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This day in C of I history: The Hair Cutting Fracas

On the day of October 3, 1929, a story appeared in The College of Idaho’s Coyote that can only be described as “barberous.” The story described the last hair-cutting fracas, an underclassmen battle for supremacy betwixt C of I freshmen and sophomores, to take place on the C of I campus. The fracas had been replaced by the “Ball Rush” that year and for good reason. A harrowing first-hand account of the last fracas follows: 

Alas! It grieves me to hear that the famous hair-cutting fight has been discontinued in favor of the effeminate ball-rush. And I thank my lucky stars that I was privileged to indulge in the last barbaring contest to take place on the C of I campus.

But to get on with the story I have agreed to tell.

At 4:00 a.m. on Monday, September 26, 1927, I sneaked out of the house and across the street to the home of two other fellows and whistled twice under their window. A whispered, “We’ll be out in a minute!” and then a short wait.

We climbed into our ancient Ford and drove as quietly as the tottering hack would run to a deserted house a short distance from the campus which had been agreed upon the night before as the freshman rendezvous. Some fifty of our classmates were there as we arrived. It was pitch dark except for a dim arc-light two blocks away, the tense expectancy of battle made us talk in hushed whispers.

In a little while the class president arrived.

“Have you all the safety pin over your left shoulder?” he demanded.

We all had.

“Remember, now, don’t shear anyone with that badge of distinction. And listen! Whenever any on you nab a sophomore that you can’t handle alone, just yell ‘Charlie’ and all of you who aren’t busy at the moment rush over to help scalp the soph.”

Almost complete silence for a little while as we waited for developments.

Then a startled, “What was that?”

“Where?”

“I don’t see anything!”

“Shut up, everybody! you’ll give us away!” This last from the class president.

Silence again disturbed now and then by subdued cracklings in the bush across the street. We were all half scared and huddled closer together and waited.

Suddenly from across the street: “Come on, fellers! Here they are.”

And bulking shapes rose against the dim sky and rushed us.

I was too busy with one fellow who was violently opposed to having his hair cut to pay much attention to the rest of the gang. Dust and choking, and the fight sounded like a cattle stampede as bodies thudded against the ground. My difficulties with the powerful soph were increasing terribly so I yelled “Charlie” and three frosh answered the call.

Scissors, somebody, quick!” one of them barked. We clipped that soph quite bald.

All at once the sophomores retreated, and we took stock of our own casualties. We felt pretty big when we found that non one of us suffered anything more serious than a very slight clipping. And we felt still more big when we returned after daylight and found that the yard was strewn with sophomore hair.

Feeling quite confident, we taunted the sophs for a while, and then went to town for breakfast.

Returning about 7:30 we found the sophomores mobilizing near Sterry hall, and worse still, we noticed that the “I” club had turned out in full all heavily armed with paddles. Our confidence left us, so we didn’t go onto the campus, but congregated on the vacant lot across Cleveland boulevard from the campus.

“I” men sent a delegation out to us, and urged us to fight the sophs on the campus, promising us a fair fight. We agreed, finally, and marched onto the campus in three “waves.” Sophs met us about midway between Sterry and Cleveland. We fought in pairs, one man to hold a victim while the other one was to use the scissors. It was a grand battle. For an hour we fought and nearly everyone lost some hair. Some warriors had clippers which mowed a neat trench down the middle of a good many domes. And “Charlie” the most popular man on the campus, much to the bewilderment of the sophomores.

Whenever “I” men judged the fight to be a little slow they caught a number of participants and paddled them smartly. Such tactics invariable aroused the ire of the tired warrior, who immediately rejoined the battle and took his spite out on some member of the enemy class.

After an hour of scalp mowing, the “I” men stopped the war. All scalps were bare in spots, and some were all but bald. The campus looked like a barber shop floor late Saturday night before the flunkie sweeps out.

For the next several days Caldwell barbers enjoyed a rich harvest as members of both lower classes had their coiffures retouched.