November 20, 2002: From the Archives

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From the Archives

Illustration by Henry Martin '48

This fall PAW features excerpts from Elizabeth Greenberg ’02’s senior thesis about Princeton rituals and student traditions. Greenberg, who hopes to turn her thesis into a book, seeks further anecdotes and memories from PAW’s readers. Did you, or your father or grandfather, take part in Poler’s Recess? What particularly inventive noisemakers were used? How did students view this tradition? E-mail Greenberg at or write her c/o PAW. To learn more about her project, go to


Poler’s Recess In the 19th century, a “poler” was an overzealous student. For Poler’s Recess, a respite from the grind of exam preparations, undergraduates threw open their windows at the 9 p.m. curfew and made as much noise as possible to relieve tension. From musical instruments to shotgun fire, students produced a clamor so admirable that in 1918 local soldiers thought the Germans were invading. Poler’s Recess faded in the mid-1930s and disappeared during the ’40s. In January 1949, it resumed, and Holder Hall residents were commended in the Prince for their use of firecrackers and flaming tennis balls. But the revival did not take hold, and Princeton’s raucous version of the primal scream became a campus memory.