Don Whitney Autobiography Excerpt

The Old Howard Prank - Harvard Dorm recollection

1954 Harvard Square photo by Don Whitney - His Dorm was on the right

Entrance 'G' of my dorm housed something like 25 student sailors, spread out over four floors. We were quite a varied group. My personal roommate introduced me to the two-finger piano styling of Lionel Hampton. John Gogle, in the other bedroom of G-44, had three unusual hobbies: speed typing, precision lettering, and volunteering as a projectionist at movie theaters. His roommate, John Monahan, was a very devout Catholic who planned on becoming a priest. Two floors below lived Siegel and Guildea, regular Navy men who had been pulled from sea duty and offered the opportunity to join the V-12 program. Whereas the rest of us were USNR, they were USN. I especially enjoyed Mort Siegel, and spent much of what little spare time I had down in his room.

While we were a reasonably disciplined group, a few things happened that would tend to refute that statement. One night, after Taps, a water fight began which engulfed the entire Entry. Students came running up the stairs carrying condoms filled with water. Soon, the entire Entry was drenched. One student, now carrying a pail of water, dashed out of his room to be confronted by one of the officers, who had been alerted to trouble in 'G' Entry. Asked by the officer what was going on, the student thought quickly and responded, "Putting out a fire on the 4ht floor, sir." It didn't work. All in habitants of 'G' Entry were put on Report, and subsequently restricted to base for a couple of weeks. All, that is, except me - I had been on Fire Watch that evening, and was completely unaware of the goings on. I couldn't have been a participant, so I was excused from the punishment.

One Saturday evening, a group of John Monahan's friends decided it was time to introduce him to one of the finer things of life. They took him to a performance at the Old Howard Theater, a famous burlesque house located in the Solly Square section of Boston. Whether or not he enjoyed the show is unknown, but this much is certain - his conscience bothered him considerably, and everyone was made to promise that they would keep the little expedition a secret. It was, nonetheless, whispered throughout 'G' Entry, and probably beyond. To some, this seemed like too good an opportunity to overlook. They prevailed on John Gogle to fabricate an official-looking letterhead from the Old Howard, and to type up a letter saying something like:

"Congratulations! You were the one millionth visitor to the Old Howard Theater on Saturday night. In recognition of this event, you are being awarded a pair of free tickets for another performance, and your picture will appear in the rotogravure section of this week's Sunday Herald."

The letter was delivered the next day, and John nearly had a heart attack. He took the letter seriously - very seriously, and he was mortified. Nearly a whole day went by before someone finally took pity and told him that the letter was a hoax. He didn't see the humor of the situation, and decided upon revenge. The next afternoon, when all Entry inhabitants were off to class or doing Navy calisthenics, he went throughout the entire dorm making pie beds, and filling each one with sand. For some reason, John thought I was innocent of the offensive letter episode, so he warned me of what he had done, adding that he had used very little sand in my bed. He said he had put some, so as not to make it look as though I wasn't one of the gang. The only trouble is, he incorrectly identified my bed, so I received the same healthy amount of sand as did everyone else. However, I had been forewarned and knew what to expect. Exactly at 2200, a roar resounded through the entire Entry. John was satisfied that he had gotten his revenge.

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