Vintage Hazing Stuff: Paddling Season

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Ronald Reagan getting paddled by his Tau Kappa Epsilon Brothers

It is Paddling Season!

Paddling season is here again! A tradition that has been around for over 100 years is still being observed, although now we have to hide it.

It was not always that way. I have been looking through some old college yearbooks, and in the 1920’s and 1930’s, it was done out in the open and often. Many schools had a tradition of freshman hazing. This usually involved a dust-up of some sort between the freshmen and sophomores, often a tug-of-war or, in early days, an outright brawl. A big part of that was usually a paddle line/gauntlet. Sometimes there were hundreds of sophomores lined up with paddles. It seems like every college male had a paddle in those days.

Fraternities paddled pledges in the yard and on the porch of the frat castles and also there were frequent pictures on their annual pages showing paddling and other hazing. It was simply understood that it was a part of college life.

One thing I noticed was that the paddles used in those days were home-made and often about a yard long, with long handles. The techniques were university a two-handed, swing for the fences stance. The boards are not very wide. I did some measuring on the photographs and came to the conclusion that the average board was about 36 inches long, the handle was about 12-15 inches, and it was about 3 inches wide. Now that will put some bull’s-eyes and welts on your ass!

The annuals were full of references to paddling also. One remarked that the fraternity pledges were all seen in church on Sundays giving thanks for the padded pews. And there were many references to “warm welcomes” for freshmen and pledges.



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