Gary Fishburn, RIP

Oct 04, 2019

Before discarding the last issue of ND Magazine I skimmed through the dreaded obituary section and saw the name of Gary Fishburn (USAF Ret.).

Gary lived in Keenan freshman year, and so many of the great/bizarre/human stories I remember are from that year. Certainly almost all of my best ND friends are from Keenan, as are the most memorable stories.  When dinner time came in Keenan, a group went to dinner right at 5:15, often with Bob Anderson (from Syracuse, I think, who left after that year). Bob was the slowest eater on the planet. The first group that went with him was replaced by another who finished dinner with him.  On the other hand, if you went to dinner with Gary he was done before you finished your salad and began with your mystery meat.

So someone (freshmen are always an innovative group) came up with the idea of Gary going for the “four minute meal”. The challenge was to start from the Keenan-Stanford lobby, run through North Dining Hall, eat dinner, and return to the lobby in 4 minutes. To make this feasible Gary had his meal card clipped to his crappy (like everyone's) sport coat; the lines were all cleared out in advance; and Gary's "choices" for dinner were on top of the counter for him to pick up (including the ice cream dessert in a cup). Gary was allowed to consume dessert on his return trip. 

I don't recall whether or not he beat the clock but as I recall it was close. For a bunch of guys still trying to adjust to college life, it was a great diversion.

Gary: Thanks for that memory of freshman life, and more importantly, for your service.

Tom Talaga added his part to this story.  I was there helping clearing the way to and from the dining hall and I believe he made “The 4 minute meal”.  Further, I believe we referred to him as Gary Garbola.

While I had no knowledge of this story, my recollection of freshman year is that we were all offered our choice of dorms in Frosh Quad.  Stanford-Keenan, being the “newest”, were $25 more expensive.  That’s why I selected Breen-Phillips.  For my entire time at ND, I always viewed Stanford-Keenan residents as the well-to-do.

Dear 66er’s:

I sent out Jersey Joe Guiltinan’s memory of Gary Fishburn running the “four-minute” meal……and received more replies than when I notified our classmates that ND’s endowment has risen to #8 among all universities!

Coincidentally, yesterday I went to lunch with some great ND folks, including Joe (who now has two new hips); Ray Flynn (our local lunch arranger); Fr. Paul Doyle (a year ahead of us and famous for the Milkshake Mass in Dillon and being the tall distinguished gray haired Team Chaplain who used to exhort the students to raise their cheering during key plays); and Bob Nagle (the “voice” of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball).  Pat Farrell, one of our regulars, was unable to attend.

Here are some follow-up comments I’ve received about the “four-minute meal”:

Doug “Mo” Garrett, my fellow Bay Stater, wrote:  Great memory Joe. However, my memory was that Gary had to start from his room on the 4th floor and it would end when he returned to his room. Again, many years ago, my memory says that he did indeed make it.  He bit his ice cream cup in half and swallowed it, and finished it off on his return to Keenan! 

Distinguished Texas Barrister Mike Caolo added:  I seem to have a very distinct and detailed recollection of the famous 4 minute meal of which you refer. I also seem to recall a beautiful day, green grass, blue-sky, pleasant temperature and much anticipation and excitement regarding the scheduled run for the record. My recollection is that the actual run was from his desk in his room down the stairs sprinting across the quad with freshman lined up on both sides cheering him on. I also seem to remember watching him in the dining hall and I think maybe he just used his hands to most items throwing a Jello in his mouth and scarfing down a milk carton. Regardless of his actual actions, such details will be left on the road side of History while his glorious achievement will live on in the annals of a couple of our aging minds. I do remember the cheering and shouting and the fun everyone was having at the silliness of the spectacle and yet the serious approach Garry took to this challenge. What a fine classmate. He belongs to the ages. Rest in peace.

Distinguished Boston Attorney (and fledgling fiction writer) Paul, “but call me Don” Snyder added:  When I read this, the following phrase entered my mind “Swine mouth Fishburn”. I don’t know where that came from. I certainly haven’t thought about it in fifty or more years and as disreputable as it sounds now, it was a mark of distinction then.  As I remember it, Gary did beat the four minute mark. I was in Stanford and it was a big deal to line up and watch him race across the quad to the North dining hall. 

John Jackoboice, who is part of a three generation family of ND varsity monogram winners, added no useful insight, but I like John a lot so I wanted to give him and his family a plug:  I do not recall the incident and so sorry I missed it - especially as a “well to do” resident of Stanford Hall.  Lived on the 1st floor-with roomie to Glen T Rey and next door to Mark Gonring.  I must have gone to the movies.

My buddy John Geist added some key details:  A memorable event indeed.  I still have a clear recollection how Gary dispatched the standard block of Jello served on a piece of wilted lettuce.  He dumped the block of Jello into one hand, then with the other peeled the piece of lettuce off, then simply threw the entire block of Jello into his mouth and swallowed it.  The process cannot have taken more than 3 seconds.  To this day, I cannot look at a serving of Jello without that mental picture showing up.  For Tom Talaga (who lived across the hall from me on the fourth floor of Keenan), I think it was "The Great Garbola".  And you are certainly correct in your assessment that we gentlemen of Stanford-Keenan were the upper crust.  

Cadet Col. Mike Rush, who will soon be moving to South Bend, provided some Keenan chauvinism:  Keenan was for us over-achievers!

Bob Schwartz was a witness that day:  I was there watching - and cheering. I thought the time was under 2 minutes, but whatever, a really fun memory.  In fact, I have told that story many times, as recently as about 3 months ago.

Bob Schmitt remembered Gary’s dash, but did not remember my recollection of the steep price of Keenan lodging.

Chuck Nigro’s family is from the same area as our Super Bowl winner; the first member of his family to attend Notre Dame was Knute Rockne’s best friend:  I remember Gary and the dinner challenge. My memory says he set the record and we called him the Great Garbola.

Jim Heaney had a key memory, and also remembered Bob Anderson, referenced in Joe Guiltinan’s original message:  I was there and watched him break "the four minute meal".  Actually, he downed the food in about 30 seconds.  Having dined at Keenan with "Rapid" Robert Anderson, I can attest that he could begin and end an entire conversation between chews.

Dr. John Wyllie, who may have picked his medical specialty so he could work on the mashed noses and cauliflower ears of boxers he had thrashed, affirmed my comment about the pricey housing over there on the west side of the quad:  Best $25 I ever spent and I was a poor kid!  See you at the Bengals!  (BTW, John has talked to other Bengal boxers about taking a trip to the Bengal Missions that these bouts have been funding for more than 90 years.) 

I saved the BEST reply to the end…………….Mike “Root” Maas, of 106 Keenan, stated he was a Garbola Coach that night……….and, most importantly, I can now declare him The #1 historian of the “four-minute meal”:  I still have my 62-63 ND Date Book, the small gold calendar we were all given.  I recorded the event on Friday, April 5, 1963 as: “Garbola Goes 3:20.2”  So yes he did break the 4 minute meal.  RIP to Gary and thank you for your USAF service.

The Gary Fishburn legacy lives on…………

I did further research and found this item in the May 17, 1963 Scholastic:

In spite of stiff competition at the box lunch contest last week end, Gary (Garbola) Fishburn recently set the current speed record for dinner consumption, with a sub-four-minute meal.  Freshman Gary had done a previous meal in 4:15, and was urged by manager Tom O'Connor and trainer Pat Tedford to try for the four minute mark. Large signs were posted heralding the event, and at 6:00, when Garbola came through, the dining hall was packed to  capacity by cheering spectators. The line had been cleared in advance, and the total elapsed time recorded by timer Lee McCarthy was 3:20.2, from the time Gary left his room on the third floor of Keenan till he returned. The actual eating, using Garbola's "no utensils" technique, required a scant 39 sec; this was for: Fried Perch, Potatoes, Jello, Milk, and Chocolate Ice Cream.  After his meal, Gary went out and played ball, apparently in perfect health. His only comment on the meal was: "What was it?"


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