Shoe Race, 1933

I’ve been working with materials from the early 1930s recently, trying to track down information about a particular student but also taking in much more detailed information about the era generally. It was a difficult, even unpleasant time for the faculty and administration. The effects of the Great Depression on campus were profound. Thoughts of expansion ceased. Significant salary cuts and other money saving measures were demoralizing enough that some of the best faculty simply left.

The students, however, as is often the case, seemed to be having a high old time despite the cares of their elders. These images depict an activity called a “shoe race” or “shoe drill.” I can’t quite figure out precisely what they’re up to. I’m guessing that whatever it is, it started in the football stadium and then wound its way over to Cohen House. I’m not certain, though, that the pictures are in the right order:

Shoe race 1933 4Shoe race 1933 3Shoe race or drill 1933Shoe race 1933 1

Any speculation is welcome.

Bonus: Back side of Abercrombie.  I wonder what’s underneath that block.

Back of Abercrombie

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11 Responses to Shoe Race, 1933

  1. Grungy says:

    Never seen a picture of so many males from back then with their shirts untucked and no ties.
    There is an audience in the grandstands, and those males have their ties on.
    Just guessing, but the first shot has a lot of shoeless people.
    The third shot has someone that appears to be throwing something – perhaps a shoe?

  2. Don Johnson says:

    As for the Abercrombie block, I don’t think anything is under it. There used to be a loading dock there. The block is the right height for a truck to backup and unload.

  3. Looks like their shoes (maybe socks too) are in a big pile and they have to scramble to find their shoes, put them on, and tuck their shirts in. Then they go do something. The guy in the third pic is, interestingly, wearing shorts. (maybe an upperclassman?) I wonder if this is another “slime” thing; someone’s shoe is being thrown into the field and the guys in the last pic have their pant legs rolled up. Or maybe it’s easier to put your shoes on quickly if you roll up your pant legs.

  4. Richard Schafer says:

    I’m guessing the pictures are in reverse order, based on the third one that seems to show someone throwing a shoe in the general direction of the Chemistry building. Plus the one near Cohen House has someone in a beanie in what appears to be a seated position, and everyone else with shirts tucked in. Perhaps their shoes were taken off at Cohen House, then they had to run to the stadium where the shoes were piled (in the center of the scrum?). From a little Google searching I did today, the typical shoe race had you take your shoes off, then race to a place where the shoe were, with the winner being the first person getting their shoes on. Seems to have been a popular 30s era county fair type game, along with sack races.

    • mjthannisch says:

      That is about what I thought, Seems like I have heard about this before, and have read about it, maybe in an old Thresher.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      In the rightmost picture, I think I can identify several beanies. Also one beanie in the right penultimate pic.
      I can’t identify the Cohen house in the rightmost pic; I thought that background structure might be old Hermann Hospital across Main St.; if that be right then the shadows indicate the event is occurring in the morning, do you agree?

      The penultimate right pic shows the Chemistry Complex buildings, as well as the W.M.Rice statue. So the action seems to be south of the Academic ‘Quadrangle’, perhaps in the area of present Sewall Hall (?). I believe that line of trees is alongside the Quadrangle-crossing road, which ran from Main St., east of Willy’s statue and to the Campanile area,

      [“… in reverse order…”: Interesting conjecture. Has anyone ever read Robert Graves’ theory that the Adam’s-rib-Eve-creation story had to do with the misinterpretation of a Mesopotamian pictograph of some sort which had the individual pictographs placed in the wrong order*?]
      Sorry, Melissa, it’s brain-cluttering trivia like that which prevents their letting me out of this place!

      * “Adam’s Rib”, by Robert Graves

      • Richard A. Schafer says:

        I think the shadows are the key to showing that the pictures are reversed. Gene’s right, the last picture shows what I’m pretty sure is old Hermann Hospital, with a shadow that shows this was in the morning, since it extends to the right. Although the stadium pictures are harder to find shadows in, I think I see a few shadows that appear to be extending in the direction toward Main Street, which would put the sun in the northwest, hence afternoon.

  5. Melissa Kean says:

    I love you guys.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      Melissa, please remember that I am a married man!

      (Although I’m not a fanatic about it.)

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