The students invading Lot L on a Friday last April to take spins on the carnival rides (a record attendance), snack on funnel cake (so bad, so good) and listen to live bands, including headliner Jesse McCartney, may have had little idea they were continuing a tradition that began 50 years ago on the Fairfax Campus.
Of course, things were different then. Oh, were they different.
Gone are the dunk tanks, the burlap sack races and the decidedly non-PC event of catching the greased pig on what used to be a large lawn in front of what is now Robinson Hall. Gone is the centerpiece rugby match, the students vs. faculty softball game, the camping tents and bonfires and—can you believe it?—free beer.
Believe it. We found a few eyewitnesses from the Day.
Michele Yermack Alexander, BS Biology ’69: I came to Mason in the fall of 1965 and have a lot of memories of Mason Day. Festivities started around noon with the arrival of the parade and a band. There was the greased pig chase and a tug-o-war and a dunking chamber. Everything took place in the Quad. There was a rugby game later in the afternoon. In my last year there was a “car bash” where you could stand on a car and pound it with a sledgehammer. TKE had a band that played near the dunking chamber. Hot dogs and drinks were provided. There probably were only a few hundred [people] total, but you have to remember, we only had 1,000 students and they were all commuters. If you didn’t have a class you probably weren’t there. There was a ceremony at noon where they gave awards to students and organizations, including Student of the Year, and in 1969 that was me.
Yermack became a schoolteacher and lives near Wilmington, Delaware, with her husband, Michael. They met at Mason.
Gail Krytusa Bohan, BA English ’70, MPA ’82: We only had four buildings in 1965, and anything that happened took place in a large square in between. There was a field but the rest was woods. They would do silly things like play rugby, chase a pig, or whatever. It was a guy thing, really. It was a lot of people and they were acting crazy. It was very ad hoc and students organized things. Mason Day wasn’t very much to write home about.
After raising a family, Gail began a career in Fairfax County and Fairfax City governments; she lives in Oak Hill, Virginia.
Mike Baker, BA English ’70: I was the activities chairman from 1968-69, my junior year, so the first tents were in the spring of ’69. We had them the next year, too. I said ‘Why not have dorms?’ and we put up tents all week, and we had campfires. Maybe 20 people camped out. We had local bands, a spaghetti dinner, dunking chambers, and the frats and sororities did different events. My senior year we almost got Neil Diamond—I’m not kidding—for $15,000, but at the last minute Neil backed out. The beer was [half potent] 3.2 beer, not 6.4.
Mike became development director for WNVC-TV Channel 56 and a producer of arts programming for Bravo; he has won seven Emmy Awards. He teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College.
Michael Alexander, BS Biology ’69: Mason Day was a blow off from being in a classroom. It was something that happened on campus rather than leaving campus and going home or going to work. We were science majors so we had labs [in the South Building, now Krug Hall] but on Mason Day everyone hung around for a good time. The greased pig probably isn’t politically correct anymore, is it? I never tried it. My senior year we were certainly looking forward to Mason Day; I was president of Symposium-TKE and it was a chance to show off a lot of things and have a good time.
Michael went to medical school at the University of Virginia and practiced pediatrics and rehabilitation medicine, and does some consulting in semi-retirement; he lives near Wilmington, Delaware, with his wife, Michele. They met at Mason.
For a history of Mason Day and other campus traditions, visit at George Mason University: A History.
To see a student media newspaper story about the 1967 Mason Day, visit ahistoryofmason.gmu.edu/items/show/144.