Friday, June 3, 2011

The Flood of 1927

On November 2, 1927, the forecast in Vermont called for "fair and colder." However, as with many predictions, this one proved false. Around 9:00 PM that evening, the rain started. It didn't stop until two days later and almost nine inches of rain had fallen - the same as had fallen for the previous two months combined.

The already saturated ground was unable to absorb the additional water and the rivers overflowed, causing one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vermont. Many of the towns along the rivers were severely damaged as cars, trains, roads, bridges and even buildings were washed away.

Hanover is located on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River and escaped flooding damage, but the nearby towns of Hartford and White River Junction were devastated. In White River Junction, the water level reached some second floors after rising 38 feet over its normal level. Dartmouth students, including Nelson Rockefeller '30, aided in the recovery effort and according to a local newspaper account, were organized into nine divisions of one hundred and set to work removing the accumulated mud and debris. After a long day of recovery efforts, the local Police Chief, perhaps somewhat optimistically, declared that the homes the Dartmouth men had worked on would be "almost as good as new," thanks to the students' efforts.
These three images are unidentified other than the location and date,
but appear to be Dartmouth students on the scene in White River Jct. in 1927.

Ask for the vertical and photo files on "Floods" to learn more.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wet Down

One of the more curious Senior Week traditions, which is no longer practiced, is Wet Down, which began sometime before 1885.  As with all traditions, it morphed and changed over time.  At one point Wet Down appears to have been the conclusion to Sing-out (a community concert), but later it took on a life of its own and became a stand-alone activity. For many years it served as the kickoff for Senior Week.

Wet Down began with a parade of the classes through campus to the President’s house. Along the way cheers were given to each of the College buildings on the route and to the houses of dignitaries (such as the Dean) and/or for each of the classes.  At the President’s house, the President would give a brief speech and the procession would continue on, culminating at the Senior Class Tree where a ritual keg of lemonade—possibly of the hard variety—was consumed.  As part of this ritual, participants would splash some of their lemonade on the tree (thus the term “wet down”).

By 1901 the tradition also involved the transfer of the senior fence from the seniors to the juniors as well as the transfer of power from the outgoing Palaeopitus officers to the incoming officers.

Sometime in the early 1900s the tradition of the three lower classes running the gauntlet was added.  This involved the seniors lining up in two rows across the Green, or sometimes down College Street, and the other three classes would have to run between the rows while the seniors beat them with belts and paddles.  New Hampshire State law now prohibits this sort of behavior as a form of hazing.

Later, Wet Down came to be the occasion when sports awards were given out.