Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jim Woodruff's Memories

I thought you might be interested in my hazing experiences as a freshman in college 21 years after Henry's. My children and grandchilren will recognize this as mostly being from "Grandpa's Stories, an Irreverent Memoir" which I wrote for them in 2004.
The Colorado School of Mines pre-World War II was a rugged place with about 750 men and no girls (and a mile from the world's biggest brewery). All were studying to be engineers in the mineral extraction industries. ROTC was mandatory. Among the traditions at Mines were:
Mandatory wearing by Freshmen of green cloth mining caps (the equivalent of  other colleges' "Beanies") the entire first semester. The only way you could earn an exemption was to successfully snatch the Beanie of a Freshman of another college at a football game...and of course such attempts always started fights or near riots.
Sophs hazing Frosh: When you were a Sophomore the way you dealt with the memories of the indignities suffered as a Freshman was to visit those same indignities on the incoming Freshmen. Example: Impromtu gauntlets outside the Chemistry Building weekly....To get out of the building you had to run the gauntlet with Sophomore belts snapping at your butt. After a couple of these I started escaping by crawling out of a third story window and climbing down to the ground on ivy vines (probably not too bright but I survived).
"Sound Off": At the command of "Sound off Frosh!" from an Upperclassman the proper response as a Freshman was to put your books on top of your head and shout loudly "Beat CU" (Colorado University) or "Beat Denver" or whichever team was the next football opponent.
The Tug-of-War: It was held across Clear Creek, a mountain stream that runs through Golden about the size of the Red Cedar but rocky and swift. It was the Freshmen against the Sophomores who were always out numbered but were tricky. To even the odds they were rumored to kidnap Freshmen and lock them in box cars on the way to Kansas. It was such a rumor that caused my Fraternity pledge class to spend the night before the Tug-of-War shivering around a puny campfire on Lookout Mountain. When the long rope was strung across the creek and the pulling began we Freshmen were doing quite well at first but then the Sophomores began to overcome our lead and started pulling us back through the cold mountain water. It turns out that invisible to us in the streamside willows they had their end of the rope tied to a tractor.
"The Ghost Walks": The dreaded middle-of-the-night "Tapping" ceremony of the Theta Tau honorary fraternity which involves the application of carbon tetrachloride to the genitals and Plaster of Paris to the crotches of their pledges. As I can attest to personally, any Freshman stupid enough to get caught watching also got the excruciatingly painful carbon tet treatment (carbon tetrachloride evaporates so rapidly it feels like it is burning your skin).
The All-School Gauntlet: The annual end-of-the-first-semster ceremony when the Freshmen (and any transfer from another college) had to run the gaunlet between two long lines of all the other Miners wielding wide military style belts. You were told to run with your hands on your head to avoid getting them hit by belts (the butt is tougher than fingers). My Senior year I had the honor of being one of the starters.
There was also fraternity hazing of those of us who joined the Greeks, but that's a whole other story.
Dick experienced some hazing when he went to Michigan State for a semester before he went into the Army. I remember his description of the "Minnesota Shift" so-called. The Sophomores would catch some Freshmen on the business side of Grand River Avenue and have them line up and and squat down and " Duck Walk" with one hand with their thumb in their mouth and the other on the butt of the Frosh in front of them. Then the Sophs would tell tem to switch hands.
Question: Do any of the rest of you have stories about college hazing? (emailed July 19)

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