By Benjamin Noel
Contributing from News
The sharply dressed freshman class of 1934 moved in, eager to start their undergraduate studies at Saint Mary’s, an all-boys Catholic university known for football, and a disdain for Cal. Few boys knew, besides those with older brothers, about the welcome ritual they were about to find themselves thrown into. The freshman boys were all gathered together, unaware of the fate that awaited them. All the while, the upperclassmen took to the rowing building to secure some paddles and various odds and ends to equip themselves for the night of hazing ahead. Not much is known about the specific activities that took place during this weekend of welcome, but one can connect the dots. According to an August edition of the Collegian, the orientation activities of 1930 went smoothly, for the upperclassmen that is. As the hazing drew to an end, the upperclassmen ushered the freshman class into the basketball gymnasium, the venue of the freshmans’ first smoker. A night of camaraderie ensued as a tobacco haze filled the gym, fueled by cigarettes courtesy of the sophomore class.
The mid-20th century marked an era of frequent formals, dinners, and dances for the students of Saint Mary’s. Big basketball games were often followed by dances or other events for the students to let loose. Some dances would take place at the high class Oakland Hotel, then a spot frequented by former presidents.
Later in the century, the formals gave way to semi-formals, and oftentimes, the students needed more than just music to get grooving. Enter Gaelstock, an aptly named Woodstock-inspired music festival. This event attracted flocks of students, and if the pictures do the event any justice, it was a proper Burning Man, Moraga-style. Other annual events like Oasis and Gaelapalooza drew in huge crowds with live music, DJs, and free-flowing drinks. Allegedly, these events were discontinued after many students left pale, vomiting, sometimes in an ambulance.
In the 80s, students could often be seen picnicking on their balconies in De La Salle Hall. New fountains at school were sometimes christened by students swimming laps, or splashing around rather, in the shallow waters.
This year the senior class threw a tailgate for Saint Mary’s season-ender basketball game versus the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Randy Bennett’s Gaels, aided by the electric student body section, broke away from the first whistle and held onto their lead the whole game, going on to humble the Bulldogs 67-57.
One can only hope that as the current pope eases up on the doctrines of the Church, so will the faculty of Saint Mary’s. However, to all you students, take some initiative!
Make Saint Mary’s yours. If any of these traditions inspired something in yourself, make it happen! Rally your peers, talk to a brother, bring up ideas to your class president
Juniors, organize a senior formal.
If this article has piqued an interest in Saint Mary’s history, take a look at the yearbooks on the second floor of the library, on a shelf facing the Dante quad. The books date back to the 1920s, chronicling Saint Mary’s student life every year till the last edition of the Gael from 2008.
I’m graduating in a few short weeks, but in the upcoming years I hope to hear news of some old Saint Mary’s traditions making a comeback. Maybe not a smoker, or freshman hazing, but hearing about a semi-formal, or a senior class prank would make my day.
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Ryan Ford '23,