Delivered: June 1947
Some years ago by vote of those present at one of our reunions, I was elected class historian, a compliment much appreciated, but little deserved. As no date was set for the presentation of the history, and as those concerned with the transaction had probably forgotten it, I procrastinated, assuming that our half-century reunion would be a fitting time, if any, to inflict it upon the class. Such is now the case, but the history goes by another name. The plans for the 1947 Commencement included continuance of a custom, long-honored at Hamilton, the preparation and presentation of the half-century annalist’s letter. This, of course, called for the designation of a half-century annalist, and through the graciousness of the class secretary, I was raised to that exalted office, a compliment much more appreciated, but much less deserved.
It was “Old Greek” — Professor Edward North — who inaugurated the custom of the half-century annalist’s letter. The first such letter was read in 1865 by George Bristol, valedictorian of the Class of 1815. Professor North, valedictorian of the Class of 1841, presented the letter for his class in 1891. In 1900, when the letters from 1865 were collected by Melvin G. Dodge of the Class of 1890 and published in one volume, Professor North wrote a brief introduction from which the following is quoted: “The historian will find himself largely and gratefully indebted to the half-century annalists who have presented successively many dates, hints, impressions and personal sketches that will be duly focused and elaborated in a continuous narrative.”
Such material covering the years of 1893 to 1897 this letter aims to present, but it will be found sadly lacking in breadth of scholarship, facility of expression, and dignity and beauty of diction, qualities of which Professor North was a master and which he must have hoped would adorn such letters The present annals are annals in the simplest and strictest sense, merely a chronicle, more frivolous than serious, of events that occurred, personalities with whom we associated, and customs and conditions that existed when we were in college. Whatever comments are made are hardly more than incidental.
It is indeed a pleasure to recall the experiences of our College years. To be sure, there were discouragements and disappointments, but why go into them at a time like this? On the whole they were happy years. It is my agreeable task to help us and our contemporaries live again for a little while those “dear dead days” almost “beyond recall.” And at the same time to present to those who have followed at varying distances, a picture, though poorly painted, of life at Hamilton in the closing decade of the last century.
Hamilton was much smaller in the 1890s. The College Catalogue of the fall of 1893 shows the total enrollment as 131 and records 40 members of the Class of 1897. Three men entered the class later, making the total number of members 43. The Alumni Record of 1932 lists 23 graduates and 14 non-graduates of this class. The discrepancy between these 37 and the original 43 can be explained. Four men: Ames, Babcock, Holley and White graduated with the Class of 1898. The fifth man, Owen, was with us but a few weeks. He later went abroad and studied foreign languages in Florence and Berlin. Of the sixth man, Tibbetts, I have no recollection at all. I do not think he was in our class even as long as Owen. His name does not appear anywhere in the aforementioned record. Of the 23 graduates 14 are living. Of the 14 non-graduates seven are living.
As has been inferred our College days began and ended in that glorious and glamorous period, the Gay Nineties. In fact we were in college during the best years of that period. To be sure, there was a prolonged business depression and a wave of strikes swept over the land, but the nation was not at war, nor recovering from the wounds of war. The outbreak of the Spanish-American conflict did not occur until about a year after our graduation. No martial spirit characterized the popular airs of the day. Instead, we sang There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, My Gal’s a High Born Lady, Casey Would Waltz with a Strawberry Blonde and Sweet Rosy O’Grady. The plaintive words and haunting melody of After the Ball followed us into college, and on Commencement Day, the last time we were all together, the band played Just Tell Them That You Saw Me, the pathetic story in song of a country girl who went astray in the great city. Just how this theme applied to our graduation is not known, unless by accident it was related to the fact that we were soon to be “out, out, in the cold, cold world.”
We have learned much of life since then. We have lived long enough to appreciate how difficult of attainment are the world’s prizes. In college even the least serious-minded of us faced some stern realities, but we had our dreams, too:
Dreams that promised we should find
Jewels like sunlight on the dew,
Youth was so sure of what it knew.
It puzzles us as men to find
The sky so high, the earth so low,
The stars were closer to us then,
But that was very long ago.
Yes, that was very long ago, 50 years and more, counting from the fall of 1893 — and what changes time hath wrought. The airplane and the automobile as we have known them did not exist. The first heavier-than-air flying machines did not appear until after the turn of the century. A crude kind of automobile, the “horseless” or “gasoline buggy,” was just coming into being. In 1895 a young man in Detroit named Henry Ford was so annoyed by curious persons anxious to drive his “gasoline buggy” that he had to chain it to a post when he left it. In 1896 there were only 16 such vehicles registered in the United States and none of them was in existence in Clinton. The “safety,” a low bicycle with both wheels of the same diameter, had not long been in use and was replacing the “ordinary,” which had a small steering wheel in the rear and a large driving wheel in front, with a lofty seat for the rider. It was replacing, also, the less beautiful “star,” which had a small wheel in front and a large wheel in the rear. A member of the Class of 1899 lived in New Hartford and rode one of the latter, an odd-looking contrivance, to and from college. There were no radios or movies to beguile us, and, of course, there were no jeeps, jitterbugs or jukeboxes.
There were no buses. Trolley cars were in general use, but there were no trolley lines connecting Clinton with Rome, Utica or Waterville. There were several trains for “Ute,” among them one leaving about midday, another toward evening. The late return trip by a combined freight and passenger train landed us in Clinton about midnight. That train was frequently the scene of some “high old times.” About the only reason for going to Rome or Waterville was to enjoy the company of the fair damsels who lived there, but the early return trip on the Rome train and the absence of direct train connection with Waterville made the enjoyment in the first case a short-lived one and in the second case, a hard-earned one. The alternative method of travel was a horse-drawn vehicle. I do not remember that there were any night bicycle riders in those days.
There were about half as many college buildings as there are now. Two of these were dormitories, South College or Hungerford Hall, and North College or Skinner Hall. There were in addition Old Middle, remodeled just before we entered College and renamed Soper Gymnasium, the Chapel, Knox Hall of Natural History, now the Administration Building, Silliman Hall and the Litchfield Observatory. Here the renowned Dr. Peters had before our time, “discovered the measures and meanderings of the stars” with 48 newly found asteroids to his credit. The Perry H. Smith Library is now the Infirmary. The historic Kirkland Home has been moved from the lower campus near the cemetery to a more honored location near the Administration Building. The old low wooden Chemical Laboratory has disappeared.
On the northeast corner of the first floor of South College was the College bookstore, kept by ambitious students. However they realized doubtful profits, as they were never sure how many sales they would lose on textbooks pilfered by equally ambitious students from others who had used them the previous term. On this floor as well as the first floors of the gymnasium and of North College, classes were held.
There was no Commons. A third of the students roomed in the dormitories and boarded at Charlie Stone’s, who lived opposite the old Psi U house just at the first bend of the road as it winds up the hill. Going for meals was both physical and moral training, especially in winter. Coasting down to Charlie’s made a sort of pastime out of a necessity, but the trek back to 8:30 Chapel was hard work. Nevertheless it strengthened the muscles and cultivated courage and perseverance. There was no College store such as in existence now, but almost opposite the path that passes Silliman Hall, just next above the Root residence, was the store and home of Mrs. Kelly, who dispensed candy, lemonade and tobacco.
Today two degrees are granted, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. In our day the Bachelor of Arts degree was awarded to graduates of the Classical Course. The Latin-Scientific Course, omitting Greek, and depending upon the student’s “proven qualifications,” led to the degree of Bachelor of Science, of Literature, or of Philosophy. The college year was divided into three “terms” instead of two “semesters” as now. In the Classical Course, mathematics was required through the second term of the sophomore year.
Of all students, Classical and Latin-Scientific, writing and public speaking were required for the four years, with English Composition and Declamation in the first two years, and Debate and Orations in the last two. All except Declamation were original with the writer or speaker, (or supposed to be). This requirement is a practice of long-standing in the Hamilton tradition, one that is still in large part maintained, and one that we hope will not be abandoned. Such action would seem almost a desecration.
In both courses some phase of Biblical study was required throughout the four years. Attendance at Chapel services of praise and prayer every weekday morning at half past eight, and every Sunday morning at half past ten was required of all students, except those who had special permission to attend Sunday service elsewhere. The early-morning Clinton writers thus developed the Christian virtues of patience and fortitude, which might not otherwise have been cultivated. While at night some students disregarded the moral and religious instruction of the day, it is to the eternal credit of the College that it exposed its students to refining religious influences. Perhaps it was these influences that fostered that spirit of tolerance and charity of which a classmate writes. He makes the comment that there was “no holier than thou” attitude on the part of any, and as far as he can recall, there were no “perfectionists” and no “hypocrites” in our class.
From 1893 to 1897 the faculty varied in number from 16 to 18, all of excellent scholarship and most of them Hamilton alumni. Dr. Melancthon W. Stryker, ninth president of the College, practically began his administration with our class, having been inaugurated Jan. 17, 1893. For 25 years he gave his magnetic personality to the College. He caused additional buildings to be erected. He replaced the effeminate pink with the stalwart buff and blue. He was both poet and preacher. He composed the words of 15 Hamilton songs. He was a brilliant orator. Every sentence was carefully considered and carefully constructed, and his addresses and sermons sparkled with epigrams. Though despotic by nature and often caustic of speech, we respected and admired him for his ability and his excellent accomplishments. Dwight Holbrook of the Class of 1875, in his half-century letter, quotes Professor Terrett as saying that President Stryker’s administration was a “despotism tempered by epigram.”
Professors Hopkins, Root, Squires and Terrett were ministers too. Their style was not oratorical, but they preached good sermons and they held our earnest attention.
The phrase a “fragment of paper” which “Hops” so frequently used when he directed us to take notes, will always hold a cherished corner in the memory of those whom he taught, but for mature minds it has lost some of the quaintness which amused youthful minds of 50 years ago or more. “Hops” was mild and gentle in reproof. I remember that he reprimanded a student whom he suspected of propelling harmless but annoying missiles through space, by remarking that he disapproved of “anything like the flipping of a bean across the room.”
“Pills” too had his favorite expression. In the process of performing an experiment he would designate by the adjective “yon” some object to which he desired to call our attention. I have a suspicion that he never knew what entertainment he afforded us by the use of that strange word, for “yon” never acquired the publicity that “fragment” enjoyed.
“Bugs” who taught biology, had a wry smile that betokened an appreciation of and an indulgence in dry humor. One member of the class was noted for his lavish use of words of large denominations, which often did not fit the situation. One day “Bugs” commented shrewdly: “Mr. ______, do you know that each one of these words means something?”
“Fen” Couper had fallen into the habit of holding us until the Chapel bell, which announced the next class, had almost stopped ringing. Two members of the class conspired to correct the situation. To his surprise they arose at the first strokes of the bell and prepared to go. He remonstrated with them, but they persevered in their purpose and left the room. After that incident we were not held so long again. I suspect that one of the students had a special reason for executing the maneuver, for it was not unusual for him to arrive at recitations out of breath and with a dent in his derby, indicating great haste and an utter disregard of obstacles.
Class after class felt the benign influence of Professor North, so that he came to be called “Old Greek,” not because of his age but because of the reverence in which he was held. Greek was his second language and in spirit he lived in the land of Homer, where “rosy-fingered dawn” ushered in the day.
“Square’s” dynamic personality made such an impression on us that we cannot dismiss mention of him with a few sentences. He had a quick temper but a kind heart. He was broad in his sympathies, and his interest in his students went far beyond his desire to teach them mathematics. His impatience with derelictions of behavior and imperfect recitations found expression in aphorisms that were worthy of that famous American humorist, Josh Billings, of the Class of 1937.
Said he to a bluffing student: “You have no conception of the subject. It is like trying to carry water in a pail that has neither bail, bottom or sides.” To a student too verbose in his statements — “It is just as bad to slop over as it is to leak.” To a student carving his name on the desk — “You can’t hand your name down to posterity on an ash chip.”
In our youthful thoughtlessness, we took advantage of his defective hearing, not realizing the embarrassment it must have caused him. However this practice gave rise to two especially amusing incidents. Square had a very meager respect for the mathematical ability of a certain student. He would frequently remark to him, “You can’t do here as much as you did in the _______ Free Academy.” The student always took the jibe calmly. He was either too callous or too callow to take offense. Just what connection was between that institution which possessed an excellent corps of instructors and the student’s inherent mathematical weakness is not known. Perhaps Square thought that the student combined in his preparation a maximum of ignorance with a minimum of effort, evidence of which had followed him into College. At any rate, one day the unusual happened. The superintendent of the _______ Schools happened to be visiting our class. Something — the student’s inability to answer certain any of Square’s questions or some other situation equally provocative — prompted the wag of the class, who was entirely ignorant of the distinguished visitor’s identity, to call out “You can’t do here as you did in the _______ Free Academy.” Square didn’t hear the remark, but the visitor heard it, and did his face assume a ruddy hue!
On another occasion when the class was assembling and some of the members had taken their seats, the next arrival was told by those who were seated to close the door. Square ordered him to leave the door open. This performance was repeated several times. It was evident from Square’s manner that he was losing patience, but if he had any suspicion of what was transpiring, he did not betray it by any word of censure. The recitation began, and some of the students were sent to the blackboard. One of them had difficulty with his problem and was unable to proceed. A voice from the seats furnished the desired information, loud enough this time for Square to hear. This was the last straw. He dismissed the class.
B.G. was an excellent instructor in public speaking. In his class we declaimed “again and again and again.” With unflagging zeal he taught us to reproduce the impassioned speeches of Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, Wendell Philipps and George William Curtis. He drilled us in the technique of the “Right Hand” and the “Double Gesture.” Our “practice piece” was a speech titled “Conservatism” which began: “Speaking of Conservatism, George William Curtis once said:” Then follows a description of how the noted painter Couture twice corrected a certain line of a pupil’s drawing, which the pupil, in order to test the accuracy of his master’s eye, as many times crossed out, leaving the original. The third day Couture looked at the drawing for a moment, then with his thumb nail cut quite through the paper. “That’s the way that line should go,” said he and passed on. Is there any member of the Class of 1897 whose waning memory is not revived by the story and the conclusion of the speech?
So the hearts and minds of our fathers marked the line of our true development. Conservatism rubbed it out. The Missouri struggle emphasized the line again. Conservatism rubbed it out. The tragedy of Kansas drew the line more sternly. Conservatism rubbed it out. Then at last the Divine finger drew in fire and blood, sharply, sharply, through out wailing homes, through our torn and bleeding country, through our very quivering hearts, the line of liberty, and justice, and equal rights; and Conservatism might as well try to rub out the rainbow from the heavens, as to erase this, the decision of the age.
This was oratory to stir the soul, but more soul stirring still and even body stirring was that which described the heroism of “The Minute Man of the Revolution” and “Toussaint L’Ouverture” and of others whom we extolled in Chapel exercises before the whole College. What an opportunity it was to cultivate poise and composure! Cries and groans and shuffling of feet were the rebuke from the sophomores at the mention of the word “rust,” a term of disgrace to them, while the words “fresh,” “green” and “slime,” evoked like manifestations of displeasure from the freshmen.
Our debating classes were the medium for remarkable expositions of reasoning and logic. There lingers in our minds the memory of that occasion when a member of the class, whose debating skill was not one of his strong points, attempting to rise above this weakness, dramatically exclaimed, “When Patrick Henry gave the colonists the choice of liberty or death, with one accord they chose liberty.” What a singular display of wisdom! Remarkable, was it not, that those early patriots, without a single negative vote, chose to be free rather than to be dead? A classmate writes that whether intended or not, “it was brilliant satire.”
We were fortunate to come under the influence of such worthy members of the teaching profession as those with whom we were associated during those four years. They were capable, unselfish, zealous, devoted and thoroughly acquainted with the subjects they taught. If at times we complained about their dispositions, or joked about their peculiarities, or gave them annoying evidences of juvenile behavior, these acts in no way detracted from the esteem in which we held them.
In our day the custom of “scurfing” existed. This consisted in the exchange of uncomplimentary remarks between sophomores and freshmen. The former denounced us in scathing and scurrilous terms for our “greenness” and our “slime.” Our efforts to retaliate by reviling the sophomores with “rusty” epithets never seemed so effective as their efforts to goad us on. I do not think that any team of sophomores at any time in “scurfing” history, “scurfed” as provokingly, as persistently and as protractedly as that composed of Ferguson, Hewitt, Taggart, Warfield and Wood of the Class of 1896.
The same object was attained by the use of paint and posters. Class numerals in green and brown paint, liberally applied to the buildings on the Hill and the sidewalks from the village to the Hill, one set of numerals, for obvious reasons, often partly obliterating the other, greeted the eye for several days after the opening of the fall term. Some time later occurred the poster orgy. Green-and-brick-colored posters adorned the landscape. They flaunted conspicuous headlines of varied nature, depending on the class authorship, such as “Little Folks Magazine” and “Kindergarten,” devised by the sophomores and “The Rusty Rake” and “The Rusty Blade,” products of freshman literary skill.
Then came a list of certain members of the class who were being vilified, uncomplimentary terms beginning with the members’ initials replacing their first and middle names, these being followed by deprecatory remarks about them. By a curious turn of fortune we issued two sets of posters. The first posters were discovered and stolen by the sophomores. Several members of our class composed an entirely different one. Two other members of the Class of 1897 drove to Utica and had the second set printed. In the meantime the first set was recovered.
The “protection” system was in vogue back in the ’90s. On the first two-and-a-half days after the opening of College in the fall, if a freshman was accompanied by an upperclassman, his person was inviolate. It was unfortunate if he should be so contemptuous of custom as not to avail himself of this safeguard. On the remaining half-day, the freshman was not safe even with an escort. If he was so incautious as to venture forth, he ran the risk of being apprehended, taken to some remote place and kept in “durance vile” until the “gym show” in the evening, in which he was to be the star attraction, doing what his captors told him to do and saying what they told him to say. In spite of the ignominy that the victim endured, I never heard that the ordeal transgressed reasonable limits.
A member of the Class of 1898 thus fell into our hands. We transported him hinterland about three miles west of the campus, to the site of the Clinton reservoir, where we incarcerated him in a barn until the evening. He was a royal captive, manifesting neither sullenness nor chagrin, but composed and cheerful. His attitude was indicative of the possession of certain desirable political traits, for he became a state senator in his native Connecticut.
Our class yell was adopted on the spur of the moment with an entire absence of formality. One night when we were on our way to meet the sophomores, just as we were approaching the bridge over the Oriskany Creek, a member of the class suggested “Waxico, Waxico, Rip Rah, Reven. Hamilton, Hamilton, 1997.” This became our yell and our battle cry. It led us into many a “row” and triumphantly announced our victory.
We join the ranks of previous annalists who modestly proclaim the prowess of their classes. The sophomores were not our equal in the manly art of self-defense. We lost no time in impressing this upon them. On the day College opened we were victorious in the “row” with them. This led Peter Kelly, the janitor of North College, to commend us in no uncertain terms. “Boys,” said he, “this is the first time since 1861 that the Freshman Class has won on this Hill.”
If we were endowed with miraculous powers by which our vision could penetrate the cornerstone of the well house, which we left as our class memorial, we should find among other memorabilia a piece of an overcoat. This remnant of cloth commemorates an event that is outstanding in the history of the class.
That a freshman should make his exit from Chapel before the other classes, just wasn’t supposed to happen. Enshrined in our memory is the unlucky day when one of our class in an absent-minded mood was the first to leave the Chapel. Such a breach of etiquette and convention called for censure on the part of the upperclassmen and chastisement on the part of the sophomores. Hearing the cries of disapproval the freshman began to run. He made for the Root Garden with the sophomores in hot pursuit. The fugitive might have escaped under cover of the woods had it not been for a barbed wire fence which impeded his progress. Then ensued a furious fight, the sophomores endeavoring to hold him, the freshmen to rescue him. We struggled out of the Root premises, the biggest and strongest member of our class, “Big Injun,” in the van. With coat removed and shirt \sleeves rolled up to the elbows, his blows were telling ones.
When Antaeus, mighty wrestler of old and son of Mother Earth, was thrown to the ground, he sprang up with renewed strength bestowed upon him by contact with his fostering parents, but the sophomores, not being born of Mother Earth, were no match for us freshmen who were strong in our own might, and when they were thrown to the ground, their strength departed from them. In the middle of the road down the Hill we fought, past B.G.’s, past the Kelsey home, past Schnitz’s, past Prexy’s, past Old Greek’s, past the Theta Delta and DU houses, down to the Psi U lawn. Here the fight ceased and we dispersed, our class victorious and the freshman, who was the cause of the commotion, sound in body, but torn in overcoat.
Then there was the day, when, because of some grievance, real or fancied, we cut noon chapel and celebrated the event by placing our colors on the nearby flagpole. In spite of the efforts of the sophomores to remove it, the flag still floated in the breeze. Covered with mud from head to foot, our banner prominently displayed, we had our pictures taken on the Chapel steps. The picture is still in our possession.
Certain other exploits we recall with pleasure but do not recommend as worthy of imitation. There was the night when a venturesome member of the class, in a precarious position, leaned out of the top belfry of the Chapel, pulled the flagpole over the cornice and nailed it to the tower. Memorable was the Halloween when a luckless classmate was so alarmed by a shot from a policeman’s revolver that he swallowed a burning brand — probably the brand was Sweet Caporal. As if this were not indignity enough, he was compelled to spend the night in the village lockup, and we had to collect the funds to release him. One of our midnight escapades lost for a quarter of an hour or so something of its glory by the disappearance of a brown derby that would have been the envy of Al Smith. Its discovery by the authorities would have meant our undoing. However, the incriminating headgear was recovered by the kindly assistance of the moon and the diligent efforts of a member of the class.
Hamilton’s athletic activities during those years comprised track athletics, baseball, football and tennis. Football, while it did not hold the prominent place in college athletics generally that it does today, nevertheless, of all sports, drew the most eager and enthusiastic crowds. From 1893 to 1897, except for one season, Hamilton had a creditable record. In the fall of 1893, the team defeated Syracuse and, wonderful to relate, Colgate and Cornell, losing only to Rochester and Union. Mention of the season of 1894 almost compels me to change the subject. Men were injured in practice, among them the captain. Some of the best players became discouraged and deserted. We let fall a kindly curtain to hide the record. In 1895, fortune began to smile wanly again. Hamilton was victorious over Hobart and Rochester, and succumbed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Fortune continued to attend us in 1896. In two games with RPI we tied once and were victors once. We won in two games with Rochester, defeated St. Lawrence and lost only to New York University.
Basketball had not yet risen to the dignity of being included in the College’s athletic program.
It would not be a true picture of Hamilton life in those days if mention were not made of our social activities. There were certain stated events — the Sophomore Hop, the Junior Prom and the Senior Ball. There were but two kinds of dancing that seemed to be worthwhile. Waltz and two-step alternated throughout the evening and into the morning, when the strains of Good Night Ladies and Home Sweet Home warned that daylight was appearing. Our Junior Prom is thus described in the 1897 Hamiltonian. “The orchestra was adequate, playing the waltzes sweetly, the two-steps brilliantly and both artistically, so that the dancing was kept up until an early hour in the morning.” Fraternity houseparties preceded and followed the larger events.
Before our time and for some time after our graduation, the Clark Prize Exhibition in Oratory — K.P. — was held in the Stone Church in the village. This was true, with the exception of Campus Day, of the exercises of Commencement Week — the Baccalaureate Service, the McKinney Prize Contest in Declamation, Class Day, the McKinney Prize Exhibition in Extemporaneous Debate and Commencement. At the conclusion of Campus Day exercises in 1897, we made our way to the well house, our class memorial, and imbedded in the cornerstone our class box. This contains numerous memorabilia, among which are an 1897 Hamiltonian, a College Catalogue of 1893, programs of K.P. and of the exercises of Commencement week, with posters of freshmen and sophomore years, the class flag, one of the sombreros worn as a class hat, a picture of the class after the first “row” – and a piece of the torn overcoat!
The well house shelters the historic well, the theme of many a song and poem in Hamilton history. At the Alumni Dinner of 1897 held in Scollard Hall (the village opera house, with movable seats), Clinton Scollard of the Class of 1881, well-known poet and for many years professor of English literature at Hamilton, read a poem of his titled The College Well. One of the verses follows:
Though far afield the man be gone,
Yet in his heart the boy lives on!—
The boy whose eyes revert to find
The happy paths he left behind,
When care was but a phantom yet,
And nothing but a myth regret.
Among those joy-paved pathways, one
Heads swiftly westward with the sun,
Along a slope upon whose crest
Grave Learning’s firm foundations rest;
Hark, ‘tis the pealing Chapel-bell!
And see, the dear old College well!
Modern sanitation has sealed up the well and provided the College with an adequate water system, but the well house still stands as if to protect and preserve the memories that hover about that hollowed spot.
It might be inferred from what has been recorded here that we devoted most of our time to extracurricular activities of a type not listed in the College catalog or approved by the faculty. On the contrary we made an excellent recorded in scholarship. We maintained the highest average of any class in College at the time. We had nine Clark Prize orators, six who graduated with us and three whom we bequeathed to the Class of 1898, and eight McKinney Prize debaters, six of our own and two to whom 1898 fell heir. We had two salutatorians. This had happened but once before, in the Class of 1816, and as far as I can ascertain, it has not happened since 1897. On Commencement Day the applause for our valedictorian was so spontaneous, so hearty and so insistent, that he was obliged to come forward again and bow his acknowledgment. This event, it was said, was so unprecedented in the history of the College, and I do not know that it has happened since 1897.
It seems rather like “carrying coals to Newcastle” to present these annals to the Class of 1897. For others who may read them, they may possess a fleeting interest. In either case our class motto, freely translated “One good turn deserves another,” has a special application. The patient listener and the patient reader have done me so good a turn that it deserves another, namely, that this chronicle be brought to a close.
If a more studious and serious member of the class had written these annals, they would have been less puerile, less trivial, less commonplace. They would have been more scholarly, more dignified, more profound, but mirabile dictu, replies received from classmates in response to my request for suggestions, reveled the fact that we are much alike. Our memories revert to the frivolous aspect of our College days rather than to the serious. What is more remarkable, the replies came from men in whom 50 years must have developed a serious attitude toward life, and from a class of 23 men who were preparing themselves for lives of serious thought and serious purpose. This number comprised seven lawyers, five ministers, four college professors, four business men, an author, a physician and a superintendent of schools. All of which leads to the conclusion that each of us is still a boy at heart — “Yet in his heart the boy lives on!” — happy in the opportunity to renew youthful friendships to revisit the scene of his youth and to review youthful experiences.
Every year for 26 years Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem for his class at Harvard. We of the Class of 1897 echo with similar sentiment a verse of one of his poems:
Has any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If so, take him out without making a noise.
Hang the Almanac’s cheat and the Catalogue’s spite!
Old time is a liar! We’re twenty to-night!
Clarence Aubrey Fetterly was born in Utica, N.Y. While at Hamilton, he was a member of Psi Upsilon. After earning his bachelor of arts degree, he continued at Hamilton to earn a master of arts in 1900 and later pursued graduate work at Harvard, Columbia and New York universities. He served as principal of Cape Vincent High School, followed by similar positions in Norwood, N.Y. and Liberty, N.Y. In 1907, he accepted a position teaching Latin at the Rutherford, N.J., High School and in 1911 was made supervising principal, a position he held until his retirement in 1938.