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The Glorious Story of Jubilee: Why You Want to Go This Year

By Peter J. Bernbaum

(The author was the Chairman of the 1968 Jubilee Committee, Class of 1971.)

Like everything else at Harvard, Jubilee is different. And unlike many other programs it is often a huge, unqualified success.

The social institutions at Harvard are themselves unique. Here, there are no fraternities to coordinate individual activities. The houses plan separate small weekends, but none of these approaches the large financial scale of the freshman effort. And the large weekend does have its advantages. First, hundreds of people from a basically homogeneous group all bent on having fun are, of themselves, bound to create an experience which no committee can plan fully. It is a unity not unlike that generated by a football game or a freshman riot. Second, Jubilee is a great release from the pressures of the freshman year. And third, it's probably the last time for the next twenty eight years that members of the class will get together socially and informally (and by that time they may be too old to enjoy themselves -- at least in the same fashion).

But Jubilee has its problems too. Its public cannot be convinced by an overwhelming deluge of hard sell publicity or by vociferous shrieks espousing school spirit and the financial welfare of the class. Indeed, some feel the freshmen could save themselves a great deal of money and a lot of work if this activity were eliminated completely. Yet the venerable Jubilee and its undaunted committee perpetually endure.

Why? Because each Jubilee committee realizes the full extent of Boston's cultural and social assets. Therefore it must strive to provide activities which Boston itself cannot offer and to which lone individuals simply would not have access. The creativity of past committees has been uncanny, their ability to select top entertainment unsurpassed.

The 1966 Jubilee was the first of the big productions. Previously, freshmen had sponsored a dance, special Union meals, and maybe even hired a mediocre group. The 1966 group changed all that with the decision to go big budget.

About March, CRIMSON readers puzzled over classified ads blaring: "Wanted: 100 pounds of raw meat and a cage. Contact: Jubilee Committee." This, of course, was a prelude to the surprise announcement that The Animals had been hired to perform for the freshmen. What is particularly amazing is that this group was chosen before it had reached the apex of its stardom and therefore before it became financially unfeasible. Saturday night, Jubilarians enjoyed a floating party, complete with band and liquid mixer, aboard a huge pleasure cruiser. Few participants remembers, or care, that for a full hour the boat never left the dock because it failed to pass Coast Guard inspection, and the "authorities" wouldn't release the floating bacchanal.

1967 has become a legend in Jubilee history. In entertainment, the committee again found the mark. Between the time the committee contracted the Temptations and the time of the weekend, the Temps had risen to unexpected levels of success and Jubilarians subsequently enjoyed a concert by one of the nation's "hottest" entertainment commodities. But this was nothing compared to what was yet to come.

For the Saturday dance, the committee had hired an entire castle in Ipswich. The fortress consisted of a huge ballroom on the ground floor, and upper stories which contained a myriad of considerably smaller suites for the use of Jubilee's patrons. The committee hired about 30 buses and thoughtfully provided free mixer to mitigate the annoyance of a rather long ride. The bus drivers, however, were considerably less amused and once at the destination they emulated a good number of their passengers and many became totally inebriated. The bus company, which shall remain unnamed here, sent out another busload of more sober replacements to man the return trip. The Jubilee gala, by the way, was an unparalleled and certainly a most unique success.

1968 was more of the same. Friday night: a dance held under a circus tent featuring two New York soul bands a light show, and go-go girls (one of whom fell from her rather shaky platform and threatened to sue the committee for negligence). Saturday evening: a concert by the Lovin' Spoonful followed by 2 a.m. parietals to allow for private dorm parties. For Saturday afternoon, the committee rented an entire island in Boston harbor. Party boats ran continually to shuttle celebrants to what was once an old Civil War prison. The outdoor barbecue; free sandwiches and mixer, the large open fields, the myriad of abandoned cells and passageways, and a tour given by Boston's most eccentric historian added yet another dimension to a growing Jubilee tradition.

The Jubilee scale has became larger; its activities are more numerous and they are closer to Harvard to avoid the many problems inherent with transportation. Schedules are structured to allow more free time for the individual. Spring 1969 may not be a semester marked by a plethora of student festivities, but Jubilee will be no less grand. The island proved so successful that the event is being repeated. Friday evening, Richie Havens will perform in concert at Cambridge Latin. The following evening, the committee has scheduled a dance featuring Cliff Nobles and the Listening at which free mixer will be available. A Road Runner cartoon festival, special Union meals, and a Sunday concert by Harvard's own venerable singing institution, the Krockodillos, will round out the event.

Although Jubilee is criticized as an exercise in frivolity and unnecessary, outmoded frivolity and fraternalism, such commentary is usually leveled by those who have never participated in it. Barring total incompability with one's date, few have ever regretted the experience. The suggestive advertising which plasters the Union for months prior to Jubilee attracts attention, but Jubilee is far from an orgy in any sense of the word. It allows for enough individualism so each person can enjoy it in his own way.

The weekend is more than just the largest single social event which is coordinated among undergraduates, and its spirit encompases more than just a compendium of specially scheduled events. It is the impromptu cocktail parties scheduled in the yard during hours of extended parietals. It is actually being at the inevitable, notorious events which accompany the weekend. It's over 1000 people forgetting papers, exam pressures, and jobs. It's a whole class celebrating a spring ritual and soaking up the spontaneous merriment of each moment. The augment this, there are always the normal attractions of Boston, Cambridge, and Harvard.

Perhaps this description may sound, to some, mawkishly sentimental or overly enthusiastic. But Jubilee is a legacy left to freshmen only. It has no analogies in upperclass life. To an envious upperclassman, it appears to be the stuff of which good times--and good memories--are to be had.

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