Jackson Simcox ’19 was the Old Guard student crew manager at Reunions. This year, the Old Guard led the P-rade, with the oldest returning alumnus, Joseph Schein ’37, walking the entire route. Simcox then had to shuttle the Old Guard out of the rain when the P-rade was canceled because of lightning. We caught up with Simcox to hear about his “favorite weekend of the year, bar none.”
Checking in I woke up at about 8:45 for the 9 a.m. shift. We had 35 alums stay all weekend, but then Saturday we got about 110 total. When they check in, they always ask who in their class is already there, and sadly, a lot of the time, we’d have to tell them they were the only one, or that someone had come but left, or someone canceled last-minute and couldn’t make it. That’s never a fun conversation.
Lunch We open the bar at 11 and we try to shuffle the alums and their families into the cocktail area. Then we let them know that lunch is ready to start. The dining hall crew does an incredible job — we had salmon and potatoes and salad.
Speakers We have a speaker introduce all the classes — who’s here, what contributions the class has made to Princeton and the world — then President Eisgruber makes a speech. I was running around trying to ensure that we had golf carts to bring President Eisgruber and his guests to the top of the P-rade, and then make sure that we had buses coming to take all the alums and their families to Nassau Hall. When Joe Schein was presented the Class of 1923 cane, I was able to step inside and listen to his speech. For someone who is Class of 1937 and 103 years old, he gave such an incredible speech. You could tell he is still very sharp mentally. The main focus was about how people live their lives and what meaning they can get from it.
Preparing for the P-rade Then we try to encourage everyone to go immediately to the bus and not to their rooms or the bathroom but nonetheless, people will deviate. So we’re making sure we get everyone on the bus and up to Nassau Hall. I think it was 1:20, and the P-rade starts at 2. We got them up to the top and the P-rade started immediately.
Driving Mr. Schein My first concern was: Make sure I drive this golf cart as safely as possible. Once they gave us the go-ahead, he got out of the cart, jumped in front of me, and his whole family walked right behind him in front of the golf cart. He had, I believe, 19 family members come this year. I wasn’t sure if he could walk the whole way, but we knew he was going to try. He made it all the way down to the reviewing stand, then sat down at the Old Guard tent. He was using the [Class of 1923] cane, and his granddaughters were supporting him as well. You could tell how much he enjoyed being on campus again.
Lightning warning We found out that lightning was 5 miles away, and if it was within 3 then we had to seek shelter. Twelve seconds later, they said they’re shutting it down. Usually when we ask the alums to leave a tent, they take their time. But when we told them we had to get inside, they all said “OK” and jumped right up. Somehow, we were able to get all of the people into a bus or a golf cart and over to Forbes, and no one got caught in the rain at all. I was baffled at how we did it — it couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
Open bar It was about 3 p.m., and people are asking a million different questions about what’s going on. We figured, hey, lightning is still here, no one can go anywhere, so we decided it was no big deal to set up a bar, open cocktail hour early, and everyone went in and started drinking. People had been very worked up and were not too pleased, but once we opened the bar and told people what was going on, everyone settled down and just really relaxed and enjoyed themselves. We don’t order kegs or a lot of beer, but they will drink a lot of whiskey and a lot of vodka. They certainly know how to drink.
The tents After dinner, we cleaned up the bar, cleaned up the registration desk, and made sure everything at our site was secure. Then that was it for the night; we usually end our night at about 9 with the Old Guard, since that’s usually when they all go to sleep. My crew and I decided to hang out a little bit afterward talking about the weekend, then we went our separate ways. I met a few buddies at the 25th; we were dancing, talking to people, having a good time. I went to the 35th — my father is Class of ’83. Then after that, I went to the fifth and hung out with people I go to school with, people I used to go to school with, everybody. At 2, when the 5th closed, I called it a night.
Edited and condensed by Anna Mazarakis ’16