Friday, January 16, 2009

Robert Page Sims

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday and the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, many Americans are taking the time to look back at the Civil Rights movement of the the 1960s and earlier. One of the first steps at Ripon College in support of Civil Rights was taken in 1924, when Robert Page Sims, an African-American student from Bluefield, West Virginia, was admitted.

Noted alumnus Pearl Dopp, '25 writes about taking Robert to the "Walk-Around" (a dance/social for first year students). She wrote in a letter to her mother on September 27, 1924 [Available at: ] that, "I saw him on the campus and realizing that he would undoubtedly not get a chance to go to the walk around, I conceived the idea of asking him." The Walk-Around was covered in the College Days on September 30th, 1924, but there is no mention of Sims or Dopp. (The article is transcribed below.)

[Friday, September 30, 1924]

Why Walk-Around?
The Mysteries of a Blind Date

By Catherine Whittier

“Get me a date!”
“Can she dance?”
“Is he good-looking?”
The time—first week of college.
The place—the campus, the commons and Ingram Hall
The characters—all the college boys and girls…U, rah, rah!
The subject—the Walk-around.

The answers were in the affirmative. The dates were secured. Some were blind ones, others were unsconscious, some were merely dumb. The senior took the beautiful little blond and found that she “juth lovths college life, becauth it wath tho thrilling.” The stately brunette turned out to be a frost and the coy little Titian-haired date was the original “Enfant Terrible.” The long-suffering junior co-ed was left aghast at the animated bit of encyclopedia that trailed her to the “Walk-Away.” He talked vociferously of the political trend of parties and the logical choice for president. She groaned inwardly, fearing he’d choke on some of the five syllable words he tossed carefully about. He didn’t, though! (He was the H.S. orator in His Town—at least he called it “my town”—and she didn’t doubt his veracity!)
Grind Begins on Time
The various dates assembled in the gym and the Walk-Around began. The dates shook hands enthusiastically with the benign professors at the head of the line, but the near finish the dates’ parched tongues hung out and they extended limp hands. Nothing hearty about their handclasp. Well, that was over.
The hardened seniors sat in the balconies and gazed on in grim humor. Circles were formed of the freshmen girls encircled by upper-class escorts. The escorts moved about and curiously examined the license plate on the lil’ Frosh gals. As one little Frosh remarked, “Felt just like a horse being looked over by a prospective buyer. Nearly showed my teeth!”
The upper-class girls were doing likewise to wearers of the green headgear. After the drummer had dropped his prized Ingersol—Ford case—several times, the Walk-around was over and the walk over began.
Walk-Over a success
They reversed and trod on the left foot of their partners each time around the floor. They slipped and they galloped! There were sad awakenings and some were put solidly to sleep. The little freckled girl danced divinely while the striking Anglo-Saxon moved like a great lakes dredge.

The dancing ceased. Ice cream cones were distributed. It was a circus plus! The annual walk-around, 1924, for the freshmen was over and they dispersed. Sweet dreams of rosy conquests embellished many tired sleepers’ craniums.

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