The Nut Cracker
by Meredith Minter, class of 1984
"Student, confused in French class: 'Dr. Zdanowicz, I don't think a modern girl would kill the man who married her father.' "
With these words, 1922's Tommie Drake began a column—and a legend. The "Nut Cracker," weekly purveyor of humor, endured for 20 years, competing with the campus humor magazine, Old Maid. Slowly, it dwindled from half a page to half a column. Finally, its columnist's name vanished from the masthead. Nevertheless, it holds a record unlikely to be broken—it lasted through nineteen columnists, its content almost unchanged. Even the jokes themselves repeated after a while...
There were odd little inadvertent one-liners, supposedly (and perhaps actually) based on fact:
"As yet, we have no nuts," Miss Walters announced to the biology lab section. "Dr. Hamaker has not yet come in."
"Who, who wrote Euripides? Somebody tell me before the exam!"
"Should I be returned as your representative you will have no cause for regret when my term of office expires."
And the following dialogues:
Student: "Please, put an ad in The Sundial, and say I've lost my fountain pen and leather notebook."
Editor: "All right."
Student (returning later): "Can you change that ad?"
Editor: "Yes, certainly."
Student: "Well, say that I've found my pen and notebook, so it's all right."
First Roommate: "Oh, I wish there was no such thing as money!"
Second Roommate: "Don't let that worry you. We have no proof that there is."
Then there were reprints, of course, more and more as the years went by. One of the first was reprinted from Harper's:
During the height of the political campaign, an enthusiastic Democratic rally for workingmen was held in a hall in a Western city. "Fellow citizens," said the orator, bringing his fist down with a bang, "what, I ask, are the Republicans bringing this country to? And echo answers, 'What?' "
"Excuse me," interposed a man in the audience, "but did I understand you to ask, "What are the Republicans bringing this country to?"
"And you say the echo answers, 'What?' "
"That's what I said, sir."
The man in the audience scratched his head in perplexity, "Then, sir, there's something mighty funny about the acoustics in this hall."
After Tommie Drake, none of the "Nut Cracker's" writers held the job for more than a year. Perhaps, after nine months of scrounging frantically for jokes, they began to feel as she did, in her last semester on the job:
I've read Tigers, Reels, and Widows (all humor magazines)
I've read Punch and Life and Judge.
I have seen so many jokes I miss the point.
I have searched the Punch Bowl over,
I've perused the last Tar Baby,
Till my funny bone has gotten out of joint.
I shall get a book of martyrs.
And an excellent collection
Of some sermons meant for funerals and such.
I shall read some tomes on horrors
Of the Spanish Inquisition
And shall doubtless be revived and cheered right much.
For those who have read to the end of this column, I recommend the same.
Originally published in The Sundial on September 17, 1982 (Vol. 67, no. 2, 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.