Spring Frolics have long been a Davidson tradition– but just how long?
Students today know Frolics as mostly an outdoor event with concerts, water sliding, and games. Older alumni remember dance weekends and other generations, a combination of outdoor fun and dances.
The search for the beginnings of Frolics bumped into the ending of Junior Speaking. In the college’s earliest years, participation Junior Speaking was a requirement. Every junior had to give a public oration to advance to the senior class. The best of the speakers had the honor of performing during commencements while for others it was an onerous and unhappy obligation. After the requirement was lifted, the juniors turned Speaking into a time to show off their party planning skills.
Between 1937 and 1938, those skills shifted to the Pan-Hellenic Council (later renamed the Interfraternity Council). In addition to the Homecoming and Mid-Winter Dance weekends, they planned the Spring Dances. Since dancing was still prohibited on campus, all these dances took place in Charlotte, usually in the Armory. The students hired as big a name band as they could and crammed as many as 4 dances in the weekend (formal, semi-formal and tea dances).
Dancing came to campus in the 1940s and after the construction of Johnston Gym in 1949, the basketball court played host couples swirling under crepe paper streamers. An account of the 1954 frolics assured students that the Ray Anthony band was “still one of the top dance bands in America” and that he had “expanded his repertoire to include many more instrumentals as well as good danceable music.” They were also reminded that Anthony had received an “unqualified stamp of approval from last year’s spring dance crowd with his renditions of When the Saints Go Marching In, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and the Bunny Hop.”
In 1956, the dance committee announced a theme of “Orchid Parade” for the formal dance that included plans for each date to receive a miniature paper orchid and for “gay ranges of lavender and white to adorn the gym.”
The College Social Council took over the dance weekends in 1971, with the Union Board taking over by 1977. The addition of the Lake Campus allowed new activities for the weekends.
In the 1970s and 80s, the dances became less formal and the outdoor activities increased. There was a semi-formal in 1981 but the 1984 weekend featured court parties and a disco in the 900 room.
In the last decade, frolics has been more about concerts and afternoons on Patterson Court. Not as many paper streamers but still a chance to set aside studying for a little socializing.