Under a gloomy sky, but with a festive atmosphere, the twin towers of the 12 story Gage Dormitory on the Minnesota State University campus at Mankato were imploded Saturday morning at 9:30 am.
The dorm, built in the mid-60's had outlived it's useful life and was blown up to make way for a parking lot.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....I lived at Gage. Going way back in time, I was a freshman at Mankato State College in 1969-70. I lived in Gage's room 821 A. It was a new dorm then and was one of the better places to live at Mankato State, which at 15,000 students was the largest 'college' in that nation back in the late 60s and early 70s.
I just had to see the leviathan one more time as did thousands of others. The crowd on Saturday was estimated at 4,000 plus, radio stations broadcast it live, copters from Twin Cities TV stations hovered in the air, and personalities told their stories about Gage.
In an informal poll conducted by a DJ, it sounded like people who had lived in Gage in the 80s were the biggest group of ex-Gage residents who attended the event. A rain storm between 7 am and 8 am Saturday might have kept the crowd down, but it helped me grab one of the best viewing spots. That was the top row of the west section of the Blakeslee Field football stadium. That was a perfect perch and had an unobstructed view across from Gage. Saturday morning had a party like atmosphere to it. The DJ's were playing demolition theme songs - John Mellencamp's 'Crumblin' Down'; Bruce Springsteen's 'Glory Days', they pass you buy; Queen's 'We Will Rock You' and Europe's 'The Final Countdown'.
The songs I heard when I lived in Gage were broadcast by AM radio station WDGY in the years before FM took over the radio dial.
The fall of '69 had some of the last Beatles songs to be released like 'Come Together' and 'Something'.
A new group called Led Zeppelin had a 'Whole Lotta of Love' and another new group called the Jackson 5 was heard around Gage that winter with "I Want You Back'. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', one of Simon and Garfunkel's last songs was the number one song it seemed like most of the spring in 1970.
They said Gage housed students from 1965-2012. Knowing what I know about the slice of Gage life I experienced that one year, I can say it's amazing the dorm didn't fall in decades earlier.
Four decades plus of mostly 18 year olds left to their own supervision is an interesting experiment on kids growing up.
There was that time the night the first semester ended that I....no, I don't really want to talk about that. Or, that time with the guy and the urinal....no, I can't talk about that.
Page 2 of 2 - I'm sure the girl's tower was always 12 floors of virtue and gentle behavior, but the boys tower was 12 floors of 'Animal House', so how the building stood that long is a minor miracle itself.
Gage just got old, and was a structure that didn't meet the tastes of the modern MacMansion raised kid. The year I was born as a baby boomer saw the average new home built having just 700 square feet. Gage went from having rooms that were modern and comfortable to my generation to small and cramped to today's student.
There was no good reason I could recall as to why I went to Mankato State. Decades later my Mother told me I liked the Mankato State recruiter on college night at my high school. Such insignificant moments can set a lifetime of events that follow after it in motion.
Mankato was six hours away from my home, so I also experienced one of the other Gage phenomena during the school year. Gage became a ghost town on the weekends. All of the kids from across southern Minnesota, the Cities and northern Iowa went home for the weekend.
Thursday was the big party night at the school Playboy had designated Mankato State as one of the great party schools in America. That's when things got a little sporty in Gage. It seemed the typical Gage student staggered out of bed on Friday morning, maybe caught a class and went home.
I'm sure not having that booze fueled crew on hand Friday and Saturday nights added years to structural integrity to the building.
I'd also venture to say the '69-'70 residents of Gage were probably the only students who did not stay in the dorm over the course of what was their expected full school year.
On May 4, 1970 four students were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State. Mankato State along with just about every other college and university in the country erupted in protest.
More than a 1,000 schools let students out early that year. Mankato was one of them. My year at Gage ended early and I don't think a got a refund on my room and board, which probalby was in the range of $700 for the year.
I always looked for Gage when I drove up 169 from St. James. Now that icon has been blown out of the Mankato sykline in a controlled explosion that lasted a little more than ten seconds. The crowd gave one last cheer for the old dorm when it came down. One way or another, Gage had been a part of their lives.