The social scene at the young Brooklyn College ran the gamut from formal freshman teas to the hazing of freshmen by upper classmen.
Incoming frosh in the Men’s Division endured harsh traditions brought from City College to Brooklyn. Freshman were forced to wear a small blue cap, a blue tie, and carry a “bible” consisting of all the rules the newbies had to follow, including addressing all upper classmen as “sir.” No moustaches were allowed. 1
The freshmen in the Men’s Division did know how to enact revenge against their upper classmen. The January 1933 Skyscrapers describes one rather shocking incident at the “Lower Frosh Feed” held at the Northern Hotel (possibly the Great Northern Hotel on 57th Street). At this dinner a “kidnapped sophomore was brought in and forced to entertain. After that the unfortunate captive was made to march down Broadway while a crowd of yelling, jeering upper frosh followed him to the library.” 2
Senior week was the pinnacle of social life for the graduating class. In 1932, Senior Week included a satire of Hamlet called Fortinbras in Plain Clothes, folk singing at Senior Chapel, and the prom at Hotel Basset. 3
No Senior Week would be complete without the students trading places with the faculty for one day. The class of January 1933 gleefully kept the faculty in their seats after the bell rang, so the professors would know the difficulties of rushing to a class in another building while fighting traffic and office workers, hoping to be on time: “the ordeal was a gruesome one.” 4
The class of January 1933 held several formal events including Senior Chapel where guest Mark Eisner, the Chair of the Board of Higher Education, spoke somberly on “American Liberalism,” and a prom with President Boylan and other administrators in attendance. But the raucous “Grumble of ’33” performed during Senior Class Night was the highlight of the week. Held at Temple Ahavath Sholom in Flatbush with an original book and music by BC students, the performance was a “burlesque of college life.” 5 Sylvia Fine Kaye ‘33, who wrote the music for the Alma Mater, played in the band. The Library of Congress has digitized Sylvia’s copy of the 1933 Class Night program, in which she is described as having “started school with bobbed hair….ended with a halo….wrote most o’ Brooklyn College songs.” 6
Celebrating BC’s Birthday
Before Dean Bildersee began the tradition of Country Fair, the first few college birthdays were celebrated with a Field Day and a special production by the Dramatics club.
For the College’s first birthday on May 15, 1931, there was a varsity production of Antigone with a co-ed cast. Because Brooklyn College did not have a campus, Field Day was held on the 15th at Boy’s High. This was the College’s first large scale co-ed event and included potato races along with track and field events. 7 To celebrate BC’s second birthday, Field Day was held once again, and the college community was treated to a varsity production of As You Like It. 8