Names have been changed to protect the reputations of the guilty.
Once upon a midnight dreary not too many years ago, a Ford Hall dorm master – specifically, the occupant of an apartment overlooking the Pond and Victory Bell – was contemplating bedtime. The dorm was quiet, the inmates apparently enjoying their guileless dreams, when all at once . . .
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! The teacher – we’ll call him Mr. Ford – sprang from his bed and looked out the window, where he could see a shadowy figure ringing the Victory Bell. Mr. Ford threw open the window. “Now cut that out,” he shouted – or words to that effect.
CLANG! CLANG! The ringing continued. So Mr. Ford threw on his bathrobe, descended several flights of stairs, and emerged to confront the misguided Quasimodo. “Please stop,” called Mr. Ford – or words to that effect.
CLANG! Mr. Ford had had enough. “What the heck is wrong with you” (or words, etc.), he shouted, as he grabbed the bellringer’s arm and spun him around.
The arm came off. “Aaughh!” screamed Mr. Ford, as gales of laughter descended from the upper stories. The villains had constructed a straw effigy, tied its arm to the ringer, and operated the bell by means of a length of nylon fishline strung from a window.
And what was the very best Ford Hall Prank Ever? We’re going to save that for another day. Subscribe to From the Archives and you’ll never miss a post!
We lost James Hamilton, class of 1961, last year. He was many things — printer, conservationist, history buff, devoted Williston and Dartmouth alumnus — you can read more about him here. His Cohasset, Mass. neighbors and, especially, his Williston classmates will remember him as a perceptive and occasionally wicked cartoonist and caricaturist.
Most of Jim’s work graced the pages of The Log and The Willistonian from 1959 through 1961. For those who remember his favorite subjects or victims, the drawings are remarkably on target. They tend to feature several prominent faculty members, and a crewcutted, slightly beefy meathead named Willy, who bore an odd resemblance to Jim himself.
So discovery of new drawings by Jim Hamilton is cause for celebration. Several weeks ago Laurie Hamilton generously sent a stack of Willistonia to the Archives, and there, tucked into a copy of the yearbook, were several sketches. Thanks, Laurie!
The 1870s and ’80s saw the rise of several secret societies or fraternities at Williston Seminary. Initially there were four: Iota Zeta, L.L.D., Pi Beta Pi, and F.C. A fifth, Phi Rho Alpha, appeared somewhat later, although its existence was sometimes not acknowledged by the four “legitimate” societies. History knows relatively little about them; as secret organizations, they kept their petty confidences, and worse, to themselves. So we have no idea what the initials stood for, not even for the two societies that didn’t affect Greek names. We do know that their membership was selective; that at least some of their alumni remained loyal to the clubs, often at the expense of loyalty to the school, and that they posed as “service” organizations: in 1916, for example, their leaders formed the first Student Council.
None of the preceding can be said of a sixth fraternity, Sigma Eta Delta.
In fact, the Greek letters ΣΗΔ were a rendering of the society’s real name, the South Hall Devils. (Since classical Greek doesn’t accommodate the “H” sound, it was the preference of the membership to spell “Eta” with an apostrophe: Sigma ‘Eta Delta.) The group was formed in the winter of 1889, mostly to poke fun at the elite, thus much-resented, fraternities. Membership was open to any resident of South Hall, the dormitory with the least desirable and least expensive rooms — thus a dorm shunned by any self-respecting (and they were nothing if not that) frat boy.
Happy new year from the Williston Northampton Archives!
Not long ago someone asked about school songs. She was a bit surprised that Williston has had several “official” alma maters1 — that would be almae matris for the Latin purists among us — over the last century or so. Many of us recall “God Preserve Our Alma Mater” (insufficiently secular for today’s Williston, and with a controversial tune), “Arise, Sons of Williston” (we’re fully coed; are our girls supposed to sit?), “As We Put Long Years Behind Us” (from Northampton School; includes the line “Our Girlhood Days Are O’er”), and a few others less memorable. Today’s anthem of record is “O Williston,” also known as “Hail to Williston Northampton.”2 The traditional and ageless “Sammy,” of course, remains ubiquitous. Long may we cherish it. Him. Whatever.
All these songs share a kind of sentimental reverence. Well, almost all. Back in 1966, when Williston Academy was celebrating its 125th anniversary, legendary music teacher Richard Gregory, no doubt cringing over the mawkish encomiums such events tend to inspire, penned the following lyric for the Caterwaulers. The piece became one of their signature tunes during the sixties and into the seventies.
We need no songs about your Founder.
We mourn no matriarchal elm.
The mists of time that rise around her
Somehow fail to overwhelm.
Five hundred cynics, all austerely
Unsentimental every one.
We’d rather die than speak sincerely,
But when all is said and done,
We do confess we love you dearly,
You old relic, Williston!