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    • Melchinger ’88 and fellow Harmonaires practice their repetoire.

Faculty and Staff Alumni Reflect on Hopkins Traditions

Julia Kosinski ’21
With the recent introduction of traditions like Pride Prom, the Black History Month Showcase, Ski Lodge Night, and crazy costume themed volleyball games, The Razor turned to current faculty and staff alumni, as well as archived issues of The Razor, to shed light on how Hopkins traditions have evolved throughout the years.
With the recent introduction of traditions like Pride Prom, the Black History Month Showcase, Ski Lodge Night, and crazy costume themed volleyball games, The Razor turned to current faculty and staff alumni, as well as archived issues of The Razor, to shed light on how Hopkins traditions have evolved throughout the years. While some traditions the alumni faculty and staff remember from their days as students on The Hill remain, others have fallen aside or changed over time.

Many faculty and staff recalled, some quite hesitantly, their 100 Days senior prank. The 100 Days tradition originated before the merger of Hopkins Grammar School with Day Prospect Hill School in the late 1960s; one hundred days before the school year ended, the senior class would wear black tuxedos and flaunt their superiority. Through the decades, 100 Days transformed into a day when seniors would prank the campus. For example, one year the senior class placed a rowboat in the Bio Pond with a mannequin dressed as a fisherman. Another year, the senior class parked a Volkswagen in the middle of the library. Director of Community Engagement Angela Wardlaw ’84, shared her perspective on the now defunct tradition, “The senior class would meet on campus during the evening 100 days before graduation and write silly messages on the windows, move the furniture around, and fill a room with tiny dixie cups of water. One year, students even reassembled a car in Baldwin Hall.”

The 100 Days tradition was banned in 1984 after an especially destructive prank, and replaced with Senior Day, a day in which the seniors could hold events like cookouts or class trips to unite their class. However, this new senior tradition did not catch on as the seniors continued to favor 100 Days. Librarian James Gette ’00 was not surprised when the 100 Days tradition was finally laid to rest a few years after his class’s prank. “Part of our prank was coating door knobs with Vaseline and covering the stairs with cups of water so you couldn’t go up or down without making a mess. The worst part was breaking the plants in our Head Adviser’s office and throwing the dirt everywhere. Nothing about it was funny — it was just destructive and mean-spirited,” explained Gette.

Other abandoned traditions are more sorely missed, one being the Day Prospect Hill School Ring Ceremony. The Ring Ceremony was a rite of passage in which seniors presented the juniors with class rings. Assistant Director of Admissions Kate Higgins ’80 recalled that “there was a lot of sensitivity toward keeping some of the traditions and ceremonies of a girls’ school alive— this ceremony was a really big deal. Wardlaw also remembered the ring ceremony fondly: “I think the ring ceremony was my favorite tradition. It was beautiful. As a freshman, you looked forward to the moment a senior would present you with your ring. The opportunity was open to every junior girl that wanted to participate...it was the one tradition that brought us all together.”

Reflecting on his experience as a student, Director of Athletics Rocco DeMaio ’86 shared his nostalgia for the “bonfire in the woods behind the gym the night before Homecoming Weekend.” School Clinical Psychologist Joshua Brant ’88 also remembered the bonfire with affection: “It had a pep rally vibe to it so we could get hyped up for all the games the next day. We may have even burned an effigy or two of our opponents.”

Other long cherished traditions, like Pumpkin Bowl, remain on campus in an altered form.“Back in the day, Pumpkin Bowl included a lot of outdoor activi- ties and a costume parade. Absolutely everyone dressed up,” remarked Higgins. Originating in the early 1960’s, Pumpkin Bowl has demonstrably changed over the past few decades. For example, according to a 1979 issue of The Razor, that year’s Pumpkin Bowl celebration featured an annual captains versus coaches obstacle course race and an interclass tug of war tournament on the far fields, as well as an annual service auction in which upperclass- men would auction off teacher’s services to other students. In 1987, to encourage students to dress up, the Student Council even organized a Pumpkin Bowl Hotline to offer costume suggestions. Although Gette considers Pumpkin Bowl one of his favorite Hopkins traditions, he pointed out some of its unfavorable aspects: “I’ve always loved Pumpkin Bowl, but it’s a complicated love. The problems I have now were also problems in the 90’s: many of the games involve messes that Maintenance has to clean up, and some folks’ costumes include cross dressing for comedic purposes.”

Considering the evolution of Hopkins traditions, English teacher Ian Melchinger ’88 stated, “I feel obliged to point out that when I was a student, the Harmonaires were resurrected from memory as a small coed group.” According to a 1987 issue of The Razor, a handful of students were upset their schedules precluded them from participating in concert choir so they banded together to organize the new singing group. These ef- forts were led by a female student. For the first time, the group sang modern songs from rather than traditional pieces from the early 1900’s; they even created jingles for the Hopkins radio station which ran out of Baldwin 204. “We pumped music directly into what was the senior lounge and is now the upper library. Getting the radio station was a cool gig,” explained Melchinger.

These are just a few of the Hopkins traditions as recalled by current faculty and staff alumni. There are many traditions that are central to today’s Hopkins experience that began decades ago, to name just a few: the Intramural Basketball League, opportunities to tutor New Haven youth, the Day Star literary and arts magazine, as well as The Razor itself.
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