Just A Typical Gator Homecoming?
Water, Water (balloons) Everywhere!
I would have to call it a form of temporary insanity that gripped the 60 or so residents of Georgia Seagle Hall as we feverously prepared for Homecoming 1960. The normally studious, well-behaved, Seagle do-gooders were preparing a racy display to cover the front of the house on the corner of 12th and University.
More ominously, for several evenings prior to the Homecoming Parade, every operable faucet on the second floor was occupied by a hunched over Seagler, grinning as he filled red, green and blue balloons—with water. The cardboard boxes full of wriggling water balloons were carefully hefted out onto the roof of the porch and hidden behind the balustrade. The downstairs porch itself was then obscured by the display—a big Gator with boots on that was constantly kicking the backsides of the LSU Tiger.
“L Ass U, When We Get Through,” screamed the billboard sized letters. We worked for two weeks to build the display. Unfortunately, the real Gators—pre-Spurrier–that year lost the game in a little over two hours.
Secretively, several mechanical engineering majors were pawing through the pile of bike “land fill” in back of the house. They were looking for old bike inner tubes, they said. Furtively, it seemed to me. They also spent a good deal of time pondering the inner walls of the three-story, U-shaped building. It appeared they were looking for a way to fasten something to the walls that was beginning to look like a monster slingshot.
By the morning of the Homecoming Parade, the House was at fever pitch. Everyone, it seemed, had an assignment. The majority were crouched behind the porch balustrade with a good view—and trajectory—out onto University Boulevard.
Soon, band music could be heard growing louder, until the first units of the UF parade began to pass by the house heading down towards campus.
To this day I don’t know why the UF ROTC marching unit was the first target for the balloon lobby on the porch roof. Envy, perhaps, of their snappy khaki uniforms and spit shined shoes. Several Seagle members who were in the marching unit had been sworn—more like threatened—into secrecy regarding preparations. I wondered what they were thinking as they hupped toward the House.
In one freeze framed moment, the ROTC unit was stepping out smartly behind the rumbling old tank that led the way. Reacting to a silent cadence call, the unit flipped its M-1 Garand rifles back and forth in a flawlessly executed “marching manual.”
In a second freeze framed moment, a hail of red, blue and green water balloons were hefted silently into the air, describing graceful almost kaleidoscopic parabolas of flight in the brilliant sunshine of a cloudless morning.
In the third freeze framed moment, the brilliant parabolas intersected with the tank and its nearby marchers. Spumes of silver colored water erupted out of the now empty rubber sacks, merely wetting the tank, but leaving large, dark, wet splotches on the (formerly) starched khakis of the ROTC marchers.
A second barrage landed amidst the marching unit, now badly out of step. All eyes were right. Lip reading expertise was not needed to understand what was being said by the marchers, even if it was—sotto vocce.
The balloon water was potable, but the language from the ROTC marchers became audibly salty. Nevertheless, they held ranks and marched on by to the cheers of near-by students. Clearly, the ROTC unit had won the hearts and minds of the spectators.
The basso growling rumble of the old tank was soon replaced by the treble tremolo of motor scooters. Improbably, some outlandishly attired and coifed Shriners were perched atop Vespa scooters being driven in a loose formation. From time to time the Vespas would break rank formation and form up in circles, then figure eights and then return to rank formation—a Shriner version of the marching manual.
As the Vespas and their Shriners approached Seagle Hall, they saw the wet pavement, but thought nothing of it. When the unit was almost directly in front, the Vespas began to break ranks to create the figure eight formation. The “8” was almost formed when the first barrage of balloons hit the pavement with an audible wooshing splat. No Shriners were actually hit, merely startled by the splatting balloons.
However, just seconds behind the balloons could be heard a heavy thump from behind Seagle Hall. It was coming from within the “U” formed by the three wings of the three-story building. A split second later, a blunt white “missile” arced into sight sailing over the building itself. Quick eyes calculated the intersection of the arc with the street—and the noisy Vespas.
The sound it made when it hit was not quite a boom, but it was certainly a heavy “thump-poof” as the one-pound bag of flour—the projectile that had been launched by an enormous sling shot made of old bicycle inner tubes—hit the wet pavement and sent rings of white powder out in all directions. Other flour projectiles soon followed.
Thump…one Pillsbury, two Pillsbury, three Pillsbury…Poof!!
Soon enough, members of that ROTC unit would be yelling “In-coming,” to their men in a distant war called Vietnam. The term might have first have occurred to them during that Florida Homecoming Parade.
Even an art major, had we had any in residence at the time, would have known that water + flour = paste. Slippery, viscous, paste that an irate team of Shriners was now driving through while trying to keep their balance—even as they motored through a figure eight.
Not a chance.
Wheels spun futilely.
Several of the Shriners lost their balance, their fez’s, and their tempers. The formation collapsed.
After some confusion and much ungentlemanly advice from them to us regarding clearly impossible anatomical procedures, they pushed their Vespas through the mess to kick-start their scooters and their formation further down the block.
The parade staggered on down the street towards the SAE house on the corner of University and 15th street. There, the anti-ROTC feeling was even higher. With clever planning, they allowed the tank to rumble almost past the house, then ran out into the street to jam a large pole into the treads, causing the tank to instantly stop. Immediately, an SAE Pledge anxious to prove his loyalty to the House, jumped up onto the tank, yanked open the unsecured hatch, and dropped a bottle of ammonia down inside the tank. In just a few seconds, gasping crewmen were piling out that and other hatches as the ammonia fumes swirled inside. For a time, the parade also swirled–around the disabled tank–hunkered like a rock in the middle of a white water stream. Eventually, after the fumes dissipated, the tank was re-manned and rumbled off to the safety of the ROTC building.
The tank was nearly a block away from Seagle Hall when it was successfully “neutralized.” By that time, all eyes from the Seagle porch balcony were focused on the rapid approach of the Stars and Bars—the gray-clad marchers from Sigma Nu in their Confederate Army uniforms, complete with muskets and powder boxes to the rear of their wide, black “Sam Brown” belts.
The pompous strut of the faux Confederate soldiers especially irritated the WBB’s (water balloon bombers) crouched behind the Seagle balustrade. Eager hands reached into the more than half empty “ammunition” boxes for a handful of wriggling balloons that waited to offer come uppance for the haughty Sigma Nu-ers.
Seconds later, our remaining water balloons were bombarding the Sigma Nu “Rebs.” However, the glory of the Old South was about to be up held that particular morning on the field of battle–at least that’s what University Avenue looked like that Fall morning. The grey ranks halted, right faced, and on command reached into the leather powder boxes on their wide belts. Flaps up, eggs out, and in seconds the air en route to our exposed positions was filled with “grenades.” Each belt pouch held 3-4 eggs, not just any eggs mind you, but rotten eggs (full of H2S for you chemistry majors). Almost before the eggs had plastered the house, the grey clad ranks had wheeled and forward marched down the avenue, some with well deserved smirks on their beady-eyed faces half hidden by kepis.
The ROTC unit sent their uniforms to the dry cleaners and then pulled splinters out of the tank treads. The SAE house got six months social probation–no parties, no pledging.
And the boys from old Georgia Seagle got to spend lots of quality time scrubbing rotten eggs off the house and airing it out.
Just another boring homecoming in Gator Country.
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