KALAMAZOO—A victory bell that was once a staple at Western Michigan University football games has been found, restored and reintroduced to the campus during the annual CommUniverCity celebration.
The bell was stolen many years ago, says David Corstange, WMU's senior associate athletic director, and was seemingly lost to WMU forever. But the person who took the bell contacted WMU a few years ago to say he still had the bell and wanted to return it. Corstange recovered the bell, and it has been restored by four members of WMU's chapter of AFSCME—the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.
The restored bell was unveiled at the Friday, Sept. 7, CommUniverCity luncheon in downtown Kalamazoo at the Radisson. Corstange says plans are for it to be used at all home football and volleyball games, beginning with this year's CommUniverCity game.
The AFSCME employees who restored the bell are Napoleon Hall, Dennis Moore, Donald Vanderroest and Kevin Villadsen.
Bronco Victory Bell
The victory bell tradition at WMU dates back to 1939, when the first victory bell, which had hung in a country schoolhouse, was donated to the University by the Gull Lake School District. It was rung for the first time on campus to announce the defeat of Miami University of Ohio at Waldo Stadium on Oct. 7, 1939. Between games, the bell was housed in Vandercook Hall. The men of that residence hall donated the bell to a World War II scrap metal drive.
Towner Smith, director of Vandercook Hall, was quoted in the Oct. 8, 1942, edition of the Western Herald as saying, "There will be no victory until the war is won. Then, we will buy another Victory Bell." The bell was reported to weigh 150 pounds.
Victory was secured, and 14 years later, a new bell was found to replace the old one. That is the bell that was stolen.
"It was rusted, and the AFSCME employees restored the bell then and painted it black," Corstange says. "Now they have restored it again and mounted it on the wagon. We plan to unveil it for the CommUniverCity game and ring it under the goal post when we score."