Photo Friday: Foolin’ Around with Old Zeke

A group of students at Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home pose for a quick picture with Old Zeke, a skeleton donated to the school by a Brethren in Christ bishop. (Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

Today’s Photo Friday installment showcases a popular resident of Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home: Old Zeke, a skeleton donated to the fledgling school by Benjamin Gish, a Brethren in Christ minister “with a lively interest in anatomy and hygiene” (as E. Morris Sider has written of him). The skeleton was used as a visual aid in numerous science courses.

Over the years, Old Zeke became a (perhaps unwilling) participant in many school pranks. The one pictured here seems innocent enough: John Hess (1st from left), Harry Mowery (3rd from left), and the rest of their unidentified chums seem to be having good, light-hearted fun with their skeletal pal circa 1927.

A more dangerous prank involving Old Zeke occurred about ten years earlier. Morris Sider shares the story in Messiah College: A History:

One morning faculty arrived at Old Main to find Old Zeke sitting in the lobby with a lighted cigarette in his mouth. The boys responsible for that episode had also over a period of some weeks stolen spaghetti from the S.R. Smith Company, taken it to their rooms and eaten it on the sly. They had also sneaked alcoholic beverages, playing cards, and firearms into their rooms. A bishop was called in to speak to the boys. Considering the offenses, the culprits escaped the consequences of their actions reasonably well: only one was expelled; the others were given demerits and made to sit in the front seats at all religious services. Some of the offenders later became leaders in the denomination.

With that tantalizing tidbit, Sider closes his story. Which would-be Brethren in Christ leaders participated in the tomfoolery? I have my suspicions…

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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2 Responses to Photo Friday: Foolin’ Around with Old Zeke

  1. Harriet Bicksler says:

    My husband, who in his retirement has been volunteering at the Oakes Museum at Messiah College where I believe Zeke now resides, wrote a poem inspired by him and took his picture. You can check out the picture and poem http://www.druthersndragons.com/druthersndragons/Poetry-Picture_Poems.html (scroll down the page for “Zeke”).

  2. Devin says:

    Harriet: Thanks for sharing — give my compliments on the poem to your husband! It’s beautiful. And I’m glad to know that Zeke is still around.

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