Current Issue

Feb.3, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 8

Tales of Orange Key

In response to: An hour-long view of paradise

Wonderful article on the Orange Key (cover story, Nov 18), but it did contain one inaccuracy — that the story of the bulldog on the Chapel “grew out of a 1966 internal memo.” In fact, the opposite is true.

In 1966, as chairman of the guide service, concerned less that we were saying things that weren’t true than that we often didn’t know we were saying things that weren’t true, I asked Larry Levine ’68 to research every item in our manual. He turned up some surprises. For example, one of the enduring myths we assumed was the invention of some whimsical Princeton student of yore features the cannonball that allegedly came through what was then the prayer hall in Nassau Hall and, making a right-angle turn, decapitated King George II, then hanging over the door, demoralizing the British soldiers garrisoned in the room, who promptly fled, taking what was left of the portrait so as not to abandon it to the ungrateful colonists. Larry found most of that story in the trustees’ minutes of the time, and that was good enough for us. On the other hand, he discovered that Ralph Adams Cram never had been to college, thus debunking the myth that Cram had planted the bulldog as a salute to his alma mater — a story that, far from starting in 1966, had been around for years.

And now a confession. Two years after I graduated I was back on campus, spotted a tour, and tagged along. One especially familiar story led me to ask the guide, “Is that really true?” Despite his assurance, I asked again at the end of the tour. “Yeah, it’s true,” he said. “Why do you ask?” “Because,” I responded, “I made it up.” It was nice to know my legacy survived — though I wish now I could remember the story!

The Rev. Frank C. Strasburger ’67
Brunswick, Maine

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