This is how I met my new friend, the Naked Klunker.
I was driving a shuttle van on the opening day of the annual Notre Dame reunion when a guy named Ed, from the Class of 1974, needed a ride from the Dorr Road parking lot to the registration center.
It’s about a six-minute ride. In that amount of time, I learned he’s living in Pennsylvania now but had lived in South Bend after graduation and had coached the sons of one of my friends in Little League. We swapped stories of our time on campus and in South Bend, but all the while I’m thinking, “I know this guy from some other time or place.”
I dropped him off to register and two things suddenly occurred to me. One, Ed had left his umbrella in my van. Two, he almost certainly had been the Naked Klunker during the 1973 football season.
For those of you from different eras, I may need to explain. In the early 1970s, the Notre Dame marching band would play “The Stripper Theme” at the end of the third quarter of home football games. If I recall correctly, the cheerleaders would perform a fairly chaste routine on the field during that song.
But in 1972, my freshman year, a senior known only as the Naked Kahuna was hoisted in the air by his classmates and he deftly removed his clothes, all the way down to his gaudy underwear. It briefly became as much of a tradition as the traffic warnings by Sgt. Tim McCarthy or the playing of the “1812 Overture.”
When the Kahuna graduated, Ed became the stripper — the Naked Klunker.
Chance meetings with people like Ed are the reason I look forward to my four days of driving each spring on the Notre Dame campus. They ride, I listen and learn.
Some 3,500 alumni come to the reunions, park their cars in faraway lots and use our free shuttle service to get from place to place. There are about 40 of us shuttle drivers, plus dozens of dispatchers and coordinators.