Read the other day how up in Pennsylvania a man was arrested for loitering outside a college dormitory and when he was searched the authorities discovered “four pairs of women’s panties and three bras stuffed into his pants.”
While reading that, the years rolled back and I remembered how many of my generation could have been arrested for the same offense. And as those memories became clearer, I was transported to a simpler time, a time where spring brought with it a campus ritual that today would be a felony.
It was 1964. The weather had warmed. The sap was rising. I was a student at a small Methodist college on the edge of a large Southern industrial city. A lot was going on. The Beatles had arrived. The Civil Rights Movement was swirling about us. People were beginning to talk about a place called Vietnam.
But what interested us that day was the word circulating among the men that we all were to assemble at the quad after supper.
Now the quad was the grassy space around which dorms were clustered – men’s dorms and women’s dorms – so close that if the shades weren’t drawn each could see easily into the other – but the women’s always were.
As the sun set guys gathered, “college men,” but with adolescence still coursing through their veins.
Then, slowly, lowly, the chant began: “Panty, panty, panty, panty . . . .”
The chant grew louder. Dorm windows filled with girls. Challenges were shouted. Undergarments were waved. Dares and double-dares and double-dog-dares went round.
Then it happened.
One guy broke from the pack. Ran across the quad. Leaped to grab the ledge of an open window, and disappeared into the room. A moment later he emerged, prize in hand.
That was all it took. The crowd surged into the dorm, raced across the lobby, flung open the doors that guarded the inner sanctum where only women were allowed, and filled the hall with men. Girls, squealing in mock-fright, took to their rooms, with would-be plunderers right behind them.
The “Dorm Mother,” who had an apartment in the building, grabbed her telephone and called Campus Security, a retired policeman moonlighting to supplement Social Security. Finding no comfort in his “I’ll be there in a minute,” she rushed back out into the hall, notebook in hand, to record the names of the trespassers. But after years of indifference to all but her female charges, she discovered that, to her distress, all men looked alike.
The raiders scurried for the nearest exit. And as quickly as it began, it was over.
Then the campus cop arrived, and found that the girls could not (or would not) identify the invaders.
Meanwhile, in the Men’s Dorms trophies were displayed, lies were swapped, and everyone felt good about themselves.
Or at least that’s what those involved told me happened.
Of course, I wasn’t there.
I was in my room studying.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.