Web Exclusives: Rally 'Round the Cannon -- Princeton history
by Gregg Lange '70

January 23, 2008:
Little-known facts

Ten Really Important Things You Can’t Find on Princeton.edu

By Gregg Lange ’70

Wherein we at least demonstrate that a columnist with a Princeton statistics degree can count backward


Our intrepid online columnist muses on the virtually nonexistent


Here in the Wide World of Insubstance, we tend to compensate with data for what we lack in bulk. Educational Web sites are the penultimate (a rightful nod to Wikipedia) in trivia. Princeton does a better job than most making its extensive materials accessible to the public through princeton.edu and goprincetontigers.com and should be recognized for the effort; it’s certainly harder to raise endowment for Web servers than Gothic dorms, one would think. I’m a particular fan of the Princeton library search sites, for example.

But hey, nobody’s perfect, right? Herr Professor Google and I, with generous support from the editors and Iron City, have identified some few troubling deficiencies in the Virtual Orange and Black Firmament. So as a public service to you inveterate knowledge-thirsters, we note the Top Ten Things you can’t find on Princeton’s Web sites:

10. Scott Fitzgerald ’17 chooses chemistry

“F” (as we oldtimers knowingly called him) did have a way with words, but he wasn’t exactly a disciplined scholar. He’d have stood a far better chance at a degree without introductory Chemistry 201, which during his checkered academic career he failed to pass twice, then tried again. The third time, he quit midway through to enlist in the Army – in the middle of World War I. As an English major, he had the option of taking physics instead, so it’s hard to imagine how bad he would have been at that.

9. The name of the basketball courts in Jadwin Gym

Yes, there is one. Not “Bradley Courts,” not “Carril Courts,” and certainly not “Scottland.” It’s actually (drumroll)… Dorrance Courts, in honor of Jack Dorrance ’41, their generous donor when Jadwin was built in 1969. Sis-boom-ah, Jack.

8. Witherspoon’s imprisonment

Speaking of Scotland, even before he crossed the pond and got involved in the American Revolution and got his college cannonaded, Rev. Johnnie was an old hand at the downside of political unrest. Ironically, his unmentioned 1745 incarceration during the Jacobite Rising resulted from apparent unwillingness to denounce George II. He certainly made up for that in 1776.

7. The bride of J.D. Oznot ’68 p’01 s’01

The1964 admission of (the imaginary) Oznot – one of the truly great pranks in a long, honored history of them at Princeton – has led to multiple subsequent (imaginary) Oznotopian adventures dutifully reported here at PAW by his (imaginative) Class of 1968, including recently his (imaginary) perp walks at both Enron and Tyco. However,

his (imaginary) legacy daughter and his recent marriage to her (imaginary) Princeton roommate somehow have not yet become Web site items. I understand the happy couple was imaginatively registered at the U-Store.

6. The demise of Walker-Gordon Dairy

Before Wegman’s or the glitzy Forrestal Campus Fusion Tours, a visit at milking time to the Plainsboro dairy’s Rotolactor, a sort of stainless merry-go-round for butterfat afficianados, was about the only entertainment in central New Jersey between party weekends. Walker-Gordon also made Friday football prediction ice cream treats that were more accurate than the Prince. Elsie the Cow (who lived at Walker-Gordon – really; would I make that up?) and the farm met the grim burgermeister in 1971.

5. Probably the last chance for the statistics department

There used to be one. There isn’t one now. Is its disappearance somehow related to Walker-Gordon? Did granting me an A.B. destroy the department’s reputation in the field? Did the athletic department forget to reschedule Game Theory? Odds are it began to disappear in 1985 and by 1999 transformed into the operations research and financial engineering department, which has a longer name so must be more important.

The rail spur

The rail spur to Princeton’s campus in the days when it ran to the foot of Blair Hall.

4. The Iron Horse Comes to Tigertown

Despite thousands of citations regarding the Dinky, the PJ&B, the station, weekend dates at the station, horseback train robberies of weekend dates, desperation for weekend dates [oh, sorry, I digress …], Princeton Junction, the PJ&B Musicals, and enough choo-choo photos to stop a train, the date when the original station and the rail spur were built is a virtual mystery (the date is actually 1865).

3. The names of Princeton’s war dead

The University has done itself and its fallen sons proud in both the Nassau Hall Memorial Atrium and the poignant individual bronze stars on their dorm rooms all over campus. Strangely, the list of more than 600 alumni heroes – from the American Revolution to Viet Nam, from Nathaniel Scudder 1751 to Dermod Quinn ’69 – is nowhere online.

John Grier Hibben

John Grier Hibben

2. Gentlemen, start your car rule

If you think the Chapel rule was anachronistic (not to mention dogmatic), if you think parietals (translation: no girls in your room after 7 p.m.) were, uh, socially limiting, then the unconditional no-undergrad-cars-within-range-of-campus edict would have driven you nuts. While they all went the way of the Revolution (not Witherspoon’s, the other one) in the late 1960s, and while the other two rules seem to have been relics of the 1746 regime in Newark, the advent of the car rule is MIA. Of course, it’s a safe bet if Jonathan Edwards had known about cars, he gleefully would have banned them. But it actually took place in 1927 under John Grier Hibben, following a series of horrific student deaths on the road. Hibben subsequently died less than a year after his retirement as president in 1932 – in an auto accident.

And from the home office on C Floor of Firestone, the number one, utterly transcendent item you can’t find on princeton.edu:

(from http://tigernet.princeton.edu/

1. Any reasonable explanation for the black squirrels

Speaking of nuts, two things we do know: 1) Black squirrels are genetically just like all the other squirrels, and 2) they were spotted on Manhattan in the 17th century. But why don’t you ever see them in New Jersey more than five miles from campus? Let’s just say there’s a magna cum laude in genomics still waiting for somebody. Right, chief? P




Lange '70

Gregg Lange ’70 is a member of the Princetoniana Committee and the Alumni Council Committee on Reunions, an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer, and a trustee of WPRB radio. He assumes the ironic role of Self-Defeating Prophet by posting these items here at princeton.edu/paw.