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This is how legends get started

Kate Gales | Friday, October 31, 2003

There’s a huge difference between wild Zahm resident Charlie Gales, class of 1982, and the man who has enforced the rules at home for the last 18 years – or so I thought. However, as the summer of 2003 grew to a close, and my departure for Notre Dame grew imminent, I began to see someone I hadn’t seen before – my staid, rules-observing father became “Charlie” before my eyes.

Charlie is a proud former resident of Zahm Hall’s second-floor 10-man suite. He and his former roommates – Sean, Moon, Gerry, Burl, Rudy, “L,” Blim, Vasey, Sab and others keep in close contact and recently celebrated their 20-year reunion. Sean will actually be here to tailgate with my family before the USC game this weekend. According to my mother, his claim to fame is struggling mightily through Notre Dame’s civil engineering program and then designing a massive bridge in the South Bend area.

The stories these adults tell are hard to reconcile with “Dad the disciplinarian.” Charlie grew up on a farm, and the muscles he built baling hay made him talented among his dormmates. Since kegs had recently been outlawed in dorm rooms, Charlie’s ability to carry four cases of special drinks from the parking lots to Zahm were prized. He also used his impressive physical strength to barricade the assistant rector in his room with a cigarette machine.

Dad was vastly amused when I was assigned to Cavanaugh – the home of Zahm’s old rivals.

“Charlie,” my mom asked, “doesn’t it feel funny to you that Kate is living in a men’s dorm?”

“No, Dad replied. “Cavanaugh guys were pretty girly anyways.” This was reinforced with the story of “L” sending bottle rockets down a hallway, past the Cavanaugh chapel. Bottle rockets were also shot out of upper-story windows over groups of students.

Dad spent a lot of time in his freshman-year room, 313 Zahm, during Frosh-O weekend. He also enjoyed the “Zahm, best six years of your life” sign and giant Z. It was an odd sense of déjà vu that I went to my first college party in Dad’s old room. It was odder yet that Dad’s main reaction was a sense of relief that these new Zahmbies were carrying on the tradition.

Campus has changed a lot in the last quarter-century. However, being a legacy means that a sense of continuity pervades my time here at Notre Dame. I’m thrilled to see my family this weekend for the first time since I’ve left for college. I’m sure more interesting stories are on their way.