Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories XV

"Entering college was an exciting, and for males, a fearsome experience in those days".
Parents didn't usually bring students to East Lansing. If they did, the students, especially boys, would feel "pretty uncomfortable". Most students stayed until Christmas vacation and those who lived in the Upper Penisula often didn't go home until summer.
Henry Pratt arrived at M.A.C. in the fall of 1919. Wiith him was high school friend Milton Scherer and in many ways the two boys were better off than most farm youngsters who had to face being far away from home for the first time in their lives.
"The prospect of being there for three months did not worry nearly as much as the sophomores".
The older Pratt boys had brought home horror stories of the dire events Freshmen had to survive. Some didn't!  Another Watervliet boy was met by Henry and Milt on the day of the Fresh-Soph Rush a few weeks after school started. He was all dressed up and they warned him that he'd better get into some old clothes. He thereupon announced that all this fuss was silly and he was going home. I think that he was generally regarded as chicken by the other two. But if he was scared so were they and with good reason.
The "Freshman Bible" informed the lowly Frosh just how he must act: "He was not to date a girl except on Saturday nights..There was usually a committee of Sophomores waiting at each girls' dormitory to catch and discipline any Freshman bringing a girl home a minute late." I wonder what happened to the girls?
As at most small colleges of the period Freshmen were required to wear Freshman "caps". At M.A.C. these were brown with a green button.and had to be worn at all times out of doors. They served as identification and were likened to Hitler requiring Jews to wear arm bands by my source.
 Freshman-Sophmore Rush was a school tradition and the reason for conflict was made even more drastic because of the influx of war veterans who were older than most upperclassmen. Also the fact that the Freshmen outnumbered the Sophs two to one made relations even more strained.
There were three legal, college sanctioned events ond one that was neither. The first was a tug-of-war across the Red Cedar. The second was a "football game in which all the men of each class were lined up on the forty yard lines, about a dozen footballs were strung along the fifty yard line and at a signal both sides ran toward the footballs. The winner was the 'team' which got the most footballs across the opponents' goals at the end of about 15 minutes. Any method would do barring slugging, kicking, biting etc".
The third event was a flag rush. The flag was a piece of cloth with the graduation date of the Freshman class, 1923, on it. It was hung on a rope between two poles and was surrounded by Frosh. The Sophs then would attack and attempt to get it by various rough means. The Frosh, because of the size of their class, won in 1919 and again in 1920. One of the few times the same class won that event two years in a row.
To be continued. (emailed July 17)

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