Streaking, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the act of running naked in a public place,” gripped campuses across the United States in 1974, meeting with more smiles than scowls. Princeton was no stranger to flashes of public nudity, symbolized by what Susan Williams ’74, reporting for PAW, called “the famed ‘Winter Olympics’ of Holder Courtyard,” but the “mass streak” of March 8 was in a league of its own.
At 8 p.m. on a cold, damp night, 75 male students burst from Cuyler Hall, determined, in the words of participant and Daily Princetonian editor Andrew M. Pollack ’75, “to bring some small measure of cheer into the lives of their compatriots, to add another chapter to Tiger history, and to act like complete idiots in front of TV cameras.” Having braved a crowd of some 300 onlookers in Cuyler Courtyard, the streakers proceeded on a barebones tour of campus. They disturbed the peace of Firestone Library, rousing “even the people smooching in the carrels on C-floor”; they crashed a debate in the Whig Hall senate chamber and a screening in McCosh 10; and they fortified themselves at the Pub, where most “just pointed downward” when asked for their IDs.
But the highlight of the night was undoubtedly their visit to Dillon Pool, where the Eastern Seaboard Swimming and Diving Championships were underway. There, as New Jersey Public Television cameras rolled, the streakers stole the show if not the title (which Princeton clinched the next day) by circuiting the pool and, in some cases, swimming its length. “Oh, you should have seen their faces,” exulted one participant. “It was worth it.”
By night’s end, “Streaker Central,” as the organizers styled themselves, could claim a title of its own — the Ivy League record for clocking the most “nude person-yards” at roughly 1,500 yards a head, crushing Yale, which had staged a daylight streak in February. Princeton’s was a feat, wrote Pollack, “to be equaled never more.”
John S. Weeren is founding director of Princeton Writes and a former assistant University archivist.