USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘initiation’
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Convocation

Main Piece (Direct Transcription):

A tradition at my school for all sixth graders is called convocation.  I remember my first day of sixth grade, they paired me up with a senior the first day of school and we walked up the long brick pathway at our school up to the gym.  It’s a way of initiating the entering sixth graders into the school, and kind of a way of saying farewell to the seniors since it will be their last year.   After we went to the gym, we took our seats to listen to a convocation speech.

 

Context:  The informant K, my brother, is a high school student living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He attends the same middle/high school that I attended, and we were talking about all the interesting and unique traditions that our school has while I was home for spring break.  I was reminiscing about different events that I was able to take part in while I was a student at the school, while listening to my brother’s perspective and take on these different traditions.  We both agreed that we feel like our school is very unique, and that we don’t believe a lot of schools have the traditions that ours does.  Although folklore is often considered to be something that larger groups of people can relate to, I believe that folklore and tradition surrounding schools and small local areas are sometimes some of the most interesting to hear about.  It gives insight into how the individuals in these areas live and gives valuable insight into what their values might be.  Because of this, I asked my brother to tell me more about his experience with these traditions to tell in my folklore collection.

 

 

My Thoughts:

I have an interesting perspective on this tradition because I was both the sixth grader and the senior.  Although it is one event that the whole school takes part of, there are several different perspectives individuals can have on the event.  Since my brother is only a junior in high school right now, he has not yet gotten to walk a 6th grader up the path and has only been the 6th grader walked by a senior.  I was both the 6th grader, feeling nervous and excited on the first day of school, and the senior, feeling sentimental on the last first day at the school.  I was also able to be the spectator from grade 7 to 11, and still felt excited watching the seniors and new sixth graders walk into the gym after their walk up the path.  This traditional ceremony at the school is something that a lot of people look forward to every year, and I believe it serves as an excellent first entrance to the school for 6th graders.  The school has so many unique and powerful traditions and ceremonies that happen year after year, and the new students are able to get a small taste of what is in store for them throughout their time at this school.

Customs
general
Humor

The Brown Helmet

Text:

Informant (R): Yeah the KA’s had a tradition, we called the Brown Helmet, um, we had a travelling trophy that was awarded to the last person that got dumped by a date or a girlfriend. Uh and it was a brown army helmet. The reason it was brown or was called the Brown Helmet, or why it was appropriate was because you had been shat on by your girlfriend or your date who dumped you. So you know if you were unlucky enough to have the brown helmet, you were just waiting for someone to get dumped so you could give it back to them. Yeah, so we had that.

Collector (J): Was that something you learned during pledging (initiation)?

R: No, it was even before, because we lived in the house and we hadn’t gone through hell week or any of those things yet and you know I got, shit, I probably got the Brown Helmet before I was an active actually.

Context: The informant was recalling his experience as a fraternity brother in college. He is remembering his time there and the traditions celebrated as his child goes through the pledging process.

Analysis: The Brown Helmet is a way of expressing the recent loss of a relationship in a humorous way, encouraging brothers to be open about their experiences. The fact that every individual has the potential to wear the helmet also allows for a sense of solidarity for those who currently have the helmet, as they can seek advice from previous recipients. At the same time, it shows other brothers to be more sympathetic to the wearers of the hat. However, this could also make the wearers more likely to be teased for being “dumped.” Regardless, the sentiment behind the color brown certainly shows the negative attitude and stigma around being broken up with. In a way, the brown army helmet shows that regardless of their relationship status, the brothers are able to fight through it and reclaim their identity as a bachelor.

Gestures
Initiations
Kinesthetic

Break a Leg with associated gesture.

AC: “So we have this thing where we bite our thumb and, okay you gotta do it with me or else I’ll look like an idiot! So you bite your thumb, then link pinkies, and say ‘break a leg.’ So we mainly do it backstage like right before the show, and you go around and do it to people, and all the freshmen would be really confused, because we didn’t tell or show them it until right before the first show, and then they’d find about it and we’d go up to them biting our thumb with our pinky out expecting them to do it, until they saw other people doing it and figured it out. But then I was done with high school and we stopped doing it since it would be weird.”

Was this localized to your high school theater community, or do you know if it was more widespread?

AC: “I’ve heard of versions of it, but as far as I know my high school was the only one that did that specifically.”

So was this like a rite of passage or a form of initiation into the group?

AC: “We did it before every show, but on opening night it was the most important and was a bit of an initiation ritual.”

AC: “So imagine you’re a scared freshman on opening night and someone comes up to you like (demonstrates) and you’re confused, then eventually you figure it out.”

At some point, were you the confused freshman trying to figure out what was going on?

AC: “Yeah I remember looking around and then seeing this one girl do it and was like, oh.”

To do the gesture, one holds their hand with pinky and thumb outstretched, bites the thumb with the nail pointing down, and goes up to another person. They mimic the gesture, then hook pinky fingers together and say, “break a leg,” around the thumb. It comes out sounding slightly muffled.

Background:

AC knows about this gesture, along with its ritual aspects because of her own participation in it. She learned it from older actors and crew in the process of more generally being initiated into her high school theater community, and continued to carry out the gesture and tradition throughout her high school theater experience. Her participation was partly due to the gesture being a symbol of in-group membership. Knowing how to respond to someone else doing the gesture signifies that one has at least some experience with theater, has been part of at least one show, and as such, is part of a community.

Context:

AC demonstrated the gesture in response to my questions about the folklore of theater communities.

Interpretation:

In addition to the gesture being a marker of community membership, the learning of it is an initiation ritual. From AC’s descriptions, the first show of the year is more generally overlaid with elements of initiation rituals for freshmen and other new members of the theater community. The entire process of preparing for a performance, particularly in the days surrounding the shows, can be an ordeal of sorts, albeit an entertaining one. By taking part in the same ordeal, new members and established members of the theater community can bond through shared experience. The “Break a Leg” gesture itself is a small element of this; new members share the experience of once being confused and having to figure out the gesture with those approaching them.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations

USC High Dive: Graduation Tradition

Main Piece:

Jumping off the high dive at the USC Aquatic Center before you graduate

Informant: Apparently you have to jump off the high dive before you graduate from USC. It’s in the aquatic center and it’s like 30 or 40 feet high in the air. You’re supposed to like go break in or something late at night and just go do it. I haven’t done it yet, though.

Background: The informant is a sophomore here at USC. This piece was recorded in person at her apartment. She has yet to jump off the high dive, neither have her friends. The informant said she had learned of this tradition even before arriving on campus freshman year. A potential roommate who she had met over Facebook had told her of this tradition. The informant was apathetic towards this tradition. It was clear that completion of this task was not on her to-do list.

Context: For every single college and university, there are a myriad of “before you graduate” traditions like this one. Some schools value these traditions more so than others. Going off this conversation, it seems as if this tradition isn’t taken very seriously.

Analysis: I am interested in the origin of this tradition. Immediately I was drawn to the very literal relationship between leaping off the high dive and “taking the leap” out of your comfort zone and into the working world. Personally I had not heard of this tradition before this conversation. Additionally, I can think of another reason for the development of this tradition. USC athletics is quite possibly what this school is known for. As such, the department has separated itself from the non-athlete student body. Regular students can not use the facilities managed by USC Athletics. Possibly, this tradition arose as a sort of reclamation act for non-athletes here at USC. In breaking into and using USC Athletic facilities without their knowledge, non-athletes could be taking a subtle jab at the department as a whole.

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

College Rugby Post-Game Tradition for Rookies

Folk Tradition:

“So I was on the rugby team and so there’s a lot of stupid little rugby traditions that exist, but there’s like 3 fuckin’ million of them. If you’re new, a rookie, and you score your first try (it’s like a touchdown) in a game or a match, after the game there’s always parties, after the game it’s always customary to invite the other team to get shitfaced with you so at the party, so after the game you have to ‘shoot the boot’. You have to fill the cleat you wore with beer and chug it, and while you do it they sing a song and they go like – yell – ‘shoot the boot’ and if you don’t do it fast enough they sing, ‘why are we waiting we should be masturbating’ you have to chug like you would chug anything.” 

Context:

This is a college rugby team’s post-game tradition. My informant watched people do it and has done it herself. 

Informant Background:

My informant is 21, from Omaha Nebraska. She is on a college rugby team at a university in Los Angeles.

My Analysis:

I think a lot of young community groups do hazing rituals as initiation ceremonies. They can be mild or dangerous in extreme cases. This is a gross, but mild initiation ceremony to the college rugby community. It makes sense that only those who score in the game get to participate because those are the people who will most likely become the leaders of the community in the future. Drinking is also a common factor in college age initiation rituals.

I think the college rugby community is relatively small compared to other college communities like Greek Life, so it makes sense that opposing teams would convene after to celebrate together. This speaks to the fact that they are more concerned about building community than competition.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Great Norwegian Graduation Rager

“So in Norway, when we graduate high school, we have this tradition that the two weeks leading up to our, um, independence day, um, we essentially do college in two weeks. And by that we, uh, everyone essentially has like a startup company where they fund, they get money and they work and they buy a bus. And this bus is to represent a group of people that have together to party on this bus for these two coming weeks. You build this bus to represent you as a group. So you paint it, you have your own song. They usually spend about twenty to forty thousand dollars on these buses. And they pay a couple to three thousand dollars per song or more. People live off this shit. They graduate high school and they just make music for these crazy graduating students. And they have a pretty decent life. Umm, so what you do is you do this and then you buy a suit, you buy like overalls that are completely red and covered in the Norwegian flag, and it’s got different colors. That’s the only time that you’ll ever see these colors in Norway which is why I find it so baffling that people in America keep wearing and wearing their flag everywhere. I guess it’s like weird, it’s like nationalism, which is bad, but for these two weeks in Norway: totally cool. So everyone gets drunk, everyone has sex with each other, there’s a bunch of STD things going on and like a lot of people take precautions so there’s just condoms everywhere in the capital for those two weeks, literally just so that teenagers can just grab them passing by. They’ll be in like metro stations, bus stops, random places there’ll just be like a little cup of condoms because people are just like doing things all the time. So there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and you kinda like, you do all of those, you get all your immaturity out. That’s the whole point of it. So by the time you have your independence day, everyone’s so fucking exhausted that when you actually celebrate the day  that you celebrate Independence Day  and that you celebrate your graduation, then finals happen. Afterwards. So it’s a big thing in Norway where people have been trying to get the finals to happen before these two weeks. Because what happens is a lot of, like,  not a lot, but  maybe one out  of twenty people failed their finals because of this tradition. Every year. So they’re trying to change that now. I think it’s going to change this year, but the fact that the government, that all entire Norway works around this insane tradition: just get fucked up and have sex for two weeks? It’s fucking fantastic.”

 

The source definitely looked upon this tradition with a lot of happiness. It seemed to be one of his favorite parts of high school. He said it’s not a very long-standing tradition, but that it’s definitely been around as long as he’s been alive. He says it’s a way for them to release all the pent up stress from the year. It allows them to let loose and do crazy things that, under other circumstances, wouldn’t be allowed.

This tradition seems to come with its own sort of hall pass. It sounds like the kind of thing that these kids would never get away with if only there weren’t so many of them participating in it. That’s probably how it came about in the first place. Some group of kids wanted to let loose, but they knew they’d get in trouble, so they got a whole bunch of people together and went nuts. It probably didn’t fly as much back when it started, but now that it’s mainstream, the whole country probably knows to expect this debauchery and just lets it slide.

What also makes it interesting is that it involves a lot of responsibility. It’s almost like a rite of passage, really, because these kids have to work and save up money in order to be able to afford this massive, two-week rager. They also need to plan and organize it all themselves. Basically, they’re doing very adult things in order to be able to do some very not adult things. Quite the contrast.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

UC Irvine Orientation Midnight Tours & Infinity Fountain

The informant is a new professional in post-secondary administration. He lives in New Zealand, but he is originally from Apple Valley, California and went to university at the University of California, Irvine, where he was involved in student affairs and studied computer science. His background is Italian and Polish, and he has 3 older siblings.

This piece describes a tradition passed along at UCI’s Orientation, where staff members take new students on unofficial midnight tours and introduce them to lesser known UCI traditions, including the Infinity Fountain.

“So at UCI we have something called Infinity Fountain, so it’s just this fountain that’s on campus and it’s the most recognizable one on campus and easiest to access cause it’s big enough for people to like, get into. And it’s called Infinity Fountain because when the water falls it looks like an infinity symbol. Um, so at our Orientation program, it’s called SPOP, and it’s a two day orientation program, so overnight, there’s usually something—so, the official program ends at like 10, but then everyone is all on the same hall for the night and so they hang out really late and there’s activities that are kind of traditions passed on. But this is one that kind of transcends that.

So after that, people usually don’t want to go to bed and so they’ll tell like ghosts stories or whatever but then there’s like a “Midnight Tour” so people just go out and the SPOP staffers will show the new students around about kind of lesser known things at UCI that you wouldn’t get on a normal campus tour. So we talk about Darth Vader Point and Torture Garden and, um, all these other types of things that are at UCI. And so one thing that a lot of people do, not everyone, but a lot of people get into Infinity Fountain, just cause getting into Infinity Fountain is something everyone at UCI should do because it’s really really fun. So what my SPOP staffer told me is that you need to start off at UCI like in Infinity Fountain, and then you also, like this is the first time you get in this is the start of your time at UCI, and then when you graduate you need to get into the fountain. And so I did that.

That’s what my staffer told me, so when I was a staffer for two years, I didn’t take all the groups on midnight tours because I was tired, but I took a couple of groups out and I took them to Infinity Fountain and told them to get in and told them, “This is the start of your time at UCI, now finish it also in the fountain as well.” So that’s something and I don’t know if it’s something all of UCI did, but that’s definitely something that someone told me and he probably told others.”

Analysis:

This is both an occupational tradition and a more general campus tradition. These midnight tours are not official parts of UCI’s Orientation, but it’s something that returning “staffers” teach to new staffers, as well as something that many staffers would have experienced at their own Orientation. “Midnight” implies a kind of taboo, as it’s at night, after the sun has gone down and the official university-endorsed programming is over. These kinds of tours must be given under the cover of darkness.

The midnight tours describe “unofficial” UCI locations. In telling new students about these places, staffers teach new students how to be “insiders” in the campus culture—the tours contain things that they would not be able to find online or in guidebooks or on a university sponsored campus tour. Locations such as Darth Vader Point and Torture Garden are the students’ names for these locations, not official names. As a result, they can only be learned from current students, which begins the transition from outsider to insider. The staffers further establish the new students as insiders when they enter Infinity Fountain. The actual process of entering the water at the start of their college experience bears an interesting resemblance to baptism.

Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Quest to Delaware Valley High School

Original Script: “Okay, so when I moved to Milford, Pennsylvania, I didn’t know anyone! Besides mom and Chuck, and we all know just how fun that could be. Anyways, I had been going to DV for a couple of months and had made some really awesome friends. But they told me about this legend at the school, how this one kid died from a seizure in the hallways and you can hear locker slams, and water dripping in the hallway at night (apparently he was on the swim team). But it was weird because apparently he had epilepsy, but the school didn’t know about it…I don’t know the whole story doesn’t make sense. But I really wanted to see if the legend was true because I’m really into that stuff and also a lot of people have heard the ghost at the school. Anyways, because I was swim team manager, I had a key to the school for early morning practices. But of course, my friends and I thought it was a good idea to go at night to see if it was true. So I told mom that I was sleeping over at my friend, Jess’s, house. And Jess told her mom the same. So we met up with our other friends outside the school, I honestly have no idea how they were able to sneak out…but apparently they do it all the time. Anyways, we used my key to get into the school, we weren’t worried about cameras or anything because that school is so cheap, we live in the middle of nowhere! Trust me, they are not too worried about security. But, we walked into the school, me, Jess, Katie, our friend Nate and Josh.
First of all, it was already creepy to begin with. I mean the school is old! So it gives off creep vibes. In the first fifteen minutes, there was nothing and we started getting board wandering up and down the halls. But, in the next few minutes. I have never been so terrified in my life. We were at the really old part of the school. A part that hasn’t been rebuilt in such a long time, and all of a sudden we heard dripping, and almost if wet people were hitting the tile, then we heard lockers slam shut! Safe enough to stay, we didn’t stick around longer than that. We ran out of the school and Jess drove me back to my house. I stuck up into my room and barley slept that night and when I came down the next morning, mom was surprised to see me out of bed! She asked what I was doing home so early and I told her it was because of swim team practice this morning! Hahaha, it was really funny because when I got to the school, I totally forgot that we didn’t lock the door behind us! So, I definitely thought we were going to get caught. But, when I walked up to the Swim team supervisor, she looked me down and was like, ‘Jenna…when I got to the school the door was open!’ I knew I had been caught, but then she said, ‘I guess Noah forgot to close up after afternoon practice yesterday, so I guess you are the only one with the key now!’ I was trying so hard not to laugh as Noah kept protesting that he didn’t forget! I never said anything after that, and now I will literally be late to all my classes because I refuse to walk through the old part of the school again!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. Jenna loves stuff about ghosts, and she is always willing to see if the legends are true. She has gone on a many legend quests but have yet to hold them true until this one. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall.

Context of the Performance: Sneaking into a school at night

Thoughts about the piece: This interviewee happened to be my younger sister, whom I am very close with. She had told me the story the day after it happened. Though, I interviewed her again because I thought it would be perfect to that of a category of a legend quest. This story, as seemingly innocence as it was, speaks volumes in relative terms to Jenna’s belief system. Jenna has always been interested in the supernatural, but has never experienced anything that has seemed to be true. (I conducted an interview with her based off of the legend of Bloody Mary, she tried the ritual and nothing had happened that was seemingly supernatural, please see that article for reference). However, this being the first, “supernatural,” thing Jenna has experienced, gives this story a specific edge.

Firstly, this story does fall under the category of a “legend quest” because it is a quest of a high school student to see if the legend of the ghost at Desert Valley High School is true. Furthermore, the ghost story adheres to the category of a legend, something that can (or has) happened in the real world. Secondly, the fact that this legend scared Jenna, that there was happenings of the unknown (i.e. the watery footsteps, the slamming lockers, etc.), signifies that this story held some significance to it. It might have been the social environment Jenna was in. For example, the fact that everyone believed in the legend or it could have been because of the building Jenna and her friends were in was an old building—it could even have been a combination of the two. Thus, it is interesting that this legend quest can also transform into a memorate. In a follow up with Jenna, she had told me that she had shared the story with her other friends that week—friends that believe in the legend as well—and her friends approved that it must have been the ghost of the boy.

Interestingly, this legend quest can also fit into the category of inanition into a group of sorts. Jenna was new at her school, she had mentioned in the story that “everybody” has heard the ghost, and she might of wanted to fit into the new social environment. So, experiencing such a legend quest with a group of friends already part of the Delaware Valley High School, made Jenna ‘fit in’ more with the group, it initiated her as part of the Delaware Valley High School students.

Folk speech
general
Initiations

Phi Alpha

The informant, a 22-year-old college student, is a member of a PanHellenic sorority. The informant is my sister, and while chatting at home over spring break I asked her if she would be willing to tell me any of the rituals that were performed at her sorority events. She refused to tell on the grounds that they are all highly confidential and she has been sworn to secrecy. After a moment of silence, she said that she would be willing to describe a secret tradition of her ex-boyfriend’s fraternity, because she felt no obligation to keep it secret for him any longer.

“He’s in SAE, and they have this saying that all of the brothers constantly use in secret. It’s ‘Phi Alpha,’ and it means ‘Brighter from Obscurity.’ Usually they just say it means ‘Under the Sun’ because that’s easier to understand. It has something to do with being close to God. Members of the fraternity say it to one another under their breath as a greeting or when saying goodbye. Sometimes they also say it in place of ‘I’m serious’ or ‘this is actually true.’ Like, if one guy is telling a story and his brothers don’t believe him, he’ll say ‘Phi alpha’ so that they do. Only brothers are supposed to know what it is, I was just around so much that they accidentally said it in front of me and [my ex-boyfriend] told me what it means.”

This Greek phrase intended to be shared among fraternity members in secret serves to place emphasis on the deep-rooted connection that is meant to be formed between two men as a result of their shared Greek affiliation. I asked the informant whether pledges—new members of the fraternity who had not yet been initiated—knew of the phrase and she said that they don’t. Therefore, acquiring knowledge of what the phrase is, when to use it, and what it means is a part of one’s initiation into the fraternity. It is a special privilege granted only to those who have endured several months of probationary membership, and serves as a way of asserting one’s status within the fraternity. I asked the informant what the significance of being close to God is for the members, and she replied that there really was none. The fraternity has no religious affiliation, but rather the idea of being close to God serves more as a way of encouraging members of the fraternity to take responsibility for their actions, by implying that some greater power is watching over them and ensuring that they represent the fraternity appropriately. I have always heard that a plethora of secret handshakes, rituals, and traditions exist within Greek organizations, and the depth of meaning associated with the simple saying “Phi Alpha” makes me wonder just how intricate many of these other forms of folklore are that I am unaware of.

Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Game
general
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Boarding School in New Zealand

So I went to a boarding school in New Zealand, and the boarding schools are modeled on the English boarding schools, because new Zealand is a commonwealth country, which means it’s part of England, or ruled by England basically, and New Zealand still recognizes the Queen of England as the Queen of New Zealand. And so, because New Zealand was colonized by the British, a lot of our traditions and customs are very distinctly british, and the concept of the boarding school transferred from Britain to New Zealand. And it fit in very well with the New Zealand way, because a lot of the people lived in the country, and therefore the kids would go off to boarding school when it came time to go to high school because, like myself, we lived too far away from town, and it would just be too big of a deal to go out every day. And so a lot of the customs and practices I had at my boarding school had their historic roots in England. Like for example, one which was not very nice and goes back to kind of the really tough days of English boarding schools was, I dunno if you’ve heard of the gauntlet? So my school was called Fielding Agricultural High School, and there were two boys boarding houses, the one that didn’t have windows was called Rangatani house, and then the one that did have windows was called Schoolhouse. And then the girls hostel was called Metataihee house.

 

Why did one of the houses not have windows?

 

To make the boys tough, I don’t know. And so there were elements of New Zealand that were woven in, so the names are all Maori names, but the traditions were very British. And most of the kids that went to boarding school, like in England, were the sons and daughters of farmers. And in my case my dad didn’t own the farm, so the farm payed for all of us kids to go to boarding school, as part of my dad’s package.

 

But the gauntlet, which was practiced in the boys’ boarding houses, it’s now banned by the way, but it was a form of punishment where, if a boy had done something wrong, they would create two lines of boys and the kid used to have to run down the middle and the kids could kick and punch him. And often they’d come out the other end, like, semi-unconscious. It was horrible. That was one of the practices, and when I was at school they still did it.

 

That seems like a pretty severe punishment, what would they have to do to deserve that? What kind of things would get you in that much trouble?

 

Maybe they got caught sealing something? Of one of their buddies? That wasn’t very common, but I’m trying to think of something that would… Something more sort of serious. And this kind of activity wasn’t something the teachers – the teachers knew about it, but – what they called the schoolmaster, they knew it went on, but they didn’t stop it. So it was kids punishing other kids, so the sorts of other things might be…I dunno maybe they just were smart, you know, mouthy? And it would be one of the preficts would decide, so if you were the equivalent of maybe a junior or a senior in American high school, like in your last two years, that’s what the preficts were. So there’d be a head boy, and a head girl, and I used to be the head girl of the boarding house, and then there’d be other preficts, and the preficts would dish out the punishments to the kids. It could be for a range of things, but if a prefict decided they’d done something, the most serious form of punishment they would call would be the gauntlet, but it only happened to the boys, not the girls.

 

With the girls, I’m trying to think, some of these things are coming back to me. With the girls, some of the things we would do is, the preficts… I mean one day one of the girls called me into her room and just said to me “kiss my shoes,” and I said no. And she’s like “kiss my shoes” and I said no, I’m not gonna do that. And I was a third former, and she gave me two days. And a day is a form of punishment, and one day would mean that you would have to…and the word day came from England, English boarding school, and that means a day that you cant do the stuff that you would normally do after school, you’ve gotta do like, do chores and labor so to speak. And so I’d have to weed the garden instead of being able to go downtown after school.

 

It would almost be like food rationing in the morning, like there would be enough pieces of toast for like one and a half slices each, and we ate all our meals with the boys in what’s called Refectory, and you’d have duties so sometimes you’d have to stay to help do the dishes.

 

Oh so after lights out, in the first year you slept in a dormitory with other kids, and as you got more senior you’d start sharing a room, and then eventually if you became a prefict you’d have your own room. And again that’s part of, it’s like a hierarchy system that is again very British. So after lights out, we’d have torches, flashlights, under our pillows, and we’d talk, but you couldn’t talk to loud because up the hallway was the house mistress, which was usually an unmarried woman, either younger or older, that would be in charge and if she could hear you laughing and talking… I remember we had one lady once that, she would walk in and say “who was talking” and no one would say anything, it was like you didn’t wanna snitch on who it was. And so she’d line us all up out against the hallway and make us stand for 15 minutes until someone said it was me. She would just come in and get us all up and make us stand.

 

And we used to do “prep,” which was two hours of study every night, from 7 til 9, which is short for preparatory, like preparatory schools, even if you didn’t have any work you’d write to family, read a book, do anything, but you had to be silent for two hours. You were not allowed to talk.

 

Oh! We used to sandwich beds.

 

What’s that?

 

That’s like, it’s also known as apple pie-ing a bed, where you know, you’ve got the bottom sheet which is usually a fitted sheet, and then you have a top sheet. So we’d take the top sheet and we would tuck it around so it looked like the bottom sheet and then you’d turn it in half, so you would go to get in the bed, and your feet would only go halfway down the bed, cause the top sheet’s turned in half. So you turned the sheet up like an apple pie. Oh, and we’d put salt in their bed as well.

 

Why?

 

Because that was a ritual – third formers on their first night, all the preficts would salt their bed, just because. Because they’re third formers, that means like first year.

 

ANALYSIS:

Children or young adults attend boarding school at a transitory, liminal time in their lives. It is a time of going away from the safety and comfort of one’s family, being in a completely new environment with new people, rules, customs, social order, expectations, etc. These punishments and initiations establish a hierarchy, and a way of separating the ‘new’ kids from the ‘old’ kids, the people that are in the group versus the people that are out of it. You have to work your way to the top, you have to go through the same tortures and pranks that the people above you went through, in order to attain that status and respect that the older kids have achieved. It’s a way of keeping social order, as well as introducing new students to how things are done in this new culture.

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