With it being the week of April Fool’s Day, we thought this would be a good time to share the story of a face beloved by many at Swallow Hill. His name? Well, that’s open to debate.
I have to tell this story in the first person as I am part of it. When I showed up for my first day of work at Swallow Hill in September 2015, I was shown my desk and staring down at me from above it was a mounted, plush ram’s head. Our former Development Director Deidre, who I did not know at the time, decided to leave it there for me as a greeting and I instantly knew this would be a workplace like no other.
At the time, very few of Swallow Hill’s third floor admin staff knew much about it other than it had floated around the office for several years. Slowly, though, as I got to know more of our Instructors and longtime performers, the story started to emerge.
I learned The Ram was mounted for a while in Tuft Theatre before migrating upstairs. Before that it was on the stage at our South Pearl Street location in the 1990s and possibly earlier. Sure enough, one day I found an archival photo of it unobtrusively but unmistakably hanging out during a concert.
One day a few years back Swallow Hill Instructor Paul Trunko stepped into the Marketing Office and his eyes lit up. He definitely knew The Ram. Paul filled me in a bit, telling me:
The story of the ram is, when I was on the front counter of Swallow Hill Music on Pearl Street in the late 80s, a guy came in and he couldn’t pay for his class. He offered up the ram and we accepted it as payment. That’s the basic story of the ram.
While Paul was not working the desk when the historic exchange took place, he does remember \it quickly became a favorite among front desk staffers. He credits The Ram with inspiring him in recent years to revive the Teacher Concert, which we hope will return when we are again able to host live audiences at Swallow Hill.
“The ram is very powerful,” Paul added mysteriously.
Does The Ram have a name? No one knows for sure, though our friend, musician and former Swallow Hill staffer Eileen Niehouse once referred to him as “Rammie” with an ease that suggested they were friends on a first name basis.
Last March when we closed our doors due to COVID-19 restrictions I knew I’d be working from home for a while. On my way out of the office I spontaneously pulled The Ram off the wall and took him home with me. I hung him up in my family room and he was a faithful home office companion. As the months of quarantine passed I started to view his presence as a hopeful one. Just as the legend of King Arthur has him spirited away only to return in the hour of Britain’s greatest peril, I told myself when live music returns to Swallow Hill, so too will The Ram.
Happily he is back at Swallow Hill. I brought him back to where he belongs in January just before Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore performed for home audiences live from Daniels Hall. They definitely knew who The Ram and his significance.
While we are not ready to welcome the public back into Swallow Hill, we do hope that when we do, The Ram will once again be visible to all visitors in a public space. He will be happy to see you.
No doubt someone reading this knows the true story of The Ram. At this point I’m not sure I want to know all the details, for as they say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”