Water, Water Everywhere …
Editor’s Note: The first half of this letter appeared in the Winter 2011 print edition of Florida magazine. To read what happened next, jump to the second half.
I would call it a form of temporary insanity that gripped the 60 or so residents of Georgia Seagle Hall as we feverously prepared for UF’s Homecoming parade in 1960. Every operable faucet on the second floor was occupied by a hunched-over Seagler, grinning as he filled balloons with water. The cardboard boxes full of wriggling water balloons were carefully hefted out onto the roof and hidden.
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. In one freeze-framed moment, the ROTC unit was stepping out smartly behind the rumbling old tank that led the way. Then, a hail of water balloons was hefted silently into the air, describing graceful, almost kaleidoscopic parabolas of flight in the sunshine of a cloudless morning. The brilliant parabolas intersected with the tank and its nearby marchers. Spumes of 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. Lip-reading expertise was not needed to understand what was being said by the marchers. Nevertheless, they held ranks and marched on by to the cheers of nearby 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. 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 and form 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 eight was almost formed when the first barrage of balloons hit the pavement with an audible whooshing 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 slingshot made of old bicycle inner tubes — hit the wet pavement and sent rings of white powder in all directions. Other flour projectiles soon followed. Several Shriners lost their balance, their fezzes 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.
Seconds later, our remaining water balloons were bombarding the Sigma Nu “Rebs.” However, the glory of the Old South was about to be upheld that particular morning. The gray 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 three to four eggs. Not just any eggs mind you, but rotten eggs. Almost before the eggs had plastered the house, the gray-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 drycleaners and then pulled splinters out of tank treads. The SAE house got six months social probation — no parties, no pledging. President J. Wayne Reitz was NOT amused. And the boys from old Georgia Seagle got to spend lots of quality time scrubbing rotten eggs off the house and airing it out. (Why we weren’t given probation — or worse — we never found out.) Just another boring homecoming in Gator Country.
— Capt. Tracy Connors* (BA ’62)
*UF Alumni Association member
Florida@uff.ufl.edu or at Florida magazine, P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604-2425.