wondered where Rowbottoms came from, why they call it Hey Day,
or what flings in the spring? Here are attempts at explanationswith
illustrative excerptsof some Penn traditions past and present.
through the first decades of the 20th century, the freshman and
sophomore classes apparently spent a considerable amount of time
fighting with each other [Finals, this issue]. Over time, some
of these battles, which have their earliest roots in the 1860s,
gave rise to the mens senior honor awards known as the Spoon,
Bowl, and Cane. Along with the more pacifist Spade Award, these
are now given on Ivy Day (see below), as are the Hottel, Harnwell,
Goddard, and Brownlee awards for senior women.
Other inter-class conflicts passed out of practice without leaving
behind such distinguished legaciesit is probably for the best,
for example, that the University does not present an annual award
commemorating the Pants Fight.
at College Hall
isnt easy to climb a six-foot fence
surmounted with spikes when you have on a pair of new blue denim
pants guaranteed unbreakable, bought especially for the occasion,
but very much tighter than fashion or comfort demands. But it is
better to run the risk of that kind of accident than to take any
chances on getting into your dormitory room through the front door
when you know as sure as fate that the Freshmen are laying for you.
Of course, when you do get into that first-floor open window looking
out on Woodland Avenue you are not really sure in the bottom of
your heart what is waiting for you. Like the boys going over the
top, you have an uneasy sense of the uncertainties of life. But
in you go, hoping that you will be able to sneak through the corridors
and get up to your own room without being kidnapped on the way.
Philadelphia in the neighborhood of the University presents many
a strange sight the day of the Pants Fight. Blue pants, yellow
pants, brown pants, white pants, flannel shirts, cotton shirts,
khaki shirts, no shirts, running trunks, pajama coats and B.V.D.s,
every possible kind of masculine attire is sported on the Campus.
In the Quad, where their imprisoned brothers await them behind
drawn curtains, boys are pulled up by the hands into the Dormitory
windows. On Locust Street, on Woodland Avenue, daring burglaries
are committed in full daylight. Boys scramble into first-floor
windows, second-floor windows, even miraculously into the third-floor
windows of all the Frats, while bewildered women stand on the
street corners and wonder what the poor dears are doing to each
really distressing, says a gentle-voiced colored woman as a howling
mob sweeps up Locust Street, breaks into Delta House, searches
the rooms, opens the closets, looks under the beds, and emerges
triumphant with one lone Sophomore. Destiny at that moment sends
along a water wagon. The Soph is properly drenched and, having
expiated the sin of being a Soph, he beats it back home with the
shreds of his dignity and his underwear huddled about him.
day long classes have been cut without remorse. All day long it
has been dangerous for Sophomores or Freshmen to travel alone.
ready for the Big Fight, say the posters. Pants Fight in Franklin
Field at 4:30. At 4 oclock the tension heightens. Down the street
comes a distant and confused murmur. The Sophs appear en masse.
They know as sure as fate that against the onslaught of the Freshies,
a handful of Sophs can never hope to keep the three pairs of pants
that the rules require for a victory.
Christian martyrs in the arena, the little band faces the enemy
like men. In single file the Sophs walk around the track and approach
the center of the field. A phalanx forms around the president,
face outward, arms locked in arms. A pistol shot is fired. The
Freshmen advance in a huge circle. They buck the line. They break
the line. The victory is complete. Even the manager of a Greek
gymnastic team would be satisfied with the costuming. The dust
arises thick and yellow and veils the scene.
the Dorms shower baths are in great demand. In an hour well-bathed,
well-combed, well-dressed young gentlemen swarm to dinner. The
Pants Fight is over.The
Pants Fight, by Beulah B. Amram, May 30, 1919
Day has been celebrated since the University moved to the present
campus in West Philadelphia. Starting with the graduating class
of 1873, classes have planted sprigs of ivy, and ivy stones
commemorating the graduating classes have been set into University
buildings and other locations. From 1926 through 1961, men and
womens classes placed separate ivy stones. Senior honor awards
are also announced on this day.
Once a part of Hey Day (or Heyday), the ivy ceremony was transferred
to the Saturday before Commencement in 1981. This was actually
something of a return to traditionthe ivy planting and ivy stone
dedication had formerly been part of Class Day activities that
took place on campus the day before Commencement, which until
1922 was held off-campus.
Ivy planting exercises
of the Class of 1903, University of Pennsylvania, took place Monday
afternoon on the campus of the university. The senior class and
a number of underclassmen and friends of the graduates assembled
at the northeast corner of the old College Hall, where the decorative
tablet, which denotes by which class the ivy is planted, had been
let into the wall of the building.
exercises were opened by the reading of the ivy poem by William
B. France, after which the ivy was planted by Frank van H. Slack,
the Spade man of the class. Henry C. Diller delivered the ivy
oration, in which he pointed out how the ivy of all the classes,
having its root in common soil, covered the Alma Mater and that
the various classes received their inspiration from a common source,
showing further that the planting and building represented the
activities of the college mans life, and that he built and planted
not on the past, as indicated by his life at the University, which
was then ended, but by the future in which his work will bear
fruit. By keeping in close touch with the Alma Mater it would
gain strength and inspiration from the University, where all had
spent four of the most vital years of their life.
the oration the exercises closed with the singing of a number
of the college songs by the senior class.The
Ivy Planted, June 20, 1903
tradition of longstanding bit the dust this year when
the Ivy Day ceremony, since its inception a male-only affair,
became coed. Ivy Day, the unveiling of the Ivy stone and the planting
of the ivy which symbolizes the graduation of the senior class,
began in 1873. It was entirely all-male until 1962, when the men
and women together presented the stone; the men planted the ivy
the following day. This year the ceremony went coed.May 1963
a rash of racist incidents on campus, the University last month
held a rally and issued statements for tolerance and unity.
steps followed a series of telephone calls to the W.E.B. DuBois
College House, which conveyed bomb threats. Earlier this semester,
vandals tried to remove the Class of 1981 Ivy Stone from the wall
of DuBois House.
rally attracted over 1,000 people, many of whom marched, with
arms linked, from the peace sign in front of Van Pelt Library
to the Superblock area outside DuBois House, where they heardalong
with a racial slur yelled from afarpleas for unity and an end
As currently celebrated, Hey Day takes place on the last day of
classes and marks the official advance of the junior class to
senior status. Students carrying miniature bamboo canes and wearing
Styrofoam straw hats andin a bow to more contemporary fashionssouvenir
T-shirts march from the Junior Balcony in the Quad down Locust
Walk to College Hall, where they are greeted by the president.
The canes are a relic of the Junior Cane March, originally a
fall event, which was incorporated at some point after the mid-1950s.
In a recent innovation (possibly as of this year?), marching juniors
squirted various sticky substanceswhipped cream, caramel, chocolate
sauce, silly string, etc.on each other during the march. They
seemed to enjoy it (more than the spectators, anyway).
weeks of preparation, Ivy Week is over.
The action of numerous committees that culminated in this gala
week-end helped to make this celebration time the most looked-forward-to
time of the year.
first official part of the program was enacted on the historic
Hey-Day, at which time the Spoon, Bowl, Cane and Spade awards,
symbolic of senior honor in the order named, were presented.
was climaxed by the Ivy Ball at the Penn Athletic Club. Twelve
hundred couples swayed to the combined efforts of Don Redman and
Ted Fio Rito in a wonderland of Red and Blue decorations. Notables
from the Mask and Wig cast performed in an inimitable style, entertaining
the dancers with a variety of songs and dances. A professional
floor show provided more entertainment during the intermission.
The undaunted efforts of the Committee were rewarded in that the
dance was a huge financial success as well as bringing pleasure
and enjoyment to hundreds of dancers and House Party guests.July
aware of the extent to which time can distort and erode the truth.
But I was particularly startled to read that Hey Day, the time
when senior honors and awards are conferred, dates back to the
nineteenth century. Spelled as it should be, Heyday actually
dates back only to the senior year of my own Class of 1916 and
my then tenure as editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvanian. For
many years prior to that, the principal spring celebration for
undergraduates had been Straw Hat Day, the special event always
being a baseball game with Princeton. On Straw Hat Day, students,
with rare exceptions, appeared in straws, usually brand new sailors,
with a sprinkling of Panamas for the more affluent. In fact, Straw
Hat Day was so widely accepted that in the whole of the Philadelphia
area no one dared to wear a straw hat before that day, and then
all males who could afford it broke out the new headgear.
by that name, came about as a result of a sort of pun. I had become
well acquainted with the word heyday because one of my
favorite professors, Dr. Cornelius (Corny) Weygandt of our distinguished
English Department, in the course of his lectures frequently spoke
of the heyday of someones literary career. In an editorial in
The Pennsylvanian, I therefore suggested, half-facetiously,
that Straw Hat Day be known henceforth as Heyday and that
the then scattered events of importance be concentrated in one
day, which would represent a sort of apogee or heyday of college
life and activities.
my great surprise, the general idea of Heyday somehow caught on.Eugene
H. Southall C16, July 197
details of its origins are disputed, but from before the First World War
through the mid-1960s, the call Rowbottom! was synonymous with,
as one admiring writer put it, any rowdy gathering or grand scale riot.
was a resident of the Dormitories
when this thing started. Various friends of Rowbottom including his roommate
would show up in the Triangle at any hour of the evening either late or
early to call him to the window. All the winter of 1909-1910 these calls
made little comment, but when the spring came and we were deep in study
it got to be a nuisance. Some of the rest of us would stick our heads
out and in no uncertain terms tell the caller to shut his mouth up. The
men in the rooms began to enforce the argument by throwing missiles at
the callers and burnt out bulbs and other articles found their way out
to the sidewalk. Then as examination time came in the spring of 1910,
and when a fellow had been grinding into the early morning hours, it got
to be the custom of anyone who felt in the mood to go to the window and
bellow out Yea Rowbottom. It seemed to relieve the tedium of hot weather
study hours. The effect was certain and instant. Everybody would go to
the window and add his bit. After a few minutes there would be a general
discharge of missiles from the windows, including anything loose, and
various room crockery with which the rooms were furnished. These affairs
would happen about once a week all the spring of 1910 and were the first
of what have proved to be and were then very annoying to the authorities.
I thought this exact description of the first Rowbottom by an eyewitness
would be of interest to you.
W. Marriott, October 15, 1934
game fervor generated high spirits on the campus. When one
leather-lunged student cupped his hands at 37th and Woodland Avenue about
8 p.m. on November 14 and roared Rowbottom, official warnings after
an earlier evening were forgotten or ignored.
was as usual. An estimated 4000 young men and women lit bonfires, pulled
trolley poles, pushed automobiles from their parking places, and went
though other evolutions of a like nature.
called and promptly found such property as helmets, axes, hose connections,
and other paraphernalia disappearing in all directions.
When a PTC
emergency crew mounted to the top of a trolley car to repair a cut rope,
students stole their ladder, then pelted them with vegetables and eggs.December
In the January
issue I found a necrological listing that at first made me smile and then
made me very sad. The listing was simple. A mere line
T. Rowbottom, Mineola, N.Y.
I have read
many articles in the Gazette about deceased teachers and alumni;
many of them people I, for one, have never heard of. But here we have
a name that means more to generations of undergraduates than a graveful
of Hopkinsons, Biddles, and Bodines. A name that conjures up more memories
of mischief, mayhem, and pure joy than any other.
The true story,
or so I was led to believe as a very green, bedinked freshman, was that
Rowbottom, a quiet peaceful soul, lived on the fourth floor of Memorial
Towers with a noisy drunk of a roommate. Almost nightly, the roommate
would come home highballed and yell for Rowbottom to help him up the
stairs. Eventually the call Rowbottom not only aroused Rowbottom but
woke other students who angrily threw bottles, shoes, and anything else
they could find. And from such a little beginning a Penn legend was born.
Since then, any rowdy gathering or grand scale riot was called a Rowbottom.Allan
D. Moskowitz C59, March 1963
In the fall of
1908 and the spring of 1909 I roomed in 32 Memorial Tower, one floor below
Tubby Rowbottom. Harger Bliss W10 was my roommate.
Tubby did not
have a drunken roommate, in fact he may not have had any. He did have
a friend who did not live in the dormitories. Not seeing any sense in
walking up three flights to see if Tubby was in, he would let out a yea-a-a
Rowbottom. That was all there was to it.
the spring of 1909 some dude in the dorm about half way between the Tower
and the Little Quad, stuck his head out the window, yelled yea Rowbottom
and tossed out a thunder mug (slop jar). It made a beautiful booming
sound. Needless to say, the original Rowbottom was on.
The above named
roommate of mine became so enthusiastic that he heaved out a mug before
opening the window. He paid for the window but I paid for the mug. (Bursars
bill dated May 3rd, 1909 for $1.52, in my scrap book.)J.H.
Bell W12, October 1963
of an impending Rowbottom reached the Office of the Dean of
Women in mid-April. The dean, Alice Emerson, pondered how to head off
the traditional rite of spring. She had a brainstorm: why not give the
young men another outlet for their energies? She quickly organized a dance
at the womens dormitory and invited all University undergraduates. A
full-fledged Rowbottom was thus averted, although the mere march of the
male students to the dorm did require police surveillance. Officers kept
order until the boys filed into the dorm and vented their energies on
the Watusi and the Swim.May
at College Hall
time that the Rowbottom was dying out, students turned their attention
to a new ritual more in keeping with the mood of the daysitting in at
College Hall. As in the country at large, this activity peaked at Penn
in the late 1960s-early 1970s, but there have been memorable revivals
at intervals ever since.
College Hall sit-in was in 1967 and involved protests over biological-warfare
research projects being conducted at the University; the most recent was
a nine-day occupation of the building in early 2000 by a group protesting
the use of sweatshop labor to produce school-logo merchandise. Besides
the Vietnam War, other issues have included better campus security against
rape and to establish a womens center on campus (1973) and to protest
budget cuts and tuition hikes (1978).
a group of students calling themselves STOP (Students Opposed to Germ
Warfare Research) held a meeting at the Christian Association and decided
to hold a sit-in inside College Hall two days later. On April 26, 50 or
so students of STOP calmly ascended the steps of College Hall. The sit-in
was originally scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. but it actually lasted for
the rest of the week, until 5 p.m. on Friday.
evening, the students studied, watched a portable TV that someone had
brought along, typed term papers, and discussed foreign policy. The Christian
Association coffeehouse, the Catacombs, supplied coffee and the campus
guards on duty became spectators to several bridge games. A reporter from
a local paper had everyone pose in sleeping bags for the early edition.
When the 11 oclock news came on, all 60 protestors crowded to the reception
room of the presidents office to boo and cheer alternately the coverage
they were getting. Dean of Women Alice Emerson had, incidentally, given
the girls involved permission to spend the night in College Hall.May
was past noon on Thursday, March 2, several minutes after a
rally on the steps of College Hall, at which about 1,200 students gathered
to protest budgetary measuresboth fiscal cuts and a tuition hikewhich
they felt had been thrust upon them by the University administration.
Some students seemed surprised to find themselves inside the building;
a take-over apparently, had not been planned. But many in the rally crowd
came in, jamming the College Hall corridors.
members of the Black Student League began a sit-in in the Franklin Building.
The members of the Black Student League were joined by other students
in an attempt to show, as student leaders were eager to say, that student
demands were not oriented on racial lines. Various minority groups formed
a caucusthe United Minority Councilwhich became incorporated into the
terms of the final sit-in agreement.April