The Lew Wallace Motor Inn was formerly a coffin factory. The restaurant there serves an appetizing brand of canned chili that the Wabash coaching staff takes in every now and then. The coaches love it. They think the chili is homemade.
Wabash was a short walk in the rain to the western edge of town, the tiny campus spotted with huge piles of decaying leaves, the only color left on it by the advancing winter. The campus is a throwback. The original building (1832) is still in use, and additions contribute to the vaguely forbidding, bleakly exciting quality of the place. The unmistakable aura of an all-male institution.
I had been told that if you scratch the backgrounds of most Wabash and DePauw students you would find little to distinguish them—middle-class, Protestant, conservative, white. But college students wear their identities like overcoats and tend to adapt to the styles at hand, causing a school's character to harden along certain fashionable lines, and it was here that Wabash and DePauw were said to be antipathetic.
Wabash (from the short DePauw view) is a monastery for the uncouth. Wabash does not have a code of conduct for its men, only that they "behave as gentlemen," which gives them license to develop low brows and manners. You can tell a Wabash student by the way he staggers on weekends. He is the one to be found face down in the wedding cake. He does not know a Windsor knot from the Windsor Castle and never gets the part straight in his oil-slick hair. Wabash men are called Cavemen (they enjoy the image), and you wouldn't let your sister touch one with a 10-foot cattle prod.
DePauw, on the other hand, is a rest home for sissies. DePauw men are called "Dannies" and are a hankie-waving bunch. Nevertheless, they are not particularly keen-witted. A Dannie carries an umbrella when the sun is out and puts it down when it starts to rain. How does a Dannie get in shape for the big game? The coach dumps him off the bus at Wabash, and he runs like hell for home.
Dannies adhere to a strict school moral code, which is to say they sneak their drinks. When given more freedom than they can handle they are pictured running naked across the pages of Playboy magazine. DePauw's student body is 45% female. Wabash students therefore consider DePauw a nice place to visit, but they wouldn't want to enroll there.
These differences are mostly symbolic, of course, but it is true that DePauw is a larger, more socially tailored school (2,257 enrollment to 850) with a surer financial base, and it does have girls. Wabash made a two-year cost study of going coeducational some time ago and decided that girls did not belong in college.
"There it is—you're jealous of DePauw," I said. I was nursing coffee in the offices of the Wabash news bureau with Director of Public Affairs Jim Wood and Sports Information Director Gerry Dreyer, trying to find a good reason for being there on such a lousy day. The wooden floors smelled deliciously of age, and on the wall was a laminated plaque announcing the 1907 Michigan game ("Yea! Wabash! Big Mass Meeting of Townspeople...The Biggest Athletic Event Ever Pulled Off in the State...).
"Of course we are," said a third man, a professor whom Wood had invited in to set me straight on DePauw. His name was Warren Shearer, onetime acting dean of men, a whip-lean man with aggressive eyebrows that bounced when he was hard into a story. Wood goaded him on. Shearer's dramatic voice rose.
"But venturing out for companionship never bothered a Wabash man," he said. By the same token, he said he had noticed over the years a marked deterioration in the vigor of the DePauw people. They had become "more placid," and their professors were hopeless. When emotion ran amuck on the field or in the stands at the big game, it was always the Wabash professors who sallied forth to save the peace. "The DePauw professors," he sneered, "just sat in their seats with their arms crossed."