More Greetings from Lake LaVerne

We received a tremendous response last spring and summer to our call for stories about Lake LaVerne on the occasion of its 100th birthday, and we printed many of those tales in our fall issue of VISIONS magazine.

But here are some more remembrances you may not have seen yet:


Some incidents from the dim-and-distant past, which I have always assumed related: I believe these both happened during 1955-56. The first involved a “bomb”– a device with a timer, left one evening on an upstairs balcony at the end of a women’s dorm, containing what appeared to be two or three sticks of dynamite. The bomb was discovered by a dorm resident and was disarmed by a janitor, who (at great risk to himself!), opened the device and ripped apart the wires therein. As it turned out, the dynamite sticks were fake: The dynamite wrappers were real, but their explosive contents had been replaced by sawdust soaked in syrup. There were a lot of rumors –- even accusations that it was an inside job — but the Ames police did not release much information on their findings.

One morning several months later, there was an explosion near the dam at the southeast end of Lake LaVerne.  Investigation indicated that an explosive had been placed there, with the apparent intent of opening a gap in the dam to lower the lake level. But the attempt was sufficiently nonprofessional that only minor damage was done to the dam, and the lake was not affected.  That incident, in my view, answers the question of what happened to the original contents of the dynamite sticks used in the earlier prank.

Notwithstanding the tools employed, that was not the most successful attempt to drain the Lake. I cannot remember the date — it was between 1954 and 1956 -– when someone pushed a pipe through the south bank of the lake from the ravine that paralleled Lincoln Way. Water ran out of the Lake into the ravine and back to the stream below the dam.  This attempt did, in fact, result in a significant drop in lake level– on the order of a foot or so– before it was detected and the pipe was plugged.  Again, I do not remember anyone officially blamed for the damage: That activity would have required a lot of people, and could not have been done quickly, so I was surprised that nothing came of it, at least during my three years at ISU.

I’m too old to remember much else, but those incidents obviously stuck with me. Believe me, I had no part in any of them, although my roommates accused me of complicity!

James R. Fancher ’56
Naperville, Ill.


thongvanh“I usually come here to hang out over my lunch break. Oh look, the swans are heading our way!”

— Allison Thongvanh ’13


Just read that you’re going to do a story about LaVerne Noyes. Did you know he founded the Aeromotor Windmill Co.?  I just learned this earlier this year. I’m surprised this part of LaVerne Noyes’ life I had never heard before–and I pride myself on knowing lots of ISU trivia. Since the company is still in business and there are scholarships at ISU from the company, I’m excited to read what other info you find out about how the windmill company continues to benefit ISU. Alum Noyes possibly has the longest financial giving back of any alum.

Jay Hinkhouse, MD ’85
Ames, Iowa


I enjoyed sitting on the south side of LaVerne during the fall and looking north across the lake at the changing leaves of the trees with the back drop of the Campanile. That was the best time of year on campus!

Evan Brehm ’12
Newhall, Iowa


trees“We’re in town for a softball game and decided to take a tour of campus. I like the mature trees around the lake.”


One cold winter’s night I was walking back from Memorial Union to my dorm room in Helser Hall along the north side of Lake LaVerne.  Plenty of snow was on the ground, but the sidewalk was quite clean.  About 10’ ahead I noticed another student walking along, and he was smoking.  One whiff told me that it wasn’t tobacco.  He proceeded to drift down to the frozen lake and walk along the ice until he reached the west end.  I slowed down to watch, expecting a catastrophic wipeout, but he made it.

Brad Buecker ’77
Lenexa, Kan.


The year was 1959 and I was a senior at Iowa State College, majoring in civil engineering. I lived in Fairchild House in Friley-Hughes Hall where there was a good mix of engineers and foresters. There was a good-natured rivalry between the two groups and each thought the other dumber, weaker, etc.

A tug of war, it was agreed, would resolve the matter. It was VEISHEA and it was decided that the focal point of the contest would be Lake LaVerne. I’m unsure as to how the rope got across the Lake, but no doubt an engineer figured it out. The foresters chose the north (street) side, which the engineers were on the grassy south side.

I wasn’t a part of the engineers’ squad because at that time I wasn’t “beefy” enough. A lot has changed over the last 57 years. Although not big, my housemate Jerry was a part of the forester team and wore a white dress shirt to the contest. No doubt rules were agreed upon, like the number on each team and how the winner would be determined — probably when all of the foresters were pulled into the Lake.

For a minute or two after the contest started, things were even. Gradually, however — and probably due to better footing — the engineers started their march toward Lincoln Way. I can still see Jerry in his white shirt suspended above Lake LaVerne. Onlookers on the north side of the Lake, seeing the foresters were in trouble, decided to give them a hand and joined the foresters’ squad. Likewise, when the engineers started to be pulled toward the Lake the bystanders on the south side joined the fray. And then it happened: The rope broke and the question of superiority went unresolved.

Dave Gravenkamp ’59
Yreka, Calif.


pokemon“We just came here to find Pokemon.”

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One thought on “More Greetings from Lake LaVerne

  1. Pingback: Five Things | ISU Alumni Association

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