Letter to the Editor
Issue   |   Wed, 11/16/2011 - 03:38

Professor William H. Pritchard ’53 wrote a Letter to the Editor to discuss Amherst traditions.
In his recent column, Alex Hurst ’12 laments the absence of “shared traditions” that might bind Amherst students (all of them “smart” evidently), together more strongly. As one who has experienced some of these traditions at the college, I can remember with tremulous heart the green beanie I wore as a freshman. These beanies were purchased at a downtown clothing store, House of Walsh, and contributed nicely to the store’s well-being. They could be shed only after the Williams football game. Alas, my beanie seems to have joined the world of lost objects.
There were rules laid down for encountering upperclassmen. As freshmen we were informed, “Amherst men say hello to each other when they meet. Freshmen say hello first.” I think it was possible to get by with just “hi,” but I never went that far.
More excitingly there was, in the fall of freshmen year, a rope-pull with the sophomores, conducted over Freshman Creek down there near the railroad tracks. Fearing that I might be pulled into the water (I had not yet passed the College’s swimming requirement), I persuaded a friend to avoid the whole business by going to the music store in town, where we listened to some jazz records. One of the good things about traditions is that you’re free to disregard them, at the cost of being labeled a coward by your classmates.
With such rich memories as background, you may understand why I feel only contempt for the recently-instituted (15 years ago?) handing out of canes to graduating seniors. What can you do with a cane, anyway?