- The Mason Spirit - https://spirit.gmu.edu -

Mason Day? You Should Have Been Here in the ’70s…

The early Mason Days in the ’70s were experiments in social media. We’d send a Tweet to the student body announcing when we’d be celebrating our founder, then the message would be circulated via everything from Facebook to Tumblr and then . . . ah, who are we fooling? This was the Seventies! Not only was there no social media on campus, the total media consisted of the Broadside, a PA in the Student Union Building, flyers stapled to the walls, and that weird guy from Econ who kept asking what to wear on Friday.


Mason Day Tug of War, April 15, 1977. Photo by Kerry Miller, BA '77

Somehow word got out and the books were ditched in the car–you couldn’t stow them in your dorm because there were no dorms–a crowd gathered in the Quad (no, not that Quad, the first Quad) and we enjoyed breathing fresh air (once the smog lifted) and having the sun on our upturned faces (sunblock had yet to be invented; we used coconut oil to darken the tan, no kidding) following the grueling studies we had to do leading up to final exams. In the “old days” we waited until the last minute to get our reading and writing done–what’s that? You do, too? Well, at least some things never change.

There was free beer (!); there was a small city of tents on the hill where  Starbucks now resides, and campers sometimes stayed from Friday to Sunday (but women had to leave at 10 p.m., at least, that was the rule, and it was broken); there were illegal bonfires; there were muddy tug-of-war contests across the stream behind Fenwick Library. There were shaggy-haired, bearded bands that favored Southern Rock and catered to the “freaks” in the crowd instead of the frats and sororities, although on Mason Day, every one was united in their reckless abandon regardless of their haircuts. There was no stage for the band, just a spot on the grass at the bottom of a hill.


Mason Day 1977. Photo by Kerry Miller, BA '77.

Of course, there were many who used the optional “skip” day to go to their jobs instead of class, such was the nature of the student makeup.

The highlight? I’m not sure there was one, other than feeling a part of a unified community.

This is not one of those grumpy “you kids have it good” posts that tries to make those who continue to enjoy the tradition feel somehow indebted to those who were pioneers. Not at all. The modern Mason Day is a remarkable event, entirely fitting of a world-class institution and the students deserve to spend a day frolicking in a carnival and rocking out to live bands.

But I can’t help to think of what we could have done if we’d had Twitter!