Friday, August 4, 2017

Versatile Spuddy

photograph of Sturgis 'Spuddy' Pishon in his football uniform, hands on hips.
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the United States' formal involvement in World War I. However, many Americans had already been serving in Europe, either in the Foreign Legion or in support roles such as ambulance or supply truck drivers. By the time the war had officially ended on November 11, 1918, over a hundred Dartmouth men had died as a result of the war. One of those who lost his life was Sturgis "Spuddy" Pishon, a member of the class of 1910 and a lieutenant in the U. S. Army's 341st Aero Squadron. Pishon's plane crashed during a training mission and he died soon afterward in the Post Hospital.

Spuddy was the epitome of heteronormative masculinity: he was a quarterback on the football team and regarded as one of the greatest Dartmouth football players of his time. Captain Galiher, Pishon's commanding officer, takes great pains to emphasize the manliness of his death. In his letter to Spuddy's sister Elizabeth, he claims that the young lieutenant "died like an American; he went down with his machine and retained consciousness up to the time of his death." Later in the letter, Galiher underscores that Pishon "died like a man."

first page of letter to Pishon's sister from Captain Galihersecond page of letter to Pishon's sister from Captain Galiher

Interestingly enough, none of the obituaries about or memorials to Spuddy mention his involvement with the Dartmouth Players, the drama club on campus. In the spring of his senior year, he played the role of Caroline, the daughter of the Earl of Dartmouth, in an operetta titled "The Pea Green Earl." Apparently, dressing as a woman for Dartmouth productions was hardly a one-time lark for the quarterback and future aviator; in the review for the operetta, it states that Pishon "contributes a three-year experience in female roles to the performance." One of the reasons Spuddy might have had so many female parts is because he was fairly short at five feet three inches. On the back of the photograph of him in costume, someone wrote, "Versatile Spuddy" and "The beloved Spuddy Pishon whose gridiron, stage and war records are part of Dartmouth's history."

To learn more about Spuddy Pishon's life, come to Rauner and ask to see his alumni file. To learn more about the Dartmouth Players, come explore their records (DO-60).