Looking Back 35 Years: The 'Possum Caused a Riot

Police Arrest 28 Students During Square Pogo Rally

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Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky, then a Harvard graduate student fighting in Korea. was outraged at the rioting students and condemned them in a letter to The New York Times. "I was absolutely furious about it at the time," the former dean of the Faculty says. Rosovsky says that from his foxhole in Korea, Pogo seemed like quite a trivial reason to have a riot. "I thought it was in bad taste," he says, adding that now, "I'm sort of less taken with myself."

Cronin hired Cambridge Mayor Joseph A. Deguglielmo '29 to defend the five Crimson editors arrested in the rally. When their cases made it to court, most of the 28 students charged pleaded no contest and were let off with just a slap on the wrist.

Sign of the Times

Actively campaigning for a comic strip character, and a 'possum at that, may at first glance seem to be the height of sophomoric absurdity. Whether the Pogo Riot served merely as a forum in which restless College students could release pent-up energies or whether it was indicative of a social and political restlessness remains an issue for debate.

Some say it was just a case of spring fever, much like the panty-raids common to the youths of what has been called the Silent Generation.

"I suppose the Pogo Riot was like a football rally. There wasn't really any serious politics like, `get out and march,' " Verba says. "It was an era that was apolitical. It didn't have quite the bite of the '60."

Adds Weil, "It was a period of still some innocence perhaps."

The period was relatively calm, at least compared to the turmoil that would shake the University and the nation in the next decade. Yet, 1952 was the height of the McCarthy Era, and certainly politics must have played a role in the student population's embracement of Pogo. The Crimson already had a reputation for defying the establishment, as it was in the fourth year of publishing its "Academic Freedom Reports," which detailed stories of scholars around the country persecuted because of their political views.

"In part it was a political statement, a statement of frustration with the established candidates," says Cronin.

Why did The Crimson, normally a bastion of liberalism, fail to back Adlai Stevenson, one of the most respected liberal politicians of his time? Why, instead, did it choose to endorse a comic strip character? Was it all just a joke?

Says Lukas: "We weren't that superficial. We weren't that dumb. We weren't that apolitical."