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

Archer Greenhalgh 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats 10 Comments

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.

Comments 10

  1. Marty Suydam

    While the reasons may have changed the challenge of having a company numeral surviving a homecoming Saturday night persisted into the 1960’s. Usually a lot of toilet paper was used to make the mark — in 1961 Hotel company made it into a concrete “H”.

  2. Roger Franklin, NUCC '60

    The Rooks (Class of 1960) in Band Company (known back then as HQ Co.) spent most of the Thursday Night of Rook Week “installing” the “HQ” on Numeral Hill using a railroad rail and cement as one side of the “H.” However, as we marched to 1st Mess that morning, all we saw was a Company Letter (I can’t remember which Letter Company it was) adorning Numeral Hill in toilet paper. For a time after a rain storm, one could barely see the railroad rail and cement side of the “H.” I have to wonder how long that side survived and/or if it still remains in place to this day.

  3. Dick Thayer

    Later it was a tradition for rooks to place their company letter in the Hill very late in the night. Toilet paper was the preferred medium. This was instigated and required buy the Cadre. It certainly as done in the 50’s.

  4. Jon Melick

    When I was a Rook, in the fall of 1969, the Rooks of the various companies would sneak up to the mountain, and paint their company letter on the rocks.

  5. Martin Wasserman

    1951 We waged a physical battle as which compay would display their letter on “numeral hill”. It was rather an aggressive contest with my company winning. I forget which company since I was moved around so much. Lots of fun.

  6. Victor L. KIM

    I entered Norwich in the fall of 1956 and was assigned to Company K in Ransom Hall. As our Rook Training progressed along “numeral Hill” was made known to us and during the morning breakfast formation it was mentioned by our First Sergeant that our Cadet Company Commander would very much like to see the letter “K” shown on “numeral Hill.” The other companies were told the same thing for their respective companies.

    So from time to time we Company “K” Rooks would go downstairs to “I” Company and steal their toilet paper and they would steal ours as well. With our stolen toilet paper we would head up to Paine Mountain and make a giant “K” on the hill so when our Company marched to breakfast in the morning it was always nice to hear our Commander say, “the “K” looks very good, gentlemen.”

    It did not happen often but once in a while there would be more than one Rook Companie showing up at the same time and after a good fight the winner would make their letter. The trick was to wait for the last possible moment in the morning before reveille sounded to make the letter or replace another letter with their own. I have no idea how long this tradition lasted after my graduation.
    Victor L. Kim NU ’60

  7. Bill Lincourt

    Class of 1974, Bravo Company did the same thing at Homecoming Weekend our freshman year. Our cadre suggested that the stone slope near the old quarry would be a great place for a “B” overlooking Sabine Field. A few of us Rooks acquired the toilet paper from one of the adjoining dorms and headed up the slope. Another group beat us there and we hid in the woods waiting until the other group left. We then used our own materials to modify the previous groups work to create a giant “B,” then left, hoping that no other group did the same to our work. The next morning was snow covered, so we could not see who had the last say in the quarry marking contest. Just before the annual Coast Guard football game, the snow melted off the quarry and behold, our “B” was still present. There was no violence, but a lot of midnight adventure up on Paine Mountain!

  8. Duane Martin

    Intermural sports were still a big deal during my days at NU. Class of 67. We all competed for the Harmon Trophy. If your company was first in any sport you could get you whole company out of an SMI (Saturday Moring Inspections). My freshmen year, I decided to get the competitive swimmers in my company together to compete in the intramural swim meet. Our team was stacked as we had 4 state champs that because of poor grades couldn’t compete colegatly. We beat the hell out of the other 10 company’s. Five rooks were able to get a hundred C company members out of an SMI. Our upper classmen were actually grateful. Felt good to earn a little respect.

    I have wonderful memories of Paine Mountain. My 3rd floor window at Cabot over looked the most intimidating ski jump that I had ever seen. Freshmen were always leaving notes that could be read from campus. I took my young children skiing over there for many years. It was one of their favorites ski areas. As a cadet, being able to ski over there any day of the week was a real treat on an old Poma lift. Years later they had a state of the art chair lift. We had intermural ski contests over there all the time. I know it has now morgen into a wonderful resort, hiking and biking area now but you would have loved the Paine Mt. that we used to ski on. NU at that time was one of a handful of colleges nationally that had a mountain to ski on. A part of my life that I will never forget.

  9. Josef Jordan

    Interesting story little known to more recent classes. This has been a very interesting series of “lost” memories. Well done.

  10. Peter Morante

    In the mid to late 60’s, rooks would climb the hill and place bed sheets in the form of a letter representing their company.

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