The hockey coach tape was produced for the Miami Stories Oral History Project. So why did so many people act so bizarrely as soon as I started sniffing around?

Oh, you guys. I’m tired, bummed, and as emotionally banged-up as a Miami Hockey Coach tape.

Long story short: the university sent me the opening 10 minutes of the hockey coach tape, and in the first few seconds, Miami broadcaster Steve Baker states very clearly that the interview was made for the Miami Stories Oral History Project. So there ‘ya have it. Question answered. 

As you can imagine, I have unresolved questions, mostly of the “why” variety. Because of the university’s weirdly evasive actions and non-responses to my questions concerning Carl Knox’s former secretary and the unposted recordings of the Oral History Project, I’ve been burrowing in this rabbit hole for nearly 2 years of my life (and yours). Because of their foot dragging during my Ohio Court of Claims complaint, I’m several thousand dollars poorer. I mean seriously…why?

The remainder of this blog will be devoted to some of the overriding questions that I’d like to pose to university officials. If you happen to be a university official and you’d like to offer up an answer or two, the comment box is now open!

For the rest of you, I’m really sorry, but I need to vent. Some of these issues you already know about. Others will be new to you. I’m pretty sure I’m in safe territory as far as the mediation is concerned, but as long as it’s true and I have documentation to prove it, I’m going there.

Of course, you’re all welcome to comment too!

Please be assured that, after today, unless we make an extraordinarily newsworthy discovery, I’ll spare you any more blog posts regarding the Miami Stories Oral History Project, Carl Knox’s former secretary, or the three stellar gentlemen we’ve come to know as the Miami Hockey Coaches. 

Here we go!

****************

Dear Miami University,

Can someone please tell me:

Why did the Office of General Counsel wait until June 2022 to inform me about the three boxes of Oral History Project documents sitting in University Archives, when I’d explicitly asked for those records through a public records request In April 2021? Why did they send 11 random electronic documents instead of pointing me to the three boxes which held exactly the types of documents I was requesting?

When I asked people affiliated with the Oral History Project if Carl Knox’s secretary was one of the three unposted recordings mentioned in an interim progress report, why didn’t they answer the question? Instead, they either said something like “I didn’t interview her,” or they flat-out ghosted me.

When I asked the same people which recordings weren’t posted online, why could no one remember a single example? Why couldn’t anyone at least recall the very sad day when the Miami Hockey Coaches tape was damaged so severely that they wouldn’t be able to use the recording?

Why did the OGC feel the need to pull the hockey coaches’ consent forms from their folder in University Archives shortly before I arrived on October 3 to look through those same consent forms? 

What’s more, why did the university wait until that same day, Monday, October 3, to send the mangled “Hockey Tape #2 (Edit)” to be repaired when—let’s see, how do I put this?—I’d thought that they’d already done so weeks earlier? (The tape is still being repaired.) 

Also, when I told the OGC rep about the missing consent forms, why did she claim that I hadn’t told anyone “in person,” otherwise someone would have helped me? Of course I’d told someone in person. Why did she also say that they’d placed the consent forms with the “good” hockey tape “while we wait for the other hockey tape to be repaired,” as if they’d been waiting around for the second tape, as opposed to sending it in that same day? Seriously, what was that about? 

How were university staff able to find the missing hockey coaches interview tape? According to university officials, it hasn’t been entered into ArchivesSpace, and it supposedly hasn’t been given an archive number or accessions number. Seriously, how’d they find it?

If the hockey coaches recording was destroyed as early in the process as the university claims, why didn’t they save the audio backup recording? Public universities, as a rule, are cost-conscious. I’d think they would’ve tried to salvage something from their efforts. They could have at least posted the audio online.

Why on October 13 did the OGC send me a recording of the Miami Hockey Coaches that was missing the first 5 minutes? That oversight makes no sense, especially since we now know that the Miami Stories Oral History Project is mentioned in those 5 minutes.

And finally this: why was a tape titled “Return to Steve” made available to one AGMIHTF researcher during her visit to University Archives earlier this month, yet, when I asked for the tape again for another researcher, OGC stepped in to say that “Return to Steve” is a mini DV cleaner tape, it’s not a public record, and the second researcher can’t have it? Why would a lawyer need to step in to tell me that it was a cleaner tape? Couldn’t an archivist have done that? 

I’ll stop there, though I’m also a little curious who Steve is.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I wish the news had been better, but, as you longtime followers know, it’s all part of the journey.

And now, please enjoy some photos of my boy Herbie, who’s currently on his annual Thanksgiving excursion to his uncles’ apartment in NYC. Tonight we’re staying in a hotel. Herbie loves hotels.

In honor of gaps and holes: how missing numbers and deleted video footage can provide clues to an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary

On May 1, 2009, roughly two weeks before the hockey coach tape was recorded, the folks in Digital Initiatives were all caught up. Every single recording that had been sent to them thus far, right up to the Stewards of Campus Grounds and Natural Areas, recorded on April 14, had been converted to DVD. That had to feel good, since they’d been running behind throughout the project, and were now heading into the home stretch. The Miami Stories Oral History Project would be pretty much in the rearview mirror at the close of Alumni Weekend in June. 

Of course, more tapes would soon be on the way. On April 29, 2009, three renowned marching band directors had been interviewed, and on May 6, their recording was sent to D.I. (shorthand for Digital Initiatives) to be converted to DVD. The hockey coach tape was the very next recording that was made after the marching band directors and, one day later, the former mayor and police chief of Oxford would be interviewed. So that was the immediate line-up: first the marching band directors, then the hockey coaches, and then the Oxford city officials. (One other recording—that of Marjorie Miller Donovan—had been made the week before the marching band directors, but for some reason her tape was held back from D.I. for a little while longer. We’ll talk about her recording on another day because it offers some interesting clues regarding my current theory about what happened to an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary.)

As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, once a videotape was converted to DVD, staff members representing the Oral History Project would review the disc for defects and then hand it off to the university archivist, who would assign an archive number. So if the marching band directors were assigned number 10F-4-128 and the Oxford officials were assigned 10F-4-130, what number do you think the archivist would have assigned the tape that was recorded smack dab in between? I’d put my money on 129, right? 

But that’s probably not exactly how things happened. Because that’s not how people generally do their jobs. When an archivist is busy archiving, that person isn’t likely to drop whatever they’re doing to assign a number to a DVD as soon as it lands in their inbox. I can imagine them waiting until at least several DVDs have accumulated—maybe saving that task for a Friday afternoon as a way to ease into the weekend. And if you, the archivist, are assigning numbers to DVDs that are in a pile or box, then the order in which you number those DVDs probably isn’t that crucial. There will be chronological sequences for sure, but not every interview will be numbered in the exact order in which it happened. 

Likewise, as in Marjorie Donovan’s case, tapes weren’t necessarily sent to D.I. in chronological order either. What’s more, the folks in D.I. had been experiencing logjams with incoming tapes, especially at the beginning. I’m sure they weren’t all that concerned if one tape jumped ahead in line before a tape that had been recorded earlier. On January 22, 2008, the university archivist was handed 22 DVDs to number. So yeah…the numbering process was more chronological-ish, especially at the beginning.

Recently, I shared with you my conclusion that the Miami Hockey Coaches recording had to have been assigned number 10F-4-129, which meant that it had to have been made into a DVD. I still feel that way. My logic is that, because the archivist had assigned the Oxford officials’ recording number 130, he had to have assigned the number 129 to the immediately preceding recording, which couldn’t have been anyone other than the hockey coaches. He wouldn’t purposely jump from 128 to 130 with no 129, would he? I mean, what’s the sense in having numbers if you’re not going to follow their, um, numericalness? Do numbers not count for anything? 

And so I submitted a public records request for the DVD labeled 10F-4-129, no matter who was on it. If it was the hockey coaches, that would be really interesting because I’d then want to know why the university has been sending me beat-up tapes when they had a perfectly good DVD. If it turned out to be someone other than the hockey coaches on the DVD, that would be interesting too. (Oh, who am I kidding? That would have been way better. Sorry, hockey coaches, but my hope is that Carl Knox’s former secretary is on that DVD, even if she happens to be sharing it with three or four others.)

The university responded last week. Here’s what Aimee Smart, in the Office of General Counsel, had to say:

“We do not have a responsive document as Archive Space [sic] does not have an entry for 10F-4-129. As a courtesy we have provided you with access to a google drive folder that contains screen shots of our system which shows that the numbers skip.”

Well, thanks, but I already knew that the numbers skip. I could see on the Special Collections web page that the numbers skip. I wrote a blog post about how the numbers skip.

Let’s think about the whole question of ‘skipped numbers’ a little more. Generally, the numbers were assigned more or less chronologically, but sometimes, as mentioned above, they were out of order and occasionally they did skip, especially at the beginning of the project. And when I say that the numbers occasionally skipped, I’m referring to both numbering systems: the accession numbers, which were assigned to a videotape by the computer Athena before the tape was hand carried to D.I., and the archive numbers, which were assigned to the DVDs by the archivist after they were returned from D.I. As far as why the numbers skipped a lot at the beginning, I have no idea. I don’t know how Athena assigned her numbers at the start but maybe the archivist was saving a place for tapes once they were returned, but then changed his mind? Maybe he…no, I got nothing. I don’t know why the numbers skipped so much, especially at the beginning.

So the argument the university is offering up is: There is no number 10F-4-129 in our records, therefore there is no DVD. No ArchivesSpace entry, no DVD. Capiche?

Oh, I capiche all right. But my counterpoint is that, to the best of my knowledge, an archive number was assigned to a DVD before it was entered into ArchivesSpace, and a DVD that wasn’t entered into the ArchivesSpace system could still be sitting in a box somewhere. Comprendez?

Look, I get it. They say that there can’t be a DVD if there’s no archive number and I say that there is most definitely an archive number—not to mention an accession number—so there has to be a DVD. We’ve found ourselves in a circular standoff.

But I’ve looked at both series of numbers every which way and there are distinct patterns—patterns that (imo) support my conclusion that there is a DVD floating around somewhere, hopefully with the number 10F-4-129 written in black marker on its front label. 

Let’s begin with the accession numbers that were assigned by Athena:

  • The last time an accession number was skipped prior to the taping of the hockey coaches happened rather coincidentally on May 19, 2008, exactly one year to the day before the Miami Hockey Coaches recording. Every tape after that date up to May 19, 2009, had been assigned an accession number and was passed along to Digital Initiatives. With the exception of accession number msv00110, which was ostensibly skipped, the same can be said for every tape after May 19, 2009, until the end of the Oral History Project.
  • The timing in which accession number msv00110 would have been assigned to a tape coincides perfectly with the date of the Miami Hockey Coaches recording.
  • If Digital Initiatives received the Miami Hockey Coaches tape, then the Miami Hockey Coaches tape must have been given an accession number. And there is no other possible accession number for the Miami Hockey Coaches tape than msv00110.

As for the university archivist’s archive numbers:

  • The archive numbers indeed skipped at times. In several cases, multiple numbers in a row were skipped. But this practice dropped substantially by the end of 2008. Throughout the entire Oral History Project, there were 31 skipped archive numbers, including (ostensibly) 10F-4-129. Twenty-seven skips occurred before November 2008, and most occurred well before then. 
  • The last time an archive number was skipped before the taping of the hockey coaches occurred on March 26, 2009. The skipped number was 10F-4-116. The next skipped archive number (ostensibly) was 10F-4-129, which coincides perfectly with accession number msv00110 and, therefore, the timing of the hockey coaches recording on May 19, 2009. 
  • After 10F-4-129, there were no more skipped archive numbers. If 10F-4-129 is indeed the same recording as accession number msv00110 (and therefore, the hockey coaches), then there were no skips from March 26, 2009, through the remainder of the Oral History Project. Put another way, at the time that the hockey coaches recording was made, all possible accession numbers and all possible archive numbers were being assigned. There were no additional skips.

Screenshot from a comparison of accession numbers to archive numbers. Numbers in brackets indicate skips. Click on image to see the entire document.

It’s one thing for a skip in numbering to occur on its own, be it a skipped accession number or a skipped archive number. But for a skip in an archive number to coincide with a skip in an accession number at the very same time in which a tape has supposedly entered the queue at Digital Initiatives…that’s very different. It tells me that the tape had indeed entered the system and was converted to a DVD but the DVD, if it still exists, is not where it should normally be.

Picture it sort of like this: You know the classic I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working at a candy factory? Their job is to wrap each chocolate as they come through on the conveyor belt. But then things go haywire. The candy starts coming in too fast, and they start missing pieces until, eventually, they start popping as many chocolates as they can into their mouths, not to mention shoving them into their hats and down their shirts. (I just watched it again and Lucy’s face at the end still makes me laugh cry.) 

Let’s say that each one of the unwrapped chocolates entering the conveyor belt was stamped with an incoming “candy” number (similar to a videotape’s accession number) and each one of the wrapped chocolates on its way out had another number on its wrapper (like the DVD’s archive number). Let’s also pretend that you and I are inspectors. My job is to monitor the candy and wrapper numbers at the head of the line and your job is to write down the wrapper number that corresponds to its candy number at the end. (Your job is way harder, but you’re extremely good at what you do.) 

If you see candy coming down the belt without a wrapper, that’s one that got by Lucy and Ethel. Those are the fails, which, in our analogy, would represent a videotape that entered Digital Initiatives but wasn’t made into a DVD. They’d have a candy (accession) number but no wrapper (archive) number.

If, on the other hand, a bunch of the candy winds up in Lucy’s and Ethel’s mouths, then you’ll begin to notice skips preceding the candy numbers that were successfully wrapped. So candy number msv00010 may be united with wrapper number 10F-4-15, but there are no signs of candy numbers msv00001-msv00009 on your inspection sheet. Likewise, if Lucy or Ethel accidentally knocked a wrapper or two or ten on the floor, then you’ll notice some skips with those numbers as well.

Still with me? 

But what if a chocolate is making its way down the conveyor belt, and Lucy wraps it, but the candy and its wrapper never show up at your end? My records show that they were both in line for processing at roughly the same time and that both seemed to make it past Lucy. As far as your inspection sheet goes, both the candy number (msv00110) and wrapper number (10F-4-129) appear to have been skipped at roughly the same time. But another possibility is that, in a moment of panic, Ethel may have grabbed one of the wrapped chocolates and stuffed it into her hat.

When Aimee Smart from Miami’s Office of General Counsel informed me that University Archives doesn’t have a DVD numbered 10F-4-129 because that number isn’t listed in ArchivesSpace, I asked missing-person expert and budding investigator Kira Pierson to pay a visit and have a look at the original tape that they’d sent me of the Miami Hockey Coaches. I wanted to know what the tape looked like physically. Specifically, I wanted to know how they’d even found it if they had no identifying numbers to go by, as they’ve asserted. Supposedly, they couldn’t even look for accession number msv00110, which I’d think would have been helpful. I also asked her to watch at least part of the tape if she had the time. Thankfully, she did have the time. Also thankfully, she recorded several video clips on her phone, which showed the five extra minutes of introductory material that university representatives had decided to leave off of my digitized version.

Cover to the Miami Hockey Coaches tape with no identifying numbers.

On Friday at 1:30 p.m., I’ll be calling in to the final mediation meeting. Other attendees will be representatives of Miami’s Office of General Counsel, Miami’s Ohio-taxpayer-funded lawyer, my me-funded lawyer, and the mediator from the Ohio Court of Claims. In addition to the questions that I plan to ask Miami’s OGC, I plan to thank them. No, seriously. Because if the university had been cooperative at the beginning of this complaint—if at the get-go they’d provided to me the three recordings that hadn’t been posted to the bicentennial website “for miscellaneous reasons,” as described in an interim progress report, we might have never arrived where we are. Ironically, it’s because of their, um, less-than-forthcoming words and actions that I believe we’re much closer to understanding what happened to the interview of Carl Knox’s former secretary.

Miami U officials sent me a hockey coach recording in which the first 5 minutes had been cut

That’s it. That’s the blog post.

Oh, nah, I guess I’ll say a little more. 

Remember the tape of the hockey coaches that I wrote about a month ago—the one that Miami officials referred to as the “good tape,” when in fact the quality was very bad?

I’ve come to learn that the recording that they digitized and shared with me via Google Drive was a little bit shorter than the original version they had. 

This new information comes to us courtesy of Kira Pierson, a friend of the AGMIHTF family who started the inspiringly successful Facebook page Butler County Ohio Missing, now Ohio Valley Missing, and who did some super sleuthing for me yesterday. During her visit to University Archives, Kira watched the original tape as it played on a monitor and took some video clips of it.

The tape was essentially the same as the one on my Google Drive, except the version that Kira watched had about 5 extra minutes at the beginning. In the new part, Miami broadcaster Steve Baker introduces former coaches Steve Cady and William Davidge and then-head-coach Enrico Blasi to listeners and lets folks know what the topic of discussion would be, which was the history of Miami’s hockey program.

Although background noise in the clip interferes with the sound at some points, I was able to decipher enough words to understand that these 5 minutes seem important. First, there doesn’t appear to be a reference to Miami’s Oral History Project. It sounds more like a radio program. In his opening remarks, Baker says “for the next hour or so, you’re going to hear all about Miami University hockey…” which is odd, since the recording I received runs the full 90 minutes. Some of that is in slo-mo, but, um….? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ll be listening to the damaged tape again and actually timing it while listening. In addition, I’ve submitted a public records request for the missing 5 minutes.

Here’s what I don’t get: University officials had discovered the good tape sometime around September 14, but didn’t share the digitized version with me until October 13. You’d think that that would have been enough time for them to check, then double-check, and maybe even triple-check to make sure the tape they were sending me—the one that was being negotiated through their lawyer and my lawyer in front of a lawyer representing the Ohio Court of Claims office—was the entire tape.

The ‘Miami Hockey Coaches’ interview was made into a perfectly good, perfectly wonderful DVD. So why does the university keep sending me damaged tapes?

Oh. My. Gosh. You guys? Can someone please call the naysayers back in? I’m excited, I think you’re going to be excited, and I think they’re going to be excited too.

You know how the graphic I created on my latest post showed that if an archive number was assigned to an Oral History Project recording, then that recording had definitely been made into a DVD? What’s more, the archive number was assigned by the university archivist AFTER the DVD had been pronounced good and great and free of glitches? It was deemed to be a perfectly good and wonderful and awesome DVD.

WELL. 

As I said in my latest post, I’d recently submitted a public records request for the screenshots for accession number msv00110 in ArchivesSpace, a tracking database used by University Archives, hoping to find out if that number was linked to the tape that I’d surmised was the hockey coaches. Today, I was told that the university doesn’t use the msv numbers for its tracking on ArchivesSpace. 

OK, fine. Whatever.

That’s when I started searching the only other numbers I knew—the archive numbers, which, as I’ve just described here and in other posts, are the numbers that were assigned to DVDs.

The archive number that I deduced must have been assigned to the hockey coach tape was 10F-4-129 because it coincided with the timing in which the hockey coach interview had occurred and the number was missing in the archive numbers posted online for the Oral History Project. 

Think of that for a second: The archive number 10F-4-129 had been assigned to a perfectly good and wonderful DVD by the university archivist, but the title wasn’t listed anywhere online.

If you go to the Special Collections ArchivesSpace page and type 10F-4-129 in quotation marks, nothing will come up. We knew that would happen. But if you type in 10F-4-128 (again in quotes), do you know who pops up? The Marching Band Directors. (You need to click on the “Miami Stories Oral” link and do a command search for the number.) And if you type in 10F-4-130, up pop the Village of Oxford Mayor and Chief of Police. Those two titles probably sound familiar to you since we’ve discussed them before.

According to the latest version of the Progress Log that I have, when the Miami hockey coaches were interviewed on May 19, 2009, the only other interview that was being converted into a DVD at that time were the Marching Band Directors, whose tape had been sent to Digital Initiatives on May 6, 2009. Nearly all other preceding interviews had been converted to DVD and given an archive number by then. The day after the hockey coach interview—May 20, 2009—the Village of Oxford leaders were interviewed. So, again, the archive number for the Marching Band Directors is 10F-4-128 and the archive number for the Oxford officials is 10F-4-130. All of the other numbers after 10F-4-130 are taken by the other interviews, most of which happened after May 20. The Miami Hockey Coaches archive number has to be 10F-4-129, which means that it was made into a good and wonderful and glitch-free DVD. 

So again I ask, why is the university sending me beat-up tapes if there was a perfectly good DVD made? 

It makes me wonder what was actually on that DVD.

I think the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD…

(and why that matters)

Hi there! Let me open by saying that this post is for all you folks who are willing to go the distance with me, even if you’re not sure where we’re heading, even if you’re really, really tired of hearing about hockey coach tapes. I appreciate you all so much. For the several others who are 100% done with hockey and wish that I would get back to serving up red meat on Ron Tammen, please feel free to grab your things and go. I won’t be offended. Also, while I genuinely enjoy reading people’s comments, please note that I will no longer be approving comments from the naysayers on this matter, including “cynics, complainers, defeatists, downers, killjoys, misanthropes, sourpusses, gloomies, party poopers, and wet blankets.” Those comments don’t really help and they tend to ruin my day.

Besides, I think a girl who’s investigating what could potentially be a 70-year-long cover-up should be allowed to ask a few follow-ups now and again. No one said that this was going to be a stroll through the begonias.

What I’d like to discuss with you is why the Miami Hockey Coaches recording, which we now know for a fact exists, has me turning my rumply-coated, cigar-chomping self around seeking “just one more thing” before I hop in my jalopy and drive away.

First let’s discuss the overall protocol of how an Oral History Project (OHP) tape was made. The Oral History Project involved a ton of interviews with scads of people. As a result, organizers needed to establish a protocol that 1) followed a certain set of university rules and regulations, and 2) kept track of and preserved every recording as it made its way through the process. For every interview that had been scheduled, organizers had a lengthy checklist of things to do and forms to fill out. 

Here’s a graphic I created after distilling down the steps described in the OHP Program Associate Handbook to help us visualize how things generally worked:

On the day of the interview (at the top of our wheel), an important thing on the to-do list involved turning on a digital audio recorder at the same time that the video recorder was turned on. That way, each video would have a backup audio recording in case the video experienced technical difficulties. The OHP rep also needed to get consent forms signed and to fill out a documentation worksheet, which held important operational notes that would come in handy later when developing such things as opening credit slides, metatags, and so on.

After the interview, when the OHP rep returned to the office, they’d put the digital videotape, or DVT, in a box on the Oral History desk, and the consent forms and worksheets in a “to be entered” folder of sorts. The Program Associates Handbook doesn’t say what happened to the audio backup, but I’m sure it had a designated holding place too, just in case they needed it. They also added the date and title of the interview to the Progress Log as well as a Master Interview List, both housed on a shared drive.

The recording was now added to the data entry form on a designated computer, nicknamed Athena, which would assign the recording a tracking number and create a label. An OHP rep would carry the DVT and its tracking label to Digital Initiatives so that the tape could be finalized and converted to a DVD. Consent forms and the documentation worksheet were also moved into a folder indicating their recording was currently at Digital Initiatives.

After the recording was returned from Digital Initiatives, DVDs were examined for glitches and then distributed to various recipients, one being the university archivist, who would assign an archive number. Consent forms and documentation worksheets would then be moved into their respective “finished” folders, which were alphabetized according to a person’s name (consent forms) or the title of the recording (documentation worksheet).

There were other forms too, which we’ll discuss in a second, but in a nutshell, this was the protocol that was adhered to every single time. In the case of the hockey coach tape, we have the signed consent forms, but two essential components of the process haven’t been located among the records at University Archives: the documentation worksheet and the audio backup recording. 

Signs that the so-called Miami Hockey Coaches tape was successfully converted to DVD

The university’s explanation has been that the Miami Hockey Coaches recording wasn’t posted online because one of two tapes had been damaged. (The so-called “good” tape that I watched was in terrible shape, so I can’t wait to see the second damaged tape whenever it becomes available.) This would mean that the DVT had been irreparably damaged before a DVD could be created. When considering the above protocol, I can think of about four opportunities for damage to occur to the DVT: during the actual videotaping, during the trip back to the office, while being hand carried to Digital Initiatives, or during the conversion from DVT to DVD.

I’ve been told that bad things could happen during the conversion process in those days, especially if you walked away from the machinery and a mishap occurred while you were gone. Perhaps that’s indeed how the tape sustained its damage. But here’s my issue: it seems as though the tape had been converted to DVD. 

Here are the clues that the tape had been successfully converted:

First, the Miami Hockey Coaches are listed on what was referred to as the DVD cross-reference form. This form had three versions, one arranged by title, one by tracking number (aka the work panel number aka the accession number), and one by archive number. As I’ve mentioned in another post, I think that the tracking/work panel/accession number for the hockey coach tape was msv00110. The archive number would be assigned by the university archivist after he received the DVD.

Although the Program Associates Handbook doesn’t state when a recording would be added to the form, it would make sense that it would be added when the DVDs had been returned from Digital Initiatives. After all, it’s called the DVD cross-reference form—it’s literally the first word in the title.

Second, the consent forms for the hockey coaches were filed in the folder with the “finished” interviews, which would indicate that they’d made it all the way through the process.

Third, according to the Progress Log, Digital Initiatives had been fully caught up on all of its conversions by May 1, 2009, and their turnaround time was approximately 1-2 weeks after receiving a DVT. By the date of the hockey coach interview, May 19, 2009, there was only one other DVT in the queue: the Marching Band Directors. There was no reason for OHP reps not to forward the hockey coach tape to Digital Initiatives as soon as possible. This was especially true since the big Bicentennial Reunion Weekend was fast approaching—June 18-21 that year—and they were attempting to have as many recordings posted online by then as possible.

Fourth, in a July 2009 narrative report, the hockey coaches were touted as one of the latest interviews conducted by the OHP team. Based on the Project Log’s overall timetable, with one exception, it was taking roughly 28 days between the date of an interview session and the date when that interview had been provided to the university archivist, which means that it was essentially ready to be deployed online. The hockey coach tape should have been successfully converted to a DVD or irreparably damaged—whichever—by June 16, 2009. For them to mention the hockey coach tape in a July report indicates that there were no mess-ups during the conversion.

Fifth, an archive number appears to have been assigned to a recording that corresponds with the timing of the hockey coach tape. That archive number is 10F-4-129. If an archive number exists for the hockey coach tape, we can conclude that it had been successfully converted to DVD. 

Sixth, when I submitted a public records request for the audio backup recording, Aimee Smart, of the Office of General Counsel, provided this lengthy explanation: 

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.” 

I believe the most important words occur in the fourth sentence: “In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device.” 

In my opinion, if the DVT of three legendary hockey coaches had been damaged prior to its being converted to DVD, they wouldn’t have destroyed their remaining audio backup, despite the time and digital storage capacity constraints. Only after the DVD had been created would they destroy the audio.

What I’m getting at here is that, although the university claims that the hockey coach recording made it as far as step 3 of our wheel and went no further, there are signs that it successfully had achieved step 4 and was nearly ready for posting.

For this reason, I’ve submitted several additional public records requests to try to understand the situation a little better.

One request I submitted over two weeks ago is for the ArchivesSpace screenshots for accession number msv00110. As you may recall, ArchivesSpace is the University Archives’ database for tracking all of its accessions. Here’s what I’m hoping to learn:

  • If the screenshots confirm the accession number msv00110 pertains to the hockey coach recording, that would be consistent with the other OHP records. It would also be telling, since I’d given the university this accession number on August 9, 2022, when they were still trying to locate the recording. Under this scenario, they should have found the tape well before September 14, 2022, when they informed the Court of Claims of its existence.
  • If the screenshots also happen to mention an archive number for the hockey coach recording—such as 10F-4-129, for example—that will indicate that the tape had indeed been converted to DVD.
  • And if ArchivesSpace doesn’t have any records for accession number msv00110? That would mean that there had been a tape labeled msv00110, as assigned by Athena, but they ostensibly don’t have that tape anymore. 

The last option would obviously lead us to ask what was the title of that tape and what happened to it? 

And of course, there’s this pachyderm in the parlour: If the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD, then why are we messing around with the damaged tapes at all? Where’s the DVD?

See what I mean? More questions.

There’s a Miami Hockey Coach tape, and I just finished watching part one

Oh, you guys. I was mistaken, off-the-mark, and oh so very, very wrong. There really is an interview of Miami hockey coaches that ostensibly was conducted for the Oral History Project. I just watched what’s been referred to as the good tape, and there’s still more to come once the damaged tape is repaired. I’m very, very sorry for leading you all astray and getting your hopes up. I was so hopeful that Carl Knox’s former secretary might appear somewhere, anywhere. But after watching the tape from 00:00:00 to 01:30:32, I can assure you that she didn’t.

Let’s do a quick Q&A, OK?

Oh, that’s a bummer.

It is. I was sincerely hoping that I was right—but nope.

Which coaches were interviewed?

The coaches who were interviewed match the consent forms: broadcaster Steve Baker conducted the interview with Steve Cady, Enrico Blasi, and William Davidge.

Did they look younger?

Yes, they looked great, and I’d say they all looked about 13 years younger. They were also dressed in short-sleeved shirts, which matched the time of year that the consent forms were signed. They were definitely dressed appropriately for May 19, 2009, in Oxford, Ohio.

They actually talked for an hour-and-a-half?

I couldn’t believe it either. Yes, they really, truly did. 

What was the quality of the tape?

Bad. The good tape was unbelievably bad. There were weird slow-mo moments and checkerboard screen moments and it was extremely out-of-sync with the audio for most of the tape, and by extremely, I mean like by minutes versus milliseconds. So you’d be listening to Steve Cady talking but William Davidge would be gesturing and moving his mouth. Thankfully, everything synced up for the last 10 minutes or so of the tape. But the audio ran for 1 ½ hours with only one noticeable jump, so it must have run even longer.

What did they talk about?

You’re posing this question to someone who doesn’t know a lot about hockey, but they talked all about the history of Miami’s hockey program—the building of the program, their philosophy when recruiting student athletes, the cost-saving measures during road trips, the championship games—as well as life and family issues too. The word puck was mentioned at least twice. One story that I found compellingly human had to do with when Steve Cady was coach, and the team was traveling to an away game. Back then, on road trips, players were required to wear a coat and tie to dinner. When they were walking into the restaurant, he noticed that one of his players was still on the bus. So he went back and asked him why. The player said that he didn’t know how to tie his tie. So Steve tied it for him. That was my favorite moment on the tape.

Another story that Steve Cady told had to do with the naming of the new hockey building. He didn’t want the building to be named after him. He really didn’t. You can tell that he’s a modest person. But the first donor, who’d played hockey under him, insisted on it, and he eventually gave in. They all laughed about that. That’s the last story that’s told on part one.

What else did you think about the tape?

I’ve watched a number of the Oral History Project recordings. In my opinion, this one was by far the most interesting. All of the coaches seem like very kind people—super nice. There’s not an obnoxious jerk in the bunch. I can imagine that the hockey players who played for them would have loved them. 

Also, as I was watching it, I was thinking that it must have absolutely killed the people from the Oral History Project to have these legendary coaches telling such amazing stories on a tape that turned out to be unusable. I would have been physically ill—I probably would have puked—if I had to walk into someone’s office and tell them, “You know our Oral History Project recording where a renowned hockey broadcaster spent well over 1 ½ hours interviewing three legendary hockey coaches? Yeah, well, it got damaged really bad. So bad, in fact, that there is no possible way that we can use it.” I also had to wonder: what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to the tape? 

If the video is so bad, can they just post the audio online?

Well, that’s what I thought too. I would have thought they would have treated the audio backup as if it was Wu-Tang Clan performing “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” But I recently submitted a public records request for the backup audio, and I heard from the OGC’s Aimee Smart today. Here’s the university’s response:

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.”

Still, don’t you think they should have kept the audio if the videotape was already damaged?

Yeah, I would think so.

And if the video had been damaged later on, wouldn’t they have already converted the tape to DVD, so the damaged tape shouldn’t have mattered at that point?

Great point. So it’s almost as if the damage occurred during some fleeting point in time after they’d destroyed the audio because they’d felt confident in the quality of the videotape, yet before they’d had time to create the DVD, which by then, was usually within 2-3 weeks of taping. Hmmm.

Are you OK?

Oh, thanks. I’m bummed, because I felt as if we were on to something, and you have to admit that there were weirdnesses. But I’ll get over it. After all, we’re trying to find a recording of Carl Knox’s former secretary. I don’t want to waste time looking in the wrong place.

What kinds of weirdnesses?

I mentioned several of them in my recent write-up on the consent forms. Chief among them is how no one from the Oral History Project could name one interview that hadn’t been posted online. Not one. Don’t you think someone should have remembered filming those hockey coaches for over 1 ½ hours and then not being able to use the tape because…[fill in some unbelievably sad and unfortunate story here]. I’m one of those people who remembers ALL of my past mistakes—every single one of them—usually in Dolby vision. If I’d been involved with the Oral History Project, there is no way that that interview wouldn’t have sprung to my mind immediately as one of the most epic technological fails of my career.

Another weirdness was when, early on, I’d asked several Oral History Project representatives if one of the unposted interviews was with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Not one person answered my question. They either told me that they personally didn’t interview Carl Knox’s secretary or they said nothing at all.

There are other weirdnesses too, which I’ll keep to myself right now. 

What’s the plan?

As far as the Oral History Project is concerned, I’m still waiting on the damaged tape, therefore my Court of Claims complaint is still pending. I also have a couple remaining public records requests in mind.

In addition, I’ve heard back from Aimee Smart regarding my request yesterday having to do with Athena and the screenshots for all data fields pertaining to work panel control number 110, or msv00110. Here’s what she said:

“We do not have any responsive records as Athena was the name of the computer they were using for the project and not a software program. During that time period, some internal computers in digital initiatives were given names of Greek gods and goddesses. The computer has since been decommissioned.”

So bah on that too. But make no mistake: we know that Carl Knox’s former secretary was interviewed relatively recently (within the last 20 years or so) by someone at the university, and I believe it was with someone from the library. We also know that University Archives doesn’t throw anything away. And I’ve learned a ton about archival recordkeeping through all of this. 

So I’m down but not out. Not by a slap shot.

*************

Oops, I have one additional question to add:

You said the tape was “ostensibly” conducted for the Oral History Project. Why did you say that?

I used the word ostensibly because the tape begins at the 0 counter with Steve Cady already addressing a question. There’s no mention of the Oral History Project or of Miami’s bicentennial and there are no introductions as there are with the other Oral History Project recordings.

Who is Athena and what does she know about the Miami Hockey Coaches tape?

There’s a name that I’ve been curious about for a while: someone named Athena. She appears at the top of the Progress Log on which I’d first learned about the Miami Hockey Coaches recording. Athena was the very first step that an Oral History Project recording took between the moment it was created until the happy day when it was posted to the bicentennial website. Even before the IT people in Digital Initiatives got ahold of the tape, Athena was somehow brought into the loop.

To illustrate, take a look at the bottom of the second-to-last page of the Progress Log. On 2/18/2009, someone with the Oral History Project interviewed several former Business Affairs administrators, and then, eight days later, the numbers 2/26/2009 were recorded as the “Date to Athena.” The next day (2/27/2009), the tape was sent to the folks in Digital Initiatives (abbreviated as D.I.), who, among other things, proceeded to convert it into DVDs. The DVDs were then returned to the sender on 3/25/2009, who reviewed them for any glitches, and then, on 4/3/2009, Bob Schmidt (the former university archivist)  and Curt Ellison (who chaired the Bicentennial History Committee) received their copies. A few days later, the rest of the DVDs were mailed to the interviewees. The recording was also posted to the website, although that date wasn’t yet added to this Progress Log. And even though earlier recordings were transcribed, the Oral History Project had run out of funding to continue with transcriptions by the summer of 2009, so that didn’t happen in this case.

The second-to-last page of the Progress Log; click on image for a closer view

So who is this mysterious Athena, ostensibly named for the Greek goddess of “war, handicraft, and practical reason,” and what role did she play with the Oral History Project recordings? Whoever she was, it appeared as if she’d joined the program around January 2008, because the “Date to Athena” boxes are all marked n/a (not applicable) before then.

Thanks to a two-page sheet I found on my latest trip to University Archives, I now know. The two-pager is a step-by-step description of the tasks that program associates were required to do from the initial spark of an idea regarding possible interviewees all the way to proofing the transcription months after the interview’s completion. 

And you know what I found out? Athena isn’t a person; she’s a software program for monitoring workflow. The “Date to Athena” was the date in which staffers entered the pertinent information about the recording onto Athena’s Work Panel. In return, according to Step 10, Athena displayed a tracking label on the screen, which the associate would print off and wrap with a rubber band around the tape before delivering it, along with the Documentation Worksheet, to Digital Initiatives. (In an update at the bottom of my last post, I discuss Documentation Worksheets, which were the administrative notes taken during each interview to assist in processing a given tape. I haven’t been able to find a Documentation Worksheet for the Miami Hockey Coaches recording.)

Click on image for a closer view of the 2-pager
Click on image for a closer view of the 2-pager

The number on Athena’s tracking label was the work panel ID number, aka the control panel number, aka the accession number, which in an earlier post, I argue is number 110 or msv00110 for the Miami Hockey Coaches. I believe this to be true even though the hockey coach recording didn’t have a “Date to Athena” at the time that the Progress Log was printed. 

For this reason, as I continue to wait for the two hockey recordings, I’ve submitted another public records request to Miami’s Office of General Counsel. Here’s my request:

I am seeking screenshots generated by Athena Workflow software used by Miami library employees to track recordings made for Miami’s Oral History Project. Specifically, I am seeking screenshots of all data fields pertaining to work panel control number 110, or msv00110, as assigned by Athena software. Please note that this control number was likely generated sometime in the timeframe of April through September 2009.

So that’s kind of fun. But the two-pager said something else that I found potentially illuminating. According to item number 16, once Bob Schmidt, the former university archivist, had received his copy of the DVD, he would log it in and assign an archive number to it. And, as we already know, the Miami Hockey Coaches recording is listed on the Archive list, though it’s not yet numbered.

Does that mean that University Archives had already received the Miami Hockey Coaches’ DVD from Digital Initiatives? I’m thinking maybe. Why else would the Miami Hockey Coaches be listed on the Archive list? Also, if University Archives did receive the DVD, that would support my theory that the hockey coach recording has an archive number and its archive number is 10F-4-129 (which I explain in the same post as before).

What the above doesn’t explain, however, is why the university doesn’t seem to have any DVDs of the Miami Hockey Coaches, or why I’m still here, sitting around, week after ever-flipping week, waiting on those two hockey tapes.

And on that note, I think I’ll close us out with a little mood music.

The disappearance…and reappearance of 3 hockey coaches and a broadcaster

Well THIS has been an exciting couple of hours. After receiving some late-breaking news, I’ve been rewriting my original blog post—a post that had formerly been titled “Proof of a cover-up, part 4: Omg, it appears as if someone has removed several documents from Miami University Archives, and this isn’t funny,” and where the lead sentence was a simple, straightforward “Holy crap, you guys.”

(If you happen to be new here, I suggest that you at least skim over a few prior posts on this topic before proceeding. That way, you’ll better understand why I was freaking out so bad at first and why I’m so annoyed right now.)

This has to do with the interview of the Miami Hockey Coaches, which ostensibly was recorded on Tuesday, May 19, 2009, as part of Miami’s Oral History Project. We have several records documenting that the recording took place. It’s mentioned on an Oral History Project progress log. It’s included at the bottom of an Oral History Project archive list. It’s counted in the May 2009 Oral History Project final summary among the 11 completed sessions that hadn’t yet been posted on the bicentennial website. And it’s noted in a July 2009 narrative report. We just don’t have the recording—not yet at least. We’re still waiting for the university to provide me with two hockey-related recordings that they recently found to see if one or both or neither are the interview with the Miami Hockey Coaches. Hopefully, it’ll be any day now.

OK, so here’s the latest sequence of events:

On Thursday, June 16, 2022, a volunteer researcher named Kristin Woosley joined me and two other volunteers at Miami University Archives to look through Oral History Project records for evidence of recordings that hadn’t been posted online. The reason I cared so much about the unposted recordings was because I’d been wondering if one of the unposted recordings could have been an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary in which she discussed the university’s investigation into Ron Tammen’s disappearance.

Kristin had been put in charge of reviewing the consent forms, which are the forms that were signed by all of the interviewees before their interview was conducted, usually on the same day. A consent form grants permission to the university by the person being interviewed to use their recording. If a participant didn’t sign one, the recording couldn’t be used, and it certainly couldn’t be posted online. 

The forms had been placed in alphabetical order (for the most part) by last name in three manila folders: A-F, G-O, and P-Z, and Kristin was cross-checking the names against my master chart of recordings.

Consent forms for the Miami University bicentennial’s Oral History Project

Early in the process—when she was only in the B’s of the A-F folder—she noticed a reference to a recording that wasn’t on my master chart: something having to do with hockey. The reason I didn’t include it on my chart was because I didn’t know anything about the Miami Hockey Coaches recording at that point. It wasn’t posted on the university’s bicentennial web pages. It wasn’t listed online with the Special Collections holdings of Oral History Project recordings. It wasn’t a blip on my radar.

Fortunately, Kristin happens to be an avid notetaker. She jotted down that person’s name. And then another. And another. And then one more.

She had only gotten as far as the E’s of that folder when I walked up to her table and announced that I’d found the Oral History Project’s final summary in which the names of four unposted recordings had been identified. None were of Carl Knox’s former secretary. Disappointed, I made the decision that we all switch directions and begin going through the tapes that University Archives staff had pulled for us, many of which were unlabeled. That’s how we spent the rest of our two-day visit.

A couple weeks later, after I’d had a chance to review the documents I’d photographed from the Oral History Project boxes—the progress log, the archive list, the final summary, and whatnot—I wrote Kristin an email:

Hi Kristin,
Just wondering: When you were going thru the consent forms, did you happen to notice any forms signed by some Miami hockey coaches? I didn’t have a box for them on the chart because the interview was never posted anywhere—it’s not even listed on the Special Collections webpage, which lists pretty much everything. I know you didn’t have a chance to go thru them all, but I just wanted to check. 

She responded within 15 minutes.

Yep, there were several in there but nothing on the master document about them. 

She then sent me the names of several people. Three were former hockey coaches. One was a hockey broadcaster.

The rest of the summer came and went, and then, on Monday, October 3, I took a trip to University Archives to see the consent forms for myself. I wanted to take pictures of the four signed forms in the A-F folder, and I wanted to look in the G-O and the P-Z folders too.

Imagine my, um, consternation when I went through all three folders and realized that the consent forms that were signed by the three hockey coaches and the hockey broadcaster were missing. Sometime between June 17 and October 3 of this year, someone had visited the consent form folders of the Oral History Project—an endeavor that took place 13 years ago—and did a little housekeeping.

Fortunately, not only had Kristin written down the names of the hockey coaches in her spiral notebook in June, but she’d written down all of the names of the people in the A-F folder—hockey and non-hockey alike—up through the E’s, when I’d walked over to her table and gave her a new assignment. In addition, although I wasn’t able to photograph the hockey coach consent forms during my follow-up visit, I decided to snap pictures of each of the signed consent forms that are currently housed in that folder.

Before leaving, I told Jacky Johnson, the head archivist who oversees University Archives, about the four missing consent forms. She suggested I contact the Office of General Counsel.

Later in the day on October 3, Kristin emailed me the four pages of names that she’d saved. (Not only is Kristin an awesome notetaker but she saves stuff too!) I then conducted a side-by-side comparison with the pictures on my phone to find out how the folder’s contents had evolved in the past 3 ½ months. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, I stopped at the same place that Kristin stopped that day.

Here’s what I found: 

  • At least 11 consent forms from the Miami bicentennial’s Oral History Project have been added to the A-F folder since June. Several are for women whose forms had been refiled according to their last name at the time of the recording versus their maiden name. Others were for men and women whose forms had apparently been filed elsewhere before June of this year.
  • Four consent forms were missing: the 3 former hockey coaches and the 1 hockey broadcaster, and it appeared as if only the hockey officials’ forms were missing from the A-F pile—at least up through the E’s.

I later reached out to University Archives staff to find out if the Oral History Project boxes were signed out by anyone else between June 17 and October 3 of this year. I also called the Office of General Counsel to find out if they had any knowledge of what might have happened to the missing consent forms.

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on my blog post (isn’t that always the case?), I received an email from Aimee Smart of the Office of General Counsel sending me the four consent forms, saying “These documents were placed with the one good hockey tape while we wait for the other hockey tape to be repaired. The entire collection will be catalogued, digitized, and added to the oral history project once we receive the repaired tape.”

She also said that had I asked for the consent forms in person, someone would have assisted me. I assured her that I did inquire about the consent forms in person and I was simply told to contact her. I was not told that the forms had been removed to sit with the one good tape while the damaged tape was being repaired.

So here you go, everyone. Here are the four consent forms that were signed by former Miami hockey coaches Enrico Blasi, Steve Cady, and William Davidge, and by hockey broadcaster Steve Baker, who is also listed as the interviewer.

It may very well be that the story circle of Miami Hockey Coaches actually took place and, if so, we may all get to watch that recording very, very soon. You’re welcome, y’all!

But with that said, I do have a few nagging questions:

  • Why didn’t anyone from the Oral History Project want to venture an answer to my question regarding which recordings weren’t posted online, even after I’d named two of them outright? Don’t you think it would be memorable to someone if something had happened to a tape of Miami’s legendary hockey coaches?
  • Why didn’t anyone seem to know anything about the hockey coach tape when I began asking about it?
  • Why is it taking so long for them to provide the recordings, especially the “one good hockey tape,” which had ostensibly been located in mid-September?
  • Why did they feel the need to remove the four hockey coaches’ consent forms from the Oral History Project box while the damaged tape was being repaired?

In a September 2 email to OGC, I’d stated that I was interested in reviewing the folders containing the consent forms that had been signed by interviewees as well as representatives of the Oral History Project. You’d think they would have made a note of that, particularly if they’d removed the hockey coach consent forms by then.

Thoughts?

****************

Addendum 10/6/2022: What about the worksheet?

In addition to the consent forms, I also looked through the documentation worksheets, which were the notes kept for all of the interviews that had been conducted. It included important details about the interview, including topics covered, participants’ names, the length of time, location, as well as the accession number. There was a lot of essential info there for processing the recording. Next to the tape recording itself, the worksheet was the most tangible evidence that an interview had taken place.

I hadn’t recalled seeing a worksheet for the hockey coaches’ interview when I was at University Archives in June, so I made a point of looking for it this past Monday. There is no worksheet under the title Miami Hockey Coaches or Hockey Coaches or Hockey Program or anything hockey-related. Any of those names should have been located in the G-N folder, although I checked them all, just in case. I did find the worksheet for the interview with the Village of Oxford Mayor and Chief of Police, which was conducted the day after the hockey coach interview. So…I still have questions about the hockey coach tape.

The Village of Oxford Mayor and Chief of Police worksheet, which was conducted one day after the Miami Hockey Coaches interview.
The Basketball Coaching Legends worksheet serves as a good model for comparison. If there was a worksheet for the Miami hockey coaches interview, it probably would have been titled Hockey Coaches or Hockey Program, like at the top of the consent forms.
The box where the documentation worksheets are kept. The hockey coaches should have been in the G-N folder.

Was Ron Tammen spotted by H.H. Stephenson at the Adirondack Inn?

We’re still in wait mode regarding the two hockey tapes, which means that I’m biding my time working on other questions pertaining to the Ron Tammen mystery. In fact, just a couple days ago, as  I was going through photos from my last trip to University Archives, I noticed a new detail that was screaming to be investigated.

The item had to do with something a volunteer researcher had found on the second day of our visit this past June. In a box holding Tammen-related materials are notes that had once belonged to Dr. Phillip Shriver, president emeritus of Miami University and a historian who had done so much to keep the Tammen mystery alive on Miami’s campus. The notes were typewritten on index cards in outline format, and the purpose of these cards was to provide Dr. Shriver with a scaled-down version of his renowned Miami Mysteries talk. In order to keep his talk to 50 minutes, he decided to skip over the part about H.H. (Hi) Stephenson. Nevertheless, Dr. Shriver had elected to include one important detail in line #6, and that rarely disclosed detail was the name of a hotel, which was the Adirondack Inn. 

Click on image for a closer view

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. So was this our answer? Was the Adirondack Inn the hotel in Wellsville, NY, where Hi Stephenson thought he saw Ron Tammen? You’re probably brimming with questions about this discovery too, which is why I’ll now be switching over to Q&A format.

Q: So, is that the answer? Did the serendipitous meet-up happen at a restaurant in an establishment called the Adirondack Inn?

Oh, there’s no way.

Q: How can you be so sure?

Several reasons. According to Manning’s Directory for May 1953, there was no hotel by that name in the village of Wellsville, NY. Or Andover. Or Belmont. Or Scio. Those are four towns in Allegany County in order of population size. Wellsville was by far the biggest town in the county and it was also a major stopping point for travelers. If you were going to stop for dinner anywhere between New York and Ohio, Wellsville would have been a choice spot.

Under the category of “Hotels,” Manning’s listed five of them, all in Wellsville, all off of route 17, which, in town, was known as Main Street:

  • Al-Ha-Mar Motel, 475 N. Highland Avenue (Route 17)
  • Brunswick Hotel, 173-177 North Main
  • Fassett Hotel, 55 North Main
  • Pickup’s Hotel, 38-40 North Main
  • Wellsville Hotel, 470 North Main

Therefore, one of the reasons that it couldn’t be the Adirondack Inn is that there was no such hotel in or around Wellsville. I could go on.

Q: Please do.

I’ve also looked up the terms “Adirondack Inn,” “Adirondack Hotel,” and “Hotel Adirondack” in newspapers from that era to see if anything popped up that’s close to Wellsville. The only Adirondack Inn that I was able to find was the one at Sacandaga Lake in upstate New York. It was beautiful in its heyday, and I’m sure they had a nice restaurant, but it was 4 hours and 21 minutes from Wellsville.

There’s also the Adirondack Hotel, which is in Long Lake, NY. It, too, is nice, but it was over 5 hours from Wellsville. And that sums up our options.

It’s worth pointing out that the Adirondack Inn and the Adirondack Hotel are both located in the Adirondack Mountain region, which makes so much sense. What makes less sense is for a hotel in a town near the border of Pennsylvania to be named for a mountain range that’s 325 miles away.

Q: Where do you think Dr. Shriver got the name?

These things happen innocently. Phil Shriver surely would have known Hi Stephenson. Phil had arrived in Oxford in 1965 and Hi had already been working at the university since the 1940s. Hi retired in 1977. Phil stepped down from the presidency in 1981 and retired from teaching in 1998. Hi passed away in 2006 and Phil died in 2011. So I’m sure there were plenty of opportunities for Phil to ask Hi the question that I’d always wondered if Carl Knox had asked him—“What was the name of the hotel, Hi?”

The problem is…people’s memories have a way of jumbling things up over time. It could be that Hi accidentally told Phil the wrong name. Hi and his wife Kay had been vacationing in upstate New York before driving home through Wellsville. Maybe they even stayed in the Adirondack Inn, and, when he was talking to Phil, he accidentally confused the two hotel names. Or maybe Phil had gotten the details wrong. He’d mixed up other details about Hi’s story before, as a matter of fact.

Q: Really? What makes you say that?

On another note card, Phil has written some additional details regarding Hi’s story, several of which are inaccurate. In ink, he wrote the following:

“N.B. Hi & Kay Stephenson were returning from Connecticut and stopped in Waynesboro, PA.” Above that line he wrote, “Hi recalls young man’s piercing eyes.”

Click on image for a closer view

From what I can determine, the “N.B.” is a Latin phrase meaning “Nota bene,” or “Note well.” He’s saying that this is important, and I can totally see Phil Shriver using that terminology to do so. The man had panache.

But the locations—Connecticut and Waynesboro, PA—don’t agree with Joe Cella’s April 18, 1976, article in the Hamilton Journal-News. Joe was quoting Hi directly in that article, so that’s the source I’m going to go with factually: that the Stephensons were vacationing in upstate New York and they dined in Wellsville on the way back. (By the way, I checked and there’s no Adirondack Inn in Waynesboro, PA, either.)

But don’t be too critical of Phil or Hi. They couldn’t instantly fact check some fuzzy detail like we do now. If the information wasn’t stored securely in their brain or a file folder somewhere, it could get muddled up or completely lost.

Q: So where does that leave us? Are you still unsure about which hotel it was?

Well, funny you should ask, because when I revisited Joe Cella’s article I noticed an additional detail that could help us further narrow things down.

Let’s listen to Joe tell the story again, paying close attention to the last paragraph:

On Aug. 5, 1953, five months after Tammen was gone, Stephenson, who was in charge, and still is, of housing assignments and campus permits at Miami University, was returning with his wife from a short vacation in upper New York State.

Stephenson recalled they stopped for the evening in Wellsville, N.Y. At dinner that night, in a hotel dining room, he said he noticed three or four men sitting a few tables away. At once he said he became aware one of the men looked exactly like Tammen. He said he knew Tammen.

“When my eyes looked toward him, I would find he was looking at me. He was sort of looking right through me. For some reason that I’ll never know, I said nothing to my wife about the fact that this young man was Ron Tammen. I was sure it was him.”

After finishing dinner, Stephenson said he and his wife walked out of the hotel onto the street. He then told his wife. At her urging, they went back inside, but the men, one of whom Stephenson thought to be Ron Tammen, were gone. There was no trace of them in the lobby or anywhere else.

Thanks to Joe’s clues, I have three criteria to narrow things down. I’d had the first two criteria for a while now. The third one is new.

  • The hotel had to have a restaurant that served dinners. This may seem like a no-brainer, but two of Wellsville’s five hotels weren’t serving regular meals.
  • The hotel had to be on the street.
  • The hotel had to have a lobby near its restaurant.

Regarding criterion #1: The Al-Ha-Mar Motel was a typical 1950s-style one-story motel in which all overnight guests had their own street-level entrance. They didn’t have a restaurant.

The Brunswick Hotel had a coffee shop and a bar. According to local historians, they weren’t serving meals then. So those two hotels can be ruled out.

Regarding criterion #2: The Hotel Wellsville was a stately old building about one mile north of the center of town on Main Street. It also had a restaurant. However, the hotel was set back away from the road, nestled among trees. For this reason, I don’t think it was the Hotel Wellsville.

Hotel Wellsville. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.

And finally, criterion #3. The Fassett Hotel was a striking red brick building with spectacular windows. They had a dining room that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week as well as Sunday afternoon. And importantly, the Fassett Hotel was right on North Main Street and had a lobby that owners made use of by frequently featuring the work of local artists.

The Fassett Hotel. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.
Pickup’s Hotel. Used with permission of the Allegany County Historical Society.

Pickup’s Hotel wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the Fassett, but it had a coffee shop, a cocktail lounge, and a dining room, where they served meals. It was also on North Main Street. What isn’t clear is if there was a hotel lobby near the dining area. If there was one, I don’t think it was big. A 1961 article on a fire that had broken out had said that “Principal business activity in the building centered around its restaurant on the ground floor.” 

Although it’s possible that Pickup’s Hotel was where Hi Stephenson saw Ron or Ron’s look-alike, I now strongly believe that the encounter happened at the Fassett Hotel. And doesn’t it sort of fit that, given a choice between a cobbled-together medley of wood, stone, and whatever else, and an elegant building of red brick, H.H. Stephenson and Ronald Tammen, Miamians through and through, would have been drawn to the latter?

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Update 10/5/2022: Before posting the above write-up, I had emailed several historians from Allegany County to see if anyone had heard of an Adirondack Inn anywhere near there. Today, I heard back from Craig Braack, Allegany County’s official historian. Craig had asked a few local “old-timers” about a possible Adirondack Inn in Allegany County and no one knew a thing about it. This is one more piece of evidence that the Adirondack Inn was not the name of the hotel where Hi Stephenson thought he saw Ron Tammen.

The backup tape

On December 15, 2008, a Monday, someone affiliated with Miami University’s Oral History Project had a report to write. The weather was a little wonky that day—unseasonably warm in the wee hours, some light precipitation mid-morning, with a steady decline in temps in the p.m. I can imagine the author seated at his or her computer, all settled in with a steaming cup of jo, in full-on “no brag, just fact” mode. 

But make no mistake: this report was written to impress. To gloat a little. To describe for the powers-that-be—the highest muckety-mucks the university had to offer—the significance of all that the author and his or her colleagues had accomplished over the preceding three years. This was, after all, the university’s bicentennial celebration. By this point, 25 one-on-one interviews and 66 group interviews, called story circles, had been completed—with some of Miami’s most renowned names as well as others who were less known but who also had interesting stories to tell. 

Most interviews had been posted to the bicentennial website by then. Additional interviews would be conducted throughout the winter, spring, and summer. In two short months, the festivities would officially kick off with a Charter Day Ball. And five months and a handful of days after this report was written, someone affiliated with the Oral History Project would be sitting down with several of Miami’s legendary hockey coaches and chatting it up on camera. So gloat on, dear author, because you and your coworkers have done some amazingly impressive work. I really, truly mean that. The Oral History Project folks did an outstanding job.

When you have five free minutes, I encourage you to read the one-page report, from beginning to end. And if you have an extra minute to spare, you may want to read the second-to-last paragraph one more time, with sentence number 3 being my favorite.

Click on image for a closer view

Now, after reading all of the author’s glowing words, what do you think he or she would say if we told them about all we’ve been going through lately? Like: what would they say if we told them how long we’ve been waiting to obtain copies of the recordings that, for whatever reason, hadn’t been posted to the bicentennial website? 

Also, what would they think if they knew that I needed to obtain legal representation in hopes of obtaining copies of the unposted recordings?

And finally, what would this person say if I told them that, after all of these months, and after all of the legal proceedings, I’m still waiting on one of the recordings to turn up? As luck would have it, the missing recording happens to be the one with the Miami hockey coaches, which couldn’t have been an easy one to coordinate, what with the stature of the people involved and their jam-packed schedules.

The report’s author would probably ask: “What about the DVDs that were made from each videotape?” 

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Then, they’d ask, “Well, what about the Southwest Ohio Regional Depository? Surely they should have received a copy.”

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But then they’d say, “Well, thank goodness for the audio backup. They should at least have that.”

Of course. The audio backup, as mentioned in sentence 3 of the second-to-last paragraph. If the two hockey tapes we’re waiting on should turn up empty, University Archives should have an audio recording of the Miami Hockey Coaches interview as backup. And can you imagine if the digital videotape of those hockey coaches had been damaged or destroyed to the point where it couldn’t be posted to the website or used to create DVD copies? They would have guarded that audio recording with their lives.

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Update 9/27/2022: Based on a 2005 funding request and other Oral History Project records, the backup audio wasn’t a “tape” per se. Audio was recorded using a digital audio recorder and converted to CD-ROM.