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Days of Yore: The Class of 1979 Bonfire

1979 Bonfire.jpgThough I did not participate in its construction, the worthies who built the Class of 1979 bonfire in the fall of our freshman year in 1975 deserve to be honored. Their stupendous bonfire was 100 tiers high — so high that the College recognized the size race for what it was and limited the height of bonfires thereafter. (Last weekend’s bonfire was 72 tiers high.)

In those days, bonfires were not constructed of the green timber that one sees today. They were made of old railroad ties deeply impregnated with a flammable protective: coal tar creosote. Man, did that stuff burn. There was never any doubt that the entire structure would tumble to the ground in a shower of sparks and flames. The whole bonfire caught fire from the start, not just its flammable core.

Curiously, we never ran around the fire, nor felt any urge to touch the pyre itself. I guess that old traditions could not fail, if they had not yet been invented — and with the use of creosoted ties, our bonfire was a heck of a lot hotter, too.


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