History or legend?

Tara McGovern

Have you ever heard your parents tell hilarious stories about college traditions they participated in? Some think that our generation has reached new heights in “coolness,” but our lack of bizarre traditions says otherwise.
There is no reason, however, to lose hope and fall back on the regular beer pong and flippy cup routine.
A short trip the Lawrence University archives on level A of the Mudd Library can tell you a lot about just how sassy and “with it” the Milwaukee-Downer and Lawrence students really were in the past.
Lawrence ladies: Although we may think that the feminist movements of the last few decades have brought us up to par, there is still a lot we can learn from the women of Milwaukee-Downer College.
The mud around campus caused by the weather lately may seem annoying, but the shameless freshmen and sophomores of Milwaukee-Downer College never passed the opportunity to take a mud bath.
Every year, in early spring, the sophomore girls would bury a hat in the mud somewhere on campus, and the freshman ladies would venture out on the annual Hat Hunt.
The bold freshman that found the hat, surely covered in mud at the point of triumph, had the honor of hiding the hat in the muddiest spot she could find the next year.
For those of you would rather wait for the sunny days to roam across campus, there was a day to celebrate such occasions as well.
From 1980 until 2003, “Celebrate!” was the spring tradition that few Lawrence students missed out on.
Live music, performed mostly by Lawrence students, and food and drinks were enough to get most of the student body out on Main Hall Green in May or June.
May Day was celebrated at Lawrence with dancing around the May Day Pole, costumes and choreographed dances at the bottom of Union Hill, and the election of the May Day Queen and her court.
These groovy ladies in their formal garb were elected from the junior class every year and stood at the height of popularity for their May Day of fame.
May Day wasn’t the only popularity contest in our school’s tradition, however: Every year one male and one female from the junior class were voted “best loved.”
According to the theme chosen for that year, they were then dressed in the appropriate attire – usually something witty – for pictures.
If popularity contests aren’t your thing, there were also more modestly spirited traditions, like the famous yet flighty Rock.
The Rock was a large boulder found on a geography field trip. It was brought back to campus and every year a new and clever way to hide the Rock was sought.
It was buried in different places on campus, and one time the Rock even appeared on top of Stephenson Hall, the old science building – or so it seemed. Actually, that rock was a skillfully designed replica made of papier-mƒch.
In 1990, the Rock disappeared. There are many stories of its whereabouts, but the two most popular legends blame the loss of this cultural relic on the alumni or the staff.
It is possible that one of the alumni classes took the Rock and hid it somewhere off campus.
Others speculate that the Rock disappeared when the administration got sick of dealing with it and threw it into the Fox River. Or perhaps the Rock is well hidden somewhere on campus to this day …
It seems an unwritten law that such ingenious traditions are a necessary part of the Lawrence Difference.
Although we do have the noteworthy Great Midwest Trivia Contest that has been a tradition since the ’60s, it would be exhilarating to see vivacious opportunities like these throughout the year.
Interested in starting or reviving a tradition? Let our university Archivist Julia Stringfellow know.
She will give you plenty of ideas, and may even document your attempts for future Lawrentians who are at a loss for entertainment.