OUR new dining-club at Memorial Hall has naturally attracted considerable attention during the first few weeks of its existence, and will probably continue to do so for some time. Still, it is surprising that general notice has not yet been called to what may in time become one of its leading features; I allude to its value as a source of revenue to the University.
The sight of four or five hundred intelligent young gentlemen seated at table, and calmly discussing roast-beef and the leading topics of the day, is pleasing in itself. The architectural glories of the newly opened edifice double the charm, while the more or less cracked and clouded visages of our white-wigged ancestors lend the dignity of antiquity to the scene. The architect has kindly provided the public at large with a most desirable stand-point for regarding this spectacle. The number of respectable hats and bonnets which appear in the gallery as dinner-time approaches bears witness to the readiness with which the public at large appreciates its privilege; and the daily appearance of new admirers, whose numbers certainly do not decrease as time progresses, has suggested to me the ideas to which I venture to call the attention of the University.
In the first place, I should recommend the establishment of an office at the foot of the staircase leading to the gallery in question, where a limited number of admission tickets should be daily disposed of at a reasonable price. At the same time, ticket speculation among the students should be discouraged, and, if necessary, stringent regulations against it should be enforced.
In the gallery should be placed a row of armchairs, comfortably stuffed, and adapted to the rheumatic, asthmatic, and nervous infirmities of the elderly visitors. For the use of these an extra fee equal to the price of admission should be exacted; and no purchaser of a standing ticket should be permitted to occupy a seat.
TWO intelligent and affable young men should be engaged on board wages, for the double purpose of maintaining order among the visitors, and pointing out the various celebrities among the assembled company. It would be desirable to provide these gentlemen with opera-glasses, by the aid of which the visitors could more conveniently distinguish the prominent personages to whom their attention might be called. And for the use of these a third fee, of corresponding value, should be demanded. A stand for the sale of heliotypes, College histories, etc., might also be advantageously erected in the gallery.
The novelty of the entertainment would no doubt suffice to fill the gallery for months to come, but popular interest might eventually decline unless proper stimulants were offered. To meet this difficulty I should propose the following plan.
A committee should be appointed to carefully examine the various peculiarities and eccentricities displayed by the assembled company at table. After careful deliberation, the students should be separated into classes, or divisions, according to their several characteristics. One body should be composed of those who ate with the most finished elegance. A second should consist of such as were able to consume a maximum of food in a minimum of time. The young gentlemen who habitually disregarded the ordinary distinction between knives and forks should form a third. And other divisions might be created at the discretion of the committee. Care should be taken to perfect every man in the peculiar branch of table manners for which he had evinced a talent. Occasional lectures upon the subjects in question would not be out of place, and the personal supervision of one or more members of the committee at least three times a week would be desirable.
At the expiration of a stated time, six young gentlemen should be selected from each division. Tables should be provided for them on the platform at the end of the hall, and at stated intervals they should compete for prizes, - such as a napkin-ring, a stop watch, and a handsome case-knife, - to be provided by general subscription. The committee should select judges and a referee.
Notices of these proceedings should be inserted in the Boston newspapers, and in such others as might appear desirable to the committee. And on these occasions double the usual fees should be demanded.
The interest awakened by these contests would insure the constant attendance of a large number of people, desirous of speculating upon the chances of the various competitors, and, after the award, of critically examining the personal appearance and peculiarities of the victors. The establishment of such a plan as I have suggested would at once give pleasure, in providing the students with quite a new field for contest, and secure profit, by transferring a little of the surplus wealth of the novelty-seeking public to the coffers of the University.