Memories of VPI

by "T. P." Hicks, '09

I am writing these memories at the request of Henry the Hutch Hutchinson, class of 1909, at VPI and I am glad to do so as we were fellow sophomore rats, and were each other's first friend in Blacksburg.

Henry's account of daily routine explained our day's work. It was a full day of hard application and fruitful results. Still we had a small amount of time for recreation. We adhered to the old maxim "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Henry wrote of the fine men on our faculty. Yes, they were dedicated men, dedicated to the task of imparting knowledge to a younger generation, so that they could some day take their palce in society. These men did their homework well and had the ability of transmitting the subject matter to their students. They were patient with those who were slow to learn. Yes, they were giants.

There are others that need to be mentioned as deserving credit- Colonel Jamison Parson Nelson, Miss Hannah and Miss Garrison, who looked after us when we were sick in the infirmary. Last but not least, there were Friday and Uncle Sporty. They were janitors and good ones. Can you forget Uncle Sporty, as he walked yo and down the first floors of each barrack, beating that old kettle drum? The vibration set in motion, by the beating of that drum, shook our windows and door and caused us to jump out of bed. As Uncle Sporty walked, he sang us a song and here are the words of his song:

Rise and shine
Rise and shine
Everyday will be Sunday
Bye and Bye.

Revelie was at 7:30 am on Sunday, while at 6:30 am on other days.

There was another incident that showed the effectiveness of our honor system. During our mid-term examinations of our senior year, one of our classmates was accused of cheating on an examination. We received approval of the college authorities for a trial by his class-mates. After all the evidence was in, the class voted to expel this classmate. This was a hard decision for us, as we had to decide whether the accused would graduate in June or be expelled.

Would you believe it, that several months later, our baseball team played a game in Orange, VA, and who should be on our side of the field cheering for us, but that expelled student.

Two days, before we were to graduate, Henry Hutchinson, Rufus Johnston, and I started on a trip to Mountain Lake. We left the campus after the mid-day meal and walked about ten miles where we spotted a nice looking barn. We obtained permission to spend the night there. Henry started to unpack his knapsack, as it contained our food supplies, and at the bottom he found two big bricks. A look of scorn was followed by a faint smile, as if to say, 'I will get even with you.' I don't know who he had refernece to, but if anyone has a guilty conscience and wants to get it off his chest, Henry will pardon him, I am sure, after prayerful consideration.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, Rufus called me aside and asked that I take the lead, because Henry took such long strides that he couldn't keep up with us. So at somewhat slower pace, we reached Mountain Lake around noon. Not completely satisfied, we walked 3 or 4 miles farther to a beautiful water fall. After resting awhile in a cool dell formed by the falls, we began to retrace our steps towards Blacksburg.

That evening at sundown we reached Bald Knob, where we made camp for the night. After another meal of bacon, eggs and fried corn meal mush, a la Hutchinson, and while Henry was in the process of cleaning the skillet, a strange voice was heard "What you boys doing here?" Our answer was that we were camping for the night. Our visitor said he thought we might be some of those convicts that had escaped from the penitentiary in West Virginia, not too far away. We said we were cadets in Blacksburg. Our visitor went on to say that 18 or 20 dangerous prisoners had escaped and authorities thought they had come in that direction. As he started to leaved he said, "Hope you sleep real good." And we did as the sun was up next morning when we awoke. We reached Blacksburg that afternoon before supper.

Now there is a story I heard when I first entered VPI. It concerns a young man who missed revelie. After breakfast he rushed to his room and coated his tongue with talcum powder and joined the sick squad. When he reached Dr. Henderson, he told him that he'd never felt worse. Old Doc noted these complaints and asked him to stick out his tongue and seeing its condition, he told his trusted nurse. Miss Hannah, to fix this young man a large dose of his favorite medication. Miss Hannah led the student to a corner of the room where she poured a heaping tablespoon of Epsom salts in a glass and, added water and stirred thoroughly. She handed the glass to the young man and stood beside him until he swallowed all of the contents. You see old Doc Henderson didn't appreciate the fact that a former patient had poured his dose of Epsom salts into the cuspidor, and he didn't want that to happen again. I can't vouch for this story, for it could have been planted that the cadet in question did not get an excuse for missing revelie, for few ever fooled old Doc Henderson.

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Last updated June 30, 1998