“Forsan et haec olim meminissi juvabit” (“And perhaps at some future time it may be pleasant to remember these incidents”)
During Mardi Gras in the year 1902, a number of convivial though much respected and scholarly students, residing at the southern end of East Range, formed an organization known as the HOT FOOT Society whose avowed purpose was to stage a number of open air soirees throughout the year at which beer from wooden kegs would be freely flowing for all and sundry who wished to join the festivities. A king was chosen to rule the clan and his coronation marked a high light in University life. Among the earlier members who became king were Ernest Schoen (S-Ski I), Vivian Slaughter (V-Ski I), Charles S. McVeigh (McV-Ski I), Lewis Crenshaw (C-Ski I), James R. McConnell (McC-Ski I), etc. A prerequisite to being chosen to this high office was the aspirant’s ability to empty without removing from his lips a four-quart underbed piece of crockery, called the “Sacred Stein,” filled with beer. Quite a stunt but entirely possible after a week or so of intensive practice.
This group, while growing steadily in popularity and envy among the student body, became more and more an anathema to the Faculty and Administrative Council, chiefly because of their performances were conducted out of doors without any pretense at being clandestine. At these coronations various non-member students were invited to attend as ambassadors from a number of foreign countries. Each of these representatives, a likely initiate at some future time, much honored by the invitation, appeared in his native dress and bore a gift, usually quite unique, for His Majesty. For instance, the ambassador from India presented the King with a pair of tin drawers to be worn by his Queen while her consort was away at wars. This effective gift apparently assured fidelity on the Queen’s part during such absence until an ingenious ambassador from Siam presented the Lord High Chamberlain with a very effective can opener.
I should like to remind the members that at no time was any vandalism tolerated, but one incident I do recall which occurred (Easter 1911) during the First Dynasty of C-Ski II (the writer of this chronicle) might be mentioned here which was most unfortunate and which I have since greatly regretted. That was the complete destruction by fire of the first and only country club in this area and followed a somewhat hilarious initiation of the HOT FEET. Having consumed in the large fireplace all the wood available and whatever wood was not fastened down, we made use of an eight-foot bench by placing one end in the fireplace while the other end rested on the wooden flooring. This must have been the situation when the party broke up at dawn the following morning. This occurrence, while quite unintentional, would surely have been judicially determined to be the result of gross criminal negligence. It was very unfortunate since it deprived not only the HOT FEET but a number of other organizations of a most likely spot where parties could be carried out without fear of interruption by the University authorities or molestation by the County Sheriff’s Office.
As the second coronation of King C-Ski II, in 1912, a royal edict was read from the throne, consisting of a pyramid of 15 beer kegs erected in front of House D., Dawson’s Row, which proclamation commanded the King’s loyal subjects to divide themselves into groups of four and to proceed to each of the Lawns and Ranges there to collect all sacreligious imitations of the “Sacred Stein” and to return with the loot to be used for decorative purposes here and there about the grounds, particularly on and about the Homeric group in front of Cabell Hall.
Opposition to relinquishing the crockery was encountered only at one room on West Range occupied by two students residing there and, when admittance was denied, one of the subjects leaned his weight against the door which opened only after the breaking of a ten-cent door keep. This was the and only piece of “vandalism” which took place but the two student occupants of the room in question took the matter to Dr. Alderman claiming that the sanctity of their abode had been rudely violated and great property damage had been done by the iniquitous HOT FEET, a wholly unwarranted charge.
Near the close of the festivities that night C-Ski and four of his chosen courtiers entered the basement of Cabell Hall and proceeded to remove therefrom all of the animals, snakes and other critters (with the exception of the Mastodon) and to place them behind the desks of the processors in their class rooms and before the front door of each professor’s residence on the Lawn. This was accomplished only after the expenditure of considerable energy but, when the sun arose the following East Sunday morning, the resultant spectacle seemed well worth the expended energy.
To give you an idea of the effort put forth I can say that, although it took George Sheppard and me the better part of a half hour to negotiate the Danish moose around the spiral stair – case leading up from the basement to the foyer above, it required a large number of laborers working most of Sunday to return the various specimens to their former abode. I do know, since the criminal felt an irresistible impulse to return to the scene of his crime the next day, that it took the combined efforts of six men to propel that moose back down the winding stairway.
The Easter parade which greeted the eyes of early morning visitors of creatures, which for many years had been leading a very stuffed existence, was indeed quite an unusual and somewhat terrifying sight, and included the above mentioned Danish moose, a kangaroo, an ostrich, a Polar bear, a Bengal tiger, a three-toed emu, a boa-constrictor, a South American condor, to say nothing of a prehistoric Dinasauer, Gymnosperrs, Blastoid, Echinoderms, et al. The only damage suffered by any one of these specimens was that done to the Polar bear which was “killed” by a shotgun blast fired through the front window by an overly-excited son of one of the professors residing on East Lawn.
The sense of humor surrounding the whole episode, Dr. Alderman’s to the contrary not withstanding, provoked considerable comment in the press throughout the State, most of which treated the affair with tolerant understanding and expressed some rather sharp criticism of the Faculty’s narrow-mindedness.
However, the following week C-Ski II and his subjects were summoned before the Administrative Council, which consisted of the President and the Deans of five departments, to answer the charges of the two disgruntled students and to give an account of the happenings of the previous Saturday night. Anticipating the result of this conference would be the banishment of the HOT FEET Society, C-Ski and his subjects met and unanimously agreed to disband, very obviously to forestall forcible dissolution.
At this meeting no witnesses appeared to give testimony against the members of the Society but each member on his own volition gave full recital of his acts and participation in the events of the night in question. The result was the expulsion from the University of four members (two of whom were outstanding students, sons of faculty members and who were to receive their degrees at the following commencement) and four more were suspended for one year. Dr. Alderman, speaking for the Administrative Council, when advised that there was no longer such an organization as the HOT FOOT Society and, therefore, could not forcibly be disbanded, remarked – “Well, gentlemen, we must acknowledge that you have forestalled the drastic action on our part as we had agreed upon. You may be excused. But you” (casting a baleful eye at C-Ski), “I am thinking seriously of denying you the use and privilege of the University grounds.” This would indeed have been of serious consequence to C-Ski who, with his family, then resided on the Grounds, the site of the present Clark Law School Building.
The following fall (1912), C-Ski called together the members of the then defunct organization and read a prepared written statement, addressed to the President, in which it was frankly admitted that some of the practices indulged in at the coronation exercises were objectionable to the general public, particularly to members of the Faculty residing near the scene of revelry, and an abandonment of same was promised. This statement in the form of a petition state that, since the HOT FOOT Society had in good faith voluntarily disbanded, we recognized the fact that the former members could not in good conscience resume the old name and become active again without the express permission of the Administrative Council. We gave our solemn assurance that the objectionable features of the old organization would be permanently eliminated, such as the “God dams” and “hells” sprinkled generously throughout the HOT FOOT Anthem, and begged leave to reorganize the old name.
This petition, which was signed by every member of the HOT FOOT Society except two who were also members of the “Z” Society, was never replied to, nor indeed was its receipt even acknowledged. Hence, no authorization was ever granted.
During the month of January, 1913, C-Ski II, while recuperating from an appendectomy in the University Hospital, called to his bedside the ten members of the defunct HOT FEET then in college and there formed a successor society who motto would be Non Mortous, Sed Dormiens – not dead, but sleeping – to be known as the I.M.P. Society and whose pledge was that at the proper time and with proper authorization they would revive the Old Society under its old name, bearing always in mind that Incarnate Memories Prevail.
The King submitted an initiatory ritual which was unanimously adopted and which, I am told, was used at all subsequent initiations until quite recently. Personally, I should give a great deal to recover the Royal Edict of East 1912 and the Initiatory Ritual of January 1913.
If you will pardon a digression just here, I should like to recount an event of five years previous to 1913. In order to stem the growing tide of disapproval on the part of the Faculty, in the year 1908, Lewis Crenshaw, King C-Ski I, and his voluptuous Queen, John J. “Pot” Luck, weighing considerably over 275 pounds, a member of the faculty in the mathematical department, decided to hold their coronation in the foyer of Cabell Hall. To this event were cordially invited the members of the Faculty and their wives, the students generally with their respective Easter dates, etc. This pink tea affair, at which ginger ale and cookies were the only refreshments served, turned out to be a complete and absolute fizzle; even the Easter girls made no attempt at concealing their boredom. Needless to say, this abortive experiment was never again attempted.
One of the outstanding features of our Society was the establishment and fostering of a spirit of friendliness and good will in our relationship with the student body in general, and very studiously to avoid any sign of superiority or aloofness by reason of our membership in such a prominent and highly respected organization. This spirit was in conspicuous contrast with that of the other society whose prime purpose appeared avowedly to create a most unfortunate class distinction, and to hold themselves out to be entirely superior to the average run-of-the-mill student who was treated usually with complete lack of recognition, unless he happened a very promising athlete, and whose very existence in college was endured as a necessary evil. Our Society took pleasure in holding up to ridicule such a contemptible and silly attitude of smug complancy. Much was accomplished toward this end, particularly during the reign of Harrison Robertson, King H-Ski I, 1914-1915.
In a spirit of complete fairness I should like at this point to make this comment; during my collegiate years the individual members of the “Z” Society were, with few exceptions, men of unusually high qualities who typified the best traditions of true Virginia gentlemen, most of whom I should have been glad to have as members of our Society; however, in their actions and conduct as a group, they often became a bunch of insufferable snobs. I am not a sufficiently well qualified psychoanalyst to explain this metamorphosis, but shall leave it to your imagination to form your own conclusions.
Among silly customs followed by the other society was the requirement that members, when passing each anywhere on the campus, should lift their hats in recognition of a fellow member of that elite coterie. And they did wear hats in those days, usually derbies. Another practice, equally ridiculous, was that, upon his initiation into that high-brow membership, an initiate was required solemnly to pledge that, whenever the word “Z” was uttered in his presence, regardless so of where or when, would immediately leave the group where the blasphemy had been perpetrated and not return to that spot until the atmosphere had become purified again and the group entirely dispersed.
For the enlightenment of the members of the old HOT FOOT Society who may not be aware of the fact, I should like to assure that at the forming of the I.M.P. Society it was agreed that any member of the former group would automatically receive an invitation to become a member of the latter upon his return visit to the University.
The coronation of the late Roy C. Moyston as King M-Ski I, which ushered in the Easter festivities of 1913, held in the old Fayerweather Gymnasium, was by far the most spectacular and memorable event it had been my pleasure to witness. This despite, possibly to some extent because of, the public condemnation by Ministerial Union of Charlottesville of the formation of a society whose apparent purpose was to “extol and to do obeisance to the Devil.”
After considerable weird chanting and incantations by the Three Witches in their black robes and pointed hoods hovering over the blue and yellow flames of the burning canned alcohol in a large iron cauldron, to the accompaniment of deafening thunder in an otherwise completely darkened ball room, the name of M-Ski the First was extracted therefrom amid the shouts of the loyal subjects in their horned hoods and carrying brilliantly dazzling sparklers. Then, as C-Ski II removed the crown and ling ermine robe he was wearing and placed them upon M-Ski I and handed the latter the royal scepter (an enlarged wooden spigot), the applause was deafening and the I.M.P. Society was duly launched upon its very successful career. It was indeed an event long to be remembered and placed the newly formed organization very favorably in the public eye.
In concluding this narrative let me assure the reader that it is completely and historically accurate in every detail. The one recital for whose truth I cannot personally vouch is the reference to the “killing” of the Polar bear by a son of Professor Z residing on East Lawn. This, for some reason, I did not know of at the time and only learned of it later from Herbert Nash who quite recently has again called it to my attention.
It is truly a source of much gratification to me to observe the eminent position which the I.M.P. Society has attained in University life, the high type of students who have become members and the respect and admiration in which this organization is held throughout the student body generally.
May the same high standards in the selection of new members be forever maintained to the honor and the glory of both Societies and of our University.
Long live their Kings!
Cordially and respectfully yours,