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When Jubilee Almost Died; Or, How Four Conspirators Tried to Make You Richer


The plots to kill Jubilee Weekend are multifarious. More than once in the short history of this gala affair, a group of disgusted roommates, turned down by all four girls that they knew at Endicott, have sat around late scheming for its demise. Jocks tried to kill it when the Byrds appeared; heads have always stayed away en masse. But no one has really managed to pin down what makes Jubilee so terrible every year. Last year, a series of fortuitous coincidences almost brought the noble tradition down, but alas, they're going to give it one more try this year.

IT WAS a late spring evening in 1968 (and it's always late in the evening when these plots are hatched); four slightly motley looking freshmen had just returned from the Elise's run. At dinner they had groaned at the Jubilee opening skit and pushed their potatoes around on their trays when it finally came out that the Lovin Spoonful were going to play the main concert for the big spring affair.

The very idea of a Spring Weekend was revolting enough. After all, they had stopped going to the high school dances in 10th grade. And this was an obvious stunt--a stunt that freshmen would never let the Freshmen Council get away with. But they were going to try it anyway, and in fact, the freshmen were told in the middle of February that this Jubilee thing had even been done before.

The very name of Jubilee Weekend was revolting. In the middle of March, people started calling each other Jubilarians and ringing up their girls back home. Disgusting. There can't be such a thing as a Jubilarian, people wouldn't really use that word at Harvard, would they? You used to walk into the Freshman Union and pick up a pamphlet entitled "Fellow Jubilarian--" and everyone would snicker; but they used it, yessir, people walked around that weekend going where the Jubilarians went, doing what good Jubilarians were supposed to do.

Jubilee Weekends always start in the middle of February. First there is a poll of everybody in the Union to decide who The Group will be this year. Then through some enormously complex method of voting in which everyone tries to stuff the ballot box, they come out with a top three. And usually the combined vote for this top three totals about 200 more than the number of freshmen in the class.

The Jubilee Committee decides which of the three bands it wants. Last year, they picked the Lovin Spoonful and the Conspiracy against Jubilee got its first big boost from the Jubilee Committee. This support was crucial later on to all the plans for an unsuccessful weekend.

IN MARCH, after a kickoff skit which alienated enough freshmen to make sure that only those not present in the Union that night would come, tickets started to go on sale.

Now the theory behind ticket sales is to make it obvious to all freshmen that this is probably the biggest event in the history of Harvard--of course not as big as the bust, but still you can't sell tickets for something like that. Not only is Jubilee in itself the biggest thing, but this very Jubilee is even better than all the others, so you should buy your tickets before they are all sold out. A subtle point often connected with this theory is that because this is the best Jubilee, it is naturally also the most expensive ($19 last year, $22 this year).

There is another theory behind the rise in ticket prices. While they tell everyone that this is going to be a brand new Jubilee, the organizers know that Jubilee Weekends are always the same. Because so few people came to Jubilee the year before, if the same number of people come this year they will have to pay more per person just to cover the deficit calculated from the year before. This really needn't be explained; suffice it to say that the shady dealings with the price of tickets was also part of the whole Conspiracy.

When the tickets went on sale, there was a line of about 300 freshmen waiting to be there first. My roommates were thinking of taking a sleeping bag the night before, but soon realized that the Lovin Spoonful were not the Bruins. Usually in the past twice that number -- over 600 -- were supposed to have lined up waiting for tickets, so already there were signs that the Conspiracy against Jubilee was spreading.

After people found out that only those 300 hard-core Jubilarians bought tickets the first day, the line on the second day was miniscule. The first myth about Jubilee, its timeless popularity, had been shattered despite the two month efforts of the Jubilee Committee to plant that myth in every freshman head. No one felt the urgency to stand in line anymore and everyone waited casually to see if the hometown honey could make it into town that weekend, if their roommates would possibly leave town that weekend, or if the late show Friday night was going to be good or bad.

BUT THERE is no point in belaboring the early woes of Jubilee; they were just a small return from Harvard's usual apathy. And when these four conspirators got together sipping frappes in the middle of April, they had little knowledge of how friendly the whole Jubilee Committee was to their plan.

Because Jubilee operates on the assumption that Harvard freshmen will pay big dough for a weekend full of sex, all the Conspiracy had to prove was that someone thought the fun wasn't worth the money. It was not a question of discrediting the weekend--the Jubilee Committee was perfectly competent to handle that by itself--the Conspirators had to break the shimmering halo that made Jubilee a "must" weekend.

All the tickets had not been sold by the beginning of April. In fact very few of the tickets had been sold. To confuse the issue the Conspirators wrote their first fraudulent sign offering tickets for sale at a discount:

"I thought it would be a really big weekend, but now I find out the Lovin Spoonful are playing and my girl ran off with a football player at Miami of Ohio. I didn't even know they played football at Miami of Ohio Jubilee tickets for sale: $11.50."

The next day they put up four more signs and the price started sliding down to $8 and then $6. By April 12, there were twenty ticket signs on the freshman bulletin board. The price hit $4. Only five belonged to the real Conspirators. Four posters had been taken down by members of the Jubilee Committee, but they soon learned that the Conspiracy was out of hand.

Two days later, the chairman of the Jubilee Committee joined the Conspiracy when he announced that the famous moonlight boat ride planned for Friday night would be cancelled. Now there are times when you can get away with bringing in a group like the Lovin Spoonful and some times you can even make the Sunday Jubilee attraction a brunch at the Union, but the Jubilee boat ride is sacred. It is the symbol of all that Jubilee has ever meant--a long dull ride in the cold where there's nothing to do but drink and make-out.

After the CRIMSON announced that the boat ride had been cancelled, that ticket sales were at a new low, that here wasn't going to be any soul music or head music, but again--and I can only re-emphasize the importance of this to the Conspiracy--that the band was really going to be the Lovin Spoonful, the Freshman Council roundly condemned the CRIMSON for publishing the bad news without announcing the great new alternate plan.

The Jubilee chairman called up the reporter and explained to him what yellow journalism was and how that very expression applied to the way the CRIMSON had handled the affair. You have to use delicacy when you are dealing with The Big Social Event of The Freshman Year, he explained. Lots of guys are bringing their girls up all the way from out of town to show them what a big Harvard weekend is really like, he said, and here the CRIMSON goes on as if it wanted to kill the weekend altogether.

He demanded that another article appear lauding "the good features of the Weekend." Not to hurt his feelings, the second CRIMSON article on April 16 was taken word for word from an interview with him. There would be a gala affair Friday night at Carey Cage--where they used to hold the mixers on Dartmouth weekend so that when people threw up the vomit would mix with the dirt floor.

THE $1500 that would have gone to the boat ride would be spent instead on free Coca-Cola and Ginger Ale, free hors d'ourvres like potato chips and crackers, and a real live soul band--the name of which has become another of those wistful memories that are Harvard Jubilee legend.

After the Jubilee Committee took up the cause of the Conspiracy, the four Harvard freshmen found little need to continue their extravangant plan. After all, who were they compared to the whole committee of Jubilarians. There are as we all know corridors of power in the Harvard superstructure and having the chairman of the Jubilee Committee plotting for its demise in the very seat of power was far more effective than they could ever be.

They were simply outside agitators, a miserable rabble that could only focus attention on the problem. It took a man of genius, a whole committee working diligently to make Jubilee sound a little worse every week, to carry off the coup. The Conspirators gave up, convinced that soon the Jubilee Committee would cancel even the Lovin Spoonfuls and the Swingle Singers would fill in. But spring could not wait for the slow workings of an organized committee. And try as the Jubilee Committee might, May 2 came on Harvard before anyone was ready.

All the girls flew into Logan with their usual seven piece spring outfits. The boys bought their booze from McCarthy's and everybody got a little that weekend. Nobody liked the whole weekend, but after paying $19 to hear the Lovin Spoonful, no one is going to admit it.

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