Web Exclusives: Rally 'Round the Cannon -- Princeton history
by Gregg Lange '70
January 23, 2008:
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
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
10. Scott Fitzgerald ’17 chooses
“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
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
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.
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
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.
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
And from the home office on C Floor of Firestone,
the number one, utterly transcendent item you can’t find on
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?
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.