Class of 1963 - The Last Panty Raid
Spring is always a welcome season as it signals the end of bleak winter, mud season (for those living in New England) and the arrival of DST. Along with the extended daylight come the peek-a-boo crocus, forsythia, and daffodils. The air smells fresher, cleaner, and inhaled deeply, brings us a renewed energy. Regardless of which definition of spring that we choose, verb or noun, there is an undeniable energy that cannot be contained let alone harnessed by mere mortals.
Speaking of mortals, the class of Springfield College ’63 always believed and acted as though this constraint wasn’t in their vocabulary let alone their thinking. From the moment that this unique class was recruited and entered Springfield, it set the standard at the college for exceptional performances and at times actions so extraordinary that the brain trust had to evaluate its present policies. The annual Cage Ball game and tug-of-war against the class of ’62 were victories and hinted at the burgeoning prowess of these men and women of the triangle!
Over the course of the year, the Abbey Hall ladies had been steeling themselves in preparation for any contingent emergency that would require a quick and rapid response. In simultaneous preparation, the boys of Alumni were feeling the early but deep rumbling of the need to do something exceptional. Around the campus a slow but steady buzz was circulating that mischief was afoot! Strategies were in the initial planning stages with an eye on the ethereal prize, panties!
How the collection of boys assembled on the third floor of Alumni came to be is difficult to believe. Just saying, the third floor of Alumni had the flavor of an alternate school for boys who pushed the envelope and may have been involved in a scrape or two when it came to following the rules in high school. There was no shortage of similar thinking for the boys in South Hall.
Not to be outdone or outmaneuvered, the ladies in Abbey, who were usually ahead of the curve, were busy planning their pre-emptive strategy which included dangling selected items of undergarments from the windows as a tease as well as a dare. A certain cabal among the freshman women was busy planning a counter-offensive which featured invading Alumni Hall. The eyes and ears of the college were largely blind and deaf to the energy emerging around the campus and vastly underestimated the lengths the newly minted class on ’63 would go in their pursuit of a challenge.
The confluence of the spring semester and the academic year winding down and the specter of final exams on the near horizon combined to produce the perfect storm. It was no longer enough for an intramural softball game or a square dance to quell the insistent urge to cause chaos!
And so, without a warning shot or bugle call, the mayhem began! There was no one individual who screamed CHARGE! It was more of a slow, steady march toward Abby Hall and the infamous “Last Panty Raid.”
It is customary, when we are about to read or see a retelling of an actual incident, to include the caveat “the events in this story are based on a true incident but the names have been changed to protect the innocent” But, since we are in our “golden” years and the statute of limitations has long elapsed, what the hell!
Joe Hanlon came out first with his account of what transpired that night.
“I swear I didn’t steal the cop’s hat!”
“I think it was clever on the part of our class that we organized the class for a “stealth” panty raid and had some of our more daring female classmates working on the inside to help pull it off.”
The police arrived during the height of the activities as well as the fire department, adding to the festive atmosphere. This was too great a temptation for Joe and his sidekick, Johnny Chester. John had future dreams about a career in the military and, I’m guessing, was interested in how he would look in a uniform which may have motivated him to snatch a policeman’s cap.
“Chester was wound up tight that night and as we all know that was pretty much a normal state of mind for our future marine. Sirens screaming and light flashing, there we were in a paddy wagon along with a number of other classmates on our way to the downtown lock-up. The escorting officer whose cap was lifted was in the wagon with us and he swore he could identify the culprit in a line-up as he looked John in the eye. John’s reply was a giggle, laugh and a sick smile. You could imagine my thoughts. Soon afterwards as we were sitting in our cell, Dean Cheney arrived to bail us out and not a moment too soon as John was going-on about his claustrophobia and impending anxiety attack!”
“Already on academic and social probation, Dean Cheney praised my leadership qualities and placed me on ’Hanlon’ probation which I was very proud of!”
-- Joe Hanlon
There hadn’t been so much excitement on the campus, as the legend goes, since Dean Cheney, then a student at Springfield, drove his motorcycle into Alumni Hall! On this night, the “Spirit” point of the triangle was in full operation!
“Oh boy, do I remember that event!”
“The day was spent by the GREAT CLASS OF ’63 planning to invade Abby Hall in the evening. We gathered in the circular driveway and the ladies dangled their trophies out the windows and the charge was ignited. We jumped to reach the items and the ladies had the nerve to pour water on us so we went with plan B…invade the building! It was absolute chaos inside; bodies running floor to floor, room to room, bureau to bureau in search of the ultimate prize…undergarments! I was on the second floor in a room and was fortunate to hit the pot of gold…a bra! That’s it…I turned around to run out and was immediately grabbed from behind and was ushered down to the first floor and out the door. I turned around to challenge my attacker and it was Dean Lammers so I decided discretion was the better part of valor in my situation. For the record I returned my trophy to its’ rightful owner!!
Outside, police arrived on the scene but were not permitted on the campus. Well…we started running up and down the sidewalks, baiting the police who were not in a running mood at the time. So, enough was enough. They decided to set an example and grabbed one of my classmates and chucked him in the cruiser.”
On a personal note, my Dad called me the next day to inquire about the incident as it made the local TV station in Boston and he had concern that I might be in jail. I assured him that I was fine and had nothing to do with that affair and the press and police overreacted to the entire situation!!!”
-- Fred Huntress
I mentioned earlier that there was a plan to execute a counter offensive on the part of the women in the class of ’63, and they did just that. Bob Haldeman’s recollection was that some of the participants became involved in a reverse “raid.”
“One of our more disorganized and uncleanly dorm mates first ended up on the roof of Cheney Hall and then, because of a lack of remorse, was carried bed and all to the women’s dorm where he was in his “Skibbies” only under a sheet...left in the lounge to negotiate with the women. He never got dropped in the lake, but may have been a bit embarrassed.”
-- Bob Haldeman
Speaking of counter offensives, Beryl Kemp related the details of the Abbey Hall response to what had been up to this point in the history of the college, solely a male invasive activity.
“Considering it was 54 years ago, my recollection is that there was a raid on Abby Hall. We were on the third floor and when the young “gentleman” reached the third floor, we decided to see if we could get to the top of Alumni Hall. Through the ingenuity and time management and strategy of a few women, we not only got into Alumni Hall, with little resistance, but made it to the top floor and I believed signaled back to Abbey…mission accomplished…about that time, the fire trucks arrived along with various other service vehicles. A few of us were put on probation for what was to be for a long time as Dean Warner never believed we would graduate. We had to attend Friday afternoon meetings with the Assistant Dean, I think her name was Betty something.”
-- Beryl Kemp
A brief editorial comment here: I don’t believe that there was one male residing in Alumni who would have attempted to stop any co-ed from entering!
What was so encouraging and enervating was to notice that such a wide representation from our class was involved and letting it all go! The college had its entire staff out to help but they were outnumbered. The campus security force included 2 night watchmen and one car!
“I was coming down the stairs, with an article of clothing, when I came face to face with Dean Cheney, on the first landing. Dean Cheney and my uncle were roommates at SC in the early 1930’s. Knowing some of the things he had done, I said hello and kept on going. Dean Cheney had played a big part with my being accepted at SC.”
-- Whitney Griffith
In retrospect, Dean Cheney really put his name and reputation on the line for so many of the “visioned youth who came thronging her spacious gates.” He must have seen some glimmer of potential in all of us to allow us to continue along the path we had chosen, that of entering a lifetime of service to others.
“I do remember bits and pieces”
“I recall standing next to a fire truck watching others invade one of the girls’ dorms. I myself had just returned from such a penetration. Suddenly, I got grabbed and handcuffed by a cop and thrown into a paddy wagon. Not sure how many of us found ourselves in this position.
We were transported to the city jail where we were searched and provided with accommodations. I was found to have, in addition to my more traditional attire, female underwear under my sweatshirt. I was asked by the desk clerk whether he should list me as a thief or a pervert? I chose the former!
Once behind bars, I sat down on a steel plate which was to be my bed (think motel 6.) My neighbor welcomed me by saying that I looked cute and that he could not wait to actually make contact with me in the morning. I found his welcome to be a bit unsettling. This was one of the things that has stuck with me after all these years.
Soon after, we were bailed out by the Dean of Students - to my great relief! 25$ and a promise to show up the next morning for court was all that was required. The Dean put up the cash and I made and kept the promise.
I remember calling my parents around 3AM. I told my Dad what was happening and his saying: “good luck with that and keep us informed!” I am guessing that his thought at the time was that he would no longer have to be concerned with paying for my tuition.
The next morning as I recall, we all showed up for court as required. I remember it being a long, boring and frightening experience. Each of us stood and pleaded “not guilty” at the required time and then sat down. My bladder held which was a great relief to me.
As I walked to the exit, I saw the commanding officer of the Springfield Armory and his three top assistants sitting in the audience and doing everything possible to pretend that we had never met when in fact we had on multiple occasions. My thought at the time, which I clearly recall, was Dad told Mom!
Some of us criminal gang members were more distressed than others and felt the need to hire a lawyer. He did tell us an interesting story about a murder case he was involved with but it was obvious to me at least that this matter had been resolved already. I forgot about it and as a result almost missed our being sentenced. We were told that if we were good boys for a year that the matter would be disappear from our criminal records which in my case did happen.
In retrospect, I think that this may well have been the most educational experience I had at Springfield. For example, I learned that I did not like being charged with criminal behavior and probably would be uncomfortable living in jail or prison. So far, I have avoided both!
-- Roger Carten
Simultaneously, a few of the more creative men of the ’63 cohorts went exploring in Longmeadow reconnoitering the availability of a few Bay Path damsels! Apparently, this incursion attracted the attention of the Longmeadow police who did not share the humor or innocent intent of the Springfield invasion.
“…but Dean Cheney did have me go home for a term…with two of our visiting group…none of us got arrested even though we were able to relax in the Longmeadow police lodge overnight. Several of our visiting team decided to take a run/hike from the scene of the incident and boy did they ever suffer going through many undesirable places during the rest of their night as three of us relaxed in the lodge. I can’t remember if the college sent over their limo to return us the next day or not…but they probably did. The elite group included: Jack Dunmead, Ken Peterson, Bruce Bebo, English O’Connor, and myself. One other gentleman, whose name escapes me, joined Ken and Jack as runners.”
-- Bob Hess
To this day, fifty-four years later as Beryl pointed out, there still remains one mystery that not one class member has been willing to admit. The great question was posed by our esteemed 50th reunion chairwoman Judy Watson Ingram, who asks: “I would like to know what the guys did with the bras and panties they took off our wooden racks that were in the hallway where we dried our laundry?” This is of course a mystery for the ages. Countless co-eds have pondered this theft and the eventual landing place for these garments and seek a fit answer! Now, Alumni and South Halls, inhabited only by manly men, it would have been seen as peculiar if some of the boys were wearing bras and panties! Of course, speculation abounds when subjects such as this come up. One supposition is that the garments were tossed for fear that the evidence was incriminating. Another theory suggested that they were stuffed into the pillow cases of a few non raid participants. One other theory speculates about the involvement and whereabouts of Neil Odams whose name doesn’t appear in any of the testimony about the event.
A few things to ponder as we inch toward our 55th reunion:
We know that Neil’s best friend is/was John Chester, and we know that John was cooling off downtown with Joe Hanlon and a few other classmates, but where was Neil? Could it be true that the Kittery Point Bee Keeper (AKA the Hopper Guy) stole away with the trophies? Further, is it coincidence that Neil’s photo is missing from the 1963 Massasoit?
April 6, 2014