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Freshmen Outwit Sophomores

A hundred years ago at V.P.I., there was a tradition each spring for the sophomore cadets to celebrate the end of the year with a banquet. Part of the requirement was that the freshmen had to make themselves scarce or suffer at the hands of the sophomores. In 1922, the freshmen conspired to put one over on the sophomores and planned their own banquet, safely far from campus and Blacksburg.

The Class History of the class of 1925 in the 1925 Bugle made a brief reference to the banquet.

"Somehow we drifted along to the end of the third term, when on the evening of the Sophomore Class banquet we hired a special train and went to Roanoke for our own banquet. They greased the rails, but we got out and pushed -- and went to Roanoke! 'Twas a wild night, and a wilder morning when we returned: there was talk of hairclipping and there were many numerals to scrub; but at last came Commencement Day--we were Sophomores!"

The Roanoke World Newsgave a detailed rundown of the events in the May 27, 1922, edition.

"Rats" of V. P. I. Visit Roanoke Banquet and "Beat" Sophomores

Silence of night for months, covert planning, and then last night the whole world came to know that the V. P. I. Freshmen, the lowly rats, the men of ’25, had dared and had succeeded in putting it all over the mighty Sophomores -- they who held banquet and feast and the keys of the city of Blacksburg last night. The evidence thereof is indisputable. It marched up through the business part of the city early last night, some bouyantly stepping two hundred odd hefty looking Freshmen cadets. It bubbled over at a swell feed spread at the Hotel Roanoke, and at 10 o’clock it was evinced as rats shook a wicked walkover with “ladies fair.”

But it’s a long long tale, reaching over a whole month and, too, there’s a bit of history in it.

There is a tradition and an immutable law of some eight years’ standing that when May 26 rolls around and the lordly Sophomores begin to tune up for their banquet and general blow out, there should not be a Freshman in sight least wise after the banquet hour -- dark -- has rolled around. And indeed just to make sure that this law is observed the mighty Sophomores gather war clubs of their own designing and naturally scour the town for hair and hide of any hapless rat that would not move. Each succeeding class of Freshmen has heard all this, even the harrowing details of those who dared remain at home, and each succeeding class, sorrowfully and wisely -- and also in a body -- has journeyed forth from Blacksburg on the arrival of each May 26, and then singly or in small groups offered up private prayers that Sophomores scouring bushes miss the particular supplicant.

Secret Councils

These tales of course came to the class of ’25, the tale enriched with details of eight years of careful observance of the law, and along in April the class of ’25 held council, secret council. Class funds began to swell, W. A. Dameron, proprietor of the Hotel Roanoke received a check and an order for a banquet and a dance for May 26, an order came through and was accepted by the Norfolk and Western for a special train to wait a mile or so outside of Blacksburg -- strictest secrecy to be observed about the train for after all rats don’t put it past Sophomores naturally turning over a train. Then the fateful day of days began to approach, and Sophomores became meditative for behold these Freshmen weren’t a bit downcast, naturally seemed tickled to death with the prospects of having to hide in the bushes.

Well, this was surely an unusual class. Sophomores finally agreed, and so they merited unusual treatment. Accordingly, the clubs for beating the bushes were chosen, nice, long, thick ones, while Sophomores eyed rats speculatively and whistled.

Rumors of Roanoke

But at last, though, rumors came through, rumors that the rats were going far out of reach, clear to Roanoke, and there stage one grand shindig all their own. Humor pointed to a certain issue of the Roanoke Times wherein one society item, contributed perhaps by some young lady who’d been invited to the dance, and though all the papers of this particular issue disappeared or there was only a vacant space where the item had been, the rumor had it that this announced the dance.

Long distance telephone messages came into play. W. A. Dameron, proprietor of the Hotel Roanoke was called.

“Do you know anything about a dance the ‘rats’ are giving at your hotel tonight?” the voice of a supposedly Sophomore asked.

“I can’t tell you anything about such a dance, but if you’d like to arrange for one perhaps I can see to it for you,” Mr. Dameron advised the inquirer who would not give his name.

Several similar inquiries elicited similar information, and so Thursday things kinder quieted down, while Sophomores still whistled meditatively and eyed the passing Freshmen.

Yesterday, though, things sorter got out, it was just naturally too good to hold. There was a called meeting of the Sophomore class. Why this was horrible, here one half the fun of the Sophomore banquet, a thing looked forward to for months, was calmly walking right straight off. Why, it was sorter like a banquet without any eats, why it was worse than that. Couldn’t something be done?

Board Special Train

And while the Sophomores were still mediating thereon, the rats formed, did some whistling of their own and so marched forth to their waiting special tram. However, while it was too late to try and persuade the college authorities to take a hand, take over a train, or tie up the rat class, there was still some fight left in the class that only last year was forced to take to bushes for peace. A delegate hustled up to a long grade just beyond Blacksburg, and there upon the rails applied the old well known lard, axle grease, and other things of such nature.

The train was hitting up a lively gait when it hit that grade, ran up for a little ways, slowed down and then began to slide backwards. Somewhere back in the bushes there was perhaps a laughing delegation of Sophomores, and all about inside the cars there were two hundred odd men of ’25 in momentary consternations. They rolled out windows, and doors, ready to do battle or anything else to get that train on its way.

The trouble was soon located. The wheels were spinning on the old grease, and the engine naturally wouldn’t pull. Therefore, because the old engine wouldn’t pull two hundred odd Freshmen laid a worker’s hand on sides of the car, and so the train was slowly pushed up the grade. While the Mystery Special disappeared over the hill, triumphant Freshmen waved joyful farewell to any Sophomore delegation that might be hidden in the bushes thereabouts, and a little later they were parading with a bouyant step through the business section of this city.

A report from Blacksburg last night said that the departure of the freshman class was as quiet as any in years.

The freshmen secured the usual freshman leave for the night, being required to be back at the college at 8 o’clock this morning, and then marched toward the country where they boarded the special train.

No account of the greasing of rails in an effort to keep the freshmen from a banquet of their own had reached Blacksburg, according to reports.