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Bury the Hatchet

by Meredith Minter, class of 1984

"Heap big war is done and over.
Heap big peace pipe waits for you.
Heap big hole for to bury the hatchet in.
Come help bury him, Twenty-two!"

Today, with class fights at last abolished, even the stateliest senior may engage in Odd/Even rivalry without losing her mind, her dignity, or her G.P.A. However, for many years, only underclassmen were actively partisan; the more studious upperclassmen served mostly as advisers.

The change from an active to a passive role was a hard one for many juniors; and there seemed a need for a rite of passage. Hence, the Bury the Hatchet ceremony, where juniors and seniors forgot their rivalry and admitted each others' sisterhood.

Unlike many traditions, this one can be dated to the year. Though there were many "class reconciliations" in the early teens, it seems certain that the October 1915 one was the first to use the Hatchet theme. That first party had an Indian motif, in which the class presidents were the chiefs.

The ceremonies stayed the same until 1923. It had always been customary for each class to sing the other's songs, but that year the songs were deliberately scrambled. "It's the Odd born in us..." seniors caroled, with amazing versatility, "and it's good enough for me/ To be Even born and Even bred/ And when I go/To return no more/ Just teach them Odd/ and Even lore..."

In 1925, the classes dared to be different. Dressed as Northern loggers, their presidents presented a skit in which an Even, swinging her axe, advanced on the Tree. "Woodman, spare that tree!" the junior president cried, shielding it as best she could from the murderous logger. However, the tables were soon turned, as, certain of the safety of her Tree, she advanced on a nearby Post. At length, of course, the dispute was resolved, and the hatchet safely interred.

Again, in 1932, after a succession of Indian parties, a three part skit was given. The first of these showed a sauricidal caveboy killing the family dinosaur in a fit of indignation. The second, set somewhat later, showed little Bobby Crusoe, Robinson's son, splitting his father's boat into kindling, with the announced purpose of toasting marshmallows. The third showed the boy George Washington in an incriminating position near a cherry tree. With all these good reasons for avoiding hatchets, the juniors were easily persuaded to bury R-M's.

In 1934, when Green Pastures was running on Broadway, a parody, dealing with Oddum and Even, was put forth as the Hatchet theme. This idea was well-liked, and except for one year—1935—became standard for the next twelve years. In 1946, there was a reversion to the Indian theme—"By the shores of River Monte/By the shining James-Sea Water."

By 1953, the tradition had begun its long slide downhill. That year, a paper hatchet was used, as the presidents couldn't find the real one. In 1958, things sank to a new low when the hatchet was disinterred to serve as a cake cutter after the ceremony. Today, the party is quietly obscure, still celebrated, still somewhat meaningful, but at best poorly attended.

In conclusion, probably the finest Hatchet party ever was 1936's. That year's skit, reprinted in The Sundial by popular demand, featured "The Romance of Oddasius and Eve N. Dearer." The playlet, notable for some wonderful lines, began with the beautiful Eve's hopeless crush on Oddasius. In the first act, this manly being tells of his heroism: "There aren't many fellows who'd do that. You should have seen that woman's face when I rushed into that burning building, and without a moment's hesitation bravely said, 'Who the hell do you think you are? Didn't you the fire alarm? Get out of here!'"

As Oddacious modestly expounds on his abilities, Eve's attention is caught by Hysterical Historian, who is out to popularize the biography of George Washington. Seeing an audience, he demonstrates his methods by chopping down the Odd Tree (in lieu of a cherry) and smashing the Post (to show the destruction of war). Then, waving his hatchet, he proceeds to dramatize British atrocities on the civilian population, seizing Eve.

In terror, she turns to her hero. Oddasius however, is not there—after one look a Historian, he's set out for the county line. So, unopposed, the Historian efficiently kills her and goes on his way, leaving the hatchet by the body.

Finally, in the last act, two professors, one of mathematics, one of Latin, come wandering by. Encountering Eve's body, they enter into spirited debate over its disposal. At length, they decide to raise a shrine to it—but, of course, being absent-minded, they inadvertently bury the hatchet....

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"The Past Master"
Meredith Minter
Class of 1984
The Sundial
Vol. 66, no. 19
March 5, 1982

This article was taken from "The Past Master," a column written by Meredith Minter Dixon, class of 1984, for the Randolph-Macon Woman's College student newspaper, The Sundial. It is published here with her permission.

Please contact Ms. Dixon if you have comments or questions about her article.

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And More . . .
large button   The Past Master, additional articles about our history
large button   Facts and Fancies about our college's early classes
large button   Images taken from student drawings in our earliest yearbooks

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Frances E. Webb
Reference Librarian
Lipscomb Library
Randolph College
2500 Rivermont Avenue
Lynchburg, Virginia 24503

small button   page last revised March 28, 2008   small button

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site graphics adapted by Frances E. Webb
from a drawing by Evelyn Dornin for the 1901 edition of the Helianthus

With thanks to
Kusum Singh, class of 2004
Andrea Yassemedis, class of 1999

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