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#193 – “Numeral Hill” Commemorated Victories—and Spelled Defeat

Archer Greenhalgh 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats Leave a Comment

This series has covered the early history of some of Norwich’s most popular sports, including football and baseball. In the early years of the 20th century, while cadets loved to pass the time by playing and watching these athletic contests, there was a conspicuous lack of other teams to play in rural Vermont. Intramural games played between groups of Norwich players became an essential part of the athletic and social calendar.

The multi-sport intramural rivalry between the freshmen—the Rooks—and the sophomores was usually friendly, if hotly contested. When it came to the annual baseball matchup between the teams, the victorious class earned the right to display their class year on the mountain slope we know as Paine Mountain. Because of this tradition, for some years it also went by the nickname Numeral Hill.

The rook-sophomore rivalry and the Numeral Hill tradition took an uglier turn in the spring of 1916. The sophomore class of 1918 trounced the freshmen class of 1919 in their annual baseball contest. The score was 17-1. In accordance with tradition, the sophomores displayed their class year, 18, on Numeral Hill to celebrate their victory. The mischievous Rooks snuck up the hill later that night and changed the displayed numerals from 18 to 19—their own class year.

The sophomores were understandably rankled, but their reaction got them into serious hot water. They retaliated against the Rooks with force, with at least six freshmen receiving brutal beatings and one requiring major medical attention.

As a result of the serious incident, which even at the time was recognized as a clear and disturbing case of hazing, the university president and the faculty made the decision to suspend or dismiss the entire sophomore class. They were to be reinstated on a case by case basis if they submitted an application and demonstrated sufficient character and remorse. For three members of the class, those applications were in fact denied. The Numeral Hill tradition seems to have carried on through the 1920s, but eventually faded from memory.

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