Princeton proctors, 1968
The Daily Princetonian
That Was Then: May 1968

A proctor’s victimized Ford
The Daily Princetonian
Princeton’s proctors had reason to fear the coming of spring in the 1950s and ’60s, thanks to outbreaks of mayhem that dwarf subsequent shenanigans. Although the most destructive riot of this era occurred in 1963, when Nassau Street was left in a shambles, the prize for brazenness may go to 1968, when trouble erupted at Brown Hall.

On the night of May 15, 25 freshmen from Dod and Witherspoon halls converged on Brown, extinguishing its lights, exploding toilet paper-wrapped firecrackers in its entries, and breaking 15 of its windows. This provoked a spirited counterattack that broke five windows in Dod but failed to prevent Dod occupants from continuing their assault on Brown by “firing rotten oranges out of a second-story window with a super-slingshot and shouting ribald comments over a loudspeaker,” The Daily Princetonian reported.

In the confusion, an enterprising if reckless student commandeered Director of Security H. Walter Dodwell’s gleaming Dodge Dart. A chase worthy of the Keystone Cops ensued. According to the Prince, the fugitive “smashed through the barricade at the pagoda by the New New Quad [now the site of Butler College], made a skidding left by the parking lot pagoda and raced down Faculty Road to Washington Road. As the chase continued onto Route 1, the thief ran three red lights, accelerated up to speeds of 90 miles per hour, and then returned down Alexander Road to ditch the car and disappear into the woods.”

In hindsight, Dodwell got off lightly. Just a few months later, Proctor Vincent DiPane Jr. left his new Ford station wagon unattended while he dealt with an issue in Little Hall. On exiting the dormitory, he saw his car being pushed down the hill, and though the perpetrators fled, the vehicle continued its descent until it collided with Dillon Gym, severely damaging the fender, grill, and bumper.

Truly, as W.S. Gilbert put it, “A policeman’s lot is not a happy one!” 

John S. Weeren is founding director of Princeton Writes and a former assistant University archivist.