By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70
No well-regulated classical college of the present day sets any ultrafashionable standards for its social life. Quite to the contrary, it curtails any such tendency and encourages a quiet simplicity and charming wholesomeness in its activities tending toward relaxation ... Such are the social standards of Florida’s oldest college at Winter Park.
—The Sandspur, 1916
If one can believe Rollins’ early students had any time for relaxation! The Rising Bugle sounded at 6:40 a.m. (7:20 a.m. on Sundays) and lights out was ordered at 10:15 p.m., after an evening of Study Hall. Classes took up 5-1/2 hours during the day, and daily chapel attendance was mandatory for many years.
Still, they did manage to find time for fun. Much of the early social life centered around the lakes—canoeing and picnics, and the social life of Winter Park and Orlando. A regular feature of early Sandspurs was a society column for the town.
The first college newspaper was not The Sandspur Rollins students know today, but The College Critic—four handwritten pages tacked to the bulletin board. It is thought to have first appeared in 1887, and received a real boost in 1888 with the arrival of a student who was a printer. The College Critic was followed in 1894 by The Demosthenic Demonstrator, a self-proclaimed “exponent of College life” published by the men’s and women’s debating and literary groups, the Demosthenic Literary Society and the Friends in Council, both formed in the fall of 1892.
The Sand-Spur, with its motto “Stick to It,” was born in December 1894. (Other names were considered for the publication: The Pinecone, The Pineneedle, The Sweet Potato, and The Buzzard—all supposedly indicative of a Florida college.) The first issues were magazines, divided between literary essays and College news.
Among The Sand-Spur’s finest early editorial campaigns were changing the school colors (see page 48) and striking a blow for women’s rights by securing a name for the previously nameless women’s dormitory (Cloverleaf Cottage).
The Commencement issue of The Sandspur served as a yearbook, but the decision to make the publication a weekly (mostly) tabloid in 1915 spurred the creation of The Tomokan two years later. Even before yearbooks, collecting autographs was a regular feature of picnics. A favorite picnic spot was on Lake Maitland, on what was believed to be Osceola’s camping ground.
Each year a Halloween party was held in Lyman Gymnasium, with entertainments ranging from bobbing for apples to fortunetelling. In 1901, the Rollins men staged a fancy dress parade in Winter Park in celebration of All Hallows’ Eve. (Later classes sometimes drew attention to themselves with their not-so-fancy dress parades, marching across campus in their pajamas!)
Entertainments in the gym were a regular feature of College life, with women presenting drill exhibitions, often in costume. Occasionally the men would follow up with a burlesque of the women’s program—complete with costumes!
Other highlights of early social life at Rollins included tacky parties; a Spiderweb Party, where guests worked to untangle seemingly endless string; a Shadow Party, where guests guessed identities of silhouettes projected on a screen; a Millinery Party, where all participants—male and female—made hats; and a Cake Walk, held at a Winter Park home and featuring—what else?—walking cakes.
Music was also an important part of Rollins’extracurricular activities; recitals were scheduled frequently and students and faculty often gathered on Sunday evening to sing favorite hymns. The Ladies’ Quartette traveled in Florida presenting pro grams to Northern visitors at the winter resorts, and glee clubs for men and women later toured with great success. A Chapel Choir was formed in 1924. Throughout the early years, guitar and mandolin clubs organized and disbanded—probably according to the available talent. The first orchestra was formed in 1902 and provided music for many Rollins dances.
An especially popular turn-of-the-century entertainment was the “Fake” concert, in which familiar songs were given new words. Two Rollins coeds amused their fellow students as Nordica II and Patricola II, offering their renditions of such standards as “In the good old Rollins time” and “My Barney stays off the campus.”
As well as musical groups and active debating and literary societies (sometimes too many, argued the Delphic Debating Society in 1903), Rollins spawned a Dramatic Club which performed The Merchant of Venice in the gymnasium (with costumes rented from VanHorn & Son in Philadelphia), and the drama class later used the terrace of Chase Hall for its presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. College plays were so popular with the community that they were often repeated for charity. By 1923, Rollins could boast chapters of both Alpha Phi Epsilon, honorary debating fraternity, and Phi Beta, honorary music and drama fraternity.
The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor was active from about 1890, and a Y.M.C.A. chapter was founded in 1895. After its reorganization in 1912, the Y.M.C.A. was involved in management of campus athletics and social functions. A Y.W.C.A. chapter was formed in 1904.
Local sororities and fraternities began to appear in 1903. Kappa Epsilon (ultimately Kappa Kappa Gamma) was followed in 1904 by C.O.R.K.S. and The J.U.G., sister organizations, which do not seem to have lasted into 1905. Two more local sororities sprang up in 1906: Piro Delta, which survived only one year, and Delta Phi Beta, which went into hibernation in 1911-12 and disappeared completely after 1914.
The first fraternity, Phi Alpha (later Kappa Alpha Order), was imported from Florida State College at Tallahassee. When that college was dissolved, several of the members came to Rollins and reorganized the group in 1906. A second local fraternity, Alpha Alpha, was active from 1913 to 1923, but failed several later attempts at resuscitation. The fraternities enjoyed rooms above the gymnasium; the first fraternity house was not occupied until 1920, and then to help deal with a shortage of on-campus housing.
Fraternities and sororities were an integral part of Rollins life: faculty were members, alumni were active, the groups often gave each other parties and sponsored dramatic and musical events for the entire College. But much of the social life also involved class activities. In 1916, the first class tree and stone were dedicated. Classes also selected class flowers, colors, rings, songs, and emblems. The Senior Class Pink and Green vs. the Junior Class Gold and White tennis match of 1917 brought joy to the victorious Seniors, but also some consternation when their class motto, “Carpe Diem,” was translated as “Grab the Dimes” and “Fish Today.”
Rollins students also maintained regional clubs: the 1917 Tomokan featured a Kracker Klub, Eastern Club, New England Club, Western Club, Ohio Club, and Spanish-American Club. (A special Rollins car was even arranged by the Southern Railway for students from Ohio.)
A 1916 introduction to Rollins summarized the social year: receptions hosted by each dormitory, the annual Halloween social, Thanksgiving dinner, Fortnightly Club literary evenings, torchlight processions and bonfire jubilees for athletic teams, and the events of Commencement Week. January was referred to as the “town season,” replete with dinner parties, afternoon teas, and tea dansant.
A festivity that became popular about this time was the annual May Day pageant. This outdoor extravaganza took place between Cloverleaf and Carnegie and saw the crowning of the May Queen (and occasionally a May King), the May Pole dance, and other musical and dancing entertainments, often performed by the physical training classes.
In 1918, the Annual Alumni Day was moved from Commencement Week to Founders’ Week, in February. Part of the celebration was the dinner given by the Alumni Association honoring the Senior Class. Other highlights of Founders’ Week were the Junior Prom and a regatta, concluded by the Water Carnival, complete with floats that really did float and a floating bonfire.
World War I brought dramatic changes to the Rollins campus. The weekly Sandspur was filled with reports of the war from alumni and students. While Rollins men played intramural baseball, Rollins women watched and knit caps for war-stricken Belgians. Four Rollins students had work selected for a war poster contest. Phi Alpha withdrew its active chapter for nearly a year and a half. One issue of The Sandspur was published in the 1918-19 school year.
By 1920, The Sandspur was back to a weekly schedule and a Student Association Council had been formed. A Pan-Hellenic Association was also formed and a new fraternity, Sigma Phi, joined the remaining Kappa Epsilon, Phi Alpha, and Alpha Alpha. The fraternities and sororities began to host Rollins social events as a distinct division of responsibilities evolved on campus: the Athletic Association was to manage athletic work, the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. were to manage religious work, and the fraternities were to manage social activities. In an attempt to distribute leadership across the campus as well as improve the quality of classwork and extracurricular activities, a complex point system for club offices and team captainships was developed.
Nineteen twenty-one saw the addition of Tau Lambda Delta to membership in the newly formed Inter-Fraternity Council. Tau Lambda Delta became Theta Kappa Nu, the first national fraternity on campus, in 1924. Pan-Hell continued to govern the sororities, including the new local group, Phi Omega (subsequently Gamma Phi Beta).
The Class of ’25 added its own touches to Rollins traditions: a Senior History, Last Will and Testament, Recognition Day for Seniors, and the practice of marching into chapel every Friday morning in cap and gown. They had been the first freshman class to be hazed by sophomores and the first to burn their “Freshie” hats on Thanksgiving. Eighty freshmen had arrived in 1921, and 17 were graduated. It was the second largest class since Rollins’ founding 40 years before.