The Slime Struggle, 1925

I got a lot of response to the post last week about Lee’s Owls and I had a few free moments this afternoon so I stopped to think what else we might have about them in the Woodson. A quick peek into a scrapbook turned up immediate results, an invitation to one young Mr. Craig C. Watkins to the Lee’s Owl dances:

I’m not sure whether Craig Watkins actually graduated from Rice but boy, he sure went to a lot of dances. His orderly scrapbook is completely full of dance cards and programs. Completely.

Here’s a beauty–the dance card for the Slime Struggle held at Autry House in February, 1925:

The names of the dances are clearly meant to evoke the pain of the freshman state, particularly “Grab Ankles,” which I believe explains itself:

Almost the only thing in the scrapbook that isn’t a dance card is this photograph. I don’t know which one–if either–is Watkins:


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5 Responses to The Slime Struggle, 1925

  1. Wright Moody says:

    The slime struggle reminds me of stories that I remember hearing of freshmen having to climb a greased pole to capture a freshman beanie on top of the pole. This tradition was gone by the time that I arrived at Rice in the late sixties. Am I remembering this right?

    • Michael Ross says:

      Lots of information about the end of the freshman-beanie-atop-the-greased-pole activity is contained in the comments to this Oct. 24, 2012 post — — and in this July 3, 2013 post:

      • Thanks for that, Mike and ‘Dub’…..the story I got about the end of the Slime Pole comes directly from the horse’s mouth….John Hays (John R. Hays,. Jr., Weiss ’71). So it was John’s frosh year, obviously, which would’ve been the fall of ’66 (’67?). John was halfway up the pole, giving it his all, when he slipped and fell into the muck. The ‘grease’ was basically drilling mud, which apparently is full of all kinds of toxic bacteria. John smashed into a rusty object of some kind, got a cut in the arch of this foot. Got infected, got worse and worse. John had to go to hospital, could not begin frosh classes. Almost lost his foot/leg, and in the event did miss the entire first semester of classes his freshman year. That was the end of it.
        John y’all may recall was “Mr. Conservative” in our days on campus; President of Weiss his senior year and was known for being the one who bring Milton Friedman to speak at Rice. I remember covering the event for KTRU, walking across the lawn from the RMC to the Wiess Commons, John, the diminutive Professor Friedman and his even more diminutive wife leading a small coterie.
        Now, a more avaricious, less loyal Owl might’ve brought suit for damages owing to the Slime incident, but not John. His loyalty went as deep as it can go. His father, John R. Hays, Jr., was Class of ’42 and taught engineering courses at the Institute for a time; later, the four Hays brothers, John, Jim, Jerry and Jeff, all went to Rice.

        • Wright Moody says:

          Thanks Paul! I never knew the story. Looks like I just missed it as I arrived on campus in 68. Nice hearing from you as well! Take care! Dub

        • almadenmike says:

          Paul — That incident occurred on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 1967, according to a front page article in the next Thursday’s Thresher (, quoted below.

          Baker had a greased pole climb my freshman year (Fall 1966), but according to this article, that would have been the last one.

          > > > >
          Sophomores injured in pole climb

          By JIM DENNEY
          Thresher Editorial Staff

          Two members of Wiess College were seriously injured Tuesday evening in the traditional greased-pole climb battle between sophomores and freshmen.

          John Hays had three tendons severed in his foot when he stepped onto a piece of glass in the slimey pit. Hayes was treated and released from Methodist Hospital; his foot will be immobilized in a cast for about six weeks, according to Wiess president Tom Bertrand.

          Bertrand stated that “Wiess sophomores combed the pit before the event searching for objects that might injure the participants. However, the piece of glass near the edge of the pit was apparently missed. …

          Hays returned to his college after leaving the hospital Tuesday night.

          Greg Stock, whose father is the South African consul in New Orleans, remains hospitalized at the Methodist Hospital. Witnesses at the scene Tuesday said that Stock was unable to move when the ambulance took him away from the pit. Bertrand said that Stock had been tackled during the rough-housing that took place.

          The Thresher learned from authorities at Methodist Hospital that Stock was feeling somewhat better Wednesday afternoon. …

          Dr. Page Nelson, physician in charge of the case, said last evening that Stock appears to have extensive bruising of the rib cage and a sprained back. There are no broken bones.

          X-rays for possible damage to spine were taken Wednesday, but the doctor had not yet seen them when this reporter talked to him.

          Nelson said he did not know when Stock will be released from the hospital.

          According to Bertrand, the Wiess Court has determined that Stock’s injury was an accident. At the same time, however, the incident indicates “an unfortunate tendency of recent Fun and Games sessions to serve as outlets for personal antagonism.”

          Because of this situation, Wiess plans a thorough investigation of the present forms of freshman initiation activities.

          As for the greased-pole climb itself, Bertrand goes on to say that “the intensity of the animosity seems to be inversely proportional to the viscosity of the mud.”

          Hanszen Postpones

          Hanszen College president Julius Sensat told the Thresher that that college’s greased-pole climb has been postponed at least “until all glass is removed from the pit.”

          Speaking for Baker, Sandy Mueller said that there will be no greased-pole climb this year in his college “because people are getting hurt (in initiation rites) both at Rice and at Baylor.”

          Fun and Games

          Mueller said that a decision whether or not to go ahead with the “polar-bear races” will be made either Thursday or Friday.

          “Polar-bear races,” part of the so-called “Fun and Games” revolving around freshman initiation in three of the four men’s colleges, see entering students in undershorts being pushed around on blocks of ice.

          When told of the Wiess incident, Will Rice president Chip Novotny said that the injuries point out clearly what can happen in such initiation activities. Novotny feels that personal safety is too much to pay for college unity.” According to present Will Rice policy, no freshman is “required to earn his position in t h e college.”

          A person is a full member of WRC when he receives the letter of selection. “The Will Rice tradition,” continued Novotny, “says that such activities as pole climbs are not an integral part of a university education.”
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