Old bell/new bell
Bell tug project
Model A restoration
really can buy just about anything on E-Bay. Brothers Sherman
('82) and Keith ('90) Swartz bought a 1,600-pound UNT Spirit
Bell and a 9,000-pound truck to carry it.
"For more than twenty years we've been searching for a bell,
and in 2001 we decided we would move heaven and earth to find one,"
Sherman says. "We never would've guessed to just look on E-Bay."
a former UNT Talons president, started his Spirit Bell odyssey
in 1978, when he
saw the first signs of an irreparable crack in the old UNT bell.
The 2,000-pound bell, originally brought from Michigan in 1891
to signal the change of classes and sound curfew, served as a
call to arms for UNT fans during football games. The Talons
bell and ran up and down the field working up the crowd's
Over time, the crack in the bell warped its tone and made it
impossible to ring. It was retired to the University Union in
1982 and replaced
with a smaller bell at the games.
But it just wasn't the same, says Keith, who also served
as Talons president.
"I literally grew up with the Spirit Bell in my life as a kid
and they retired it before my watch on the Talons," he says.
I've always felt like it needed to be replaced, it's
so important. Plus, I guess you could say I love 'big and
But because they weren't building a church or a school, it
was almost impossible to find the right size bell, Sherman says.
"They were either too big or too small. We advertised, went to
foundries and bell casting organizations and even called churches
to find a bell — with no luck," he says.
the years, all the Swartz siblings — including Rebecca
('84, '91 M.S.) and Carl, who attended North Texas — joined
in the search, relaying messages of any discoveries to match
the old bell.
"Every time we got together for anything we'd talk about the
Spirit Bell," Keith says. "And it was getting hopeless
until we found this wonderful thing called the Internet."
Brosamer's Bells, a Michigan-based company that refurbishes
and sells bells, posted one for auction on E-Bay that was the exact
style and from the same time period as the original bell.
And you'd think buying the bell was the end of the story,
but it wasn't, Keith says. The bell sat in a lot for six
months because they needed a vehicle to tow it around Fouts Field.
"So we went on E-Bay again to buy a tug," Sherman says. "This
vehicle, which seems small but weighs a ton, was used to pull baggage
cars at an airport."
To make the tug usable, a welder had to reduce the weight. One
bumper weighed 3,000 pounds.
The price of the bell was several thousand dollars, and shipping
charges cost just as much. Between remodeling the tug and welding
the bell to it, the project cost a good chunk of change.
"I can't afford to build a new stadium," Keith says. "But
this is something I can do. We spent some money to do this, but
more than anything it was spending the time. And that's something
Keith became an independent consultant in his 30s after working
as one of the founding employees of Broadcast.com with Mark Cuban.
are willing to admit that most people might think a 20-year search
for a Spirit Bell is a little odd. But
there's a reason the Swartzes bleed such a deep shade of Mean
says Rebecca, chief logistician in this
endeavor and one of the first female Talons. UNT
has been a part of their lives since they were children.
high, all the
Swartz kids would sneak into campus computer labs to earn computer
game playing privileges by helping UNT students with basic programming.
And when he was old enough, Keith attended UNT and met his wife
and college sweetheart, Susan Hudak ('91, '95 M.S.),
because she was a Talon.
Sherman also met his wife, Theresa Simmons ('88), at North
Texas. His UNT spirit runs so deep that he's only missed
one bonfire in 30 years and that was out of protest in 2000 when
Christmas lights were used because of an extremely dry season
and the bell are like old family members, Keith says.
"I can remember as a kid repainting the Spirit Bell green after
it had been stolen and painted burnt orange," he says. "Because
I was the littlest I got to climb up and get the top of the bell."
And Rebecca, who denies all involvement in any misdeeds, can remember
the fun of the antics that surrounded the bell.
"I'm sure the people at UT can tell you about the many things
they've had turn up green over the years," she says. "You
only travel the path from high school to college once. The memories
you make along the way last a lifetime."
The Swartzes, who also play a key role in maintaining the Mean
Green Model A, hope to someday establish a foundation to care for
all the UNT symbols of spirit and pride.
And it's that need
to leave something for future Eagles to make their own memories that
inspired this great journey, Rebecca says.
"It's our traditions that make us who we are."