When I reminded my Chatham-raised boyfriend George about Arbor Day yesterday, he cringed in fright. Arbor Day in Chatham was a week-long event of high school pranks and suffering.
Upper classmen, 16 and older with cars, would kidnap sophomores drive them to Rubber Hill Road and abandon them in a remote location. The victims would be miles from town and take hours to walk back.
Why did they do it?
It was all in an effort to find out what the ‘class colors’ were going to be. A tradition my North Country high school did not participate in.
Class colors represented a students’ identity, their uniqueness, their place among other peers. It was a big secret until the banquet dinner for the sophomores announced what those colors were.
If the juniors and seniors could pry the secret from weak-lipped sophomores it deflated the entire banquet dinner.
Word would spread about the snitch who leaked the colors. And, the rest of the school year could be quite unpleasant for the traitor.
George remembers being taunted for information inside a beat-up, rusty, white ’62 Oldsmobile before being dumped onto a ‘ol county road referred to as 9-Mile Run. He refused to be a whistle-blower so instead, wisely, gave the wrong colors. Many did the same. Still, that didn’t ease the punishment.
If anyone knows if the celebrations and high jinx still go on, chime in here.
By the way, did you also know that Chatham has the oldest Arbor Day tree in New York State? The Red Oak tree was dedicated by the class of 1902 and still stands.