Web Exclusives: Under the Ivy
by Gregg Lange '70

July 18, 2007:

Going back, and back, and back
At Reunions, recalling two giants from the Class of 1907

By Gregg Lange ’70

Going back, and back, and back

So I’m walking through the loud fifth-reunion combine the Friday night of Reunions 2007 (after the downpour, thank God) and I pause to look at the beer-tent line, which stretches halfway to Toledo. I’m pondering how many hours I have left to live vs. how thirsty I am when a reuner next to me in civvies unwraps himself from his girlfriend, holds out a cold beer, and says, “They gave me two; have one!” Now this was a real 16-ounce beer, not a 3.7-ounce one-sippy like they serve at the 45th, so I regarded that as a significant gesture of kindness toward an elderly weirdo staring at his girlfriend. Accepting the offer and pitying his unadorned state, I swapped the beer for my debonair Class of 1970 Buggy Ballcap, which seemed to amuse him no end. I do wonder, though, when he awoke Saturday (or Sunday or Tuesday maybe) and found himself in a hat with a tiger on the back and a cucaracha on the front, what his reaction might be.

[Editor’s note: This is supposed to be a history column, right?]

Oh, sorry. Well, let’s talk about the Class of 1925, then. Malcolm Warnock, the class’s junior member, won the Class of ’23 Cane for oldest returning alumnus to Reunions for the third time this year. The senior member of the class, Leonard Ernst, who has won the cane five times, decided not to come all the way from Arizona on the assurance that Malcolm was representing the class. Together, the eight wins for ’25 set a record for the cane, not to mention that Malcolm and Leonard two years ago held Princeton’s first official 80th reunion, for which the attendance of at least two classmates is required. The beloved Arthur Holden ’12 held the prior class record (1987-93), but the ’25 double-team has bumped him down to second place. As you read this, Malcolm and Leonard are both 102, and are allowed to cut to the head of the line at the fifth-reunion beer tent.

[Editor’s note: Whoa! How’d we get back here again? History???]

Point taken. Uh, the Class of 1907 should be safe; it wasn’t at Reunions this year. A pivotal part of Woodrow Wilson 1879’s whirlwind administration as Princeton president, the class witnessed in four years the opening of the great gothic University Gym; construction of Lake Carnegie, Little, McCosh, and 1879 halls, Palmer Lab, and FitzRandolph Gate; and the hiring of all the “preceptor guys.” Perhaps in response, or perhaps coincidentally, the class included some singular characters. There was Jeff Davis, the grandson of the president of the Confederacy. There was the memorably nicknamed “Whiskey” Stainback, who became governor of Hawaii (the mind races). A number of classmates volunteered for World War I, and John Bedinger and Austin Hobbs were killed in action. When the gym burned down in 1944, classmate Herbert Dillon coughed up $1.1 million to build the replacement named in his honor. And there were two Princeton giants whose efforts echoed down the years.

Benjamin Franklin “Bunny” Bunn 1907 was the godfather of an astounding assortment of undergrad groups: He was manager of the Triangle Club for 50 years and the first manager of McCarter Theater, and an award at the Princetonian is named for him. His years as loyal timekeeper for just about every sports team on campus led to the naming of one of the most revered sports awards, the Bunn Trophy for the most valuable player on the men’s basketball team, a recognition taken so seriously that one year Pete Carril refused to give it out. Bunn was also the mayor of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township at various times, the only alum ever to hold both posts, and a founding trustee of Westminster Choir College. In recognition of all this, Princeton awarded him an honorary degree on his 40th reunion, astonishing for an alumni volunteer.

And then there was Rag Osborn 1907. Along with his composing partner-in-crime Joe Hewitt 1907, he wrote “The Cannon Song” in 1906 and dedicated it to the class. Rag is regarded as the founder of Tiger Band, the first college marching band, organized in the patriotic wake of World War I and the mainstream explosion of college football; it was also about the only club Bunny Bunn wasn’t involved in, since he was the football timekeeper. Osborn never stopped; in 1951 he recycled another Hewitt-Osborn undergrad ditty, “The Guard of Old Nassau,” into “The Princeton Band March,” the group’s intro song (“Oh, here we are, the Princeton Band, playing songs of Old Nassau ...”). And he composed a new march for 1907’s reunions that got revised into the snappy “Princeton’s Sons”:

Nineteen-Seven’s (Princeton’s sons are) back again
Into the Tiger’s den once more.
Back with the class
And back where the Nass
Used to stand in days of yore.
They’ve come back from far and near,
Back to Princeton ev’ry year,
To cheer once more
For Old Nassau
With a Tiger sis boom bah!

A pretty good reading of Reunions, that, and one that my newly hatted friend from ’02 would appreciate, I’ll wager. It was great, wandering by the band’s annual Freddie Fox ’39 Memorial Concert on Cannon Green the Saturday morning of Reunions, to hear “The Princeton Band March” and “The Cannon Song” again. Perhaps 1925 won the cane this year, but 100 years later, the Class of 1907 was well represented, too. P

Lange '70Gregg 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.