Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XVII

One of the favorite sports of the Sophs was shoving Freshmen into the Red Cedar at night off of the Farm Lane Bridge. Around mid-May conditions got worse and the campus was being patrolled by mounted State Police carrying riot sticks. The end of Spring Term was always celebrated by a Cap Night. The Freshmen would throw their caps into a bonfire and the Seniors, their books. These were mainly substituted for by Sears, Roebuck catalogues. Rumors were that the Sophomores were going to attack the Freshmen as they marched to the ceremony. The administration took the precaution of posting mounted State Police at intervals along the route. As a result nothing happened.
The campus changed very little from 1919 to 1922. There were no buildings south of the Red Cedar except for sheds and stands at the athletic field. The barns were even north of the river where Bessey Hall is now.
Wells Hall was the only men's dorm, therefore most men lived off campus. Women were housed in Abbot Hall, now used by the Music Department as a practice building; Howard Terrace, which was torn down to make way for the Home Economics Building, and Morrill Hall which was known as "The Coop" for hen coop. Many of the names of present buildings ring familiar to the ears of a person who knew the people they were named after such as Bessey, Giltner, Shaw, Landon, Yakeley and Gilchrist.
While the physical plant changed little, social behavior did: "Girls' skirts had been slowly rising for three or four years, but they were little above the ankles in 1919. By the spring of 1922, hemlines were a little above the knees and the more daring coeds were rolling their silk stockings below the knees. Only a very few years before women's skirts touched the floor. Coeds took to going withoiut corsets, a practice that so worried the Dean of Women that she in the Spring of '22 posted a new set of rules. Among them was requiring coeds signing out for canoe dates to wear corsets. The effect was somewhat different than she intended---a couple of enterprising men students hung a large sign under the Farm Lane Bridge 'Park Corsets Here - 10 cents'." This won her the distinction of having the humor section of the 1922 Wolverine dedicated to her. I'm not to sure she appreciated their humor.
A personal note: A canoe date on a dark river or lake in those days was the equivalent of  parking in car at night on some Lovers' Lane by young couples of subsquent generations. It so happens that in June of 1921 my parents were honeymooning at the Pratt cottage on Paw Paw Lake and paddling the Pratt family canoe. I occasionally speculated to myself that I might have been conceived in that canoe, but when I brought up the subject to Dad he assured me that that was not where I happened. A possible reason is that every photo of Allen and Genevieve in that canoe shows Henry in there too. (emailed July 20)

No comments: