Yale – Vassar Bike Race 1952

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Here’s a nice piece of Yale history I just discovered: For a time, the Yale-Vassar Bike Race was an annual mixer for the two colleges centered around a race from New Haven to Poughkeepsie. Life Magazine chronicled the events in 1952 in the best way they know how – with beautiful black and white photos. There’s plenty of drinking, cycling, and odd costumes, which leaves only one question to be answered: Why the hell did they ever stop doing this?!

It seems that the early 50s was a fun time for college kids. The country had literally opened up with an abundance of new roadways, and the suburban exodus that had begun in the 40s made city life – even a sheltered one like that of a Yale student – seem exciting and adventurous.  It was also the first time in history, it seems, that panty raids became an issue for administrators, as recalled by then Warden of Vassar College, Elizabeth Moffat Drouilhet:

“…when we got word that a Yale house was going to stage a panty raid, Sarah and myself and two others decided that we would not go to bed, we would sit up and be prepared for it. So, we gathered over in the Warden’s House and played bridge and then would listen, play some more bridge, and finally about 3:00 a.m. in the morning we thought we had had a bad steer, and there was not going to be one that night, but they knew we were too prepared for it. But, it was things of this sort that occupied an awful lot of time.”

Needless to say, things have changed a bit in the last half century, but you have to imagine the excitement these things created at the time, especially amongst a bunch of upper-class white people.

Anyhow, here are some of my favorite photos from the1952 LIFE story:

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2 comments

  1. I wish I knew the route they had taken for this race! would like to bring it back to life through the Southern CT Cycle Club! Perhaps even make it an annual event for a great cause! — a semi-native New Havener cyclist

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