Bicycle Diaries: Before there was velopunk

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8.12.08

Before there was velopunk

there was
the Yale-Vassar bike race


The two schools organized this little roll annually back in the early 1950s. Students from both would meet up at New Haven for booze-driven shenanigans and then race all sorts of contraptions to Poughkeepsie. These races would've been forgotten if it weren't for Life Magazine which featured the 1952 race. In fact, you can see the photos at Google Images new Life Archives page. Also, the Vassar Encyclopaedia has a wonderful interview of Elizabeth Moffat Drouilhet, a member of the Vassar Class of 1930 and the Warden of the College from 1941 to 1976.
So, we started off the Yale-Vassar mixers and they would alternate. They were held, oh, two or three times a year. Vassar students preferred to go down to Yale, because there was so much more to do there—but we alternated and Yale came over to Vassar. It was also the period of the Yale-Vassar bike race to show what absurdities one could get to.One House, Nicholson was its master, ... started off what kept up for a few years, that they would organize a race on bicycles from New Haven to Poughkeepsie. Vassar students made elaborate plans—and this became a problem, fortunately it did not last many years.

It was a period when young people were restless—we had the panty raids which affected most of the colleges in the country, we only had a few, but in those days to have a group of young men go into a women's dormitory during the night was something that turned administrative officers white-haired.

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