Bury the Hatchet
by Meredith Minter, class of 1984
"Heap big war is done and over.
Heap big peace pipe waits for you.
Heap big hole for to bury the hatchet in.
Come help bury him, Twenty-two!"
Today with class fights at last abolished, even the stateliest senior may engage in Odd/Even rivalry without losing her mind, her dignity, or her G.P.A. However, for many years, only underclassmen were actively partisan; the more studious upperclassmen served mostly as advisers.
The change from an active to a passive role was a hard one for many juniors; and there seemed a need for a rite of passage. Hence, the Bury the Hatchet ceremony, where juniors and seniors forgot their rivalry and admitted each others' sisterhood.
Unlike many traditions, this one can be dated to the year. Though there were many "class reconciliations" in the early teens, it seems certain that the October 1915 one was the first to use the Hatchet theme. That first party had an Indian motif, in which the class presidents were the chiefs [Actually, the first recorded use of the "hatchet" theme was in 1903-04, though it didn't establish a pattern. -- Meredith Minter Dixon '84].
The ceremonies stayed the same until 1923. It had always been customary for each class to sing the other's songs, but that year the songs were deliberately scrambled. "It's the Odd born in us..." seniors caroled, with amazing versatility, "and it's good enough for me/ To be Even born and Even bred/ And when I go/To return no more/ Just teach them Odd/ and Even lore..."
In 1925, the classes dared to be different. Dressed as Northern loggers, their presidents presented a skit in which an Even, swinging her axe, advanced on the Tree. "Woodman, spare that tree!" the junior president cried, shielding it as best she could from the murderous logger. However, the tables were soon turned, as, certain of the safety of her Tree, she advanced on a nearby Post. At length, of course, the dispute was resolved, and the hatchet safely interred.Again in 1932, after a succession of Indian parties, a three part skit was given. The first of these showed a sauricidal caveboy killing the family dinosaur in a fit of indignation. The second, set somewhat later, showed little Bobby Crusoe, Robinson's son, splitting his father's boat into kindling, with the announced purpose of toasting marshmallows. The third showed the boy George Washington in an incriminating position near a cherry tree. With all these good reasons for avoiding hatchets, the juniors were easily persuaded to bury R-M's.
In 1934, when Green Pastures was running on Broadway, a parody, dealing with Oddum and Even, was put forth as the Hatchet theme. This idea was well-liked, and except for one year—1935—became standard for the next twelve years. In 1946, there was a reversion to the Indian theme—"By the shores of River Monte/By the shining James-Sea Water."
By 1953, the tradition had begun its long slide downhill. That year, a paper hatchet was used, as the presidents couldn't find the real one. In 1958, things sank to a new low when the hatchet was disinterred to serve as a cake cutter after the ceremony. Today, the party is quietly obscure, still celebrated, still somewhat meaningful, but at best poorly attended.
In conclusion, probably the finest Hatchet party ever was 1936's. That year's skit, reprinted in The Sundial by popular demand, featured "The Romance of Oddasius and Eve N. Dearer." The playlet, notable for some wonderful lines, began with the beautiful Eve's hopeless crush on Oddasius. In the first act, this manly being tells of his heroism: "There aren't many fellows who'd do that. You should have seen that woman's face when I rushed into that burning building, and without a moment's hesitation bravely said, 'Who the hell do you think you are? Didn't you the fire alarm? Get out of here!'"
As Oddacious modestly expounds on his abilities, Eve's attention is caught by Hysterical Historian, who is out to popularize the biography of George Washington. Seeing an audience, he demonstrates his methods by chopping down the Odd Tree (in lieu of a cherry) and smashing the Post (to show the destruction of war). Then, waving his hatchet, he proceeds to dramatize British atrocities on the civilian population, seizing Eve.
In terror, she turns to her hero. Oddasius however, is not there—after one look a Historian, he's set out for the county line. So, unopposed, the Historian efficiently kills her and goes on his way, leaving the hatchet by the body.
Finally, in the last act, two professors, one of mathematics, one of Latin, come wandering by. Encountering Eve's body, they enter into spirited debate over its disposal. At length, they decide to raise a shrine to it—but, of course, being absent-minded, they inadvertently bury the hatchet....
Originally published in The Sundial on March 5, 1982 (Vol. 66, no. 19, p. 4)
This article is taken from "The Past Master," a column written by Meredith Minter Dixon, class of 1984, for the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College student newspaper, The Sundial. It is published here with her permission.
Mrs. Dixon has written an invaluable multi-volume set, Maconiana: A Social History of Randolph-Macon Woman's College. For additional information, please visit her author's page on Amazon.
Please contact Mrs. Dixon (dixonm at pobox dot com) if you have comments or questions about her articles.