Within room 220 of Anderson Hall at Maryville College, held between the windowpanes, there resides a small stairway composed of crumpled paper balls. In the past, there was a note beside the stairway that explained the paper obstruction’s purpose, but recently the relic has been removed.
However, before its removal, many students with classes in Anderson said that they were curious about the note and the paper wads.
“My Literature 290 class tried to find out what the note said,” said Alexandria Clay, an English with teacher licensure major. “We all wanted to know.”
Dr. Sam Overstreet, professor of English and Ralph S. professor of humanities at the college, removed the note in April for his Shakespeare class to read.
“Attention, students, we believe that you should know the true story of these paper wads lest their true telos be lost to all humanity,” the note said.
The note continued on to describe how in the spring of 2000 a story of how a “poor misguided” bird became “imprisoned” between the widow panes. Deeply moved by the bird’s plight, the students “rushed forward to free the bird from its glassy cage.” According to the authors, with the paper wads, “a loving stairwell to freedom” was constructed, and the bird was able to escape.
Overstreet said that he was leading his Chaucer class during the rescue in 2000.
“The students tried to help by stuffing wads of paper in there,” Overstreet said. “The bird did not have the sense to realize that the wads could help, but it became so worried about the attention that it was able to work itself out.”
Following the experience, and being unable to remove the paper wads, the class wrote the note to help others understand the memorial they had left behind, Overstreet said.
Because of the upcoming renovations, Overstreet decided it was time the remove the note and, after sharing its secret with the class, entrusted it to Mary Moates, a junior writing/communications and theater studies double major at MC, to preserve.
“I had obviously wondered about paper wads in the many classes I’ve had in Anderson 220, but I had never known till that day in Shakespeare what their true purpose was,” Moates said, “I thought the story was very sweet and touching.”
She has planned to place the note in office of The Highland Echo on campus to act as “a time capsule of what has happened in Anderson,” after the building’s upcoming renovations.
Other students also said that they enjoyed the note’s story.
“I thought someone had just left some paper in there,” Clay said. “It is funny that they really made a stairwell and awesome that they saved the bird.”
Kegan Rinard, junior writing/communications major, said that Overstreet’s actions in sharing the class the note showed how individual students are at the college.
“The note made me feel better about how I am going to be remembered as a student and how serious legacy is taken here,” Rinard said. “I can think of coming back in 10 years and thinking back to the time Overstreet showed us the letter.”
Rinard said he was hesitant about the upcoming Anderson renovations.
“[The hall] will not be the same, but still the same brilliance will be instilled in the students,” Rinard said.
Moates said that, as a junior, Overstreet’s Shakespeare class would be her final class in Anderson, due to the renovations beginning in the fall.
“The renovations are bittersweet,” Moates said. “However, for future generations, I think the building will be even better and, most importantly, there will be many more bird stories to come.”