Looking backward about 60 years, to 1960, I have been remembering the first time I ever stepped on the Bellarmine campus. My memory is a little dim but I think the purpose of the visit was to hear a lecture by Cardinal Ritter. I wasn’t quite old enough to drive yet, and I came with my grandmother, Nellie Stevens Grabowske. She was a grand lady, out of Irish stock, and well-known in the family for her wealth of proverbs and sage sayings. Almost any situation that life could bring forward, she seemed to have a concise few words to serve as commentary.
Of course, as a kid, I didn’t grasp all of them. But as I grew older, they began to make more sense to me. Eventually, I was able to sit down with my mother Nell (the other Nellie’s daughter, and herself a legendary receptionist and switchboard operator at Bellarmine for more than 20 years) and write out a batch of these little verbal gems and zingers. I thought I might share a few with the loyal readership of these pages:
- Delays are dangerous.
- If you don’t like my apples, don’t shake my tree.
- Never go to visit with your arms swinging. (Take a gift.)
- It doesn’t take much to make a scabby head bleed. (If you don’t like someone, you’ll find that everything they do is wrong.)
- Less said, less mended.
- There’ll be some slow walking and sad singing. (A death is imminent.)
- Many a good heart beats under a dirty shirt.
- Don’t dive in till you know how deep.
- A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.
- Put a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride to the devil.
- He’ll never be shot for what he says.
- Grab your sticks, boys, the country’s gone to ruin.
- He walked down 6th Street until his hat floated. (A suicide/Louisville riverfront reference.)
- Better to have the dogs of the town with you than against you.
- Don’t buy him for a wise man and try to sell him for a fool.
- You’re so green, if they stuck you in the ground, you’d grow.
- Money is made round to go round. (Don’t be stingy.)
- Wise folks change their mind. Fools never do.
- The asylums are full of people who worried about things that never happened.
- He was nasty nice with dirty particulars. (You’re on your own here; I was never sure about this one.)
There are others, but they may be too earthy for high-class publications like this one.
I suspect one reason I have been reminiscing lately about my first visit to campus is that I have finally decided to retire. I looked at the calendar and realized I’ll be 75 this year, and so maybe it’s a good time to move on and do some research and writing on my own. This is my 25th consecutive column in Bellarmine Magazine, so I hope it is a good time to bid my readers a fond farewell.
I’ve been part of the life of Bellarmine since I was a freshman in 1962. Except for a time at graduate school (Fordham) and the seminary (St. Meinrad), I’ve pretty much been here ever since. I taught for some 34 years, spent a little time as acting academic dean, and then 12 years as university historian after my first “retirement.” I certainly don’t expect to be a stranger now.
As I told Dr. Donovan, this place is in my blood. So that also means that it is always in my heart. As I’ve gone around town in the last several years, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who feels that way. I frequently meet alums (I figure I have taught 7,000 to 8,000 of them), and they seem to have a deep affection for Bellarmine as well. And with very good reason.
Let me leave you with the thought expressed by our first dean, Franciscan Fr. John Loftus, someone else who decidedly loved what I call “this singular place.” A bit like my grandmother, he could pack a lot of thinking into a scarcity of syllables. He wrote the following words in 1968. I wish that all the Bellarmine family knew them by heart:
a wondrous world of
By Clyde F. Crews
We thank Fr. Crews for his wonderful contribution to the magazine and trust he really means it when he says he will visit. In the fall issue, we will welcome our new columnist, former magazine editor Jim Welp ’81.—Editors