Traditions and Reminiscences

We received the following answers to our May question of the month, "Which Norwich tradition stands out most in your memory?"

There are many Norwich traditions, both official and unofficial, that stand out most in my memory. One of the most enjoyable, and certainly the proudest moment of freshman year, is company recognition night. Each company has its own traditions and events that night, but I feel that it is one night that will, and should, remain untouched for generations to come. The UP500 also stands out in my mind as a fun tradition. Freshman year we were instructed "not to do it" by our cadre, but of course, on the night of that first snowfall, there we were with all the other freshmen on the UP. Some were naked with only a canteen to protect them, and others scantily clad, trying to make it around without being thumped by too many snowballs from the upperclassmen.
The tradition of the Midnight March started in the spring of my freshman year. On one random night, all the freshmen would gather at a designated meeting place, assign a "Regimental Commander" from the bunch, and having the band lead the way, would march around the UP at midnight. The noise and commotion would wake everyone up, and then the freshmen would generally be chased back into their barracks.

Birthdays were also great. If you were lucky enough to have your birthday during the school year, then you were blessed with a spraying of shaving creme and soaps and then thrown into a cold shower, fully dressed (although hopefully not in uniform). Another yearly tradition that comes to mind is Thanksgiving Dinner. Through the years rook buddies change companies and hold different positions in the Corps, but no matter how far apart someone might drift, everyone is reunited at Thanksgiving Dinner. Tables would be moved together so that companies could eat together as one, even if only for that one meal.

One of the final traditions that a cadet participates in is Senior Rip Day. There is nothing like the sound of tearing Winter B's and nothing like the feeling of shirt stays slapping against your thighs while freshmen try to tear every last bit of that uniform off. And of course it's never a warm morning. So the seniors end up standing there in underwear and random parts of tee shirts, socks and shoes, freezing. While there are many Corps and company traditions, there are also many personal traditions people do.

A personal tradition that my rook sisters and I carried out for our time at Norwich was a monthly dinner at the Ming Moon Buffet in Barre. The five of us would cram into a two-door jeep and go stuff our faces on Chinese food for hours. We did this to not only catch up on things, but to get some "girl" time away from our rook brothers. We still talk about our hilarious dinners and how some of our greatest times ever were enjoyed over Crab legs, Pepsi and General Tsou's Chicken. We would also have a "rook buddy dinner" every year. By senior year, there were only 14 of us, but we still found the time to go off campus and spend some quality time together.

Some traditions involve hundreds of people, and some as few as five. But no matter how large or small traditions are, they are very important to Norwich's history and the memories that they produce. As an alumna, I am grateful for those traditions, even the ones that I did not participate in, because those are what make my memories of Norwich so unique.
~Hilary McElroy Coons '01

The tradition that I remember most vividly and would like to see reinstated was that of the VC panty raid! The freshman Class of '79 stood out as one of the finest panty raiders of all time as a record 439 panties were retrieved from the VC campus in the fall of '75! These panties came from dorm rooms, thrown out windows and in some cases came right off of the owner's body as the Class of '79 pillaged the campus that fateful night. The raid started with a huge bonfire that was located on the Upper Parade ground at Norwich and hosted by some of the more colorful members of the senior class. Later, after copious amounts of beer and liquor were consumed, the Class of '76 started a chant "panty raid, panty raid!" This reverberated throughout the campus as the call to arms was taken up by all of the classes. What a memory it was to pile into an upperclassman's car for the speedy ride up to the VC campus. It was a thrill to watch co-classmen and upperclassmen out-maneuver the water hose manned by the fire truck dispatched to break up the crowd or out-running various coeds trying in vain to retrieve their panties, some while frantically trying to cover their "honor." All said, it was a very entertaining evening and an experience to be shared by all classes as they learn the importance of team effort and class pride. Thanks for giving me this forum to express my thoughts on the importance of traditions!
~Bob Dutton '79

I was a graduate in the Class of 1989 (Alpha Company). One of my most favorite traditions was the playing of "Hogan's Heroes" during the noon mess parade on Friday afternoons. The Corps was always excited about the coming of the weekend, and this parade always added a bit of levity to a busy and often demanding academic and military schedule. To this day I still feel a strong sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps whenever I hear that tune!
~Bernie Rogan '89

I saw the transition on campus from a mess hall to the cafeteria in '93-94. One of my most treasured moments was the prayer said at the beginning of each meal from the Eagle's Nest. It was usually said by the Cadet Commander and very simple, "God bless this food to our use, and thus to Thy service." The companies filed in, lined up at their company tables and remained standing until the entire Corps was present. The rooks sounded off their various company yells until it was time for the prayer. The hush was immediate. Not everyone in the Corps was Christian. We were then, as it is now, a group of individuals from many different backgrounds. But the prayer was a moment of reverence for all of us. It, and the echo taps ceremony for a lost cadet (which we only had once during my four years), were symbolic of our fraternity. It is single-handedly the thing I minded most about the changes wrought at NU in those years.
~Olga Ryan, '94

The fundamental values of the Corps. They have withstood the ravages of time.
~E. Kevin Hart '72

The tradition that stands out the most to me was the Dog River "march" when we were Rooks. I thought that was a good way to galvanize the company from the start. I remember it was exciting and got my adrenalin pumping. One other thing was the PT sessions in the mornings as a Rook. It was shivering cold in the early fall weather as we lined up on the UP, but soon the body temperature rose as we ran according to our drill sergeants' tunes. We did our best to be loud and wake the upperclassmen as well as the Norwich community.
~Jonas Ek '86

I am not sure if this is a tradition, but I remember it happening a couple times while I was on "the Hill." It was either the week of exams or the week before exams. It seemed every dorm was well lit up into the wee hours. There comes a time and day where everyone is stressing from all the concentration. One year, it happened about seven; the other year was much later but not real late. I distinctly remember sitting at my table in Dodge hall when I heard this loud moaning scream of release on the "UP." First, there was one, then there were two, then there was a chorus, and in what was no more than an eternal couple of minutes, we had all just loudly released a lot of stress. And then someone (probably with rank) started yelling for everyone to quiet down. But the event was over and regardless of your major, your rank, your year, you knew there were a lot of other people just as stressed as you were in studying for exams, and something about those moments of Tarzan bellowing seemed to act just like that little cap on a pressure cooker, and we all went back to the job at hand. Work has been really busy, lately. A couple nights past midnight and even one into the next day. If I went outside a motel or the neighborhood and gave a big venting scream, I would end up in a local jail. But then, maybe I would find an understanding ear ... the local assistant DA is an NU grad, too. So to everyone on "the Hill," I say hello and remember, "I will try." If you can succeed, better yet, excel at Norwich for four years, you can take anything else the rest of the world and life has to dish out.
~Lee Holliday '75

Walking in the gutter (meat line) after each meal as a freshman. This was a way for upperclassmen to ask Norwich history questions or ask you about your personal life. This helped me get picked as Cpl for my sophomore year. Also, I remember the Centennial Stairs that the Rooks were not allowed to use until April. I remember running up those stairs and then slowly going down them my very first time.
~Bill Kinzley '72

The meat line is a tradition I loved and was in one of the last freshman classes to experience it.
~Geoff Cowen '93

One of the most impressive traditions that occurred while I was in attendance was that of a Father and son parade. This parade was highlighted by the alumnus "dad" presenting the saber he carried to his son - thus, a passing of the torch for the student to carry on the tradition of Norwich and its cavalry spirit. This tradition was generally limited to the Sophomore class as they returned to start their second year. Naturally, there were years that there were no members of the Corps that had alumni dads and the ceremony was overlooked and maybe forgotten through time.
~Roger Winslow '60

The tradition that stands out most in my mind is the systemic discrimination against civilians. From comments like "Civilians shouldn't be allowed to buy Norwich sweatshirts" to uniformed professors locking their doors so as not to allow bus-reliant civilians into class, I am sure that this is one tradition that will not go away.
~Tiki Archambeau VC '93

The VC panty raids!!! As a VC girl hanging out the windows of Dewey Hall with the NU guys storming our little campus, ooooeeeeeeee! WHAT FUN WE HAD!!
~Jean Martin Parrish Zbinden VC '67

1. Meat Line - served 4 years in the USMC and even Parris Island had nothing like a "Meat Line."
2. Mostly male education. Hope it hasn't gotten too PC up there, that would be a shame. Essayons!
~Jeff Palleschi '92

I remember the early morning P.T. sessions; the Labor Day parades, 7:00 a.m. and noon marches down to Harmon; firing the Armstrong salute gun and the James Cannons (I was in Artillery); "earning my cannons" when there was an Artillery Section; seeing the 5-7-2 illuminated at night on the White Chapel clock; the "snowball run" (it ended a year or so before I was a Rook but a good number still did it unofficially when I was there); listening to the bells on Parents' Weekend amidst the beautiful foliage on the U.P.; marching some tours after being demoted to private from major for drinking in Gerard Hall; making the drive over to Sugarbush for special weekends; drinking on upper Disney with my friends (I recall spending one particularly cold January night drinking beers in the snow and freezing…); going up on the ski slope for toilet-paper assignments; "squaring" around while a Rook; "streaking" around the U.P. and enjoying the unofficial rivalry of the Night Riders versus Skull & Swords. Thanks for the opportunity to take a short walk down "Memory Lane."
~Dave Lozier '91

The Rivalry with the Coast Guard Academy, known in football as "The Little Army-Navy Game!" That rivalry inspired the 1973 Rugby Team to drive to New London and kidnap the swabbies' bear cub mascot! What a scene on the U.P. that day, as the Corps was mustering for lunch and the cub was presented to Coach Sabol! When some midshipmen came to Northfield to get the Bear, they were greeted by the Cadet OD, Kerry O'Connell. As the bear was being loaded into the Coast Guard Truck, the OD got too close and he was loaded in, too. Coincidentally, Cadet O'Connell was the football team's kicker. To their credit, the seagoing cadets pulled off a pretty good retaliation to the NU prank.
~Kris Boucher '75

Going through the "meat line" during rookdom is something that I will never forget.
~Kenneth Miller '94

The UP 500 is the most memorable. It was the one event that brought the entire campus together. Though the administration tried to stop it my senior year (1998) it persisted. It may be socially acceptable to many but what a great stress reliever for freshmen and upperclassmen alike. Norwich Forever!
~Heath A. Kelly '98

A class favorite for The Class of 1988 was the Friday afternoon lunch marchdown to the tune of "Hogan's Heroes." With the phase-out of noontime marchdowns, that tradition has died. Hopefully it will be revived in some way in the future. Essayons!
~Carol A. (McCormick) Cluff '88

No civilians living on the Hill.
~Rich Jones, '77

The NU Upper Parade Ground (UP) 500 always stands out in my mind as one of the best and most esprit de corps traditions the Corps of Cadets has! It was quite the experience as a freshman to run around the upper parade ground in the middle of the night in the dead of winter with nothing on but a jock strap and "Bucky's ski boots" as the upperclassmen pelted you with snow/ice balls while trying not to fall and bust your butt on the ice. Another outstanding tradition at Norwich that I'll never forget is when Batman and Robin would fight evil-doers on the UP during the middle of the night every spring when the weather got nice out. All of these traditions stand out in my mind to this day because they brought the Corps of Cadets together as one. Although a riot may ensue on the UP and the Commandants would have to come break things up, we were all brought together with the same common goal of trying to get rid of the civilians on campus and remove them from the Upper Parade Ground, which they did not earn the right to walk on! Thanks for a wonderful College experience that I would not trade for anything!
~James J. Lucowitz Jr. '99

The one that stands out is the "bones boys," or as the University would call them, the Skull and Swords. I think it was the best thing for the University to get rid of these thugs, but I imagine there is an element that carries on the traditions of these rogue students.
~Daniel P. Sullivan '87

A tradition which made a lot of good sense for more than hundred years was when upperclassmen returned to the campus for the fall semester two or three days after Labor Day and graduation took place in June each year. This allowed students employed during the summer at resorts and other tourist related jobs to work thru the Labor Day holiday period, which was vitally important to the employer and equally important financially to the student employee. Not only did it provide time-and-a-half pay but often generated a significant bonus. Graduation in June was, and still is, the traditional graduation time across the US. Why does NU want to be an "oddball" by holding graduation a month early?
~Nick H. Collins '55

Stick or Treat, which took place on Halloween, stands out to me as one of the more memorable traditions. This was probably the first time that our Rook Cadre "let their hair down" and had fun with the freshmen. We Rooks spent a week in advance buying candy and trying to come up with unique, never-before-known places to hide it, in anticipation of our cadre tearing our rooms apart trying to find it. Anything that wasn't found could be kept and consumed (albeit in one sitting) by the Rook. We didn't realize of course that the cadre knew all about hiding M&Ms in the coat rack, or lemon drops in the light fixtures. I even pried open my telephone to hide two candy bars inside. However, when asked if there was any candy that hadn't been found in our room, my roommate just couldn't stand to go against the Honor Code and admitted to the phone location! Our squad leader thought it was a pretty good spot though and let me keep them.
~David N. Wilson '90

No Civilians living on the UP! Corps only is what I remember as a cadet. This was one thing that made Norwich unique. Nothing against the civilian students, because Norwich has had them enrolled for quite some time. Norwich should preserve the tradition of only the Cadet Corps to live in the dorms that surround the UP. I am sure there is a financial reason for this, but as an alumnus I thought that I would speak my mind.
~Robert Walsh '85

pubrel@norwich.edu
May 2004

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