History to Ourstory: Changing Traditions at CMC


I recently sat down with my uncle, Gib Johnson, who graduated from CMC in 1974, two years before CMC became co-ed.  He looks back upon his CMC years as some of the most enjoyable ones, and the most formative.  Needless to say, his time at CMC was a lot different from our own.  Forty years has brought about a lot of changes, and it was fascinating to get a look at our alma mater through time. The most obvious and greatest change in tradition since CMC’s founding is coed integration.  It’s easy to forget that at one time CMC's "dorm" was McKenna Auditorium, set up with army-style barracks for the soldiers who came home victorious from World War II.  After all, the “M” in CMC used to stand for “Men’s.”  This entailed quite a different social atmosphere on campus, and promoted what I think used to be a great tradition.  Once upon a time, there was a “Freshmen Serenade” where CMC’s freshmen class would walk to Scripps and sing to the Scripps students while they stood on their balconies.  While this could certainly be construed as sexist in the modern day, I like to believe this was a more courteous gesture: an act of courtly romance that has been lost to our generation.

The parties used to be different as well.  According to Johnson, every Friday night there used to be a party at “The Wash” – a small bit of then undeveloped property between CMC and Pomona.  The Wash still exists, and is located just south of Sixth Street by Pomona’s tennis courts.  Someone would always bring a keg of beer and a small fee was required to enter, to reimburse the gracious alcohol supplier.  No IDs were required, Campus Safety was not present, and partygoers just sat around on grassy knolls and talked for a few hours.  I suppose this is no longer plausible – what with all the red tape for parties – and it is quite a shame.  Today’s "Wash" happens on Fridays at 4 pm at the Sontag Amphitheater where there is a keg (for those who are 21) and burgers as well.  I think we might enjoy a mellower get-together where the goal is to get to know one another as people, instead of getting to know each other under strobe lights with our words veiled by blasting bass.

Despite some more conservative tendencies, CMC still put the liberal in “liberal arts” back in the day.  Johnson recalled a time during the '73-'74 school years where streaking was a common fad on campus.  Apparently, nude students from CMC and Scripps dressed down and covered their faces in masks as they sprinted across the pathways in front of the large windows on Collin’s northern side.  Johnson indicated that this streaking was the result of the rebellious spirit that defined college campuses in the Vietnam War era and petered out soon after he graduated.  When asked about his own involvement in the streaking, Johnson deliberately gave no comment….

Certain changes have to CMC have certainly been in the school’s best interest.  Johnson spoke of his underclassmen years at CMC, when he had a mandatory 8 am class on Saturday mornings.  This is nothing short of blasphemy to any modern schoolchild.  It is good to see CMC has become more accommodating to the more lackadaisical, but still practical, proclivities of youth.  After all, after a hard week of work, anyone would need just one morning to catch up on their missed dreams.

However, CMC has seen more changes in tradition than just those from Johnson’s four years.  Back in 1948 there was a “Student Clean-up Day” where the students of CMC would set out across the campus to pick up any trash or clean the messes that they had made.  While this tradition would certainly place quite the burden on us students, I think it’d be worth it.  It’s important for our maintenance, housekeeping, and dining hall staff to know just how much we appreciate them and all they do.  With all the red cups and Natty Light boxes, we are not easy to clean up after.  I believe it is important and invaluable to know first-hand why the toilet is the best place for late night, involuntary, bodily excretions and not the hallway carpeting.

CMC also saw stricter conduct regulations back its earlier years.  During George Benson’s tenure as president of the college in 1959, he hired Clifton T. McLeod as the dean of students in order to instill a greater sense of civility among the student body.  McLeod instituted a more formal dress code for Collins and sought to crack down on partying.  McLeod disbanded clubs that were caught drinking and stopped the weekly “TGIF” parties by calling local police.  Despite McLeod’s war on youthful revelry, CMC’s academics kept improving as incoming students showed great academic prowess with each successive year.  Eventually, McLeod’s “holy war” on partying petered out, and the bright students of CMC showed that hard work goes hand-in-hand with harder play.

Despite all the changes that CMC has seen in her 70 years, it was most interesting to see what has not changed.  Johnson spoke of difficult academic rigor in his classes that forced him to fill up his free time with long nights in the library.  He also spoke of the many hours dedicated to his clubs.  Hard work was the standard for CMC students and remains as such.  This commitment to work ethic is what drives us forward.  It has made our school the impressive institution it is today.  In many ways, this is very much what it may mean to be a CMCer: to be committed to your craft.  I hope that in CMC’s next 70 years this driven characteristic is still the defining the aspect of our college’s culture.