrolled as an art major.”
Orval Kipp was head of the Art Department when Snyder was a student, and John Sutton Hall housed the women’s dormitory and classrooms. “Thomas Sutton Hall had the dining hall,” Snyder recalled. He also remembered visiting the Stewart hardware store on Philadelphia Street, “where Mr. Stewart still had Jimmy’s Oscar on display in the store.”
After spending two years at the college, Snyder was called back to active duty during the Korean War, and once the war was over, he decided not to return to school. “It wasn’t for me,” he said. Snyder was employed by Montgomery Ward for 40 years before retiring in 1992. He then worked part-time for Walmart for 10 years. He and his wife, Joanne, have four children.
Gene Moore in the Sigma Tau fraternity house.
At ISTC, Moore was the photographer for the school’s newspaper and worked at Henry Hall Office Supplies “part-time to earn a little money for school,” he said. After graduating in 1953, Moore was employed by the Boy Scouts of America and then worked for a chemical company before beginning a completely different career in his early 40s. “I had always been involved in church work,” Moore said, “so I looked into becoming a pastor.”
He and his wife visited the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg and soon “moved there with four kids and a dog,” Moore said. “We got a little apartment, and my wife got a job at Gettysburg College.” Moore received his master of divinity degree in 1975—the same year his oldest son graduated from high school—at age 45. “It was quite an experience,” he said. He and his wife, Norma, are retired and living in Gettysburg, “almost on the battlefield,” he said.
The cousins haven’t visited the campus often over the years, although Moore said he likes to keep track of the changes he reads about in the magazine. “I doubt I’d recognize very much of it anymore,” he said.
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