The class of 2014 recently celebrated their senior dinner on-campus just 100 days before graduation. In 1898, a similar annual event was held off-campus after a drive of two and a half hours. Travelling at that rate, the class of 2014 could well have dined out in Boston, but, in 1898, the destination was Pease’s Hotel in nearby Hartford, Vermont; it was winter and their vehicles were horse drawn sleighs.
The Kimball Union reported that the class of 1899 also dined out at Pease’s Hotel. “Leaving D.R. Hall at about 9:30, we were conveyed by two teams, one being drawn by four horses through Lebanon; thence via W. Lebanon to Hartford, (one team passing through Wilder,) reaching our destination at about noon.” Until the banquet began at 2:45, students and chaperones entertained themselves in the “cozy apartments” playing games and listening to “music furnished by different members of the class.”
The dining hall was decorated with roses and in “trooped the merry faced boys and girls of ’99, well-prepared to cope with the liberal menu set before them.” They were seated at a long table with their chaperone, Miss Morse, at one end and a special guest of the class, Miss Hazen, at the other. Toasts were given, including one by Miss Morse on behalf of the faculty. The evening was spent listening to Miss Woodruff, “charmingly” entertaining “with her dramatic readings” assisted by “several musical members.” The class later claimed, “Our day was indeed a grand one and we extend our hearty thanks to the Faculty through whose interest our day proved such a success.”
By 1901, the Senior Class Banquet had moved to the Newton Inn [Norwich Inn] in Norwich, Vermont. This banquet included “principal Mr. Woodbury, giving a brief history of and anecdotes of the old school which were very amusing” and “inspired in us all a greater love for our Alma Mater, and a greater determination to be worthy of her teachings. … Mr. Ashworth toasted the Faculty, and the members of that ‘august body’ must have felt honored. Miss Thompson was called on to toast the alumni, and she told us of a few of the great men and women who laid the foundation of their greatness here.” The class reminiscences … brought back to our mind the time when we were ‘Subs’ and we looked with awe and reverence to the ‘dignified Seniors’ and wondered if we would ever attain such a height of greatness.” After the dinner “members of the Play gave us the first act, which was enjoyed by all.” Supper was provided upon their return to D.R. Hall and they “found it a wonderful end to a perfect day.”
The class of 1903 announced their arrival at the Newton Inn with their “class yell”:
Boom-a-raka, boom-a-raka, boom-a-raka, ree,
Ripi-zipi, ripi-zipi, ripi-zipi, zee.
Boom-a-raka, ripi-zipi, who are we?
K.U.A. K.U.A. Naughty three.
The evening before the much anticipated day in 1905, many seniors “might have been seen looking at old Ascutney, the unfailing forecaster of the weather … .” The day proved fine and they left for Norwich on a “barge and a three-seater” as “the first bell for Chapel rang out…” Miss Searle “gladdened our hearts with a big basket of oranges” and as they travelled, they “were a very merry crowd and jokes flew thick and fast.” The day proceeded as usual and on arrival back at D.R. Hall, they praised the weather, their choice of chaperone, and they thought “… we had proved that the class of ’05 is worthy of its place in the records of Kimball Union Academy.”
In April the following year, 1906, weather conditions made the roads so “wretched,” their plans for the Norwich banquet became impossible; instead, they decided to go to Claremont to hear Sousa’s band. On the chosen day, the skies cleared and it proved warm and sunny, “but before the Seniors had gone a mile an awful problem faced them–a problem of mud! The boys had to jump out, while the poor, sweating horses tugged hard at the braces to extricate the wagon from the thick, clay mud. That was only one experience in many, but be it said to the honor of the towns of Plainfield and Cornish, there were some really excellent stretches of road.” After four hours they arrived and “had the especial honor of dining in the same room with the world-famous Sousa.” They had little time for “sight-seeing in the town,” but enjoyed the concert and had “excellent seats … reserved for them in the parquet” at Claremont House. Although reluctant for the journey homeward, they “soon became accustomed to the circumstances. Finally, after getting out to walk several times and to pull the carriage from the mud into which it had sunk to the hub, the Seniors reached Meriden amidst great rejoicing of their anxious friends.”
In 1908 the seniors, having left mid-afternoon, “arrived in Hanover about 6p.m. where several of the young men left their superfluous locks at the striped pole,” before continuing on to Norwich. Later, it was reported, “The school yell sounded forth to the Dartmouth K.U.A. boys as the team passed their apartments in Hanover on the way towards Meriden.” They arrived at D.R. Hall at 2:20 a.m. “where the chills were banished by delicious hot chocolate … thoughtfully prepared. The event will not soon be forgotten … .”
At the annual sleigh ride and dinner of 1918, the “class were the guests of Head Master and Mrs. Tracy at supper at the Hotel Rogers at Lebanon, and then attended the first annual Bi-Sate Prize Speaking contest at Hartford, Vermont” that included KUA and seven other schools from New Hampshire and Vermont.
The earliest written record we have of off-campus dinners and/or sleigh rides is in 1893. The Kimball Union reported, “The great event of the senior year, the class ride, occurred … The destination was Newport [NH]. All report a very pleasant time.” I don’t know when these traditions passed into memory and new ones began; I like to think of the seniors and their chaperones wrapped in warm, woolen blankets, laughing and singing, as they travelled through a cold, winter’s night in horse drawn sleighs or wagons and greeted on their return to campus by their friends and faculty with hot chocolate or a light supper – certainly it was an event not soon forgotten.