Silence is the virtue of fools. -Sir Francis Bacon
Question #42905 posted on 03/22/2008 3:01 a.m.
Q:

In reference to Board Question #42750 about the ever famous 8:00 morning whistle.

I have heard from a couple sources that the whistle is from the Stouffer's factory. I can't verify it is true but I do believe one of my sources was from a guy who worked there (I asked a while ago so I don't quite remember).

I hope Tao, that this helps you in your quest for an answer.


- Wickedwitchhead

A: Dear Conquistador if the Useless, Curious George, Wickedwitchhead and anyone else that wondered about this,

To preface this I must say that this has been a great joy to research. How often do you have an answer that has led you all over the world, to places not of this world, puts you in contact with wicked witch heads, and ends up putting you in a hospital? I must thank you, Wickedwitchhead, for your assistance and patience waiting for this to post. Alas the source is not the Stouffer's factory. Although they do have a rotational schedule, the origin of the 8 ó’clock whistle is not to be found there but in another, most surprising locale. Not only was this a fun question to research, I had a blast writing it up as well. I cannot apologize for the length, it easily could have been double this. If you are so inclined, you may simply scroll to the closing paragraphs, but as with all shortcuts, you will miss the best parts.

First some background. I was introduced to this case by question 42750 wherein a reader asked for the source of a mysterious daily whistle. They were referred to an archived question and subsequently an even older question in the archives that had similarly failed to yield any fruits. I figured some deductive reasoning should bring this case to a close, and figured I knew just the sleuth to model.
* * * * *

The process in theory is simple; eliminate all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Previous writers had found it impossible to ascertain the source of the whistle by making calls and asking officials. The elementary conclusion: I would simply have to rely on my keen observational skills, and methodically track down the solution. I started at the only logical place I could, south of campus 900 E. exactly where the querent had stood two years previous. The very next morning I was in place, the hunt had begun. The clock struck eight, the shrill blast filled the morning air, the game was afoot, but wait: the sound was clear but distant, and seemed to be coming from the southeast and the southwest! I realized pure deduction was not enough, Sherlock Holmes wasń’t going to be enough to see me through to the solution, I was going to need a more modern identity, born of the contemporary world.
* * * * *

I chose to start by scaling the tallest building I could covertly gain access to in the center of town. As I was doing so, I had the profound feeling as though I was being watched. A brief search uncovered nothing more than a man in an unmarked car with no obvious motives keeping him there. I had no cause to be suspicious, but recent events have honed my observation skills to near prescient levels. As the roof finally came into view, I spotted my post: there along the southern edge of the edifice. I was alone. The roof I was on was as desolate as the roof of the Provo Tabernacle lying below me. Here, above the noise and confusion of the streets below, would I gain a heading along which to proceed.

But what is this? A set of footprints... smaller than mine, pacing. Pacing along my post! Time was short. There was no place to take cover, I could not retreat, and I could not let this get to me. So I did what comes naturally, the only option logically available to me, I settled down and studied them. Walking with a brisk pace, someone shorter than I had been here waiting for something. Another set, this one with feet larger than mine, had approached then abruptly broke off and retreated faster than they had come. Both sets of tracks showed the same amount of wear. A chill ran through me that had nothing to do with the snow I was standing in or the breeze whipping around me. Well was I aware of the troubles the Board had had with BYU Info in the past. Just this last January things had escalated beyond imagination. Who—What was this Watcher, and how could they command such respect over one so obviously their physical superior? Was it respect, or fear that motivated the actions now ciphered in the snow? The clock struck eight. It was time. Starting low, the siren that drew me out into such an exposed position dawned…. South, still further south, and east this time, bouncing off of the mountains, forcing them to voice a reply as if flaunting its power. I had to leave this place. I had to take time to think. I had the odyssey of a lifetime ahead of me.
* * * * *

I awoke with a clear vision of what I had to do, as a Board writer I had gained knowledge not known even to the greatest of adventurers. This Herculean chore could well be completed with one mighty task. Like great Odysseus I would journey to the realm of the dead and find my answers there. Unlike the legendary hero, I knew of a route that did not require passage over Oceanus. Notwithstanding this my journey, like his, had to be made alone.

While I was still far from this most final of destinations my path became torturous and I was forced to slow my pace. The path I was forced to follow was never more than a meter across and was edged by a precipitous drop, a sheer face falling nearly perpendicular to the barren waste below. Downward I trod, nearing the final leg of my journey before leaving the land claimed by the living. Before me lay a broad stygian expanse solely populated of souls racing past at speeds far exceeding the swiftest steed. Here I found and slowly approached the only safe crossing. Although this narrow corridor had been established and was watched over by the Gods, I had been warned that I must keep my guard up; it was dangerous to even the mightiest of heroes. If I were to allow myself to fall into the path of even the smallest soul while yet a few yards off, my physical body would be blown away, making my exodus from lifé’s land a permanent one. Timing my approach carefully, I sprinted across the barren zone and arrived breathless at the barbed ferrous gate. Upon entering I was greeted with the sight of a massive Knight towering over me. This silent sentinel easily stood over twice my height, unnecessarily reminding me of the grave nature of my quest. I bowed my respect and continued inexorably onward. How can I describe the sights that seared my vision? The featureless ground was broken in places by a winding path. Oddly angular stones of various colors were scattered everywhere, some monoliths standing as if in memorandum to the fallen heroes that populated this place. As I made my way down deeper into the chthonic realm suddenly I knew I had arrived at my destination. Behind me lay a vast empty plain displaying every color known to man; yet no one color ever separated itself from its brothers, leaving in the mind no real perception of color at all. Ahead of me to one side, Brown staked his eternal claim, to the other, Grey. Here I would wait and find my answer. Unlike Odysseus of old I had brought no goat to sacrifice; I had no blood save my own and I was not so willing to part with that. My cause was just. I had come in search of direction and by the house of Hades I was going to get it.

With my quest filling my mind, I settled in to wait. I did not know what to expect, but as the timeless moments dragged on, I began to realize I was pushing my luck. My body began to shut down; I could not stay much longer. Finally I knew: my time was past if I was ever to leave, it was going to be then. Finding my way back was not as simple as retracing my steps, but eventually I found myself next to the lists of soldiers slain in wars nearly forgotten by the living. How trivial such things seemed from this unique perspective! Who and what they fought for no longer dividing them, now they were eternally left waiting in the lists, without motion or emotion, deserving the respect of all but forgotten by most. I did not pause to ponder the fate of the fallen, for just beyond the uncounted warriors I could see a gap that I perceived to be large enough to allow my egress. I would not have the safety of the path to cross the barren wasteland that surrounded this place, but what choice did I have? I ran. Perhaps the Gods or the Fates took pity on my plight, for I can not now recall how I got across that treacherous waste. The next memory I can conjure of my exodus was of sharp pain searing my limbs as my lifeblood returned. Dawn was breaking, chasing away the gray twilight that had previously prevailed. I was resigned to find my answer without the aid of the departed. But with so many previous Writers failing at such a seemingly simple task, who knew but that the answers lay beyond the looking glass in some foreign land.
* * * * *

I never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all I remember is that I traveled the back roads, finding and following paths Í’d never before dreamed of. The time for the daily call was near; I found a hillock and waited. The trees were just waking and beginning to climb out from the snoẃ’s white quilt. No whistle presented itself. Two horses looked on in bemusement as I tried to determine my next move. Their deep brown eyes betrayed knowledge contrasting their innocent posturing. One thing was certain, that the WHITE horse had had nothing to do with it:--it was the brown one's fault entirely.

The path to the south was a curiosity that quite flummoxed me. The entire region was fenced off by a series of cyclones that never moved, providing adequate privacy for whatever was inside. I turned only to find myself traveling back the way I had come. I must have gone along the same path tree times, each time going a different way! Try as I may, turn after turn, I could make neither head nor tails of it. I was in a singular place, for surely there is only one in all the universe, and a lone building sat unattended under a blue sky. ‘I should think they may be able to help mé’ I thought to myself and went about attempting to address the building. I could see why it was alone, for it remained quite solid in its solitude, and the sky refused to be cheered, and simply clouded over. The sun was a little put off by this and glared down at me as though it was my fault. I have never been one to be threatened by the weather, and was more than willing to glare back. Naught was to come of it, but I do believe that the sky turned a shade pale and the sun went a little white.

Just then I happened upon a set of tracks upon the wabe that I had never seen before. ‘What a remarkable beast these must belong to,́’ thought I, ‘to leave tracks with no sign of either coming or going!́’ I hadń’t time to pursue either this thought or the tracks for a noise startled me and the queerest beast I ever saw came my way. I was silent at first from shock, then from worry that I might frighten the poor little thing, but it continued on its path towards me. It was bright blue with eyes that quite filled its face and numerous legs that were constantly moving, but never going anywhere. It was no bigger than…I had to look away and back again, it was GROWING. At first no bigger than a dormouse, the odd beast was soon cat-sized, then dog-sized, then the size of a Bandersnatch, then bigger! It rumbled on past me, less than a stoné’s throw away; depending, obviously, on the stone. Not that anyone would want to throw a stone at something bigger than a Bandersnatch, of course, but depending on the stone someone could reasonably have the choice to not throw said stone at it. As I watched I realized why its tracks seemed to be both coming and going, for depending upon where you stood the beast was doing exactly that. Surely this is why it traveled along the wabe; it always had a long way before it and a long way behind it, and a long way beyond it on each side. As soon as this curiosity was out of sight, I ventured across the wabe. Strangely enough my feet touched neither track nor wabe; I was carried across several feet above them without ever coming in contact with the ground. I did not worry unduly over my being over the wabe; I was too caught up in seeing the way below me to be caught up in my being caught up. All too soon I was back down to earth and found myself at the entrance to a strange ocean of metal. How exactly that worked I couldń’t guess, for while it was assuredly a metal ocean, it was at the same time a big building, and also an open field. I stood there trying to make head or tails of this when I realized I could just make out a metal man standing guard without needing to swim and not giving a second thought about breathing, apparently. He was stocky, bronzed, with traces of copper in the steel wool beard clinging to his iron jaw. He came up to me and asked if I would join the others inside. I was intrigued about the workings of such a place, but I did not know if I would be able to handle the pressure. I did not want to offend the metal man, but I politely demurred and began to explain the purpose of my journey. Just as I began, another metal man came to join the first. This man was older, wiry, having a steely complexion with platinum just beginning to grace his temples. When I had explained that I was looking for the source of a whistle, his cobalt eyes looked at me as if seeing a madman. Neither man admitted to knowing anything of the sound I sought but offered to assist me in any way they could. I thanked them, for although they could not help me find the whistle, but they could help me find my way back. I thanked them again and now understanding the way things worked in this realm I proceeded carefully along away from where I had been, and sure enough, I ended up where I began. ‘What a curious place indeed́’ thought I, the white horse merely rolled its eyes and shook its head.
* * * * *

I could go on with the stories of my search, of how I finally heard the whistle again, (this time from the north) whilst standing on the ground above a little-known BYU satellite complex. Or I could talk of the time I heard it seemingly sound simultaneously from due east and due west just after manning some AA guns just a little south east of the Sudanese boarder. I could write of finding and enlisting the aid of the Lone Ranger and after riding with him along many dusty trails coming to the conclusion that it was decidedly from the east. But alas, I must save those stories for some other time.

The conclusion of my journeying was as fitting an end as I could ask for. I drove east down Center Street until I ended up at the Utah State Hospital. I parked in the parking lot for the youth center and walked out into the open, hoping to get a good triangulation. I knew I had to be close. 8:00 hit and the whistle sounded, louder than ever before. I ran east along the road to help pin down the sound. Sure enough, it still sounded south of where I was, but close. In fact there was a building south and just east of where I stood, part of the Hospital complex. If not the source of the sound, surely the employees would have heard it enough times to have inquired as to its origin. I jogged down that way. Entering the main doors, I was surprised to not find a reception desk of any kind. I could not find any central office nor populated rooms at all. In fact I saw no one save a janitor setting up to clean a bathroom. I asked him about the whistle and he informed me that it was coming from the boiler room due north of there. I thanked him and left, saddened that such a promising day would turn out so fruitless. If it was not coming from this building, I was sure it had to be further south yet, not north. As I was leaving I met a woman entering into a child center to the side of the building. At my enquiry, she told me the same thing as the janitor and directed me to her co-worker for more information. He explained that the entire complex was heated by steam and that the boilers had to vent daily or else rupture. I thanked him and left more confused than before. I had just had three people tell me that the whistle I had just heard coming from the south had its genesis a few hundred meters to the north of where I had stood while it had sounded minutes before. The story of the boilers running the risk of rupturing seemed off to me as well, as my father had worked as a boiler mechanic and in my year of working with him, I had never come across something like this. I figured I would poke around a bit and see what I could find. I located the building that housed the boilers only to find it entirely without staff. I headed up to the administration building and was directed to the office of the department head in charge of maintenance, only to find him not in his office. Again I was faced with a seeming dead end, only to have a random encounter help me back on track. In this case I ran into Todd, who told me that the man I was looking for was on vacation and would not be back for a week. I put my query to him and he responded with his understanding that it was a warning whistle that had once filled with water from disuse and failed to work when needed. From then on, according to what he had heard, the Hospital was required to sound it daily to make sure that it still worked. He advised me to look up Greg Wright in the boiler room for more information.

I stopped by again, and sure enough, this time three men were in the building, one of whom introduced himself as Greg. He has worked at the hospital as a boiler mechanic for over 20 years. He said the sounding of the whistle was originally a warning as Todd had mentioned and could conceivably still be used as such but it was as much tradition as it was necessity anymore. The 8:00 was an arbitrary time picked years ago. He chuckled as he related to me that now they have people call in if for some reason they fail to sound it. Whether or not the story of the whistle not sounding when they needed it is true or false, they have been sounding it daily for over thirty years now. In 1991 the relocated the boiler room getting two new boilers and a new whistle. Greg said he still has the old one somewhere around his shop.

So in the end, it is the Utah State Hospital on Center Street. Yet with the acoustics, it sure was hard to track down, even standing less than 100 meters away I turned almost in the opposite direction sure that I was hot on the trail. Thanks to all who waited patiently for this answer. As I said at the beginning of this post, I had a great time researching and writing this response. Oh, and one more thing: everything I wrote is true. I have found that if you look at life with the right attitude, you can see giants where others dismiss mere windmills. Without leaving the truth, you can have the greatest of adventures possible.

A sign posted in the boiler room next to the control for the steam whistle. If you look in the lower left corner you can see that it was painted in 1977, this whistle-a-day has been standard operating procedure for over 30 years.

A journey of a thousand miles
Starts from beneath one's feet. (LXIV, 11-12)


-Tao (who is glad that this still doesn't make the top five longest answers, but may just be the longest delay between asking and receiveing an answer if you go back to the original question two years or 19037 hours ago.)