Mayoralty and other Bates fads.

By H. Jay Burns, Managing Editor

When I first arrived at Bates in 1992, my guide through Bates history was Gene Taylor ’56, a development colleague.

At first Gene taught the simple stuff you might get during the first days of a college course. I heard about Oren Cheney’s vision, about how quirky, unassuming Johnny Stanton defined faculty culture, and about the flimsy, barracks-like Sampsonville apartments that became a community for war-veteran students.

Easy lessons. Kid stuff.

Then one day Gene started talking about this thing called Mayoralty. Sensibility vanished as bizarre word combinations tumbled from his mouth: “Lymelight Lynn…Smilin’ Jack Davis…Mayor Jolly Roger Campbell.” He spoke of convertibles and stagecoaches. He described stage productions mounted from a Broadway-literate student body. Gene seemed to be speaking in tongues. Or maybe he’d become a Batesie Stephen Hawking, exploring a brief time in Bates history. Either way, this Mayoralty thing made no sense in a place that, above all, seemed to prize good sense.

Between Gene’s lessons and this issue’s story about Mayoralty’s demise, by Jack DeGange ’59, I do finally “get” Mayoralty. Yet as I compare that tradition to its distant cousins, the Lemmings fad in the ’70s (page 17), I wonder if the zestiest student traditions defy pat description because they’re prisoners of their eras. In other words, you had to be there.

Mayoralty, for example, flourished and quickly died not because students got lazy (the Student‘s explanation). Rather, it died because its enchanting conceit — that, like a 1950s Saturnalia where slaves and masters reversed roles, Bates students could control campus doings for a few days — was dashed in the aftermath of a minor off-campus crime. And the Lemmings fad faded in the late ’70s as Bates became more student (or lemming) centered.

That’s why Bates student culture is endlessly fascinating. It’s exclusively you, exclusively Bates. VH-1 can have its Dee Snyders commenting on Pac-Man for “I Love the 80s”; I’m happy with a stack of old Bates Students.

H. Jay Burns, Managing Editor