Traditions

Fearsome Fun

The Casque and Casket, an inter-fraternity senior and junior society, was formed in 1905. Their annual spring dance was one of the major social events of the spring house party season. The opening ceremony, no doubt, added to its attraction.

The College Monthly carried a complete description: "A solemn procession, marching to the tune of a dirge, bore a casket, which was placed upon the platform, while dim lights were burning. Here a burial service was performed, and many of the study-worn books were conveyed to their last resting-place".

Parade Dress

During the early years in Durham, one of the biggest social events on campus was the Annual April Fools Party. The majority of the participants came dressed in costumes and the evening began with a grand march during which the costumes were judged and later awarded prizes. The 1908 New Hampshire College Monthly provides this description of the variety of costumes:

There were 'ladies' painted with carmine and wearing number nine shoes, colored and mulatto 'ladies and gemmen' encrusted with charcoal and the contents of numerous ragbags, colonial 'peaches' and beaux in floured wigs, rubes, dudes, bums, rums, dunces, and chumps well mixed and well calculated to tickle the most fanciful fancy.

The parade was followed by a vaudeville show performed by members of the student body. Prizes were then awarded for best costumes and best performances. Dancing capped off the evening of frivolity.

One for All and All for One

The first annual New Hampshire Day was held on November 21, 1916. Classes were canceled and the whole college, students and faculty alike, devoted the day to labor on improvements on the athletic field, which is now Memorial Field. One group built bleachers while another dug ditches in which tile drains were laid across the field.

A lunch, which was served in the gym (New Hampshire Hall), consisted of oyster stew, rolls, ham sandwiches, doughnuts, and coffee. A barrel of oysters and 100 pounds of ham were used.

The annual New Hampshire Day continued to be celebrated until 1924 when the size of the college had reached the point where the event was no longer practical.

Remembering the Class Cane

students with class canes
One of the earliest UNH traditions (adopted from Dartmouth College) was the senior cane. The wooden canes were carried during their last term by both male and female members of the senior class as a symbol of their status and accomplishment. Friends and classmates were asked to carve their names or initials into the cane, thereby creating a lasting memento of their college years.

A cane committee was assigned to select the design for their class. Some years the canes were very plain with only a simple silver band engraved with "UNH" and the graduation year. Other classes chose more ornately carved knobs: the Old Man of the Mountain in 1925 and a Malacca walking cane in 1927.

Gradually, though, the canes began to fall out of favor. One student from the Class of 1929 suggested that using the cane in "stirring up a batch of home brew" was a more useful purpose than dragging it around campus. Each year, it became harder to sell the idea of a cane to the seniors. The Class of 1934 tried using a carved wildcat head on the knob and the Class of 1938 tried holding a Class Cane Day. But eventually, as much as the students regretted losing an old tradition, the Class of 1940 voted to replace the cane with a class ring.

A Chicken in Every Pot

Campaigns for Mayor of Durham began in 1926 and continued well into the 1960s. Candidates, usually sponsored by fraternities and dorms, campaigned by making speeches and distributing posters.

Students voted under the arch at Thompson Hall and the victor paraded as master of ceremonies during the Homecoming football game. The president of the college often gave a symbolic key to the town to the "Mayor," who responded with outrageous promises to the cheering student body.

Bonfire of the Victories

bonfire
For many years, it was traditional to celebrate a UNH home football win with a victory bonfire. Before the game, freshmen were required to collect enough wood for a huge blaze. To assist them in their efforts, Frank Morrison, owner of the Durham Livery Stables, let the students borrow one of his old wagons. (To rent a horse, however, would cost extra so the students hitched themselves by long ropes to the wagon and filled it with anything that would burn.)

Once, in their enthusiasm, they added the wagon itself to the fire. After the college reimbursed Morrison for the loss of his wagon, it became standard practice for him to leave an old, beat-up wagon in his side yard. Freshmen would happily swipe it for their bonfire fodder, and Morrison cleverly supplemented his income.

Finally, tired of paying for articles which "mysteriously disappeared," the college began to furnish a pile of wood and trash on Bonfire Hill.

Spring Follies

In the early years of the college, the rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes often degenerated into scuffles and worse. One opportunity for rough and tumble fun was the freshman picture. Sophomores would try to ensure that not all freshmen were present for the photo. In the spring of 1904, the Boston Globe reported the following:

The entire class quietly boarded the train at the Durham station, many of the members leaving their work in the college workshops and coming bareheaded in their working togs. The fact that they were not dressed for the occasion threw the sophomores off their guard, but the latter saw the game just as the train was starting and scrambled aboard, taking the car next to the one the freshmen had boarded.

As the train stopped there was a rush. Car windows were smashed in the frantic efforts of the sophs to capture the freshmen and keep them from leaving the train. Out of the train they all got, however, and the liveliest kind of scrimmage was begun in the square in front of the station. The police finally charged on the student crowd and scattered it. Three luckless freshmen were captured, however, and carried away.

The remainder of the class, including three young women, proceeded to a studio on Central Avenue, Dover, under police guard, where they had a group picture taken... A clothing merchant was called to the studio to supply clothing to the partially-stripped and mud-stained freshmen to make them presentable.

Ruling the Roost

1917 poster with freshman commandments

"Freshman! Hear Ye these 10 Commandments and obey them faithfully."

That was the opening text for the Freshman Rules poster produced by the sophomore class in the fall of 1937. It was a campus tradition for sophomores to make up rules for freshmen to follow. The rules were intended to familiarize incoming students with the customs of the university and to promote a sense of school spirit.

Many of the rules were consistent from year to year: show respect for the faculty and upperclassmen, bury your prep school insignia, wear your beanie, learn the college cheers and songs. Others were more whimsical. At various times, freshmen were forbidden to carry a cane, wear a "stiff hat," go bare-headed on Main Street, or turn up the cuffs on their trousers.

In the early decades of the University, the rules were traditionally posted on the night before the first day of classes. The sophomores would hang the posters on poles and trees along Main Street, and unless the freshmen could get past the vigilant sophomores to remove all the posters by 7 AM, the rules had to be obeyed. The resulting raucous "poster fight" was abolished by the student council by 1933.

Tea-chable Moments

In 1919, the matron of Ballard Hall introduced bi-monthly afternoon tea parties to the student body as an opportunity to practice formal social etiquette. A tea was also a useful format for a short reception, such as the Freshman Tea. The customary tea party routine is described by an alum, Class of 1945.

One was greeted at the door, shown where to lay our coats, and ushered to the dining room for tea. You told the pourer what you would like, 'Tea, a little weaker maybe, no cream and one sugar. A slice of lemon would be fine. Thank you.' Then carrying the tea cup and saucer, one of the small napkins, a tiny sandwich or two, one proceeded to the living room to visit with other guests. This was polite chit-chat. It was proper to leave after 30–45 minutes. You didn't have to stay for the whole time.

As times and lifestyles changed, interest in formal teas began to wane. By 1959, the term "tea," although still used, was in name only. A description of a sorority tea:

In the first place, there isn't any tea. There is punch. A nervous concoction of banana peels, grapefruit sections, avocado juice, oyster shells for body, turnip juice for color, and quinine water for fizz. There is generally something dubious floating on top. Fortunately, the servers of said beverage recognize the risk involved, so they slop it out in little Dixie cups, and smile their sweetest as they proffer it to you. But there is usually more than just punch. There is popcorn. There are potato chips. And sometimes they are not soggy.