THE PANTY RAID OF 1963

Editor’s Note: With this issue we introduce a new department: “In Their Own Words,” written by a Norwich alumnus/a. We welcome submissions, e-mailed to record@norwich.edu. We ask that your story be true, fewer than 500 words, and suitable for print.

 

THE INFAMOUS NORWICH PANTY RAID OF 1963
Susan A. James Clark VC’64, NU’87, M’98

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA May 23, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the Norwich Panty Raid of 1963. The following account is based on testimony from Vermont College and Norwich University students who witnessed the events as they unfolded. The Record wishes to thank Susan A. James Clark for sharing her story.

The first inkling any of us had of the impending event was at dinner, during which Dean [Pauline] Tompkins came into the dining hall to tell us she had received a call from General Harmon warning her of plans for a panty raid. She set out the rules for the evening: All dates were to be canceled; anyone out of the dorms before study hours was to return by seven; lights were to be turned out once the raid began; and no one was to be let into the dorms. 

It was dusk when the lights-out announcement came over the PA, and cars loaded with Norwich cadets began to arrive, followed by the police and fire departments.  A hose truck stopped in front of Glover-Hadley, and as the firemen hopped out to hook up the hoses, a Norwich cadet hopped in and drove the truck across the quad and straight into the fountain. 

Cadets ran from dorm to dorm asking for panties. Those women who hadn’t yet packed for the end of the school year flung theirs out the windows. 

Meanwhile, at the Pavilion Hotel in downtown Montpelier, the Norwich Class of 1963 was attending its senior banquet. According to one eyewitness, a cadet burst into the banquet hall calling on them to join the raid, and the guest speaker—a general—stood up on his chair, drew his sword, and led the charge as the senior class fell in behind.  

What started out as fun and funny quickly turned to frightening, as the men marched up the hill, singing. The singing became louder and louder until the Class of ’63 burst onto the campus, transforming Vermont College into a battleground. By now hundreds of men were running around. While some had the common sense to take one look and flee the scene, others kept coming. Soon the campus raged with young men gathering panties, breaking windows, and forcing their way into the women’s dorms. It has long been suspected that a number of local Montpelier “townies” joined in the fracas, heightening the chaos and vandalism. 

As things got out of hand, the police and fire personnel lost all control, and shots were heard. As quickly as the men had appeared they disappeared, piling into cars and burning rubber as they raced off into the darkness. 

The next morning, many Bishop-Hatch windows were covered with colored construction paper, until the panes of glass could be replaced. The fountain has never been returned to its original height, nor does anyone know what happened to the missing pieces that were toppled that night. 

The panty raid made national news. Norwich men were banned from crossing the river into Montpelier until after graduation. A few were expelled. In the end, several thousand dollars worth of damage was assessed.  

 

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