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Ivies from the archives

April 26, 2024

Kaya Patel

Most Bowdoin students know that Ivies, formerly known as “Ivy Day,” is a campus event steeped in tradition. But before contemporary traditions—like Quad Day, the Lighthouse Darty, selfies with Randy and security’s infamous pouring of BORGs spotted at the Whittier Field Lacrosse Game—Bowdoin students witnessed a different set of traditions on their annual Ivies weekends. This year, the Orient highlights some of its favorite traditions in Ivies history, straight from our own archives.

1. The Chapel: Planting the Ivy! 

The first ever Ivy Day was celebrated in 1865, when juniors ceremoniously planted ivy outside of the chapel and serenaded the plant with an ode, a poem and an oration.

2. Memorial Hall: Humorous Awards! 

Beginning in 1889, the juniors’ annual ivy planting and the corresponding ceremonies moved to Memorial Hall. Added to the ceremonies in 1876, students also gave comical superlatives, known as the “humorous awards” to members of the junior class. In Memorial Hall in 1891, H.F. Linscott received a bean pole for being named “Class Runt,” and C.M. Pennell received a bird cage for his title as “Class Freak.”

3. Walker Art Building: Wooden Spoon Award! 

In 1949, typical Saturday morning Ivy Day ceremonies were moved to the steps of the Walker Art Building. Ceremonies included the standard recitation of a poem and oration, ivy planting, student speeches, humorous class superlatives and the presentation of the Wooden Spoon Award—a tradition dating back to 1874, in which a wooden spoon is awarded to the most popular member of the junior class.

4. Train from Boston: Ivies Dates! 

Before Bowdoin became coeducational in 1971, students outsourced their Ivies weekend dates from local towns and women’s colleges. Women traveled from as far as Massachusetts and Rhode Island to Brunswick by train and bus for the occasion. In 1949, as many as 700 women arrived in Brunswick from out of town for a “moonlight and flowers” themed formal dance, fraternity house parties, hayrides and a Masque and Gown production of “Twelfth Night.”

5. First Year Bricks: Sleepovers!

In the days before coeducation, Bowdoin enforced strict regulations about its female guests on campus. It became Ivies tradition for members of all nine fraternities to give up their rooms to visiting dates and sleep in their freshmen brothers’ dorms in the Bricks. Member of Alpha Tau Omega Ed Langbein ’57 recalled in an interview in 2019 that “dates would take over the fraternities.… [Students] would normally invite themselves into the dorm rooms of brothers because the cost of getting a room off campus was exorbitant. So the dorms got to be rather full, and the floors were similarly occupied.”

6. Sargent Gymnasium: Ivy Hop!

Once called the “Ivy Hop,” and at other times the “Ivy Ball,” it was a tradition at Bowdoin starting in 1865 to hold a concert and “dance until daylight” on the Friday evening of Ivies weekend. In the 1860s, the Ivies Hop was held at the town hall. The Ivies Hop moved to Memorial Hall after the building’s completion in 1882. It was held for the first time in Sargent Gymnasium in 1913 following its construction in 1912.

Through the 1940s and 1950s, the Ivy Dance saw the election of an annual Ivy Queen, selected by the student body from visiting dates on campus. In 1949, Ivy Queen Maxine “Mickey” Rosenberg of Colby College was presented with her Ivy Queen Cup by President of the College Kenneth C. M. Sills. The Spring Concert and Ivies festivities were celebrated in the same weekend up until the Spring of 2022—current seniors’ first Ivies at the College. Past Ivies concert headliners have included Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong (twice, each!) and, in more recent history, Janelle Monáe and Childish Gambino (who apparently required six space heaters for his concert to bear Maine’s late April cold).

7. Popham Beach: Clambakes! 

In the heyday of Bowdoin’s former nine fraternities, each fraternity hosted a clambake at a local beach—from Harpswell, to Popham, to as far as Cape Elizabeth—for members and their dates on the Saturday of Ivies weekend. On one remarkably “icy” Ivies weekend in 1958, as the Bowdoin Orient reported, members of Sigma Nu fraternity Frenchie Taylor, Tom Crocker and Bob Gorra, along with their Ivies dates and fraternity dog, Chinook, got stranded on an offshore rock at their Popham clambake. While Gorra swam to shore, the rest of the crew and the dog waited multiple hours on the rock before they were rescued by the Coast Guard.

8. One Climbable Tree by Farley: Shenanigans! 

Some of the most transcendent Ivies traditions are student shenanigans taking place from Thursday to Sunday. During Ivies in 2005, one unlucky student got caught in a tree by Farley Field House and was rescued by the Brunswick Fire department. In 2004, two drunken students chopped down a tree, causing thousands of dollars in damage. During the Ivies of 2012, Bowdoin Security reported three accounts of vandalism, nine wellness checks, five confiscations, an Ivies-related tractor-trailer accident and the vomit of a rogue University of Maine student all over the C-store. Security also intervened in three incidents of public sex over the weekend, to which the Bowdoin Orient captured this quote from former Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster: “We had some people who didn’t keep it indoors. I don’t know if this is the new bucket list, but I would love to see those people keep those moments in more private spaces and places.” The days of Ivies shenanigans may be in the past, but stay tuned for next week’s Security Report just in case.


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