Norman Beamer is among the fortunate few who can say he was there — “taking tickets from all the fancy patrons,” on Saturday, April 19, 1969 — when history was made at 500 South Goodwin in Urbana.
It’s not just the sweet sounds of the UI Symphony, then led by Bernard Goodman, with violinist Tossy Spivkosky, that he remembers all these years later about opening night at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
“During intermission of that event,” he says, “a bizarre thing happened. All the well-dressed patrons were milling around in the vast lobby, and I noticed in the corner of my eye a funny movement.
“It was a little field mouse – the building just having been completed, it was probably one of many that had felt that it owned the place and was quite put out to have all these human interlopers.
“I stared as it scurried across that endless teakwood plain, dodging to and fro to make its way around the feet of the crowd. It became clear that more and more people noticed this visitor – there were not screams or shouts; it was more that the crowd quickly became silent, staring at the mouse as it scurried across the lobby.
“Just as the mouse reached the center of the lobby, a man lifted up his foot, and slammed it down on the mouse as hard as he could. I suppose he thought he was the big hero, but the crowd gasped and cried out, definitely not admiringly. The flattened corpse was quietly removed, and everything quickly returned to normal.“
Beamer has four degrees to show for his 14-year stretch on three college campuses: a bachelor’s from Lehigh, a master’s and MBA Illinois and a JD from Michigan.
The no-doubt-about-it highlight of that period, which preceded a career in law, started in September 1968 when he showed up in Champaign-Urbana for grad school.
“Shortly after my arrival, I saw this huge construction project, with a big sign that said, in substance, ‘Site of Krannert Center For The Performing Arts … a five-theatre performing arts complex … Turner Construction … Max Abramowitz … etc.’ Having been extensively involved in theatre over the years, I resolved to get involved in the Krannert somehow.
“At some point in the fall semester, a group of undergrads formed what eventually became Krannert Center Student Association. I joined and became quite active over my entire tenure at U of I — at the expense of my regular studies. I never got my Ph.D. and am now reduced to being a patent judge with the Patent Office.”