Is there a bomb shelter under the graduation green?
-Photo by Robert Feresse/For the Review
Review staff writer/photographer
Between Melrose Hall and the president’s house, just east of the Oak Grove, lies an unmistakably well-kept patch of grass known as the graduation green.
It is the place where Linfield students begin and end their undergraduate careers. Grouped together in a set of white folding chairs, the freshman class sits together for the first time to hear some opening remarks about attending Linfield. Just four short years later, they sing the alma mater in the same location to conclude commencement.
Does a stark reminder of generations past lie beneath this iconic lawn? The myth of a secret bomb shelter or escape tunnel forgotten after the Cold War is whispered around campus. The scarcity of information on the topic leaves the mind to wander.
“I have absolutely no idea,” Mardi Mileham, director of college public relations, said. “I have never heard anything like that.”
Dean of Students Dave Hansen, who has worked at Linfield for nearly three decades, said he knew nothing of the myth either.
Information on the inner workings of the campus blueprint have turned to relic, handed down by members of the college’s Facilities Services staff.
Tim Stewart, assistant manager of custodial services, is one of the gatekeepers. In his 21 years at the school, he has learned about some of Linfield’s muddied underground history.
“Now that I think of it, there used to be a tunnel by Murdock (Hall), but it’s not like it really went anywhere,” he said.
The tunnel, which was used f or storage, was closed off when construction began for Murdock in the early 1980s.
“Under Riley (Hall), there is a hallway-like tunnel that goes from the length of Pioneer (Hall) to Melrose,” Stewart said. “It’s pretty intense if you’re not used to being down there. It’s like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ once the tunnel starts to narrow at the end.”
He said the Riley tunnel holds the steam line, phone line and other school utilities.
There is no practical emergency shelter today, Stewart said, although what is now Jonasson Hall used to be a designated safe zone.
Along with Jonasson, the McMinnville post office and the basement of McMenamins Hotel Oregon were considered prime locations for community fallout shelter during the height of Cold War fears.
Mike Dressel, director of campus safety, said there are no shelters or tunnels other than the ones used by Facilities Services.
At Linfield, three of the administrative buildings have service basement areas kept behind locked doors and under restricted access, Dressel said.
Dressel and Stewart said there is no underground development under the graduation green and all of the school’s tunnels are short, narrow dead ends.
“It’s mostly just pipes, gadgetry and a little bit of water on the floor,” Dressel said.
During the summer of 2000, construction of a new steam line to Keck Campus created large trenches dug across multiple places on campus. The holes were filled with slurry, a mix of water and cement, and for all the excavation of the lawn, no secret tunnels were found.
According to the Linfield Emergency Management Plan, “in the case of pre-event evacuation, the campus location for such temporary emergency shelter would be the (Rutschman Fieldhouse) by virtue of its structural integrity and availability of emergency auxiliary power.”
Dressel said the emergency plan is under review but did not give specifics about changes or time schedules.
Meanwhile, the graduation green remains nothing more than a lawn, it seems. No bomb shelter. No elaborate system of escape tunnels. No fact here, only myth.