Lawrence history through the archives

Julia Stringfellow

(Ian Wallace)

Another academic year has begun, and with the new year comes the Lawrence traditions of Welcome Week, a new year of freshman studies, the Matriculation Convocation, and Fall Festival. What were some of the traditions that Lawrence students enjoyed many years ago? All-College Day and Homecoming are just a couple of the traditions celebrated in the past at Lawrence.
All-College Day was an annual event held from the 1910s through the 1940s that determined which class was superior, the Freshmen or Sophomores. Activities included a tug-of-war between the classes and freshmen and sophomore men trying to shinny up a pole covered with a half-inch layer of axle grease and capture a flag.
The women also participated in a nightshirt sprint in which a large nightshirt was used instead of a baton. The first runner garbed herself in the nightshirt, sprinted to the next runner, and took off the nightshirt so the next runner could wear it.
A key factor in the All-College Day event was the class rivalry posters that were on display throughout the campus and Appleton. The posters contained such formidable text as, “Slink back to your hidden hovels, and crawl not forth into the light of day, lest your bones find a resting place in the muddy depths of the silent Fox River.”
The class that was determined to be supreme at the event was allowed to place their college year on the ROCK, a large boulder that moved all over campus before mysteriously disappearing in the 1990s.
Homecoming activities at Lawrence began in the late 1800s. Homecoming included a Homecoming Convocation, a parade down College Avenue containing floats made by students, a contest of decorations among the residence halls and student houses, a football game, the crowning of the Homecoming queen, a dance, and students sending a burning raft down the Fox River as they sang “Go, Lawrence, Go!”
The Homecoming ball was held in Alexander Gym from the late 1920s, after the gym was built, through the 1950s. The women used dance cards to keep track of the men with whom they would dance during each dance.
One of Lawrence’s oldest football rivals, Ripon College, has been a popular team to play for the Homecoming game. The football rivalry between Lawrence and Ripon is one of the oldest college rivalries in the state of Wisconsin, starting in October 1882 when the teams first played each other.
The traditions described here are just a sampling of what Lawrence students have done during the fall in past years. To view photographs of these activities or to learn more about them, visit the University Archives located on Level B of the library.
During the month of October, articles on the history of Lawrence will include a look at former Lawrence faculty and students buried in nearby Riverside Cemetery and ghost sightings and other unusual events that have been reported at Lawrence.
The first ever Lawrence tour of Riverside Cemetery will be held Sunday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m., starting at the front entrance of Riverside Cemetery. For directions to the cemetery or questions regarding the tour, visit the Archives or e-mail archives@lawrence.edu. The annual Haunted Lawrence tour will be held Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m., meeting at Memorial Hall.

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