There were a lot of initiation activities. Here are the freshmen boys:
The freshman girls were made to dress up as washerwomen and play a game called “pail polo.” There’s a bucket somewhere inside that scrum.
I confess that it’s hard for me to know what to make of this. I find it both baffling and troubling, but it seems to have served some important function. Student social relations on campus were a bit complicated during the 1920s. At the beginning of the decade, in the interest of nurturing a democratic ideal the Rice administration took the drastic step of banning social clubs (like the Idlers for men and the Tattlers for women), which were deepening social and economic divisions within the student body. (They allowed the women’s literary societies to continue, most likely because they provided the only real social outlet for Rice women until Jones College opened in 1957.) Did this change the campus? It sure did—spend enough time with the old scrapbooks and you can see the elitism fade.
Then, as the 20s went on organized mild hazing activities like the ones shown above gradually became much more elaborate and codified than they had been before. (For obvious reasons it’s hard to tell what kind of hazing was going on in private.)
I wish I knew what it was all about, but I most certainly don’t. I suspect, though, that there’s at least the beginnings of an answer buried in the scrapbooks and Threshers. If I live through the centennial I’ll try to find it.
Plea: We have only two measly boxes of materials from Jones College in the archives. All the other colleges have more than this, some of them much, much more. Please, for the sake of all that is decent, if you are a Jones alum and you have pictures, scrapbooks, college newsletters, anything — let us know. If you know someone else who might have such things, please let them know that we are trying hard to fill this gap and could really use their help.
Bonus: What’s that up in the tree behind the RMC? Hard to get a good look at it.
But there’s another clue nearby.