University Archive
Virginia Tech

Student Days at VPI

Letter from C. Ross McCorkle (Class of 1905) to the Editor of Context

May 3, 1973.

Dear Sir:

The reminiscences of W. P. Tams, Jr. and J. Ambler Johnston about their student days at VPI, published in the Autumn, 1972, issue of Context, were special treats for their contemporaries, reviving nostalgic memories of the latter's own experiences and associations while there. My time was contemporaneous with theirs for one and a half years, I having entered as a sophomore in 1902, affiliating with the Class of '05, and having remained until midterm in 1904. Upon entering, I was quartered in the 5th Division of Barracks No. 1, the occupants of which were known, or referred to themselves, as the "5th Division Tony Crowd." My days at VPI were, on the whole, happy ones, as well as time well spent. The atmosphere and spirit of the place were stimulating and conductive to a desire and effort to make a creditable record. Most students were of sufficient maturity to realize and appreciate the opportunities offered, and were disposed to make the most of such opportunities. The image projected by the administrative officers and members of the faculty was one of competence, dedication, and moral integrity. Under Dr. McBride, the president, and Col. J.S.A. Johnson, the commandant, the collage was evidently well-managed. There were no organized or mass students protests or disorders during my time. The more routine aspects of college life were counterbalanced by various extra-curricular interests and activities, such as entertainments, celebrations, dances and other social events, and sports, principally football and baseball. I went out for football and played on the "Dingbats," one of the two scrub teams, the other being the "Cadubiators." Hunter Carpenter, VPI's all-time football great, was then playing on the varsity team. Life in the barracks and on the campus was also enlivened occasionally by some more or less innocent prank or caper. A noteworthy instance was the staging of the "Bovine Worshipers," a pseudo-idolatrous cult, by "Bunker" Hill and some of his fellow members of the aforesaid Tony Crowd. While on a stroll around the college farm one Sunday afternoon, they came upon the sunbleached skull of an ox or other bovine animal, and brought it in to Bunker's room. After keeping it awhile on display, Bunker conceived the idea of making it into an idol. It was accordingly mounted on a frame and wired for electric lighting, with a light bulb placed in each eye socket and a switch to produce blinking, thus giving it some semblance of a living creature. In the darkened room the effect was weird and awesome. The new step was to round up the "Rats" in the Division for the worship ceremony. We were notified to report to Bunker's room at a specified time, with a sheet, and when we were assembled we lined up in front of Bovine, draped in our sheets, and, chanting "O thou most high and mighty Bovine, we bow before thee," we invoked his magical powers and favors by incantations accompanied by elaborate obeisance's. We "Rats" cooperated wholeheartedly and got our share of fun out of the performance. These rites were at first performed clandestinely a guard being posted to warn of the approach of an inspection officer, so as to enable the "Rats" to get back safely to their rooms. But stories about it soon began to leak out and finally came to the knowledge of the authorities. The practice of the rites in the barracks was then discontinued; but it was realized that it could be utilized at sports pep rallies, celebrations, etc., as an item of entertainment, and it was so used and featured for a time with official sanction. The Bovine episode will be something to talk about at the forthcoming reunion of the Old Guard.

Yours very truly,

Claiborne R. McCorkle