The “idea balloon” on page 47 (Alumni Scene) of the May 16 issue prompted this letter. In my novel, The Spies from Princeton, I have a description of the P-rade, which may amuse you – and perhaps other alumni. Stacia and I do high school recruiting for Princeton, and when young people ask us why they should go there, we tell them that if they don’t like orange and black, they shouldn’t. Reunions are a good reason why unlimited tolerance for that garish color combination is a prerequisite for being a Princetonian.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Stacia is a character in the book, which is narrated in the first person; hence the “and I do” etc.)
Reunions are a big deal at Princeton. The school is still small enough to nurture enduring friendships among many, not just a few, and Princeton alums tend to stay in touch. Each year, before graduation, there’s a three-day bash, called Reunions Weekend. Each class has a party tent, the bigger ones for the 50th, the 25th, the 10th reunions, and so on, up and down the anniversary spectrum. Even the octogenarians from the ’40’s and ’50’s show up, and an astonishing amount of booze is consumed in 72 hours. It’s rumored that the liquor stores in Princeton – and there are many, in this town, believe me – make their nut for the year in three days of partying.
The highlight of the weekend is the P-rade, and that’s what it is – a parade of alums in the street. Unless you actually witness this spectacle, it’s impossible to imagine how many goofy sartorial commendations of orange and black and how many nutty variations of the Tiger motif are possible.
Each class has its own outfit.
The 25th reunion class marches first, followed by the older guys from more sedate generations of America, who typically wear plaid jackets with orange and black and white patterns and Panama hats with matching hatbands.
Then the orange and black lunacy begins in earnest.
Let’s start with shoes and socks and move up. Years ago, when Princeton was all male, one orange sock on the right foot, and one black sock on the left foot, was considered pretty snazzy. The women added a lot more pizzazz. Right shoe, black; right stocking, orange; and vice-versa. Oversized bedroom slippers in the shapes of tigers’ heads, some grinning, some snarling.
Now, to pants and skirts.
All orange, with oversized black tiger paws, or all black, with embroidered little orange Tigers. Or orange and black stripes, with the stripes running up and down or sideways, jailhouse style. Ditto jackets and blouses, although a few were white, with orange and black Tigers of all different sizes outdoing each other in zany feline nonsense.
Top it off with jillions of kids bouncing around, faces made up as cartoon tigers, and what you get is the delightful spectacle of Princeton camaraderie tied together by a joyful concoction of orange and black silliness.