Sunday, 28 September 2008

Social Anthropology Field Notes -- Class Reunion

I am twisting Painted Maypole's Monday Mission just a bit.

Here follow field notes taken at my husband's 45th (!) B Eng class reunion.


My husband and I both attended Queen's University at Kingston (Ontario, Canada). This is a university that has Traditions in a big way, one of which is that every fall they have a homecoming weekend, with football game, which anniversary classes attend. Husband was Engineering '63, and he still has his faculty jacket. Alumni wear their faculty jackets as they parada around the football field at half time. Wives sit in the bleachers and admire them. There were literally hundreds of paraders on Saturday. And the extant students seem to get a big kick out of the old geezers marching by.

Ambiance, Part I

It rained. I took a knapsack to the game with my goretex impervious suit in it. I put it on in the first quarter and sat in it through the game. Science '63 had chosen to hand out bright gold umbrellas as the reunion keepsake. Most of the group had theirs and sat under them, thus obscuring the action on the field for those behind them. Plus, the rain rolling off the umbrellas fell onto the knees of those sitting behind them. It was Very Wet. We perservered, watching the Queen's Golden Gaels whump Western, something like 40 to 9. (I couldn't see much of the scoreboard either.) Western has a good passing game but it didn't stand up to rain very well.

Ambiance, Part II

We dripped back to the Conference Centre where we were staying, broke out the scotch and got more or less warm and dry, put on our glad rags and went to a celebratory feast, also in the conference centre. The lads cleaned up quite well. Of note, there were no trophy wives. We were all very long in the tooth. In spite of a note urging gala dress, most of the wives wore pantsuits and sensible shoes, had short white hair and ate lots (which appears to be their habit most days, judging by their figures). I fit right in.

Entertainment, Part I

Food, as noted above. Very good food. Lots of it. Not much excessive drinking, which is a marvel considering what the guys were like 45 years ago. At the game, entertainment consisted of folding the umbrellas, standing up and singing the school song at each touchdown. The student body does this in a sort of kicking line, like the Rockettes. We simply swayed to and fro. I contemplated kicking the umbrella wielders in front of me, but refrained. We were all very civilized.

Entertainment, Part II

The Engineering students have developed a new ritual since my daughter attended (in Arts) in the late '80's. They had just bought their brand new bright gold faculty jackets and at half time they all clambered out of the stands and onto the field where they proceeded to whack their nice $400 jackets on the rainy, muddy turf, over and over and over. Did I mention that most of them had dyed their faces and torsos purple? They whacked in unison, sort of. There were several hundred of them doing this, producing a sort of wet and squishy thudding rhythm. It was A Sight To Behold. I guess that they are 'breaking in' the jackets and making them a sort of gold/grey colour -- I saw some of the class of '03, back for their five year anniversary, wearing jackets that colour. The Science '63 guys, whose faculty jackets are shiny gold fabric, stood out on the march.


Queen's students were and are nuts.

PS I have photos of this, but they are on a film as the only waterproof camera I own is an older film one. I will add photos to this set of notes when I get it developed.


  1. I'm a Queen's alumnus too but I waited until grad school to go to Queen's. It makes me feel more like a cultural anthropologist than a greased pole climber. I do remember that fall day back in '88, though, when the undergrads got their new jackets. They whacked them on the limestone, jumped on them in the grass, and begged passing motorists to drive over them.

    As you say...NUTS.

  2. thanks for playing along, and I always love it when people twist the mission a bit.

    sounds like an intereting event, all around!

  3. I have some good friends who went to Queen's who still return for homecoming. I've never been, but it doesn't surprise me to read your description.

    My favourite line? " I contemplated kicking the umbrella wielders in front of me, but refrained. We were all very civilized."


  4. I can just picture the event - you write so well! (And were there no women alumnae parading round the field? Granted - not from Science '63, but others?)

  5. Lots of women, a few from Arts (Levana) '63 and many from the 80's on up, in scruffy, banged in jackets. Next year I can parade, celebrating my '45th. But you're right. The first woman grad I know of from Engineering started in 1965.

    It's great to see the purple girls out there with the boys, jacket banging in perfect equality. I think.

  6. Sounds like so much fun.

    I particularly like your description of the "gala" after the game and the wives of "stout" stature. Trophy wives in their own right, I'm sure.

  7. Yeah...they do seem a bit nuts. But nuts can be fun. :)

  8. Ambience part II my favorite part
    fun post

    did you know you linked this story to the monday mission for today? 3/30/09

    I'm glad you did--I've browsed some of your older posts but missed this delightful story