Title: “Worst class ever” superstition
Informant info: William Shofner is a current member of the class of 2016. He is 23 years old and is from Nashville, TN. He will be staying on campus for a fifth year to complete the B.E. degree. On campus, he is involved with Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and is a former rugby player.
Type of lore: Customary, superstition, verbal, insult
Country of Origin: United States
Social / Cultural Context: William was interviewed alone at Dartmouth College. He is a current student and has experienced the bonfire ritual four times (each of his four years at Dartmouth). He will be spending next fall at Dartmouth to complete the engineering B.E., and plans to attend the bonfire again.
Item: This superstition is associated with the ability of the freshman class to execute the bonfire ritual successfully. If the class is unable to do so, they are deemed the “worst class ever” by the upperclassmen and the alumni. This is especially the case if at least one member of the freshman class does not touch the fire. The term is also used as a taunt directed toward the freshmen. As the freshmen run around the bonfire, the upperclassmen and alumni yell at them that they are the “worst class ever.”
Transcript (if verbal lore):
What special traditions are related to the bonfire? Freshman year, everyone in your dorm goes outside and gets grouped together. An entire larger group starts going around campus and everyone gets picked up from their dorm. You’re led through Main Street and are brought to the bonfire. They light it and you start running around. You are encouraged to run around your class year +100 times, but very few people outside the cross country team do that. As the freshmen run around the fire, the upperclassmen taunt and harass them, yelling at them that they are the worst class ever. Every class has to have one person touch the fire. You’re encouraged to do it because if no one does, you’re the worst class ever. You can really only touch it right at the beginning. After that it’s too hot and there might not be enough people so you would get caught. Different clubs and groups on campus have panels that go into building the fire. The freshmen need to build the fire successfully or they will be considered the worst class ever.
Are there any stories you heard before/after homecoming about things that happened? I heard that someone touched the fire right at the beginning.
Where did you hear these stories? Mostly from other people in the freshman class.
Informant’s comments: The informant was a member of the rugby team his freshman year, but noted that the rugby team did not have any specific team traditions related to homecoming.
Collector’s comments: The informant has spent four years at Dartmouth and has gained a detailed understanding of homecoming traditions in that time.
Tags/Keywords: superstition, taunt, bonfire, freshmen, upperclassmen, worst class ever