The ever-curious Chris Bates (he is a librarian, after all) inquired recently about stories involving Volkswagens and Neville Hall. We did a little research, and came up with details on that event, as well as several other memorable pranks.
The following confirmation of the VW story comes from Randy Randall, our intrepid alumni director (who probably participated in a number of pranks himself). Sometime around 1977 or 1978, several students “put planks on the back steps of Neville Hall and pushed Andy Gibson’s yellow convertible Volkswagen up the steps and parked it under the chandelier…It was sitting there on Monday morning for 8 o’clock classes.” Dr. Ann Stidham remembers that this particular prank happened more than once; her recollection is that the students took the doors off Neville and stripped the car to its chassis, and then reassembled everything when they got it inside.
Dr. Jim Skinner, not a particular fan of such foolishness, remembers a prank from the late 60s, shortly after the college became fully co-educational. In protest, apparently many of the men on campus refused to date PC girls, and “imported” their dates from other campuses. A well-know football player actually dared to bring a PC co-ed to a dance, and was soundly chastised by his fraternity brothers. They drove him into the Sumter National Forest, removed his clothes, and left him there to find his own way home.
Other stories include the “rolling” of the campus during exam week, panty raids on the women’s dorms, putting the Bi-Lo cow on the roof of GDH, and anesthetizing fruit flies and slipping them under biology professors’ doors. And there was apparently some sort of “burning bush” event between Judd and the maintenance sheds, as well as a social psych class “experiment” which terrorized the campus for a couple of weeks.
In the 1970s the streaking fad arrived on campus and in March of 1974 a streaker was featured on the front page of The Blue Stocking.
Apparently, students from Smyth Hall started the trend, and were followed by students from Georgia and Spencer. They were watched by an enthusiastic crowd of 400 students. The aforementioned Randy Randall admits to observing every night, although he won’t actually confess to participating. The Clinton police were called, and one officer said “We don’t know what’s goin’ on here, but it looks like a few students are raisin’ hell.” The gathering eventually turned into a protest against recent disciplinary actions. While the crowds had dispersed by 1:30 a.m., scattered streakers dotted the campus into the early morning hours. The Clinton police attempted to thwart a repeat performance the following night, but some streakers managed to escape and were greeted by cheering onlookers.
The practice remained popular for several years. In April of 1977, The Purple Pantie, a parody of The Blue Stocking, announced that the Board of Trustees had vetoed the formation of a PC streaking team because, as trustee Quincy Prude put it, “If the Good Lord had wanted man to run around in the nude, he would have created him that way.”
Students today seem to limit their frivolity to decorating the campus’ numerous statues, and putting soap in the fountain behind Neville. One year, however, on the eve of graduation, two brave seniors, dressed in black, managed to load all the chairs from Greenville Dining Hall onto a truck, videotaping their antics all the while. Unfortunately, as they were making their escape, they noticed that the door wasn’t closed. When they went back to close it, much to their chagrin, they found themselves face to face with campus security. As with most PC pranksters, these alums are now highly respected members of their respective communities.
In response to “Pranks,” William Plumer Jacobs III (PC Class of 1940) reports the following:
In about 1913, William P. Jacobs II (yep, the one who, years later, became President of PC) and other students climbed up on one of the buildings one night with a croaker sack and attached it to the chimney. Others down below in the furnace room beat on the furnace and drove the nesting chimney swifts up and into the sack. The sack was then tied up and brought down to the chapel (then upstairs in Neville) and somehow the birds were placed inside the piano. The next day when the pianist hit the first chord of music for chapel, there was a growling roar coming from the piano rather than the expected music. After a couple of trials with the same result, the pianist reached up and lifted the top of the upright piano, and he was suddenly blown back as a cloud of little black birds screamed out of the piano and into the auditorium, to the howling joy of the student body.