We Called Him Aufty

August 01, 2004 | Richard Dower

When my class of 1960 met at Auburn Adventist Academy for our 30-year reunion, we did all the regular reunion things while sharing our joys, tragedies and accomplishments. As it got later and later and my class members drifted away, there were only a few of us left, and we started reminiscing about Aufty.

Aufty was the night watchman when we were students. He was one of those boarding school characters everyone remembers and about whom legends are created. His real name was Lloyd Aufderhar, oldest son of a pioneer Adventist evangelist, but to us he was Aufty.

We didn't understand that the night watchman’s job was more about complying with insurance requirements than catching students. To us, his job was to catch students—and to get even, we hatched plans to torment him as he made his nightly rounds.

I don’t know what prompted it, but Lawrence Harter, one of my classmates, started telling Aufty stories that reunion evening. “One summer Merle (Mitty) Mittleider and I were living in Manus Hall. Mitty lived on the top floor, and one evening we were in his room talking. Listening, we heard people talking and, wondering who it was, we poked our heads out of the hall window. On the main floor, at the south end of Manus hall was a game room with a piano and old, overstuffed chairs. Aufty had stuck his head in an open window and was visiting with one of the foreign students who attended Auburn.

"I knew that Mitty had some firecrackers in his room, and we thought it might be funny to light one and throw it just to see what would happen…. We went and got one of the fire crackers. I held it, Mitty lit it, and I tossed it down behind Aufty. It startled Aufty when it went off. He jumped and cracked his head on the window so hard that we could hear it up were we were. We laughed so hard that we could hardly get to Mitty’s room, which was three doors down. We tried to be quiet and stop laughing, but it was hard to control. We thought we would be caught for sure, but no one ever said anything to us.”

Walt Meske, a 1940s Auburn graduate, thought that Aufty was pretty straight. Issues seemed to be either right or wrong with not too much leeway in between.

Walt remembers a banquet held in old Rainier Auditorium, a relatively small gymnasium where students played, worshiped on Sabbath and held special events like the boys' club amateur hour and banquets. On this banquet night, one enterprising young man tied a fishing line to the fire alarm and fastened the other end to a stake hidden across the sidewalk on which Aufty's rounds would take him. As he made his rounds, Aufty walked into the line and tripped the fire alarm. It sounded in the all the campus buildings, which then had to be evacuated.

Although many jokes were played on him, Aufty usually took them in good humor and had his ways of turning the tables. Walt remembers one night when a girl on the second floor of the dorm waited for him and, as he passed under her window, dropped some flour, making a direct hit.

Immediately he waved his flash light back and forth across the dorm’s windows and saw some of the flour still sifting down from one in particular. He propped up his flashlight, focusing on the window where the flour had come from and went to get the dean. He told her to find the room that had his light shining on the ceiling, and she would find the culprit.

Glenn, Aufty’s son, told me, “One evening, I sneaked out of my bedroom. I had tied an old fire hose to the radiator of my room, pushed my bed against it and used the hose to slide down from my second-floor bedroom window. I got milkshakes for my girlfriend, Barbara, and her roommate. She had a basket that she let down on a rope from her dorm room window, and I put milkshakes in it. I saw Dad coming around one end of the dorm, so I went around the other. I ran behind Gibson and back to North Hall where we were living at the time. I don’t know how he knew that I was out or how he got there before I did, but when I climbed up that fire hose and slid onto my bed, I bumped into something. It was Dad. He said, 'I can’t treat you any different than the other kids.'”

Sometimes Aufty would get the credit for catching kids when he didn’t actually see them. Glenn recalls, “One night Dad and Mom went to the faculty banquet, and Dad asked me to night-watch for him. I had to go around the back of Smith Hall to punch the clock and as I went around there, I noticed that there was an open window on the ground floor. I pointed my flashlight in the window and found the male quartet waiting to sing for the faculty banquet and their girlfriends all making out in there. I did not turn any of them in, but they thought it was Dad behind that flashlight, so they went to the deans and told on themselves.”

Lawrence recalls that during his junior year he roomed with Willy Purvis in Gibson Hall and nightwatched a lot. “On Friday nights Aufty would take the early watch and then come and get me so that he could get some sleep and attend church the next day. I slept on the top bunk, and he would come into my room, put the heavy punch clock on my chest and say, 'Lawrence, it is time to go to work,' and would turn around and leave, trusting me to wake up and start making rounds, and I always did.”

Lawrence relates the final story: “A bunch of us had the idea to paint the number 60 on the roof of Rainier Auditorium. There were so many of us and the job only took one or two people, so we were standing around, joking and carrying on. I got suspicious and moved into the shadows about 20 feet away from the bunch. I just got away from them when around the corner came the boys' deans, Kent Johnson and Olin Peach. They caught them red-handed. It was dark, and I just froze where I was and they did not see me. They collected the guys and hauled them off to the dormitory.

“Now I wondered what I was going to do. It was before play period there in the gym. I went behind the gym thinking that I could sneak in when the doors opened and no one would know. Next to the gym were the tennis courts and some long grass. I figured that I would lie down in the grass where no one could see me and wait for play period to start, which I did. Then I casually got up and walked into play period thinking that I had gotten away scot-free.

“A couple of nights later I ran into Aufty, and he asked, ‘What were you doing in the grass out beside the gym the other night?’ Because he and I had a good connection, he did not turn me in to the principal. At times when you would think that he would not have a clue what was going on, he always seemed to have a finger on things.

"Aufty was a good man and meant very well by the students. He took his responsibility seriously, and he watched over things pretty well.”

Aufty was the night watchman, one of those boarding school characters who everyone remembers. And we still tell stories about him.