Forgotten Lawrenceville Traditions

Features  /  by Shreya Kumar '19   /  January 26, 2018

Throughout Lawrenceville’s long history, traditions have come and gone, many of which have been initiated by past students. I sat down with Arts Master J. Allen Fitzpatrick ’73 H’89 P’99 ’04, who stepped onto campus as a new III former in the fall of 1970, to ask him about traditions that he has experienced or witnessed over the course of his years as a student, teacher, and Housemaster.

Rhinies and tie-snipping. New students, whether they were V Formers or I Formers, were called “rhinies” and had to wear black ties. They also were not allowed to wear the school colors—if an upperclassmen saw a new student wearing red and black, they would snip his tie off. A cut-off tie was very embarrassing for the new student, as he would have to go across the street and buy a new tie. Fitzpatrick recalled one of his classmates who constantly had cut-up ties because of his red hair: “He got bullied in a way that really bothered me because upperclassmen would come up to him and go ‘Red hair? Black tie? Snip,’ and they would do it over and over and over again. One day, I was on the second floor of Mem hall, and this guy was being carried by his ankles and his feet and his hands.” If Lawrenceville beat Hill in football, the tie-snipping would end, and if they lost, it would continue through Christmas break.

School-wide snowball fights. All the time, apparently! Involving up to 150 people, Circle Houses would go head-to-head with other Circle Houses, V Formers, and even Lower School. “Obviously, for safety reasons, that went away,” added Fitzpatrick.

Hill vs. Lawrenceville Football Pep Rallies. Similar to the event Student Council hosted this year, there was always a pep rally before Hill Weekend. Each starter football players was called up individually, and his respective House sung the House cheer for him—it was one of the biggest honors for any Lawrentian football player. Furthermore, everyone was required to go to Hill on Hill Day.

Senior pranks. Pretty self-explanatory. Fitzpatrick noted some of the more memorable pranks he’s seen: “[The V Formers] detoured 206 to go through campus, they once put a grain-fed cow in the second floor of Mem Hall, and cows don't go downstairs, and they buried cars in the circle. [The prank] used to be an opportunity for the boys to get creative, but now the administration controls Senior Day.”

Meals. Before Irwin Dining Center was built in Fitzpatrick’s V Form year, all the students ate lunch in their respective houses. “Lunch for me was to go to Woodhull, stand behind a chair at my table, wait for the Housemaster to finish teaching and walk to Woodhull, read the Houseletter, and say grace. Until he sat down, I could not sit down. Once they opened Irwin, the House system was changed.” Even after Irwin opened, all the meals were served family-style, the faculty sat separately, and there was a House-oriented job rotation system in which students were assigned to be waiters or cleaners. Additionally, before coeducation, if a woman walked into the hall, the whole House had to stand.

Teas and Coffees. These were “regular events” within the House, where students would meet with the Housemaster and his spouse over drinks and discussion.

Smoking at House Banquets. During Winter banquets, every student was allowed to smoke one cigar. “We would go from the Chapel to Irwin, and 30 minutes into the meal, you couldn’t see inside the building—the smoke was so thick. It really ruined the night and the meal, but for some reason, the adults felt they wanted to let the kids blow off steam once,” Fitzpatrick said.