Friday, September 23, 2016

Raiding the Nugget

front of a promotional flyer for Lionel Barrymore's "The Copperhead" at the Nugget Theater
As was mentioned in a previous blog post, the Nugget Theater in Hanover turned one hundred on September 13, 2016. We at Rauner feel a special kinship with the institution, given that it also has been a long-time bastion of culture here at Dartmouth, especially early on in its life when opportunities for civilized entertainment were few and far between. However, Dartmouth students didn't always go to the Nugget to see interesting documentaries or watch quality films. Often, the young men in attendance grew quite rowdy during screenings, to the point that snacks as projectiles were commonplace and the theater even began to encourage audience participation as an attempt to mollify the crowds.

Promotional and screening information for Lionel Barrymore's "The Copperhead" at the Nugget TheaterStill, at some point, Dartmouth students' antics grew dangerous despite the theater's attempts to contain the violence. At some point previous to 1937, a tradition had arisen in which the freshmen were goaded by the upperclassmen into conducting an evening raid on the Nugget as a part of bonfire festivities. College administration had previously turned a blind eye to this tradition, partially because Palaeopitus, a secret society, had dedicated itself to protecting the Nugget against the freshman mob that habitually assaulted the theater every year. Still, this dubious administrative approach was soon to change. On the evening of October 21st, 1937,  freshmen in the class of '41 rushed the doors of the Nugget, only to be met by a wall of Palaeopitus members and Nugget employees wielding tear gas guns. In the midst of the chaos that ensued, Bobby Reeve '38, a defender of the theater, was injured when a tear gas canister exploded in his face. The Nugget defenders were able to repel the freshmen, but the student newspaper termed it a "Pyrric victory" because all the patrons were dispersed by the overpowering clouds of tear gas that filled the theater.

Dartmouth Student Newspaper article from October 21, 1937, titled "Rally Develops into Brawl as Raiders Succumb to Fumes."A week later, the administration clamped down, effectively squelching the tradition. Several deans of the college issued official proclamations, stating that "what started as an undergraduate prank has lost its humor and becomes simple destructiveness." Dean Neidlinger asked Palaeopitus to stand down and the Nugget employees to rid themselves of their tear gas and any other "sporting challenges to raiders." In return, he promised swift and severe reprisals for any organizers of or participants in future. Palaeopitus complied, stating that they disapproved of the "mob violence," and the tradition failed to continue.

To learn more about the fascinating and lengthy history of the Nugget Theater, come to Rauner and ask to see its vertical file and photo file. To read the newspaper articles related to the tear gas incident and following disciplinary actions, pull an old copy of the Dartmouth student newspaper off the shelves in the reading room and flip through the October 21st and October 28th issues from 1937.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


A newspaper article titled "Phi Gams Win Tiedust Race."
The D, 11/21/1941
This weekend Dartmouth will co-host the North American Orienteering Championship 2016. Orienteering, for those not in the know, is a competition where contestants hike/race from point to point using a map and a compass. It is like competitive Geocaching without the technology. Dartmouth is a fitting sponsor of the event because 75 years ago the first Orienteering competition in the United States pitted Dartmouth fraternities against each other in what they called a "Tiedust."

The event occurred just two weeks before Pearl Harbor, and Dartmouth students were arguing in the pages of The Dartmouth whether the U.S. should enter the war. The campus atmosphere was beginning to change as students contemplated the prospect of future military service and war.

A newspaper article titled "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing."Finnish Army Lieutenant Piltti Heiskanen, who was on campus teaching military skiing, organized the event. Both members of the winning team entered the military after Pearl Harbor. Paul Hanlon '43 became a lieutenant on a landing craft in the Pacific and Dick Whiting '44 served in the Army infantry. Orienteering, though it seemed like a game at the time, was preparing them for an all-too-"real life" that was coming far sooner than they realized.