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That Good Old Stuff of Wahoowa

The keepsakes that cheer our hearts, warm our blood and fill our closets

We asked you, dear readers, to tell us about your most prized UVA mementos—the quirkier, the better—and you did not disappoint. We received a bucketload of submissions, from bobbleheads and birdhouses to an actual plastic bucket, used decades ago by fraternity members to collect, mix and consume leftover drinks on long (and mostly losing) football afternoons at Scott Stadium.

Not all were the stuff of Antiques Roadshow, to be sure. The material value of many is negligible. But we weren’t seeking that type of treasure. The value of these items is their power to evoke a sense of place and experience across time, whether it’s the better part of a century or a semester.

It’s someone’s personal UVA. And you can’t put a price on that.

Here are some of the items and the stories behind them:

Bowling shirt
belonging to Dr. Mark Workman (Col ’72)

On weekends in the early 1970s, a club team would hit the road to bowl against other universities. UVA also hosted matches at an alley on Barracks Road.

Dr. Mark Workman and his bowling shirt
Jacqueline Marque

That’s where Workman, then a third-year from Newport News and now an infectious disease specialist in New Orleans, rolled a 269. The score was 100 pins over his average, earning the Century Club patch sewn on this shirt. It’s one of the reasons he held on to it.

“I was fairly certain that I would not win or achieve another Century Club patch in my lifetime, and I wanted to keep a record of that,” he says.

Workman actually did earn another patch about 10 years ago. But the UVA shirt evokes memories of friendly weekend competitions that were a welcome break from the academic grind.

“I knew that I wanted to go to medical school, so I was studying all the time. So the bowling once a week was just a wonderful break from the intensity of all that studying,” he says. “Looking at that shirt takes me right back to my third year at UVA and a reminder of what a great place to go to college.”

Medical bag and surgical tools
belonging to Dr. Frank McCue (Med ’56, Res ’60)
Submitted by James Zehmer (Arch ’02)

James Zehmer with the medical bag and tools that belonged to Dr. Frank McCue
Andrew Shurtleff

When Zehmer injured his wrist playing softball as a student in the late 1990s, he was treated by the legendary McCue, longtime head of UVA’s sports medicine program and namesake of the football program’s McCue Center. More than 20 years later, Zehmer’s work as a senior historic preservation manager overseeing renovation of Memorial Gym brought him back into McCue’s orbit.

Walking through the building last year, Zehmer came across a tattered duffel bag being thrown out by the Department of Kinesiology, which was moving from Mem Gym to the new Student Health and Wellness Center.

“I thought it might be worth saving,” he says.

To his surprise, the bag held a set of bone chisels engraved with McCue’s initials, and a small plastic bottle McCue had labeled “Buena Vista’s own Danny Wilmer.”

Wilmer was a longtime assistant football coach. The bottle contains bone spurs McCue removed from his knee in the 1990s, he says. (He does not want them back.)

Zehmer emphasizes that the bag belongs to the University, not him, though his connection to McCue goes beyond being treated for his wrist injury. Upon hearing Zehmer’s name all those years ago, McCue had asked if he was from McKenney, a small town in Southside Virginia. Zehmer’s father was, and as it turned out, McCue had roomed with one of his cousins, baseball player Charles L. “Red” Zehmer (Col ’55) at UVA.

“I think it’s fair to say that it’s a little more interesting since I did meet him,” he says. “But to me it’s more about recognizing the impact Dr. McCue had on sports medicine in general and of course the numerous lives of UVA athletes he served. The duffel bag is a tangible reminder of that impact.

“I saved it from the dumpster not for me, but for the sake of an important person in UVA history.”

Zehmer plans to ask if the UVA athletics department might be interested in displaying the bag. Meanwhile, the vintage duffel is “just chilling in my office,” he says, except for the occasional outing, such as a conference Zehmer took it to recently.

“I loaded up a bunch of hard hats and wore it as a backpack,” he says.

African Print Hat
belonging to Yolanda Burrell Taylor (Col ’76)

Yolanda Burrell Taylor wearing her African print UVA hat
Steve Hedberg

Taylor says she’s never seen another hat like this one, bought at Mincer’s during a sorority reunion trip in the 1980s: “People would always ask me where I got it.”

It carries a lot of meaning for her. 

When Taylor came to UVA in 1972, Black students made up just three percent of the undergraduate population. Being in the minority was not a new experience. She’d grown up in Richmond, one of a handful of Black students at junior high and high schools that were undergoing desegregation.

“It was not the culture shock for me that it was for many of the students,” she says. “It felt very much like a community as far as Black students were concerned. We very much looked out for each other.”

Particularly the members of Delta Sigma Theta, UVA’s first black sorority. Taylor was a charter member in 1973. It was the sisterhood that brought her back for the reunion where she found the hat, which was her “go-to” travel cap for years, as well as a conversation piece. She’s turned down offers to sell it, and although she doesn’t wear it—or caps in general—as often as she once did, she prizes it to this day.

“I think this cap has drawn attention because it’s the unexpected for UVA,” she says.

belonging to Jenna Truong (Col ’16, Educ ’16)

Jenna Truong posing with her 'Wahoowa' scarf

A friend gave Truong this “Wahoowa” scarf at a UVA soccer game on her birthday. Wanting to bring a piece of UVA with her when she traveled to Rome in 2014 for a January-Term course, she took it along and posed with it in front of the Pantheon. She’s taken it on her travels ever since, to London, Dublin and cities across the U.S.

“I chose the scarf because I’m a huge UVA sports fan,” she says. “I wanted something easy to carry and unique.”

The scarf is a means of representing “a world-class university around the world,” she says. “You never know when you will run into a UVA alumni or fan.”

Parking Tag
belonging to Wayne Whelan (Col ’60, Educ ’67)

One way to demonstrate status and seniority on Grounds in the late 1950s was to have several metal parking tags—the equivalent of modern parking decals—attached to your license plate.

A vintage metal parking tag

“Some went to great lengths to affix multiple tags as evidence of their longevity,” says Whelan, who recalls that his roommate had five or six tags on the rear plate of his Hillman Minx by the time he graduated.

This was no small accomplishment, considering first-years could not have cars (legally, anyway). Whelan himself picked up a ’49 Ford two-door sedan during his second year.

“It was a very weather-worn maroon color. But it was mine and I had ‘wheels,’” he says.

The car is long gone but the tag remains, evoking for Whelan “memories of a smaller, happier, safer and—in many ways—more intimate University. It’s tangible; not like a scrape-off decal.”

He said the tag reminds him of “simple experiences” such as his daily walk through the Colonnade to and from New and Old Cabell Hall from his room on Madison Lane. 

“Now that I’m 83, such things resonate a bit more,” he says.

Backstage concert passes
belonging to Susie Bruce (Col ’89, Educ ’91)

Backstage concert passes for a variety of acts that visited UVA

In the late 1980s, Bruce was vice chair in charge of tickets for the student committee that brought concerts to Grounds. Each time she showed up at the committee’s office, her colleagues, curious about how sales were going for an upcoming show, would greet her by asking: “Susie, what’s the ticket count?”

“I became known as Susie Ticket Count,” she says. “It was a running joke.”

The committee brought in a who’s who of bands popular with college audiences during the era: Talking Heads, R.E.M., Run-DMC, Squeeze, Jane’s Addiction and many others. It also brought in artists from other genres. Bruce got into the shows for free.

“It was the ideal job, because once the show started, my job was done,” Bruce says.

She has these passes framed in her basement and has also kept concert posters and shirts worn by committee members. She’s held on to them because “they remind me of the great live performances and, more importantly, the lifelong friendships that developed by bringing those artists to Grounds.”

Monroe Hill scarf
belonging to Wayne Jones (Col ’92)

The idea of creating a college scarf, in the tradition of residential colleges at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, came to Jones and some friends when he lived in Monroe Hill as a fourth-year.

Gray-and-red striped scarf bearing the words 'Monroe Hill', the UVA Athena seal, and 'Virginia'

“We thought it would be funny if we looked like English schoolboys, with a heavy dose of irony,” he says.

They bought the fabric, found a seamstress and a shop licensed to embroider the UVA logo, and produced a set of three or four at $60 to $70 each.

Jones is unsure if others still exist. A picture taken when the scarves were completed is now lost. But the scarf still keeps his neck warm during Wisconsin winters and keeps his spirit tethered to his Monroe Hill days.

“It has one little moth hole, but otherwise it’s in good shape,” he says.

Framed newspaper printing plates
from Virginia’s 2019 NCAA men’s basketball championship belonging to Greg Montero (Col ’96, Law ’00)

Printing plates from The Virginian-Pilot's coverage of UVA's 2019 men's basketball championship

The Cavaliers had not even finished cutting down the nets at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in 2019 when Montero, a Virginia Beach resident, texted a friend who worked at the printing plant at the local paper, The Virginian-Pilot.

“He’d always told me if there was ever anything in the paper I wanted, that those printing plates just got tossed to the side, and he could save one for me.”

Montero knew he’d want these two, the front page and jump page from UVA’s 85-77 win over Texas Tech.

“Champs!” screamed the headline.

Montero has been a diehard Cavalier fan for as long as he can remember. It was “drilled” into him by his father, Juan Montero (Fellow ’71), he says. Greg’s wife, Leonor Montero (Engr ’97), and brothers Daniel Montero (Educ ’93) and Paul Montero (Educ ’99) are also alumni.

When UVA made the Final Four, “I didn’t hesitate to slap down the money for my dad and I to go,” Montero says. He preserved the memory with the framed plates, mounted on orange matting that resembles the skin of a basketball.

Montero hung the framed plates in a room over the garage at his home—formerly his personal “man-cave.” His teenage son recently moved into that space, so Montero is looking for a new place to display the plates.

He thinks they might make a nice addition to his law office.

China setting
belonging to Freyhan Odenheimer (Col ’31)
Submitted by Andrea Caplan

Carol Caplan’s father, Freyhan Odenheimer, had to leave UVA before he could graduate in 1930, but his love for it stayed strong. Years after he died, Carol found this Wedgwood UVA china that he had bought and packed away. Jacqueline Marque

In 2019, when Andrea Caplan used this china at a graduation dinner for her UVA-bound daughter, it helped mark the fulfillment of a wish passed down through the generations by her husband’s grandfather, Odenheimer.

Odenheimer was a third-year student and a member of the football team, glee club and other activities when he was called home to New Orleans during the Great Depression to work at his father’s cotton mill.

It was only after his widow moved several years ago that Odenheimer’s daughter Carol Caplan discovered the china.

“Dad was not a talker,” Carol says. “He didn’t talk much about his past.”

Odenheimer did, however, pass down a love of UVA to his children. Carol recalls family vacations that passed through Charlottesville and “Wahoowa” chants at home. It was her father’s wish that someone from the family would attend UVA, but the University was not yet coeducational when Caplan graduated high school in the 1960s, and her son Craig did not get in.

Finally, in 2019, Carol’s granddaughter, Beverly Freyhan Caplan (Com ’23), was admitted and chose to attend, fulfilling the wish of her great-grandfather.

“I became more aware of the story as I got older and started looking at schools,” she says. “My grandmother and father always talked about how they wanted to go to UVA but couldn’t.”

The china is now displayed at Andrea Caplan’s home, and Carol Caplan is sure her father, who died in 1982, would have been delighted that his great-granddaughter is on Grounds. Odenheimer was president of his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau. Beverly Caplan is president of her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. 

“She loves UVA as much as he did,” Carol Caplan says.

Ed Miller is senior editor of Virginia Magazine.