THE RINGING OF THE CHIME is one of the longest-running
traditions at Manchester College. People come and go, buildings
come and go, pranks and causes come and go, but the bells ring on
– as they have for 87 years.
New students are surprised, visitors listen in awe, alumni reminisce,
the local community nods and checks its watches, students groan to
the start of a new day. The sound of the bells is woven into the
culture of North Manchester and Manchester College.
“The Chime always will remain a centerpiece of Manchester
College,” said President Jo Young ’69 Switzer, who as a student
recalls proudly thinking her College was unique among colleges for
having the bells. (Her roommate, Janice Miller ’70 Hoffmann, was
a chime player.)
The 10 bells of the College Chime each are inscribed with scripture
verses or phrases that speak to the values and ideals of the College
community throughout its history … values and ideals dear to the
graduates and friends who raised the funds for the bells in 1922,
and values and ideals important to those of us who continue to
teach, encourage and guide students today:
Christian Education, Praise: Gloria Patria, Devotion, Peace,
Brotherhood, John 3:16, Hope, Faith, Evangelism, Watchfulness
The linking of the Bible School Building and Bumgardner Hall in
1920 created a spacious, updated facility named the Administration
Building, with a tower. Inspired by a suggestion by Mrs. Vernon Schwalm, an alumni committee led by Aaron Ulrey in
1922 raised $8,700 for a set of bells. B.F. and Sadie
Stutsman ’16 Wampler traveled to McShane Bell
Foundry in Baltimore, Md., to purchase the bells.
The Manchester College Chime consists of 10 bells,
which form one octave, the flattened 7th and a major
2nd above the octave – CDEFGABflatBCD – and
range from 550 to 2,650 pounds. For a chimer, it is a
little unnerving to know that 5 tons of cast bronze are
directly over your head.
Our bells arrived in August 1922, displayed on a
special stand in front of the Administration Building.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of people came to hoist the
bells by ropes and pulleys to the tower.
President Otho Winger led a dedication service for the
Manchester College Chime on Aug. 15, 1922.
Back then, the bells were played using a remotely placed
mechanical keyboard device that had two rows
of keys – one row for playing the bells loudly and one
for playing them softly. Large magnets pulled down
the bells, draining electricity and dimming lights
anywhere near the College. Malfunctions were
Today, Manchester College chimers push hand levers
in a room directly below the bells. The levers are
attached to wooden rods that reach up through the ceiling and attach to chains and leather straps on the
clappers. Pushing down on the levers pulls the
clappers against the bells.
What a fine temptation for pranksters, is our chime!
Students would dismantle the straps and levers and
scatter them about campus. I would discover the
straps had been rearranged, so that when I pushed a
lever, the wrong bell rang. Clappers have come up
mysteriously “missing,” and, of course, there was the
occasional middle-of-the-night ringing of the bells.
That required quick-footed pranksters. Because the
chime resonated across campus, security officers often
could get to the Administration Building before the
culprit could flee.
At one time, the bells were played at 6 a.m. – until
neighbors complained. Now, the bells are played at
7:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.; secular music in the morning,
sacred in the evening. In the 60s, the College song was
played after sporting events. If played like a dirge, the
College had lost. If we won, the song was played
briskly, and the score was rung, too.
Through the years, the bells have been played prior to
Commencement, for weddings, memorial services and
special concerts for alumni or visitors.
Each chimer has favorites; and pieces we won’t play. I
balked at playing “Are You Sleeping, Brother John?” in the morning. I don’t remember playing the College songs
much as a student, but now they are some of my favorites.
The chimers often play for someone’s birthday.
On the 20th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie, the
chimer played the theme song. On opening day of baseball
season, we often hear “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
(Anna Grady ’08 was particularly partial to starting our day
with that tune.) Of course, everyone loves to hear Christmas
songs and carols played on the bells. Sometimes, we hear
them on a hot summer day. And sometimes, we hear
“Summertime” on a blustery winter day.
Above the bells, on the highest point of the Administration
Building, is a beautiful view of campus and surrounding
neighborhoods. Until recently, we had only one chime ringer,
but now several rotate so the same person does not have to
get up early every day. Some change is good.
Each spring, I play the Chime for Alumni Days. It is always
a bit unnerving, because there really is no way to practice in
private! And one very hot August day last summer, I played
Christmas songs and the College song for a recording. You
can listen to some of those songs by clicking on the links in the section above.
Memories of chimers
Three-year bell-ringer Becca Kane ’07 of Indianapolis
delighted in speeding through “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
She majored in small business
management, played varsity basketball, excelled in track
and field, and sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at
football and basketball games. Today, she manages a
Lady Foot Locker store in Indianapolis.
“I’ve been told there are professors who won’t start their
6 p.m. class until the Chime starts,” said Ben Martin ’08,
who pulled the 6 p.m. shift. One student repeatedly
offered Ben various amounts of cash to “take a day off.”
He declined. “Joyful, Joyful,” “In the Bulb There is a
Flower” and “Chariots of Fire” were among his favorites.
“I’d blow through one and then be very deliberate on the
next one.” Today, the
major is with
to train in fighting
“The chime ringer has a
lot of power to set the
tone for a day on
campus,” said Beth
Allen ’03 Dubois, history and German
major. “As a
Michigander, I loved to
mess with Hoosier minds and play snow-friendly tunes at
questionably appropriate times. I would establish my own
little signature habits, like always closing an evening ring
with all three verses of ’Move in Our Midst’ before the
official Doxology close.”
Allen, former Manchester College archivist, is a Barry
County (Mich.) deputy county clerk. “I was always
particularly attached to Manchester as an institution, so it
felt really good to be able to play for important events:
graduation, the 9/11 memorial in '02, after the deaths of Karen Beery ’66 Doudt and Pat Helman.”