A Friday night insurance payment

A commenter recently asked about Joe Cella’s 1976 revelation that, on the Friday night before Tammen disappeared, he’d stopped by the home of Glenn Dennison to pay his car insurance. She was wondering why Ron would show up at his insurance agent’s house on a Friday night to pay his premium. Who does that, right?

It’s a really good question. There were other aspects to that visit that were curious too—aspects that I haven’t discussed with you yet. So let’s talk about them now. 

According to Cella’s April 18, 1976, Hamilton Journal News article, “Mrs. Dennison, who had never reported the visit to authorities, recalled Tammen came to their home Friday, April 17, 1953, about 8 p.m. to pay his car insurance premium.” Cella verified that the payment—totaling $17.45—had been made on that date through old records produced by Mrs. Dennison, who assisted her husband with his insurance business.

Dennison’s house, located on Contreras Road, is out beyond where the Taco Bell and  LaRosa’s Pizza is now, and a couple miles from where Fisher Hall once stood. Also, Dennison’s business was out of his home, so it wasn’t all that weird that Tammen would show up at the house. A 1960 ad in the phone book lists his business address at Contreras Road, though it doesn’t include the house number.

Glenn Dennison’s insurance ad from the 1960 Oxford, O. telephone book

What was weird was the time—8 p.m. on a Friday. Don’t most college students generally have more fun places to be on Friday nights? Why did Ron think it was so important to pay his premium then, when it wasn’t even due until April 24? He was a week early.

Here are the two things I haven’t shared with you about that visit and perhaps why Tammen might have ended up at the Dennison home at that time:

Everett Patten, the chair of Miami’s psychology department, lived on Contreras Road too. In the 1952-53 Miami Directory, his address is listed as R.R. 1, short for Rural Route 1, which tells us nothing about where he actually lived. In 1956, the Oxford telephone book listed Patten at R.D. 1, which I believe means Rural Delivery 1, and again, tells us nothing about his location. Thankfully, the 1958 Oxford phone book specified an actual house number. (By the way, if you’re thinking that he moved, I don’t think so. That was the same year in which St. Clair Switzer’s house was given a number, from his former designation of R.D. 2.)

So Everett Patten lived on the 6400 block of Contreras Road and Glenn Dennison lived and worked on the 6100 block of  Contreras Road—less than a mile apart. It’s actually .4 miles. 

Let’s imagine that Ron is at Dr. Patten’s house that night for some reason. We’ve already established that Patten seemed to know a lot about Ron—like Ron having dissociation in his background, for example—and we also know that the psychology department was hypnotizing students at that time. It would make a lot of sense for them to conduct their hypnosis sessions off campus, to avoid drawing attention. If Ron’s at Patten’s home on a Friday night for a hypnosis session, wouldn’t it make sense for him to stop off at Glenn Dennison’s house to pay his car insurance as long as he’s in the neighborhood? Whether coming or going, it would have been on the way.

The second thing I need to tell you is that the Campus Owls had a gig that night. According to the newspaper the Palladium Item of Richmond, IN, the Campus Owls played that Friday night from 8 to 11:30 p.m. at Short High School in Liberty, IN, which is about a 20-minute drive from Oxford.

In Cella’s article, Mrs. Dennison says, “He stayed about a half hour, talking about the Campus Owls in which he played and talked about other things.”

Of course, the times may be a little off, since Mrs. Dennison was recalling events from 23 years prior, however it still seems strange to me that Tammen would be so chatty on a night he was supposed to be in Indiana—at 8 p.m. My guess is that he didn’t go at all. And why would Ron, a guy who was forever looking for ways to earn money, choose not to go to a gig to make some additional cash? 

Maybe he had something else to do that would also bring in money—something that would soon take precedence over everything else.

[NOTE: Be sure you read the comments. Stevie J raises a point about Indiana time zones that makes the Owls gig much more doable. However, a member of the Campus Owls has also provided some background intel that, in my view, makes it unlikely that Ron was going to a gig. I know we’re always being cautioned not to read the comments on other websites, but on this site, thanks to the savviness of you readers, I highly encourage it.] 🙂

30 thoughts on “A Friday night insurance payment

  1. I’ll tell a story about my days on campus, and then make what I think is a pertinent point that infuses the entire case. I might have mentioned this previously on this site, the memory ain’t what it used to be. Anyway, here goes.

    A guy in my dorm was taking an Introduction to Physics class. I was in the class. Being an intro class, it was pretty big, and really, a professor might not recognize everyone. That’s what drives the rest of this story. The professor was extremely adamant the first day of classes that we NEEDED TO ALWAYS CARRY OUR STUDENT ID. It was sort of over the top, but he made a big deal of it over and over and over. He was the Physics prof who (incorrectly) fancied himself something of a pool shark. Anyone who was at Miami then knows who I mean. Anyway, the class went on and people pretty much forgot about it.

    But at the second midterm exam, the guy from the dorm had paid a senior physics major to take the exam in his place. Such things went on all the time back then. I don’t know about today.
    The exam was in Hall Auditorium. To the senior’s shock, when people went up to turn in the exam, the professor was demanding each person SHOW THEIR STUDENT ID, and the professor carefully compared their ID to a list of the people in the class. Now he had a problem. He couldn’t well walk up and show an ID for a person not enrolled in the class. But he couldn’t just walk out and leave the guy who had, after all, paid him quite well to score well for him on the exam with a 0.

    So, he excused himself to use the restroom, and then escaped the building, not sure if by door or window, but he ran across the street to one of the frats, and called my dormmate’s room. Lucky for both of them, the guy was there. That guy ran to Hall Auditorium, and following the hired hand’s instructions, pretended to be leaving the restroom and returning to the completed exam sitting on one of the desks. He waited an appropriate time, pretended to write a little, and then walked up and turned in the exam, while showing HIS STUDENT ID.

    Anyway, the key point is that before there were cell phones, people were extremely limited in their ability to contact someone. Unless someone called Ron in his room, or met him in person, there was no way to discuss plans, make connections, etc. And it can be very easy today to forget just how difficult it used to be to get in touch with someone. So, that’s it. Ron either talked to someone on the phone in his room, or they met in person.

    If there was a mysterious disappearance planned, I can’t imagine it happened on a phone in a room where people made notice of the door being open. That leaves meeting someone in person. And that greatly magnifies the significance of the woman in the car. Did Ron talk to a woman in a car shortly before his disappearance? We have 2 witnesses who independently affirm he did. I guess I can’t say that 100% confirms it, but the balance of the evidence says yes, it did.

    1. OK, I’m cracking up over this post–thank you, Stevie J! There’s a lot to unpack here, so here we go:

      RE: the physics test taker: did he accidentally spill rigatoni on the test before he handed it to the guy who paid him? (Just kidding. It just reminds me of a Seinfeld episode.) 😉

      Your point about it being tougher back then to communicate by phone is really good — even better than you know. Back then, students didn’t have telephones in their dorm rooms. They had to use the very small number of phones that were out in some public area. In the October 13, 1953 issue of The Miami Student, they listed the dorms with the fewest number of phones, and Fisher Hall had the fewest number possible — one — as did many other dorms on campus at that time. So if some secret agency wanted to make plans with Ron about his leaving campus, they would be less inclined to call him on the phone because someone would have to run and get Ron, and all of the sudden you have an “ear” witness who remembers Ron taking a call from someone at such-and-such o’clock.

      So yeah, I think in-person meetings were how it was probably done. And I also think that they relied on Ron’s predictability. Ron went to song practice every Sunday night, so they could count on him coming back at 10:30ish. That time of night on a weekend would have probably been ideal for a surreptitious exit to take place. And this leads me to one possible reason that they needed to take Ron that particular Sunday night: Ron was stepping down as song leader. Remember that? (See https://ronaldtammen.com/2017/06/28/when-memories-collide-part-2-song-practice-the-university-of-kentucky-and-a-meeting-over-coffee/.) So if Ron would no longer be attending song practice, they no longer could rely on that window of time in which to take him away. It’s just a thought…

      Lastly, just a question: I remember there was at least one witness of Ron in a car with a woman, courtesy of info provided by Logan Corbin (the Oxford cop). Was there a second independent witness that I’m currently blanking on? Thanks again for your post.

  2. Being at a professors house for a visit is not uncommon. When I was on campus some 25 years after Ron, I won a contest in class and invited for dinner at the instructors home. Dr. And Mrs. Shriver would either dine with us at a dining hall or invite selected students to their home for lunch.

    If Dr. Patten was really concerned about Ron, having him for dinner along with his wife might not have been unusual. It would have taken Ron out of the classroom and into a home settings placing him at ease to open up to Dr. Patten. For Ron to combine two stops on the same trip doesn’t appear abnormal. And, if he was trying to fill an empty Friday night, what better way to spend it than with people he knew?

    I’m still a firm believer that he was recruited for a specific secret military assignment and that he was told to slip away from campus. Taking his car or anything else would have left items to be discovered later.

    Has anyone contacted the genealogical community for DNA matches?

    1. Hi — thanks for your comments. No arguments here on a couple of your points. Though I was never on the receiving end of an invite from the Shrivers, I’ve heard that they did have students to their home on occasion. I also agree that Ron could have been having dinner at the Pattens’ home. But the difference here is that Dr. Patten was a hypnosis expert who was known to hypnotize students and who seemed to know a great deal about Ron (e.g., he remarked to a student that Ron was prone to dissociation). I also have reason to believe that Dr. Patten was the source in the news story about the three Ohio youths who’d lost their memories and went wandering. So although I can’t say *why* Ron would have been at Dr. Patten’s house that Friday night, my hypothesis is that he was likely there because his stop at the Dennisons’ home puts him in the neighborhood. And if he was there, there’s a chance that he was being hypnotized.

      We’ll agree to disagree regarding how Ron left campus on Sunday night. If Ron was secretly recruited by the military (or, say, the CIA), he would have needed help versus being told to somehow slip away. Also, in my view, his actions aren’t consistent with someone who was planning to do so that night.

      Regarding your question about DNA, as you’ve probably read on this site, Ron’s sister Marcia’s DNA is on file in several key databases. However, with her recent passing, I will likely need to follow up to see if there are additional actions that I can take in the event there would ever be a match.

  3. The more I think about this, the more it goes from, “Huh, that’s odd” to “What exactly was going on in his life that caused him to spend an otherwise free Friday night driving out to pay a bill?” It’s really hard to believe something out of the ordinary wasn’t going on. If he was at the Pattens, for any reason, that is a real signal that something untoward was going on. If he wasn’t, he decided to spend a Friday night doing something a bit mundane for a college student, and spent gas money doing it, which is clearly out of character for a man who routinely bums rides and hitchhikes. The fact he apparently spent some time there in conversation does mitigate things a bit, maybe that simply speaks well of Ron as a person, but this is just really strange.

    1. I agree. Friday nights at that stage in life are like…the most freeing feeling, right? What 19-year-old guy would spend his Friday night paying a bill across town when he could be doing anything else? I’m pretty sold on the idea that he was either going to or coming from the Pattens’ home. But it also emphasizes for me how much of a loner Ron really was. He didn’t go out much at all — didn’t drink, didn’t date, didn’t do much with his fraternity. To stick around chatting with an old married couple is sweet, and probably does speak well of him, but it’s also kind of sad.

  4. Trying to recall…did Ron drive to the demo recording session the morning of the night he disappeared? Perhaps he wanted to make sure insurance was paid if he was driving farther than usual on Sunday.

    1. This man couldn’t recall how Ron got to Cincinnati when we discussed the topic a couple years ago. However, I thought it was interesting that he mentioned how they used to carpool all the time. Early in my research, I interviewed two other Owls (both are now deceased), and one of them — I think it was Dick Muehlenhard, the leader — said that Ron used to bum rides with him all the time. My guess is that Ron probably did the same thing that Sunday, especially since he was so money conscious, but I can’t say for sure.

  5. That got interesting. Now I strongly suspect Ron was at the Patten house. I’m trying to state this as clinically as possible, but a lone student at a Professor’s private residence for any reason strikes me as ethically questionable.

    1. I think, in the lens of today, that is true. However, probably not in the culture of the 1950s. Even in 1970 (I will supply here that one of my previous positions at Kent State University involved extensive research on May 4, 1970), students, whether individually or in groups, were meeting at the homes of faculty members or at other locations after the university shut down in the wake of the shootings, in order to finish their academic coursework in any way possible. Yes, that (May 4, 1970) was an extraordinarily unusual time, but I don’t think in 1953 we would have necessarily questioned the practice of meeting at a faculty member’s home the way we would look askance at it today.

      Sorry for this late comment on a long past post – I am just getting caught up on AGMIHTF after a long (forced) hiatus due to work-related pressures keeping me away from having much free time.

  6. If he had the night off, my money is strongly on his being at the Pattens. I really can’t imagine a night off work-fun work, but work nonetheless-and deciding the best use of his time was to use gas money to go pay a bill. Doesn’t fit his m.o. at all.

    1. That’s where I’m leaning as well. I don’t think it would have crossed his mind to pay the bill on that particular night unless he was in the neighborhood.

      1. Hello all: I’d asked the Campus Owl a few additional questions based on people’s comments, and he sent some additional thoughts. In my mind, his responses support the notion that Ron Tammen was probably NOT heading to a gig that night. He had a free Friday night and decided to pay his car insurance premium that night for some reason. Here’s our Q&A:

        Me: Do you happen to recall how early the band members were required to show up at a gig to set up? E.g., did you need to arrive 20-30 minutes early, for example, or could you show up whenever?

        Owl: Since we almost always carpooled, we would all arrive around the same time—namely 15-20 minutes before the gig. Come to think of it, though, one car must have arrived earlier than that, because by the time the car I was in arrived, the music stands, chairs, and folios of music were already in place. So was the mike, if we were able to use one for the vocals. My guess is that our director, Richard Muehlenhardt, was in that first car, which carried the stands and music. Probably it also carried the string bass Ron played, although he might have brought it with him in a different car.

        Me: Also, did it ever happen that a band member would show up late to a gig and someone might sub in for him or perhaps you’d play without him/her till they arrived?

        Owl: That never happened, as I remember. In fact, I don’t even recall anyone ever having to leave the bandstand during a gig. We acted very nonchalant toward the crowd, but in our hearts we were really quite conscientious.

        Me: Lastly, just checking: was Ron usually part of every smaller ensemble, or were there ensembles that didn’t include him?

        Owl: No, Ron was not always part of the smaller ensembles—not even very often, as I recall. The essential instruments were a trumpet, a sax, a piano, and, if possible, drums. For these gigs we improvised—that is, we didn’t play from music.

  7. Here’s the short news blurb on the dance. I do have a couple follow-up questions that I sent to the Owl but I haven’t heard back yet. My current thinking is that Ron likely had the night off and he decided to celebrate by paying his car insurance premium…and of course I haven’t ruled out that he also paid a visit to the Pattens.

  8. Amber, I’ll point out that just because there’s a Mrs., doesn’t mean a man isn’t gay. I’d expect that to be even more likely in the 1950’s than today. I won’t go any farther with that.

    Still interesting to find out Ron was on Contreras Road conducting business on a Friday night. What musician spends their gig money before they get it? And what musician would stop on the way to a gig to conduct any kind of business, whether spending money or not? And who drives their bill payment to a house instead of mailing it? I’m trying to figure out a rationale for it that fits everything. The best I can do is Ron wanted to save the price of a stamp by dropping the payment off since he was on his way to a gig anyway. I’m not convincing myself with that one, but who knows? This all adds up to a bunch of maybes. I hope the Owl can shed some light on it.

    I hadn’t thought of the religious group issue. The unusual Bible reading becomes a bit more sinister in that light. I have been searching a while to see if MK-Ultra went that route, you know, the magic enlightenment drugs or whatever. I couldn’t find any direct links, but I think it’s possible.

    While searching, I ran across this little heartwarming mention:

    “Around 80 institutions were involved in the tests, most oblivious to what was really happening. The CIA even recruited eminent British psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron, then chairman of the World Psychiatric Association and president of the American and Canadian psychiatric associations, who was ostensibly attempting to cure schizophrenia by erasing patients’ memories and reprogramming their psyche.

    Handsomely paid through a fake organisation called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, Cameron apparently never knew he was being employed by the CIA. Nevertheless, some of the most disturbing experimental and unethical practices of MK Ultra allegedly took place under his supervision at Montreal’s Allan Memorial Institute.”

    Huh. Montreal. A little past New York. Ugh, the more that you dig up, the more questions you raise.

    1. Yeah, very true that Ron could still have been in a relationship with a man who’s married to a woman. (As it so happens, I’ve suspected that Ron could have been involved with a married man with kids, but that’s as far as it goes. As you can imagine, it’s just a theory and super hard to prove.) I think Amber was likely remarking on the fact that Mrs. Dennison was there that night, so the visit was likely pretty tame.

      So the question regarding Ron and the Owl gig: I’ve checked in with the Owl, and although he doesn’t recall that particular night, he did have some general insights to share. I’ll also be attaching a short blurb from the newspaper write-up to give you a little more background about the dance/venue itself. (I’m posting the blurb on the basis of the “fair use” rule. If I get sued, well, I’ll take it down then.)

      The Owl feels that it was unlikely that the entire band would play a 3 1/2 hour gig for a group of this size. That would have probably been too costly for the organizers.

      Here’s what he had to say: “Sometimes the Owls would split up into smaller ensembles (three or four musicians) and play smaller gigs; still, they would often have been referred to as ‘The Campus Owls’ even though the whole band wasn’t involved.”

      His guess is that it would have been a smaller group playing at the school. So…although Ron feasibly could have made the gig, we still don’t know if he was there.

  9. Have you investigated/researched the possibility of any unorthodox religious/spiritual communes, groups or even individuals, especially around where he lived, went to college, performed, etc? They may have had connections to him and-or mk ultra activities…?

    1. Great idea! I haven’t done that yet, but it would be interesting to do some looking. According to Ron’s older brother John, he wasn’t into religion, but they hadn’t seen each other since the previous summer. Things can change. Thanks!

  10. The address issue is intriguing. I find it interesting the phone book ad misspells “Contreras”, but such little tidbits are all over this case and probably don’t mean much.

    I’ve never understood Indiana’s time zones. Sometimes they follow clock changes, sometimes not, some parts change, some don’t. Can you go back and see if maybe 8pm Ohio time was 7 pm Indiana time? That doesn’t deal with any of the other odd stuff, but he maybe/possibly/sorta/coulda gotten to the gig.

    I’m having a hard time reconciling your thought that he knew he was about to come into money, but if it was enough to get him to leave his car behind, why would he pay the insurance?

    A lot of questions here. I’m not sure what I think the answers are.

    1. These are super good points you raise. I totally forgot about Indiana time zones! I’ll definitely look into that question.

      As for the money matter, my thinking was more short-term than long-term. I was thinking that he probably got paid if he was participating in a hypnosis study, and maybe he would have even been paid more than his Owl gig. I still don’t think he knew he was going to be leaving that weekend or even in the next few weeks, so it makes sense to me that he’d still feel the need to pay his insurance. I think it also bears repeating that I don’t think Everett Patten knew that Ron was going to be leaving. I have some evidence of a split between him and Switzer later in their careers. I think he figured things out later.

    2. Well, I’m back from reading about Indiana time zones, and let me just say straight up that they’re bananas. In all seriousness, how do people in Indiana get to places on time? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_Indiana.

      So here’s what we know: the gig was in a little town called Liberty, which is in Union County, on the eastern border of the state. Also, Google informs me that Daylight Savings Time (DST) started on Sunday, April 26, so they were still on Standard Time (thank heavens, because apparently DST was optional for some communities anyway).

      In 1953, all of Indiana was officially on Central Time, per a bill that was passed in 1949, though it had no enforcement teeth, and apparently people did whatever they wanted. (See: https://web.archive.org/web/20120925153025/http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/history/time/.)

      If the people of Liberty were rule followers, that would mean that 8 p.m. CST in Liberty, IN, is 9 p.m. EST in Oxford, OH. If Ron was paying his insurance at 8 p.m. EST in Oxford, he still had time to get to the gig in Liberty on time. He could have made it. Oh well! It was an interesting possibility. I’ll still ask the Campus Owl if he remembers whether or not Ron was there.

  11. Thank you so much for answering my question.
    Something about the time just sat weird with me, until your explanation and the mention of a Mrs., I thought perhaps Ron might have been “seeing” him.

    Thank you again for your hard work and for the answer!

  12. I don’t know about Ron, but this sounds like something I would do if I had just gotten my hands on some money and didn’t trust myself to still have it when the bill came due. Hopefully he was a better manager of his money while in college than I was.

    As for the Owls gig, is it possible that Ron just missed the first set but showed up in time to play the rest? I was raised by musicians, and I can tell you that there’s almost always someone around who’s willing to sit in.

    What I wouldn’t give for a time machine!

    1. Both are definitely possible. That’s probably why I’ve been sitting on some of this for a while. It’s so hard to know if something is just a coincidence or if it’s pertinent. I may be able to pin down the question about the Owls gig though. I’ve recently reconnected with one of Ron’s band members and can ask him about it. Oh, and I’m 100% with you on the time travel thing!

  13. Great research! This is an intriguing angle. I still wonder whatever happened to Ron’s car, by the way, and if it’s still out there somewhere.

    1. Thank you! It’s funny…of all of Joe Cella’s discoveries, I used to think that the Friday night insurance payment was an outlier…interesting, but I didn’t think it added much. Now, even though it’s just a hypothesis, I think it does add. Also, it never made sense to me why Ron wouldn’t have gone to the Owls gig. Making a car insurance payment one week before it’s due seemed like a dumb reason to miss out on another paycheck. But if he had an appointment with an important person, that makes more sense to me. As for the car, the Tammens used it as their family car after Ron disappeared. They didn’t have a car before then. Also, Marcia told me that the string bass was kept in the house…I believe near the TV, which would have been such a sad and constant reminder of Ron. Eventually, they donated it to the high school.

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