by Meredith Minter, class of 1984
As those who woke to Wednesday's be-Muppetted campus can tell, Odd Days are strange and delightful eruptions into the normal scheme of things. From 1910, when the coffin-stealing class of 1913 astounded the College by hanging its colors from Conway's tower, to 1982, the Odds have periodically claimed one day in the life of Randolph-Macon for their own.
For the first thirteen years, celebrations, though yearly, were haphazard at best. There were no themes, the ruling principle of decoration was simply to plaster the campus red, gray and blue. Paper flowers adorned every available space, and bright streamers floated from the ceilings. Possibly because the decorations were so simple, there was no great outcry if they were destroyed, and the Evens frequently burned them. In these years, Odd Day was established as April first; this was later changed to April 15th to avoid conflicts with Spring Break.
The first Odd theme was the Middle Ages, and knights, dragons, and Canterbury Pilgrims disported themselves all over campus. Two years later, in 1927, came the perennial theme "Alice in OddLand," which reappeared all too often thereafter. 1926 saw "The Wedding of the Witch and Devil"; 1927's "Treasure Island" transformed Main to the Admiral Benbow, and 1928 took adventurous students "Under the Sea." "Mother Goose," an all-encompassing topic repeated wholesale in 1944, first came to the campus in 1933. Subsequently, parts of its exhibits were repeated in 1938 (with "Snow White and the Slick Sixteen"), 1972 (with "The Odd World of Disney") and 1980 (with the "Land of Odds").
There have been Odd Days based on astrology (Odd Earth, 1928), Shakespeare ("The B'odd of Avon," 1934 and 1947), and musical comedy ("Life is a Song," 1939; and "Showboat," 1950). Popular magazines escaped from the newsracks in 1944 and Charles Adams' cartoons from which the TV show "The Adams Family" leered from the walls in 1955.Oddyseus (sic) wandered for twenty years through the College of 1956, and 1940 changed R-M to the "Holiday Inn"—containing a calendar's worth of holidays. The Oddling Sister's Circus, followed in 1966 by "The Oddest Show on Earth," gave rise in 1946 to a ten-year custom of entertaining children from the Presbyterian Home.
Despite the divergent themes, activities on Odd Day have always been much the same. In the early years, a bugle instead of a bell roused the campus, and by 1913 words had been set to its music: "Though it glitters, / Though it glitters!" freshmen sang, "it is not GOLD, / Because it is, / Because it is, / Those BRASSY sophomores!" The next year, raised to a new eminence, they woke the echoes with another verse, "Though it's verdant / Though it's verdant / It is not GRASS! / Because it is, Because it is, / That BABY freshman class."
For many years, the Carnation Arch was made before chapel; that is, in the late morning. The afternoon events included a parade along Rivermont—in the early years, Lynchburg police stopped traffic—and the planting of a Ragged Robin, Odd Class Flower, by Odd class presidents.At night, after the usual dinner, there was a skit given by upperclassmen (or sometimes the Odd Faculty!).
Late at night on every Odd Day—and this was not given up till the seventies—there was a Lantern Parade. Carrying shoebox lanterns, one for each Odd class, student and alumnae Odds filed slowly down Crush Path to the Tree. Placing the lanterns in its branches, they called the roll of Macon's Odds—'99, '01...on to the present classes. Then, they serenaded each other till midnight.
Despite a 1970 effort to abolish Odd Day—none was held that year—it continues unabated. Or, at least, only slightly abated, it became a biennial event, by vote, in 1958. The "Pride of Alma Mater"—so says an Odd song—the "Envy of the Evens"; it seems likely to be of all Odd traditions the most enduring.
Originally published in The Sundial on March 26, 1982 (Vol. 66, no. 21, 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.