Ellis janitor rocking out and spreading smiles

Courtesy photo

Malcolm Palumbo, currently the custodian in Ellis, plays a gig at Castleton back in the 1970's.

 When living on campus, students often cross paths with the custodians who take care of their dorm buildings.

Their job consists of sweeping, mopping and vacuuming the dorms of Castleton University. But there is one in particular who is a household name here.

Notoriously known for always having a smile on his face and greeting students with a welcoming hello, Malcolm Palumbo is the custodian for Ellis Hall who’s determined to keep Ellis looking sharp for years to come. But few know that this man of mystery lives a double life. When Palumbo drives off into the sunset on his Honda Shadow motorcycle after a hard day of work, he becomes Malcolm the legendary rock star of Castleton University.

After moving from Monmouth County, N.J. to Vermont in 1969, his passion in life was music.

“Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, The Stones, Cream… I listened to them all,” he said I a recent interview. “I remember James Cotton performed in Glenbrook back in ‘73. I loved being in an environment where everyone was dancing to great music.”  

Palumbo was influenced greatly by the rock stars of his time and along with his twin brother formed the band called “The Midnight Flyers.” Playing the lead harmonica in this classic rock and blues power band, Palumbo was turning his dream into a reality.

Even though he never attended Castleton, his band played all over the town.

“When fraternities were still around at Castleton, they would hire my band to play at their keg parties!” he said chuckling to himself.

In the ‘70s, The Midnight Flyers were a crowd favorite at Castleton, especially for their shows that took place in the basements of Haskell and Adams Hall.

“You could say I was living the dream,” he said reflecting back.

 After playing for over 40 years with the Flyers, Palumbo now plays with a nameless jam band that made an appearance in the first-floor common area of Ellis just last semester.

“The turnout was great last semester and Malcolm really knows how to play the harmonica well,” said Ellis resident Cam McHale.

When asked about his favorite part of working at Castleton, he was quick to respond, “Meeting students of different cultures and backgrounds makes my job worthwhile.”

Students say Palumbo spreads his positive attitude throughout the entire community of Castleton.

“When I’m having a rough early morning, Malcolm always puts a smile on my face and asks me how my day is going,” said Ellis resident Joel Antoine.

Asked about how he wanted people to remember his legacy, he smiled.

“Now that I’ve played with my band at Ellis last semester, I plan making a second appearance! I want people to remember me for the awesome rock shows I gave to Castleton over the years,” he said.


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