Alumni Column: The Spirit that is Charlie



Tom McGarrity '79

Meet Charlie Stanton ’80. Charlie was my best friend at Colgate. He was from Chap­paqua, New York and went to Horace Greeley High School. Charlie followed in the foot­steps of his older brother, Skip, two years his senior at Colgate. Charlie and I were FIJI’s, or more properly, Phi Gamma Delta brothers.

Charlie and I played football and were a mismatched pair: Charlie a receiver and me, a defensive back. This brief description of “life at Colgate” – being frat brothers, playing football, creating March Madness pools and, of course, school work – could be enough to write about. But, it’s not, because it would not reveal the true genius of Charlie Stanton.

Here’s what I mean…When you went to the library with Charlie, you were assured of the one thing you never hear in a library: LOUD NOISE.

Charlie used to rig a fishing line low to the ground – basically invisible – between the aisles and attached the end of the line to those metal book ends – lots of them – propped up on the top of the aisles.

Some poor, unsuspecting student would “trip” the line and a piercing sound of clanging metal would reverberate around the library.

Or, another classic Charlie library maneuver was to go to the top floor stairwell door, place books end-to-end to the top stair and put one of those metal “step ups” on the last book.

Once again, someone would open the door and set off a chain reaction so that the metal “step up” clanged down three stories of stairwells. As his admiring minions, we would look at each other after hearing the ear-splitting noise and say, “I guess Charlie is in the library”.

The fun wasn’t limited to the library. Charlie came up with the idea of “hell ball.” What’s hell ball, you say?

We would get a roll of toilet paper and douse it in gasoline. We would light it on fire in the street outside #1 Birch. We would all get dressed with layers of clothes, grab some hockey sticks and “bat” the flaming “ball” back and forth. It would always get exciting when the hell ball hit you in the chest as you feverishly flicked away the flames or watched as the hell ball dribbled under a car which set off a race to bat the ball out from under the car before it blew up. Hell ball was always best played at night (imagine the other “Birchites” looking out their windows watching this flaming sphere going back and forth in the dark).

The Super Bowl of hell ball was when we took the game across the street to the soccer field.

We doused the cotton goal netting and when the only goal of the game was scored the net went on fire (thus the only goal of the game).

The genius of Charlie.

Several years after Charlie graduated, he got into a serious accident hitting his head in a skiing trip in Argentina (that he won in a sales contest). Charlie went into a coma at the age of 31 that he never recovered from. He died at the age of 35.

Was that the end of my friendship with Charlie? Hell (ball) no!

Charlie’s spirit is alive and well. Shortly after Charlie died, I bought two stadium seats in the football stadium so Charlie and I could “enjoy” all the lousy weather football practices and have a great seat together for all the home football games.Charlie still gets his teams in our March Madness pool (which we have done for 34 years) and has won the pool several times.

Any time I am in a library – which is rare these days – and I hear a noise, I know Char­lie is there. And, most recently, in one of those amazing strokes of fate, I found myself exercising next to Charlie’s dad (Frank Stanton), shocked to find out we share the same health club!

So what is the takeaway…

There really is a “Spirit that is Colgate,” It’s the friends you make for life – and after-life.

Hey, Charlie, get ready for this year’s March Madness pool. I will be sending you your teams in a few weeks.