Friday Afternoon Follies, plus an update

I have a blister on my hand from hitting too many golf balls (on the driving range, NOT on the course, by the way), so I have time for a post this afternoon since I can’t play.

There’s been a long and frankly sometimes brutal history of hazing at Rice, although most of the seriously bad stuff seems to have been confined to the Institute’s earliest years, when sophomores regularly hazed freshmen. With the urging of the administration the students themselves put an end to much of it, until what remained was usually just goofy rather than dangerous. I have to believe that this is an example of some goofy initiation, because I don’t have any other way to explain this activity. I think this must have taken place in either the fall of 1959 or spring of 1960, as the freshman beanies visible in the second picture say “1964” on them. This photo below is much clearer than the one above–click on it to enlarge and take a close look (if you dare!) I’m not sure if they’re having fun or not. I’m also unclear on the exact object of this exercise.

Update: I got a comment today on my earlier post about LBJ at the Sid Rich dedication and I thought it was so interesting that I wanted to put it up here so you wouldn’t miss it. It was sent by Charley Landgraf, Sid Rich ’75. I’m very grateful that he took the time to write down his thoughts and send them in:

“These photos certainly look to be of the dedication in Sid Rich Commons. It was, I believe, on a Saturday in late August, September or October 1971. Ours was the first Sid Rich freshman class that fall. Dedication ceremony was in morning or midday and, as the photo suggest, attended mostly by outside dignitaries and University officials and faculty, and the press — that is, not students or at least not many. It was followed by a small luncheon, I believe, in master’s home, but Prof J. Venn Leeds or his wife Jan would be best source on that. The great thing is that President and Mrs. Johnson stayed around for a couple of hours after lunch, holding forth from a soft sofa in the lounge area of the college talking with just us Sid Rich students and the Leedses. As I recall, it was a civil, good-spirited session, remarkable in view of the deep feelings about the Vietnam War that LBJ had handed off to Richard Nixon just 2 1/2 years before. His charm and hers lived up to legend and his answers seemed candid at the time to this awe-struck youngster. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the historiographical presence of mind to rush upstairs and write down the best of his remarks.”

I’ll be back from vacation next week, assuming the Omaha airport doesn’t flood, but my to-do list for Monday already has eleven things on it so it might take a day or so to get back to what passes for normal.

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11 Responses to Friday Afternoon Follies, plus an update

  1. Dan McCormack says:

    I remember reading something about this particular form of hazing in a history of Hanszen. I believe that it was called “Guidance” and consisted of sitting on a block of ice in one’s tighty-whities until the ice melted. (I’ll leave it to George Costanza to describe the likely effect on the students.)

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      Yes, Guidance. 1971 was the last year (maybe ’72) Hanszen engaged in it. The polar bear race was one of the activities and the years have dimmed the identity of the others but as indicated it was handled by a sophmore guidance advisor. Hanszen was divided into five sections (each stairwell in old hanszen was a section and new hanszen was divided into two sections) and the freshman of each section competed. There were a variety of races (including the polar bear) and the requisite owl-bowing.

      Freshmen also were required to serve dinner (and were allowed to skip ties on sunday). I think Hanszen was the last college to drop freshman serving. This did not happen until the 2nd year of
      being co-ed. (The first group of women were required to go through serving).

      • Lisa Childs says:

        Weiss still had freshman waiters through 1987. But no ties. Went co-ed in Fall 1983. Sid Rich was the only all male college at that point.

  2. Jerry Outlaw says:

    Riding the ice blocks was a standard freshman week ritual, at least through 1964. It is really not painful, just mildly embarrassing, and not so much of that. I don’t remember any significant “hazing” at all in 64. What few “events” occurred were seen pretty much as carrying on traditions, and not mean-spirited. Of course, being in Baker I can’t speak for Will Rice. Who know what those primitive types might have cooked up?

  3. Grungy says:

    The pit from the greased pole was still around when I arrived in ’73, but the pole was gone.
    Freshlings at Houston Baptist College still had to wear beanies in ’73.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Hi Grungy.
      Where was the pit?

      • Grungy says:

        It was just off the southwest corner of The MOB’s practice field.
        That field is where the Baker Institute is now.
        So – imagine a football field set back from the road, with one corner closest to where Wiess used to be.
        Then go along the road toward Autry Court, and it would be on the right side, 20′ or 30′ north of the curb, and about 50 or 60 yards from the corner.

  4. Stoney McMurray says:

    “Guidance” was still around in my freshman year in 1955. It seemed to consist mostly of wearing the beanies (plus silly pinafores for the women) and senseless physical punishment inflicted by sadistic sophomores, “getting even” for what had been done to them the previous year; this was called “tradition”. Off-campus residents were told that they must participate; many of us, however, opted out by simply not showing up after getting disgusted at such stupidity. By mid-term, many beanies had disappeared.

    The following Fall(1956), some improvement took place, but with tragic results: Two dorms’ groups had a tug-of-war over a tire filled with oil. Two members of my class and one freshman from the winning side attempted to hang their “trophy” (the tire) from top of the Campanile by climbing up inside it. First one soph was overcome by the fumes in the smokestack; then the second going to his rescue, with one of them falling to his death while the other died slipped into a “locked” leg position but unconscious from the fumes. The freshman then went for help, which took more time than it should have to get anyone to show up; neither of the sophs could be saved. Their funerals were among the worst I have ever attended.

    The night of this tragedy, I had a study date with a freshwoman from a little town in the Panhandle. When Fondren Library closed, we drove over to Rettig’s Ice Cream Parlor on Holcombe Blvd., opposite the Shamrock Hotel, then back to the women’s apartments north of the campus. During that trip, she remarked upon the large number of emergency vehicles’ sirens audible, saying she’d never heard so many in her little town. Being a “city boy” from Dallas, I replied that it was pretty typical for a city, especially given the nearby hospitals; neither of us gave much thought to whether something was going on on-campus. The news the next morning was, I think, a shock to the entire Rice community.

    Many of The Faculty were up in arms about losing two promising students to such things; a concerted effort was made to talk to the two lower classes about the need to put an end to the practices which might lead to such a dumb loss. When someone in Thad Norton Marsh’s English class tried to use the “tradition” justification, Mr. Marsh, a Rhodes Scholar, literally snorted “Tradition! This place isn’t old enough to have any real traditions!” He then gave us a short but sufficiently quantitative lecture about traditions as he had experienced them at Oxford, concluding that there was nothing in the “Guidance” ” tradition” worth saving on its own merits or on any time-basis. He also pointed out that “hazing” was illegal under Texas law, despite its existence at Rice and other colleges in the State. So far as I know, no prosecution took place in this case.

    Things calmed down the next year, which was my last at the Institute. I’m sorry to hear that they came back for a time later on and hope sincerely that they remain one of those things in the past of which we say, “What WERE they thinking?”

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Thank you very much for commenting. That was a truly tragic episode. I think I remember that there was a much earlier incident where a student was paralyzed or very badly injured in some sort of hazing. There’s a lot of evidence of hazing in the student scrapbooks that we have. Most of this is the sophmore-freshman hazing that you describe, but there’s also evidence of “secret societies” hazing initiates. That second part seems to have disappeared quickly, but the first dragged on in diminished form until about 1970 or 71.

      • Great Horned Owl says:

        Whatever happened to the secret societies? There are none presently to speak of. I’d be curious to know if there ever were any on campus.

  5. Douglas A. Gwyn says:

    When I entered Rice in 1966, there were still freshman beanies, although most of us refused to wear them, and the Polar Bear race, which I think had become voluntary. Freshmen rotated duty as servers in most of the college dining halls, but that wasn’t considered hazing.
    There were no “secret societies” of the Skull & Bones kind; however, there were of course various “invitational” cliques, some of them more organized than others. A group of computer afficionados formed a company “Richard E. Ingram Associates” mainly to use the letterhead to obtain engineering samples of electronics components etc. (There was no Mr. Ingram — the initials REI was common graffiti around campus and stood for “Rice Eats It.”) There were various clubs, including a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (which organized political demonstrations, violent and non-violent) and the responding Students for a Capitalist Society (which started as an Objectivism stidy group). I’m sure there were other student organizations too.

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